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 In March 2014, the IDF murdered a 14 year-old boy , Yusuf a-Shawamreh, who crossed the Separation Barrier near Hebron to forage for edible plants his family could sell at the market.  His family owned farmland that the Barrier had made inaccessible to them.  He was crossing to harvest plants from his family-owned plot.  This is one of the many portions of the West Bank in which the Wall in effect confiscates private Palestinian land and annexes it to Israel.
yusef a shawamreh murdered by idf

Yusef a-Shawamreh at Separation Barrier near where he was later murdered by IDF (Abed Al-Hashlamoun, EPA)

The boys crossed the Barrier where it had been breached with a wide opening for passage (watch an IDF video of the incident annotated and translated by B’Tselem). It had been this way for two years and the boys regularly crossed. In fact, in a 35-mile stretch of the Barrier, there are nearly 20 such openings where 12,000 cross into Israel each month for various purposes, mostly to work illegally in construction and other jobs. Neither these boys, nor the workers desperate to earn a living pose any security threat to Israel.

After the murder, the IDF announced an investigation and as almost always happened, it closed the file without taking any action.  The army claimed that the boys had cut through the fence and thus endangered Israeli security. In fact, they did not do so. There already was a break in the fence, as I noted above. The TV news segment (video displayed) below notes that the IDF soldiers lying in ambush were there because there was a break in the fence. If this break indeed posed a security threat to Israel then it should’ve been repaired, but wasn’t. Not to mention, how does a 14-year-old boy picking flowers from his family’s plot of land endanger state security?

B’Tselem responded by demanding the army turn over all documentation concerning the crime so that it might make a determination whether to file an appeal with the civil authorities.  As a result, it received the video displayed above which shows two boys crossing the barrier and three IDF soldiers lying in ambush.  Once they cross, the soldiers open fire on them (though conveniently for the IDF, you can’t see the actual murder itself due to the terrain and location of the surveillance camera).

The army justifies the killing by saying that it first fired in the air and shouted warnings for the boys to stop. Only when they refused and continued on their way did a solider fire at them. As you’ll see below, the army knew these children well. It was their normal routine to harvest these edible plants. It knew where they were going. It knew they posed no danger. Yet it fired on them anyway. This is cold-blooded murder.

B’Tselem responded to the army’s whitewash thus:

By justifying the use of lethal fire in broad daylight at youths who posed no danger to any other persons, the [IDF] conveys a cynical lack of concern for the life of a Palestinian teenager. Israel’s security forces in the area are well aware that, for the past two years, Palestinians have been crossing the Separation Barrier at the breach at that particular point at this very season to pick gundelia on their own farmland. In his testimony to B’Tselem, a-Dardun stated that police officers had detained him and three of his friends at the very same spot two days before this incident. He said that, before letting them go, the police officers beat all four of them and confiscated the plants they had picked.

The decision to mount an armed ambush at a point in the barrier known to be crossed by youths, who pose no danger whatsoever to anyone, for the purpose of harvesting plants is highly questionable. It also indicates, at the very least, extremely faulty discretion on the part of the commanders. Moreover B’Tselem’s findings are markedly different from the description given by the IDF Spokesperson: the youths made no attempt at vandalism; they were crossing through a long-existing breach, and the soldiers did not carry out suspect arrest procedure, shooing at a-Shawamreh  with no advance warning.

The military’s open-fire regulations around the Separation Barrier prohibit opening live fire at Palestinians crossing the Barrier, if they are identified as posing no risk to security forces. However, as revealed in a previous publication concerning shooting near the barrier, the regulations present the prohibition as an exception to the rule. This is compounded by public and media rhetoric considering every Palestinian who crosses the barrier as a potential terrorist. In reality, security forces are well aware of the fact that hundreds and even thousands of Palestinian workers regularly cross through breaches in the Separation Barrier to reach places of employment in Israel.

There are literally thousands of such cases of IDF murder of Palestinian children.  All of them are heartbreaking.  But in this case, Raviv Drucker, one of Israel’s foremost investigative journalists, decided to produce a segment on the killing for his TV news program, HaMakor.  This video segment brings Shawamreh, his life and death into the homes of the Israeli viewing public.  Not that it will change anything.  Children will continue dying (500 were killed last summer during Operation Protective Edge).  But at least we can say they knew.  Israelis knew what their soldiers were doing in their name.  They chose to ignore it.  But they were told.  If this reminds you of a colloquy heard in Europe in the days following the end of World War II, then you have a good memory.

