Jonathan Pollard, an American who admitted to spying for Israel in the mid-1980s, would be eligible for parole at the end of 2015. But it’s possible that he could get out of prison sooner if the Israeli government agrees to a series of concessions needed to keep negotiations open with the Palestinians.

There’s a major debate about whether spying for an ally is actually a crime and, of course, a major debate about exactly how damaging to U.S. interests was the information that Pollard passed to Israel. The side on which you find yourself in these debates determines whether you think Pollard should have been imprisoned at all, whether you think he should ever be released, and whether you think he’s some sort of hero or an obvious criminal.

The whole thing is a confusing ordeal until you remember that, when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the one thing on which everyone agrees is that they love finding new ways to free prisoners while accomplishing little else.

Personally, I’m pretty curious to see the discussion this post generates amongst readers of my blog since writing about Jonathan Pollard is generally akin to touching the third rail.

For more information, here is Haaretz’s guide to the perplexed.

# Israel # Palestinians # Pollard # politics # news

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The lighter side of international politics: Prime Minister Golda Meir meeting with U.S. President Richard Nixon in the White House 1969. (AP)

Oh, to be able to find the transcript and find out what was going on in this scene. Here are some possibilities:
Meir jokes that Abba Eban and Henry Kissinger seem to be separated at birth. Nixon finds all jokes about Kissinger to be hilarious.
Meir jokes about growing up in Milwaukee and how well it prepared her for living in the Middle East. Nixon finds all jokes about Milwaukee to be hilarious.
Meir jokes about how in the 1960s and 1970s, politicians can do and say anything they want without any ramifications. Nixon finds all jokes about ramifications to be hilarious.
Later, someone told Nixon that Meir was Jewish and he felt bad about himself for laughing at her jokes because, you know, Nixon and Jews.

The lighter side of international politics: Prime Minister Golda Meir meeting with U.S. President Richard Nixon in the White House 1969. (AP)

Oh, to be able to find the transcript and find out what was going on in this scene. Here are some possibilities:

Meir jokes that Abba Eban and Henry Kissinger seem to be separated at birth. Nixon finds all jokes about Kissinger to be hilarious.

Meir jokes about growing up in Milwaukee and how well it prepared her for living in the Middle East. Nixon finds all jokes about Milwaukee to be hilarious.

Meir jokes about how in the 1960s and 1970s, politicians can do and say anything they want without any ramifications. Nixon finds all jokes about ramifications to be hilarious.

Later, someone told Nixon that Meir was Jewish and he felt bad about himself for laughing at her jokes because, you know, Nixon and Jews.

# Nixon # Meir # comedy # politics # Israel

reblogged from
CNN’s headline reads “Hillary Clinton must once again win over some in Jewish community” and the text of the article implies that Clinton might have some problems with the Jewish community in 2016 because of her affiliation with the Obama administration and its refusal to be as belligerent toward Iran as the Netanyahu administration insists is always appropriate.
The trouble is that all the data about “the Jewish vote” in the article itself completely undermines the headline — unless by “some” the author meant fewer than 30% of Jewish voters:

According to a 2012 report by The Solomon Project, a nonpartisan public policy organization, Jewish support for Democrats has grown since the 1990s. When Republican Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and 1984, he garnered between 31% and 37% of the Jewish votes. But starting in 1992, when Bill Clinton was first elected to the White House, American Jews began to gravitate to the Democratic Party.
In fact, at no point between 1990 to 2008 has a Democratic candidate for the presidency won less than 70% of the Jewish vote. In 2008, Obama won nearly three-quarters of the Jewish vote.
But history is also changing.
In 2012, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to win less than 70% of the Jewish vote when 69% of the community supported the president.

In other words, if Clinton fails to make herself seem any better than Obama, who has been vilified for no reason as the worst American president when it comes to Israel, she might only manage to garner 70% of the Jewish vote.
So, yeah, I’m sure her advisers are telling her to spend as much time and money as possible in order to ensure that the four decade stranglehold that the Democrats have had on “the Jewish vote” doesn’t somehow magically disappear for no reason.

CNN’s headline reads “Hillary Clinton must once again win over some in Jewish community” and the text of the article implies that Clinton might have some problems with the Jewish community in 2016 because of her affiliation with the Obama administration and its refusal to be as belligerent toward Iran as the Netanyahu administration insists is always appropriate.

