4 August 2012 – Demonstrations

Summary of the evening: I chose to attend the demonstration that marched from Habima Square to the Government Center. I was once again overwhelmed with pride and a sense of belonging to Israeli society. Incredible people in sandals and shorts, truly caring, demonstrating for hours, without posturing, without speeches, without publicists, without lighting. The street is our platform.
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In the crowd several “undercover” policemen wore Yair Lapid shirts- making them the most noticeable thing about the demonstration.

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 The shirts say “Where’s the Money?” 

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Undercover cop with Yair Lapid shirt talking with his handlers.

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That undercover cop suddenly switched to a black shirt.

Have a great week!

Academia serves the settlers

The Ariel Academic Center in the West Bank smells like political corruption. Their aim is to use public funds unreasonably and in a discriminatory way, contrary to the recommendations of the committee of the State’s Council for Higher Education, in order to assist the self-promotion of elected officials within their party. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar are using state money to support the Ariel Academic Center and turn it into a university in order to curry favour with Likud members, and secure their place on the Likud list for the next Knesset. A thin line runs between an ideological decision and self-interested political decision. In the case of Ariel College this line is clearly crossed.

Only a few days ago, the Planning and Budgeting Council for Higher Education declared that there is no room to make a change in the status of the college and make it into a university. This recommendation of the PBC officially joins the letter of the seven heads of universities, including Bar-Ilan University (which is not regarded as leftist), calling to stop the process and avoid having Ariel College recognized as a university. The only committee to recommend this move was established by Council of Higher Education of the West Bank which acted despite a conflict of interest without any real ability to examine the announcement’s implications on other higher education institutions in Israel. Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg elaborated today in Haaretz: “You can not take seriously the conclusions of the committee, established in lack of objectivity by people responsible for Ariel College Center.”

With all due respect to Haifa University, Ben Gurion University and even Technion – The Ministers of Finance and Education have a different personal and political agendas. Both of them need the voices of lecturers, students and doctoral candidates in institutions of higher education; their political future is entirely dependent on Likud members and many of them are settlers. The Minister of Education asked the West Bank Council of Higher Education approve the move. The Minister of Finance sent an urgent letter guaranteeing 50 million NIS to support the college. The national interest is marginalized, public money is stolen, and this satisfies the settlers and their supporters. If the settlers were the wealthy who pull the string, there would be an outcry against a bribed election and political corruption.

The other colleges – Sapir, Tel Hai, etc. can only watch with envy and wonder why the government chose, once again, to discriminate against their students. Why, again, those who cross the Green Line are going to enjoy better conditions at the public expense. This is not the first time Ariel College has been favoured. The law passed by Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel to provide a year’s free tuition to discharged soldiers in the periphery includes Ariel College, located 20 km from the center of Israel, but omitted the Ben Gurion University, located in the capital of the Negev, 90 km from the center. The funding Ariel College receives from the government is greater than other public colleges operating in Israel.

We need to remove the mask – and say what should be clear: Ariel College is no longer an academic institution. Ariel College is a political-ideological institution, based on a worldview that supports the settlement enterprise. The College exists in order to strengthen the entire settlement enterprise and assist the heads of the Gush Emunim gain legitimacy. No wonder that, just this week, the Yesha Council chairman was sent as a representative of the college on to a mission trip in South America. This is the college and there are its representatives.

Therefore Knesset members and ministers going the extra mile to receive credit and work towards the “academic” settlement in the heart of Ariel. This is not for the common good, not the betterment of the higher education system nor the students’ behest. Only narrow considerations stand before their eyes: The desire to please the representatives of the settlers in the various parties, and ensure their chair in the next Knesset.

This editorial was originally published 16.7.2012 by Haaretz in Hebrew.

Shame on the State Attorney’s Office

As a person devoted to the rule of law, I gladly welcome the atmosphere of fear and trembling that every politician or holder of public office was forced to feel over the past several years regarding conflicts of interest, nepotism and taking bribes or favors. The fear of being indicted, having one’s political career cut short and even going to prison is a major factor in preventing corruption, keeping the political system clean and preserving integrity.

The independence and freedom of action of the State Attorney’s Office must be preserved and kept disconnected from any outside element, whether political or connected to the media.

At the same time, the large amount of power that the State Attorney’s Office possesses, with good reason, obligates its employees to act with extreme caution when they serve an indictment against an elected public official. The reason for such a high degree of caution is simple: the public official must resign his position when the indictment is presented to the court. The behavior of the State Attorney’s Office in the Ehud Olmert affair in general and the Morris Talansky affair in particular does not strengthen the status of the rule of law.

On the contrary, the behavior of the State Attorney’s Office severely compromised the system’s credibility and its ability to serve justified indictments against corrupt public officials in the future. When all is said and done, the disgrace of the Olmert case has ended up sticking to those in charge of protecting the law. They are the ones who will have difficulty keeping the public’s trust from now on.