Towards the conclusion of the news report the a-Shawamreh’s father visits the Barrier with TV news crew and has a less lethal interaction with an Israeli patrol. The IDF commander at first seeks to arrest the Palestinian because he took one step on the wrong side of the fence. When the father remonstrates with him about killing his son, the commander replies: “That’s very romantic.” Even in such circumstances the Occupier has not a shred of human decency. The sheer inanity of evil.

Raviv Drucker closes the segment by noting the military prosecutor found no criminal liability in this incident. To which Drucker replies, if there was no criminality here then I don’t know what criminality is.

Perhaps the worst irony is that last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, under enormous pressure from Israel (and perhaps the U.S.) ignored the recommendation of his own staff investigator and refused to list Israel as a nation which endangers the lives of children in conflict zones (Hamas was also removed from the list). Watch these videos and then tell me Israel doesn’t debase the value not only of the adult Palestinian lives it takes, but especially those of the children. What can we say of a nation which kills children with such impunity? And then forgives itself without shedding a tear?

It is a moral obscenity that Israel managed to squirm its way out of designation on the List of Shame.

ed murray israeli gay pride parade

Mayor Murray and spouse marching in Israeli Gay Pride parade with U.S. embassy personnel

Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray, one of the first “out” gay mayor’s of a major American city, has lent himself to the Israel Lobby pinkwashing project.  I’ve written earlier about his address to a Tel Aviv conference celebrating 40 years of gay pride.  But he’s gone much farther as an agent of the Israeli hasbara apparatus.  I’ve already written about the Israeli foreign ministry funding all of his expenses for the trip (including subsidizing a pre-trip vacation for himself and his partner in Persian Gulf states and Jordan). Curiously, all the flattering profiles of Murray in the Israeli media neglected that fact.  Local news reports here in Seattle also note that the City of Seattle funded a security detail consisting of Seattle Police officers that cost the taxpayer $36,000.

Ed Murray with PA official saeb erakat

Murray PR shot with one of Israel’s favorite Palestinians, Saeb Erakat

Murray never visited with Israeli Palestinian MKs as he’d promised he would.  To fulfill his promise to meet with West Bank Palestinians he met with Saeb Erakat, better known in the Palestine Papers as the peace negotiator willing to give away the store during negotiations with PM Ehud Olmert.  Erakat is a member of the corrupt, discredited PA élite, who no more represents Palestine than Ezra Pound did the U.S. when he denounced it on fascist Italian radio during WWII.  The Seattle mayor also met with a group of Palestinian school children.  That’s it.  That’s the extent of his engagement with Palestine.

On the Israeli side, he met with Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat.  While Barkat is a devout secularist, he’s also a flaming ultra-nationalist fanatic who presides over a city which offers virtually no municipal services to the 400,000 Palestinians (40% of the city’s total population) who fall within its jurisdiction (against their will).  Barkat supports the forced expulsion of Palestinians from East Jerusalem neighborhoods where they’ve lived for generations.  If Murray tried this in Seattle he’d be booted out of office in a heartbeat.

The U.S. mayor made some extraordinarily naïve statements along the way.  They come across more like pablum than articulate, thoughtful statements about these issues.  It goes to show that politicians should stay away from this issue unless they’re prepared to study it carefully before opening their mouths.  No doubt, Murray’s strategy on this issue is being guided by wealthy local Jews affiliated with the Israel Lobby.  If he wishes to seek higher office, he’ll need them far more than he needs the LGBT activists who protested against his trip at City Hall.

After his West Bank visit, his staff released this bit of puffery:

Murray said that the two [he and Erakat] spoke about “our mutual hopes for peace and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our shared commitment to promoting democracy and civil rights for all. We also discussed the possibility of identifying a civic project or exchange that might be pursued in cooperation with a municipality or business in the West Bank.”

“I had the chance to sit down with a group of Palestinian students. They impressed me with their commitment to higher education and their belief in the power of that education despite the adversity they face every day. I came away inspired by their hope for a better future and their desire to make a difference,” the statement said.

