Guest Post by Aliza Bat-Ami: Another View of the BDS Campaign

A couple of weeks ago, on Wednesday, the 16th of January, I posted a controversial video called “Israel & Palestine: a very short introduction“. At that time, a very dear, longtime friend of mine who writes under the name Aliza Bat-Ami left a detailed comment, disagreeing with the message of that video. You can read her comment here

In the interest of respectful and open dialogue even (especially!) when people strongly disagree on important matters, I invited Aliza to write a guest post of rebuttal. I am honored to present it here. You are welcome to leave your comments here, or to email Aliza directly by clicking on her name below the title.

Thank you, Aliza, for allowing me to publish your response.

Another view of the B.D.S. campaign.

 Aliza Bat-Ami

The video “Israel and Palestine – a very short introduction.” starts by stating that  Jews fled Europe after “harsh persecution” and  that they were encourage by “the Zionists”  to came the Land “where the Jews had an age-old connection“(my emphasis).

We have indeed:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
…. How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?

These words, written over two and a half millennia ago, written at the time of the first forced dispersion from the Land of Israel to Babylon, sum up our connection to this place.

But, after many years and much pain and difficulties, in 1948 the modern State of Israel was declared.   The video makes it very clear that the Arabs rejected the proposed two-state solution presented them by the British (and have consistently rejected every offer since.)

Much happened thereafter, events which were presented in the video in a biased, simplistic way, ending up with the supposed “land-grab” of the West Bank.
[Use these links for accurate information on the formation of Israel, about Israel and the West Bank , the peace process, and the Palestinian refugee problem.]

The video concludes by a call to boycott, disinvest and sanction

Israel (B.D.S) for her deeds, as this will lead to a (non-specified) just peace.

This isn’t going to happen, for the following reasons.

First and foremost it is clear that the underlying aim of much of the anti-Israel B.D.S. movement (and certainly as presented in this video), is the destruction of Israel.  Even Norman Finkelstein, no friend of Israel, makes this point (see video).  The threat of extinction is no inducement to change, rather it encourages protective strategies. So why expect Israel to respond to such threats by national suicide?

Secondly, the video runs together the unsettled issue of Israel and the Palestinians, and the situation of Arab citizens of Israel. These are not the same issue at all.
Yes, things could be better but the video also makes no mention of the equality afforded to Israeli Arab, nor the fact that prominent and outspoken Arab critics of Israel like Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi sit in the Knesset, nor to the presence of Arab Israelis in all parts of society, including the High Court and universities. It also ignores the issue of obligations of all citizens in a democracy (Article 29 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)

Yes, things could be better in the administered territories too, but B.D.S.  campaigns do nothing to help the Palestinians improve their lives, begin state building, or develop democratic institutions. They do not advance peace but only make the parties more inflexible.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not black and white. Arguments supporting boycotts ignore the context of Israel’s actions in order to justify penalizing only Israel.

Those behind the boycott efforts never mention the on-going terrorism that Israelis have suffered from, and they never mention groups like the PLO, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Have you actually read these documents?  In case you think I am exaggerating, here they are in plain English: The Palestinian National Charter: 1968 ; the Hamas Covenant 1988The Hezbollah Manifesto  (from the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, an NGO dedicated to the aim of the  ‘Cedar revolution’ site; or  from a pro-Hezbollah site, here).

The world should really pay all the Arab leaders the courtesy of listening to what they say, believing them and taking them at their word. What is meant in effect is the dismantling of the State of Israel and the dispersion (or elimination) of the Jewish population.

The video also mentions the USA as a “terrible friend” to Israel, supporting and enabling all “crimes”. At least in that the B.D.S. supporters might be encouraged by the commencement of President Barack Hussein Obama’s second term. He might well prove to be a “friend” to Israel more to their taste. If that happens, I hope that the Jews will turn to a different Friend, the God of Israel, who has a longer track-record of commitment and involvement with events here.

What do I hope for our future?  Peace and health and the possibility of happiness.  And yes, righteousness and justice at all levels in my society.
I would like to live in a society without want and conflict, where all members take equal part and also give back equally.

If you want to do something for peace, then come and visit with an open mind, and take part in some constructive joint program (e.g. Abraham Fund,) to help all the different people here.

The position that Israel is the cause of the sad situation in the Middle East ( at the very least)  has become the unexamined and – mostly – unchallenged dogma of current world opinion, especially in my own native land of BritainBut does that make it factual and true?
The truth of these allegations can easily be checked online by consulting source documents, or summaries such as these links (the formation of Israel Israel and the West Bank , the peace process, and the Palestinian refugee problem.)

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Wednesday Video: Peace in the Middle East

This video is unabashedly political. It takes sides. From where I sit on the ground, it presents an accurate picture of the history and current state of affairs in Israel and Palestine. (“Where I sit” is precisely on the “Green Line“.)

This video will make some people, including some people I love, angry. I am sorry, deeply sorry. At the same time, I cannot live the life I have left without testifying to truth.

