Thursday, October 30, 2014

SodaStream Leaving West Bank Settlement

After conducting an advertising and P.R. campaign with actress Scarlett Johansson as its public face, Israel's SodaStream company has announced its withdrawal in 2015 from its West Bank factory in the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim (see this Atlantic article: "Why SodaStream Will Disengage From the West Bank"). It had already established a factory in Israel's Negev region, but its CEO had previously argued that it was remaining in the West Bank out of a sense of loyalty to its Palestinian work force, with the intention to maintain both factories.  But with revenues reportedly down, the company's story has changed -- according to the Atlantic reporter:
. . .  SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said he plans to give Palestinian workers the opportunity to continue working for the company. As he told the AP: "We are offering all employees the opportunity to join us in Lehavim, and specifically, we are working with the Israeli government to secure work permits for our Palestinian employees."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Todd Gitlin Dissects the Anti-Israel BDS Movement

Todd Gitlin, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the early 1960s, has forged an impressive career as a journalist, sociologist and professor.  He remains a committed left-liberal today who critiques the BDS movement from the point of view of one who hopes to see a two-state peace agreement one day.  In this piece in Tablet, "BDS and the Politics of ‘Radical’ Gestures,"one of many he's written for this impressive online magazine, he looks at the historic uses of boycott and divestment campaigns to bring about progressive change.  Gitlin argues that unlike the BDS movement against Israel, none that he discusses had as its objective the "disappearance" of their opponents:

. . .  There are people of good will, Arabs, Jews, whatever, who support the so-called BDS movement for boycotts and divestments against Israel, either because they think it can push Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, or because they want to stamp their feet. (The real energy goes to academic boycotts and divestment campaigns; the “sanctions” part seems nominal.) Their passion to press the state of Israel to abandon the occupation of the West Bank, to encourage de facto the emergence of a Palestinian state that would live side-by-side with a majority-Jewish state, I devoutly share. The death toll and destruction caused by Israeli attacks on Gaza this summer only strengthen the case that Israel’s defense needs do not justify wholesale destruction and everyday victimization, even in the face of terror and aggression.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How Meretz has fared since Gaza war

Thanks to Lilly Rivlin, we note this Al-Monitor "Israel Pulse" website article on how the dovish left-wing Meretz party has fared in the wake of the recent Gaza war.  Meretz poll numbers initially went down dramatically from a projected high of 12 Knesset seats to six (the exact number of seats it holds now). As the reporter, Mazal Mualem, put it: "Wars are bad for the left, and especially for a party like Meretz, which opposed the operation almost from the outset, even though the operation had overwhelming public support." But these numbers are reported as coming back up, currently to nine.

This article, "Meretz hopes to restore Israeli left to its glory day," features an interview with Uri Zaki, a young Meretz leader who recently had a stint in the United States as director of B’Tselem USA.  Ms. Mualem erroneously identifies him as having been "the former head of Meretz in the United States." Regardless, it's an upbeat piece that claims that Meretz is rising on a new wave of support from young voters. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

UK Labor Party leader and his Jewish mother

Following Gordon Brown's defeat by David Cameron, the contest to replace Brown as leader of Britain's Labor Party pitted two Jewish brothers against each other.  David Miliband, the older brother, served as Brown's Foreign Secretary (equivalent to our Secretary of State).  But due to the party's weighted voting system favoring labor unions, Ed won by a hair.  Having seen David on Charlie Rose and other television appearances, I've recognized him on the streets of Manhattan, where he's moved to head the International Rescue Committee. 

This NY Times article, "
British Labour Chief, a Jew Who Criticizes Israel, Walks a Fine Line," is about Ed Miliband's background; it mentions an organization to which his mother belongs, Jews for Justice for Palestinians.  I found Ed Miliband's thoughts and positions on Israel closer to us than the group that his mother belongs to.  He expressed a feeling of positive connection with Israel. 

Jews for Justice for Palestinians supports Israel's existence within the Green Line, but every other reference to Israel is critical.  It opposes terrorism, but does not explicitly condemn terrorists; I saw nothing that specifically condemned the ideology or actions of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others who reject Israel's existence. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My cousin Ruvi is doing us proud as Pres.

Some of you have sent me emails on what my cousin, President Ruvi Rivlin is saying.  He has become, so far, the President we have all wished for.  May he continue and make his father and mother and deceased brother Lazie, proud.
Some links regarding Ruvi:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Classic Kibbutz: 'equality [was] at its core'

Eric Lee, an American-born writer and website developer, lived at Kibbutz Ein Dor in the 1980s and '90s, before moving to Britain in 1998. He is the founding editor of LabourStart, a website that reports globally on trade union activities and workers' rights campaigns.  In this piece from his blog, "The most equal society in the world," Lee examines life on kibbutz when it was a model commune (excerpted below): 
Kibbutz Ein Dor

I lived in a place where everyone worked, but no one was paid for their work.
All the essentials of life were free — housing, health care, education, food, travel.  Even daily newspapers, televisions and radios, even a kettle for making tea.  ...
Where I lived, people worked in all types of jobs ...   But it didn’t matter what you did, no one had more than anyone else. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Ongoing Arab-Israel Alliance

Ask most any non-lefty Jewish Israeli why there is still not peace between Israel and the Arabs and you'll get the same formulaic response you'd have gotten in 1950, i.e., "The Arabs want to destroy us."  That was true up to 1967 and beyond, but at some point in the '80s it stopped being the case, certainly by the time the Arab countries that joined George H.W. Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" in 1991 begged him as a return favor to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He tried at Madrid and failed.  So did Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.  Why?  "The Arabs want to destroy us."

But in the last few years we have seen something bizarre that has occasioned far too little comment.  The biggest and most important Arab countries, namely Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan (which has appreciated Israel for decades) along with most of the Gulf countries, are in a tacit strategic alliance with Israel against Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and ISIL, i.e., all of Israel's enemies. Even maverick Qatar, one of Hamas's only two friends (Turkey being the other) is on good terms with Israel as well.  Bibi, however, tried to push it too far when he suggested at the UN that the Arab states try to help Israel along to peace by "updating" the twice-renewed 2002 Arab League Initiative.  There is at least one line the Arab states can't cross.

That is because what keeps this tacit alliance from being open and legitimate are those pesky Palestinians, who keep bringing up matters that Israel thought it settled 66 and 47 years ago.  The Arab masses take a lot from their governments, but abandoning the Palestinians without some semblance of a state might be too much even for them.