“Schlaglicht Israel” offers an insight into internal Israeli debates and reflects selected, political events that affect daily life in Israel. It appears every two weeks and summarizes articles that appeared in the Israeli daily press.
Main topics covered in this Publication:
- Report on Operation Protective Edge
- Boycotting is Forbidden
- Desecration of Tombs on Jewish Cemeteries in the US
- Selection of Articles
Darkness at the end of the tunnel
The state comptroller’s report (…) contained no shocking surprises. (…) Meanwhile, the political struggle over responsibility has already become an arena for battles that reached their ugly climax just before the report was published. (…) It recommends no action against individuals and imposes no criminal responsibility, as if it was the finger of God that directed the IDF to embark on the operation and the finger of God that sabotaged its military, political and moral conduct. (…) the threat of another military conflict has yet to be lifted. This is the sorry outcome of Operation Protective Edge, which was born out of revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three teenage Jewish boys. The situation created in Gaza as a result of the war did not interest the report’s authors. It focuses on the broad and particularly frustrating chapter on the tunnels. (…) The question of whether the members of the cabinet received a proper report of the background and the threat, the risks and the possible outcomes, is much more important to them than evaluating the wisdom of embarking on the operation and the soundness of adopting the concept of wholesale destruction as a tool of deterrence. (…) the conclusion that glimmers from among its pages is that as long as the government and the army stick (…) are efficiently preparing for the next round of violence there.(…)
Editorial, HAA, 01.03.17
An airport in Gaza, for the benefit of all
(…) I have a dream, one I’m working tirelessly to turn into a reality: to establish a UN-operated humanitarian airport for the civilian population in Gaza. (…) Hamas is there to stay and, in turn, likely to control the Strip for a long time to come. (…) As long as Hamas is in power, Israel will continue to deny many needed improvements in the Strip. However, it would be a strategic, diplomatic, humanitarian and ethical disaster to maintain the status quo for Gaza’s civilians, regardless of who controls the territory. (…) The airport I propose is one project that can preserve Israel’s legitimate security needs, improve the lives of Gaza’s civilians and prevent Hamas from benefiting materially, financially or symbolically. Airport security would be conducted and maintained by the UN through specialized task forces via an arrangement similar to that utilized by the EUBAM at the Rafah border crossing or the one currently being deployed by the UN Interim Force in southern Lebanon. (…) A humanitarian airport in Gaza would help accelerate redevelopment and would relieve the inability of Gazans to travel freely. It would also provide a creative solution to sustainable peace in the Strip. (…) There isn’t much time left to reverse the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Improving the situation there would be good for its residents, for Israel and for the region. A humanitarian airport is a good place to start, and now is a great time.
Ahmed Alkhatib, JPO, 01.03.17
Illegitimate targets on both sides of Israel’s border
(…) Is it proportionate to crush neighborhoods and bomb homes with entire families in them – children, elderly people, women and babies? Yes, Israel has said, with its bombing of Gaza and Lebanon. It’s proportionate because we also killed – or meant to kill – military commanders and activists, and senior political officials in Palestinian and Lebanese organizations. (…) The onslaughts on Gaza have introduced to our world three terms that have no right to exist: proportionate killing, collateral damage and target bank. These terms have become axiomatic beyond question or reflection. How would these axioms work if we sketched out the target bank in the opposite direction? Every home where there’s an Israeli soldier or reservist would be a legitimate target for bombing; the civilians harmed would be collateral damage. Every bank in Israel would be a target because Israeli ministers and generals have accounts there. (…) All the patients at Sheba Medical Center must be evacuated because of the army induction center at Tel Hashomer; all the university laboratories and high-tech companies should be evacuated because of their links to the arms industry, while the lives of the children of Elbit and Rafael employees are also at collateral risk because their parents help develop weapons that our imagination cannot grasp. This sounds horrifying, and rightly so. (…)
Amira Hass, HAA, 03.03.17
No leader at the end of the tunnel
