Peace demonstration Saturday Tel Aviv, Israel


This video from Israel is called Tel Aviv demonstration against the attack on Gaza on Saturday, 27.12.2008.

From the Gush Shalom peace movement in Israel:

Press Release

Thousands will demonstrate against the mass killing

Stop the assault! Ceasefire Now!

Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, Sat., Jan.17, at 18:30

Demonstrators will gather at the Charles Clore Park in south Tel-Aviv (near the Etzel House), and march to Jaffa’s Yefet Street, until the Gan Hashanyim Park on the corner of Yefet and Dr. Ehrlich. The demonstration will conclude with a moment of silence for the victims of the war.

While talk of a cease-fire fills the newspaper headlines, in Gaza the killing continues and intensifies. More than a thousand people were already killed in Gaza, nearly a third of them children. Thousands are wounded. Tens of thousands of newly displaced refugees desperately seek shelter from the bombings and the tanks. The health, electricity and water systems are collapsing. On the other side of the border, the inhabitants of Israel’ s southern periphery are suffering, held hostage by the government. Their safety and well-being will certainly not be served by sowing death and destruction in Gaza, which only feed the cycle of violence. The government of Israel and the commanders of its armed forces threaten to perpetrate even more death and destruction, rather than decalring a ceasefire. Thousands of the demonstrators, including Knesset members as well as Jewish and Arab public figures, will take part in the march in order to cry out:

Stop the killing!

Cease the fire, lift the Gaza siege – now!

Despite the blackout by the communications media, which mobilized themselves for the war effort, despite the unprecedented political persecution and detention of more than 600 activists already, despite the verbal and sometimes physical violence directed at those who dare to subvert the national madness, on these dark days we will go out together on the streets to reiterate: Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!

The Coalition of organizations opposed to the war and the siege of Gaza

Jointly with the Monitoring Committee of the Arab Citizens in Israel

Ahoti, Alternative Information Center (AIC), Anarchists against the Fence, Balad, Banki, Bat Shalom, Coaltion of Women for Peace, Combatants for Peace, Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Da’am – Workers’ Party, Gush Shalom, Hadash, Hithabrut – Tarabut, Indymedia, Israeli Communist Party (Maki), New Profile, Public Committee Against Torture (PCATI), Ra’am – Ta’al, Sadaka-Re’ut, Social TV, Student Coalition – Tel Aviv University, Ta’ayush, Tandi (Democratic Women), The Campus is Not Silent, The Shministim (Highschool Seniors’) Letter, Women in Black, Yesh Gvul, Zochrot,

Contact: Adi 0508-575730, Adam 0506-709603

Israeli military lays siege to Gaza City: here.

Fresh evidence of Israeli phosphorus use in Gaza emerges: here. And here.

THE UN and human rights organisations revealed on Sunday that 200,000 Palestinians have been driven from their homes by the war in Gaza: here.

Israel admits troops may have used phosphorus shells in Gaza: here.

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4 thoughts on “Peace demonstration Saturday Tel Aviv, Israel

  1. Gush Shalom, English website http://zope.gush-shalom.org/index_en.html
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    It seems that Olmert, Barak and Livni are at last able to agree to put an end to the Gaza horror. But, still no end to arrogance and provocation., as they speak of a “unilateral” cease-fire. However unequal the parties, the fighting has to stop from two sides. And, it is not with the United States that Israel must come to an agreement. Israeli and Hamas were parties in war and have to be parties to the cease-fire. One can not choose one’s neighbors.