It is hard not to wonder how the State Attorney’s Office based a false indictment and an aggressive, deadly public campaign against an incumbent prime minister on the fragmented testimony of such an unreliable person as Talansky. In this case, the State Attorney’s Office acted in an unusual manner when it asked the court to allow early testimony – a procedure that demolished Olmert’s public standing immediately without giving the defense a chance to do a cross-examination in real time. Talansky’s close association with right-wing elements should have aroused further suspicion that behind the complaint were political forces seeking to replace the Israeli government and stop the peace process that Olmert was trying to advance at the time.

It is even more difficult to understand why the State Attorney’s Office chose to embellish the indictment with an additional charge – and a bizarre and petty one at that – regarding the value of Ehud Olmert’s pen collection. Olmert was completely cleared of this charge as well. The addition of the pen affair lent even more credence to the feeling that the prosecution of the former prime minister was motivated by an over-eagerness that pushed the officials of the State Attorney’s Office into illogical places. It is not enough of an excuse to say that Olmert was partially convicted. After all, anyone can see that without the cash-filled envelopes and Rishon Tours affairs, the State Attorney’s Office would not have handed down a full indictment on the basis of Olmert’s actions in the Investment Center affair.

My familiarity with the legal system has shown me that the State Attorney’s Office hesitates to serve indictments against alleged acts of corruption by council heads in the territories, though illegal construction there is done openly and with public knowledge. I am sure that if such cases were to be treated in the same manner as the Talansky affair was, many of the settlers’ leaders would have spent the last several years in the dock. But when the charge hits the top of the pyramid, the eagerness of officials of the State Attorney’s Office to serve an indictment and move heaven and earth may overcome the need for common sense and the balanced, level-headed behavior that are obligatory when the decision is made to indict a sitting prime minister.

I do not believe in conspiracy theories. Nor do I believe that the State Attorney’s Office acted out of ulterior motives. But it is impossible to ignore the odor of negligence, arrogance and irresponsibility given off by the behavior of the State Attorney’s Office in the Olmert affair. The officials of the State Attorney’s Office must be required to answer for having relied on dubious testimony and forcing a prime minister to step down. They must be required to explain why, in this case, their over-eagerness dragged the entire legal system to a point where the citizens’ confidence in the professionalism and level-headedness of the State Prosecutor’s Office was severely compromised.

At the same time, it must be assured that the defeat of the State Attorney’s Office in court will not be translated into performance anxiety in hearings on future cases. Nor should the verdict in Olmert’s case be used to shield politicians and other public officials from indictment when there is enough solid evidence to indict them.

Published in Haaretz 11.7

A Repressed Occupation

The legal world is an amazing world, any position or opinion, unrealistic as it may be, will always find a jurist who will agree to defend it. The Israeli right wing can be satisfied;  Edmund Levy’s committee provided the “goods” and produced dozens of pages, a political manifesto designed to legally legitimize the settlements and outposts in the occupied territories.

Whoever reads the report cannot help but wonder about the absence of the Palestinians from the report. The word ‘Palestinians’ is almost never mentioned nor discussed, thus ignoring two and a half million people who are living under the Israeli occupation.

Perhaps the committee was wrong in describing the legal situation in the territories, but still it managed to give an accurate description of the mental and psychological state of Israeli society; since the Six-Day War and the establishment of the first settlement until present where over 300,000 people are living in the settlements, a situation based largely on the term “repression”.

Israel, although self-perceived as the only democracy in the Middle East, has been maintaining a non-democratic and unequal governmental system within theWest Bank, based entirely on military orders and decrees that legally differentiate between settlers and Palestinians.

In order not to harm its democratic image, Israel has never annexed the territories, preferring to leave the current situation in the “gray” zone, to control the area but not to grant any civil rights to Palestinians, while establishing settlements without annexing the territories to Israel.

Generations of prime ministers have realized that the process of annexation would force the government to provide the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and to equalize their status to that of Israeli Arabs.

Any other solution will be considered anti-democratic and will cause democratic rights such as the right to vote to be granted on an ethnic basis. Therefore, the territories were never annexed toIsrael; the legal system adapted itself to the politicians and produced a unique and different legal system of the West Bank allowingIsraelto establish settlements without formally annexing the area.

Left with no choice, the Israeli Supreme Court finally agreed to follow suit with the political leadership to approve the establishment of settlements, pending those that will be established “legally” and not on private Palestinian properties. This exception was never actually implemented and the Levy Committee is an attempt to bury it as well. Thus the state succeeded to maintain a democratic facade, and yet satisfying its appetite for conquest and colonial domination on more territories in theWest Bank.

