Tag Archives: anti-war

We cannot let France silence its humanist Jews

Jewish anti-occupation activist Olivia Zemor faces a lawsuit from a pro-Israel group after calling for celebrities to boycott Israel. Here’s why I’m going to France to testify on her behalf. 

By Udi Aloni

Women activisits hold up signs during an action that attempts to dismantle a barbed wire part of the gate of the Seperation Wall in Bil'in, as part of the weekly protest against the Separation Wall and the occupation, West Bank, August 14, 2009. Hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli, and international activists, responded to the Popular Committee's call to resist to participate in the action. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian and French activists hold up signs during a demonstration against the Sseperation wall in Bil’in, West Bank, August 14, 2009.  (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

This week I am traveling to Paris to serve as an expert witness in court. In an unprecedented move, the French government has allied with a right-wing, pro-Israeli group to file a SLAPP lawsuit against the nonviolent struggle for justice in Palestine, and specifically against Olivia Zemor, a Jewish activist from the left-wing NGO Europalestine.


The story began seven years ago when French activist and chairwoman of Europalestine, Olivia Zemor, called on French singer Vanessa Paradis and actor Johnny Depp not to perform in Israel. Now, a pro-Israel right-wing lobby is trying to censor, intimidate, and silence Ms. Zemor by burdening her with the cost of a legal defense, until her group abandons its call for justice for Palestine. The prosecution accuses Zemor of hate speech and racism. The most absurd part is that Zemor herself is of Jewish origins.

I am going to testify as an Israeli Jew, and as an advisory board member of Jewish Voice for Peace, for two reasons. The first and most obvious one is to defend the basic right of the Palestinian people to nonviolent struggle against Israel’s apartheid, occupation, and illegal settlement project. The second reason is the necessity of making a tikkun (repair) from within the depths of Jewish culture itself. I am going to France to fight the frightening and bizarre new wave of anti-Semitism in Europe — an anti-Semitism that is depriving diaspora Jews of their right to struggle against the apartheid practices of the Israeli state. I am going to defend the idea that Jews can have diverse, independent points of view.

Seventy-four years after the fall of the Vichy regime, the French government is choosing to declare war on the right of Jews to live out their faith, the right to believe that to be Jewish is to be human — in the spirit of Primo Levi’s writings — not in the colonialist spirit of the State of Israel in 2018.

I am traveling to Paris to make a last stand for my right to be the decent Jew I learned to be in my mother and grandmother’s home. Will Israel succeed — as other oppressive regimes have— in silencing opposition in the diaspora? Is Israel functioning as a kind of colonialism-by-proxy on behalf of Europe and America?

These questions might be answered by the verdict in Paris, yet even acquitting Zemor will not be enough. The court must exact a heavy fine on those who are manipulating the justice system into a tool that is anti-Jewish, anti-Palestinian, anti-French, and anti-human.

Following the Holocaust, it was natural for Jews around the world to be the at the forefront of human and civil rights struggles, standing side by side with Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and others. The Jewish people gave birth to some of the greatest humanist thinkers of the 20th century, such as Primo Levi, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, and even my mother, Member of Knesset Shulamit Aloni, to name a few. Unfortunately, the Israeli state has chosen the opposite of the humanist Jewish spirit; instead of adopting the spirit of the prophets, it has adopted the spirit of the occupation.

The Bible says: “love the other; for you were others in the land of Egypt.” As a Jew, I will maintain my particularity and identity only in relation to this mitzvah (deed), and only in full realization of the values of libertéégalité, et fraternité. Because we were all made in God’s image.

My love for Palestine and my love for Israel are one and the same. As long as one people is not free, the other does not deserve liberty. I am part of a minority among the Jewish people, as the resistance was a minority of French citizens at the time of Vichy rule. We are the resistance among the Jewish people, and we are fighting for our future and for the future of Jewish morality. The French government should not only respect our right to do so, it also has the obligation to help us in our task — not just for Palestinians, not just for Israeli Jews, but for all humans.

Udi Aloni is an Israeli American filmmaker, writer, artist and activist whose works focus on the interrelationships between art, theory, and action. His last film Junction 48 won the Tribeca film festival and the Berlinale Audience award among many others. His book What Does a Jew Want? was published In Columbia University Press.

Knesset bars Arab MK from JVP-sponsored trip to U.S.

MK Yousef Jabareen was supposed to travel across the United States for a series of lectures on the political reality in Israel. The Knesset decided to put the kibosh on the trip — because it is sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen seen in the Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen seen in the Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Knesset has forbidden an Arab member of Knesset from traveling to the United States for a series of lectures. The reason? The trip was to be subsidized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a left-wing American organization that supports pressuring Israel to end the occupation with boycotts, and appears on a government blacklist of groups that support the BDS movement.


“[The decision] is a severe blow to my political freedom as an elected official. This is activity that is a fundamental and integral part of my role as a member of the Knesset opposition,” MK Yousef Jabareen told +972 Magazine on Wednesday. “American opinion is relevant to the political reality in Israel, and it is important for me to try and have an influence there through lectures and conferences.”