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    Uri Avnery

    The Boss Has Gone Mad Full text Full text English in the end
    Avnery columns’ archive http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/

    …new on the Gush Shalom Forum:

    Obama, take away the pain in my stomach
    Audio-visual letter from an activist

    Tony Klug on the peace strategy that wasn’t
    http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=31308

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    Uri Avnery
    17.01.09

    The Boss Has Gone Mad

    169 YEARS before the Gaza War, Heinrich Heine wrote a premonitory poem of 12 lines, under the title ?To Edom?. The German-Jewish poet was talking about Germany, or perhaps all the nations of Christian Europe. This is what he wrote (in my rough translation):

    ?For a thousand years and more / We have had an understanding / You allow me to breathe / I accept your crazy raging // Sometimes, when the days get darker / Strange moods come upon you / Till you decorate your claws / With the lifeblood from my veins // Now our friendship is firmer / Getting stronger by the day / Since the raging started in me / Daily more and more like you.?

    Zionism, which arose some 50 years after this was written, is fully realizing this prophesy. We Israelis have become a nation like all nations, and the memory of the Holocaust causes us, from time to time, to behave like the worst of them. Only a few of us know this poem, but Israel as a whole lives it out.

    In this war, politicians and generals have repeatedly quoted the words: ?The boss has gone mad!? originally shouted by vegetable vendors in the market, in the sense of ?The boss has gone crazy and is selling the tomatoes at a loss!? But in the course of time the jest has turned into a deadly doctrine that often appears in Israeli public discourse: in order to deter our enemies, we must behave like madmen, go on the rampage, kill and destroy mercilessly.

    In this war, this has become political and military dogma: only if we kill ?them? disproportionately, killing a thousand of ?them? for ten of ?ours?, will they understand that it?s not worth it to mess with us. It will be ?seared into their consciousness? (a favorite Israeli phrase these days). After this, they will think twice before launching another Qassam rocket against us, even in response to what we do, whatever that may be.

    It is impossible to understand the viciousness of this war without taking into account the historical background: the feeling of victimhood after all that has been done to the Jews throughout the ages, and the conviction that after the Holocaust, we have the right to do anything, absolutely anything, to defend ourselves, without any inhibitions due to law or morality.

    WHEN THE killing and destruction in Gaza were at their height, something happened in faraway America that was not connected with the war, but was very much connected with it. The Israeli film ?Waltz with Bashir? was awarded a prestigious prize. The media reported it with much joy and pride, but somehow carefully managed not to mention the subject of the film. That by itself was an interesting phenomenon: saluting the success of a film while ignoring its contents.

    The subject of this outstanding film is one of the darkest chapters in our history: the Sabra and Shatila massacre. In the course of Lebanon War I, a Christian Lebanese militia carried out, under the auspices of the Israeli army, a heinous massacre of hundreds of helpless Palestinian refugees who were trapped in their camp, men, women, children and old people. The film describes this atrocity with meticulous accuracy, including our part in it.

    All this was not even mentioned in the news about the award. At the festive ceremony, the director of the film did not avail himself of the opportunity to protest against the events in Gaza. It is hard to say how many women and children were killed while this ceremony was going on ? but it is clear that the massacre in Gaza is much worse than that 1982 event, which moved 400 thousand Israelis to leave their homes and hold a spontaneous mass protest in Tel-Aviv. This time, only 10 thousand stood up to be counted.

    The official Israeli Board of Inquiry that investigated the Sabra massacre found that the Israeli government bore ?indirect responsibility? for the atrocity. Several senior officials and officers were suspended. One of them was the division commander, Amos Yaron. Not one of the other accused, from the Minister of Defense, Ariel Sharon, to the Chief of Staff, Rafael Eitan, spoke a word of regret, but Yaron did express remorse in a speech to his officers, and admitted: ?Our sensitivities have been blunted?.

    BLUNTED SENSITIVITIES are very evident in the Gaza War.

    Lebanon War I lasted for 18 years and more than 500 of our soldiers died. The planners of Lebanon War II decided to avoid such a long war and such heavy Israeli casualties. They invented the ?mad boss? principle: demolishing whole neighborhoods, devastating areas, destroying infrastructures. In 33 days of war, some 1000 Lebanese, almost all of them civilians, were killed ? a record already broken in this war by the 17th day. Yet in that war our army suffered casualties on the ground, and public opinion, which in the beginning supported the war with the same enthusiasm as this time, changed rapidly.