The Israeli press dutifully reported Murray’s visit in glowing terms.  Ynet’s story maintained a semblance of balance by noting the Mayor was criticized locally in an op-ed published in The Stranger.  Haaretz’s profile was sheer fawning fulsomeness.  It was all-Murray, all the time.  There were no interviews with critics, no mention of Stranger op-eds.  It was really shameful journalism.  I tweeted to the reporter and Aluf Benn, asking him why he didn’t include the views of any critics.  Characteristically, they refused to reply.

lgbt nakba day protest against murray pinkwashing trip to israel

Murray: BDS movement composed of people whose motivation is suspect…like these Seattle LGBT activists (Dean Spade)

Murray used Haaretz’s media pulpit to bash the BDS movement and those local activists who criticized his trip to Israel.  He didn’t go as far as Netanyahu and the Lobby who accuse BDS supporters of being anti-Semitic, but he tiptoed right up to the edge:

“The boycott movement is made up of various people in the United States. A whole bunch of young people who just really care about justice, and others who I’m not sure what their motivation is. I worry that they’re not just anti-Israel but maybe more,” Murray said. “There were letters that were written to me by very mainstream people, who I know support the State of Israel, but believe that there should be a boycott. There were protests downtown and at my office. I believe that the situation is very complex. It’s one that I wanted to understand. I wish that people who are boycotting would actually come here, go to the West Bank like I went to the West Bank, talk to people here in Israel as well.”

The rally cry of the liberal Zionist is: “it’s very complex.”  But you see, it’s not.  It’s complex if you refuse to accept or acknowledge Israel’s offenses against the Palestinians.  And anyone who uses this smokescreen of complexity to shield themselves from the truth will never “understand,” as Murray claims he wishes to.

He further displays abject ignorance of the issues by telling BDS activists they shouldn’t boycott the West Bank.  In his error, he tacitly accepts Israeli claims that it is part of Israel and hence under boycott.  It isn’t.  The West Bank is Palestine, Ed.  Palestine is not under boycott.  People who support Palestinian rights don’t need to come to Israel to understand the issue.  They can understand it perfectly well from Palestine.

He extends his criticism of BDS:

“I don’t think boycott is going to be the answer. I think engagement is going to be the answer. I think we should be figuring out what we can do to help the situation, on the ground, locally – as a local government to a local government. I was very impressed with the Palestinian students we met. They’re young, they’re idealistic, they’re educated, and they’re hopeful there could be a solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they have no hope for a job. And I think that’s the areas we should be thinking about – how do we enable that economy to get started, how do we work with Israel and the future Palestinian state,” he said.

Here again, Murray misunderstand the nature of BDS, which does not discourage engagement with Palestine.  But it is important to note Murray’s focus on economic empowerment of Palestinians, which mirrors the Israeli government’s limitation of progress on Palestinian rights to this single issue.  Neither Bibi Netanyahu nor Ed Murray offer Palestinians any sense of gaining their full political rights through national sovereignty and ending the Occupation.

Murray even misunderstands the status of LGBT individuals in Israel itself:

“We initially made the decision almost a year ago to accept this invitation, to speak at the pride conference. Any country that is supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is a country I want to keep encouraging them to do that.

…I feel more comfortable encouraging the State of Israel to offer the option of civil marriage [as an alternative to] religious marriage.”

Murray hasn’t a clue about the issue of civil marriage in Israel.  He doesn’t understand that marriage and divorce are matters solely under control of the Orthodox rabbinate in Israel.  The State would never take back the authority to recognize marriages from the religious establishment.  In other words, there will never be gay marriage in Israel unless the Orthodox monopoly is broken.  So Murray is endorsing a state which, in its present framework, will never allow gay marriage.

The most powerful political parties in the ruling coalition including the Likud and Bayit Yehudi, absolutely reject gay marriage.  In fact, a minister in the new government once held “Beast Day” (as in “bestiality”) to coincide with the gay pride parade.  Other issues Murray conveniently ignores in his paean to Israel as gay mecca: blatant discrimination in housing in which landlords routinely refuse to rent to gay couples.  The Tel Aviv Bar Noar murders in which a gunman murdered two Israeli gay youth.  This hate crime has never been prosecuted though Israeli police know who the killer is.  The 2005 gay pride parade in Jerusalem was marred by a knife wielding Orthodox fanatic who seriously wounded on of the participants.

Murray was absolutely allergic to the concept of pinkwashing.  It made him break out in hives here:

Murray rejected out of hand the accusation that he is cooperating with ‘pinkwashing.’

