Category Archives: Ha’aretz

Breaking: Israeli Knesset plenum votes to investigate human rights groups

The folks over at the Reut Institute are either really proud of themselves just about now, or are beginning to be just a little bit alarmed by the openly anti-democratic lengths Israeli legislators are willing to go to shut down what Reut inelegantly calls the “delegitimizers.” (First it’s human rights groups, and then?)

In an almost perfect display of Rumsfeldian logic, the influential Israeli policy institute has been urging and working with the Israeli government and diplomatic corps to crack down on human and civil rights, student and peace groups it insists are delegitimizing Israel. Their crime? Pointing out the government’s self-delegitimizing behavior, such as violating basic human rights standards when it comes to occupied Palestinians, providing limited civil rights to Palestinians inside the green line, or increasingly, throwing the whole concept of Western-style democracy out the window, even when it comes to Jewish Israelis.

If the latest news marks how Reut, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and their many quasi-proxy organizations in the US plan on rescuing Israel from ever increasing global isolation, may [your higher power of choice here] help us all.

The latest today from Haaretz in Leftist groups: ‘Witch hunt’ against us will destroy democracy in Israel:

Israeli left-wing organizations decried Wednesday a Knesset plenum decision to support a panel of inquiry to investigate certain groups suspected of “delegitimizing” the Israel Defense Forces.

The plenum’s approval means that the initiative will now be taken to the Knesset House Committee for debate. The initiative proposes investigating the sources of funding for these left-wing groups, and to determine whether money is being funneled from foreign states or organizations linked to terror activities.

Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer deemed the move “another step on the path toward wiping out democracy in Israel” and as a blatant attempt to persecute critics of Israeli policy.

The New Israel Fund said the Knesset’s approval “proved how much the status of democracy has deteriorated in Israel – even in the house of legislators.”

“Democracy cannot function properly without freedom of expression, freedom to be heard, criticism of the system and active human rights groups,” said the funds.

“The political persecution of human rights group will cause great damage to Israel and across the world, and will lead to the delegitimization [of Israel] and the representation of it as a McCarthyite state in which a witch hunt is taking place,” added the NIF.

Forty-seven legislators voted in favor of the motion on Wednesday while 16 voted against.

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UN Report on Cast Lead, Jewish Self-Hatred and Spin

The recent release of the UN study headed by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone is a watershed of sorts in the diplomatic history of Israel. An ardent supporter/friend of Israel with family living in Israel, Goldstone’s report is sober yet scathing regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza. The report details not just the slaughter of civilians but the seemingly planned destruction of civilian infrastructure that could, in no way, be considered militarily related (unless the futile goal was to make the bombed civilians turn against Hamas). The report also unequivocally condemns Hamas for the war crime of firing on civilian populations in Israel, and likely for that reason, both Israel and Hamas were finally able to agree on one thing, their condemnation of the report.

Further, the report goes on to describe Israeli governmental censorship efforts as well as government efforts to suppress dissent within Palestinian Israeli populations (obvious Muzzlewatch concerns) . Perhaps most importantly, the report goes into detail describing the effects of the occupation in the West Bank as well as the siege of Gaza. This contextualization is particularly damning and frequently completely missing from mainstream analysis. The fact that such a high profile report seamlessly includes this context is refreshing from the point of view of those working to stop the occupation, and conversely, quite galling for those who seek to keep the status quo.

The war crimes committed by Hamas, are deplorable and also described in the report, but they are also placed within the context of a people trying to fight occupation. Israel’s actions are allowed no such context. Israeli maximalist existentialist fears, whether heartfelt delusion or cold eyed cynicism, are simply not treated. Thus most of the responsibility, as it should be, is placed on the shoulders of Israel, whose firepower, and the resulting death toll, utterly dwarfed that of Hamas. (One is left to conclude, logically, that a government seeking to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon, as it should, would do so by ending the illegal siege of Gaza, not by making life even more intolerable for people who would, like Jews or anyone else in the same situation, fight back.)