    The smoke from Lebanon War II is hanging over the Gaza war. Everybody in Israel swore to learn its lessons. And the main lesson was: not to risk the life of even one single soldier. A war without casualties (on our side). The method: to use the overwhelming firepower of our army to pulverize everything standing in its way and to kill everybody moving in the area. To kill not only the fighters on the other side, but every human being who might possibly turn out to harbor hostile intentions, even if they are obviously an ambulance attendant, a driver in a food convoy or a doctor saving lives. To destroy every building from which our troops could conceivably be shot at ? even a school full of refugees, the sick and the wounded. To bomb and shell whole neighborhoods, buildings, mosques, schools, UN food convoys, even ruins under which the injured are buried.

    The media devoted several hours to the fall of a Qassam missile on a home in Ashkelon, in which three residents suffered from shock, and did not waste many words on the forty women and children killed in a UN school, from which ?we were shot at? ? an assertion that was quickly exposed as a blatant lie.

    The firepower was also used to sow terror ? shelling everything from a hospital to a vast UN food depot, from a press vantage point to the mosques. The standard pretext: ?we were shot at from there?.

    This would have been impossible, had not the whole country been infected with blunted sensitivities. People are no longer shocked by the sight of a mutilated baby, nor by children left for days with the corpse of their mother, because the army did not let them leave their ruined home. It seems that almost nobody cares anymore: not the soldiers, not the pilots, not the media people, not the politicians, not the generals. A moral insanity, whose primary exponent is Ehud Barak. Though even he may be upstaged by Tzipi Livni, who smiled while talking about the ghastly events.

    Even Heinrich Heine could not have imagined that.

    THE LAST DAYS were dominated by the ?Obama effect?.

    We are on board an airplane, and suddenly a huge black mountain appears out of the clouds. In the cockpit, panic breaks out: How to avoid a collision?

    The planners of the war chose the timing with care: during the holidays, when everybody was on vacation, and while President Bush was still around. But they somehow forgot to take into consideration a fateful date: next Tuesday Barack Obama will enter the White House.

    This date is now casting a huge shadow on events. The Israeli Barak understands that if the American Barack gets angry, that would mean disaster. Conclusion: the horrors of Gaza must stop before the inauguration. This week that determined all political and military decisions. Not ?the number of rockets?, not ?victory?, not ?breaking Hamas?.

    WHEN THERE is a ceasefire, the first question will be: Who won?

    In Israel, all the talk is about the ?picture of victory? ? not victory itself, but the ?picture?. That is essential, in order to convince the Israeli public that the whole business has been worthwhile. At this moment, all the thousands of media people, to the very last one, have been mobilized to paint such a ?picture?. The other side, of course, will paint a different one.

    The Israeli leaders will boast of two ?achievements?: the end of the rockets and the sealing of the Gaza-Egypt border (the co-called ?Philadelphi route?. Dubious achievements: the launching of the Qassams could have been prevented without a murderous war, if our government had been ready to negotiate with Hamas after they won the Palestinian elections. The tunnels under the Egyptian border would not have been dug in the first place, if our government had not imposed the deadly blockade on the Strip.

    But the main achievement of the war planners lies in the very barbarity of their plan: the atrocities will have, in their view, a deterrent effect that will hold for a long time.

    Hamas, on the other side, will assert that their survival in the face of the mighty Israeli war machine, a tiny David against a giant Goliath, is by itself a huge victory. According to the classic military definition, the winner in a battle is the army that remains on the battlefield when it?s over. Hamas remains. The Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip still stands, in spite of all the efforts to eliminate it. That is a significant achievement.

    Hamas will also point out that the Israeli army was not eager to enter the Palestinian towns, in which their fighters were entrenched. And indeed: the army told the government that the conquest of Gaza city could cost the lives of about 200 soldiers, and no politician was ready for that on the eve of elections.

