Thursday, April 12

Facing the fear and blogging it anyway...

Is that yer little green football or are you just glad to see me?
I've been talking with a couple of bloggers today about this story I wanna cover. It's a internal Israeli politics story and it may totally bore you, world news sometimes is boring, but before I even get into that the fellow bloggers and I have been discussing how this story might bring a rain of Little Green you-know-who rage down upon this here little blog and am I prepared to deal with that?

You mean, like, deal with a gang of uber-zionist kneejerk thugs via the internet? What, they won't be gentlemanly with a married Lady, capital L, who lives in the south? Bless their hearts, I know they will.

The thing is, I had to deal with a thug like that in person once. Many of you know I have my undergraduate degree from Brandeis University. Brandeis, for those of you who don't know, is a Jewish sponsored, non-sectarian university which was founded in 1948 as a kind of "Jewish Harvard," back right just before Harvard opened their admissions to Jews. Brandeis flourished anyway, and it's a damn fine school and I'm damn proud of my degree from there. And just so you know, I don't wave it around too much, but I have a degree from that "H" school too. I'm MORE proud of my Brandeis degree. Moving on.

The thug: I was hanging out in the slightly smelly "offices" of The Justice, the Brandeis school paper, eating lunch. Not too many people around. This very brawny guy stormed, and I mean stormed, into the office. "I want (reporter's name) NOW. I want the Justice's charter, NOW! We're gonna shut this paper down! Where's (reporter's name)!!! I want him here! He can't get away with this! Student Council's gonna meet and this paper is gonna get shut down!"

I mean this guy was screaming. At me. He was opening file cabinets and slamming them shut. I only knew he was some heavyset lug who sat on the student council, yeah, and he didn't know me from Eve though he probably labelled me "shiksa" the minute he walked in, which meant he wasn't really gonna fight me personally: I was not worth it. Yeah, there are guys at Brandeis who think that way. "Shiksa" (a derogatory term for non-Jewish woman-slash-whore) was my protection, and I knew it and he knew I knew it. Hope that doesn't sound too derogatory. It's just the way things were in that setting. No big whoop. Really.

Okay, here's the money quote and the admittedly hilarious punchline. What was this guy so upset about? The reporter he was so mad at and "wanted there NOW" had written a piece about this guy's bullying practices at student council meetings and had quoted an unnamed source as saying this guy had a "siege mentality."


So listen up, Little Green Foosballers. This Brandeis shiksa has faced greater sieges than you could lay down in comments. And if you attempt to call me an anti-Semite, a holocaust denier, a Nazi, an enemy, in any way, I gotta big bag of kosher candy hearts for ya right here:

Okay, now on to the boring internal politics of Israel story. The reason it interests me, apart from since it seems true it's a travesty, is that the current Israeli government is out-Rove-ing the Rove/Gonzales/Bush cabal. Karl is wondering why they can't get away with this kind of behavior and Gonzales is saying, well, we can't, YET. And Senator Lieberman is praying for the day they can.

Okay. Here is the deal. There's this member of the Kennesset, which is the Israeli Parliment. His name is Azmi Bishara. I don't quite understand all the politics here but apparently Bishara is one of those really radical Israelis who looks around and sees "Arab people" and thinks it might be a good idea to, um, okay, I'm pushing the Holocaust denial envelope here, but he thinks it might be a good idea to actually, like, talk to Arab people. Like, maybe, the Jordanians. Sheesh.

So he goes off TO JORDAN and talks to them. And government OFFICIALS in Israel are threatening him with not only removal from office, but arrest. Bishara has not returned to Israeli territory yet. And he may not. Doesn't George wish he could do that to Nancy.

Look, I'm going to be real careful here in showing off my sources, and in every instance I'm going to link to an ISRAELI newspaper or an ISRAELI blog. Got that? That's important. You'll see why.

Here's a story from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about Bishara's travels and the reaction from Israeli hardliner politicians.