The trouble is that all the data about “the Jewish vote” in the article itself completely undermines the headline — unless by “some” the author meant fewer than 30% of Jewish voters:

According to a 2012 report by The Solomon Project, a nonpartisan public policy organization, Jewish support for Democrats has grown since the 1990s. When Republican Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and 1984, he garnered between 31% and 37% of the Jewish votes. But starting in 1992, when Bill Clinton was first elected to the White House, American Jews began to gravitate to the Democratic Party.

In fact, at no point between 1990 to 2008 has a Democratic candidate for the presidency won less than 70% of the Jewish vote. In 2008, Obama won nearly three-quarters of the Jewish vote.

But history is also changing.

In 2012, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to win less than 70% of the Jewish vote when 69% of the community supported the president.

In other words, if Clinton fails to make herself seem any better than Obama, who has been vilified for no reason as the worst American president when it comes to Israel, she might only manage to garner 70% of the Jewish vote.

So, yeah, I’m sure her advisers are telling her to spend as much time and money as possible in order to ensure that the four decade stranglehold that the Democrats have had on “the Jewish vote” doesn’t somehow magically disappear for no reason.

# media # politics # Clinton # Israel # Judaism # religion # CNN


Palestinian Nabil Basharat has worked for years for Israeli-owned SodaStream, where he has risen up to shift manager in its West Bank factory.
He supports his wife and six children on an income he says is quite high by both Palestinian and Israeli standards. Though he’d like to see Palestinians get their own state someday, he doesn’t want it to come at the expense of his career.
“They need to understand what the factory gives the Palestinian workers and there are a lot of factories in this area doing the same thing,” says Basharat, 40, who lives in a village near Ramallah.
The “they” he alludes to are the European and American groups pushing a boycott of Israeli products to get Israel to relinquish claims to the West Bank ….
On a visit to the factory, USA TODAY found that the movement’s allegations were not on the minds of many of the plant’s 1,300 workers, of which 500 are Palestinian and 450 are Arab Israelis and 350 Jewish Israelis.
Israeli Arab Zafid Abu Aballah, 28, has been a machine operator at the factory for four years.
"I have an Israeli passport, if the firm closed I could find another job, but Palestinians would not be able to, there are no jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank.
"This is political, just political but the people here just want to work and live, they don’t have an interest in the politics between Palestine and Israel."
Aballah says he make $2,000 a month, significantly more than the Palestinian Authority minimum wage of $377.

And … scene.

Palestinian Nabil Basharat has worked for years for Israeli-owned SodaStream, where he has risen up to shift manager in its West Bank factory.

He supports his wife and six children on an income he says is quite high by both Palestinian and Israeli standards. Though he’d like to see Palestinians get their own state someday, he doesn’t want it to come at the expense of his career.

“They need to understand what the factory gives the Palestinian workers and there are a lot of factories in this area doing the same thing,” says Basharat, 40, who lives in a village near Ramallah.

The “they” he alludes to are the European and American groups pushing a boycott of Israeli products to get Israel to relinquish claims to the West Bank ….

On a visit to the factory, USA TODAY found that the movement’s allegations were not on the minds of many of the plant’s 1,300 workers, of which 500 are Palestinian and 450 are Arab Israelis and 350 Jewish Israelis.

Israeli Arab Zafid Abu Aballah, 28, has been a machine operator at the factory for four years.

"I have an Israeli passport, if the firm closed I could find another job, but Palestinians would not be able to, there are no jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank.

"This is political, just political but the people here just want to work and live, they don’t have an interest in the politics between Palestine and Israel."

Aballah says he make $2,000 a month, significantly more than the Palestinian Authority minimum wage of $377.

And … scene.

# Israel # Palestinians # corporations # BDS # global affairs # politics

"In death as in life, Ariel Sharon remains a highly divisive figure."
I’ll say.

"In death as in life, Ariel Sharon remains a highly divisive figure."

I’ll say.

# Israel # obituary # Sharon # global affairs # politics # Palestinians


Kosher cops: Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is seeking to establish a “kashrut police” in effort to broaden the authority’s power over businesses that present their merchandise as kosher but have no rabbinate-issued kashrut certificate. Inspectors of the “kashrut police” would wear identification badges and even uniforms.

Who will procure for me an official identification badge and uniform so that I can present myself as the “kashrut police” for both Purim and Halloween 2014?

