Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beck and Call - is this radio shock jock friend or foe to Israel?

As Glenn Back prepares to lead his so-called "Restoring Courage" rally near Dung Gate, an appropriately named Old City venue,the US consulate cautioned its diplomats from being near the area, for their own safety:

On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, there will be a rally held near the southeast corner of the Old City. The areas between Dung Gate and Lions Gate are off-limits to official U.S. Government personnel from 4:00pm until 10:00pm on that day due to recent clashes in that area.

Hmmm. Whose courage does the tear-prone radio shock jock wish to restore? So far, the reception for Beck, who at Caesaria pointedly criticized Jews for their "2000 year old flinch" from an embrace with Christians, has been decidedly ambivalent. Some Israeli critics shrug him off as a neo-fascist comedian, and the public have far more time for actor Jon Voight, who went to Beersheba hospital to hug rocket victims in front of the cameras. (He is Angelina Jolie's daddy, after all.)

Rachel Tabachnick, a researcher documenting Christian Zionism and Millennial Jews, sounds off in Haaretz about his message:
Beck headlined this year's conference of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), founded by televangelist John Hagee. Hagee had appeared several times on Beck's show, including one where they speculated the earth as we know it would end within 20 years.

Beck's embrace by Israeli leaders is further indication to Americans that support for Israel is becoming linked to an extreme political agenda in the United States. This threatens to alienate Jews and Christians, Democrats and Republicans.

Ironically, this alienation of Israel is seen by Christian Zionists as fulfilling end-times prophecy, which, they claim, requires a second Jewish holocaust before Jesus returns. Surviving Jews must accept Jesus before a 1000-year Christian utopia, ruled from Jerusalem, can begin.

Beck's cultivation of Israeli leaders follows, step by step, the instructions Christian Zionists have used to gain access to Jewish communities and leaders. One of the most popular of these manuals is the 2001 book, "Your People Shall Be My People," by Don Finto. Finto's network of evangelists is encouraging churches around the world to "bless Israel" by supporting Messianic Jewish ministries and proselytizing Jews. His book has been promoted internationally, including by directors of Hagee's CUFI.

Finto's book provides instructions to: 1 ) avoid overt proselytizing, 2 ) vocally repent of the Holocaust, 3 ) tell Jews that Christian Zionist support is modeled after the biblical story of Ruth with no strings attached, and 4 ) emphasize that Christian Zionists are Israel's only friends in an increasingly hostile world.

Simultaneously these evangelists help to foment hostility toward Jews by teaching a narrative in which Jews hold power over the future of Gentiles.

Beck contemplated switching the location of the event away from the base of the Temple Mount because he feared “40,000 Muslims” were going to gatecrash. It's to be held down in Davidson Center, for increased security. Speaker John Boehner urged US House members not to attend the event (to avoid the appearance of joining a political event while on a policy-related trip to Israel). Consequently, both Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Joe Lieberman cancelled their RSVPs. And in the post-earthquake anxiety in Washington DC and elsewhere, the atmosphere is increasingly apocalyptic.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Unsettling Statistics for Israeli Economy

Peace Now, the grassroots organization, has long maintained that settlements and the occupation are both a moral and economic blight on Israel. Here are the statistics to prove it, from a business study by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development) :

"The inclusion of the settlements and east Jerusalem adds about 4% to Israel's gross domestic product, but reduces the GDP per capita by a significant rate of 6.5% a year"

When east Jerusalem, West Bank settlements and Golan Heights are figured in with Israel's overall economic statistics, per capita income is reduced while inequality is increased. With the settlement population growing nearly one hundred percent between 1997 and 2009 (most recent population figures), this does not bode well for the future of the country and the street protestors griping about prices and opportunities. Sever Plocker analyses the stats in Ynet news. One wag says "gross domestic product" is a good caption for the photo above!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Social Justice advocates - What about the Occupation?

Writes Joseph Dana in the LRB blog:

Largely shielded from the European and American financial crises, the Israeli economy has been growing at an astonishing rate over the past five years: 4.7 per cent in 2010 alone. But the wealth isn’t evenly distributed: most Israelis living inside the 1967 borders struggle to make ends meet because of the high cost of living and relatively high taxes, which are largely spent on security and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Last month, a group of Tel Aviv residents in their twenties set up camp in the centre of Rothschild Boulevard to protest against housing costs in the city. They didn’t have a serious plan for political change, but the protest tapped into nationwide discontent. Within a few days, hundreds more people had joined them. The momentum spread quickly through the country, with camps appearing everywhere from Eilat on the Red Sea to Kiryat Shmona on the Lebanese border.

On Saturday, 250,000 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv and 10,000 marched to the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, demanding ‘social justice’. Netanyahu, the main target of the demonstrators’ placards, was quick to paint the protests as a misdirected reincarnation of the ‘radical left’. But this stale tactic didn’t stop an overwhelming majority of Israelis supporting the protests. According to recent opinion polls, 87 per cent see the demands for economic reform as legitimate.

The protester’s working definition of ‘social justice’, however, is unclear and full of contradictions. Most glaringly, they have yet to address the question of the Occupied Territories. From the start, organisers maintained that their protests were a rare instance of ‘apolitical’ social organising. The Palestinian issue was understood to be too divisive to be included under the umbrella of Israel’s social justice revolution, and there’s no doubt that, had protesters connected their struggle for social justice to the occupation, many fewer Israelis would have joined the protests.

The rights of Israelis, however, are inextricably tied with the rights of Palestinians, both inside the 1967 borders and in the Occupied Territories. The protesters, like most of Israeli society, are operating under the assumption that they are disconnected from the Palestinians who live under Israeli military occupation. But the fact is that one regime rules the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and any discussion of the allocation of resources here, not to mention social justice, must take into account the rights of everyone who lives under the regime.

Despite the attempt to ignore the occupation, dozens of Jewish settlers from the West Bank descended on the protest camp in Tel Aviv last week. Carrying banners that say the solution to the housing problem lies in the West Bank, settlers have been shouting slogans against homosexuals and (non-Jewish) African refugees in Tel Aviv. At the other end of the camp, Jewish and Arab protesters have set up ‘Tent 1948’ to commemorate the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians when Israel was created.

The protest as a whole will soon be forced to confront the question of the occupation. Last week the military announced that it will initiate a massive call up of reserves ahead of the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood in September. Most of the protesters, young men and woman with reserve duty obligations, will have to decide whether to increase the pressure on the government by refusing to serve, or abandon their protest without having made any concrete gains. At the moment, the latter course seems more likely.

Hat tip to Angela for the link to this thought-provoking piece

Monday, August 08, 2011

Israelis Take to the Streets in Protest

Sad irony, pointed out by my friend Meir: Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the "Israel is Our Home" (Yisrael Beitenu) party has so far offered no solution to Israel's housing problems. As 300,000 Israelis take to the streets to join the tent-dwellers of downtown Tel Aviv to complain that their rent is too damn high and the government too damn unresponsive, the Foreign minister suggests that citizens also visit Tel Aviv's upmarket cafes to see that the problem is not so serious! (Let them eat bureikas..or sushi, jibes one weary Jerusalemite.) Ynet news carries the cafe riposte here.