Archive for June, 2010

Maariv: MEPs warn Peres of gathering boycott momentum

June 29, 2010 6 comments

[Teaser] Is the whole world against us?

[Headline] European Parliament: “Phenomenon of boycotts against Israel gaining momentum”

[Sub-headline] Members of the European lobby for Israel warn: The deterioration in the political climate is increasing boycotts of Israeli products, companies and businessmen; requested that Peres utilize his stature and appear before the European Parliament

David Lipkin, Maariv, June 28 2010 [page 4 of business section; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The leaders of European Friends of Israel (EFI), the European lobby for Israel and its economy, warned yesterday of a deterioration in the political climate in Europe against Israel, and an increase in the phenomenon of boycotts of Israeli products and businesspeople throughout Europe.  They noted that there was a growing phenomenon of European investment funds that were divesting from Israeli companies, for reasons defined as “business ethics.”

Ronny Bruckner, leader of the lobby, which includes members of Parliament in the European Union and senior European businesspeople, asked President Shimon Peres yesterday to use his unique international standing and appear before the European Parliament.  Bruckner also asked the president to step up his activity vis-à-vis the EU institutions and to invest in smaller European states, which have recently joined the EU.

Bruckner noted that the significantly expanding Arab population in the large European countries might help Muslim bodies join radical coalitions and boycott products from Israel, not only those produced east of the Green Line.  He said that Arab activists have already taken to harassing Israeli businessmen and that recently, companies that engage in business ties with Israeli companies have received threats.

Read more…

Categories: Diplomacy, Direct Action

[Video] Channel Ten News: Construction starts at Shepherd Hotel settlement compound in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem

June 28, 2010 12 comments

Transcript follows video.

This comes on the day of the publication of the Jerusalem Municipality Master Plan, with plans for expansion of settlement enclaves across the city. Last night, riots broke out in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan as settlers, backed by Border Police, moved to evict Palestinians from a structure used as a mosque.

Israel began today building at the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem

Channel Ten TV News, June 27 2010 20:31

Yaacov Elon: Very quietly Israel began construction of a new neighborhood in the Shepherd Hotel complex in East Jerusalem. Our correspondent Roi Sharon joins us directly from there. You can hear the construction sounds in the background. What’s happening there, Roi?

Roi Sharon: Work ended here this afternoon at the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Work began this morning, the construction that has already caused several diplomatic crises between Jerusalem and Washington, materialized this morning when the construction team arrived here with a micro fine drill and began the work. The story of this hotel begins in 1985, when the American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz bought the compound and asked the Jerusalem municipality for permission to build here. The city planning and construction committee held the plans up for years and exactly a year ago the committee decided to give Moskowitz a permit to build 20 housing units here plus an underground parking lot. As soon as the decision became known a diplomatic crisis broke out between Jerusalem and Washington, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking Israel immediately to cancel the building permits. This morning the construction work began and now we shall see whether the work goes on as planned and whether we can expect a new diplomatic crisis.

Yaacov Elon: construction at Sheikh Jarrah. Thank you Roi Sharon.

Channel Two TV news demonstrates how to railroad a non-violent protest movement

June 27, 2010 54 comments

The Sheikh Jarrah protest movement pulled off an impressive demonstration on Friday (June 25 2010.) More than five hundred Israelis and Palestinians marched in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, to protest the planned demolition of 22 Palestinian homes.” Bernard Avishai has posted an interesting account of the event at TPM Café. Here’s a short video clip, which shows a powerful, non-violent, protest:

Israeli TVs didn’t show. Since the event was extraordinary, however, Channel Two TV News had to mention it in the evening newscast. Here’s the clip:

Yair Lapid

The script, delivered by aspiring politician Yair Lapid, is matter-of-fact:

Some five hundred leftist activists and Palestinians demonstrated this afternoon in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem in protest of the approval by the Local Planning Committee in Jerusalem of the King’s Garden plan, which includes the planned demolition of 22 Palestinian homes in the neighborhood to make way for the construction of a new archaeological garden.

Channel Two did not have its own footage. They had options, however. They could have bought footage from the wires or Arab TVs, who were there in force. They could have approached the organizers and gotten free footage.

