The 9 Most Destructive Things Israel Is Doing Right Now. To Itself

Don't turn on the news. If you value your blood pressure – or the welfare of Israelis and Palestinians - leave it off.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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A Palestinian protester stands in front of burning tires during a demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kafr Qaddum, October 26, 2014.
A Palestinian protester stands in front of burning tires during a demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kafr Qaddum, October 26, 2014.Credit: AFP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Don't turn on the news.

If you value your blood pressure, leave it off.

If you value concepts like democracy, co-existence, equality, justice and security for the vulnerable and the decent, it has probably occurred to you that news about the Holy Land, whether it be online, in print, or on the airwaves, will do your system absolutely no good.

This is especially true if the welfare of Israelis and Palestinians is of consequence in your personal equation.

Let's take Israel for a start. Let's take, for a start, the enormously destructive things Israel is doing these days – destructive, that is, to Israel itself. Here's a representative sample:

1. Segregating Buses: Banning Palestinians from certain bus lines used by settlers in the West Bank.

The Background: Settlers put heavy pressure on hardline Likud Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, to order commuting Palestinian workers off buses used by settlers. Settlers cite "security concerns," which include contact between the workers and female settlers. The order was to have begun to go into effect this week.

This, despite reservations by Israel's own justice minister and attorney general as to the legality of the edict, which was reportedly issued unilaterally by Ya'alon.

The consequence: Substantive evidence for charges of apartheid and Jim Crow-type segregation in Israeli policies. “This is an official governmental stamp on a policy of apartheid in the territories," declared Meretz party chief Zehava Gal-On. "Separating Jews and Palestinians only deepens Israel’s status as a pariah state.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks during a memorial ceremony at Kafr Qasem on October 26, 2014.Credit: AFP

2. Declaring that Israel is committed to settling throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, thus defying the international community's outlines for possible future Palestinian state.

3. Fanning the flames of violence in East Jerusalem and further poisoning ties with the Obama administration and EU allies by backing settlers taking new homes in the flashpoint Silwan neighborhood.

Background: Netanyahu tells a Monday meeting of Likud MKs that he is "committed to building in every part of Judea and Samaria." Later, he signals to the full parliament that rising violence in Jerusalem should have no effect on limiting settlement activity in largely Palestinian Silwan and elsewhere. He thus echoes far-right Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who announced this week plans to move his family from a West Bank settlement to Silwan.

Consequence: Referring to plans to build 1,060 new settler homes in East Jerusalem, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki tells reporters: "If Israel wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps that will reduce tensions. Moving forward with this sort of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace.”

“We view settlement activities as illegitimate and we are unequivocally opposed to unilateral steps."

The European Union says such a decision, if confirmed, would be "ill-judged and ill-timed" and "would call into serious question Israel's commitment to a negotiated solution with the Palestinians," harming EU-Israel ties.

4. Taking direct aim to antagonize Washington and Europe, for narrow domestic political advantage.

Background: Leaving nothing to chance, Netanyahu tells the Knesset Monday that Israel is going it alone against its enemies (omitting mention of billions of dollars in U.S. annual foreign aid). He further indicates that he is not about to allow a two-state solution:

"I don't see pressure on the Palestinians. I see only pressure on Israel to make more and more concessions, without anything in exchange or security. I want to make it perfectly clear – no pressure, at home or abroad, will work."

Consequence: See Number 3, above.

5. Attacking President Reuven Rivlin for his vocal stand against anti-Arab racism on the part of Israelis.

Background: Although long a pillar of the hardline right, Rivlin as president has taken unprecedented – and lonely – steps to foster Arab-Jewish reconciliation and fight far-right racism against Arabs.

Consequence: Raising the issue before the full Knesset, Rivlin spells out, and enters into the Knesset's official record, responses he had received:

"'You lying Jew,' my critics have hurled. 'Damn your name, you agent of the Arabs,' 'Go be president in Gaza,' 'Disgusting suck-up [to the Arabs],' 'Rotten filth,' 'Lowest of the low,' 'Traitor,' 'President of Hezbollah.' And this is just some, (sadly, far from the most disturbing), of the vitriol thrown at me following statements I have made or events I have attended."

6. Cutting budgets for food on certain army bases, causing soldiers to regularly go hungry, even as the government spends billions on new F-35 jet fighters, and lauds IDF soldiers as heroes.

7. Lavishly applauding its own commitment to Western Negev Israelis living in dangerously vulnerable areas within mortar, rocket and attack-tunnel range of Gaza, the government decides to withdraw the troops sent there to guard them from attack.

The government makes no such move in illegal outposts and settlements in the West bank.

8. Despite speaking in the name of the Jewish people as a whole, Netanyahu caves in to pressures by a settler party and the ultra-Orthodox and says he'll block reforms to make conversion to Judaism more accessible.

Background: The reform, proposed by an Orthodox MK, was aimed at significantly easing the conversion procedure for thousands of non-Jews who'd had difficulty meeting the tough requirements set by monopoly-protected conversion courts in recent years.

Consequence: Despite Habayit Hayehudi's repeated threats to bring down the government over the issue, and despite Likud and other secular right-wing MKs voting against, the Knesset may pass the reforms in any case next week.

9. Attacking Israel's own last bulwark of democracy and human rights, by promoting a bill to effectively negate the Supreme Court – all in an effort to pass a much-invalidated law that would deprive African asylum seekers of due process and basic human rights.

Consequence: Stay tuned for the next list.



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