Israel’s Basic Conflict

Marbury vs. Madison is probably the most important ruling the Supreme Court ever made. It was the first time the court exercised “judicial review”, the ability of a federal court to declare a law unconstitutional. It’s odd in a way, since the court’s 1802 decision amounted to one branch of government unilaterally deciding it had control over the actions of another branch, i.e. Congress, even though there’s nothing in the Constitution that gives the judiciary that power.

Israel’s Supreme Court decided its own version of Marbury vs. Madison in 1995. The country has never had a written constitution, but it does have what are called “Basic Laws”. One of these laws declares that every Israeli citizen (whether Jewish or Arab) has certain fundamental rights. After the passage of the Basic Laws, the Supreme Court ruled that it could annul laws or parts of laws that violated those rights. In other words, the court gave itself the power of judicial review. Not everybody in Israel agrees with that decision.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Netanyahu proposed legislation that would give Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, control over the appointment of judges, limit the Supreme Court’s ability to void legislation through judicial review, and override the court’s decisions. Opposition to this legislation led to massive protests all around the country.

This is from an interesting article in The New York Review of Books by Joshua Leifer:

Together, the … Basic Laws defined Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” This phrase appears nowhere in Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence…. The adoption of the “Jewish and democratic” formulation was part of an effort by Israeli leaders to shore up the ethnically exclusive character of the state as Israel entered the negotiation process that would culminate in the signing of the Oslo Accords. But for [the president of the Supreme Court], these Basic Laws also inaugurated the process of trying to harmonize Israel’s Jewish character and its putatively liberal-democratic commitments…. 

The 1995 Supreme Court decision in United Mizrahi Bank v. Migdal Cooperative Village …  created a legal means by which human rights could trump prerogatives of Jewish supremacy and state security. While this decision did not spark widespread outrage right away, with each ruling that struck down government policies in the name of democracy or human rights, right-wing hostility to the court increased….

For instance, the court provoked objections from the right when it ruled that Israel’s security services could not use physical torture—a decision that was substantively reversed in two cases in 2017 and 2018—or when it required that the Israeli military governor in the occupied territories change the location of the West Bank separation barrier to protect Palestinian private property rights. For Palestinian and human rights advocates, such interventions by the court have themselves been inadequate, because they left the infrastructure of the occupation intact and preserved laws that privileged Jews over non-Jews. In the right-wing imagination, however, the court … now appeared as a threat both to Israel’s security and to its Jewish character.

… The right insists that [the court’s] actions were their own judicial “coup”—a usurpation of the sovereign will of the people as expressed in legislation passed by the Knesset—and rejects the notion that the values of human dignity and democracy should ever win out over Jewish supremacy and state security. In fact, for much of the Israeli right, it has become anathema to suggest that the power and position of the Jewish majority have any limits at all….

Yair Lapid [a more centrist Israeli leader] has declared that it would not be sufficient simply to stop the right-wing coalition’s judicial takeover. “We don’t need to put a bandage on the wounds but rather properly treat them,” he said in an address after Netanyahu announced that he would pause the judicial overhaul legislation to allow for negotiations. “We must sit together and write a constitution based on the values of the Declaration of Independence.”

In the days since the legislative pause went into effect, a large segment of protesters has continued to return to the streets weekly, many chanting, “No constitution, no compromise.” Their argument is that without a constitution that formally establishes the relationship between the judicial and legislative branches and explicitly guarantees the civil liberties they fear the right aims to extinguish, Israel will remain vulnerable to future efforts to consolidate power over the political system and transform it into something like Viktor Orbán’s “illiberal democracy” in Hungary.

But because the renewed calls for a constitution contain no reference to the occupation and barely acknowledge discrimination against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, they have taken on an absurd cast. Lapid himself has insisted that he rejects a “state of all its citizens”—in other words, one that would guarantee equality to its inhabitants. He [and others] have consistently refused to treat Palestinian citizens as political partners…

Were a constitution along Lapidian lines to be written, it would need to be explicitly undemocratic and inegalitarian; it would enshrine as a constitutional value the discrimination against non-Jews that, according to the NGO Adalah, already appears in more than sixty-five Israeli laws—as well as in the now-infamous Nation-State Law, which was passed with the status of a Basic Law in 2018. The potential constitution might well begin [with the preamble to a proposed constitution in 1948] “WE, THE JEWISH PEOPLE.”

