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‘Haaretz’ welcomes EU’s wake up call, but leading Boston Jewish group circles wagons around Netanyahu

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The EU’s demand that Israel state in writing that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not part of Israel has had one important result: it has dramatized the Netanyahu government’s angry opposition to ever yielding these territories.

Below are two responses to the EU decision, one showing how much support there is for the bold move among thinking Israelis, the other showing that the organized American Jewish community is likely to fall into line behind the Israeli government against the EU and embrace the reactionary prime minister as a peacemaker.

First, a note from an anonymous friend in Israel summarizing the shock of the EU announcement in Israeli society, and showing that a large liberal bloc supports the EU decision inside the Israeli discourse.

Just wanted to give you a very brief update about the atmosphere right now in Israel, from the big Israeli newspapers. Haaretz seems to overwhelmingly embrace the EU decision. I was shocked to see this morning an article by Ari Shavit, usually a “center” voice (i.e., right-wing in my view), supports this recent decision, and adds a warning to the Israelis to wake up and stop ignoring the occupation.

The editorial board of Haaretz published in the last few days an op-ed after op-ed that supports the EU decision, again, calling the Israelis to wake up. Gideon Levy embraced for the first time out loud the boycott. This is incredible and extremely important. It shows that the international boycott, although limited right now to investments in the West Bank, is on its way to become something to consider, to take into account, and even support – not only by a marginal “crazy leftist” but by anyone who support the idea of ending the occupation – essentially Haaretz readers.

Naturally, other newspapers are less supportive. YNET this morning said nothing about it. Israel Hayom, which is the biggest supporter of Netanyahu (owned by his friend Sheldon Adelson) had few op-eds condemning the decision. This is not surprising, but it’s also not too bad – it just proves how effective this decision was in shaking the discourse in Israel, and making the occupation relevant. Yes, Israelis managed to forget that there’s a problem called “occupation”. The EU decision reminds them it exists and they should do something about it, or pay a price for it.

To summarize, I think that the EU decision is incredible, and there are signs that it’s going to be accepted by a growing number of influential people as the most important tool for action against the occupation. Netanyahu’s government comes up now with ridiculous arguments, such as “the EU actions will stop the negotiations led by Kerry”. I hope that the US will not take this threat seriously and use the genuine positive efforts of Kerry to advance peace as a way to block or undermine the EU actions. From my experience, Israel usually uses “peace negotiations” as a way to earn time and continue the occupation without interruptions. So it’s important that the public in the US will show Obama’s government that they support the EU actions.

My friend hopes that Americans will organize in support of the EU, too. But here is an amazing letter/screed from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, which represents mainstream Jewish organizations and presumes to pursue “social justice.” The JCRC is flipped out by the EU move, and says it is isolating Israel. 

Even as J Street is calling the EU decision a “wake up call” to reenergize the two-state solution, the JCRC represents the old guard. And this letter shows this powerful community’s opposition to giving up the settlements:

As Kerry seeks to build momentum from President Obama’s historic spring visit to Israel and Ramallah, we are faced with an action that is itself a setback to the pursuit of a necessary peace: the European Union’s demand that Israel reject all territorial claims in the West Bank and its attempt to encourage a blanket boycott of interaction with the settlements.

… Unfortunately the EU’s actions reflect a severe misunderstanding of the path to peace.

… A significant majority of Israelis consistently say that they are ready to make the sacrifice of territorial withdrawal in order to achieve peace. However, a significant majority of Israelis also perceive the Palestinian leadership as unwilling, and unable, to make commitments to ensure an enduring peace. On its own, a bilateral peace agreement would not ensure Israel’s recognition by other Arab states nor its security in a region of multiple threats to its existence…

We need to encourage social and economic relationships between Israelis and Palestinians to build shared understanding and recognition of each other’s aspirations. The separation barrier necessarily reduced violent friction between the two peoples over the past decade, yet it also curtailed much of the interaction that preceded this period. Today, industry and commerce in the settlements represent rare intersections between Israelis and Palestinians. It is in our interest to encourage more economic interaction rather than cut off ties that already exist. 

We also need to address legitimate concerns about Israel’s security…

President Obama expressed a powerful understanding of Israel’s need for security assurances when he said in March: “So long as there is a United States of America, Atem Lo Levad (you are not alone).”

The EU’s actions, effectively placing blame for the conflict and responsibility for peace solely on Israel, run counter to such confidence building…. [They] encourage Palestinian intractability with Secretary Kerry and other peacemakers. They also send a loud message to Israelis that they are, as far as Europe is concerned, alone. This attempt to isolate to Israel will not inspire her people to take real risks for the peace they so desperately want.

