May 28, 2016

Middle East Media Sampler #6

1) Boycott bill good or bad

A lot of what has been written about the recent “anti-boycott” bill in Israel has been based on misinformation. NGO Monitor has helpfully provided anunofficial translation of the bill and an analysis. Among the reasons for the bill NGO Monitor includes:

  • Both the secrecy of these funding procedures and the manipulation of civil society by external groups and governments violate the accepted norms and practices among sovereign democratic nations.
  • There is deep concern among Israel’s democratically elected representatives regarding foreign government funding of political advocacy NGOs that are centrally involved in delegitimization campaigns. This concern is also reflected consistently in public opinion polls.
  • The “Anti-Boycott Law,” and other legislation regarding foreign government funding of NGOs, is a response to the absence of basic policy changes among the European governments that are responsible for supporting the BDS movement.
  • However earlier, NGO Monitor cautioned:

    NGO Monitor is concerned this new law is counterproductive, not the most appropriate framework, and will only polarize important discussions regarding the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The law will not shed light or encourage informed criticism on the NGOs and their foreign government funders that lead most BDS campaigns.

    Other supporters of Israel have been harsher in their critique of the law. (via retweet by Ray Cook)

    So I’d like to highlight again- I do not support any kind of boycott against Israel. I hate the BDS-ers, who in my opinion are insulting the good people of South Africa who had to live under a genuine apartheid regime. My support for Israel, like yours Jonathan, is unreserved.
    But I think our support can be more credible if we’re not constantly allowing ourselves to be used as Netanyahu’s (or Lieberman’s) mouthpiece. We should look at this law objectively and say that, no, it doesn’t help our cause against the boycotters. By making them illegal it only helps their campaign to portray Israel as a totalitarian State. Their boycotts may frustrate us no end, but the answer isn’t just to deem them illegal.

    The problem with this critique, is that it’s not an accurate portrayal of the law. The law calls for civil remedies when the boycott causes economic damage. The law seems to be pretty narrowly drawn.

    Furthermore as Joe Settler observes:

    As far as I know, until yesterday every single Western country in the world, except for two, has laws making participation in boycotts against Israel illegal. Today, the UK stands alone in dishonor with no anti-boycott law on the books.

    For example, since 1976, it has been illegal for any US citizen to participate in the Arab boycott against Israel – punishable by fines of up to $50,000 or five times the value of the exports involved or jail term of up to 10 years.

    I’m not convinced by the friendly criticisms of the bill. For too long being a critic of Israel has conferred immunity to those critics; and protected them from criticism or even scrutiny in the media. Now with the NGO funding bill earlier this year and the anti-boycott bill this week, these critics realize that may no longer be able to side with Israel’s enemies with impunity even as they falsely claim they are looking out for Israel’s best interests.

    As the NGO funding bill was taking shape last year the New York Times reported:

    “Over the years, in a variety of international arenas,” said Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, “it was key for Israeli officials to say, ‘Yes, there are many problems, perhaps even abuses; however, we have a strong, vibrant civil society with a plethora of voices and we are very proud of that.’
    “It is inconsistent to make those statements and at the same time create a situation that colors us as traitors in the public eye.”

    This week ACRI was back in the news:

    The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and other human rights organizations said they were preparing to challenge the law in the High Court of Justice. The association described the law as “an antidemocratic step, intended to create a chilling effect on civil society.”

    In both cases, ACRI saw fit to exaggerate the effects of the bills rather than address the real issues at hand. Daled Amos considers this week’s rhetoric and concludes:

    Whether the bill has a future and will be put into law is as of yet uncertain.
    What is certain is the goal of BDS–and Israel’s need to protect itself.

    Those claiming that this is purely an issue of free speech are missing the point.
    Perhaps on purpose.