Writing any kind of constitution will, in other words, be no easier now than it was in 1948. The divisions between secular liberals and Orthodox traditionalists on matters of synagogue and state are perhaps felt even more intensely today than during the early years of Israel’s history. Then, secular Jews constituted an overwhelming majority, but rapidly shifting demographics mean that traditionalist and Orthodox Jews are now set to supplant them.

The protests draw some of their sense of desperation from the fear that the secular Israel of old is disappearing. More significantly, though, writing a constitution that does more than simply consecrate the current situation will still mean making the choice that confronted the state’s founding generation: between a genuinely democratic state and one that constitutionally upholds Jewish supremacy.

To start, any serious constitution must ask what the borders of the State of Israel are. Defining its territorial boundaries would require either formally annexing the West Bank or officially designating the settlements as outside Israeli sovereignty. A constitution would also need to define the status of all the Palestinians living under Israeli control. Either the constitution would grant them full equality—and therefore set in motion the dismantling of a vast apparatus of discrimination and unequal land distribution laws—or it would make Israel a de jure apartheid state, not just a de facto one.

Today no centrist or center-left Israeli Jewish leader is prepared to entertain such choices. Yet the right has its own vision for making them. After dismantling the judiciary and eliminating any checks on Jewish majority rule, it aims to annex the West Bank, legally formalize the apartheid regime over the Palestinians living there, and expel those who resist their permanent subjugation.

Some American observers have compared the situation in Israel to the ongoing debate among left-liberal legal scholars in the United States about the drawbacks of judicial politics, especially after the Dobbs decision: Has relying on the Supreme Court instead of the democratic process hampered the implementation of progressive policies? But if there is any parallel it is not to contemporary America but to the US in the years preceding the Civil War. Then in the United States as in Israel now, the country was divided over who was entitled to fundamental rights and what its founding documents meant—or in Israel’s case, what it means to lack them.

There the parallel stops. While the settler right seeks (as the proslavery camp sought) to solidify a constitutional order premised on the supremacy of the ethno-racial majority, the prodemocracy camp has embraced no call for equality comparable to that made by the American abolitionists. The protesters are largely content with Jewish supremacy as long as it protects liberal freedoms for Jews. What they seem to want is to maintain both the material benefits of that inequality and the self-comforting illusion of democracy.

A Real Friend Tells You When You’re Committing a War Crime

John Oliver brilliantly describes the terribly unbalanced situation in Israel and Gaza and our government’s failure to respond or even admit what’s happening.

They say whoever mentions the Nazis first automatically loses the argument. However:

Germany took property from Jews and gave it to Gentiles. Israel is taking property from Palestinians and giving it to Israelis.

When resistance fighters killed a German soldier, the Germans retaliated by killing a disproportionate number of civilians. When members of Hamas fire rockets and kill Israelis, Israel retaliates by killing a disproportionate number of Palestinians, mostly civilians.

It’s time for the US to put real pressure on Israel to end its brutal treatment of the Palestinians. In particular, we need to stop subsidizing Israel’s powerful military. From NBC News:

For decades, billions of dollars in American military aid to Israel has been justified as necessary to help an underdog nation stave off an array of powerful foes threatening its survival. . . . 

But as Israel now demonstrates its ability to inflict a lopsided death count on the Palestinians, it’s time to acknowledge that this depiction of Israel no longer has any basis in reality. Instead, U.S. aid merely polishes the armor of a regional Goliath in its contests with David.

Right now, the U.S. provides $3.8 billion to Israel annually — equivalent to 20 percent of Israel’s defense budget and nearly three-fifths of U.S. foreign military financing globally.

Meanwhile, Congress oftens adds more on top of the annual $3.8 billion commitment. For instance, though the Iron Dome was developed by Israel, its improvement and deployment have received $1.6 billion in U.S. funding in addition to the yearly allocation.

After years of this largesse, combined with its own improved military capabilities, Israel isn’t about to run out of weaponry without U.S. funding; in fact, Israel now exports many of the arms it produces. At this point, U.S. military aid is essentially underwriting a regional heavyweight that sells so many weapons abroad it’s ranked as the eighth-largest arms exporter on the planet. . . . 