Secretary Kerry has described this moment as a window for peace. We concur. President Obama created this window with his historic visit. Bringing the two parties back to the table without preconditions is the next step. We are encouraged by Prime Minster Netanyahu’s expressed commitment to negotiate and reach an agreement. We encourage efforts that build momentum for peace. Sadly the EU’s actions make this harder.

Two states remain the only possible solution that ensures Israel’s existence as a safe, secure and Jewish democratic nation. Two states remain the only viable option for Palestinians achieving their aspirations for national self-determination. Even if the momentum of this moment is lost we will need to keep the window open for a two-state resolution because we can never give up hoping for and working toward peace, no matter how long it takes. President Obama understands this. We believe that Secretary Kerry does as well. Sadly we now know, if we didn’t previously, that the European Union does not.

Jeremy Burton Executive Director, JCRC

Stacey Bloom, Chair, Israel & Global Jewry Committee

Even Chris Matthews says that there is more debate about Israel’s policies inside Israel than in the United States. Why is that? Because the lobby continues to insist that American Jews speak with one voice on the conflict, and support Israel right or wrong, lest non-Jewish America sell Israel out in a heartbeat. The JCRC letter’s emphasis on Israel’s loneliness and vulnerability reflects generational attitudes about Jewish insecurity in the west: that anti-Semitism might engulf us, and so we have to stick together. This is the ideological basis of Zionism, and it’s anachronistic.

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5 Responses

  1. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    July 19, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Everytime I see this “back to the table without preconditions” nonsense I want to shake my head at the absolute duplicity and mendaciousness of the speaker. If there was really a call for no preconditions, then the USisraelians would be begging Hamas to participate in order to find peace. But the USisraelians will never do that, because Hamas hasn’t acceded to the preconditions which the USisraelians have put on them.

    I guess this is yet another example of that “double standard” the zios are always talking about: one rule for the USisraelians and another for the Palestinians…

  2. Krauss
    July 19, 2013, 2:23 pm

    B’nai Brith International’s public statement darkly hinted at anti-Semitism, ranting about the decision marking “even outright discrimination”.

    Shorter B’nai Brith: those who deny people with J-positive blood to occupy another people are racists!

    And this is the “mainstream”. My God. (Naturally, the ADL, the AJC and the rest of the loons joined in the chorus of condemnation).

  3. DICKERSON3870
    July 19, 2013, 3:35 pm

    RE: Netanyahu’s government comes up now with ridiculous arguments, such as “the EU actions will stop the negotiations led by Kerry”. I hope that the US will not take this threat seriously and use the genuine positive efforts of Kerry to advance peace as a way to block or undermine the EU actions. From my experience, Israel usually uses “peace negotiations” as a way to earn time and continue the occupation without interruptions. ~ Phil’s Israeli friend

    FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    [EXCERPT] . . . Israel’s vice-premier, Moshe Ya’alon, was candid when asked in an interview this year: ‘Why all these games of make-believe negotiations?’ He replied:

    Because … there are pressures. Peace Now from within, and other elements from without. So you have to manoeuvre … what we have to do is manoeuvre with the American administration and the European establishment, which are nourished by Israeli elements [and] which create the illusion that an agreement can be reached … I say that time works for those who make use of it. The founders of Zionism knew … and we in the government know how to make use of time.

    SOURCE –

  4. Erasmus
    July 19, 2013, 7:02 pm

    And here is the equivalent position of the
    President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, wrt to the new EU- Guidelines
    Interview with Dieter Graumann in Deutschlandradio 18. July13
    As you will note, the Chief Representative of the German Jewry pulls 100 pc the well known Hasbara line:

    Guidelines leading into the dead end street
    After some introductory remarks relating to the subject the interviewing Radio Journalist PETER KAPERN continues……
    PETER KAPERN:… (The guidelines) have led to harsh reactions of the Israeli Government. What are your views wrt to this initiative from (the EU) Brussels?

    DIETER GRAUMANN: You might imagine that i am not awfully thrilled about his blackout from Brussels. From my point of view these guidelines are bad. They are a directive into a dead end street and one into the absolute wrong direction. The whole thing is injust, unbalanced, in my view very unfair and above all not helpful, in other words a bad step from Brussels.