Okay, I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who has lived in Israel. This person says that Bishara is reviled in Israel by a lot of people as more than an Arab sympathizer, more of a collaborator. But this friend also said that he is DEFENDED by people who hate him, Israelis who think it's a good idea to keep the label "only democracy in the region" meme going strong.

That's the meme that resonates most with me, even when Joe Lieberman says it. 'Cause you see, Pammy, I don't like the way the Arab world treats their citizenry in general or their women in particular. Theocracy is theocracy and it's bad whether it's Christian, Jewish, Islamic, etc.

Sorry I know this post is rambling. But when I see an Israeli Kennesset member being threatened with arrest (?) because of his politics and another Kennesset member introducing a bill to disqualify for election anyone who meets with Arabs, I think we've gotta ask some questions here. Like, how do you, Mister Netanyahu, define democracy?

Here's an article from the Jerusalem Post, which confirms this Israeli blog post*, that the Israeli Government has imposed a gag order on the whole affair. *major thanks to whoever translated that post into English for posting.

Some commenters at the Jerusalem Post article think that since Azmi Bishara is still out of the country (apparently as a political exile, but no announcement has been made) but his family has returned, the Israeli security forces should arrest his family. Yeah.

As the blogger points out, if this is allowed to stand, who's next? I think that's a good, fair question.

Believe me, I've tried to be very fair covering this. I'm happy to have anyone challenge the facts and provide me with links, proof, problems. I've got a really open mind about all of this. Thanks.


  1. Anonymous1:20 PM

    BlueGal, you know I like you, so I'll try to do this gently.

    1. The one word missing from your description of Bishara is "scumbag". The guy lacks any honesty. Worse than that, in the eyes of many Israelis, is that he is walking a very fine line between dissent and treason.

    While bewailing the situation of Arab Israelis - and I fully agree there is much to bewail, and I stand by the Apartheid tag attached to Israel, but that's a whole other post - he went over to Syria and groveled at the feet of Bashar Assad, claiming him to be a great Arab leader. Prominent among the crowd was one, Hassan Nasrallah. You might remember that particular scumbag from last summer, he's the leader of Hizbullah.

    Now, mind you - I opposed the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon and considered Hizbullah to be, at the time, freedom fighters kicking the IDF's sorry ass. But most Israelis don't see things my way, and what they saw was an Arab politician breaking, oh, 213 laws or so, and kowtowing to two enemies.

    You know what happened next? Support for Israeli Arabs among Jews, never very high, crashed and burned. Bishara was elected by those people. He made their situation worse. He then had the chuzpah to say his opponents weren't democratic - he, who just came from praising a tyrants whose hands are dripping the blood of Lebanon.

    And, so, end of part one - Bishara's a scumbag. Part two is a bit more complicated.

    Nobody knows what Bishara did, or, more precisely, what the GSS (commonly referred to as Shin Beth, which has gone out of fashion around here in the late 1970s) thinks he did.

    And here comes the point: Bishara cannot be arrested. He couldn't be arrested if he shot the President in cold blood on national TV (and, given the fact that the President is a fucking rapist, this act would probably boost his popularity), and that's for a very simple reason: he's got immunity. All MKs do. (Unfortunately, so does the president. Different story, though).

    If they want to arrest him, they have to haul his ass before the Knesset, and then the Government's Counsel will have to explain the august body why he believes this particular MK should be forced to face trial. And then the Knesset votes. It has guarded this right jealously, for very good reasons. Up until 1963, under Ben Gurion, Israel wasn't particularly democratic. Opposition MKs justly feared they would be targeted by the government. To this day, the Knesset rarely removes immunity.

    So, we'll have a mini-trial, and then 61 MKs will have to support the stripping of the immunity, and only then will dear Azmi look at the inside of a cell. As for arresting his family - well, we have our mobs, but we also have our courts. They'd kick any such attempt down the stairs and impose damages.

    So that's not the fear. He cannot be arrested. What he fears - what the gag is about - is the interrogation. I will admit that while I admire the results the GSS gets when dealing with Palestinians - it's a gold mine, I've seen them at work - they're not very good coming at Israeli citizens. They've had some nasty failures lately (remind me to tell you about Tali Fahima).