It’s just that giving so much aid to Israel is clearly unnecessary given its current posture. Today Israel can defend itself just fine and acquire whatever American weapons it needs without an annual check from Uncle Sam. And it’s not like the allowance from Washington necessarily secures Israeli compliance with U.S. policies and objectives.

Indeed, U.S. aid to Israel has proven ineffectual in leveraging genuine cooperation with recent peace initiatives. Rather, the opposite dynamic prevails, as the allegedly corrupt but evidently unsinkable Netanyahu himself overtly intervenes in U.S. domestic politics. He punishes American politicians critical of Israel or supportive of the nuclear deal with Iran, while backing those such as [the previous president] willing to write Israel a blank check.

Repeated U.S. attempts to rein in Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas have been met with defiance. Requests for Israel to make concessions to Palestinians at the bargaining table have been shrugged off. Growing criticism by American groups over Israeli human rights violations and anti-democratic policies have done little to change Israeli behavior.

An Israeli on Failure in Gaza and the Way Out

Assaf Sharon, a philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University, has an article in the New York Review of Books concerning the recent violence in the Gaza Strip and the only realistic way to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Below are extended selections from “Failure in Gaza”, which is available in full here:

“In Israel, endless controversy over Gaza has overlooked one question: How did we get here in the first place? Why, after a considerable period of relative calm, did Hamas resume rocket fire into Israel?”

“Before the current operation began, Hamas was at one of the lowest points in its history….In these circumstances, Hamas agreed last April to reconciliation with its political rival Fatah, based on Fatah’s terms. For example, the agreement called for a government of technocrats largely under the control of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas.”

“But Benjamin Netanyahu viewed the reconciliation as a threat rather than an opportunity….He saw the reconciliation with Hamas as an opportunity to criticize the Palestinian president…. As soon as the reconciliation was announced, Netanyahu launched a public offensive against Palestinian unity and demanded that the international community oppose it….”

“Netanyahu could have chosen a different path. He could have used the reconciliation to reinforce Abbas’s position and further destabilize Hamas. He could, in recognition of the agreement, have encouraged Egypt to open its border with Gaza in order to demonstrate to Gazans that the Palestinian Authority offered a better life than Hamas. Instead, Israel prevented the transfer of salaries to 43,000 Hamas officials in Gaza, sending a clear message that Israel would not treat Gaza any differently under the rule of moderate technocrats from the Palestinian Authority.”

“The abduction of three Israeli youths in the West Bank on June 12 gave Netanyahu another opportunity to undermine the reconciliation…. Despite the statement by … the Hamas political bureau chief, that the Hamas political leadership did not know of the plans to carry out the abduction, Netanyahu was quick to lay the blame on Hamas, declaring that Israel had ‘unequivocal proof’ that the organization was involved in the abduction.”

“As yet, Israeli authorities have produced no such proof and the involvement of the Hamas leadership in the kidnapping remains unclear. While the individuals suspected of having carried out the kidnapping are associated with Hamas, some of the evidence suggests that they may have been acting on their own initiative and not under the direction of Hamas’s central leadership. Regardless of this, Netanyahu’s response, apparently driven by the ill-advised aim of undermining Palestinian reconciliation, was reckless.”

“Determined to achieve by force what he failed to accomplish through diplomacy, Netanyahu not only blamed Hamas, but linked the abduction to Palestinian reconciliation, as if the two events were somehow causally related. ‘Sadly, this incident illustrates what we have been saying for months,’ he stated, ‘that the alliance with Hamas has extremely grave consequences’. Israeli security forces were in possession of evidence strongly indicating the teens were dead, but withheld this information from the public until July 1….”

“On the prime minister’s orders, IDF forces raided Hamas’s civil and welfare offices throughout the West Bank and arrested hundreds of Hamas leaders and operatives. These arrests did not help to locate the abductors or their captives. Among the arrested were fifty-eight Palestinians previously released as part of the deal to return the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been a captive of Hamas since 2006.”

“As part of this ill-conceived operation against Hamas, Israel also mounted air strikes on Hamas facilities in Gaza. Apparently, Hamas did not take an active part in firing rockets for more than two weeks, although it did not prevent other factions in Gaza from firing. Only on June 29 or 30 did Hamas restart the rocket bombardment of Israeli territory, which it had not engaged in since November 2012. Israel retaliated against Hamas in Gaza and a vicious cycle began. Netanyahu lost control over an escalation he had instigated. In his badly misjudged eagerness to blame Abbas and punish him for reconciling with Hamas, Netanyahu turned a vicious but local terrorist attack into a runaway crisis….”