    2) The proof is in 1701

    Jay Nordlinger writing in UN follies (and Syrian bravery) observes:

    Do you know which country is now taking over the Conference on Disarmament? Iran, you guess? No, no, my cynical friend: North Korea.
    Often, when I’m in Europe, people will ask why Americans like me have so little respect for the U.N. Why don’t we accede to it, accept its legitimacy, even its primacy, as so many others do? I dole out little facts: such as that Sudan, Cuba, Syria, China, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and so on have all sat on the human-rights council. Such as that Iran sits on the women’s-rights committee. (Iran is a nation that stones girls to death for the crime of having been gang-raped.) Such as that North Korea chairs the disarmament conference.

    For an illustration see this excellent video (via Elder of Ziyon)

    Or for a specific example consider last week’s condemnation of Israel by the UN.

    More broadly, the report deals with violations of Security Council Resolution 1701, which underpinned the cease-fire in the summer of 2006 that ended a monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organization.
    Israel violated the resolution during the events on the border on May 15, the report says, noting the lethal force used by Israel was not commensurate to the imminent threat to Israeli soldiers and civilians.

    Now the IDF has neatly summarized Hezbollah’s re-arming effort since 2006 – IN VIOLATION OF 1701 – and presented a rather flagrant violation as an example:

    Hezbollah has blatantly disregarded UN Res. 1701, for example, in September 2010 Hezbollah operatives were caught transferring weaponsfrom a weapons storage facility to a mosque in a neighboring village, following an explosion at the site.

    The IDF has also put together a slideshow of pictures of Hezbollah’s weapons captured both before and after the war. These include a picture of weapons with the insignia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, demonstrating that country’s alliance with Hezbollah.

    If the UN has been concerned with these serial ongoing violations of 1701 as it has been with the single incident it condemned Israel for, I haven’t found the evidence.

    3) The Palestinians don’t care about peace with Israel

    Yesterday, I noted that the “honest brokers” of the Quartet can’t even agree that acknowledging the Jewishness of Israel is an essential position of the Palestinian Authority for there to be peace. Khaled Abu Toameh writes that the Palestinians won’t agree to another essential element of a peace deal (emphasis mine):

    With such positions, it is hard to see how the peace process could lead to anything positive. The radicals do not want to negotiate with Israel because they do not recognize its right to exist and believe it should be wiped off the face of the earth. The so-called moderates say they are ready to return to the negotiating table, but only if Israel agrees in advance to give them 100% of their demands.
    Yet the central problem is that even if Israel does accept all their demands, neither camp is willing to commit to ending the conflict.This is basically why the 2000 Camp David summit failed – because Yasser Arafat was not prepared to sign any document that called for end of conflict even after a peace deal were reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Further, no “moderate” Palestinian leader would dare to sign such a document out of fear of being denounced by his people — and the rest of the Arab and Islamic countries — for having “sold out” to Israel by giving up the claim to all of the land.

    This is why, Toameh writes, that the Palestinians seek the unilateral declaration; they will never satisfy Israel’s basic needs for peace, so they hope to avoid the issue by getting everyone else’s approval.

    4) New Lebanese government is approved

    The new Hezbollah affiliated government in Lebanon has been approved. Members of the March 14 coalition – now the opposition – have asked the new Prime Minister to accept the findings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) or resign. I am unsure of its significance but I saw an interesting news story about Lebanon, Alloush: Either Safadi didn’t hear or didn’t understand

    The former PM said Tuesday night :

    - I want to ask Minister of Finance Mohammad Safadi who backed Mikati , what did March 14 do to you?
    - Is Mikati’s vow to commit to the STL written down clearly in his government’s Ministerial Statement?
    - When I said that on March 13 that I was betrayed, I was honestly referring to Safadi and Mikati and actually Lebanon and the Lebanese people were betrayed.

    - The most important thing for me is honesty. I do not have a personal problem with Mikati, but today the current cabinet is that of Hezbollah and carries out the project of the party , and Mikati is the head of the government.

    Safadi is the new Finance Minister and he accused the former PM, Saad Hariri of stoking sectarian tensions by mentioning his religion in remarks complaining about his betrayal by former allies.

    About Daniel Goldstein

    Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.