    Now, it could be that they've actually caught Azni spying. That's what the buzz says. I consider that to be likely. However -

    1. A monrh ago the GSS informed Bishara's party it considered it to be subversive. It also noted - in a legal memorandum! - it will act to prevent subversion *even if its actions are illegal*.

    2. Bishara is a scumbag. He is, however, also an elected lawmaker. This gag order is undemocratic. If they GSS accuses him of treason, let them come out and say it, and not conduct a whisper campaign (which is what they are bloody well doing).

    Combine the two, and you'll understand why I simultaneously wish Bishara was devoured by a particularly nasty bison, and at the same time demand he'd be treated as any other elected scumbag. Of which, unfortunately, we seem to have an abundance.


  2. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Assuming there is interest, here is the translation of my remarks in my (Hebrew) blog:
    If there is Justice [a quote of a Haim Byalik poem: “If there is justice, let it appear now”]: What the hell is going on with Azmi Bishara? It turns out there’s a full gag order on the issue, which is a new low in our democracy. The GSS and the police forbid us from even knowing what a member of the Israeli house of representatives is suspect of. As Rechavia Berman wrote well, this order must be defied.
    The whispers say we’re talking espionage. Since Azmi Bishara’s security clearance is even lower than mine – which was seen lately around Bashar Assad’s clearance, crying out of loneliness – it’s hard to believe he had any substantial intelligence to offer. The assumption, therefore, is that he acted as an agent of influence, as the communists of old did for the Soviet Union.
    It’s a fairly reasonable assumption, and should credible evidence be presented, I won’t have a problem accepting it. But: the threshold of evidence in this charge should be higher, to separate between permissible political activity and undermining the state. Were it become clear, for instance, that our dear Azmi, that summa cum laude graduate of East German academia, has not only licked Assad’s boots but also took some spare change from him, let them throw him in the slammer and shred the key.
    But the GSS does not come to this argument with clean hands. The organization which informed Bishara’s party it intends to act against it, even if its own actions are illegal, will have to work extra hours to prove it can manage a clean fight against Bishara, one which will be within the bounds of law. The GSS opened this particular round by shooting itself in the foot.
    (Unconfirmed dispatches say Bishara asked for political asylum in Qatar. We may yet watch that joyful wonder, in which Bishara opens his mouth one time too many, this time about a ruler from one of the sister Arab states, and see the results of such an action).

    It would be nice to be able to quote Alterman’s famous poem [which defended the rights of Arab MKs in that darkest of hours, the 1950s], and to say that Azmi Bishara, a Pan-Arabic Christian, sits in the Knesset “by full right, not by grace”; it’s a bit hard to do so, though, when the guy prefers to roll in Nasrallah’s dust. And yet, detestable though he is, harmful though he is – if there are evidence, let them show up now. An investigation against a member of the Knesset cannot hide behind a gag order.

    (Yossi Gurvitz)

  3. Anonymous2:50 PM

    "He is walking a very fine line between dissent and treason." Where have I heard that before? Now I remember! I hear it daily, applied to ooponents, from some or all of this group of patriotic Americans: The president, the vice president, the RNC, the GOP congress, the president's press secretary, Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck, Prager, Hannity, et al.
    You'll pardon me if I seem a bit cynical by the use of the word, "treason." That's the cry these profoundly un-American thugs routinely raise against any and all who have the temerity to disagree with the policies of our elected public officials.

  4. there's that "T" word again.
    not theocracy, that's bad enough.

    wow, is treason an over used term anymore.

    good post, informitive and thoughtful.

    oh, and i saved the candy pic. one never knows when that might come in handy. ; )

  5. Anonymous3:42 PM

    "He is walking a very fine line between dissent and treason."

    If you've got a better term for meeting with dictators who are actually at war with the country you've sworn to uphold and with actual, bona fide terrorists, while simultaneously calling your voters to refuse national service (which is the law around here) and claiming your country is undemocratic - I'd be glad to see it. I support dissent (hell, I've been investigated by the IDF's Internal Security apparatus); treason is not it.