“Israel’s conduct throughout the crisis has been based directly on Netanyahu’s philosophy of ‘conflict management’, whose underlying premise is that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians cannot be solved, but can be effectively ‘managed’ for a very long period of time. This feeble, not to mention defeatist, assumption is not only wrong but also dangerous, trapping Israel in an illusion that is shattered time and again. ‘Control’ and ‘stability’ only exist between each inevitable round of violence. In fact, recurring rounds of violence are inherent to this approach.”

“’Conflict management’ means continued Israeli control over the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank, with the inevitable reality of organizations and factions struggling to overthrow that control. Under the illusion that the conflict is being managed, opportunities for change provided by calm periods are squandered….” 

“So long as Hamas is willing to use terror against innocent Israeli civilians and so long as it refuses to recognize the State of Israel, it will not be a ‘partner’ for peace. But it could be partner to interest-based agreements requiring it to modify its behavior, as many academic and security experts claim. In fact, despite Netanyahu’s being the most vocal opponent of dialogue with Gazan terror organizations, it was he who reached two agreements with Hamas: the 2011 Shalit deal and the 2012 agreement that ended Operation Pillar of Defense…” 

“A long-term resolution with respect to Gaza requires changing its political predicament. The only sensible way of doing this is to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, a state whose existence would be negotiated with the Palestine Liberation Organization under Abbas’s leadership. As part of a comprehensive political agreement, Hamas is very likely to agree to a long-term truce, as its representatives have repeatedly said.”

“In 1997, its founder and spiritual leader Ahmad Yassin suggested a thirty-year hudna (truce) with Israel. In 2006, one of its leaders, Mahmoud al-Zahar, proposed a ‘long-term hudna’. Earlier this year, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas functionary in the West Bank, reiterated the organization’s willingness for a hudna and said the organization was willing to accept a peace agreement with Israel if a majority of Palestinians supported it. In 2010, in an interview with a Muslim Brotherhood daily circulated in Jordan, Hamas’s political leader Khaled Mashal expressed pragmatic views and willingness to reach an agreement with Israel. In late July, he [said] ‘We want peace without occupation, without settlements, without Judaization, without the siege’.”

“All these proposals were contingent on ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. They received no response from Israel. Although a Palestinian state contradicts Netanyahu’s ideological commitments and conflicts with his own political interests, a state is clearly in Israel’s interest….”

“The historic conflict with the Palestinians will not be settled by a single agreement. Reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians—overcoming decades of bloodshed and hatred—will require a long process of acceptance and forgiveness spanning years and probably decades. The armed conflict, however, can certainly be ended. Israel has already ended armed conflicts with several neighboring countries: with some, like Egypt and Jordan, it achieved comprehensive peace agreements; with others, it agreed to other kinds of accords.”

“An agreement can be reached with the Palestinians, too: the terms are known and the price is fixed. Whether it is reached or not is a matter of political will on the part of Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Unfortunately, Israel’s current leadership will do anything to avoid this choice, to the detriment of both peoples.”

“The war in Gaza is, fundamentally, not about tunnels and not against rockets. It is a war over the status quo. Netanyahu’s ‘conflict management’ is a euphemism for maintaining a status quo of settlement and occupation, allowing no progress. The Israeli opposition must distance itself from this hopeless conception and other countries need to reject it. Both must be done forcefully and before violence erupts once more, and force becomes the only option—yet again.”

Final Words on Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and America

Not being a Muslim or a Jew, I don’t feel any special kinship with the Palestinians or the Israelis. And since I’m not a Christian either, I don’t have any special interest in the so-called “Holy Land”.

Yet I can’t remember being this disturbed by a national or international event since the 2000 Presidential election fiasco and our subsequent fantasy-based invasion of Iraq.

I didn’t mention 9/11. I was in Lower Manhattan that morning and soon thereafter, but that astounding, horrible event didn’t traumatize me as much as the immense fuck-up and scandalous political-judicial decisions that gave us President George W. Bush, and the evil way in which Bush and bastards like Cheney and Rumsfeld used 9/11 to justify their criminal behavior (which, of course, led to much more death and destruction in Iraq than occurred earlier in New York City).