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Anthony Lowenstein: Long Overdue Debate Taking Shape

Journalist Anthony Lowenstein has writen a good column for Haaretz documenting emerging fissures in American Jewish tolerance of Israel’s Occupation policies. It should be noted, though, that Lowenstein asks the wrong question: “Why aren’t Jews outraged by Israeli occupation?” Since Jews, like all groups of people, fall along a spectrum of political views and personality types, then of course some Jews are outraged by the Occupation and others aren’t.  A better question, and one we ask here at Muzzlewatch, is: “Why is the Occupation debate off limits in certain circles?” Lowenstein examines how that taboo is developing cracks in the face of “a global wave of Jewish unease over Israel’s future and the Diaspora’s relationship to the self-described Jewish state. It’s a debate that is long overdue.”

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Extremists try to kill Israeli peace advocate, Peace Now head also under protection

Israel’s Public Security Minister Avi Dichter called the pipe bomb blast that [lightly] injured Haaretz columnist and peace advocate Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell earlier today an “assassination attempt” and a “nationalistic terror attack perpetrated, in all likelihood, by Jews, which pushes our society many years backward.”">Ze\'ev SternhellIsrael’s Public Security Minister Avi Dichter called the pipe bomb blast that [lightly] injured Haaretz columnist and peace advocate Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell earlier today an “assassination attempt” and a “nationalistic terror attack perpetrated, in all likelihood, by Jews, which pushes our society many years backward.”

The LA Times reports that Israeli leftists say this isn’t about a few nuts, but is part of an escalation of attacks, linking it to increased settler violence against Palestinians.

Israeli leaders including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak lined up to decry the attack as an affront to Israeli democracy.

A vocal critic of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and the settler movement who also identifies himself as a super-Zionist, earlier this year he won Israel’s most prestigious honor, the Israel Prize. But it also caused an angry outcry from many in the illegal Settler movement, likely leading to this attack on his home where the bomb exploded. (Many Israelis talk openly about how the conflict with the Palestinians serves at least one important function, uniting Israelis so they can postpone confronting their own massive and growing secular/extremist religious internal divide.)

Shortly after the bombing, police found “fliers offering more then NIS 1 million to anyone who kills members of left-wing human rights organization Peace Now.” That’s about $300,000. Police are now offering protection to Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer.

BELOW: Video of recent settler attacks on Palestinian village of Asira, which Israeli leftists say is part of overall escalation of violent attacks, including the assassination attempt on Sternhell. The video is posted by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which opened its first US office yesterday.

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From Ha’aretz editor, about rumors

This letter is circulating [read prior Muzzlewatch posts for more information]:

