Israel, Justice, Mishegas, Religion


Let’s legislate non-orthodoxy out of existence. OTOH I’d like to see what the law actually says. Maybe we could add a friendly amendment that since there are no streams of Judaism, therefore the Orthodox have no right to maintain their hegemony, because the Reform and Masorti are not (now, according to this new bill) streams, but exactly as legit as orthodoxy, since it would now all be “just Judaism”? FTW, right? Or we could counter-propose a bill that there is no such thing as Orthodoxy, and the true heir of Jewish practice is [name your favorite non-Orthodox movement].
Or maybe we could get the government out of the religion business, stop allowing the nuttiest of the nuts to determine who is a Jew, while simultaneously preventing people with good intent from converting (contrary to Jewish law, despite the fact that they keep claiming they’re the true inheritors, just like lots of other odd things they do, such as (my fave) prevent Jewish weddings unless their roster of rabbis is involved, despite the fact that one needs no rabbis at all halachicly speaking).
Hey, maybe we should just do that anyway.
Gene Simmons of KISS on Israel. It’s kinda weird, but I love it when Simmons/Witz tells Israelis to toughen up because Americans criticize everyone. So much for the tough-on-the-outside sabra? Maybe the real reason we don’t have peace in the middle east yet is because despite all the machismo of the Israeli image, Israelis aren’t really all that tough? Or maybe even because they are trying to live up to the image that American Jews on the right desperately want them to be? (Hey does that mean we can blame the occupation on all those kids who beat up Jewish kids in elementary school?)
A very neutral explanation of checkpoints
A piece on autism and inclusion by Jacob Artson (Rabbi Brad Artson’s son)
Rabbi Jill Jacobs touting my line on spirituality, social justice, and prayer
HuffPo on the cost of day schools

17 thoughts on “Mishegaas

  1. That article on checkpoints is incredible. While referencing, in vague terms, Israel’s security needs and the security situation, and emphasizing at length the restrictive and controlling nature of checkpoints, at no point does Geoffrey Aronson actually ever state that checkpoints are in place to inhibit Palestinian violence against Israelis. Never. He NEVER says this. Ever.
    Has this guy ever heard of the Intifada?
    This is how he explains the growth in checkpoints.
    For the first few decades of the occupation, checkpoints were the exception rather than the rule. That began to change with the beginning of the Gulf War. We’ve seen since then that the Israeli decision to restrict and selectively address the ability of Palestinians to move not only into Israel — which has been restricted tremendously — but even within the areas that are under military occupation, has only grown and increased. In large part that is a function of Israel’s desire to maintain what it prioritizes as a normal everyday life for Israeli settlers who are now living in these areas.
    The Gulf War? You mean Israeli checkpoints were put in place to stop Saddam?! WTF does the GULF F*CKING WAR HAVE TO DO WITH ISRAELI CHECKPOINTS?!!!! Except that he just will not, cannot admit that checkpoints are in place to stop Palestinian violence. Not to “prioritize” the needs of settlers, but to stop Palestinian violence. Not to help the coalition win the Gulf War, but to stop Palestinian violence. Not to inhibit Palestinian economic development, but to stop Palestinian violence! That’s it. That’s all. My goodness!

  2. @Victor, the story of how Israel systematically restricted the movement of Palestinians is only loosely connected to actual levels of Palestinian terrorism. Those Gulf War restrictions were part of a shift in strategy from relying on cheap Palestinian labor to harming Palestinian economic development as a political tactic to weaken the PLO.
    Go and look at the numbers of Israeli’s killed in say, 1990 and 1991 by Palestinians in Israel and the OT. Not to minimize the value of human life, but… its negligable, esp. in light of the violence that erupted after the failure of Israel to end the occupation by the end of the 20th Century.

  3. That’s all well and good, but I just do not see this supported by evidence. Correlate that number of checkpoints from 1967 through 2011 with violent incidents, demonstrate that there is no relation between them, and then we’ll talk. I have read numerous interviews/autobiographies with leading Israeli figures, as well as those intimately involved in the occupation, who made it explicitly clear, in my mind, that the policy of restricting Palestinian movement was never planned, but evolved as a response to increasing waves of violence.
    Btw, 1990 and 1991 were the final years of the Intifada, if it could be called that at all, by that time. So drawing attention to attacks on Israelis in those years is disingenuous. The height of the violence was what, 1988-89? Israeli authorities had the disturbance under control by 1991.
    You really think the shift in reliance on foreign labor versus Palestinian labor was an effort to weaken the PLO? That doesn’t make much sense. Israel opened relations and negotiations with the PLO at the same time you’re claiming it wanted to weaken it. Remember all those industrial zone projects the Americans sponsored throughout the 90s? I’d be willing to go off on a limb and say that Palestinian participation in Israel’s economy increased or held steady until the 2nd Intifada, or somewhere close to it.
    To say that the Gulf War had an impact on checkpoints, but not, say, the First Intifada, is ludicrous. To not even mention the First Intifada or the Second Intifada in a discussion of the evolution of checkpoints is ludicrous, and so on and so forth.
    This isn’t history, it’s propaganda, and you know it, JG.