The decision is the first time that the Knesset Ethics Committee has enforced a new regulation, created in January of this year, which bars Knesset Members from traveling abroad using funds of groups that appear on the blacklist. As reported in Haaretz, Ethics Committee Chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) confirmed that the committee asked the Strategic Affairs Ministry for more information on JVP.

Jabareen said he is considering filing a petition to the High Court of Justice against the decision to bar his travel, and to overturn the new Ethics Committee regulations.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for compiling the blacklist, issued a response to the committee on March 8th, according to which JVP “is currently considered one of the leading boycott organizations in the United States, declaring its support for BDS as a nonviolent tool that will compel the State of Israel to change its policy and relinquish ‘the occupied territories.’”

Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson issued the following response:

We are deeply disappointed that MK Yousef Jabareen won’t be able to join us in the U.S. due to the Knesset decision to effectively block his travel.  We were very much looking forward to learning from his experience as an MK and his leadership on issues of democracy and equality in Israel. This decision is sad evidence of the further deterioration of Israeli democratic standards.

For new Adelson-funded organization, anti-Semitism is not a problem

Strange bedfellows? Not so much – uber-nationalistic right wingnuts give each other support – remember that the Germans, Italians, and Japanese shared nothing but support for each other nationalism even if they hates each other’s nationality and ethnicity.

Right-wing Jews like Sheldon Adelson have no problem shelling out money for the European ‘New Right,’ even if it means flirting with anti-Semites.

By Jim Lobe and Eli Clifton

American billionaire businessman Sheldon Gary Adelson (L), and his wife Miriam Ochshorn attends the Israeli Presidential Conference at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem May 13, 2008. (Olivier Fitoussi /FLASH90.)

American billionaire businessman Sheldon Gary Adelson (L), and his wife Miriam Ochshorn attends the Israeli Presidential Conference at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem May 13, 2008. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.)

A familiar group of super-hawkish, anti-Iran U.S. billionaires has been spending millions of dollars on a rather eclectic and somewhat bizarre organization of mainly foreign leaders. This organization, the Friends of Israel Initiative (FOII), has hailed the advent of what it calls the “New Right” in Europe. It has even excused the “flirtations with anti-Semitism” on the part of some of the adherents of this new European alt-Right, so long as they support Israel.


Rafael Baraji, the executive director of the organization and longtime top adviser to former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, collaborated with and remains an unabashed admirer of former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and “Bannonismo.” In one of FOII’s publications last year, he praised the European “New Right” as a “buoyant political movement [that] shares Israel [sic] goals and concerns” despite its anti-Semitic past and tendencies.

“In this regard, the New Right could see Israel not only as a reliable ally, but also as an example in many fields such as the fight against Islam Radical [sic], the defense of Western civilization or the struggle against the economic uncertainty,” he wrote in the report’s preface.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who spent $35 million via untraceable dark money groups to elect Donald Trump, more than any other donor, contributed at least $2 million to FOII between 2012 and 2016, according to tax filings. Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, who placed second in the Trump campaign sweepstakes by spending $7 million to pro-Trump outside spending groups, contributed $215,000 to FOII between 2013 and 2014.

The group’s U.S. nonprofit arm received $1.8 million in contributions and grants in the 2015 tax year, the last year for which public disclosures have been released.

Nearly half a million more dollars was given to FOII by Middle East Forum, a prominent anti-Muslim organization headed by Daniel Pipeswho described Muslim immigrants as “more troublesome than most” and “resistant to assimilation.”

Daniel Pipes at the American Freedom Alliance conference at USC. (lukeford.net/CC BY-SA 2.5)

Daniel Pipes at the American Freedom Alliance conference at USC. (lukeford.net/CC BY-SA 2.5)

Sears Roebuck heiress Nina Rosenwald has long been a major donor to Middle East Forum and also contributed $140,000 to FOII between 2012 and 2014. Rosenwald is the president and primary funder of the Gatestone Institute. The Institute, whose board includes Rebekah Mercer and is chaired by John Bolton, is a reliable source of anti-Muslim immigration fear-mongering. The Intercept’s Lee Fang catalogued some of Gatestone’s more outlandish claims:

Gatestone Institute produces a regular drumbeat of articles and punditry. The Institute claimed that the Obama administration refugee policy “exposes Americans to the jihad.” Muslim refugees in Western countries are depicted in Gatestone Institute posts as rapists and hosts of “highly infectious diseases” that threaten the health of the German people.

They were joined by Oracle Founder and FOII charter member Larry Ellison, who gave at least $1.5 million between 2014 and 2015 to help sustain the group. Although Ellison is not nearly as widely known for his pro-Likud, anti-Iran philanthropy as Adelson and Marcus, he spent at least $5 million supporting neoconservative favorite Sen. Marco Rubio, a pro-Likud, anti-Iran leader in Congress, in his failed 2016 presidential bid.