Instead, they used B Roll from the archive. Fair enough. They could have used, for example, their own footage from previous protests and marked it as archival.

Not only was the B Roll not labelled. It was highly unrepresentative of the event — prayers at an open-air mosque, followed immediately by children throwing stones at Police jeeps. End result: For the the lay viewer, the protest is associated with violence (preceded by Islamic religious incitement, no less).

Was this done with intentionally? As documented in-depth by Max Blumenthal last week and demonstrated in a Coteret series a few months ago, the Israeli mainstream media tends to serve as dutiful stenographers of government information, especially on security and foreign policy issues.

It’s doubtful if anyone was briefing in this instance, however. My hunch is that someone at Channel Two was pandering to his audience’s sensibilities (or to his own), consciously or subconsciously averting cognitive dissonance. For many months and years, Israeli audiences, of Channel Two TV in particular, have been subject to nightly conditioning: The only opposition to government policies on Palestinian issues is from violent Muslims and their lunatic-fringe Israeli sympathizers. Images of masses of young and “normal” Israelis (some of them religious!) marching peacefully to protest patent injustice, would move viewers outside their comfort zone, and on a Friday night to boot.

This is a large part of the answer to the question of where the Israeli peace movement has been for a decade. It would still be dormant if the new media had not allowed activists to break free of the restrictions of the MSM and top-heavy NGO structures. The demonstration at Silwan, like the dozens in Sheikh Jarrah that preceded it, was organized with nearly no outlay using Facebook and other social media.

Facebook also enabled many supporters who could not be present to support the demonstrators.  Not only through the sharing of reports and images. On Saturday afternoon, one of the organizers — Daniel Dukarevich — sent out a note (Hebrew) describing what Channel Two had done and asking readers to e-mail the relevant ombudsmen with complaints. Twenty-four hours later, he reported that the Israel Press Council had received the largest number of complaints over a single incident ever and that Channel Two News had contacted him: They had gotten the message and really needed to unclog their inbox.

Globes publishes guide to post-flotilla international business for Israelis

June 27, 2010 19 comments

Here’s a simpler, three-step, guide: Accept the existence of a connection between your government’s policies and the trouble you’re having; recognize that alternatives exist (hey, your PM just said that the blockade was a mistake); use your clout to force the government to adopt them.

Until they sober-up, however, Israeli businessmen will continue throwing money at consultants peddling the satirist’s treasure trove below.

Business in the flotilla’s shadow

Demonstrations were staged in the United States against unloading the cargo off a ZIM ship; Sweden declared nine days of Israel’s boycott; and the UK boycotted of Israeli companies — which proves that business and politics do mix.  How can we keep doing business in the atmosphere of incessant media onslaught against Israel?  Four international management experts explain

Anat Cohen, Globes, June 22 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

1.  Beware of local partners

Also: Consider working independently and stay away from France and Scandinavia

Attorney Amos Conforti, of the Shenhav, Conforti, Shavit & Co. Firm:

“In ordinary times, it is recommended that businessmen who work abroad cooperate with local partners who are familiar with the business and legal environment there.  Regardless of whether you intend to move a marketing center or establish a branch abroad, working with a local partner is convenient because he provides a kind of foothold and base of activity.  This is particularly advisable in countries where the legal system is not transparent (such as in East Europe), or where you are not certain that the legal system is not given to external and political pressures.

“Yet, in view of the flotilla affair and the anti-Israeli sentiment that followed it, I would recommend considering solo activity over joining a local partner in the country of destination.  In fact, Israeli businessmen can no longer trust local partners because they might be affected by the local politics and public opinion.

“Potentially, such a partner might steal ideas, goods, or even funds.  I therefore recommend that Israeli businessmen exercise caution when seeking foreign partners and consider going solo in their ventures in the country of destination.  This, however, may be risky because, being an Israeli, you typically lack a deep understanding of the local culture and market.  That could be compensated for by wisely choosing a venue for international arbitration.  With this in mind, I would suggest that for now, the Israelis stay away from France and Scandinavia.”

