Thursday, December 18, 2014

Israel Losing Support Among Democrats

This is about a new article in The Washington Post, Widening Democratic Party divisions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue’ by Shibley Telhami and Katayoun Kishi, interpreting survey data that reveal softening support for Israel in the American public.  

Republicans lean toward Israel more strongly than Democrats, largely because of its evangelical component.  Even Jews tend to lean less toward Israel than evangelicals.  Among Democrats, African Americans and women more strongly favor neutrality.  Young people and Hispanics are also less supportive of Israel than most other groups; a narrow majority of those young people who favor one side or the other, actually favor the Palestinians (12-10%). 

These findings tend to support what Peter Beinart and other liberal observers have been warning about how hardline Israeli policies are undermining support for Israel among American Jews, liberals, young people and minority groups.  This is a sample of a fairly long article:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hannukah and History

Hannukah (as it is sometimes spelled) is a peculiar Jewish holiday.  Minor from a religious point of view, it's become a major event on American-Jewish calendars because of its proximity to Christmas, and as an opportunity for gift-giving.  And since it celebrates a successful historical uprising against foreign rule in the land of Israel, it has been embraced for its Zionist resonances in today's Israel.  But as indicated in this blog post of ours three years ago, "Hannukah & history: the pride & the pity," the full context of its actual history was not altogether good for the Jews. 

Still, it's a time that should be enjoyed, with traditional food, songs, and family & communal gatherings. Khag Sameakh!

Dick Tracy joins in candle lighting

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Avishai and IPCRI Ideas on 2 State Confederation

The Canadian-Israeli academic and high-toned journalist, Bernard Avishai-- who splits his time between Jerusalem and New Hampshire teaching at the Hebrew University and Dartmouth-- is a natural for thinking out of the box.  Here he emphasizes his own ideas and those of IPCRI on how Israelis and Palestinians may benefit from two states coexisting of necessity in a shared small space:
I have written so often in the past about the inevitability of confederative models if the two-state solution is to have a chance of working, that this may feel like piling on. But here are two short videos to watch, and spread, if you find them compelling. The first is from IPCRI, or Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, making the argument for greater integration: "two states in one space," they call it. The second is this round table on TV Ontario's "The Agenda with Steve Paikin," in which I make the pitch along with two Palestinian interlocutors. The crux comes at about minute 19:00

IPCRI (originally called the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information) was founded about two decades ago by the tireless American-Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin.  It has recently put forth an innovative plan for "Two States in One Space," as explained in a research paper and in the following YouTube video.  Given the violent and hostile history between

Monday, December 15, 2014

My recent pieces in NY Jewish Week

I've been working with the NY Jewish Week to develop a regular blog feature.  In addition to one published earlier ("'Jewish Nation-State' Bill Undermines The Jewish State"), I had two pieces posted last week as "opinion": "Israel's Eric Garner Incident" looks at the striking coincidences in the police-related deaths of a Palestinian cabinet minister, Ziad Abu Ein, and New Yorker Eric Garner; the other ("Fatal Falls. Car Crashes. Stabbings. Terrorism?") explores the recent spate of lethal incidents in Israel and why they were usually categorized as terrorism.   

My preferred title for the latter article was: "Terrorism: Where You Stand Shapes What You See."  The following segment includes what had to be edited out for the sake of thematic focus and brevity:

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Limits of Israeli Centrism

This is a further pithy electoral analysis from Thomas G. Mitchell, Ph.D.  As postscripts, there's a short exchange of views with Ralph Seliger.  Dr. Mitchell's title is "From 2006 to 2014: What a difference eight years make":

The Israeli press is full of articles reporting on the maneuvers of various parties as campaigning for new elections begins. This time around the parties face a new, higher entry barrier than at any time in the past—3.25 percent or four seats to get into the Knesset. This means that parties that are presently polling at less than four percent are in real trouble, with those polling at approximately four percent teetering on the edge. 

If voters think that a party will not have the sufficient votes to make it over the barrier, they are unlikely to risk their vote by voting for it. This, as in selling on the stock market, can lead to a herd mentality.  Tzipi Livni’s Hatenua is presently polling right around four seats. So it makes sense for her to merge with a larger party. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel'


When the leadership of the American Studies Association (ASA) rammed through a resolution in December 2013 calling for “the boycott of  Israeli academic institutions” (leaving the question of its impact on individual Israeli scholars left murkily ambiguous) it created a furor. Many other academic organizations have faced, or will soon face, academic boycott resolutions. The tactic has been successful in calling attention to the growing BDS movement, and in shedding light on attitudes towards Israel in the academy.  Often the resulting image has not been pretty.  

Opponents of the academic boycott have put together a remarkable, sprawling volume, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, edited by Cary Nelson and Gabriel Noah Brahm (Wayne State University Press, 2015), with some 25 essays over 550 pages, that cover the issue from almost every conceivable angle. Anyone remotely interested in the issue should read it.

The ASA boycott is the immediate catalyst for the volume, and perhaps the first essay to read is Sharon Ann Musher’s riveting account of the proceedings at the ASA last December.  The boycotters, the organization's leaders,  made a mockery of parliamentary procedures to achieve their desired outcome. Those in opposition to the resolution were hooted at and venomously attacked.  When a friend of mine, who attended the ASA meeting, gave me a running account of its kangaroo court proceedings, we were both outraged, and the outrage has not diminished.

At Stake in 'Jewish Nation-State' Bill

NY Times chief Israel correspondent Jodi Rudoren has written a very good summary of the "Jewish nation-state" issue that sparked the end of Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition and new elections:
Drafts of the so-called nationality bills would remove Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, increase the influence of Jewish law, reduce the power of the Supreme Court, and entrench the automatic citizenship of Jews worldwide and Jewish symbols of the state. The proposals, put off until the outcome of the parliamentary elections next year, do not mention the word “equality” or provide rights for non-Jews, though they would preserve voting rights for all citizens.  . . .
Last week, in an op-ed at The Jewish Week's website discussing this proposed legislation and the blemishes in Israel's democracy regarding its Arab citizens, Ralph Seliger warned that the bill

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

New Movement Demands End to Gaza Wars

My friend Tama grew up in Nirim, a kibbutz located about two kilometers from Gaza.  I remember visiting her during Hanukah of 2005, when she was doing anthropological fieldwork in Zikim, a nearby kibbutz overlooking Gaza. At the entrance of the kibbutz we saw a Hanukkah candlestick made of missiles that had fallen on the kibbutz premises. Though the image left a strong impression on me, I did not have the sense to photograph it.

During the war Tama posted very little. But through her I heard for the first time the true voices of the people living in the “Gaza envelop region” of Israel. Listening to them on television, I heard their rage toward Hamas and the Gazan population. I saw them watching the war from the vantage point of a nearby hill and cheering the IDF. Through the Israeli media the people living around Gaza sounded hotheaded and vengeful. But a new movement has been emerging that amplifies a completely different voice, one which demands a long-term solution to the problem of the region. It's a voice that bridges left and right, that echoes from the city of Sderot and the kibbutz of Niram, that unites secular and religious. The people of the Western Negev demand of the Israeli government to negotiate with Hamas and bring about a permanent solution.