Aiming for war with Iran

FOII popped up most recently when its two most prominent leaders, Aznar and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, published an op-ed entitled “The World Must Unite to Stop Iran,” in the uber-hawkish Wall Street Journal’s opinion page on the eve of the annual policy convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The article consists of a familiar list of Likudnik talking points about Iran that could have been drafted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and may well have been. “To prevent a full-scale crisis,” the two former leaders warn, “North America and Europe must join Israel in stopping Iran…If left unchecked, Iran’s aggression [in Syria and the Middle East] will ultimately threaten Europe and North America as well.”

Although a founding chairman of FOII who has retained that post since the group launched in Washington in 2010, Aznar would seem a curious choice as cheerleader for the latest campaign to “Stop Iran.” He is likely to be remembered — to the extent he is remembered at all in the U.S. — as the “third amigo,” along with President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in their joint appearance in the Azores less than 48 hours before the launch of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. With the invasion’s fifteenth anniversary now just two weeks off, Aznar’s public appeal for the U.S. to “roll back Iran’s aggression” could make for bad associations.

Aznar paid dearly for his endorsement of the Iraq war, as well as his commitment of Spanish soldiers to the occupation. His ruling right-wing Partido Popular was soundly defeated in the wake of the March 4, 2004 Madrid train bombings carried out by Islamic extremists. He subsequently retired from politics, devoting himself mainly to his Madrid-based think tank, the Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis (FAES), as well as to FOII, whose “key aim is to counter the growing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders,” according to its website. Aznar was honored as a Champion of Jewish Values “for defending Israel in the world,” by the Adelson-funded World Values Network headed by self-described “America’s Rabbi,” Shmuley Boteach.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. (photo: DRosenbach/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. (photo: DRosenbach/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Working alongside Aznar since before the Iraq invasion has been Rafael Bardaji, who served as the former president’s national security adviser from 2002 to 2004, as FAES’s director of foreign policy, and as FOII’s executive director since its inception. Bardaji leans strongly to the right, as is clear from his paean to Bannon and Bannonism that was published even after most of the former Breitbart CEO’s admirers and supporters deserted him in the wake of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.

As executive director, Bardaji presumably oversees FoII’s overall work. These activities range from organizing specialized trips to Israel and hosting seminars to the production and publication of mostly Islamophobic and Iranophobic op-eds and “Working Papers,” most of which appear dedicated to defending the policies of Netanyahu’s increasingly right-wing government. One year-old study, prepared by the Grupo de Estudios Estrategicos (GEES), a Spanish think tank founded and directed by Bardaji himself, addresses the implications for Israel of the rise of the new alt-Right in Europe. In his preface, whose English-challenged style suggests that either he was its chief writer or that the authors resorted to Google Translate in the 40-some pages, Bardaji states the challenge:

Despite not all New Right parties have the same concept of Israel, we must work responsibly for these parties to see that Israel is a necessary asset for the future of the West.

If the New Right is going to be a fundamental political actor in the coming years of the European future, it is our duty to promote among them the important role of Israel before the challenges that the Western civilization must overcome. There are reasons for mutual understanding, and above all, it is necessary for these parties to purge their anti-Israel past and motivations.

Preparing for the “clash of civilizations”

Sebastian Gorka speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sebastian Gorka speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

What follows is pretty standard Islamophobic stuff of the kind long promoted by Netanyahu and Likud and could have come from the pen of Vitezi Rend loyalist and former Bannon acolyte Sebastian Gorka for that matter.

What drives anti-Semitism in Europe, and the West at large, is attributable more to the far left and Islamism than the right.

Irrespective of the details of the political programs of the movements of the new right in Europe, what these parties believe is that immigration and Islam are a risk to their societies’ stability and for Judeo-Christian values. Because of this they are more likely to understand the concerns of the State of Israel.

So one should try and make a distinction between the Nazi past of some of those parties and their intentions today.

…[M]any are the Jews saying that the movement’s willingness to stand up for Western civilization make it a better protector for Jews than the liberal movements. Some have even pointed out that the flirtations with anti-Semitism that one can find in the blogosphere from what can loosely be called the alt-right is a function of its willingness to shatter taboos. In other words, admissible joking and vitality rather than anti-Semitism. Antisemitism seems marginal while the urge to contest political-correctness is real. And the urge to contest political correctness is not dangerous.

The sheer insurgence [sic] that the movement represents against the establishment opens up a political space that was completely off limits until a short time ago. This means there is room for anti-Semitism but it also means that any anti-Semitism that may have arised [sic] in the past is being rejected offcially [sic] and that a pro-Israel stand has been publicly taken by most leaders in the movement.

FOII and its big-money U.S. donors apparently think that the anti-Semitism in the alt-right shouldn’t be taken very seriously.

