Tag Archives: Jews

The repulsive face of modern European antisemitism

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Ever seen them BDS’ing a Chinese supermarket? Me neither.

Last weekend, when visiting the local supermarket, I had an unpleasant encounter with the repulsive face of modern European antisemitism. As I was doing my regular groceries, I noticed several people in identical white jackets rummaging through the shelves. I guessed it was some kind of internal quality control and haven’t given it much thought. But as I left the store, I realized it was an external control – these people were searching the shelves for Israeli products. And they were calling on the shoppers to boycott these products. I don’t need to tell you how disgusting the similarity is between these people and other times in the European history of the 20th century.

Spot the differences…

These people of course have the right to demonstrate. I have no problem with them criticizing Israel. They are entitled to their opinion. But don’t let them tell you they are against “occupation”, don’t let them tell you they are “anti-zionist”, not antisemitic, don’t let them tell you they are concerned about the suffering of “Palestinians”. Because it is all bullshit.

They say they are against occupation – that’s bullshit.
The only occupation they are concerned with is the Israeli “occupation”. Never mind the Oslo agreements, never mind Israeli disengagement from Gaza – let us even assume Israel is in full control there. What about the other occupations? The nearby market is full of Moroccan goods – I don’t see them searching there for products from the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. When have they checked the Turkish stores for products from Northern Cyprus – occupied by Turkey? Have they ever inspected the Chinese supermarkets for products of Chinese-occupied Tibet or the Russian stores for products made in Russian-occupied Crimea? Never. Only the “occupation” by the Jewish state gets their attention.

They say they support oppressed people in the Middle East – that’s bullshit.
I haven’t heard them protest the oppression of the Kurds of Iraq or Turkey. They were silent when Yezidi’s were being massacred by the Islamic State. The suffering of Shiites in Pakistan, the Christians in Syria and Egypt, the miserable life of gays everywhere in the Middle East (outside of Israel, where gay pride parades are a regular event) are never their concern. Ruthless bombardments of civilians in Yemen by Saudi warplanes haven’t led to a single sound of protest. All their attention is gobbled up by Israel – in their mind, only the Jewish state can be an oppressor.

Saudi bombardments of Yemen? Its Arabs killing Arabs, that's OK.

Saudi bombardments of Yemen? Its Arabs killing Arabs, that’s OK.

They say they are concerned about the rights of the “Palestinians” – that’s bullshit.
And if you wonder why I put “Palestinians” between brackets – look up who is Zuheir Mohsen.
I have never seen them demonstrating for the rights of “Palestinians” in Lebanon, where they are officially excluded from dozens of professions – “Palestinians” can’t be a doctor or a lawyer in Lebanon. Never have these people said a word about “Palestinians” in Syria, where a fourth stateless generation is born, inheriting a refugee status, for decades crammed by the regime into miserable camps on the fringes of society. I haven’t heard them protesting the abuse of the rights of the residents of Gaza by the brutal regime of Hamas or raise their voice against the corruption of the thugs governing the “Palestinian Autonomy”. Only when Jews are perceived to abuse the rights of “Palestinians” are these people heard.

They say they are not antisemitic, “just” anti-Zionist. That’s bullshit.
Last time I checked, Zionism was the aspiration of the Jewish people for self-determination. They are not aganst the right of Swedes, Iraqis, Albanians or even “Palestinians” for self-determination. It is only the Jewish people that are denied that right – and denying Jews a right that other people have is the definition of antisemitism.

Checking Moroccan products next week? I don't think so.

Checking Moroccan products next week? I don’t think so.

So what is their motive?
Why do these people demonize and abuse the Jewish state? Why single out Israel for a “special treatment”? Even if Israel does violate human rights, even if Israel is an occupying power, why don’t these people protest other occupying forces, why not demonstrate against any other, much graver violators of human rights? Well, because boycotting Jewish goods is safe and fun. It is a cheap thrill, it gives them the feeling they are doing the “right thing” with little chances of getting hurt in the process. I totally understand them. Getting away unharmed from an inspection of Moroccan goods at the market will be tricky. Try rummaging through the shelves of a Russian store and you might end up with a broken nose. Attempt a boycott of a Chinese supermarket and you’ll end up facing an angry mob. Calling for a boycott of Israel, on the other hand, is free of dangers, and it gives the guilty pleasure of doing something you know is wrong. Its like picking your nose – you know you are not supposed to do it, and its not polite, but when you can get away with it – you do it.