    The very fact that a guerrilla force of a few thousand lightly armed fighters held out for long weeks against one of the world?s mightiest armies with enormous firepower, will look to millions of Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims, and not only to them, like an unqualified victory.

    In the end, an agreement will be concluded that will include the obvious terms. No country can tolerate its inhabitants being exposed to rocket fire from beyond the border, and no population can tolerate a choking blockade. Therefore (1) Hamas will have to give up the launching of missiles, (2) Israel will have to open wide the crossings between the Gaza Strip and the outside world, and (3) the entry of arms into the Strip will be stopped (as far as possible), as demanded by Israel. All this could have happened without war, if our government had not boycotted Hamas.

    HOWEVER, THE worst results of this war are still invisible and will make themselves felt only in years to come: Israel has imprinted on world consciousness a terrible image of itself. Billions of people have seen us as a blood-dripping monster. They will never again see Israel as a state that seeks justice, progress and peace. The American Declaration of Independence speaks with approval of ?a decent respect to the opinions of mankind?. That is a wise principle.

    Even worse is the impact on hundreds of millions of Arabs around us: not only will they see the Hamas fighters as the heroes of the Arab nation, but they will also see their own regimes in their nakedness: cringing, ignominious, corrupt and treacherous.

    The Arab defeat in the 1948 war brought in its wake the fall of almost all the existing Arab regimes and the ascent of a new generation of nationalist leaders, exemplified by Gamal Abd-al-Nasser. The 2009 war may bring about the fall of the current crop of Arab regimes and the ascent of a new generation of leaders ? Islamic fundamentalists who hate Israel and all the West..

    In coming years it will become apparent that this war was sheer madness. The boss has indeed gone mad ? in the original sense of the word.

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  2. Hebrew

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    Uri Avnery

    24.1.09

    On The Wrong Side

    OF ALL the beautiful phrases in Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, these are the words that stuck in my mind: “You are on the wrong side of history.”

    He was talking about the tyrannical regimes of the world. But we, too, should ponder these words

    In the last few days I have heard a lot of declarations from Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert. And every time, these eight words came back to haunt me: “You are on the wrong side of history!”

    Obama was speaking as a man of the 21st century. Our leaders speak the language of the 19th century. They resemble the dinosaurs which once terrorized their neighborhood and were quite unaware of the fact that their time had already passed.

    DURING THE rousing celebrations, again and again the multicolored patchwork of the new president’s family was mentioned.

    All the preceding 43 presidents were white Protestants, except John Kennedy, who was a white Catholic. 38 of them were the descendants of immigrants from the British isles. Of the other five, three were of Dutch ancestry (Theodor and Franklin D. Roosevelt , as well as Martin van Buren) and two of German descent (Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower.)

    The face of Obama’s family is quite different. The extended family includes whites and the descendents of black slaves, Africans from Kenya, Indonesians, Chinese from Canada, Christians, Muslims and even one Jew (a converted African-American). The two first names of the president himself, Barack Hussein, are Arabic.

    This is the face of the new American nation – a mixture of races, religions, countries of origin and skin-colors, an open and diverse society, all of whose members are supposed to be equal and to identify themselves with the “founding fathers”. The American Barack Hussein Obama, whose father was born in a Kenyan village, can speak with pride of “George Washington, the father of our nation”, of the “American Revolution” (the war of independence against the British), and hold up the example of “our ancestors”, who include both the white pioneers and the black slaves who “endured the lash of the whip”. That is the perception of a modern nation, multi-cultural and multi-racial: a person joins it by acquiring citizenship, and from this moment on is the heir to all its history.

    Israel is the product of the narrow nationalism of the 19th century, a nationalism that was closed and exclusive, based on race and ethnic origin, blood and earth. Israel is a “Jewish State”, and a Jew is a person born Jewish or converted according to Jewish religious law (Halakha). Like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it is a state whose mental world is to a large extent conditioned by religion, race and ethnic origin.