It’s not clear whether FOII’s membership agree. In addition to the eminences mentioned above, the membership ranges from the former presidents of Colombia and Uruguay to a handful of former cabinet officials from Central Europe and Italy to a former British military commander in Afghanistan, the far-right former Florida Rep. Allen West, and the former chief of India’s foreign intelligence agency. Presumably, however, the members are united in their adherence to the group’s founding principles, which include the conviction that the “assault on Israel is itself an assault on Judeo-Christian values,” that “Israel stands on the front line, but we are next in line,” and that “Israel’s future is our fate.” In that respect, according to the charter,

There are two related threats which also imperil the region, and the wider world: the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and jihadism; and the prospect of a nuclear Iran. These threats are as existential for the state of Israel as for the rest of us: the jihad knows no boundaries and a nuclear Iran represents a strategic revolution of global dimensions. Israel cannot and should not face those threats alone. For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last.

The group appears closely tied to the Gatestone Institute and Nina Rosenwald. Rosenwald also contributes to the neoconservative, Britain-based Henry Jackson Society, which hosted FOII’s launch in a meeting room of the House of Commons in 2010 and which has co-sponsored many of the group’s events since.

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service. Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement. This article is reprinted with permission from Lobelog

DACA Recipients and Xavier President Urge Congress to Pass a Clean Dream Act

Father Michael Graham, Xavier University President, comments on need for clean Dream Act

On Thursday, March 1 at 11:00 a.m., 30 community members gathered alongside DACA recipients and the president of Xavier University to call on our local members of Congress to support a clean Dream Act. Following the failure of a bipartisan Senate proposal two weeks ago, and with the coming expiration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on March 5th, Congress must get back to work immediately to protect hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from losing protection from deportation and work permits.

José Cabrera, a DACA recipient and senior at Xavier University said, “We want a clean Dream Act, we do not want a DACA fix. We want a clean Dream Act that will give us a pathway to citizenship. A clean Dream Act that will not put any of our family members in danger.” Heyra Avila, another DACA recipient, echoed Cabrera’s sentiment by saying, “I don’t want my DACA if it means that my parents will face risk of deportation.”

Samantha Searls, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, explained, “DACA recipients are in school and they have deadlines for their projects so we need to set a good example for our students and make sure that Congress meets the deadline that has been set for them.”

Fr. Michael Graham, SJ, president of Xavier University spoke in support of a clean Dream Act saying, “Beyond this being a common sense nonpartisan cause, it’s a moral issue and a profoundly moral issue. Our stand here at Xavier is grounded not just in our own sense of what is right and wrong, as a Catholic Jesuit university, but also in church teaching.”

On Tuesday, three Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati traveled to Washington, DC to be part of a Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers. Sr. Andrea Koverman framed their decision to participate: “You might think that women who take a vow of obedience would not intentionally break the law, but there is a higher calling than the law of man. We have been taught from Jesus himself that when the laws of man do not align with the laws of God, that we have a moral obligation not to comply. We made the choice to engage in civil disobedience and were arrested in the rotunda with about 40 others.”

When asked why he decided to stand up and speak about DACA, Fr. Graham said “We are a university. As a university we welcome students who come to us from all kinds of different circumstances in their past. We know them up close and personal as talented people who have great futures ahead of them, and enormous amounts to offer the world.”

The post DACA Recipients and Xavier President Urge Congress to Pass a Clean Dream Act appeared first on IJPC | Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center | Cincinnati Ohio.

The IDF spreads a lie and the Israeli press plays along

Facts show that Mohammed Tamimi was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. But the facts were not enough for the Israeli army, or the journalists who tow the government line.

Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet by the Israeli army shortly before the video of Ahed and Nur was filmed. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)

Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet by the Israeli army shortly before the video of Ahed and Nur was filmed. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)

Let’s start with the facts. On December 15, 2017, 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi sustained a severe head wound during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

Like most Fridays in Nabi Saleh, demonstrators headed toward the village’s spring, which Israeli settlers took over a number of years ago. The Israeli soldiers who came to suppress the protest that day did not make do with just protecting the spring or the nearby settlement of Halamish — instead they invaded the village and commandeered a home, from which they opened fire at young demonstrators who threw stones at them.

Mohammed Tamimi was inside his village at the time. An Israeli army rubber-coated metal bullet struck him in his head, and was hospitalized in serious condition. We know this because the hospital produced a detailed report of the medical procedure, a CT scan of his head showing the bullet lodged inside, a photo of the bullet after it was removed in surgery, and the first-hand testimonies of those who witnessed the incident, including Israeli activists Jonathan Pollak and Oded Yediya.

Pollak and Yediya spent the rest of that afternoon making phone calls attempting to secure the transfer of Mohammed, whose life was in danger, to an Israeli hospital. They failed. The surgery took place at a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah finished only at 4:30 a.m. Mohammed required several more rounds of surgery to fix the damage to his skull. Haaretz’s Amira Hass published a detailed report of the incident at the time.

We also know that an hour or so after the shooting, Mohammed’s cousin Ahed tried to expel soldiers from the courtyard of her family home — and the rest is history. We know that just hours after the video of her slapping the soldiers went viral, 17-year-old Ahed was pulled out of her bed and arrested by Israeli soldiers. She is still in prison.