  The almost desperate clinging of the committee members’ to the fact that these areas were never defined as a foreign territory and therefore not an considered an occupied territory, is disillusioned when faced with the daily reality where millions of Palestinians do not have any civil rights, depending on the mercies of Israel. From construction permits and transportation permits, to political rights and policy,Israelis a sovereign state and the one dictating the reality of the Palestinians unilaterally, through the use of military superiority. The Israeli government has no interest in listening to the Palestinians opinion concerning the construction of settlements, checkpoints, the separation wall, natural resources and water, as well as setting policy in the region. All is determined in the Knesset and the Israeli government and the Palestinian resident has no ability to influence the decision-making process from the inside. All this is not mentioned of course in the Committee report, which aligns well withIsraelpolicy and trying to color grey an actually very anti-democratic reality. The publication of the committees conclusions will embarrassIsrael, expose the Israeli occupation and will demonstrate to the world how similar to other regimes in the area,Israelas well is attempting to repress a harsh reality in order to avoid the criticism that might follow it. The report casts a heavy shadow on the way the Israeli legal system is perceived as well as presents it as one that collaborates with fabricated legal definitions, their underlying motive is to continue to occupy the territories “legally” and “democratically”.

Peace Now believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu will not align with the report conclusions and might even try to shelve it as those that have contradicted pervious agreements before.

Only a Jew can evacuate a Jew – it is all just a question of price – an optimistic view on the evacuation of the Ulpana

After a campaign of intimidation, threats, a coalition crisis and apocalyptic predictions, 33 families were evacuated from the Ulpana neighbourhood with no resistance. Minister Erdan contacted the conciliator Rabbi, Zalman Melamed, and made a “pilgrimage” to his house at Beit El, only to accept the demands of the settlers in return for a quiet evacuation, i.e. to get 300 housing units at Beit El, 550 housing units in additional settlements and an end to the evacuation procedure of outposts including Givat Assaf and Amona built on private Palestinians lands. Much has been written and told about the enormous costs the Israeli government agreed to pay to the settlers for their quiet evacuation; it seems that for the settlers, the deal paid off.

But further to technical calculations of profit and loss, only a few had noticed that during this current evacuation, the Hilltop Youth completely disappeared, the Price Tag phenomenon faded, thousands of boys did not create fuss and the West Bank remained quiet.

Such quiet behaviour of young settlers casts doubt on the reliability of political and religious accusations made by the settler’s leadership regarding the “bad seeds” in every case of riot or acts of the Price Tag.

Rabbi Melamed proved that his instructions can produce calm and quiet behaviour and if he decides differently, these youths’ violent actions will take place, thus proving he has absolute control over the events.

Therefore, the responsibility from this day on must lie at the doorstep of the rabbis and spiritual leaders who direct the yeshivas located in the occupied territories, funded by the Israeli taxpayer.  The state must demand these rabbis to take responsibility for what is happening and not just settle with accusing these alleged anarchists, rebellious and frustrated, as if they are doing what ever they want. The phenomenon of the Hilltop Youths’ violent actions start somewhere and it is in the yeshivas of Beit El, Tapuach, Elon Moreh and Yitzhar.

It is time to replace the concept of the Hilltop Youth and change it to Yeshivas Youth: a semi-military arm of the religious leadership in the occupied territories, a leadership that can control the flames, ignite them and extinguish them off; depending on their changing needs and goodwill.

The just and effective way to combat these phenomena is to make it clear that the state funding for religious institutions in the territories cannot not be provided while the  incitement of violence toward the Palestinians, soldiers, left wing activists and even right-wing who are not willing to fall in line with the positions of the rabbis, is taking place.

The quiet evacuation of Ulpana must put the State of Israel again in perspective-  it is possible to evacuate settlers from their houses; it is a decree that the public opinion can bare, and with relative ease.

The settlers may have achieved victory and gained impressive compensations from the government, but the consciousness had changed, and today it should be clear that like any sector in Israel, the settlers can accept the verdict. For the next evacuation, when we’ll face terror of intimidation and a dramatic apocalyptic climate, we will know that those are only cynical and tactical steps intended to increase the price tag that the settlers demand from the government and nothing more. For them as well, Jews can evacuate Jews, everything is measured in price…

 

The evacuation of Ulpana

The dramatic event that threatened to shake the coalition passed … quietly.

The evacuation of the Ulpana neighbourhood is probably dividing the public but we can withstand it. However, the price tag the government agreed to pay is excessive and illegitimate. But we should also look at the other side. Settlers of the Ulpana Hill proved that when they want to they can evacuate houses in the settlements in complete silence. The Hilltop youth adhere to the Rabbis, and if they want to and say so, it’s possible to evict quietly and without violence. We will remember this next time the intimidation campaign starts, probably as soon as the next eviction is announced.

To see pictures of the evacuation, click HERE (msnbc).

Democracy

In a true democracy, there is no such concept of illegal demonstration.

Ynet: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4247553,00.html


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