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.
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.
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.
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.
Being pro-Palestinian does not mean you’re an anti-Semite or an extremist.
That’s Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, responding to two “articles” published on the David Horowitz’s cuckoo bananas conservative website Frontpage Mag (to which I absolutely refuse to link) that claimed New York Jets rookie lineman Oday Aboushi is "a fundamentalist Muslim with radical associations and a heritage that pushes him towards a destructive world of violence and hate."
"My family’s been just as shocked by the lies and smears as I’ve been," Aboushi responded to the allegations in a phone interview with the New York Post on Friday. "I don’t think I’m radical at all. I have never done any radical behavior. For the writer to come out and claim that just builds lies on top of the lies."
"My feelings are very fair — I wish both sides (in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) would come to a peaceful agreement and both live in peace," Aboushi said. "I want to see them live together in harmony and enjoy the land instead of focusing on conflict with each other."
It’s nice to see Foxman and the ADL getting this one right … even if all he’s saying is something that’s patently obvious to anyone who steers clear of Horowitz and the racism and general unpleasantness on his website.
Today in “Terrible Decisions of the Israeli Government”:
Two days after unidentified assailants slashed the tires of 28 cars and daubed hate slogans on homes in the Israeli Arab village of Abu Ghosh, the victims of the attacks - believed to have been carried out by Jewish extremists - voiced dismay that they are ineligible for compensation from the state.
Last week the government decided against defining as acts of terrorism these hate crimes perpetrated against Arabs, asserting instead that the assailants would be treated as members of illegal organizations.
According to jurists, this decision deems the victims of such crimes ineligible for compensation from the state. While those who possess comprehensive insurance may be reimbursed, most of the families and individuals targeted must cover the costs themselves.
On occasion, instead of receiving compensation from the state, the victims are handed a bill. Three months ago four cars in the northern village of Akbara were torched. A few days later, the owners of the vehicles were asked to pay for the firefighters’ services – NIS 400 per car.
"Clearly no one would have dared to send a receipt to the victims of Arab terrorism," said Gadi Gvaryahu, the founder of Tag Meir, a coalition of groups advocating for the rights of "price tag" victims. "The State of Israel must recognize victims of Jewish terrorism the same way it recognize victims of terrorism perpetrated by Arabs."
Dealing with these “price tag” attacks on Arabs by Israeli extremists necessitates more than simply arresting those who commit them. It also requires recognition from the government that the intent of the attacks is to terrorize people, as well as an understanding of the way in which people have been victimzed so that restorative efforts might be made.
Spend some time with Jack Patterson this afternoon … if you’re looking to debate whether Nazis are actually bad guys who deserve punishment.
He begins by doubting the veracity of everyone reporting on the Nazi war criminal living in Minnesota. After three or four tweets about how the guy probably isn’t even a war criminal, he decides the guy was probably just a “small fry” and therefore not worth dealing with today. Much better to let him live out his life in peace, since being a war criminal isn’t a big deal — as long as you’re just a minor war criminal. This is especially true, he claims, because justice is just something the powerful say once they’ve won a war … rather than an actual thing we can talk about (like, for example, when we say that genocide is an injustice and punishing genocide is just).
From there, it’s a hop, skip, and jump to claiming that, really, everyone was committing atrocities back then and that we ought to concentrate our real efforts on dealing out justice not to Nazi war criminals of the past but — of course — to Jews who are committing atrocities against Palestinians today.
Well played, Jack. Well played.
I know several people who subsribe to an email listserv run by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Every few weeks, one of them forwards me the latest outrage perpetrated by such anti-Israel mouthpieces as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the like.
It is bellyaching of the absolute worst sort, charging that absolutely every criticism of Israel amounts to stunning anti-Israel bias. The messages provide subscribers with talking points that should be sent to each week’s offending member of the lamestream media:
- The Times' constant criticism of Israel is unwarranted and unprofessional.
- The news pages, most especially page one, should be reserved for actual news.
- The New York Times' code of ethics requires impartiality; readers demand and deserve it.
- Israeli leaders have repeatedly offered peace but Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected even negotiations.
- Stone throwing attacks can and have injured or killed many Israeli civilians and servicemembers.
- Barbaric acts of terrorism targeting civilians must not be equated with the legitimate rights of a democratic nation state to defend its citizens from such attacks.
There are even suggested tweets:
- Hey @nytimes, quit picking on #Israel. #NYTimesSmearsIsrael @CAMERAorg
- #Israel deplores violence, #Palestinian leaders foment it. Cover that @nytimes! #NYTimesSmearsIsrael @CAMERAorg
- Why do Israeli apts get page 1 coverage, @nytimes, but not Arab apts? #NYTimesSmearsIsrael @CAMERAorg #Israel
- Hey @nytimes, why humanize terrorists but not their victims? #NYTimesSmearsIsrael @CAMERAorg #Israel
The biases and inaccuracies that CAMERA routinely point out revolve around things like, “The reporter didn’t talk to enough pro-Israel people”; “This person, who wasn’t consulted, would have said something different”; “The op-ed author supports divestment”; “This author has said negative things about Zionism”; “The Palestinians did something bad thing, but it wasn’t covered in this article”; and, of course, “Readers of this piece who don’t know better would think that this is the complete picture of the Arab/Israeli conflict but it isn’t.”
The problem is almost never something like, “This information is blatantly false; Israel did not do the bad thing that is reported here.”
