netanyahu - Emil Salman - October 12 2010
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Emil Salman
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1. The Loyalty Oath.

What it is: A proposed amendment to Israel's Law of Citizenship, which, if approved by the Knesset, would require non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state." The bill does not require Jews to make the same declaration.

Why it matters: A watershed measure which has been widely condemned as formally racist, passage of the bill, a key demand of Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party, could also fuel Lieberman's drive to head the Israeli right, and eventually, run for the premiership.

Where it stands: Approved by the cabinet this week by a 22-8 vote, with all Labor ministers and three Likud MKs opposed. To become law, it must now pass three Knesset votes in the coming months.

What you can do: Add your voice to those working to defeat passage of the law. The law must have the support of the Likud [27 seats] and Labor [13] in order to pass. Write to Prime Minister and Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu and to Defense Minister and Labor Chair Ehud Barak to urge them to bar the bill from passage. The individual e-mail addresses of all Likud MKs may be found by clicking their names on the Knesset website. Senior Likud MKs Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, as well as Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin have already spoken out strongly against the Loyalty Oath. Others are believed to have serious reservations, and may be persuaded to abstain or work to keep the bill from reaching the Knesset floor.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has compiled an extensive and informative listing of pending legislation with potentially anti-democratic consequences, including bills which could strip citizenship from people having taken part in Gaza aid flotillas and penalties for commemorating Naqba Day, the Palestinian day of mourning for the events of 1948.

2. Deporting Children Who Want to be Israelis

What it is: Interior Minister Eli Yishai, chair of the ultra-Orthodox Shas, has dug in his political heels to demand that the government expel 400 children of foreign nationals working in Israel, who no longer have valid permits to stay. Many of the children were born in Israel. Most say they feel that Israel is their home, and that they want to remain and become citizens.

Why it matters: Yishai has cast the deportations as holding the line against the possibility of millions of workers flooding into Israel, posing threats of disease and demographic dilution of the Jewish character of the state. In practice, however, the deportations come in lieu of a coherent policy on refugees, asylum seekers, and foreign nationals. Beyond this, most of the children know no other home, and like their parents, have demonstrated strikingly good citizenship.

Where it stands: Yishai said this week that the deportations would begin in a few weeks, adding that he could have ordered another 10,000 to leave the country, but did not.

What you can do: Voice your concerns to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who has led the effort for a cabinet reconsideration of the deportations. Also, support groups working to help vulnerable resident non-citizens, including Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Kav Laoved and Hotline for Migrant Workers.

3. Expanding settlement in East Jerusalem

What it is: Plans to further expel Palestinians in order to install Jews in homes in the flashpoint areas of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, and to create a large tourism area to promote the City of David settler tourism enterprise.

Why it matters: Any changes in Jerusalem, in particular operations in which the municipality and the police shield and foster settlement expansion can have devastating consequences.

Where it stands: City officials are watching closely, waiting for protests and U.S. scrutiny to die down, before ordering new expulsions into effect.

What you can do: Support the protests. Attend. Monitor events. Make your concerns known to members of congress, senators, the President.

4. Resuming Construction of the Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance

What it is: A mammoth, contentious project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles, built on an ancient Muslim cemetery in the heart of the Holy City's downtown.

Why it matters: The location of the excavation work, the extravagance of the complex in a poverty-plagued city, and the insensitivity demonstrated by Wiesenthal Center chief Rabbi Marvin Hier have enraged Muslims and moderate Jews in the city and around the world.

Where it stands: The project has been faltering of late, following the resignation of renowned architect Frank Gehry. But SWC has declared its determination to go on, hastily hiring a new architectural team.

What you can do: Contact the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to urge that the project be put to an end.

5. Perpetuating the siege on Gaza

See Israel's 10 worst errors of the decade.

6. Using attack dogs against protesters sailing on aid boats to Gaza

Enough said.

What you can do: See contact Defense Minister, above.

7. Barring entry and/or jailing and/or expelling additional Nobel Peace Prize winners, intellectuals, authors, and clowns.

8. Gratuitously and intentionally angering Turkish and other Mideastern neighbors.

9. Gratuitously and intentionally angering the U.S. and E.U., and giving them the impression that Israeli and Diaspora Jews prefer settlements to peace with the Palestinians.

What you can do: Get involved with Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the New Israel Fund, Tikkun, Ameinu, Meretz USA and any of the many other organizations working at the local, national, and international level on behalf of peace, democracy, and social justice in Israel.

10. Failing to indict Avigdor Lieberman for alleged money laundering.

What you can do: Pray.