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Israel’s culture of impunity, the West’s culture of complicity

In March, I debated the motion ‘This House Believes Israel is a Rogue State’ at the Cambridge Union. Opening proceedings, I suggested that the opposition might well “concede” that “Israel is not perfect”, intentionally missing the point about Israel’s rights violations being systematic.

Revealingly, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Vivian Wineman almost immediately did just that, telling the debating chamber: “We’re not arguing that Israel is perfect.”

Central to how Israel presents itself is the idea that while Israeli political leaders and military officials can and do make mistakes, there is a robust system of legal accountability that means such offenders are brought to book.

Last week has demonstrated how the reality is very different; that Israelis who commit atrocities against Palestinians benefit from a culture of impunity for civilian and soldier alike. Read more

Nations are soul-searching everywhere – except in Israel

Earlier this month, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that any nuclear agreement reached between the P5+1 group and Tehran must include “unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist”.

President Barack Obama repudiated such a demand as “a fundamental misjudgement”, but that did not dissuade Israel’s allies on Capitol Hill from backing Mr Netanyahu.

There are parallels here with Mr Netanyahu’s insistence that the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a “Jewish state” in any potential peace deal.

This demand to recognise Israel’s “right to exist” is much more, however, than a negotiations spoiler: it is intended to police the boundaries of acceptable debate, to conceal certain parts of the past and present – and to narrow the options open to Palestinians and Israeli Jews for the future. Read more

We need to talk about Israel’s ‘right to exist’

There was outrage last week when the University of Southampton cancelled a forthcoming conference on Israel and international law, ostensibly on the grounds of “health and safety”.

The university had been under pressure from pro-Israel advocacy groups, and organisers have begun legal efforts against what they see as a concession to outside interference and bullying. The story of the campaign to shut down the conference should not, however, distract from why Israel’s supporters found the topics scheduled for discussion so objectionable. Read more

Southampton furore marks the unravelling of hysterical Israel lobby

Earlier this week, the University of Southampton pulled the plug on a forthcoming conference about Israel and international law.

The decision to withdraw permission for the event was taken on “health and safety” grounds, but came after months of pressure by pro-Israel groups who objected to the conference’s contents. A legal challenge to the decision is now underway.

Whatever the final outcome, this story is significant for the way in which it illustrates not so much the pro-Israel lobby’s power, but its weaknesses. Read more

Beyond the ballot box: how Israel’s “Arab voters” are second-class citizens

On Monday, newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regretfor his now notorious remarks on polling day last week, when he warned that Israel’s Palestinian citizens were coming out to vote “in droves.”

Netanyahu did not actually say sorry; he merely noted that what he had said “hurt some Israeli citizens”, and added that he sees himself as the prime minister of “each and every one of you…without differentiating between religions, races and sex.”

In the words of one journalist, Bibi’s comments were “like publishing a one-column-inch apology on the obituary page for deliberately libelling a person on Page 1.” The Joint List also rejected the non-apology, noting the prospect of further “racist and marginalising legislation” in the next Knesset. Read more

The moral bankruptcy of liberal Zionism

On the day of the Israeli elections, PM Benjamin Netanyahu sounded a warning. Palestinian citizens – “Arab voters” – were “heading to the polling stations in droves”, he announced, before urging Jewish citizens to do their bit and protect the right-wing government.

The Likud leader’s naked racist incitement, particularly in the context of an election, prompted widespread international condemnation, including from politicians and pundits supportive of Israel. Bibi is an easy villain – even some of Israel’s strongest supporters will condemn him. Read more

Israel lobby’s attack on academic freedom

For years, Israel lobby groups have slammed the Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israeli universities as an attack on “academic freedom”. Now the mask has well and truly slipped.

Next month, the University of Southampton in the UK will hold a conference on Israel and international law to bring together “scholars from law, politics, philosophy, theology, anthropology, cultural studies history and other connected disciplines”.

However, in an unashamed attack on free speech, the university has come under increasing pressure to cancel the gathering. Read more

Amongst frustrated allies, patience has run out with Israel

The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond didn’t mince his words. Israel, he said, was guilty of “what looks and feels like a deliberate attempt to sabotage the two-state-solution.”

The diplomat went on, claiming that the “window” for a two-state agreement is “closing”, and that this was down to Israeli “settlement patterns” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

And all this even before Netanyahu’s re-election as prime minister had been confirmed. Read more

10 facts about Israel’s elections and the Palestinian vote

On 17 March, Israelis will go to the polls to elect a new government. Here are 10 facts about the Knesset elections and the Palestinian vote. Read more

The Zionist Union’s plan for a Palestinian Bantustan

When Israelis go to the polls next week, PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s only serious challenger will be Labour’s Isaac Herzog. The latter heads up the Zionist Union joint-ticket, an alliance with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party.

Since 2009, Netanyahu and his allies in the Knesset have frustrated the efforts of the U.S. and international community to advance the official peace process. Just two days ago, Netanyahu clarified that should he win re-election, there will be “no concessions and no withdrawals [from the Occupied Palestinian Territory].”

But what of Herzog and Livni? What if, when the dust settles, the Zionist Union is invited to head the next Israeli government? What is the alliance’s position on the Palestinians and the peace process? Well now we know. Read more

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