Ahed Tamimi during the first hearing of her trial at the Ofer prison military court. February 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Ahed Tamimi during the first hearing of her trial at the Ofer prison military court. February 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In an overnight raid in Nabi Saleh on Monday Israeli soldiers arrested Mohammed and eight other Palestinian youths. He was interrogated by Israeli police — without a parent or lawyer present — and was released after a few hours.

Those are the facts. Here’s the spin.

According to Maj.-Gen. Yoav “Poli” Mordechai, the head of Israel’s military government charged with ruling over Palestinians in the West Bank, during his interrogation Mohammed Tamimi confessed that his head injury was the result of a bicycle accident — that his head hit the handlebars.

Family members and human rights organizations explain the “confession” as such: a wounded child, whose family members are in Israeli prisons, and who is suspected of throwing rocks, will say anything just to go home if he is being interrogated in the middle of the night without a parent or lawyer present.

Law enforcement officers and army major generals are not supposed to simply accept something a distressed child tells them under duress in interrogation. They should know that the army itself never denied Mohammed Tamimi was shot, and that the aforementioned evidence proves it.

Mordechai, whose job it is to oversee and rule over the day-to-day lives of millions of Palestinian civilians, instead smeared the entire Tamimi family, as well as the witnesses and the hospital staff.

Everyone is lying, he says, the boy fell from his bike.

Why? Because it serves the army’s and government’s agenda — to fight every village, family, and child who resists Israeli military rule in the occupied territories.

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

A battle of narratives

In the face of such lies, one might expect that the Israeli media would paint a more serious picture that, inevitably, exposes Mordechai’s lies.

But that’s not the world we live in, at least not if you’re a consumer of Hebrew-language news.

Ynet published a short news item that included only Mordechai’s claims, without presenting any facts to counter his narrative.

Ma’ariv‘s headline and sub-headline were dedicated solely to Mordechai. Only those who read to the end of the article will find a response by the Tamimi family or by their attorney Gaby Lasky or MK Dov Khenin (Joint List). The facts are nowhere to be found.

Israel Hayom confused its readers with their headline: “Rubber bullet? What really wounded Mohammed Tamimi.” At least the paper deigned to include a photo of the bullet that was removed from the teen’s head.

Left: The rubber-coated bullet that was removed from Mohammed Tamimi's head; Right: CT scan of Mohammed Tamimi's head. (Courtesy of Tamimi family)

Left: The rubber-coated bullet that was removed from Mohammed Tamimi’s head; Right: CT scan of the bullet inside Mohammed Tamimi’s head. (Courtesy of Tamimi family)

Channel 10 struck a near-identical tone with the headline, “A battle of versions.” There is no truth, of course. There’s no need to find out what actually happened. Dear viewers at home, you get to decide who is telling the truth: the IDF or the Palestinians.

And lastly, Haaretz. As expected, the paper did its due diligence — yet still fell into a similar trap. The initial Hebrew headline read: “IDF: Ahed Tamimi’s cousin admits he was not shot in the head but injured on his bicycle.” Anyone who read the headline would likely assume the army had exposed a lie. At first, the article only dealt with Mordechai’s post, as well as the responses to it. Within an hour or two the headline was changed to mention the CT scan, and the tone of the text focused on exposing Mordechai’s lie.

Aside from Haaretz, the coverage of the Mohammed Tamimi story reveals the sordid status of Israeli journalism. Statements by the army and the police are taken as truth, especially in the face of claims made by Palestinians. At best, we hear about a battle of conflicting narratives.

That is not journalism – it’s government propaganda.

This article was also published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Cincinnati Sisters Head to DC For Dream Act Push

Sr. Andrea Koverman, Sr. Tracy Kemme and Sr. Jean Miller left Cincinnati on their way to DC yesterday for the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers organized by PICO, Faith in Public Life and others. These sisters will risk arrest as they participate in nonviolent civil disobedience after a press conference starting at 10:30. We will share a live stream of IJPC’s Facebook page.

Jose, Sr. Jean, Sr. Andrea and Sr. Tracy

We asked for our friends to share their reasons for participating in this day of action and risking arrest.

Sr. Tracy Kemme:

 I’ve worked with immigrants for more than a decade, both pastorally and in pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform.  Recently, I’ve done all I could to support the movement for justice that brave Dreamers are leading across the country: call and visit my legislators, join rallies, write op-eds, and participate in an Ohio letter campaign that collected 17,000+ letters.  Our elected officials are not listening.  Protecting our immigrant youth should be a no-brainer, and yet Congress fails repeatedly to do their job.  I’m ashamed and outraged by the immoral inaction that holds Dreamers and their families in limbo.

So when the call came from D.C. to participate in nonviolent disobedience in support of Dreamers, I felt drawn into discernment.  I knew how strongly I felt about the issues, but was God indeed calling me to risk arrest?  Did the action make sense strategically?  Would Dreamers support us doing this? I spent much time in prayer and conversation, and particularly talking to IJPC’s own Jose was helpful to sort through motivations, hesitations, passion, and prayers.  In the end, the call became clear.  As a follower of Jesus, I cannot sit idly by while our country oppresses young people and uses them as bargaining chips.   Our Dreamers aren’t giving up the fight, and I want them to know that we won’t either.  They are here to stay!