The most serious finding in the state comptroller’s report on Operation Protective Edge exists only between the lines: If tomorrow Israel enters a new military conflict in Gaza, it will be run the exact same way the previous operation was run. The tunnel problem has not been solved yet, despite the huge financial investment. The operational plans have not been completed either. Rockets, mortar shells and missiles will be fired into Israel, and we cannot rule out the possibility that they will paralyze the traffic at Ben-Gurion Airport. (…) We are facing the same dilemmas, with the same leadership, with the same conception, with the same army, with undramatic changes. (…) Give me a rocket and I will give you a bomb—that’s the strategy that will lead us to the next operation. (…) The impression from the overall report is even more serious. Netanyahu isn’t functioning as a leader: He isn’t outlining a policy because he has no policy; he isn’t imposing his opinion because he has no opinion. (…) The amazing thing is the gap between Netanyahu’s image as “Mr. Security” and his real involvement in managing security and his performance as the leader of the government, the army and the people. The man is a marketing expert, a master craftsman. (…) Netanyahu is the only one among the inspected officials who still holds the same position he held during the operation, which is why the report is relevant first of all to him. (…)
Nahum Barnea, YED, 02.03.17
Israelis have reason for concern ahead of future war
(…) Is it possible that without air strikes the tunnels would have been located and destroyed faster? It seems so, although we will never really know. But what this story does show is just how complicated wars are, and how they never really go the way you plan them. Israel has a talent for self-flagellation, for beating itself up after every war or operation. (…) People tend to forget that wars are fought on a battlefield and not in a laboratory or classroom. They are fought against an enemy who – no matter how good the intelligence is – will always maintain a high degree of unpredictability. The one and only probability to genuinely expect in war is the unexpected. In the Gaza war of 2014 Israel encountered the tunnels. In the next Gaza war it will likely be something else. (…) The dynamic between the prime minister and the security cabinet, between the security cabinet and the IDF, and between the different ministers in the cabinet is a recipe for mistakes and mishaps. (…) Israel is not responsible for the current situation in Gaza. Hamas is. But Israel can take steps to ease the economic pressures there. (…) Israel has to decide what it wants. (…) Terrorist tunnels are dangerous. (…) But they do not pose an existential threat to the State of Israel. (…) Tunnels are a threat to Israel, but the bigger threat is the government’s tunnel vision. It is time to correct that.
Yaakov Katz, JPO, 03.03.17
Where is Hamas headed?
(…) the comptroller’s report on Gaza only created waves in the Israeli media — in the Arab world, the report was largely ignored. (…) The important question from Israel’s perspective, however, isn’t of course what transpired on the Gaza border three years ago, but what could transpire in the coming months. (…) The reality in Gaza has persisted for decades (…). Things are indeed dismal, but the situation in Gaza is better than in parts of the Arab world, certainly better than disaster areas such as Syria; and Gazans have it better than the millions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. (…) Hamas is currently being steered by a new leadership lacking in experience. The movement’s current leaders hail from Hamas’ military wing, which rushed to issue a warning this weekend that if Israel continues to strike Hamas targets in retaliation for rocket attacks, Hamas will feel free to force an equation (…). This declaration is undeniably disconcerting, because it indicates the direction Hamas wants to pursue, even if it appears to be trying to preserve calm along the border for the time being. Ultimately, Operation Protective Edge teaches us that both sides can be dragged into a fight that neither side wants. (…)
Prof. Eyal Zisser, IHY, 05.05.17
As Fatah hardens, Hamas becomes more receptive