    When Ehud Barak speaks about the future, he speaks the language of past centuries, in terms of brute force and brutal threats, with armies providing the solution to all problems. That was also the language of George W. Bush who last week slinked out of Washington, a language that already sounds to the Western ear like an echo from the distant past.

    The words of the new president are ringing in the air: “Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.” The key words were “humility and restraint”.

    Our leaders are now boasting about their part in the Gaza War, in which unbridled military force was unleashed intentionally against a civilian population, men, women and children, with the declared aim of “creating deterrence”. In the era that began last Tuesday, such expressions can only arouse shudders.

    BETWEEN Israel and the United States a gap has opened this week, a narrow gap, almost invisible – but it may widen into an abyss.

    The first signs are small. In his inaugural speech, Obama proclaimed that “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and nonbelievers.” Since when? Since when do the Muslims precede the Jews? What has happened to the “Judeo-Christian Heritage”? (A completely false term to start with, since Judaism is much closer to Islam than to Christianity. For example: neither Judaism nor Islam supports the separation of religion and state.)

    The very next morning, Obama phoned a number of Middle East leaders. He decided to make a quite unique gesture: placing the first call to Mahmoud Abbas, and only the next to Olmert. The Israeli media could not stomach that. Haaretz, for example, consciously falsified the record by writing – not once but twice in the same issue – that Obama had called “Olmert, Abbas, Mubarak and King Abdallah” (in that order).

    Instead of the group of American Jews who had been in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Obama, on his very first day in office, appointed an Arab-American, George Mitchell, whose mother had come to America from Lebanon at age 18, and who himself, orphaned from his Irish father, was brought up in a Maronite Christian Lebanese family.

    These are not good tidings for the Israeli leaders. For the last 42 years, they have pursued a policy of expansion, occupation and settlements in close cooperation with Washington. They have relied on unlimited American support, from the massive supply of money and arms to the use of the veto in the Security Council. This support was essential to their policy. This support may now be reaching its limits.

    It will happen, of course, gradually. The pro-Israel lobby in Washington will continue to put the fear of God into Congress. A huge ship like the United States can change course only very slowly, in a gentle curve. But the turn-around started already on the first day of the Obama administration.

    This could not have happened, if America itself had not changed. That is not a political change alone. It is a change in the world-view, in mental outlook, in values. A certain American myth, which is very similar to the Zionist myth, has been replaced by another American myth. Not by accident did Obama devote to this so large a part of his speech (in which, by the way, there was not a single word about the extermination of the Native Americans).

    The Gaza War, during which tens of millions of Americans saw the horrible carnage in the Strip (even if rigorous self-censorship cut out all but a tiny part), has hastened the process of drifting apart. Israel, the brave little sister, the loyal ally in Bush’s “War on Terror”, has turned into the violent Israel, the mad monster, which has no compassion for women and children, the wounded and the sick. And when winds like these are blowing, the Lobby loses height.

    The leaders of official Israel do not notice it. They do not feel, as Obama put it in another context, that “the ground has shifted beneath them”. They think that this is no more than a temporary political problem that can be set right with the help of the Lobby and the servile members of Congress.

    Our leaders are still intoxicated with war and drunk with violence. They have re-phrased the famous saying of the Prussian general, Carl von Clausewitz into: “War is but a continuation of an election campaign by other means.” They compete with each other with vainglorious swagger for their share of the “credit”. Tzipi Livni, who cannot compete with the men for the crown of warlord, tries to outdo them in toughness, in bellicosity, in hard-heartedness.

    The most brutal is Ehud Barak. Once I called him a “peace criminal”, because he brought about the failure of the 2000 Camp David conference and shattered the Israeli peace camp. Now I must call him a “war criminal”, as the person who planned the Gaza War knowing that it would murder masses of civilians.