When I risk arrest with other Catholic leaders on Tuesday, I will hold in my heart the hundreds of immigrants I know and love dearly.  I will stand for Jose, all the Y.E.S. members, and their families.  I will stand for my fellow parishioners at Holy Family Church who live in daily uncertainty because of our unjust immigration policies.  I will stand for Maribel Trujillo and all the families that have been torn apart.  And I will stand for all those who have given their energy to this movement across the country.  We go in hope that the Holy Spirit may change hearts, and we count on your prayers.  Clean Dream Act now!

Sr. Andrea Koverman:

Our concern and apprehension has grown with each day that passes without a moral resolution to the expiration of DACA. We have signed petitions, made phone calls, written letters, met with elected officials, and stood in local demonstrations all to no avail. We feel the sting of injustice and pangs of guilt as we helplessly witness the escalation in arrests and threats of deportation of young immigrant community members that we promised to protect through DACA. We have betrayed their trust. These are the young people who we have helped shape and educate, who have grown into some of the most hard-working ambitious people we know, who are eager to contribute to the well-being of the county they call home. They embody all the values and characteristics Americans espouse but lack the legal status to experience the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness the rest of us are granted through our citizenship.

As a Christian and a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, I take very seriously the gospel mandate to love one another as God loves us. It is not a choice but our responsibility to take care of one another, to stand up for one another not only in words and prayers but in action. We don’t need to know someone affected by our broken immigration system to be called to this responsibility, but I have been blessed to know many. In the years I spent living on the border near El Paso and crossing regularly into the area of Mexico around Juarez, this issue became very personal as I witnessed the poverty and violence that pushed people to risk crossing the border. I heard stories that broke my heart open and gave my nightmares as any jugement I had about the legality of their actions dissipated. They have as much right to be safe and prosper as I do. I saw people I met as God does, beloved members of my own family.

When I moved to Cincinnati and began working at the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center, I was further blessed to have a young colleague, Jose Cabrera  who is a “Dreamer.” He manages the YES program-Youth Educating Society-made up of young DACA recipients and their allies. They help society understand the realities of the immigration issue by sharing their personal stories. Through them people come to learn what it is like to have been brought here at an age to young to remember, being raised as an American full of the promise of thier potential and the opporutunity to be successful with hard work and determination, only to then be denied what they’ve worked for while threatened with deportation to countries that would often be as foreign to them as they would be to you or me.

I am willing to risk personal arrest as I take a public stand to demand a clean DREAM Act with a path to citizenship for Jose and the other 800,000 estimated Dreamers. I want to raise awareness of how critical it is not to let them be used as negotiation pawns in the broader conversation of comprehensive immigration reform. This needs to happen now; all people of good conscience need to take action and demand that it does. I will stand firm at our nonviolent demonstration when told to step aside to communicate that we will not stand by and let our Dreamers lose their status. When faced with an injustice, a prophetic sister in my community quoted what Martin Luther said in 1521, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Me, too.

Sr. Jean Miller:

My call to stand with DACA Recipients and Dreamers came 65 years ago when I committed myself to the Gospel of Jesus with my vows to the Sisters of Charity. That call challenged me to stand with the vulnerable, the poor, those treated unjustly or violently. These Dreamers and DACA recipients are surely being treated unjustly and sometimes violently.

The Gospel called me to other countries where I saw the suffering, violence, poverty as well as the beauty, strength, wisdom, compassion of the people of those countries. Sadly at times I even discovered that our country was partly responsible for the pain and suffering in those countries from which parents and young people needed to escape.

Since returning to the United States I continued to walk with many Dreamers in a variety of different ways. I am sorry that they must struggle so much here in our country that claims immigration roots. They are my neighbors, my co-workers, my friends. I watch them giving so much of their culture, wisdom, economics and joy to our country. Risking arrest is the least I can do for people who welcome

me in their homes, hearts and Lives. May every letter sent, call made, vote taken, rally held and prayer said finally give them what they deserve, A Clean Dream Act.

I would like to add one of the many stories that will be in my heart and prayers on Tuesday when we raise our voices and bodies for them. This story is about a Honduran Mother and her 10-year old son. They had experienced the death of a relative, who would not collaborate with the drug cartel. This Mother worried for the future of her son so they left family behind and traveled the dangerous trip through Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and finally crossed into the U.S. seeking safety but finding detention centers and lengthy processes. They continue to do whatever is required so that one day the freedom we cherish may be theirs.

The post Cincinnati Sisters Head to DC For Dream Act Push appeared first on IJPC | Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center | Cincinnati Ohio.