Kosher cops: Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is seeking to establish a “kashrut police” in effort to broaden the authority’s power over businesses that present their merchandise as kosher but have no rabbinate-issued kashrut certificate. Inspectors of the “kashrut police” would wear identification badges and even uniforms.

Who will procure for me an official identification badge and uniform so that I can present myself as the “kashrut police” for both Purim and Halloween 2014?

# Judaism # Israel # comedy # food # Halloween # Purim # holidays # religion

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My friend Drew Jacob sends along a link to what is clearly the perfect birthday gift, a military strategy board game that’s set in the ancient Middle East. I’m not sure it’s quite worth its $55 price tag — or that any board game could be worth that kind of price tag — but this review definitely pushes all the right buttons with me:

The Campaigns of King David is a board game that simulates the creation of the Kingdom of Israel. Despite the title, it’s not really a game about the conquests of King David. Call it a military strategy game of the Biblical era, circa 1,000 BCE, where Judah is just one of several contending powers—and far from the strongest—striving for mastery of Palestine.
The war game can be played by up to five players controlling five Biblical-era powers: Judah, Philistia, Aramea, Moab and Tyre. The battlefield is a roughly two-foot-by-three-foot map that stretches from the Mediterranean coast and the Negev to the Jordan River and Damascus.
Sort of like Risk, the map is divided into hundreds of provinces that are either plains or hills. Plains tend to produce more food while hills tend to offer greater mineral resources. The more fertile breadbaskets tend to be concentrated along the Mediterranean coast, the Damascus plains and the area south of Jerusalem, while the Moabite territories east of the Jordan River are especially blessed with mineral resources.

But, ok, seriously, who wants to get together for a little game of biblical Risk?

My friend Drew Jacob sends along a link to what is clearly the perfect birthday gift, a military strategy board game that’s set in the ancient Middle East. I’m not sure it’s quite worth its $55 price tag — or that any board game could be worth that kind of price tag — but this review definitely pushes all the right buttons with me:

The Campaigns of King David is a board game that simulates the creation of the Kingdom of Israel. Despite the title, it’s not really a game about the conquests of King David. Call it a military strategy game of the Biblical era, circa 1,000 BCE, where Judah is just one of several contending powers—and far from the strongest—striving for mastery of Palestine.

The war game can be played by up to five players controlling five Biblical-era powers: Judah, Philistia, Aramea, Moab and Tyre. The battlefield is a roughly two-foot-by-three-foot map that stretches from the Mediterranean coast and the Negev to the Jordan River and Damascus.

Sort of like Risk, the map is divided into hundreds of provinces that are either plains or hills. Plains tend to produce more food while hills tend to offer greater mineral resources. The more fertile breadbaskets tend to be concentrated along the Mediterranean coast, the Damascus plains and the area south of Jerusalem, while the Moabite territories east of the Jordan River are especially blessed with mineral resources.

But, ok, seriously, who wants to get together for a little game of biblical Risk?

# gaming # Judaism # religion # Israel

Public Reasons, Private Reasons

Whenever I write something or give a lecture about Israel — on the human rights situation, international relations, or its domestic politics — someone invariably says to me, “Why are you so against Israel? You’d feel differently if your loved ones lived there or if you thought seriously about the legacy of the Holocaust.”

This is interesting for a couple of reasons:

First, because it’s so obviously wrong. I actually think I like Israel quite a lot (in fact, I also frequently get nasty notes from people who think I’m some sort of rabid Zionist), I have a whole bunch of family living in Israel, and I tend to think I know quite a bit about the legacy of the Holocaust since two of my grandparents survived it and a whole lot of my family did not.

But second, and more importantly, because it’s such a blatant attempt to use private reasons when public reasons aren’t working. When I’m critical of the human rights record of the Israeli government or when I take sides between the various political parties in an election, I’m attempting to use public reasons to sway someone else’s opinion; if I write, for example, that I would prefer a party other than Likud to win an election, my preference is presumably backed by some reason rather than just a feeling. It’s not that I simply dislike Netanyahu; it’s that I can sketch out various ways in which his preferred public policy positions are not in the best interest of the Israeli electorate (to say nothing of non-Israelis). The best response to my claims would be to refute them with other public reasons, to suggest that my own reasoning about what’s in the best interest of the electorate is mistaken for some reason or that there’s a different way to understand the human rights concerns I raise. The worst response is to suggest that I don’t feel deeply enough the tragic history of the Jewish people or that I haven’t established a strong enough connection to Israel.