As a result, whenever I receive these email updates about the nefarious reporting in such pro-Palestinian rags as the New York Times, the effect is actually to make me less sympathetic to the concerns of CAMERA and the Israeli government (on whose behalf this “media watchdog” is constantly yapping).
As I told an audience of middle age and elderly Jewish men at what has got to be my least popular lecture ever — part of a local B’nai B’rith group’s luncheon series — the best way to determine if criticism of Israel stems from bias or anti-Semitism would be for Israel to immediately freeze settlement construction, stop violating international humanitarian law, and agree to Palestinian statehood.
If there are still a bunch of complaints about Israel after that, then I’ll subsribe to CAMERA’s email listserv and shout about bias too.
The baby’s death was attributed to Israeli airstrikes and suggestions that Hamas rockets might have been at fault were roundly dismissed:
Despite the evidence pointing towards an Israeli air strike, some bloggers have suggested it might have been a misfired Hamas rocket.
But at that time, so soon after the launch of Israel’s operation, the Israeli military says mortars had been launched from Gaza but very few rockets.
Mortar fire would not cause the fireball that appears to have engulfed Jehad’s house.
Other bloggers have said that the damage to Jehad’s home was not consistent with powerful Israeli attacks but the BBC visited other bombsites this week with very similar fire damage, where Israel acknowledged carrying out what it called “surgical strikes”.
As at Jehad’s home, there was very little structural damage but the victims were brought out with massive and fatal burns. Most likely is that Omar died in the one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.
Omar was not a terrorist.
Last week, though, a report issued by the UN Human Rights Council confirmed that it was a Hamas rocket, not an Israeli airstrike, that caused the baby’s death:
“On 14 November, a woman, [an] 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.”
It’s critical to keep in mind the way in which death and destruction is routinely used to further someone’s agenda. In this case, more important than figuring out what actually happened, the Post, the BBC, and even Human Rights Watch immediately made this terrible story the centerpiece of their broader criticism of Israel and dismissed any blame that might fall to Hamas.
Of course, while many Israelis and their supporters are now feeling vindicated, it’s also crucial to remember that these people and many others like them still died. And that many more will likely die as a result of the rockets and airstrikes routinely and cavalierly unleashed by parties to this conflict.
Israelis, Palestinians, and their supporters around the world act as though this is some sort of game that one side can win if only enough people come over to their side; with each death, whether it’s a baby or a grandparent, it’s pretty clear that no one’s winning.
The headline miserably says it all:
Rabbi David Hartman, the American-born director of the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, passed away on Sunday. He was 81.
Hartman was one of the world’s leading Jewish philosophers and a promoter of diversity among Jewish theological trends.
Menachem Lorberbaum, a professor at Tel Aviv University who worked closely with Hartman at the institute, said he “inspired a whole new generation of teachers in Jewish philosophy and theology.”
Lorberbaum said Hartman will be known for his accomplishments on religious ethics, and as “a pioneer of interfaith dialogue.”
“He was committed to the notion that morality precedes Jewish law,” he said.
I teach David Shipler’s book Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land every year in my class on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and quotes from Rabbi Hartman are featured throughout that book; they are most often presented as a counterpoint to some of the virulent statements in opposition to pluralism that Shipler unearths in conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, citizens, and students.
It’s fortunate that Hartman inspired a new generation of Jewish teachers because his position on interfaith dialogue is a necessary corrective to the potential polarization that comes from a deep immersion in one’s own religious faith … especially in the midst of a conflict that is often cast as occurring between religions.
The political science department at Brooklyn College is faced with a major controversy because it is cosponsoring a panel on the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. All of the speakers on the panel are in favor of the BDS movement. People from all over the country are outraged that no one was invited to speak in opposition.
Worse, though, is that the New York City Council has threatened to withdraw their funding from Brooklyn College if the event goes forward:
Lewis Fidler, Assistant Majority Leader of the NYC Council, and several other members of the City Council, write in a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould that if the BDS event is not canceled—or the political science department’s co-sponsorship of it is not withdrawn—the City Council will withdraw its financial support from the College and/or CUNY.
This afternoon, I sent a quick tweet to Corey Robin, a political theory professor at Brooklyn College, because the whole thing had me completely baffled. I just wanted to confirm that anyone who wanted to plan an event in opposition to the arguments made by the BDS folks could freely do so and could request the cosponsorship of the political science department.
And, of course, that’s the case.
I’ll be amazed if anyone can think of a compelling reason to demand cancellation of the BDS event rather than simply holding a separate pro-Israel event. Invite impressive speakers, give away fantastic door prizes, and argue against the BDS movement’s claims with giving them even a moment to respond to anything you say. That’s one of the great things about colleges: Students are presented with a bunch of different ideas and arguments, and they are, ideally, taught to think critically and assess them. So, if you think the BDS position is wrong, then argue against it just as they’re arguing for it.
Or just stay home and ignore the BDS people; it’s not like they’re going to convince millions of people to suddenly boycott and sanction Israel, and it’s not like the university is supporting the BDS position (the president has explicitly said that the university does not).
Unless, of course, your pro-Israel arguments are so weak compared to the BDS argument that you just desperately fear students at Brooklyn College might hear them and suddenly realize that supporting Israel is obviously ridiculous. I’m guessing that’s not what the anti-BDS crowd thinks, but that’s certainly what their reaction to the BDS panel discussion suggests:
Desperate, irrational fear.