2.  Bring up the murky atmosphere

So that the other side could not manipulate the public opinion

Moti Crystal, Nest-Consulting Co.:

“Many Israeli firms that presently establish business ties with European, Asian, and US partners are praying that the Marmara affair would not surface during their negotiations.  They fear it might feature in the subtext and work against them while that the other side leverages the political situation in its favor.  They fear that the other side might take advantage of our weak standing as Israelis and of our desire to make deals, and seek negotiation benefits or, what is worse, renegotiate contracts.

“I would actually suggest that the Israelis take a preventive move; namely, neither wait for the other side to bring up the issue, nor play it down with a typical Israeli remark such as, ‘Forget politics; let’s talk business.’  My experience shows that this is a wrong strategy to employ in negotiations when you are at a disadvantage.  The right way to go about this would be to start by saying something like, ‘I assume that our mutual interests are stronger than political interests,’ as soon as the talks begin.

“This is important for several reasons.  First, you sort of disarm the other side and prevent it from making a manipulative use of the situation against you.  Also, when you bring up the issue at the beginning of the negotiations, you are actually gathering intelligence.  That is, you study the true intentions of the company you are dealing with and discover whether it has a problem with you as an Israeli (for example, it might lose Arab clients, receive conflicting instructions from above, or show some loaded emotions).  If this is the case, you should quit the deal at this stage, so as not to be exposed later to cynical leverages that may be used against you when you are in over your head.”

3.  Use political noise as a whip

The post-flotilla atmosphere actually helps establishing a tough tactical deadline for closing a deal

Crystal:  “Doing a double-negative on the situation, Israel’s current negative stance can help clever businessmen expedite deals.  For example, they can tell their foreign counterparts: ‘Let’s establish the terms of the deal now because reality in the Middle East is very volatile.’  The post-flotilla atmosphere can actually help you establish a tough tactical deadline for closing a deal because you will be making the other side believe that the current political noise is actually an opportunity for him to secure the deal with an x benefit (‘Better take advantage of my situation now because things might get worse,’ or ‘Buy now under the terms I am offering you because demand may soar tomorrow, and so will the price’).

“Such an attitude is particularly beneficial for businessmen who deal in products where the political reality may be good for business, such as products from the security industries, Hi-Tech firms that work for them, and so on.  This would be a clever way to use the atmosphere as a sword.”

4.  Go for economically distressed countries

Greece and Spain can sympathize with us as underdogs

Crystal:  “In view of the flotilla affair and the general onslaught against us, we should try doing business with countries whose economies are in distress, and employ a ‘mutual-aid psychology’ with them.  The relevant countries are such as Greece, Spain, and Italy, which currently experience economic distress and could sympathize with us as underdogs.

“You can tell your Greek counterpart: ‘Your economic situation sucks and my political situation sucks.  This could be the best time for us to join hands.’  I know from my experience that when two parties that are driven by distress join together, they can create tough and durable businesses that would be stronger than when dealing with the wealthy Western countries.  Businessmen from two hard-pressed countries can know better how to distinguish between business and political agendas and neutralize irrelevant noise.” Read more…

Categories: Gaza

Yediot: In summit with Netanyahu, Obama will demand full lifting of Gaza blockade

June 27, 2010 16 comments

Obama to demand end to blockade

Shimon Shiffer, Yediot, June 27 2010 [page 4; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and permission for Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip freely through Israeli border crossings. These are the unequivocal demands that President Barack Obama is expected to make during his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the White House in two weeks.

If anyone thought that lifting the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip would satisfy the Americans, it is now clear to them that is only the beginning. Reliable sources who have been apprised of the preparations that the White House is making for the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu revealed that the demands are much more significant. While Obama voiced his satisfaction with the relief measures that Israel announced, he believes that the situation in which more than a million and a half inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are living is intolerable.

The American president is particularly angry that the inhabitants are not free to leave the Gaza Strip. He sees that as a kind of “collective punishment.” Political sources say that Netanyahu, who has chosen not to change the situation with the Gaza Strip, now finds himself under a great deal of international pressure and must act under pressure from the United States.