This type of thinking suggests that — if only I had a more personal connection to Israel, the Holocaust, or maybe even to Judaism — I’d be more willing to ignore the public reasons that I’ve expressed with regard to human rights or public policy matters. But, of course, see #1 above.

Those public reasons aren’t going away, no matter how many family members of mine live in Israel or perished in the Holocaust. In fact, I think it’s important to recognize that I have this connection and that, nonetheless, I can attempt to think somewhat objectively about human rights or war-mongering or the peace process.

So … tell me I’m wrong about negotiations with Iran, or expanding settlements, or whatever else … but use reasons that might convince anyone anywhere, not just someone with your own personal beliefs or history.

# Israel # global affairs # politics # internet # teaching # Judaism # Holocaust

It's completely asinine to believe that making a deal with Iran was a good thing. They played the US like a fiddle, and they can now continue to work on their nuclear program as much they want to for the next six months. Meanwhile, the US is slowly pushing away its only true ally in the Middle East (Israel) in order to make a half assed pact with Hezbollah-controlled Iran.
Anonymous

I’m going to pretend that this was a serious question about the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, rather than the fact-less rant it is, and provide a brief answer about why the deal doesn’t simply allow Iran to “continue to work on their nuclear program as much [as] they want to for the next six months.”

Here’s a quick primer, courtesy of our good friends at CNN:

As part of the deal, Iran will be required to dilute its stockpile of uranium that had been enriched to 20%…. The deal also mandates Iran halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical equipment required to do that. Before the end of the initial phase of the deal, all its stockpiles should be diluted below 5% or converted to a form not suitable for further enrichment, the deal states.

[…]

Iran would also have to cut back on constructing new centrifuges and enrichment facilities, and freeze essential work on its heavy-water reactor under development at Arak. That facility could be used as a source of plutonium — a second pathway to a nuclear bomb. The reactor under construction southwest of Tehran had been a sticking point in earlier negotiations.

[…]

Iran is expected to provide daily access to inspectors from the international agency, IAEA. The inspectors will be expected to visit centrifuge assembly and storage facilities, uranium mills and the Arak reactor, among others. The P5+1 and Iran will also form a joint task force on the issue.

Is the deal perfect? Certainly not.

Is it guaranteed to succeed in all of its aims? It’s not.

Is it better than the foolish saber-rattling from Israel that might lead to war and the sanctions that punish the Iranian people for decisions undertaken by a regime they’ve tried to oust, unsuccessfully, in the very recent past? Yeah, I’d say so.

# Iran # Israel # questions # politics # global affairs # news

It’s sort of amazing that the Israeli government and House Republicans managed to immediately complain about the Obama administration reaching a deal that is set to slow down the Iranian worrisome nuclear program and bring an end to painful sanctions. In fact, it really seems like they voiced a fair number of their concerns before they even had a sense of the deal’s exact terms.
So … there seems to be literally nothing the Obama administration can accomplish that the Netanyahu government and House Republicans won’t immediately denounce. The only thing that might escape condemnation would be President Obama announcing that he was unilaterally doing away with all forms of taxation, ending Obamacare and taking away health insurance from everyone whose SNAP benefits were recently cut, stepping down from office, and turning the government over to a triumvirate of Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Benjamin Netanyahu.
And even that’s not a guarantee.

It’s sort of amazing that the Israeli government and House Republicans managed to immediately complain about the Obama administration reaching a deal that is set to slow down the Iranian worrisome nuclear program and bring an end to painful sanctions. In fact, it really seems like they voiced a fair number of their concerns before they even had a sense of the deal’s exact terms.

So … there seems to be literally nothing the Obama administration can accomplish that the Netanyahu government and House Republicans won’t immediately denounce. The only thing that might escape condemnation would be President Obama announcing that he was unilaterally doing away with all forms of taxation, ending Obamacare and taking away health insurance from everyone whose SNAP benefits were recently cut, stepping down from office, and turning the government over to a triumvirate of Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

And even that’s not a guarantee.

# global affairs # Iran # news # Obama # Israel # politics

Why is it that most critics of Israel in American academia come from the liberal arts departments as opposed to the hard sciences?
Anonymous

I don’t know the numbers when it comes to Israel’s critics, so I’m hesitant to theorize about why this might be the case. After all, it might not be the case.