    PETER KAPERN: Why that? How do you back up your rather very outright rejection?
    DIETER GRAUMANN: you know, frankly speaking, my very first reaction has been: here we are again – another crazy idea from Brussels. I ask myself:
    Do we not have other more pressing problems in Europe. Have a look at the Euro and money and currency and youth unemployment. Is it an attempt to divert from these issues? And if people in Brussels are so awfully fond to deal in matters of the Near East, why don’t they care about Syria, where already a hundred thousand have been butchered? Why is the regime there not criticized? Or Russia, which supplies the Assad-Regime weapons, which then are immediately used against children? And what about Iran, where we have a regime which oppresses critics and stones women, (and) brings terror to the whole world? And right now we experience the developments in Egypt, where we have military government with a thinly veiled (democratic) icing.
    Nothing of these: Only on Israel they home in. This although Israel still is the only democracy in the whole region, and to focus one’s labours specifically on our partner with whom we share the same values, this is something that i personally can simply not understand.
    PETER KAPERN:….. Mr. Graumann, can one really expect from the European tax payer that activities are financed in territories which are held occupied which is against international law?
    DIETER GRAUMANN: But this is effectively not the case. Here the subject matter is quite something else, Mr. Kapern. Here, Israel shall be one-sidedly put under pressure and be put in the pillory, politically. And i believe, one is always well advised, to think about the effects before any action is taken. Who thinks first, i believe, acts rationally, that helps tremendously. And this harms peace, because Palestinians must think now, why should we at all negotiate directly with Israel, if Brussels seems to decide everything anyhow and believes that it can do that. For, the consequence of this new guideline is, lets face it, that those Palestinians who refuse peace are strengthened.
    The problem why there is no peace yet, is not the settlement activity – about which one can have different opinions. I am also no fan. However, the real problem is that the Palestinian side does not want to let Israel live, that in the schoolbooks there until now the children are poisoned with hate for Israel and for all Jews in the world. About this, Brussels keeps mum and a loud and cold silence, and that makes me a bit infuriated.
    PETER KAPERN: But it seems that until now the GoI has always been of the opinion, it could continue with its settlement policy as usual, because besides EU announcements, the EU would anyway never actively follow up in this matter in political terms.
    DIETER GRAUMANN: I think, the EU and especially the Governments (of member states), by the way including the German Government, have always made their opinion about the settlement activity very clear. I believe, in Jerusalem one is very much aware of this.
    PETER KAPERN: However to no effect!
    DIETER GRAUMANN: Ach, you know what, I do not know, what may have effected what and how it would have been otherwise.
    However, in any case i would appreciate if Brussels would exhibit more sensitivity, more fine-tuned intuition. I am and remain a believer and staunch supporter of Europe (the European idea). And that is why i am saddened to see, that Brussels harms it own interests, and that Brussels presents Europe lacking political sombreness.
    PETER KAPERN: Do you think that the EU can now play a better role in the NE-peace process with this political instrument which now shall be made use of?
    DIETER GRAUMANN: Of course not, Mr. Kapern, in the contrary! My view is this: Brussel bureaucrats have produced a provocation, which may well turn out to become a disgrace for them, and Israel will hardly be in the position to take this serious and above all Israel feels anger and being offended, and i believe, one should take these feelings seriously and therefore Brussels has rather catapulted itself out of the political arena of the Near East. That is a mistake and i rather strongly hope that there will be a correction.
    PETER KAPERN: On the other side, there also could be even stronger measures against the Israeli settlement policy…e.g. if products coming from the occupied areas will not anymore be allowed to be imported and sold using the label “Made in Israel”. What would this mean?
    DIETER GRAUMANN: Yes, that is being discussed. Also this i consider to be one-sided and unjust. You see, there are many disputed areas in this world. For example, see the case of China:
    The Dalai Lama, whom we all respect so much, would strongly disagree if Tibet was considered as a part of China; nevertheless it would occur to nobody, to specifically label products from Tibet. The only problem that is: there are7.5 million Israelis and 1.3 billion Chinese. Quantity makes morals, that can not convince me at all.
    PETER KAPERN: But the business which is made there (oPt), such business also supports the settlement policy, because the companies make money there……
    DIETER GRAUMANN: No! But have a look at this: More than 25,000 Palestinians are employed in such firms for wages, work and bread. They get jobs there, which they can not get elsewhere. They earn twice as much as elsewhere. And they get social benefits, which otherwise they can only dream about. I think, that should also be considered.
    end of interview

    Translated from official website of the Central Council of Jews in Germany:

  5. southernobserver
    July 19, 2013, 8:11 pm

    I could not agree more. This is a perfect example of the big lie.

    According to Kerry the peace talks are to restart.

    We don’t know the base conditions, but given who is to chair the talks, clearly the palestinians’ have resigned themselves to live in prison forever.

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