Obama also intends to examine the issue of extending the construction freeze with Netanyahu. It may be assumed that Netanyahu will make a continuation of the construction freeze conditional upon going over to direct talks with Abu Mazen.

But considering the firm demands to be made in the private meetings, White House officials are planning quite a warm reception for Netanyahu. Obama’s advisers are preparing quite a few “photo ops” in which the president and Netanyahu will be seen together in public. According to the plan, they will go out into the Rose Garden, which overlooks Obama’s office, where they will answer questions from the media.

Reliable sources say that one of the reasons for the special effort is requests from Jewish Democrats running in the interim Congressional elections this coming November, who are  urging the White House to provide them with “friendly pictures” of Obama and Netanyahu.

White House officials are even looking into the possibility that Obama will invite the Israeli prime minister to come with him to Camp David for talks that will go far into the night. The president’s advisers are examining the idea, the purpose of which, in essence, is to see first-hand which compromises Netanyahu is willing to strive for in a final status arrangement with the Palestinians and with Syria.

Sources in Washington explained that Obama expects to hear from Netanyahu “not only slogans about his willingness to enter negotiations with Abu Mazen and with Assad,” but to show clearly what he means when he talks about two states — Israel and Palestine — existing side by side. Another subject about which the American president expects an answer is Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace treaty with Syria.

Perhaps the most sensitive issue that is going to be discussed in the talks between the two leaders is Obama’s view that the world must give up nuclear weapons. Since Netanyahu is very well aware that the opinions of American decision-makers on this matter have changed, he will try to receive guarantees that for now, there will be no change in American policy regarding Israel’s nuclear capability.


Categories: Diplomacy, Gaza

Yediot: How an Israeli college succeeded in shutting out Arabs from student body elections

June 23, 2010 4 comments

In this morning’s (June 23 2010) Yediot, Uri Misgav reports on how the management of an academic college in northern Israel intervened in the student body elections in a successful effort to shut-out Palestinian-Israeli representatives. His conclusion:

The Emek Yezreel College is currently holding its end of year exams. Students are being tested on their academic achievements in the departments of political science, communications, behavioral sciences and education. I think they can be canceled. The message the college management gave its Jewish and Arab students is much louder than any research question. Sixty-two years after its founding Israel is farther than ever from the ability to bravely confront the democratic challenge of integrating its Arab minority.

Misgav’s dose of contemporary Israeli academic reality is supplemented by Avirama Golan’s glimpse of the Knesset Education Committee’s slide into McCarthyism and, earlier in the week, Education Minister Gideon Saar’s vow to punish to punish Israeli professors who back academic boycotts, which came hot on the heels of his endorsement of the Im Tirzu report urging a purge of ‘anti-Zionism’ in Israeli Universities.

Another dot for Boaz Okon, Yediot’s legal editor, to connect in his picture of “the emergence of apartheid and fascism” in Israel.

A democratic failure

Op-ed, Uri Misgav, Yediot, June 23 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel resides in a green lung next to the village of Tel Adashim. In the last two decades it has enjoyed substantial growth and development. The college calls itself “the Academy of the North,” and 5000 students study there for BA and MA degrees. Among other things the college has a popular political science department. At the beginning of the month the campus was supposed to hold a small celebration of democracy: elections for the student association. From my personal experience I know those elections are not really important. Israeli student councils don’t have a real effect on the academy or the country. But what happened at the Emek Yezreel College within a few days is an amazing and very sad political parable.

At the beginning of the election campaign two lists were competing for control of the council. One represented the incumbent association and the other a vocal opposition that wanted to unseat it. The latter ran a vigorous and aggressive campaign against the incumbent representatives. As students do, they promised a “revolution” and talked about a “cleanup.” Many of the students got interested in the elections..

At some point the Arab students got into the picture. There are about 1000 of them at the college, which serves the areas of Nazareth and the valleys. They may be a minority but have high political awareness and high voting rates. At first the Arab students negotiated with both existing lists to join one of them. They were rejected and set out to establish a separate list. Even after the deadline for submitting the lists the negotiations continued. Samir Baranseh, chairman of the Arab list, held simultaneous negotiations with the two competing lists in order to create a coalition bloc that would decide the close elections.