  4. Yes. It sounds crazy, but the policy of restricting travel and imposing onerous checkpoints developed in particular during the first Gulf war when violence was very low and not early, during the height of the Intifada. Exactly.
    This is why some folks don’t accept that travel restrictions are directly related to violence. And – you should understand that military policy, including checkpoints and restrictions on movement, flow from politics. War is simply politics by other means. You can’t really tease apart that a particular escalation in checkpoints is a)a specific measure to decrease violence, b) a way to appease some settlers, c) a way of weakening the PA/PLO, or d) pointless effort to make Israelis feel that something, anything, is happening that will keep them safe. It’s all combined, and the same decision makers are influenced by all four.
    One thing we know for sure: Palestinian casualties from settler violence have never let to settlers being treated as an enemy population by a supposedly ‘neutral’ occupation. The army has always been an instrument of the settlers and the occupation, not some kind of ‘civilian protection machine’ that is only concerned with ‘civilian’ safety.

  5. JG, I’m willing to consider the points you bring up. I’m also keeping in mind, however, that proving something like intent is a serious business. Open source information suggests that security policy is correlated with the threat of violence, and not other factors. Anything that contradicts this without documentation demonstrating that the political and military echelons intended checkpoint policy to do the things you say they meant for it to do is speculation at best, and conspiracy-theory propaganda at worst.
    Reading into the intentions of large organizations based on the effects their actions have, without access to internal documentation, is how sloppy history is made.
    In any case, going back to the checkpoint article, I don’t see how it is possible for Mr. Aronson to have brought in the Gulf War, but never mentioned either of the Intifadas, or the pangs terrorist of violence in the 1990s which impacted the security response. That’s either ignorance or malice, but it’s not history.

  6. I just had a briefing with the legal head of Gisha: The Center for Freedom of Movement, the leading Israeli human rights group on this topic, and to her there is no doubt that checkpoints are about noramlizing life for settlers first and economic strangulation of Palestinian society second, by stated policy of the government.
    The nice thing about Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu is that they don’t hide their desires beneath political correctness. I will ask her for quotations, but I think it’s kinda pedantic.

  7. In other words, the leading organization promoting palestinian freedom of movement claims there are only sinister reasons to restrict palestinian freedom of movement. Why bother asking, KFJ? Pedantic, indeed.
    I’ll point out that Likud and Yisrael Beteinu have removed hundreds of checkpoints over the past two years in power, and that this has resulted in a considerable improvement in Palestinian economic activity in the West Bank. But That’s just the factual evidence, backed up by open source rhetoric by Netanyahu that improving Palestinian economic life is a primary goal of his administration.
    But the head of Gisha knows better than to trust facts. There’s funding on the line, after all, and no one ever got more of it by supporting Israeli government policy.

  8. Quoting from the Btselem report:
    Iraq’s threat to use conventional and non-conventional weapons against Israel, the launching of more than 30 missiles towards Israel, the broad support that Iraq enjoys among the Palestinians, and the calls made for the Palestinians to aid Iraq in its war against Israel, have compelled the authorities to take special steps in both Israel and the territories, including employment of appropriate security measures.
    Please explain to me how this does not support my contention that checkpoint policy evolved with security requirements.
    It details how in 1991, for more than a month AFTER the Gulf War, Palestinians were still prevented from traveling freely INSIDE the West Bank.
    Look, JG, a month might seem like a long time to you, but I could see how, in the context of internal discussions within the IDF and the political echelons, the decision to restrict freedom of movement at such a precarious time could extend many months after actual hostilities ended, by sheer inertia alone – “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”, etc.
    Do you not think it’s possible that internal thinking determined that putting the checkpoints in place prior to or during the Gulf war maintained a careful balance of security, which had only been achieved, decisively, after several years of disturbances in the territories?
    Furthermore, and I thought to write this earlier, but I didn’t think it necessary, we need to consider that the IDF and GoI are not omnipotent entities, in control of every situation and knowing the outcome of every action. The policy on using checkpoints to maintain security was not handed down in the Mishnah, it evolved based on operational, institutional and political experience, as all policies do.
    You’re looking back 20 years and saying, those criminals, how dare they not have opened all the checkpoints immediately after the Gulf war was over! I’m surprised at your tone, because I imagine with your experience in government and government-skirting circles you would understand how slowly bureaucracy moves, and I would imagine ever more slowly on matters of decreasing security measures, as heads tend to roll when security measures fail, not when they stay in place for an extended period.
    Again, this all goes back to intent, to proving intent. Without access to internal discussions within the IDF and political echelon, conferring intent is irresponsible at best, and open source information must be relied on to the extent it’s credible, and there is no reason to suggest that it is not. Open source information suggests that checkpoint policy is related to security, even in 1991, as this Btselem report affirms.
    Finally, in case I missed your focus on “traveling freely INSIDE the West Bank”…
    Why would this strike you as odd, that the restrictions on movement would be in place “INSIDE” the West Bank, as opposed to leading into or out of it. Israel is an occupying and administrative power in the West Bank. It had an interest in 1991, and continues to have an interest, actually some might call it a responsibility under international law, to ensure security and public order. But more operationally, I think you know that the IDF does not treat the West Bank as one unit which it seeks to hermetically seal off from Israel, but breaks it up into regions, cities and villages, each with their unique security requirements.