(…) Last month, Mahmoud Al-Aloul was elected as Abbas’s deputy within the Fatah. Though this does not necessarily mark him as the heir apparent, at present he is the only designated deputy that Abbas has in any of his three roles (…) any successor to Abbas will take up a far less convenient position where Israel is concerned, and might destabilize the region as a result. When it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations, the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is sacrosanct. In this matter, Al-Aloul seems to have adopted a “shoot, don’t talk” attitude (…) Al-Aloul has made it clear that he is in favor of a people’s revolt against Israel, hinting that a more severe grassroots resistance is in order. (…) As Fatah’s leadership offers a stronger stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hamas has been working on a new plan, following the primaries within the terrorist group-turned-political party. (…) parts of the plan leaked to Arab media paint a more conciliatory tone toward Israel. (…) Top Palestinian official Ahmed Yousef stated that party’s plan will include the Hamas agreeing to found a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (…) Finally, Yousef mentioned that Hamas now finds it necessary to disconnect from its affiliation to global Muslim movements. One such movement is the Muslim Brotherhood. (…) Hamas is an opportunistic organization. Shaking off the Muslim Brotherhood would mainly be a way to ingratiate itself to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in light of the improving bond between Gaza and Cairo, the all-out humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Hamas’s desperate need to ease restrictions along its border with Sinai. (…) Additionally, the organization understands that it is to its own benefit to make itself more appealing to the West. (…)
Elior Levy, YED, 10.03.17
Banning entry is not the way to fight anti-Israel groups
(…) Israel is at the stage of the wrong moves. (…) banning entry is not the way to fight bodies with a clear anti-Israel agenda, because the only outcome is more headlines and more articles against Israel. It’s true that France, the United States, Britain and Canada have lists of barred people, sometimes based exclusively on political views. But when it comes to Israel, every banned entry creates a wave of hostile reports which we could do without. The damage exceeds the benefit. (…) A democratic state can and should give critical bodies full freedom of action, but there is a difference between bodies working to improve the situation and bodies serving the battle against the state’s actual existence. There is no other state which allows foundations that act against its existence to fund organizations within the country. This absurdity must be stopped in Israel too.
Ben-Dror Yemin, YED, 01.03.17
Israel just got more BDS than BDS
(…) When lawmakers propose a bill that accomplishes nothing, their only purpose is to trick their constituents into believing that they are doing something useful. (…) BDS and international isolation is a really big problem that Israel must tackle, and the coalition wants to tell their constituents that they are fighting it. So what’s the matter with their new law? For starters, not only does it fail to combat BDS, it arguably helps the cause. One of BDS’s greatest faults is that they view Israel through a simplistic black and white lens. (…) BDS advocates should see the nuances within Israeli society and realize that there are Israelis fighting for the occupation as well as those fighting against it. The law that just passed inadvertantly tells advocates of BDS that they are correct (…), that being “anti-Israel” and “anti-settlements” is one and the same. It (…) blurs the green line between Israel and the West Bank. (…) It’s time for this coalition to admit that there is a very big difference between Israel and the West Bank; that the borders of Israel do not include the West Bank, and that there is a huge difference between a boycott of Israel and a boycott of the settlements. (…) Do we want bills that stop contradictory views at our borders? Do we think it’s the coalition’s job to keep our minds and ears safe from things they view as wrong? Of course not. The fact is that BDS should be fought, but this is not the way to do it. (…)
Tamar Zandberg, TOI, 07.03.17
Israel’s new travel ban: Boycotting the truth
(…) From now on, entry to Israel will be prohibited to non-Israelis (…) if they (…) “pledged to take part in a boycott” of products produced in the settlements (…). Thus the Netanyahu coalition continues to intentionally blur the 1967 boundaries, actually playing into the hands of those who seek to destroy sovereign Israel entirely, and penalize those who support its existence but oppose the occupation. Among the latter are many Jews throughout the world who work for the existence of the State of Israel alongside a Palestinian state by opposing the settlements. (…) Not only the relationship with the Jews of the Diaspora is endangered by the new law; so are diplomatic ties. (…) the EU and some of its member countries (…) differentiate between Israel and the territories in terms of funding, the marking of products and agricultural imports. Will Israel now bar entry from EU leaders and officials? (…) The purpose of the law is not to protect Israel, but to protect the settlements. (…) Israel has (…) slapped those who love it and strengthened those who hate it.