When photographed, they try to hide their faces. Its like they're caught nose-picking - deep down they know its wrong.

When photographed, they try to hide their faces. Its like they’re caught nose-picking – deep down they know its wrong.

Its the same reason “anarchist” or “left-wing” so-called activists travel to Israel – to have a taste of the action. Why not? You can shout at soldiers in the morning, have a swim in the Med in the day and end up discussing how great you are over a beer in a local pub in the evening. Best thing is – there are little risks involved. Worse thing that can happen to you is a bit of tear gas, or you’ll get delayed at the airport for a few hours. But oh the stories you’ll tell. Compare it to the risk of rotting away in a Chinese prison for supporting the Tibetans or disappearing all together in a shallow grave in the desert for standing by the Sahrawi’s in Morocco, and the choice for Israel-bashing is an easy one. The modern Jew-haters, just like the old ones, are cowards, liars and racists. They just don’t always shave their heads.

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Israeli politics for dummies (2015 edition)

With voting taking place in just 1 week, on Tuesday, the 17th of March 2015, the elections campaign for the twentieth Knesset has entered its final stretch. And as usual with Israeli elections, predictions about the outcome and its consequences are worth less than the paper they are printed on. As any follower of Israeli politics knows, expecting the unexpected is a must. But even on the Israeli scale of surprising results, next week’s vote might turn a big surprise. It just might be that the next Knesset (the Israeli parliament) will not be as fragmented as it used to be.

Read on and this will make (at least some) sense! Image source – Wikipedia

The reason is that the electoral threshold has been raised from 2% to 3.25%, meaning that a party should win at least 4 rather than 2 seats to be in the Knesset (out of 120 in total). Many parties running, both established ones and newcomers (Meretz and Yahad, see below) are balancing just above the threshold. With that in mind, voters may at the last moment cast their ballot for a party that is sure to get into the Knesset, rather than risk having their vote lost with a party that just couldn’t make it. Other factors that complicate the eventual outcome are the application of the Bader-Offer method and the surplus-votes agreements. I’ll spare you the technical details, but it comes down to a slight favouring of bigger parties. So, the Likud got 38 rather than 36 seats in the 2003 elections after the numbers were crunched.

The surprising outcomes are not only a function of technicalities though. The main source of surprises is that Israeli politics is very poorly understood outside Israel. The way I see it there are 3 causes for the failure to understand Israeli politics.

Firstly, most coverage comes from left-wing affiliates. So, Omri Marcus, an Israeli who wrote a guide to “Israeli Politics for Dummies“, has named no less than 3 right-wing parties in Israel “extreme” and guess how many left-wing parties got that title? Right, zero! Not even the communists of Hadash were deemed worthy of the “extreme” label by Omri.

Secondly, It’s the economy, stupid. The Israeli politics is almost uniformly framed as revolving around security in the international media. Yet the Israeli governments usually fall on economic issues and election campaigns are largely focused on social-economical topics like the high cost of living, taxes and child support. Since this aspect of Israeli politics is by and large ignored outside Israel, outcomes of the elections do not fail to come as a surprise.

But the third and perhaps main reason the Israeli elections are so confusing is that, well, there’s just too much going on. This time, there are no less than 25 parties participating, with 10 or 11 standing a real chance of scoring seats in the Knesset. Granted, 25 is less than the over 30 that participated in previous campaigns, but its still a huge amount to choose from.

To enable understanding Israeli politics would take more than a blog post. But I will try to make the Israeli political map a bit more understandable, by presenting some definitions and the main actors, discussing them, where possible, in more general political terms. Without further ado, here’s my best attempt to make sense of Israeli politics.

The political map

Left-Right
The classical definitions of “left” and “right” apply in Israel as well. The “left” is pro-state involvement and government spending, the “right” is about privatization and less taxes. In security terms, as elsewhere, the “left” and “right” are “doves” and “hawks“. In Israel, in addition to traditional opinions on crime and immigration this means the “right” is Jewish-nationalist or Zionist and the “left” is… well, slightly less fervently Zionist. And, of course, there are the Arab parties, which are anti-Zionist.