  6. You know I follow Israeli politics real closely but damn it if I can figure them out. The only thing I know for sure is that just about every politician there is scum and likely guilty of breaking some law. However, the Israeli public which is 90% cynical and 10% paranoia, is strangely ambivalent to it all. There has been a lot of contact with the Arabs for many years at many levels. Some of it transparent and much it done in secret. These threats are just part of the normal Israeli political posturing.

  7. Hi, BG: Heaven only knows where the truth lies in this case, but it does seem to me that there's at least some similarity here to the Nancy Pelosi trip to Syria: I suspect that she probably did overstate Israel's desire to have a dialogue with Syria, but she was driven in part by the intransigence of the Bush Administration. You gotta talk to your adversaries -- that's what diplomacy is all about -- and if the heads of state won't do it, sometimes it falls to those much farther down the pecking order but with a degree of vision, to at least start the process. Messy, but it's better than nothing.
    -- David

  8. i guess i don't see the point in continuing to kill each other indescriminately indefinitely simply because of religious differences. i realize that that is a gross oversimplification but i guess my ignorant question is- what's it going to take to get some dialogue going? i have no idea about whether or not this man is a 'scumbag' and i have no idea about the inner workings of the israeli government. i can see that it is closely aligned with the current american regime and seems to be following that lead (or the other way around?) very closely. so- what is to be lost by talking? pride? occupied territory? more lives?

  9. Betmo, as far as I can see the point at the moment is not the continued killing but the (perfectly justified) total lack of trust each party has for the other.

    Each party is absolutely certain that the other will breach every agreement entered-into, and neither party is prepared to put down its weapons because it fears (probably correctly) that the other party will try and perform an ethnic cleansing.

    At the moment, there are a lot of resources (water, education, land, firepower) under the control of the Israelis. The Palestinian (Christian and Muslem) suffer terribly in this situation. The more they suffer, the more terrified Israelis are of revenge.

    The situation is untenable in both the long and short term. Israel is surviving due to a huge injection of U.S. cash (in the form of military aid, much of which is spent on U.S. weapons). Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are sustaining unemployment of about 50%, water usage of about one fifth that which is used by Israelis, and a de-facto state of siege.

    The question is not *if* this bubble will pop but *when* it will, and *who* will stay behind to bathe in the blood. At the moment, the candidates for staying are the ones who cannot leave: the Palestinians, and the Israelis who have no second passport - mostly, Israelis whose families were (forcibly) relocated from Arab countries after 1948. These are ethnically Arab Jews.

    My grim prognosis for this is that Arab Jews will be fighting Arab Muslims and Christians on territory made unviable by European Jews following the upheavals in the lead-up to and during WWII.

    The wild card? The formerly-Soviet Jews. That's about 20% of Israel's population of citizens (Arab citizens of Israel are about the same number). These have already gone through one painful immigration experience (mostly in the 1990s) and are absolutely NOT going to put up with another.

    It would be really intersting to watch, except there are way too many people I love dearly, on all sides. Umm, yeah, and the principles of humanism, which I value.

    I see no solution though, and no possibility of actual dialog.

  10. Anonymous5:57 AM

    Shunra's post is so pessimistic, it is petrifying. IMHO, that doesn't help diplomacy. While everyone has something to lose (and is maybe even likely to), it's not a fatality. Compromises must be made by everyone; that is why it is so important that all sides even agree to negotiate to begin with. At least one might lose less than one had thought, and it could be controlled loss.

    As for the current example of threatening Israeli democracy, my compliments, Bluette, for a well-balanced discussion. It's nice to see that other reasoning people feel entitled to not just be knee-jerk pro-Palestinian just because the reactionary jerks in our own government have purchased the Israeli government line (and I do consider myself to be "pro-Israel" as well as a wacko left-wing liberal).


I really look forward to hearing what you have to say. I do moderate comments, but non-spam comments will take less than 24 hours to appear... Thanks!