Editorial, HAA, 08.03.17
An unnecessary law
(…) the law (…) that will ban foreign nationals calling for boycotts of Israel or the settlements is unnecessary. Israel already has laws in place that enable persons deemed as dangerous to be banned from entry to the country (..). Furthermore, the law deepens the impression of Israel as country that is becoming less and less tolerant and will deepen the growing alienation of liberal Jews in the Diaspora toward Israel. (…) BDS has failed to have any real impact since it was launched in 2005. (…) the economy has bounced back in 2016 despite the soaring shekel. (…) BDS does have the potential to cause damage to Israel, but the way to prevent this from happening is not by high-profile unnecessary laws that only draw negative attention to Israel and provide the movement with the kind of publicity it so desperately seeks.
Ilan Evyatar, JPO, 09.03.17
BDS travel ban: Is Israel sending the wrong message?
(…) The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement tends to bring together a pretty despicable group of people with distorted attitudes about Israel who are often motivated by antisemitism.(…) We therefore understand the desire on the part of our lawmakers to prevent BDS activists of this sort from entering Israel to spread their noxious ideas. The anti- BDS law passed this week in the Knesset seeks to do just that. The legislation makes it easier to block foreign BDS activists from entering Israel. (…) Israel, like any sovereign state, has the right to regulate its borders and decide who can and who cannot enter. (…) However, we believe that the legislation has the potential to do more harm than good. The law is ambiguous and difficult to enforce. Ostensibly, it is supposed to target only those activists with standing who have the capability to cause others to boycott Israel. However, the (…) law also targets individuals who are calling to boycott settlements, a position held by some Meretz MKs who are emphatically Zionist but who are convinced that Israel’s continued control over the West Bank undermines its future as a Jewish and democratic state. (…) BDS activists’ obsession with Israel smacks of antisemitism, but the best way to combat these people is not via ambiguously worded legislation that gives low-level functionaries inordinate power. We do not want to target individuals who are adamant supporters of a Jewish state, but who believe that holding onto the West Bank with its large Palestinian population is detrimental to Israel’s future. (…)
Editorial, JPO, 10.03.17
Bringing together Jews and Muslims at a vandalized cemetery
A Jewish cemetery vandalized in St. Louis, swastikas show up in a New York City subway, over 100 tombstones damaged at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. This, unfortunately, is my America. (…) Our nation faces a real crisis of neighbors becoming strangers. We know more about world events but less about each other. Pew reports that 62% of Americans don’t know a Muslim and 39% don’t know a Jewish person. This ignorance results in not caring for the other’s humanity, hating the other and ultimately committing acts of violence against the other. (…) Islam is a religion promoting the freedom of conscience. In the cemeteries and subway, we see that this freedom was attacked. This is why Ahmadi Muslims came to stand in solidarity with members of the Jewish community. An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths. (…) But to ensure we create lasting success we must ensure we engage in lasting dialogue. One major mosque visit or one hearty Shabbat dinner is about as useful as one sunny day for a seedling. (…) Just as a seedling requires ongoing nourishment, water and sunlight, so too do Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. (…) We needn’t wait for the good times, we need to work together to create them.
Salaam Bhatti, JPO, 01.03.17
Cemeteries, Stories, and Strength
(…) When most people look at a cemetery, they see stones and death. (…) I see stories. Each stone marks a person with a life and family. Many of the stones have details of the deceased’s life recorded (…). I had photographed one of the stones desecrated. Yente Leah Garber, who died in 1924, was just eighteen years old. Vandals pushed her tree stump shaped headstone, a sign of a life cut short, onto the ground leaving those of her parents, William and Regina Garber, standing. (…) Yente was the only daughter of the Garbers who met in America and had lived in Rochester for decades. (…) Jewish cemeteries have been the targets of vandalism for centuries. (…) Yente Garber, who passed away at just eighteen, hadn’t finished her story; another chapter was added when her marker was pushed to the ground. (…) Why choose that particular stone to topple? Yente’s parents’ places of rest were left undisturbed, right next to their daughter’s. (…) It was an easy target. Smaller and probably lighter, Yente’s stone was the weakest point in her burial block. (…) It is cowardly to attack the weak. (…) As a community, we must use these incidents as a moment to put our strength on full display. (…) May our renewed spirit be the next page in Yente’s story.