Black-white
At least part of the Israeli politics is arranged around ethnic lines. In the Jewish majority the “black” are the Sefardi Jews and the “white” are Ashkenazi. With the ethnic divisions being rapidly erased as Jews of different origins happily intermarry, the division becomes less pronounced, with some notable exceptions (see below). The black-white division correlates slightly with the left-right, Sefardi Jews being on average poorer, less educated and more right-wing oriented than Ashkenazi.

Religious-secular
Religion plays a large role in Israeli politics, with at least 4 of the 10-11 main parties including a significant Jewish religious component, supplemented by the Arab Islamist party. Most Jewish religious parties are nationalistic, but their economic platform ranges from ethno-socialism to more republican-style views.

The main players (with the number of seats in the latest poll)

Likud (22)
Despite what some would like you to believe, Likud is nothing like the Tea Party. In social-economical terms Israel is more European than American and Likud is a classical central-right movement that can be best compared to the British Conservatives, the German Christian-Democrats or the milder Republicans.

Zionist Union (24)
The split and fractured remains of the Israeli Labour party have re-united for the 2015 elections under their traditional banner “anything but Bibi [Netaniyahu]”. A classical Social-Democratic central-left party (left-wing Democrats in the US).

The Joint Arab List (13)
Recognizing the very real possibility of being wiped out by the elevated electoral threshold, 4 Arab parties have formed an unholy alliance of Arab nationalists, Islamists and Communists, united only by their rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. Syriza is the best parallel, although if there’s one sure thing in Israel is that the Joint Arab List is not going to be a member of the coalition government.

Yesh Atid (12)
A secular centrist party, that came out of nowhere to become the second-largest party in the outgoing Knesset. As usual with secular centrist parties in Israel, is going nowhere after having failed to achieve any of its goals despite being a major coalition partner with Likud. Comparable to European Liberal-Democrats, or the right-wing of the Democratic Party in the US.

Jewish Home (12)
As you probably guessed from its name, a Jewish nationalist-religious party. Its economic agenda is more right-wing than that of other religious parties, so its probably comparable to the right-wing of the Christian-Democrats or mainstream Republicans.

Kulanu (9)
This campaign’s centrist newcomer. Formed, as usual, by a Likud fugitive who is unsure of most things except wanting to head his own political movement. See Yesh Atid.

Shas (7)
A Sefardi (“black”) Jewish ultra-orthodox religious party. Its program is a unique blend of social demands with religious propaganda. The “left-right” definitions fail here as Shas will sit in any government that will provide its MP’s a reach into the public funds.

United Torah Judaism (6)
The Ashkenazi (“white”) branch of Jewish ultra-orthodoxy. See Shas.

Yisrael Beiteinu (5)
Rather unique bird in Israeli politics, this is a secular right-wing party. Rapidly disappearing as its Soviet-made electorate assimilates into the Israeli society. Has a love-hate relationship with Likud, as the two keep merging and splitting.

Meretz (5)
The last remains of the Israeli left. Dreamy left-wing extremists, attempting to save themselves from (political) extinction by including a green agenda, much as the European Green-Left movements are doing. With about the same very limited success.

Yachad (4)
A splinter-movement of Shas, running together with the scarier components of Jewish right-wing extremism. Stand a real chance of just failing to pass the electoral threshold. Again.

BARUCH2

That’s me (on the right) in Hebron, with Baruch Marzel, the scarier component of Jewish right-wing extremism. This was way back in 2001, apparently he lost a lot of weight since. I do not support his views. I think he’s a fool.

The Day After

If you thought the Israeli politics was confusing, wait until the day after the elections, when the dust has settled and the seats in the Knesset have been divided. Since Israel has a multi-party system, and no party ever gets a majority, a coalition has to be formed. Whether the polls are accurate or not, it seems as if even the two biggest parties (Likud and Zionist Union) will get less than a 1/5th of the seats each. In the most optimistic scenario where they bridge their deep divisions and overcome the mutual resentment, they will need a third partner to achieve a majority. Yesh Atid is the most likely candidate, but even that might not be enough for 61 (out of 120) seats. Any other coalition will have to bring together at least 4 parties and be an even less probable combination of political views. All I can say is stay tuned for what may very well be the best show on Earth!