Months after shattering his skull, IDF arrests teen in pre-dawn raid

Mohammed Tamimi, cousin of Ahed Tamimi, was released several hours later. The Israeli army arrested nine others in Nabi Saleh, and video shows soldiers spraying the village with putrid ‘skunk’ water.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet by the Israeli army shortly before the video of Ahed and Nur was filmed. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)

Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet by the Israeli army shortly before the video of Ahed and Nur was filmed. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)

Israeli soldiers arrested 10 young Palestinians in a pre-dawn raid on the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh early Monday, including Mohammed Tamimi, the cousin of Ahed Tamimi whom soldiers shot in the head with a rubber bullet several months ago, shattering his skull.

Mohammed is currently awaiting surgery to reconstruct the part of his skull that was removed. The Israeli army released him Monday afternoon, according to Gaby Lasky, Ahed and Nariman’s attorney.

Video of the arrest raid published by local citizen journalist Bilal Tamimi (above) also showed Israeli soldiers spraying the village with putrid ‘skunk’ water during the night-time raid. The ‘Skunk’ is meant for crowd control, but Israeli forces have been documented using it punitively against homes and schools in the past.

The now-famous video of Ahed Tamimi attempting to push two armed soldiers off of her family’s porch was filmed shortly after Mohammed was shot.

Ahed has been in Israeli military custody since her arrest on December 19, following the publication of the video. A judge ruled in January that she will remain in prison until the end of her trial. She faces 12 different charges, including incitement to violence and assaulting a soldier, which could potentially land her in prison for several years.


While the case has garnered significant international attention, the Israeli military prison system’s treatment of Ahed and Mohammed is not unique. According Palestinian human rights group Adameer, Israel was imprisoning over 300 Palestinian minors as the end of December 2017, .

Earlier this month, dozens of American cultural luminaries, including Alice Walker, Rosario Dawson, Cornel West, and Danny Glover called for Tamimi’s release.

+972 Magazine asked the IDF Spokesperson why Mohammed was arrested. No response was received by the time of publication. It will be added here if and when it is received.

A bizarre end to the trial of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour

By the time a verdict is handed down in her case, Dareen Tatour will have lost over two-and-a-half years of her life to prison and house arrest.

By Yoav Haifawi

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour (left) and her supporters speak to Attorney Gaby Lasky inside the Nazareth court, February 18, 2018. (Yoav Haifawi)

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour (left) and her supporters speak to Attorney Gaby Lasky inside the Nazareth court, February 18, 2018. (Yoav Haifawi)

Like a cartoon character who runs over a cliff but continues to run in the air, or Achilles who thought he could pass the tortoise easily, but each time he got close, the turtle moved a bit further away, so is the trial of Dareen Tatour, a poet who has been detained since October 2015 — defying gravity, looking like it will never end.

After the last witness testified back in April 2017, Judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein decided that the parties should submit written summaries within three months. In September, Tatour’s defense attorney, Gaby Lasky, asked to present new evidence, and the issue was brought before the judge on November 15. On that occasion, the judge accepted a request by prosecutor Attorney Alina Hardak to supplement the written summaries with oral closing arguments. After several postponements, the court scheduled the hearing for Sunday, February 18.

The prosecution’s extra show

The prosecution submitted 43 pages of written summaries. The defense managed to shorten its arguments and squeeze them into 83 pages. The initial justification had been the new evidence.

And yet there was not much new evidence.

The prosecution convinced the court not to accept as evidence a screenshot from Tatour’s Facebook page showing that she initially published the profile picture with the caption “I am the next martyr” in July 2014, as a response to the murder of the teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir. It was rejected on technical grounds — the absence of a witness corroborating the authenticity of the image.

The second piece of new evidence related to the publication of a video accompanied by the lyrics of Tatour’s poem, “Resist My People.” The defense brought evidence that the same video was later posted by Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev on her own Facebook page. That no legal steps have been taken against Regev, the defense argued, constitutes proof of discriminatory prosecution. The arguments on this matter lasted less than a minute, out of an hour and a quarter of the prosecution’s closing arguments.

Culture Minister Miri Regev speaks with media before the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, March 16, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Culture Minister Miri Regev speaks with media before the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, March 16, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

On the other hand, the prosecutor took advantage of the closing arguments to repeat that which she had already detailed at length in the written summaries. She tried to present the poem, “Resist My People,” as part of the wave of attacks by Palestinians in October 2015.

The defense insisted that the poem is a legitimate expression of protest, which speaks about the occupation’s violence against innocent Palestinians. The defense based its arguments on specific events that were mentioned in the poem: the children who were burned; Hadeel, who was shot; the settler’s robbery; and the violence of the army’s special undercover units.

The prosecutor focused on what she thought was clear to every “average person”—the Israeli worldview that sees every Arab, and especially whoever opposes the occupation, as a dangerous terrorist. The prosecution, therefore, screened gory videos of Palestinian attacks, under the pretext of checking the skill and objectivity of the defense’s translator. This time, to refresh the judge’s memory, the prosecutor began to read aloud in court a list of attacks by Palestinians that took place in October 2015. Defense Attorney Gaby Lasky objected, which the judge accepted — a rare occasion in this court.