“There are still very few countries in the world, outside of Western Europe, and not even all the states in my country, where the government is willing to deal with LGBT people, support them, work with them,” Murray said.

“I think that’s a good thing. I don’t think that has anything to do with the situation in the West Bank and Gaza. I think that some on the far, far left are trying to use our community and tell us what we are being used for. I spent my entire adult life working for equality for LGBT people. I don’t need people to tell me when I’m being used and when I’m not being used.”

It’s disquieting to hear the mayor of my city call me a member of the “far, far left” simply because I call him out for his ignorance about Palestine.  Clearly, he’s lost my vote in the next mayoral election.  Nor do I accept his righteous indignation in response to criticism of his endorsement of Israeli pinkwashing.  Murray has worked for LGBT equality in Washington State, not in Israel.  This foray into Middle East politics takes him far outside his normal political field.  And it shows in the emptiness of his rhetoric.  If he thinks he can get away with this sort of response to criticism he’s sorely mistaken.

Not to mention, that members of the Seattle LGBT community, who themselves battle for civil rights locally, nationally, and internationally, were those who criticized his pinkwashing and asked him not to visit Israel.  They have every right to call him out for his actions and this assault against them is unjustified and uncalled for.

Finally, Murray condescends to offer, after the first five days he ever spent there in his life, his evaluation of conditions for the LGBT community in Israel:

The Seattle mayor said he had the impression that the status of gay rights in Israel was very much the same as in the United States. “It’s very similar to the Unites States. There are many, many rights that people enjoy in this country that we’ve only started to enjoy recently, such as freedom from discrimination in the military,” Murray said.

“But, like in the Unites States, there are still things that have to be done. And like in the United States, there is a large conservative religious movement that is not happy about that. And like in the United States, there are parts of this country where it’s very easy to be out and gay. In other parts it’s not that easy.”

Murray noted that he felt at ease throughout his visit. “Obviously Tel Aviv is more comfortable than Jerusalem, but I didn’t feel inhibited in Jerusalem,” he said.

For the reasons I outlined above, Murray is clearly wrong in claiming gay rights in Israel and the U.S. are “very similar.”  He claims Israeli gays have “many, many rights” Americans have only just earned.  But then only names one regarding gay military service.  Further, he equates the relative power of Orthodox Jewish establishment to control key elements of gay life with similar opposition from evangelical Christians.  In this, he ignores the fact that Orthodox Judaism, unlike evangelicals here, controls key elements of state policy.  John Hagee can’t tell Murray he can’t marry his partner.  But the Chief Rabbi can in Israel.  Israel is, at least in part, a theocracy.  America isn’t.  This is a major difference which the pinkwashing Mayor ellides.


Israeli Pride as Pinkwashing

shai zamir pinkwashing op ed

Shai Zamir’s Yediot op-ed

The following is an op-ed written by Yediot Achronot reporter, Shai Zamir.  To my knowledge, it has not appeared in the paper’s online edition, nor in the Ynet English edition.  It’s important enough to the debate raging about pinkwashing that I wanted it to be accessible to English readers.  It’s a critique of gay pride Israel-style as a facade behind which Israeli racism and intolerance flourish:

The Dance-Line

Racism, Radicalization, International Isolation? What’s More Important is That We’re Full of Hunks on Floats

German. French. Spanish. Gay slang.  Whoever walks around the streets of Tel Aviv in coming days won’t be able to avoid the muscle-bound guys who chatter at every street corner.  They’ve come for the Gay Pride.

They say we’re under boycott.  That Israel has become a pariah because of a bit of suffering involving our rule over another people.  But the White City [Tel Aviv] withstands the ire of Israel haters from within and without, decked out in all the colors of the rainbow.  It makes us just like all the other nations.  For one long weekend, we can sink into the sweet illusion that Israel is a normal place just like any other western city.  But the gap between reality and the gay celebrations mounted with the cooperation of gay hunks from around the world, only grows.

israeli gay pride parade

Float in Israel’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade (Hadar Cohen)

The more leprous Israel becomes, the more isolated, the more religious, and the much more racist, the more improved is the situation for the Israeli LGBT community, which serves as an inspiration for “homos” and lesbians the world over.  Those which we like to call “gays,” because in English everything sounds so much more enlightened.  Like appearances by stars of the past who land here for a second and a half, so the gay community has become a whitening agent [bleach] for an Israel likes to think of itself as free.  Thanks to the surging throngs of bare-chested men, Israel clings to its image as a progressive society.