Jeffrey Schraber, TOI, 03.03.17
Hate crimes: With opinions comes responsibility
(…) Whoever writes “Jews belong in gas chambers” may, under certain circumstances, murder Jews. (…) A society that wishes to live and preserve its democracy must, therefore, punish him to the full extent of the law, and make an example of him for all to see. There are no extenuating circumstances for a murder committed out of faith or ideology. Forgiveness legitimizes the next murder, the next murders.
Sever Plocker, YED, 03.03.17
A desecrated cemetery ended 150 years of confidence in America
(…) Plotkin, Margolis, Grinberg, Adelsky, these could be names of congregants, relatives or people who went to summer camp with me. Nathanson, Brent, Newman, Sheinbaum. (…) The oldest cemetery in Prague is from 1439 and was used for 348 years (…). Most poignant here is that those buried, in either place, are the lucky ones. They have known graves, and were buried with honor and dignity in a space dedicated to their memories (…), not dumped in a mass burial spot after (…) I don’t want any of my descendants contemplating my grave and saying, as I said (…), how lucky those in the ground are not to know what has taken place above it.
Beth Kissileff, HAA, 02.03.17
Facing antisemitism: Counter hate with love
(…) Prank calls are random acts of harassment. These calls are acts of hate. These calls (…) are planned, coordinated acts of antisemitism, just as the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia are acts antisemitism. (…) Antisemitism is a complex brew of fear, envy and unease with people who are “different.” We have a lot of customs that set us apart from our neighbors, ranging from the choices of what we eat at the barbecue, to waving agricultural products around in the air every fall, to living on crackers for a week every spring, or not working on Saturday. (…) it’s more important than ever that we affirm our Judaism, proudly and publicly; that we cling to our quirky customs as a badge of pride. Because doing so – while at the same countering hate with love – will contribute to the betterment of the world. We need a world where all are accepted, regardless of how they pray, what they wear, or whom they love. (…) The answer to hatred is to refuse to demonize ANY other group (…). Be a “visible Jew” and go to events supporting other minority groups, whether it’s Muslims, African-Americans, refugees or immigrants. Be a light to the nations. Set a good example of love, acceptance and compassion. (…)
Barry Leff, JPO, 06.03.17
Quid pro quo – Something is rotten in the state of the Israeli Labor Party
Under the most basic rules (…), Eitan Cabel’s political career probably came to an end (…). The term “shady deal” used by Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog (…) was actually an understatement. (…) Cabel (…) made a deal with fellow Labor Party lawmaker Shelly Yacimovich that he would put his Histadrut labor federation faction in her hands, to help her campaign to become the new union leader, while she in turn would support his potential bid to become Labor Party chief. (…) taped monologues of Cabel’s behind-closed-doors meeting with Histadrut faction members have tarred him with all the negative stereotypes that can stick to a politician: that he’s cynical, devoid of ideology, ruthless and coarse (…). He will no longer be able to vie for the leadership of the Labor Party – his great dream, as he once put it. If he did run, he’d be sure to face a stunning defeat. Yacimovich has also sustained some damage (…). Despite her popularity among the public, her attempts to win the Histadrut leadership against the incumbent, Avi Nissenkorn – as dull as he is – were never going to be a walk in the park. Now, given the new circumstances, she will appear even more like the sweating Sisyphean candidate on the hilltop, a knotted rope binding her feet together.