Men (of course it’s almost always us) insist on killing innocent people. 9/11 was another example of that. There were fanatics and ideologues who claimed it was justified, but they were easy to ignore. For some reason, I’m finding it very difficult to ignore what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians. It’s so patently wrong, yet so many apparently reasonable people claim it’s completely justified (blind allegiance will have that effect). In addition, writing this blog and trying to be accurate has made me read more about the situation, and the more I read, the angrier I get.

So, regarding accuracy: A few days ago, I cited a United Nations report that said there was an Israeli airstrike on June 11, before the three teenagers were kidnapped, which was followed by someone in Gaza firing rockets at Israel. I’ve since seen another account here that says the rockets were fired before the airstrike. I also cited a Times of Israel article stating that Hamas launched its first barrage of rockets since 2012 on June 30, apparently in retaliation for another Israel airstrike. That implies that the rockets fired earlier in June weren’t fired by Hamas. It’s been pointed out, however, that there are non-Hamas factions in Gaza that sometimes fire rockets (and that Hamas has sometimes stopped them from doing so). The obvious moral here is that it’s often unclear who is doing what in this conflict and who did it first (“truth is the first casualty of war”).

Nevertheless, who first attacked by airstrike or rocket isn’t the main issue. The much bigger story, which many of Israel’s defenders fail to understand or accept, is that Israel provoked this latest round of fighting.

Therefore, as befits an enterprise that Alexa currently ranks as the 13,378,330th most-visited website in the world, I’ll now express my final thoughts on Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, mainly by quoting people who write better and are better informed. Let’s all hope the ceasefire announced last night becomes permanent. (After adding that last sentence just now, I checked and see that last night’s planned 72-hour ceasefire has already been broken.)

Last week, Henry Siegman, a former national director of the American Jewish Congress, published an article called, simply enough, “Israel Provoked This War”.

There seems to be near-universal agreement in the United States with President Barack Obama’s observation that Israel, like every other country, has the right and obligation to defend its citizens from threats directed at them from beyond its borders. But this anodyne statement does not begin to address the political and moral issues raised by Israel’s bombings and land invasion of Gaza: [1] who violated the cease-fire agreement that was in place since November 2012 and [2] whether Israel’s civilian population could have been protected by nonviolent means that would not have placed Gaza’s civilian population at risk.

Siegman quotes a piece by Nathan Thrall, an analyst at the non-profit International Crisis Group, who wrote that:

The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement [between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization]….Israel immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation agreement by preventing Hamas leaders and Gaza residents from obtaining the two most essential benefits of the deal: the payment of salaries to 43,000 civil servants who worked for the Hamas government and continue to administer Gaza…, and the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed by Israel and Egypt… For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it’s worth risking more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the salary crisis and open Gaza’s border with Egypt will not last.

Siegman also quotes Yitzhak Laor, a writer for Haaretz. Here’s how Laor begins his article:

In the midst of events, with all the TV commotion enveloping the current crisis, one tends to forget the crux of the matter, the continuous chain linking it to previous steps – the foiling of negotiations with the Palestinians, refusal to release prisoners as agreed upon, incitement against their unity government and the expansion of settlements. All of these are part of [Israel’s] right-wing government’s plan to destroy any political entity in the occupied territories, turning the Palestinian people, at best, into a fragmented, marginalized people deprived of their rights.

Siegman concludes that the U.S. needs to exert more pressure on Israel, because the present Israeli government has no interest in a real two-state solution. Halting military aid to Israel would be a great start, of course, rather than resupplying Israel’s military with ammunition, as we shamefully did this week.

More recently, Rashid Khalidi, a professor at Columbia and a former adviser to the Palestinians, writing for The New Yorker called attention to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement at a press conference in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu said:

“I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

Khalidi concludes that:

What is going on in Palestine today is not really about Hamas. It is not about rockets. It is not about “human shields” or terrorism or tunnels. It is about Israel’s permanent control over Palestinian land and Palestinian lives. That is what Netanyahu is really saying, and that is what he now admits he has “always” talked about. It is about an unswerving, decades-long Israeli policy of denying Palestine self-determination, freedom and sovereignty.

What Israel is doing in Gaza now is collective punishment. It is punishment for Gaza’s refusal to be a docile ghetto. It is punishment for the gall of Palestinians in unifying, and of Hamas and other factions in responding to Israel’s siege and its provocations with resistance, armed or otherwise, after Israel repeatedly reacted to unarmed protest with crushing force….