From: Haaretz Daily Newspaper <contact@haaretz.co.il>
Dear Dr Raymond Leicht and Ronit Beck,
Thank you for your letter. I’ve received five similar letters today. Some of the writers noted with concern that an aggressive campaign is being conducted against the paper based on false information. It may be the case that the disinformation is being spread out by extreme right-wing circles or perhaps it is based on a simple misunderstanding.
The substantive point is that, as part of the printed media crisis, five reporters and editors are leaving the paper in consequence of the elimination of the ‘B’ section of the paper. For the record, at least two of these hold opposite views to Meron Rapoport who is mentioned in your letter. He is indeed a talented writer, but he has been working for us for only three years, since he was sacked by Yediot Acharonot. Newspapers are trying to survive and they have two choices – increase their circulation or cut down on editorial costs. The New York Times has recently sacked 7 per cent of its reporting staff (presumably some of these would have been identified as being on the Left). Closer to home, Ma’ariv has announced that it would be cutting down its stuff by 10 per cent in the course of this year. I hope that our path will take the opposite direction, that we will succeed in convincing more people to join our readers circle. Obviously, cancellation of subscriptions will have the opposite affect and force us into further cutbacks.
This course of action is indeed painful, but it is rather limited compared to developments in similar newspapers around the globe. But, there is no connection between the cutbacks and Amira Hass’s sabbatical leave. That leave was agreed upon well before I took over as Editor, and she is expected to return to the paper, if that is her wish. This is not her first leave of absence nor is it a new practice; Tom Segev had returned from an even longer break less than a year ago,
In fact, if a change had taken place in the past month – since I took over the role – it has been in precisely the opposite direction to what you describe in your letter. Purely by chance, it was in this period that Haaretz received exclusive information upon which we were able to base some stories that were prominently published. These included the exclusion of Norman Finkelstein (Yossi Melman), the new attempts by the Justice Minister to influence the High Court (Shahar Ilan, Jonathan Lis), the Elad NGO takeover operations in East Jerusalem (Akiva Eldar) and of course the Talansky-Messer affair (Gidi Weitz).
As for the move of Gideon Levy’s column from the “Week End” to the magazine section, this had happened four years ago, as result of lack of chemistry between Gideon and the then Musaf editor, Rogel Alpher. It was me who initiated the column during my stint as Musaf editor in 1994. I was also the one who came with its name, the “Twilight Zone”. I see it as a vital part of the paper.
It is saddening to note that such an aggressive disinformation campaign is being conducted against Haaretz. But as a fighting newspaper we are used to encounter organised mudslinging campaigns. We hope to survive this current campaign as well.
I thank you for your interest in Haaretz and hope this letter has alleyed your fears.
Yours Sincerely
Dov Alfon
Editor Haaretz

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Letter from Ha’aretz reporter Amira Hass

Amira Hass writes today:

Dear friends,

The rumors and and some inaccuracies concerning my work at
Haaretz, and the general interest and manifested alarm -
indeed require my comments. You two have asked me directly about
those rumors. So here is my answer:

1. I am on an upaid sabbatical (since March 2008). It was my
request to have this leave of absence. I needed it badly, after
almost 15 years of covering the Israeli occupation from within (and
for a great part of this time – working up to 15 – 18 hours per
day). For long periods the work was done in the stressful
circumstances of military invasions, bombings and shellings,
standing in front of tanks or edgy armed soldiers, curfews, strict
closures, PA mainfested malcontent with any critical reporting etc.
No less stressful has been life in the orwelian theater of a
“peace process” – trying – usually in vain – to make the
readers and my compatriots aware of the deception and the
explosiveness of the situation.

2. In November 2007 i was told by Haaretz that my contract and
terms of employment should be changed as i had been writing too
little over the past year.

3. In November i was too tired and dispirited to be able to
explain all that was obviously needed to be explained, and to
negotiate the terms of a new contract, and therefore we agreed to
postpone everything. . According to my agreement with Haaretz, i may
write free lance during my year leave of absence. As i have been
away most of the time, it hasn’t happened yet (except for two
op-eds). Also, according to the agreement, by the end of the
sabbatical i’ll return to work for a half year – within the same
terms. It is then that it will be decided how to proceed.

4. Alll this took place BEFORE haaretz nominated a new editor
in chief.

5. As for the dismissal of other colleagues (several editors, not
only reporters): It is of course sad to know that people
who have worked for years, and dedicated time, thoughts, energy
and professionalism – have to start looking for a new place.
I do find it extremely deplorable that Miron Rapoport will not be
writing for Haaretz. He is a very prolific reporter, who excells
at investigations, who writes well and for whom journalism is
clearly about “monitoring power” and
challenging authorities.

Since i placed myself in Gaza, at the beginning of the 90′s, i have
learned that in our society (where there is democracy for Jews) -
the right for freedom of thought, expression and information is
fairly guaranteed. But there is no OBLIGATION to excercise these
liberties.

This year i intend to complete the writing of a book on Israel’s
policy of closure (“the robbery of time and space” – as i term
it).

thank you for your concern -

amira

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