    In his own eyes, and in the eyes of a large section of the public, this is a military operation which deserves all praise. His advisors also thought that it would bring him success in the elections. The Labor party, which had been the largest party in the Knesset for decades, had shrunk in the polls to 12, even 9 seats out of 120. With the help of the Gaza atrocity it has now gone up to 16 or so. That’s not a landslide, and there’s no guarantee that it will not sink again.

    What was Barak’s mistake? Very simply: every war helps the Right. War, by its very nature, arouses in the population the most primitive emotions – hate and fear, fear and hate. These are the emotions on which the Right has been riding for centuries. Even when it’s the “Left” that starts a war, it’s still the Right that profits from it. In a state of war, the population prefers an honest-to-goodness Rightist to a phony Leftist.

    This is happening to Barak for the second time. When, in 2000, he spread the mantra “I have turned every stone on the way to peace, / I have made the Palestinians unprecedented offers, / They have rejected everything, / There is no one to talk with” – he succeeded not only in blowing the Left to smithereens, but also in paving the way for the ascent of Ariel Sharon in the 2001 elections. Now he is paving the way for Binyamin Netanyahu (hoping, quite openly, to become his minister of defense).

    And not only for him. The real victor of the war is a man who had no part in it at all: Avigdor Liberman. His party, which in any normal country would be called fascist, is steadily rising in the polls. Why? Liberman looks and sounds like an Israeli Mussolini, he is an unbridled Arab-hater, a man of the most brutal force. Compared to him, even Netanyahu looks like a softie. A large part of the young generation, nurtured on years of occupation, killing and destruction, after two atrocious wars, considers him a worthy leader.

    WHILE THE US has made a giant jump to the left, Israel is about to jump even further to the right.

    Anyone who saw the millions milling around Washington on inauguration day knows that Obama was not speaking only for himself. He was expressing the aspirations of his people, the Zeitgeist.

    Between the mental world of Obama and the mental world of Liberman and Netanyahu there is no bridge. Between Obama and Barak and Livni, too, there yawns an abyss. Post-election Israel may find itself on a collision course with post-election America.

    Where are the American Jews? The overwhelming majority of them voted for Obama. They will be between the hammer and the anvil – between their government and their natural adherence to Israel. It is reasonable to assume that this will exert pressure from below on the “leaders” of American Jewry, who have incidentally never been elected by anyone, and on organizations like AIPAC. The sturdy stick, on which Israeli leaders are used to lean in times of trouble, may prove to be a broken reed.

    Europe, too, is not untouched by the new winds. True, at the end of the war we saw the leaders of Europe – Sarkozy, Merkel, Browne and Zapatero – sitting like schoolchildren behind a desk in class, respectfully listening to the most loathsome arrogant posturing from Ehud Olmert, reciting his text after him. They seemed to approve the atrocities of the war, speaking of the Qassams and forgetting about the occupation, the blockade and the settlements. Probably they will not hang this picture on their office walls.

    But during this war masses of Europeans poured into the streets to demonstrate against the horrible events. The same masses saluted Obama on the day of his inauguration.

    This is the new world. Perhaps our leaders are now dreaming of the slogan: “Stop the world, I want to get off!” But there is no other world.

    YES, WE ARE NOW on the wrong side of history.

    Fortunately, there is also another Israel. It is not in the limelight, and its voice is heard only by those who listen out for it. This is a sane, rational Israel, with its face to the future, to progress and peace. In these coming elections, its voice will barely be heard, because all the old parties are standing with their two feet squarely in the world of yesterday.

    But what has happened in the United States will have a profound influence on what happens in Israel. The huge majority of Israelis know that we cannot exist without close ties with the US. Obama is now the leader of the world, and we live in this world. When he promises to work “aggressively” for peace between us and the Palestinians, that is a marching order for us.

    We want to be on the right side of history. That will take months or years, but I am sure that we shall get there. The time to start is now.

  3. Liberal Jewish Lobby Makes Its Mark

    Washington Post: J Street Leads Pro-Israel PACs, Though Year-Old Group Has Attracted Criticism

    April 17, 2009

    (Washingtonpost.com) This story was written by Washington Post Staff Writer Dan Eggen.