As Netanyahu’s own words show, … Israel will accept nothing short of the acquiescence of Palestinians to their own subordination. It will accept only a Palestinian “state” that is stripped of all the attributes of a real state: control over security, borders, airspace, maritime limits, contiguity, and, therefore, sovereignty. The twenty-three-year charade of the “peace process” has shown that this is all Israel is offering, with the full approval of Washington. Whenever the Palestinians have resisted that pathetic fate (as any nation would), Israel has punished them for their insolence.

On a more optimistic note, William Saletan sees promise in a plan to demilitarize Gaza in exchange for $50 billion in international aid. That’s 30 times Gaza’s gross domestic product. The demilitarization would be monitored by neutral observers. Whether either side would accept a plan like that is an excellent question.

My own conclusion is that Israel is reasonably satisfied with the status quo, even though it occasionally requires “mowing the grass” in Gaza, as Israeli pundits and officials often put it. The Israelis occasionally provoke a violent response from somebody in Gaza, as they did this time by conducting an extremely aggressive search for those kidnappers, and then use that violent response as justification for open warfare, all the while claiming self-defense.

Israel has occupied Gaza for close to 50 years, and so long as American politicians support the status quo, the situation in Gaza probably won’t change very much. Meanwhile, the Palestinians of the West Bank, who met Israel’s demands to renounce violence and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, will continue to lose ground to Israeli settlers. For a startling look at how many Israeli settlements have been built in the West Bank on land that once belonged to the Palestinians, you can visit this page operated by Americans for Peace Now.

Peace out, as they say.

Israel and Gaza as Represented by Several Petitions and Two Emails

Seventy or so Israeli academics have signed a petition calling on their government to end its aggressive military strategy in Gaza. The text:

The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement.

I’m not an Israeli or an academic, so I can’t sign it. I assume you can’t either. But that “We the People” site run by the White House has some relevant petitions, like these:

Push for a ceasefire in the Gaza/Palestine conflict and stop providing military aid to Israel with our tax dollars has about 6,500 signatures.


The leading petition, however, is Condemn the Apartheid State of Israel for their Human Rights Violations against the Palestinian peoples, which has more than 127,000.

On the other side of the issue, the leader is support Israel unconditionally in whatever it needs to do to stop Hamas’ terrorism. It has the right to defend itself. It has 2,241 signatures. I doubt that the signers would agree that there is a distinction between what Israel needs to do and what Israel is doing. 

Meanwhile, back in Israel, Haaretz reports on a strange incident involving another Israeli academic:

Prof. Hanoch Sheinman [sent an email] to reassure his second-year law students that because the security situation had disrupted many students’ routines, there would be an additional date scheduled for his course’s final exam. Sheinman opened the email, however, by saying that he hoped the message “finds you in a safe place, and that you, your families and those dear to you are not among the hundreds of people that were killed, the thousands wounded, or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed or were forced to leave their homes during, or as a direct result of, the violent confrontation in the Gaza Strip and its environs.” Sheinman then proceeded to inform the students of the additional testing date.

 This is what happened next:

The dean of the law faculty, Prof. Shahar Lifshitz, … issued an urgent message to the students…. “I was shocked to learn of the email sent to you by Professor Sheinman,” Lifshitz wrote. “It was a hurtful letter, and since this morning we have been justifiably flooded with messages from students and family members, many of whom are involved during these very days in the battles in the south.”

Lifshitz added, “Both the content and the style of the letter contravene the values of the university and the law faculty. The faculty champions the values of pluralism, tolerance, and freedom of expression, but the inclusion of positions as were included in the administrative message sent by Prof. Sheinman to the students on a matter relating to exams does not fit into the framework of academic freedom or freedom of personal expression in any acceptable sense. This constitutes the inappropriate use of the power given to a lecturer to exploit the platform given to him as a law teacher to convey messages reflecting his positions, in a way that, as noted, seriously offended the students and their families.”

I can understand why some were offended by a reference to this conflict’s many victims, since more than 90% of the victims have been Palestinians. But I can’t understand at all why anyone would consider an expression of sympathy for those victims to be “hurtful” – unless it’s hurtful to remind people of what their government is doing in their name.