One day before the elections members of the two Jewish lists were summoned to urgent talks with the college CEO, Yoram Raz, and with a senior lecturer. At the end of the meeting their members, who until that moment were quarreling loudly, announced they were running together on a single list. The Arab students claimed that in a conversation they had with Raz he admitted that the initiative for the urgent union came from the college management. “Imagine if you had won all of the seats in the association or most of them,” he told them. “The news would have reached not only the Israeli press but also the world press, even the Turkish press. It is inconceivable for the Arabs, who constitute 20% of the students, to represent all of the students of the college.”

The head of the Arab list understood the situation and went to the joint Jewish list with a last offer: combining forces in one list, based on a formula of one in every five representatives. That offer too was rejected. At that point Baranseh and his friends announced they were boycotting the elections and establishing a separate Arab students’ committee. On election day, which was supposed to be a face-off between three competing and ambitious lists, only one list ultimately stood for election. Just like in Syria. The students responded accordingly. Only 15% of them bothered to go vote. One, who happens to be a Jew, voted with a blank ballot, on which he wrote: “A dark day for democracy.”

Read more…

Israeli NSA Arad on-record: Two states? That’s a zero-sum game!

June 23, 2010 11 comments

Yesterday (June 22 2010), In a speech to the Jewish Agency, Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, asked Israelis to ‘curb their enthusiasm’ about a two state solution to the conflict, saying that legitimizing a Palestinian State is tantamount to de-legitimizing Israel:

Arad also leveled veiled criticism at the two-state solution. “On the one hand, most of the people of Israel see the two-state solution as the path to a peace agreement. There are even quite a few Israelis who have mobilized for a Palestinian state and the promotion of its legitimacy, and are winning converts to it.

“What they do not notice is that this claims a certain price. The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the more you bring about a detraction of Israel’s legitimacy in certain circles. They are accumulating legitimacy, and we are being delegitimized. If we were aware of that, perhaps we would be less enthusiastic.”

Anyone who read Arad’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’ interview last year, cannot really be surprised by anything he says. This is an important reminder, however, of who has the Prime Minister’s ear on Israeli-Palestinian issues. I think journalists who repeat ad nauseum that Palestinian rejectionism is the only obstacle to peace breaking out would find it useful. Also, Gidi Ginshtein at the Reut Institute might want to add the speech as a reference in his latest report, which contends that the mortal danger currently facing  Israel is from forces trying to undermine the legitimacy of the two state solution.

Uzi Arad versus the world

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, June 23 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Yesterday, National Security Adviser Dr. Uzi Arad fired arrows of criticism in every direction and made unusual statements on a series of current affairs. He sent barbs in the direction of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who, according to reports, is not allowing the National Security Council to do its job, aimed criticism at Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who believes that a peace plan will extricate Israel from the diplomatic impasse, said that Israel’s enthusiasm over the two-state solution is damaging to Israel’s legitimacy, and gave legal justification for a military attack on Iran.

In a speech to the members of the Jewish Agency Assembly in Jerusalem, Arad said of the peace initiative being pushed by high-ranking Kadima officials, “Some say that we need to offer a peace initiative, and I must assume that the leader of the opposition, Ms. Tzipi Livni, will agree to that. There is no need to think that this is the magic and promised solution.

“We must not believe that the moment we do this, things will resolve on their own and then we will be saved. Such an initiative is only liable to cause the Palestinians to reject it and wait for another initiative on the understanding that Israel only gives. And therefore, I propose the commandment of caution. Making projections about the implications of what might happen is political adventurism.”

Arad also leveled veiled criticism at the two-state solution. “On the one hand, most of the people of Israel see the two-state solution as the path to a peace agreement. There are even quite a few Israelis who have mobilized for a Palestinian state and the promotion of its legitimacy, and are winning converts to it.

“What they do not notice is that this claims a certain price. The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the more you bring about a detraction of Israel’s legitimacy in certain circles. They are accumulating legitimacy, and we are being delegitimized. If we were aware of that, perhaps we would be less enthusiastic.”

Read more…