Cal Tzedek: 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005

Friday, January 28, 2005

KA(hane)CH(ai) in Berkeley

The Berkeley Daily Planet today printed a letter from a gentleman who "was intimately involved in Kach from the beginning." Kach was the Israeli political party based on the teachings of Meir Kahane, a right-wing demogogue who founded the Jewish Defense League to beat up black people in New York and who preached on the evils of Arabs and pretty much all Jews other than him.

Kach was outlawed in the 1980s by a coalition of Labor and Likud MK's. One theory is that some labor types were really disgusted by Kach's racist platform while some Likud types were either embarassed by the openness with which Kach advocated policies they might have supported, or were afraid that Kach would steal their constituency. I don't know enough about the political climate at the time, and would not be surprised if the actual motivation behind such a ban was a mixture of all of these and others.

Either way, I'm pretty sure the Daily Planet printed this to provoke a letter-war. It's provocative, of course, and I hope it will get a flood of condemnations in reply from non-Kahanist Jews and even Hasbara activists.

An excerpt:

" is impossible for an Arab Moslem to be a good citizen of a Jewish state, since he (erroneously) sees the state as having robbed him of his land. Allowing people to be citizens of a state when they actively wish for and support the destruction of said state is suicide. No country would allow such people to stay in their borders, yet Israel does. Kach is against this suicidal policy."

And this interesting one:

"To have an open secular democracy such as the current State of Israel purports to be, one must accept that any group of citizens may become the majority, including Arab Moslems. However, the current state has repeatedly stated that they will not accept an Arab Moslem majority. This is akin to apartheid, and is nothing less than hypocrisy."

I sincerely expect letters from all walks of Judaism condemning this Kahanist, but I'd love to see how right-wing Israel supporters respond. One gentleman of such a political persusasion frequently has his letters published in the Daily Planet. One such letter chastised "the Muslim World" for "not condemning terror." I'd like to see if he a). condemns Kach, and b). objects to the main content of the letter more than the surprising apartheid allegation.

CORRECTION: I do not believe that Kach was outlawed until 1994 or so, following Baruch Goldstein's Hebron massacre. What occurred in the 1980's was a vague law that would bar candidates running on a "racist" platform from participation in elections. This was meant to exclude Kahane himself, around 1984.



"JNF, treasury seek formula for continued Jews-only land sales"


Here's what we have: the Israeli government has, since 1961 (and, as an extension of land policies starting in 1948), restricted the sale of Jewish National Fund land to non-Jews. Earlier this week, Israel's attorney general rightfully ruled against this policy. This ruling gives Hasbara activists just enough time to boast that "Israel, as a democracy (which therefore has the responsibility to protect is citizens), has an independent judiciary, something which the 22 Arab countries don't have. Where else in the middle east could Arabs file grievances against the government and have their concerns addressed? Only in Israel. As a democracy, Israel has a variety of opinions, and people are free to disagree with certain policies. At the end of the day, though, Israel's democratic institutions make the right decisions." Israel's democratic institutions would be absolutely entitled to these laurels if they did not immediately seek to circumvent the "right decisions"!

And this has long been a problem. On matters which are hard to justify, Israel acts within the law--barely, and sometimes in no semblence of good faith. Thus, we get "disputed territories," an admittedly brilliant legal invention. We get the Hebron agreement ("they signed it! if they don't like it, they shouldn't have signed it!"). And we get painfully earnest analysis by cognitively dissonant Hasbara activists who will explain how such legal wrangling must be understood in context and how, in the case of this article, the controversial policies in question apply ONLY to 13 percent of Israel!

Needless to say, such justifications ignore the fundamental question of whether these policies are moral. Consider this passage from the article:

"From now on, JNF lands will be available to Jews and non-Jews alike - though the ILA will compensate the JNF with substitute land for any plot purchased by a non-Jew."

This is quite chilling. That this only applies to 13 percent of land is a non-factor. The ILA, as a government organization, should not claim to disassociate itself from the JNF and simultaneously compensate them for "any plot purchased by a non-Jew."

It should be interesting to see if this new "formula" is also challenged.



Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Only Demogracy in the Middle East

Meron Benvenisti of Haaretz brilliantly describes the moral bankruptcy behind "peace" initiatives whose primary concerns are neither peace nor justice, but rather demographics.

I believe that Israel can be democratic (it isn't really, but it can be) AND Jewish...for a few years. But, even assuming that no Palestinian refugees are resettled in Israel, eventually Israeli Arabs will approach demographic parity to Israeli Jews. To refer to this phenomenon as a "demographic threat" is reprehensible. There is no such thing as a demographic threat in a truly democratic society. There are only demographic realities, and should the state apparatus not be prepared to accept those realities, then the state is not a democracy. Seeking to control demographics --through expulsion, obviously-- but also through enticement, and even through strategic immigration laws, is inherently undemocratic, because the aim assumes a certain danger in providing equality for all groups.

I particularly enjoyed Benvenisti's explanation for the ridiculous recent "study" which claims that, Sure-Maybe-Palestinians-Exist-But-1.4 Million-of-them-Don't:

"All the excitement came about only because the right-wing circles discovered that the demographic demon had been abducted from them, and is being used by others to justify the evacuation of the Gaza Strip; and if the demon doesn't serve the purposes of the right, one has to pretend that it doesn't exist."
Needless to say, the Zionist Organization of America has a fresh copy of this report, replete with the triumphant pedantics of Morton Klein.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Progressive Jewish Bloggers Unite (With their friends and allies from all backgrounds)!

One of the very best Jewish Peace-with-Justice Blogs on the Internet belongs to Richard Silverstein. His writings are extensive and probing, and he has been an activist in these matters for over thirty years. Silverstein also wants to unite those bloggers with a similar vision of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Thus, it is with great honor that I present (and accept a link from) the Israel-Palestine Peace Blog Directory, which Silverstein set up. He is also working with Andrew Schamess of on an online discussion forum for Israeli-Palestinian Peace activists. I look forward to this.



Thursday, January 06, 2005

Israeli tank fire in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday killed seven Palestinian youths harvesting strawberries

But don't worry, it's okay, really, because this was a response to fire from the Palestinian side. And that makes it all okay.


Danner: We Are All Torturers Now

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: We Are All Torturers Now

Possibly the most interesting aspect of this piece is Danner's observation that "We have entered a new era" in the resolution of scandal and wrongdoing-- rather than come to some resolution through trials/hearings/apologies/punishments, a new paradigm of denial and willful blindness has taken hold- evidence of torture comes to light, the President states that the U.S. will not torture people, and the whole thing blows over. We really are no longer modern.



Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Gonzales hearings

Tomorrow (Thursday), the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales, author of the 'torture memos' to the position of U.S. Attorney General. While the Democrats are outnumbered in the Senate, and it's not even clear at this point whether they are planning to oppose the nomination, it seems imperative to make sure that this issue is central at the hearings. Please call your senator and express your concerns. For fellow Californians, Senator Feinstein is a member of the committee, and can be reached at (202) 224-3841.


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