The video is from the Facebook page Israel Loves Palestine. There is also a page called Palestine Loves IsraelPeace is important. Peace does not come easily. Often, peace can only be attained through pain and sacrifice. 

Have you done anything for peace today?

The rapist who asks for pardon, but not forgiveness

The convicted rapist, Moshe Katzav.

Moshe Katzav was the eighth president of the State of Israel. On the 22nd of March 2011 he was convicted of two counts of rape and several other sexual assaults, along with other charges relating to obstruction of justice, and sentenced to seven years in prison. On December 7th of that year, after his appeals were denied, he entered Maasiyahu Prison to begin serving his sentence.

Maasiyahu is a minimum security prison, and considered to be among the “easiest” prisons in the country. It is here that politicians convicted of crimes are usually sent (how I hate writing that phrase!) because it has a “Torani” (Orthodox Jewish) wing where the prisoners lead much the same lifestyle as students in a yeshiva (Jewish rabbinical and post-rabbinical seminary).

From the time he entered the prison, Katzav made it clear that he believed himself to be entitled to special treatment. (It is his attitude of entitlement, I believe, that got him there in the first place.) Prisoners in the torani wing are allowed to wear their own clothes unless they leave the wing (to make purchases at the canteen or receive visitors, for example). Katzav refused to put on prison uniform when his wife came to visit him two days after his incarceration, and was therefore not permitted the visit until a compromise was reached and he agreed to wear a prisoner jacket over his street clothes. He refused to provide a DNA sample during a Prison Service campaign in cooperation with the police to collect samples from all prisoners in March 2012. He has refused to participated in rehabilitation programs. (1)

Today Katzav has requested a presidential pardon, the stated grounds of which are that he did not receive a fair trial (an appeal on the same basis was denied immediately after his trial) and that the humiliation and damage to his reputation and personal status involved in being required to resign the presidency as part of his plea bargain was punishment enough.

The minimum requirements for a sex offender to receive a presidential pardon in Israel are that he accepts responsibility for his actions and undergoes a program of rehabilitation, including psychological counseling. “Accepting responsibility” is defined as admitting guilt and expressing remorse. (“I did it and I’m sorry.”)

It will come as no surprise that Katzav has not accepted responsibility and has refused to participate in treatment and rehabilitation programs.

In processing requests for pardon from sex offenders, it is usual that if the offender does not accept responsibility and participate in the programs he is considered dangerous to the public. However, the High Court has ruled that each case must be evaluated individually, so Katzav’s request must be given due consideration.

What can I say? I hope he receives all the consideration he deserves.

Earlier posts on Moshe Katzav:

A rapist finally goes to prison

Unbelievable. Expected, but unbelievable.

Notes

1. The details of Katzav’s imprisonment in this paragraph are from an article on the Walla news site http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/10/2575540, posted Monday, 15 October 2012 08:03. The are also noted in an article on the business newspaper Globes website http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000789976, posted the same day at 11:09.

When I’m an idiot, don’t blame God.

There is a sort of religious corollary to Godwin’s Law. I am not sure exactly how to formulate it, but it seems that the longer any online discussion of public issues continues, the greater the likelihood that someone will eventually make a reference to religion as the source of injustice, oppression, prejudice and other social evils. The conversation then turns from whatever the topic was to a very polarized debate about religion, or it fizzles out altogether.

It is no secret to the handful of regular readers of this blog that I am a Catholic Christian who leads what some might call a very pious life. Those of you who know me in other settings know that I am not a cookie cutter believer and that I am not shy about saying what I think, even when (or particularly when) my opinions differ from the perceived (or even explicit) position of my faith family.

What I am about to say, however, is 100% “kosher” theology, to the best of my knowledge. Ready? It may be a shock. You may want to sit down and have a glass of water on hand. Here goes…

God created human beings with free will. We were created with the innate ability to believe or not, to choose to act for good or for evil, even to decide for ourselves what to believe in (or not) and to define good and evil in any way we wish.

One of my most basic religious beliefs is that God is God and I am not. If God saw fit to leave this huge responsibility of choice in the hands of human beings, who am I to take it away? It is not up to me to use civil law to take choice away from human beings who disagree with me. I am free to tell people what I believe and explain why I think there are better choices to be made. I am not free to threaten them with fines or imprisonment or physical injury or humiliation to make sure their choices are the ones I prefer.

I am probably very heavily influenced by what I was taught is the principle of separation of Church and State in the USA. That principle of separation seems to be under a great deal of strain at the moment, and I certainly find it hard to see its application in some of the recent state legislation I’ve read about. But again, I am guided by the axiom God is God and I am not. If God left us free will, who am to take it away?

But… If I do act as though I’m God and start filling in the spaces that God left to each individual to fill, it is not God’s fault. It is mine. Don’t blame God because I am an idiot. And please don’t blame me because some members of my religion are idiots. Let’s keep the personal responsibility that accompanies free will squarely on the individual, where it belongs.