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“Charlie Hebdo” = Epic Fail

The events that will probably remain labelled “Charlie Hebdo terror attack” are largely over. The shooting, manhunt and hostage crises are finished, and while some suspects are still at large, victims are not yet buried and wounded are still in hospitals, it is by now possible to start summarizing this tragedy. And I can only summarize it as “Epic Fail”. If you think it is not yet the time for harsh words, or feel that you may otherwise be insulted or offended by what you may think is inappropriate, it is time to stop reading. Because I’m not in the mood to be sensitive. In fact, I even its time to stop being sensitive. Because everybody failed in “Charlie Hebdo”.

We all, as a society, in all European countries have failed. Europe has proved to be a fertile ground for growing increasing numbers of insane fanatics who kill everyone they disagree with. And we’ve failed to find the reasons why and to rectify them.

The Muslim communities of Europe have failed. They have failed to see that turning a blind eye to the spread of militant fanaticism and the hate of the other among them is not making the problem go away. I don’t want to enter the numbers discussion, but studies show that support for IS among some Muslim youth in Europe is less an exception but more of a mainstream. Rather than admit to have a problem, Muslim organizations opt to blame the studies for being “wrong”. They have failed to realize that the hate hurts us all, including Muslims. They have failed to stop the haters among them, by failing to do the only rational thing to do – turn them in. And don’t tell me the Muslims of Europe do not know who the dangerous radicals in their communities are.

The politicians of Europe have failed. They failed to identify and discuss the massive problem that the militant Islamism in Europe presents. They still fail, as they not dare say that militant, radical Islamism is a problem, declaring instead that the terrorists are not Muslims. They are Muslims, bad, violent Muslims, but Muslims nevertheless. Pretending they’re not is rather counter-productive to say the least. And they enjoy support among the Muslim communities, too – see #JeSuisKouachi hashtag.

But to me, the most terrible, the worse fail was the operational one. The French President Holande said “the country is proud of the forces of law and order”. Well, I think there’s very little to be proud of. The forces of law and order have failed miserably all along the way.

The intelligence services have failed. They were tracking the murderers, who were convicted criminals with known extremists ties, and have failed to prevent them from committing the attacks. Why bother have ‘intelligence’ services, why pay them and severe personal freedoms and privacy, if they can’t stop (known!) terrorists before they strike?

The French police has failed to protect Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish community. Despite warnings and previous attacks, the protection was appallingly insufficient. The murderers have basically done as they pleased.

The police officers responding to the various incidents have failed when called upon, getting themselves killed in the process. I can understand how a lone guard at the Charlie Hebdo offices can be overwhelmed by armed terrorists. But how and why the officers responding to the shooting have, instead of taking the shooters out or at least pinning them down until the arrival of more heavily armed units, have allowed them to escape? Why a day after the attack, a known associate of the Kouachi’s shoots and kills a police officer and is able to escape from the scene, in a city literally flooded with security services? Not only was he able to escape, but was also able to take hostages, killing several of them in the process! You’d think that a Jewish supermarket would be heavily guarded a day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Adding insult to injury, his girlfriend and accomplice seems to have escaped police and reportedly fled to Syria, where she no doubt will become some sort of celebrity. Furthermore, as the Kouachi’s have taken a hostage of their own, the security forces were unable to prevent the hostage-takers from communicating with each other, making a laughing stock of the efforts of the police negotiators.

About the only thing we can find comfort in, is that the terrorists have failed, too. Yes, they killed several people and frightened many. But if they intended to stop the spread of cartoons depicting the Prophet, they’ve reached the exact opposite. If they intended to reduce the suffering of Muslims, they failed. Because it is Muslims that suffer the most of the hands of fanatics and of the consequences of their actions. If they intended to reach paradise by dying as martyrs, they failed, too. Because if your god is insulted by pictures, but is celebrated by murder – you are worshipping the devil. And your reward will be eternal suffering, because the devil is not known for being good in rewards, even to those who worship him.

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