The very same Bogie Yaalon who supports gay marriage is the same defense minister who tomorrow may enforce apartheid on buses traveling in the West Bank.  There are Israelis who believe we’re talking about a wonderful contradiction, which attests to Israel being a complex society filled with opposites.  But more than anything, it teaches us of the highly-developed tissue of lies we tell ourselves and through which the wave of world boycott may wash Israel away to Hell.

ed murray pinkwashes israel

Seattle’s gay mayor, Ed Murray pinkwashes Israeli apartheid and oppression (Yuval Zelinovsky)

In English, they call it pinkwashing–the methodical concealment of violations of human rights through the exploitation of pink “fuck me” underwear, which the hunks on floats wear.  But the well-funded campaign by the Tel Aviv municipality and the foreign ministry to present a tolerant, gay friendly Israel isn’t meant for outsiders as is generally believed. First and foremost it’s directed internally toward Israelis who like to think of themselves as a sort of burbling brook of democracy in the midst of the primitive dark eastern savannah.

Like Meretz, American TV shows, and di gays from Berlin, gays are above all a branding opportunity meant to help us go without, and feel with: without freedom, without international legitimacy, without any intention of attempting to reach an agreement.  The relative tolerance the gay community enjoys lives on borrowed time, because it isn’t founded on a genuine belief in equality, but on a superficial claim of acceptance of the Other.  Gays and lesbians must know that Israeli society exploits them in order to maintain the semblance of a free society in a nation for which millions of Palestinians have no importance.  A nation which charges anyone who dares to speak of human rights in the Territories as an anti-Semite.  The real truth is that anyone who doesn’t love Arabs can’t love gays.  And those who don’t really love gays should stop pretending.

Thanks for help with translation of Hebrew gay slang from Dena Shunra.

shin bet job recruitment

Weizmann Street sign with caption: “Thanks to “Z.” this street is safe. the Shin Bet seeks those who want to save lives. To apply, visit shabak.gov.il”

A few weeks ago, a knowledgeable Israeli security source told me that the Shin Bet was launching a wide public campaign to recruit new agents to the security service.  Other than a few ads I feature here, I saw no evidence of the campaign so I didn’t report it.  Yesterday, the other shoe dropped with the report that Israeli universities have provided personal contact information (Hebrew and English here) for thousands of their graduates to the Shin Bet.  The agency has sent recruitment letters to many of them informing them that they may be suitable to work for Israel’s secret police.  They urge the individuals to submit job applications.

shin bet recruitment

Another ad, this one for Chaim Arlozorov Street

In some cases, letters were mailed to social justice activists, who thought such recruitment odd. Were they seeking spies to infiltrate Israeli social justice movements? Some of these recipients hadn’t even served in the IDF, which would render them less desirable candidates.

So a Meretz MK wrote to the prime minister’s office asking why Israeli leftists were being recruited and what was the criteria used to determine who was a suitable candidate to approach.  The response was pretty much what you’d expect: how could you even think such a thing?  That the Shin Bet would recruit people because of their leftist views!!  Preposterous.

In no case did recipients authorize release of their private information.  But it appears that in the national security state such things are pro forma matters and the security services can get what they want and do what they want.  It may summon who it wants and many would be honored to dirty their hands for the sake of the nation.

In truth, all Israeli security agencies including the police have carte blanche to demand whatever information they wish from state agencies like universities, which have no choice but to comply.  But it seems to me that the schools should publicly reveal that the information was demanded and provided so their graduates would be aware of this breach of privacy.

The Shin Bet obtained the names, citizen ID numbers (equivalent to a driver’s license and social security number), and contact information for all graduates.

sana'a al hafi

It took years for Shabak to detect Sana’a al-Hafi’s alleged smuggling of funds into Israeli prison

Though the Shin Bet is reporting a major success in thwarting a Palestinian effort to smuggle funds to a Hamas leader in an Israeli prison, they’re not revealing that it took years for them to detect the plot and thwart it.  In that time, Sana al-Hafi, age 44, passed “hundreds of thousands” of dollars undetected to her prisoner brother, Sheikh Hussein Abu Kweik.

hussein abu kweik

Sheikh Hussein Abu Kweik, allegedly received large sums from Hamas charity

The Israeli security agency claims that under interrogation, she said the funds were used to purchase her brother “an elegant apartment” and “fancy car.”  This makes absolutely no sense.  Why would she need to go to the danger of smuggling funds into an Israeli prison when she could’ve bought the items herself on his behalf?