Among the readers of Telling Knots are believers in at least three different religions, atheists, agnostics, and people for whom religion has no real place in their life at all. Most readers don’t comment, but I am really interested in hearing your thoughts and feelings about this post. Please take a couple of minutes to share your reactions.

Protecting the Weak 1

Apology:

I have removed the Invisible Children video because of increasing questions about that organization. This doesn’t change the fact that children are vulnerable and need to be protected. I will be writing about the need and some of the solutions.

I’m sorry if I’ve misled or inconvenienced anyone.

Knot Telling

Unbelievable. Expected, but unbelievable.

The man in the photo is convicted rapist Moshe Katzav, ex-president of the State of Israel. I wrote about his crimes in my post A rapist finally goes to prison just two weeks ago. Over the past fourteen days, the Israeli press has quoted him saying that he doesn’t feel guilty and that the criminal justice system “didn’t listen” to him and “misunderstood” him.

Now Katzav has requested another High Court hearing, this time sitting in an expanded panel, to hear the appeal that was just denied. The documents his lawyers submitted claim that after reading the judges’ ruling in full, there is room to request another hearing. No new evidence, no claim of miscarriage of justice, just a do-over.

The way the system works, Katzav had 15 days to file a request of this nature. Today is the 15th day. His lawyers are asking for an exceptional additional 45 days to prepare their petition for another hearing before an expanded panel of High Court judges.

Let us remember that Katzav was unanimously convicted by all the judges at both the regional and the High Court levels, and that there is no new legal precedent set in his conviction. Let us hope that the High Court of Justice will not give in to the manipulations of this man.

Most of all, let us hope and pray that he eventually comes to realize the wrongfulness of what he did and experiences a real and profound change of heart.

A rapist finally goes to prison

Photo from Haaretz.co.il on 10 Nov 2011

Moshe Katzav, convicted rapist and former president of Israel, after his final appeal was denied by Israel's High Court of Justice today. (Photo from major Israeli daily Haaretz.co.il on 11 Nov 2011)

According to the official website of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) Moshe Katzav was born in Yazd, Iran on 5 December, 1945. According to domestic and foreign news services, he will enter prison on 7 December 2011 to begin serving a seven-year term for two counts of rape and other sexual offenses against women who were his subordinates while he served in high public office.

The courage of the woman known as A, Katzav’s most public victim, is remarkable. Katzav, his legal team and his supporters publically reviled her, defamed her and shamed her to the point that she felt she had to leave the country. Even the presiding judge of the court that finally found him guilty of rape and other offenses on the 31st of December last year felt called to say that Katzav had ”engaged in a campaign of vilification against the plaintiffs”.

I don’t want to go over material that has already been covered very well, so I am just including a few on-line references at the end of the post for anyone who is interested in learning more about the affair. My aim in writing is to explore and express my own feelings.

Ever since A’s accusations became public, I’ve followed the case in the Hebrew press. Together with A, I have felt violated, embarrassed, angry, frustrated. A’s story has reminded me, as it has many women, of the times I have been victimized by men who were more powerful than I.

When Katzav was calling his victims liars, trying to impugn their credibility, styling himself as the victim of a media-fueled conspiracy of evil women, I wanted to scream. I remembered the time a professional man took advantage of the power dynamics of our relationship and  sexually assaulted me. I remember how empowered I felt when I reported him to his professional oversight body, and how outraged I was when he answered my charges by saying that it was all a lie and anyway, I wanted it and asked for it.

I remember feeling both vindicated and ashamed of my naïveté when a friend, a member of the same profession, told me, “Of course he denied it. You didn’t think he’d admit it, did you?” I remember feeling vindicated when I was told that the professional organization understood that an innocent man doesn’t give two conflicting responses (“it never happened and anyway, she wanted it”) and invited me to testify in person. I remember feeling that I just could not face his lies and libels and so I let it drop. Years later I am still ashamed that I didn’t pursue it.

But A did. She followed her truth in spite of burning public humiliation, and the truth shone through the darkness and clouds cast by her rapist. A makes me feel proud; she encourages me.

And more. In a time when I am becoming more and more disillusioned with the politico-legal establishment in this country, the High Court of Justice has shown that there is still justice in this country. Not for all, not all the time, and not complete… but it has not abandoned us completely.

Online References:

Knesset site (Hebrew) http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/heb/mk.asp?mk_individual_id_t=110 and English http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=110

A timeline of the five years from first public knowledge of the crimes until today from the English edition of the major Israeli daily Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/timeline-katsav-s-rape-trial-comes-to-a-close-after-more-than-5-years-1.394762

Wikipedia on the rape and sexual harassment charges against Katzav (English) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshe_Katsav#Rape_and_sexual_harassment_case  (Hebrew) http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%94_%D7%A7%D7%A6%D7%91 (ר’ עבירות מין שם)