  9. Maybe this discussion would go over better if I were head-nodding to your initial assumptions – that the occupation is purposefully immoral (i.e. it is designed to be immoral), and that every Israeli policy in the territories is inherently malicious, if not predatory or, in the extreme, genocidal. I can see how, were I to believe this, and I were in a room of individuals who likewise believed this, I wouldn’t need very much evidence at all that checkpoints are an instrument of oppression and settler privilege, having nothing to do with Palestinian violence whatsoever.
    What can I say, I don’t head-nod. I sure as hell don’t do it for the settlers, and I’m certainly not going to do it for you.
    I think you could be making a more nuanced point, that security and settler “privilege” overlap, that settlements, and the violence directed against them, necessitate ongoing security measures, and that this can, at a local level, devolve into wink-wink situations between settler leadership and army officials, which go beyond mere security issues. Not everywhere, not always, but sometimes, in some areas. That’s something which I think is real and something I have a problem with. But you’re not making that point, are you.

  10. Well yes. I assume that the original ‘mistake’ of conquering the West Bank and Gaza was followed the original ‘sin’ of triumphant occupation and settlement. The ‘mistake’ one might forgive, but the ongoing sin cannot be forgiven until after the sinning stops and repentance begin.
    There occupation is a mindset above all, in which Palestinians are allowed to exist within Israeli constraints. The constraints ARE the occupation. The longer Israel occupies, the more onerous, obvious and ‘common-sense’ those constraints appear to be.
    But they aren’t. They are dirty, filthy, unwashed sins, not mitigated one iota by the fake discourse around security needs.

  11. JG, who are you asking to repent? Moshe Dayan? He’s dead. Shimon Peres? Ok, go ask him to repent. I’m trying to deal with the world as it is, not as it could have been, or as you think it should have been. You’re entitled to your outrage, and Geoffrey Aronson is entitled to twist facts and mislead people who don’t know any better in order to pursue a narrow ideological agenda.
    Remember Anat Kam?

    However, despite her views, Kam says she is bothered by the fact that she has become a champion of Israel’s leftist camp following the affair:
    “It bothers me to some extent, because they attributed to my acts things that weren’t there,” she said. “There are serious ideological gaps between me and the classic Tel Aviv leftism. For example, I’m not in favor of insubordination. That Left is premised on plenty of ignorance. People talk about the ills of the occupation and about the evacuation of the settlements without seeing a settlement even once in their lives, and that makes me angry.”
    “My leftist views moderated in the army of all places, because I realized that nothing is the way it seems. It’s easy to say that the occupation is corrupting and terrible, yet on the inside reality is very complex,” she says. “The demonization of the settlers, which to a great extent I adopted like any good leftist, was watered down over there. There were violent hilltop youth, yet in the friction between Jews and Palestinians, I saw how much the moderate camp among the settlers despises it.”
    “If before that I thought we should return to the 1967 borders and evacuate everything, there I realized that Ariel is not the hilltop youth…nonetheless, it was still clear to me like it is today that the occupation is not a proper thing,” she says.

  12. Dear Anat Kam:
    It’s fine. You don’t have to be a leftist. We still think you did a brave thing and don’t deserve to be punished.

  13. Sure she does. What she did was illegal. Even she understands she did something wrong, and that she did it out of arrogance. Things happen. I did a few stupid things when I was younger, without thinking through the consequences. Most of us make some bad choices in life. But there are consequences, always. She shouldn’t be shielded from those consequences because she happened to have released state secrets in a way the left got off on. I think six months to a year in jail is fair, not more. I dislike with a passion the whole “let’s make an example” chorus.

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