On 19 November, Airbnb announced that it had removed from its website around 200 properties in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The global travel agency explained that it had decided to 'act responsibly' after considering the settlements’ 'disputed' character and their contribution to 'human suffering'.
The residents of the unrecognised Bedouin village Umm Al-Hiram, in the Israeli Negev, have finally accepted defeat. Within a couple of months, they will give up their land and move to a nearby Bedouin town. After their houses are demolished, West Bank settlers will establish a new Jewish-only village in their place. Several houses in Umm Al-Hiran have already been destroyed and a villager was killed by Israeli police during one demolition last year. So the inhabitants understood that the government meant business when it notified them in March that all of their houses would be razed to the ground if they did not relocate by the end of April. After a fifteen-year struggle, the residents grudgingly gave in and signed a relocation agreement similar to the one they had rejected for over a decade.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise and needs to be challenged. But the working definition of anti-Semitism that was formally adopted this week by the British government is dangerous. It says that anyone who subjects Israel to 'double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation' is an anti-Semite.
In February, the Israeli prime minister praised the British government for introducing new guidelines prohibiting publicly funded bodies from boycotting Israeli products. ‘I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East,’ Netanyahu said.
On the first day of school last week, children in their first year at primary school in the small city of Ashkelon in southern Israel were excited to learn that Binyamin Netanyahu would be visiting their class. This is what the prime minister had to say to the six-year-olds: The first lesson in first grade is 'Shalom first grade' with the emphasis on shalom [peace]. We educate our children for peace. A few kilometres from here, Hamas teaches its children the opposite of peace and, from time to time, it tries to fire at us, at you. Our policy is clear – zero restraint, zero let-up, zero tolerance for terrorism. We respond to every hostile attack on our territory either by overt or covert action, and we are determined to foil terrorism at every turn, just as we did yesterday in Jenin. I wish a quick recovery to the soldier who was wounded.
A few years ago, an Israeli F16 fighter pilot I know went on a training exercise for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear reactors. When he got back I asked him if such an operation could actually succeed. He said he thought Israel had the capacity to carry it out, but the military leadership was against it. When I asked him why, he explained that even if an airstrike were completely successful, the Iranians would be able to rebuild their reactors within two years. The operation, he said, would only work if sanctions were intensified immediately after the attack, and most sanctioning countries would be unlikely to agree to that.
Unlawful and Deadly, Amnesty International's recent report on 'rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict', accuses Hamas and others of carrying out 'indiscriminate attacks' on Israel: 'When indiscriminate attacks kill or injure civilians, they constitute war crimes.' The report reiterates a formal symmetry between Israelis and Palestinians (previous reports have accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Protective Edge), asking both parties to take all precautions to respect civilian lives, and reminding them to 'choose appropriate means and methods of attack'.
The decision by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, to open 'a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine' could have a concrete political impact in Israel/Palestine, but not because the ICC will end up charging officials for carrying out war crimes. The ICC has yet to address any violations carried out by Western liberal states. Simply put, the geography of the ICC's investigations – from Côte d'Ivoire to Uganda – both reflects and reproduces an old colonial frame of justice. Even within this blinkered framework, the court's success rate has not been particularly impressive: in its 12 years of existence, the ICC has carried out 21 investigations; only two people have been convicted. Given that record, why has Bensouda’s announcement provoked such outrage in the Israeli government?
On 10 May, Amos Oz criticised the so-called 'price-tag attacks' carried out by Israeli settlers. The label is used by the culprits themselves to describe retaliatory violence against Palestinians: beatings and arson as well as racist graffiti sprayed on the walls of churches and mosques. Oz described the perpetrators as 'Hebrew neo-Nazi groups'. The next day, he said: The comparison that I made was to neo-Nazis and not to Nazis. Nazis build incinerators and gas chambers; neo-Nazis desecrate places of worship, cemeteries, beat innocent people and write racist slogans. That is what they do in Europe, and that is what they do here.
Ten days ago some 200 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea marched to Jerusalem to protest against their mistreatment by the Israeli government. They had left a new 'open' detention facility in the Negev desert, where they are obliged to spend the night and attend three role calls during the day. They walked for about six hours to the nearest city, Beer-Sheva, my hometown. After spending the night at the bus station, they marched on to Nachshon, a kibbutz that had agreed to put them up for the night. The following day, they continued to the Knesset by bus.