Al-Hafi also allegedly told interrogators that the funds were transferred from a Hamas charity, Al Noor, which is dedicated to helping the families of shahids, prisoners, and those wounded in Israeli attacks.  In other words, the Shin Bet is attempting to plant the notion that al-Hafi and her brother are corrupt and misusing Hamas charity funds.

Another bizarre feature of this prosecution is that the victim is being charged under Israeli law with “contact with a foreign agent” when she isn’t an Israeli citizen and her “crime” isn’t a crime in Gaza itself, where she lives.  If Israel annexed Gaza and proclaimed sovereignty over it and charged Gazans with crimes under Israeli law, that would be one thing.  But they’re treating Gazans as if they’re under Israeli sovereignty when they’re not (supposedly).

Shin Bet also makes a point of claiming that Hamas’s heartlessness towards Gazans may be found in the fact that it smuggles enormous sums into Israeli prisons while poverty lurks in Gaza itself.  Making such a claim gives the lie to the hasbara notion there is no siege and commerce is conducted as normal.  If that were so, there would be no such funding crisis in Gaza.  Again, something for which Israel is responsible, not Hamas.

Shabak Recruits Chinese Spies

chinese workers tel aviv

Chinese workers at their camp outside Tel Aviv, live in deplorable conditions  (Rita Castelnuovo/NY Times)

China has raised objections to an Israeli plan to dragoon tens of thousands of Chinese laborers into the West Bank to build new settlements.  These objections are supposedly based on Chinese opposition to violations of international law.  In fact, The Marker’s headline blares: “Boycott Come to the East: China Demands No Chinese Employed in [Building] Settlements.”  China says it insists on this condition “in order to protect” its citizens.

My cynical take is that the moral implications are of less importance to the Chinese government than the cash considerations.  It probably wants a better financial deal than Israel is (yet) offering.  In fact, The Marker story notes China is demanding payment of $6,000 per head.  The Israeli government plan, spearheaded by new Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, hopes to import up to 15,000 Chinese workers.  That amounts to a hefty $90-million payment to the Chinese government each year.  Much of that would go to the local regional governments in China from which the workers originate.  Note, this level of society is where some of the worst corruption in China exists.  $90-million greases a lot of palms!

chinese worker modiin ilit

Chinese worker building Israeli settlement in Modi’in Ilit  (Reuters)

This new system would replace one in which private companies in both Israel and China oversaw the hiring of laborers.  This led to scandalous violations of labor and human rights in which workers paid as much as $30,000 to their Chinese sponsors.  This in turn led to them being little more than indentured servants once in Israel, and held under conditions little better than slavery.  This in turn led to Israel being accused of engaging in human trafficking.

Israel, for many reasons, refuses these Chinese demands.  An Israeli security source revealed to me that one of those is that Shin Bet has been recruiting Chinese as spies in the settlements where they work.  If there are no Chinese workers then that’s the end of the agency’s Chinese spy program.  My source claims the agency has had success in such recruitment (it even placed an ad a few months ago seeking such an agent).  In fact, it calls this agent, with a bit Graham Greene-like bravado, “Our Man in Samaria.”  He monitors Jewish terror suspects who live in the West Bank.  Israeli Shin Bet agents are known and largely exposed in the settlements, but few would suspect the Chinese of being Israeli intelligence assets.  Personally, I’m not certain how useful Chinese spies would be in settlements: they don’t speak Hebrew, they have no familiarity with the culture or society.  Perhaps, they might perform activities like planting surveillance equipment (if trained to do so).

So China may not be especially happy to have its citizens groomed as Shabak spies (that may be why The Marker portrayed China’s refusal to allow its workers to work across the Green Line as “protecting them” i.e., from recruitment).  Another reason the Chinese might object to Shabak doing this is that these spies might return to China and spy for Israel there.  Though given that they are mostly common laborers it’s not clear how useful they would be once they returned to China.  You’d expect Israel would want intelligence on Chinese military affairs and weapons systems.  It’s not clear to me how such individuals could obtain such information.  Though in spy craft, almost anything is possible.