Yossi Verter, HAA, 04.03.17
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Angela Merkel
(…) If Isaac Herzog, now Labor’s chairman, had not woken up in time and realized that he must join forces with Tzipi Livni to stop the collapse, Labor might have won only eight seats in the 2015 election. The tie-up with Livni worked. (…) After Shaul Mofaz destroyed her former party, Kadima, Livni was left alone, fighting all by herself and struggling to recruit sufficient forces because the field was split among too many different parties. Her decision to join with one of the largest relevant players, the Labor Party, caused an immediate spike in the number of its supporters and became an enormous asset for Labor. (…) Zionist Union’s achievement in the last election shows that when it comes to the principal political consideration — the number of MKs — those who recognized Livni’s importance came out ahead. Livni is an unusual and admirable phenomenon in Israeli politics. She is our Angela Merkel, with the addition of humor and irony. She’s a serious, clearheaded woman who grew up in the right, but whose head and heart are in the right place. The fact that Labor is in no rush to adopt the new platform of Zionist Union headed by Lvini as the main foundation for the left’s next battle with Likud and Habayit Hayehudi (…) is in itself one of the saddest proofs of the party’s demise.
Tzvia Greenfield, HAA, 06.03.17
Zionism’s anti-Zionist protector
(…) without completely rejecting the annexation idea—I suggest that it should be fulfilled like cautious planners act before building an enormous factory: They look into its feasibility through a modest experiment and decide to expand it only after carefully examining its results. (…) we were surprised by Joint List and Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi, who joined the president in supporting the annexation idea. But if the Zionist president and the Palestinian MK hold a similar view on the long-awaited state, doesn’t it mean that there is something wrong with their vision? The answer to this question is simple: The shrewd Tibi is not interested in an annexation, because he knows—like the Jews who have not become inundated by their passion for the territories—that one state would be a disaster. When he predicted that he would be the elected prime minister in this state, his intention was to warn the Jews of the results of the annexation and urge them to let go of the occupied territories and create a fundamental change in the situation of Israel’s Arabs. The anti-Zionist Arab is protecting Zionism better than the president of the Zionist state.
Yaron London, YED, 06.03.17
Continue aspiring for change
International Women’s Day is always a time of reckoning. (…) But what about some introspection? (…) it is worthwhile for us to consider whether we are happy both on the inside and out. (…) Many of us have a packed, busy and tiring routine (…), but meeting the goals we have set for ourselves can provide a sense of pride. We must safeguard and preserve this feeling. (…) We are successful, succeeding and overcoming societal and personal obstacles, and we are certainly worthy of appreciation from ourselves and from others. It is also important that the men by our sides remember that. But alongside the positive reality, there is also a harsh reality. (…) This year, too many young women were humiliated, (…) physically attacked and even lost their lives (…). Each time something of this nature happens, the Israeli public is horrified for a minute, maybe two, and then continues on its way. (…) It is important that on this International Women’s Day we understand that without real, significant change in our worldview, this reality will continue to beat us down. (…) It is up to us as much as it is up to the men by our sides.
Odelia Friedman, IHY, 08.03.17
Freedom of speech vs. values
(…) The hyphenation between “Jewish” and “democratic” is the biggest historical challenge facing Israeli society today (…). Israeli democracy is open and liberal. (…) In a democratic country, everyone enjoys freedom of expression — certainly those who work in education and instilling values in young people. Levinstein has the right to say what he wants, but anyone who heads a pre-military preparatory academy and receives significant backing from the IDF should behave with a certain amount of restraint. There are justified complaints about cultural figures who receive state funding and whose works attack the state. Similarly, the IDF chief rabbi should remember in his Torah lessons that the IDF is made up of a wide spectrum of soldiers who hold different worldviews. We should expect that the head of a pre-army program will not express opinions that go against military conduct for as long as he is serving as head of the program. (…) watching one’s tongue is key to the behavioral norms that keep society whole. The use of extremist remarks is unhelpful and contradicts all methods of education and leadership. (…)
Dr. Haim Shine, IHY, 09.03.17
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: März 2017
Dr. Werner Puschra,
Leiter der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel