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price tag flyer

Price Tag flyer demanding Muslims vacate Dome of the Rock to prepare for Temple sacrifices

Yesterday, two enterprising fellows committed a price tag attack on the Temple Mount, where they hung flyers demanding Muslims vacate the premises during the Passover holidays so Jews might do some Passover housecleaning…like rebuilding the Temple and making the traditional animal sacrifices offered during the days of the ancient Temple.  The flyer said:

You [Muslims] are hereby requested to vacate the Temple Mount…pursuant to preparations for the construction of the Holy Temple, renewal of animal sacrifices and the act of the Passover sacrifice.

We thank you for your cooperation,

The Jewish People

Part of the background for this is that a radical settler group publicly announced that it had begun training priests to perform these sacrifices:

On April 10…hundreds of Jews will gather…[to] start learning the Jewish laws of Passover. Rabbis and experts…[from] the Temple Institute in the Old City of Jerusalem, the leading body preparing for the establishment of the third temple, will teach the audience the laws of the Passover sacrifice…[A] ritual slaughterer…will teach the audience about the unique elements of the slaughter of the Passover sacrifice. After the lessons, the real thing will start: the simulation of the Passover sacrifice.

…The ceremony on Thursday will be, in Israel Defense Forces (IDF) lingo, “practice with live fire.” Slaughtering lambs, sprinkling their blood on the altar by priests dressed in kosher priestly garments and roasting the lambs, with their heads, legs and innards. Just as God intended.

This isn’t the first time that the “Association of Temple Organizations” will hold this activity, but this year the practice drill and re-enactment of the Passover sacrifice will be carried out by the students of the school for priests, Nezer Ha-kodesh, which started operating this year. The priest school intends to train the hundreds of priests that would be needed to work at the third temple; many Jews endeavor for its establishment in Israel today.

price tag gag order

Jerusalem police gag order prohibiting media from publishing details of Price Tag attack on Temple Mount

This bit of pro-settler propaganda made its way into the pages of Al Monitor, whose Israel page seems to be edited by a settler enthusiast.  Note the dead giveaway line in italics which gives away the writers ideological biases.

You shouldn’t worry about the possible conflict with Muslims who might have a problem with the destruction of the Haram al-Sharif and its replacement by a Jewish temple.  All that will be done in a totally kosher manner:

Everything is ready, then, except [one] additional, small matter…

The Al-Aqsa Mosque…slightly impedes the architectural plans. “The temple will not be built through private acts and blowing up mosques,” emphasizes Segal. “That’s not the direction. The direction is changing consciousness. The preparations are mental more than anything.” One of the people involved in preparations, who requested anonymity, explains, “If not for the problem of the Dome of the Rock, they would build the temple today, and the temple would be built there. The third temple will be built by the government of Israel, not by private individuals. No one will do what shouldn’t be done, like an underground action to blow up the Dome of the Rock. The people who are committed to establishing the temple are normative and rational people, and just like we established the State of Israel, the day will come when we will build the temple, in an orderly, state-sanctioned manner.”

Don’t you worry your pretty little heads.  This isn’t like the old days when terror cells had to plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock.  No, today we own the government and it will do it for us.  Nice and kosher-like.

Returning to our two fine gentlemen: they were only, to their minds, taking this religious lunacy to the next logical step. If Jewish priests are ready to resume animal sacrifices, it only stands to reason that they should do so on the actual site of the Temple, and that Muslims should just vacate the premises for that purpose.

The police are quite aware of the incendiary nature of the provocation, which is why they’re slapped a double gag on the proceedings. Israeli journalists are not allowed to report the names of the suspects, their crime, or even the fact that there is a gag.

Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson was suitably outraged by the gag and published the police notice on his Facebook page along with a brief summary of the settler frolics that got them into hot water:

Behind this order are two lads who were caught hanging flyers that say that the Arabs must “clear off of Har Habayit due to work for establishing the temple and renewing the sacrificial labors”.

yair kehaty

Yair Kehaty, enterprising young Price Tagger

The Jerusalem police arrested the two and sent them to be investigated at the nationalist crime division. The judge released them, but accepted the police request to prohibit publication.

Thankfully, there are Israelis (not Levinson, in case the police are wondering) who are outraged enough to share with me the names and crimes of the suspects.

They are Yair Kehaty from the Ramat Migron settlement and Ohad Van-Loan (Jerusalem)  Both are followers of the Facebook group, Return the Temple to Our Hands.  They were arrested by police and questioned by the division dealing with Jewish terrorism.  The judge, figuring a gag order would sweep this little matter under the rug, released the lads from custody.

He didn’t reckon with troublesome Israelis and an American blogger upsetting the apple cart and demanding accountability and transparency (not that we’ll get much in this case).

The final wrinkle in this case is that this Price Tag attack is an act of vengeance for the defense ministry tearing down five illegal structures in the Yitzhar settlement.  This is where residents greeted IDF personnel and vehicles with a pelting of stones a few days ago.  Yitzhar is the center of settler resistance to the secular Israeli state.  It is the beating heart of the Hilltop Youth.  Even Likud is too moderate for them.

In retaliation for this wanton act of terror (called this by government ministers themselves), the pro-settler defense minister, Bogie Yaalon, wanting to let them know who’s boss, ordered the destruction of the illegal structures.  Not to be outdone, the settler terrorists decided to strike at the crux of the matter, the intersection between Islam and Judaism in Israel, the Temple Mount.  They certainly made their point forcefully.  As for who’s boss, if Yaalon thinks he’s their boss, he’s got another thing coming.  It’s a settler asylum and they run the place.  The politicians are their willing servants.

As for the settlers, they made a good trade.  They lost only five buildings that are probably already rebuilt, but they struck back right at the nexus, the heart of religious contention, where the next holy war could start.  They laid down their marker.

H/t to Dena Shunra and several anonymous Israeli friends of this blog.

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ailes chafets

Roger Ailes (l.) and his literary amanuensis, Zev Chafets (r.)

My only regret in reading Zev Chafets’ slash and burn article on FoxNews about the Brandeis-Hirsi Ali controversy is that he didn’t name me as a “suspect” in the “honor-killing” of Hirsi Ali’s degree.  Instead, the Likudist sychophantic biographer of Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh, reserved his ire for CAIR:

Brandeis University committed an honor killing this week. The victim was a Somali woman named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

…She had dared to criticize Islam and Muslim behavior in the same way other religions and other human behaviors get criticized in an open society. In America you can’t get killed for this (yet), but you can be dealt with.Enter Nihad Awad, the national head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He launched a letter of protest at Brandeis president Fredrick Lawrence, accusing Hirsi Ali of wrong thoughts and evil words. Giving her an award, he wrote, would be like “promoting the work of white supremacists and anti-Semites.”

That was rich. Awad…actually accused Ali of threatening the entire Muslim world with violence.

This sort of histrionic rhetoric is precisely what drives people away in droves from the lunatic-right extremists, both neocons and pro-Israel nationalists.  It constitutes the honor-killing of reason, if I can continue to savage this metaphor as they have.  The hysterics make the principled stand we all have taken in this matter smell like a rose.

The slightly less lunatic right, in the person of Bill Kristol, is trying to make a comparison between Tony Kushner, who received a Brandeis honorary degree, and Hirsi Ali, who didn’t.  The argument is that Kushner is supposedly an Israel hater and anti-Zionist, and how is that any different from Hirsi Ali?  The problem with this is that Kushner is a proud Jew and Hirsi Ali detests Islam.  Kushner is not an anti-Semite, no matter how hard Kristol will try to transform criticizing Zionism into anti-Semitism.

Jeffrey Goldberg goes so far as the following piece of brainlessness:

I have to read carefully, but she hasn’t struck me as more hostile to Muslims than, say, Tony Kushner is to Jews.

He, of course, hasn’t “read carefully” at all.  Here, Goldberg is guilty of the same old false pro-Israel elision between Judaism and Zionism.  Hirsi Ali, as the Reason Magazine interview demonstrates, documents her support for genocide against Muslims.  Kushner isn’t even in the same league.

The libertarian, Andrew Sullivan, who concedes he is a close person friend of Hirsi Ali and her husband, Niall Ferguson, derides those of us who dislike Hirsi Ali’s toxic utterances about Islam, as “the hard left:”

Ayaan has indeed said some intemperate and extreme things at times about Islam as a whole. But to judge Ayaan’s enormous body of work and her terrifying, pioneering life as a Somali refugee by a few quotes is, I’m afraid to say, all-too-familiar as an exercise in the public shaming of an intellectual for having provocative ideas.

“A few quotes?”  Is that what he thinks we’ve done?  She’s written and spoken hundreds of thousands of words, many of which condemn her to the bed she’s made for herself.  Yes, as I’ve written here, her biography is compelling.  Her life full of suffering.  But that simply cannot excuse the bile she’s consistently spewed against Islam.  The hate, the fury, the unreasoning rage.  It’s simply impermissible to be taken seriously when your views have jumped off the deep end of rational discourse.  Sullivan has allowed friendship to blind himself to the weaknesses of his pals.  He ought to read more and sip lattes with them less.

The simple honest truth is that if Hirsi Ali has said 10% of what she’s said about Islam about Judaism instead, she’d have been run out of academia and all respectable discourse.  She’d be somewhere near David Irving in the ranks of decent company to keep.  But our society hasn’t yet acknowledged Islam as a religion worthy of the sensitivity we have for bigots who abuse Christianity and Judaism.  Because there hasn’t been a Holocaust against Muslims as there has been against Jews, it means someone who advocates extirpating Islam as Hirsi Ali has done, remains within reasonable discourse, when she has no right to be.

Yet another excellent critical appraisal of Hirsi Ali’s views may be found in this piece in the New Yorker by Pankaj Mishra.

Note also, as a Brandeis professor reminded me today in an e mail, that in all the right-wing brouhaha over this, there isn’t a word about the actual force that brought about the cancellation of Hirsi Ali’s award: campus students and faculty (one-quarter of whom opposed the award).  Not a word about the thousands of signature on the campus petition, which had nothing to do with CAIR.  Hell, I don’t even think my own blog post was anything more than a small spark that ignited a controversy that was caused by the foolhardy decisions of Pres. Lawrence and the trustees who masterminded this.

But I am proud to say that I have been smeared as part of the far-right backlash over the Hirsi Ali controversy.  Chloe Valdary and Daniel Mael, a Brandeis undergrad who’s a darling of Breitbart and founder of the oddly named Safe Hillel–which is really an anti-Open Hillel–movement, have warned CAIR that thanking me for my role means they’re embracing a “racist bigot” (for my earlier criticism of Valdary as the Israel Lobby’s token Negro).  Somehow this is meant to bleed into my own criticism of Hirsi Ali, implying that because I attacked Valdary and Hirsi Ali, that my views about Hirsi Ali are somehow racist as well.  Not that there’s any proof of this offered.  There never is with these types.  It’s assault by inference.  The attacks of these pro-Israelists have six degrees of separation from the truth.

 

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It’s been Hirsi Ali Month here at Tikun Olam.  First, she launched Honor Diaries on International Women’s Day, March 8th.  She executive produced that film with her Islamophobic pals at Clarion Project.  Then she was offered an honorary degree by Brandeis University recognizing her activism for women’s rights in the Muslim world, while ignoring her advocacy of military attack on all Islam.  Yesterday, Brandeis’ president came to his senses and withdrew the degree after it was first reported here and then became a cause celebre on campus, with students and faculty alike arising in anger at her intolerant utterances.

Today, Hirsi Ali released a stinging rebuke of Brandeis which faulted it for betraying its mandate to support free speech.  Here are notable excerpts:

I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me…

I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin…Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.

What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.

What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The “spirit of free expression” referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.

She has every right to feel wronged by Brandeis, which should have done its due diligence and either didn’t, or didn’t understand the import of Hirsi Ali’s past statements in the context of the public airing they’d receive.  There is shame in this incident, but more for Brandeis than her.  But in using such a term she continues the imagery of victimization which it’s been so convenient for her to adopt in discussing what she sees as the damaged, inferior role of women in Islam.

But where she is disingenuous is in claiming that Brandeis violated any principle of free speech in denying her this degree.  Brandeis has no obligation to reward her for her views, which is what an honorary degree is.  It only has an obligation to encourage the free exchange of ideas among students and faculty on campus and in its courses.  Hirsi Ali’s books and views will continue being discussed in campus courses as they have been.  I’m sure Pres. Lawrence would’ve tried to make amends by inviting her to return to campus (not that I would personally choose this option myself) as he implied in his message yesterday.

Unfortunately, in her anger Hirsi Ali has closed off this option (at least for now, unless her neocon friends can arrange a sulha with Brandeis):

Brandeis has invited me “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.” Sadly, in words and deeds, the university has already spoken its piece. I have no wish to “engage” in such one-sided dialogue. I can only wish the Class of 2014 the best of luck—and hope that they will go forth to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater.

But the real point of this post was to raise some new, deeply alarming views of Hirsi Ali toward the Israel-Palestine conflict.  In Israel’s pro-Likud paper, Yisrael HaYom, she expounded on her Zionist Revisionist/Islamophobic views of Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians in particular.  Since this is an interview in which she is quoted, I presume she can’t claim she was misquoted or taken out of context, as she does above:

…Why is this [peace] process so prolonged? Because for the Israelis this issue is a territorial problem. For the Palestinian negotiators, on the other hand, it is not a territorial problem but a religious and ethnic one…

From the perspective of the Arab leaders, reaching a two-state solution is to betray God, the Koran, the hadith and the tradition of Islam.

…The presumption that the Palestinian negotiators are secular is not supported by facts. Were they secular, there would already be a settled territorial agreement of some kind. But there is no agreement as of today, because on one side it has become religious jihad of all or nothing, while on the other side it is still a territorial issue. Of course I know that there are Israelis who also perceive this as a religious problem; but their numbers pale in comparison to the Muslim side. Reaching a settlement that brings about two states is a religious betrayal — not only for the leadership but for most Muslims today. The West does not understand this.

The conception of religion in the West in the 20th and 21st century differs from that of Middle Eastern Muslims. The West successfully separated religion and politics, but even in places in the West where there is no distinct separation, still the concept of God and religion, even in the 13th or 15th century, differs to the current reality in the Middle East.

 …Islam has a goal. So if you are a true Muslim, you must fight for that goal. You can achieve a temporary peace or truce, but it is not ultimate, not everlasting. It is not just about the territory. Because the territory does not belong to the people; it belongs to God. So for a Palestinian leader — even if he is secular, even an atheist — to leave the negotiating room with the announcement of a two-state solution would mean that he would be killed the minute he walks out.

…More and more leaders see that this conflict is not going to be resolved Western-style, namely that all conflicts are resolvable and no-one leaves the table empty-handed.

In a culture dictated by honor and shame – in addition to the religious issue – defeat of any kind, accepting a compromise, is to leave the room empty-handed. Compromise is loss in this culture. It is very hard to explain this to contemporary Westerners.

To go on and on about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in my view is to take a tranquilizer or smoke pot. You do it just to feel better. You cannot face reality, so you just keep on harping about something that can make you feel better.

…If you want a [real peace] process, continue the way you are. If you want real, lasting peace, then things have to change first within the Arab Muslim individual, family, school, streets, education, and politics. It is not an Israeli problem.

…For cultural change to transpire we need one hundred years and more to pass.

You can pick any number you want. I am speaking of a lengthy, bloody period. But it is going to change.

A close reading of the above interview reveals that Hirsi Ali has a deeply distorted view of Islam, Arabs and Palestinians.  There is virtually nothing above that is factual or provable.  It is all personal opinion.  And as such, it is false.  She has no knowledge of Arabs or Palestinians.  I’d guess she doesn’t know any, doesn’t care to, and hasn’t visited Palestine.  If that’s the case and she derives all of her “knowledge” from her pro-Israel necon sources in Israel and elsewhere, how can she make any claims about The Other?

As for doing drugs, I’d say that it is she who lives in a delusional state buttressed by grievance and devoid of historical evidence.  What is compelling about Hirsi Ali is her personal narrative.  What is not compelling is the spin she has added to it.  It is frightening that the world turns to this “scholar” as an expert on anything more than her own personal suffering.  She would do much better to write novels than expound on reality.

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Brandeis Rescinds Hirsi Ali Honorary Degree

hirsi ali

Ayan Hirsi Ali interviewed by FoxNews libertarian extremist, John Stossel.

Brandeis’ president announced today that he’d rescinded the University’s offer of an honorary degree to Ayan Hirsi Ali. Here is the statement:

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

A little background is in order.  I was made aware of the award originally by a faculty member and wrote the post about the story.  It took a few days, but finally campus activists began to organize and in the past few days the Brandeis Justice had an editorial rejecting Hirsi Ali’s degree, the Muslim student group wrote an op-ed and there was a roundly negative news article.  Students began a petition campaign and faculty weighed in against it.  CAIR put the award on its national bulletin circulated to its members and the media.

In the end, Lawrence bowed to the inevitable and withdrew the degree.  Not to have done so would’ve risked a huge scandal which would’ve gone national.  While I don’t believe that personally Lawrence has any problems with Hirsi Ali’s Islamophobia, nor would the trustees who are the ultimate “deciders,” he had to recognize the rest of the world doesn’t see things quite the same way.

But one portion of the statement is truly pathetic.  How can a university president, former law school dean, and noted legal scholar not understand the principle of due diligence?  It would take 15 seconds worth of Google search to dig up the interview from Reason Magazine which I found.  The truth is that either a pro-Israel trustee or his chief of staff, David Bunis, who’s a director of the David Project, suggested her to Lawrence.  The latter knows which side his bread is buttered on and he went along.  After all, you’ve got to go along to get along in academia, just like politics.  Or to paraphrase Forest Gump, pro-Israel is as pro-Israel does.

Note all, that Lawrence invited Hirsi Ali back to campus.  Undoubtedly, they’ll pick the most distinguished academic lecture series on campus and invite her to keynote it.  The trustees will throw a big party and fete her.  Fred Lawrence will even introduce her just as he did Alan Dershowitz, when he spoke on campus.  Neither Jimmy Carter nor Max Blumenthal got the same treatment!  The president will talk about Hirsi Ali as a beacon of courage and hope and bulwark against Islamist extremism.  He’ll endorse just about her entire world view.  If this incident is mentioned, it will be but a brief footnote.

In other words, this is a victory.  And I’m proud of whatever small role I and you, my readers played in it.  But the battle is by no means over.  Islamophobia continues to rear its ugly head at Brandeis and elsewhere.  Even if students and faculty disapprove, they don’t call the shots.  It’s the trustees who do and they are the emodiments of the Israel Lobby.  As I wrote earlier, Lawrence made sure to atttend Aipac’s national conference and the annual Friends of the IDF fundraising gala.  He doesn’t do that because it advances Brandeis’ liberal arts reputation.  He does it because his trustees want him to.

UPDATE: Ayan Hirsi Ali released a stinging rebuke to Brandeis for withdrawing her honorary degree.  It looks like there will be no future speeches on campus for her as I’d suggested above.  At least not as long as she’s this mad.  In her reply, she falsely notes that the rescinding of her honor is a free speech issue.  It’s not.  She was offered an honor by the University which it has withdrawn.  The offer of a degree is volitional, not something to which she’s automatically entitled as a citizen.  She’s free to speak wherever she wishes or is invited.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alan Dershowitz is making such arrangements for her somewhere near campus as I write this.

If Fred Lawrence had been smart, he would’ve offered her such an opportunity on campus in the same conversation in which he withdrew the degree offer.  But it appears he didn’t and this is the result.  While I have no sympathy either for Hirsi Ali’s views or her stance on this matter, it’s Fred Lawrence and his staff who are most at fault for getting themselves into this thicket in the first place.

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Free press in Israel?  Sure.  The press is free to report what the government wants it to report.  And it’s free not to report what the government doesn’t want it to report.  That’s press freedom, Israel-style.  In the Only Democracy in the Middle East.

arafat jaradat

Arafat Jaradat during his funeral preparations

I refer you to the case of Arafat Jaradat, a West Bank student and gas station attendant who was arrested by the Shin Bet in Feburary 2013 and was dead five days later.  His crime? Allegedly throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail at Israeli forces during a protest.  An autopsy found three broken ribs, severe contusions on his legs and forehead, and blood in his mouth and nose.  A Palestinian doctor appointed by the family to be part of the autopsy team found the injuries consistent with torture, as has a Turkish forensic specialist in injuries caused by torture.  The report by the latter specialist was commissioned by the NGOs Al Haq and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.  It was submitted in a secret court hearing held earlier this week before Israeli judge, Ami Kobo.

The Israeli medical examiner found the same wounds on Jaradat’s body but could not determine a cause of death.  In fact, he declared that the broken ribs and other contusions could have resulted from attempts to revive him after his heart stopped.  The Palestinian and Turkish specialists found no evidence of any signs of attempts to resuscitate him.  The Israeli foreign ministry also released a statement claiming he died as a result of a heart ailment even though none of the medical specialists, including the Israeli found any evidence of a heart condition.  But of course if someone’s heart stops beating, that’s quite a heart condition, isn’t it??

The last person to see the prisoner alive was his lawyer, who told Haaretz about their encounter:

The fellow came in – doubled over, scared, confused and shrunken,” Sabbagh told us this week. “The judge gave us two minutes to talk. He told me he suffered from back pain that had been exacerbated by prolonged sitting on a chair with his hands tied behind his back during his interrogation.”

Jaradat’s physical and psychological condition looked to Sabbagh like serious cause for concern, and he requested that the judge have him examined by a doctor. The judge indeed ordered such an examination, but it is not clear if it actually took place and what its findings were. The prosecution asked to have Jaradat’s remand extended for 15 days – thereby indicating the investigation was far from over – and the judge approved another 12 days of detention and interrogations.

This apparently broke Jaradat’s spirit. He thought about his pregnant wife and his children. He begged his lawyer to do something to get him released and the lawyer explained to him that this was not within his power. According to Sabbagh, the fact of his transfer to Megiddo Prison on that same day or the next day, even though the investigation had not yet been completed, indicates he had been passed along to stool pigeons. Usually only people whose interrogations have been completed or who are at the stage of being sent on to informers get transferred to Megiddo.

Israel claims Jaradat was “resting” in his cell, but Sabbagh emphasizes that there is never rest in detention, in those conditions…

There is another element of duplicity in Jaradat’s death.  Upon his arrest, he was brought to the Shin Bet interrogation prison at Jalameh.  But on his death, he was in the Israeli prison of Megiddo (where security detainees are sent after their Shin Bet interrogation is complete).  Gideon Levy implies that this was a further attempt to confuse the circumstances of his death, so that investigators could not pinpoint where in the chain of custody he died.

When there is a death in custody, a judge is appointed to review the findings and determine whether there is grounds for a further criminal investigation.  In such cases involving the Shin Bet, the hearing is closed to the public and media in order to protect the security services from intrusive review.  This, of course, makes it far more likely they will not be held accountable for the murder of Jaradat.

To be fair, I should make clear that Jaradat was held in various places and conditions during his incarceration.  It’s conceivable his injuries could’ve occurred outside his Shin Bet interrogation.  The Shin Bet is known to pass along suspects to Palestinian prisoner-informants, who “tune them up” for interrogators and attempt to elicit further confessions.  But whether he was killed by Shin Bet officers or Palestinian stoolies, the culpability lies with the security agency.  A Supreme Court ruling forbids torture except in certain limited circumstances, but the ruling is routinely ignored.

Jaradat was from the village of Sa’ir.  He had two children and at the time of his death, his wife was pregnant with his third.

Everything above is standard, run of the mill Israeli security apparatus brutality, murder, and perversion of justice.  But what makes all this far worse is that PCATI circulated its autopsy findings and press release to the Israeli media which…did nothing.  It’s astonishing that in a case like this in which a prisoner was murdered in custody, the Israeli press refuses to cover this newsworthy development in the case.  It simply refuses to put any effort into covering the court proceeding and the accompanying material offered to the court.

Why is this?  It goes back to my first paragraph about Israel’s much-vaunted press freedom.  There is no gag order in this case.  There is nothing formal preventing media coverage.  But reporters did ask the Ministry of Justice about reporting and were told they couldn’t.  Why?  Because the PCATI-Al Haq document was submitted as part of a secret judicial proceeding.  Therefore, even though the NGOs commissioning the report released it to the public and asked for media coverage, reporters are prohibited from doing so.  Not to mention that the official Israeli autopsy findings have been released far and wide and are under no such prohibition.

That brings me to explain the reason the security forces haven’t been able to wield the judicial hammer of the gag order.  If they did get such a ruling they’d have to embargo the government’s own autopsy results and any related documents they’ve submitted to the judge in this case.  They don’t want to impede their own PR efforts, only efforts by the human rights NGOs to tell the public what really happened.  The truth has become an orphan.

I’m sorry.  I have as much sympathy as the next guy for the difficulties of practicing journalism under an authoritarian security regime such as Israel’s, but this is pathetic.  The Ministry has no legal basis under which it may prevent publication if it refuses to get a gag.  This is simple craven capitulation to state power on the part of journalists from such august publications as Haaretz and others.  This is a pathetic breach of journalistic standards.

The last time a Palestinian prisoner was known to have been killed in Shin Bet custody was in 1995.  In that case, the Shin Bet arrested, tortured and killed Abd al-Samed Harizat.  According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Hebrew), the prisoner was:

…Interrogated for 11 hours during which he was shaken severely a total of twelve times.  The interrogation was only suspended upon a sudden deterioration of his mental condition and after bodily fluids began bubbling from his mouth and nose.

He was taken to Hadassah Hospital where he died four days later.  A Shin Bet interrogator was arrested and charged with negligence.  There were no criminal charges ever brought because the prosecutor found the Shin Bet could not have realized that its procedures might result in death.  This despite the fact that violent shaking is not only a standard technique for torturers, but one that periodically ends in death.

In Jaradat’s case, there won’t be any charges.  The times of Harizat are long ago and far away, under the prime ministership of Yitzhak Rabin.  Not a man known for mercy, but at least one willing to have his torturers held accountable periodically.  There is no chance there will be any culpability in the current case.  And even less so while the Israeli media is asleep at the switch.

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daniel abraham

S. Daniel Abrahams cash allegedly bribed former Olmert confidant, Shula Zaken

S. Daniel Abraham, founder of the Slimfast diet product company, which he sold for $2.3-billion to Unilever, has led a colorful life in the entourage of Ehud Olmert. The former prime minister was recently convicted of taking bribes in the Holyland development case.  Back in 2008, Olmert fundraiser-bag man, Morris Talansky “sang” to Israeli police about the ways, dates and times he brought his bounty to the Israeli prime minister.  At least some of those songs he sang had the name “Abraham” prominently displayed in the lyrics.

In one case described on Israeli TV news and recounted by ABC, a limo driver hired by Abraham brought Slimfast boxes filled with cash to Olmert’s New York hotel suite, which Talansky delivered to the prime minister.  Israel’s News1 writes (Hebrew) that Abraham also bought Olmert’s Jerusalem home for an exorbitant amount and then rented it back to the former PM for a deflated amount.  The arrangement was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Olmert.  In most circles that’s a sweetheart deal that raises huge red flags.

Abraham kept the cash spigot open for former Olmert confidant, Shula Zaken, as well.  She was the latter’s former personal assistant and a key aide and conduit for many of Olmert’s corrupt schemes.  Until recently, Zaken had stood by Olmert’s side and refused to roll over on him.  She would not testify against him no matter what was offered.

But in the past month, as the chance that Olmert would be convicted (and her along with him) became more real, she reconsidered.  She offered to testify, but her testimony wasn’t required before the guilty verdict wasn’t offered.  The judge is now considering whether to allow her to testify against her former boss.  News1 reports that she will testify that at least two Olmert “benefactors,” one of whom was Abraham, passed cash to her via Olmert’s lawyer, Roi Belcher.  Though the money was offered ostensibly to support payment of her legal fees, it was essentially a bribe intended to silence her.  Clearly, it didn’t work.

The Israeli police is very interested in speaking with Abraham, who normally travels to Israel three times a year on the major religious holidays.  News1 notes drily that he’s not expected in Israel for the upcoming Passover holiday.

It’s an interesting diet Abraham concocted for his Israeli pals: cash-rich and value-poor.  The man who helped convince the world it was fat and needed slimming, has readily led Ehud Olmert to the trough to feast on the fat of the land.

Abraham founded the Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which appears to be little more than a vanity project that showcases his commitment to liberal Zionism and the rapidly expiring two-state solution.  The current director is Bob Wexler, who served in Congress as Obama’s chief Jewish point-man.  As best I can tell, this is Wexler’s sinecure, a reward for his years of faithful service to both Abraham and Democratic presidents.  I heard Wexler once speak at a J Street conference and thought he was a boring mouthpiece who could’ve made the same speech to Aipac (and probably did).

As Anshel Pfeffer noted in a recent Haaretz article, Olmert’s corruption is nothing unusual.  Since the founding of the State there have been wealthy Diaspora Jews who were happy to open their wallets for Israel prime ministers.  They considered it their duty as Zionists to do so.  From Abe Feinberg, who answered the call to privately finance Israel’s nuclear program with American Jewish funding, to those doing favors for Bibi Netanyahu–the line is long.  Every prime minister has his cronies and favorites.  Pfeffer even notes that Ariel Sharon’s beloved Sycamore Ranch was bought by Meshulam Riklis (remember him?) for the IDF general.

Avigdor Lieberman was under suspicion for similar arrangements with his ‘financiers.’  When you get power there is no end of corporate chieftains who are happy to wine and dine you and earn your favor.  And there is no end of Israeli generals and politicians willing to receive such flattery and attention.  The entire Israeli political system is corrupt.  Not just individual politicians, but the entire system.  That is why Israeli electoral politics is essentially meaningless.  The game is fixed, the outcome guaranteed.  The wealthy win.  The poor remain shut out.

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brandeis honorary degree for hirsi ali

Ayan Hirsi Ali, raging Islamophobe, honored with Brandeis honorary degree

It’s commencement time and universities are proudly announcing who they’ve snagged as honorary degree and commencement speakers.  Brandeis has an august list including Geoffrey Canada and Jill Abramson, worthy honorees certainly.  But one choice stands out like a sore thumb: Ayan Hirsi Ali.  Readers will recall that she is the executive producer of Honor Diaries, the latest bit of Islamophobe propaganda from the Clarion Project shop.

I also reported that she gave an interview in Reason Magazine in which an incredulous interviewer got her to admit she favored extermination of Islam, even by military means.  It’s an extraordinary account of unfettered almost genocidal hate:

Reason: Should we acknowledge that organized religion has sometimes sparked precisely the kinds of emancipation movements that could lift Islam into modern times?…Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?

Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.

Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

Hirsi Ali:No. Islam, period…

Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that…You look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

Reason: Militarily?

Hirsi Ali:In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

It’s a scarcely-hidden fact that Brandeis’ president Fred Lawrence, is very close to Aipac and the pro-Israel right.  As Brandeis Prof. Harry Mairson wrote in the campus newspaper:

…Lawrence just attended the AIPAC annual meeting, has photo ops with Shin Bet directors and goes to Friends of the IDF dinners. Speaking at a 2012 Birthright Israel conference, at Brandeis, he proclaimed himself a proud Birthright parent, asking “How do we grow this? How do we take it to the next level?” His Chief of Staff David Bunis is on the board of The David Project, which fought against the establishment of a mosque in Boston, and now devotes itself “to positively shape campus opinion on Israel.” Our ex-Board of Trustees chair, Stephen Kay, told the Faculty Senate Council during a Board meeting, in unambiguous terms: “We support Israel”—not individually, but institutionally.

Apparently, part of supporting Israel is to honor raging Islamophobes like Hirsi Ali.  One wonders whether anyone at Brandeis did the least research on Hirsi Ali’s murderous murmurings on Islam.  Or if they did, whether they even cared.  A divisive, hateful figure like her doesn’t deserve the recognition bestowed by major supposedly liberal university in the form of an honorary degree.  If someone wants to honor her let it be her ideological pals at the Clarion Project and the American Enterprise Institute, where she is a research fellow.  Why Brandeis?  Unless the University seeks a reputation of being a haven for Muslim-haters and pro-Israel hasbara.

Hirsi Ali also is a fellow at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center.  It’s no coincidence that her husband, Niall Ferguson, is also a fellow there.  Who said academic opportunities are awarded based on merit??  The Belfer Center director who appointed her, Graham Allison, distinguishes himself here by lauding Harvard for returning ROTC to campus and engineering a reconciliation with Henry Kissinger.  ‘Nuff said.

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