The Marker notes that Israel may continue using Chinese workers under the old system (when Shabak successfully recruited its “man” in the settlements).  But it will run into objections both from the Israeli Supreme Court (which objected to the Chinese peonage) and the U.S. State Department, which lists countries which abet human trafficking.  In this age of BDS, that’s one list Israel doesn’t need.


During their Las Vegas anti-BDS “Maccabee Summit,” Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban, sat down for a joint interview with an Israeli Channel 2 TV reporter.  She raised the issue of Orange CEO, Stephane Richard’s abject apology to Israel for suggesting his company would like to be rid of its Israeli affiliate.  Saban replied with a tone of menace in his voice that any country that is even thinking about boycotting Israel should think twice because the harsh treatment being meted out to Richard is just the beginning for him.  In other words, if you’re a corporate CEO and want to keep your job, heed Saban’s warning or you may be out in the street.

This is more than hardball tactics.  This is the sort of bullying, brutish behavior for which Adelson is known.  In the Middle East itself, it’s the sort of approach Israel takes to its neighbors.  If you stand in our way, we’ll mow you down.  Even if you don’t stand in our way, we may mow you down just for the fun of it.

During another segment, Saban jointly summarizes (on Adelson’s behalf) their overall goals:

Our interest is to take care of Israel’s interests in the United States.”

You didn’t hear a word about representing America’s interests because that’s not their interest.  They’ve just raised the ugly specter of dual loyalty without having a clue why or how they did so.  They may be billionaires and good at something.  But they ain’t good at this.

Since earlier in the interview, Saban and Adelson had used terms like anti-Semitic and anti-Israel to portray BDS, the interviewer, in one of her few slightly probing questions, asked whether all criticism of Israel must be anti-Semitic.  This is Adelson’s full unexpurgated reply:

“It’s people like you who are saying: ‘Is it really against Israel’s policy that you want to demonize the policy of Israel before anyone ever says that it’s the policy?

But it seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism. As a teenager, I suffered from anti-Semitism. A lot. The area in which I grew up [Roxbury, MA] suffered from maimings, killings, rapes, beatings from those who were anti-Semitic. But I can tell you there’s little or no sign in society today that anti-Semitism is even 10% [of Americans].

“But I’m absolutely positive there’s a lot of anti-Semitism on campus. Now, the people who are buying it are not intentionally, I don’t believe are bigots. But they’re buying the arguments that are only reacted to by the various [BDS] groups that are here today. That’s why this summit was put together.”

I understand the man is over 80 years old.  I cut him some slack for that.  But to rewrite the history of Boston Jewry and claim Jews were raped and murdered in Roxbury because they were Jewish?  Really?  To turn Boston into a Ukrainian shtetl?  Pogroms in Roxbury?  No, that’s unacceptable.  But perfectly acceptable in the pro-Israel fantasy world in which he lives.

As they wrap up, Adelson tells the interviewer that it’s now time for dinner. He asks if the Israeli interviewer knows the Jewish saying: “We finish something, let’s eat.  And after eating we say we finished eating, now let’s eat.”  To this bon mot Saban responds: “I support that 100%!”  And they follow this with a high-five.

A zoch in vay.  If this is what Jewish identity has become, perhaps we deserve oblivion.  And with enemies like this BDS can’t lose.

H/t to Abe Greenhouse.


Last week, prominent Israeli BDS activist, Ronnie Barkan, was interviewed on Yediot Achronot’s TV news channel by Atilla Somfalvi. This isn’t really an interview.  It’s at best ambush journalism.  But I’d go farther: there is state-sponsored terrorism; this is state-sponsored journalism.  It’s journalism in service not just to the State, but to the worst policies and prejudices of a nation (or at least its government).

netanyahu bds czar erdan

Bibi to BDS Czar Gilad Erdan: “I’ve instructed that we increase our hasbara efforts.”

Readers here will note that Yediot let its anti-BDS “freak-flag fly” last week, trumpeting that it was dedicating itself to the anti-BDS cause.  It prominently featured front page articles attacking BDS with vile lies from Ben Dror Yemini and a more centrist Nahum Barnea.  The Barkan interview is part of this scorched earth campaign, which was inspired by the naming of a new government in recent weeks, which prominently features fighting BDS as part of its political agenda.  There is a new BDS czar, Minister Gilad Erdan, who’s pictured falling out of this rowboat in a roiling sea with Bibi Netanyahu in the accompanying Biderman cartoon.