We could spin out some story or other about faculty in liberal arts departments tending to operate farther to the Left on the political spectrum, or having a broader set of interests that includes global affairs, or spending more of their time thinking about justice or reading dissident literature or writing about human rights, or just having more time on their hands.

But, at least from where I sit, there’s really not so much criticism of Israel in American universities generally — though there are certainly notable exceptions that get a fair amount of attention.

With the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians this year, and with the recent international talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program, it’s been a pretty quiet few months with regard to criticism of Israel. That said, the lack of progress on both of these fronts, coupled with ongoing Israeli settlement construction, has me a bit surprised that things are so quiet in the U.S. on matters pertaining to Israel.

# Israel # questions # global affairs # education # Palestinians # Iran # politics

Anti-Israel Sentiment on Campus

I’ve had two separate conversations today about anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. Here’s my quick take on the issue:

1. If you think there’s a lot of anti-Israel sentiment on campuses right now, brace yourself because it’s going to get worse. It’s pretty easy to adopt as your own a position that stands in opposition to occupation, human rights violations, and xenophobia … especially if you’re 20 years old. With those things all stacked up on one side, you don’t even have to particularly like the other side.

2. That said, the Boycott, Divest, Sanction crowd seems to be getting better organized and is picking up speakers who might attract a crowd on a college campus. The same simply can’t be said of Zionist groups on campus (if there are any such groups).

3. There’s going to be a lot of hand-waving from the staunchly pro-Israel camp about how anti-Israel sentiment is the same thing as anti-Semitism. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. A lot of what I’m writing in this post might sound like it’s anti-Israel sentiment, but it certainly isn’t anti-Semitic. I should also note that it isn’t really anti-Israel because I’m not really anti-Israel; I’m opposed to the way that the Likud party has been governing the country, which means I’d like to see someone else running the show. This is an important distinction that seems like it’s going to be increasingly ignored because the pro-Israel camp increasingly doesn’t seem to allow for it. My position is that Israel would be better off with some other political party in charge and, as someone who generally likes Israel, I’d like to see Israel better off than they are now. But, in opposing many of the Likud government’s policies, I’m seen by some as opposing Israel. That’s a mistake that substantially narrows the range of the conversation, mostly to include people who are loud apologists for the current government and people who are loud opponents of the state in general.

4. The Israeli government is losing the public relations battle on college campuses for any number of reasons. The most prominent of those, I think, are a) their position is untenable and b) their solution of sending government spokespeople to campuses is unpersuasive. I’m not sure that b) can ever be a successful strategy given a).

What to do? Encourage people to actually listen to one another rather than simply shout at one another; discourage people from shouting down speakers and encourage people to ask difficult questions of those speakers; try to bring in speakers who care about problem-solving rather than merely blaming or denouncing; approach events on the topic as learning opportunities rather than as a chance to propagandize or score points. And, of course, avoid making sweeping generalizations about religions or races, avoid personalizing the argument, and avoid violence.

# Israel # education # politics # global affairs # teaching


Amid reports that Israel has reluctantly agreed to release all 100-plus Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners held since before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night issued an open letter to the public, bracing Israelis for an extremely “difficult decision” that he was taking in defiance of public opinion but “for the good of the country.”
Netanyahu reportedly agreed to release all 104 pre-Oslo prisoners, including 20 or more Israeli Arab citizens, because the Palestinians made clear to US Secretary of State John Kerry that otherwise they would not come to the scheduled resumption of peace talks in Washington on Tuesday.

Say what you will about Prime Minister Netanyahu, but this is a pretty big step to get the peace process moving again. It will be interesting to see what Israeli public opinion looks like in response to this move, especially if the renewed negotiations don’t actually lead anywhere.

Amid reports that Israel has reluctantly agreed to release all 100-plus Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners held since before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night issued an open letter to the public, bracing Israelis for an extremely “difficult decision” that he was taking in defiance of public opinion but “for the good of the country.”

Netanyahu reportedly agreed to release all 104 pre-Oslo prisoners, including 20 or more Israeli Arab citizens, because the Palestinians made clear to US Secretary of State John Kerry that otherwise they would not come to the scheduled resumption of peace talks in Washington on Tuesday.

Say what you will about Prime Minister Netanyahu, but this is a pretty big step to get the peace process moving again. It will be interesting to see what Israeli public opinion looks like in response to this move, especially if the renewed negotiations don’t actually lead anywhere.

# Israel # Palestinians # politics # terrorism # news # global affairs

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