    When a group of Jewish liberals formed a lobbying and fundraising group called J Street a year ago, they had modest hopes of raising $50,000 for a handful of congressional candidates.

    Instead, the group’s political arm ended up funneling nearly $600,000 to several dozen Democrats and a handful of Republicans in 2008, making it Washington’s leading pro-Israel PAC, according to Federal Election Commission expenditure records. Organizers say 33 of the group’s 41 favored House and Senate candidates won their races.

    “It certainly exceeded our expectations,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s executive director. “We didn’t know what level of success we would have. But we think this is a message whose moment has come.”

    Riding alongside the ascent of President Obama and other liberal Democrats, J Street blends old-style politicking with a media-savvy approach aimed at altering the U.S. political debate over Israel and other Middle East issues.

    The group bills itself as the “political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” and argues that the debate over Israel in the United States has tilted to the right despite the liberal sympathies of most Jewish Americans. J Street supports a “two-state solution” for Israel and the Palestinians and generally favors diplomacy over military force, according to its Web site and statements.

    But the group’s aggressive tactics have prompted criticism from many established Jewish advocacy groups, which say the project appears calibrated to grab attention and often goes too far in its critiques of Israeli policy. Critics also say J Street has drawn most of its financial contributions from a relatively narrow group of supporters, raising questions about the breadth of its appeal.

    J Street’s emergence comes as Obama prepares to grapple with a new, hard-line government in Israel led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has not endorsed a separate state for Palestinians, as the United States has done. Obama’s Mideast envoy, George J. Mitchell, met with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders yesterday in Jerusalem.

    In a break with common practice among U.S. Jewish groups, J Street has not been shy about aggressively criticizing Israeli leaders. This month, the group launched an unusual YouTube video accusing new Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of running a “racist and incendiary” election campaign and alleging that many U.S. Jewish leaders are “whitewashing what Lieberman stands for.”

    David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, told the Jewish Week newspaper that such criticism “doesn’t help Israel.”

    J Street also came under fire for loudly criticizing Israel’s recent military incursion against the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip. “While there is nothing ‘right’ in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them,” J Street wrote in a message to its members.
    Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, called J Street’s position on the Gaza conflict “morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve.”

    We didn’t know what level of success we would have. But we think this is a message whose moment has come.
    J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami
    One of J Street’s biggest targets is Washington’s preeminent pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has more than 100,000 members and spent $2.5 million on lobbying last year. J Street, by contrast, has spent little on lobbying so far; AIPAC does not directly contribute to candidates as J Street does.

    AIPAC declined to comment on J Street or its aims. But Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the new group has a long way to go before it can rival AIPAC, which has often taken hawkish positions on Israeli defense issues.

    “AIPAC has found a way over a half-century to tremendously energize people about their mission,” Alterman said. “Can J Street build a donor base who believe that it is something that is vital in the way that AIPAC does? I don’t know if that’s possible.”

    Ben-Ami said he has no expectation that J Street will become as large as AIPAC, but he believes it can become influential enough to change the parameters of the U.S. debate over Israel policy. The group’s budget is slated to double to $3 million in its second year, he said, and J Street is preparing to launch an education arm focused on U.S. college campuses. Ben-Ami said the group plans to announce that its new political director will be Dan Kohl, a former Obama fundraiser and nephew of Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

    Ben-Ami also said J Street deserves credit for attracting more than 100 co-sponsors in the House for a resolution welcoming Obama’s appointment of Mitchell as Mideast envoy; AIPAC was neutral on the issue.

    “The notion that 100 members of Congress are willing to sign on is a real accomplishment,” Ben-Ami said. “We’re not changing the world, but it’s a signal that things are shifting.”

    By Washington Post Staff Writer Dan Eggen

  4. Pingback: Israeli Leftist Dov Khenin interviewed | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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