It’s useful to note the propaganda memes Somfalvi exploits in this video.  Among other things, he falsely claims three times (despite the fact that Barkan had already told the researcher who pre-interviewed him that this was untrue) that the activist is funded by BDS.  When Ronnie notes that he earns his living by working with computers, Somfalvi indignantly says, “you mean to tell me that BDS doesn’t accept donations?”  Well, of course it accepts donations like any other NGO.  But do any of those donations go to Barkan?  Or any other Israeli BDS activist?  No, they don’t.  But Somfalvi doesn’t let that stop him.

Barkan reminds the audience that Israeli Jewish rights came at the expense of the non-Jewish native inhabitants of the land, and that BDS demands full equality for Israeli Palestinians as well.  He asks Somfalvi why this idea so disturbs him.  He then goes into high dudgeon, demanding why, if Barkan is so embarrassed by his native country, he doesn’t renounce his Israeli citizenship.  The very act of demanding justice for non-Jewish Israeli citizens is an impermissible act which renders Barkan treif, a traitor to the Israeli (Jewish) nation.

In fact, Somfalvi goads him into doing so telling him: “Go live in Italy.”  He implies that this is where all traitors to the Israeli state belong: abroad.  The BDS campaigner disappoints him when he replies that he is Israeli and will retain his Israeli citizenship, thank you.

The lowest of the low in this interview comes when Somfalvi lets loose with a torrent of abuse against BDS calling it: “sick, twisted, and messed up.”  He even uses the word dafuk which in its crudest form can convey being “fucked up.”  At this point, he is hectoring Barkan and the interview becomes a shouting match (with only the interviewer doing the shouting).

This interview is instructive, not so much for what Barkan says (because he was cut off so often he only managed to get his points across beneath Somfalvi’s bellowing), but for the frightened, cowering response of the Jewish State to BDS.  This is a nation so threatened by the demand for basic democratic rights that it must spend tens of millions of dollars and enlist the resources not just of the State, but of the entire nation to fight an existential war of Good and Evil against BDS.  To employ the Israeli reporter’s own terms, this is truly sick.  It’s pathological and paranoid.

Other Israeli politicians have fulminated about BDS being no different from terrorism.  It’s been labeled as anti-Semitic and falsely described as seeking the destruction of Israel.  Comparisons of it to the Holocaust cannot be far behind.  In fact, an Israeli Supreme Court decision likens BDS supporters to Holocaust deniers.  Such florid abuse of rhetoric only reveals the utter desperation of the Israeli cause.

Finally, in negotiating the terms of the interview Barkan demanded it be live so it couldn’t be edited out of context.  When he was told StandWithUs would be involved he demanded that it be a one-on-one interview, to which they agreed.  Then when he was connected via Skype he noted that a SWU PR flack was there in the studio.  Another example of an Israeli media so infused with self-righteousness it dispenses with honesty.  I suppose they view BDS as evil incarnate and so not worthy of being treated with candor, respect and truthfulness.

After cutting off Barkan in mid-sentence and abruptly ending his portion of the interview, Somfalvi turns to the SWU spokesperson, who proceeds to lie about BDS claiming it’s affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.  He further claims that SWU is non-political (neither “left nor right”), another blatant lie.  I would have no problem with these hasbara outfits arguing based on facts.  But when they, and the Israeli media resort to shouting, bullying and outright lies, they only expose the bankruptcy and desperation of their own cause.

To be fair, it’s important to note that there are Israeli journalists who don’t buy the company line, who aren’t cowed by national consensus, who are willing to do their jobs in an independent fashion.  Ronnie was interviewed on one such TV program and this is the result.  A fair and balanced discussion of military refusal without shouting and hysterics.

Abraham Lincoln once said “a house divided cannot stand.” Israel isn’t a house divided in the sense that Lincoln meant it.  It isn’t riven by self-doubt and a civil war as the Union was then.  But it is a nation that has trampled on those same values for which Lincoln and the Union strove during the Civil War: democracy, freedom, full equality for all.  In that sense, Israel is a nation built on principles it has betrayed.

Further, Lincoln described his country, in his  Gettysburg Address, as:

…A new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

Israel too was at least nominally conceived according to the same principles.  But it has diverged from them.  In doing so, it raises profound questions about whether it too “can long endure.”