According to the prosecution, the publication of the photo “I am the next Martyr” was part of a systematic pattern of encouraging suicide attacks. The fact that the picture was first published in response to the burning of young Abu Khdeir, of course, should have been conclusive proof that Tatour speaks of the martyr in the sense of a victim rather than an attacker.

However, as previously mentioned, the prosecutor managed to have that new evidence stricken. Now she wanted “to prove” that this image was first published in October 2015. During the trial, the prosecution claimed (and Tatour consistently denied) that this picture first appeared next to the picture of Israa Abed, who was shot at the central bus station in Afula on October 9, 2015, after she was wrongfully suspected of intending to carry out an attack. The prosecution used this false claim as proof that it couldn’t have been published by Tatour earlier. On the basis of this circular argument, the prosecutor even dramatically declared that Tatour was “lying brazenly,” which led to another objection by Lasky.

An important part of the defense summaries focused on the importance of preserving freedom of expression, especially freedom of political and artistic expression. For this purpose, the defense quoted not only many legal precedents, but also international conventions to which Israel is a signatory. Concerning one of the cited documents, a joint declaration of 57 countries issued in September 2015, before the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which relates to the freedom of artistic expression, the prosecutor claimed that it is not legally binding and that, in fact, Israel’s participation in this declaration has no practical value. She even said that this was the position of the State Attorney’s Office Department of International Law. Lasky requested to see this legal opinion.

Was the prosecution authorized to file the indictment?

The indictment accuses Tatour of two crimes: incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization. These two articles, by nature, restrict freedom of expression, and therefore indictments under these articles require the approval of the attorney general. In practice, the prosecution only submitted to the court approval from the attorney general for prosecuting Tatour for “incitement to violence.”

It is worth noting that the excessive sensitivity to freedom of expression in Israel’s legal system is applied mainly to the freedom of expression of settlers and other anti-Arab extremists. Therefore, in cases of this type, the defense often quotes cases of right-wing activists who were acquitted despite serious violent statements. The judges, for some reason, have no difficulty telling the difference; when the accused is Arab, they use entirely different criteria.

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour (r) and Attorney Gaby Lasky seen in the Nazareth court. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour (r) and Attorney Gaby Lasky seen in the Nazareth court. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Lasky argued in her written summaries that in the absence of the required authorization, the part of the indictment that deals with support for a terrorist organization should be considered null and void. She cited precedents of indictments that were dismissed due to lack of such authorization, and showed that such decisions can be made even in the late stages of a trial.

In response to these claims, the prosecutor drew a rabbit from her hat. She presented to the judge a letter which, she claimed, proved that a deputy state attorney approved indicting Tatour for supporting a terrorist organization. Lasky was furious at how the prosecutor suddenly presented a document that had not been submitted to the defense as part of the investigation materials. The prosecutor explained that this was an internal correspondence with the State Attorney’s Office that was not part of the investigation materials. The judge gave Lasky the letter so she could look at it, but the prosecutor snatched it from her hands, claiming Lasky was not allowed see it.

For a few minutes, a dramatic argument took place between the prosecutor and the defense attorney.

Lasky argued that the accused could not be convicted on the basis of materials she had not been allowed to see. The prosecutor gradually withdrew, saying she was ready for Lasky to see the letter but not photograph it. The judge made it clear that if the letter was indeed attached to the case, it would be scanned and accessible for the defense. The prosecutor sought to consult with those responsible for her, and argued that the entire issue of the necessary approval is an internal procedure that does not oblige her to present approval to the court, and that the court should be satisfied with her declaration that the indictment was submitted with the necessary authority.

Finally, the same letter was presented again to the judge. It was clear that it was not actually an authorization by the attorney general. The judge announced that it would also be given to the defense, which would probably refer to it in her response to the prosecution’s summaries.

Five minutes

The hearing was supposed to last an hour and a half. Starting 15 minutes late, after an hour and a quarter of the prosecutor’s summaries, it was already 10 o’clock. The other litigants scheduled to appear before the same judge were already waiting in the courtroom. The judge told Lasky: “You have five minutes to summarize.” I still don’t know whether she meant this seriously or in jest.

Lasky used the few minutes she had to object to the whole procedure of the supplementary summaries. She reviewed the sequence of events, how it was decided that the summaries would be delivered in writing, followed by the verdict, with no room for further summaries. The nature of the criminal proceeding, she said, citing from legal textbook, is such that the prosecutor summarizes first, then the defendant is given the right to the last word. If there was justification for supplementary summaries because of the additional evidence, that is not what happened. Lasky demanded to cancel the entire procedure.

In the event that this request is rejected, Lasky explained that she cannot respond without preparation and examination of the prosecution’s new claims, which include references to different court rulings and minutes of Knesset deliberations designated to clarify the legislator’s intention. She said she would prefer to submit a written response.

The judge and the audience

This prolonged and absurd trial always leads to new surprises.

At a certain stage, during the stormy debate over the submission of the letter ostensibly proving that the indictment had been approved, journalist Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, who was sitting next to Tatour, remarked out loud: “Write it down, it was not recorded in the protocol.”

The judge stopped the hearing and asked: “Who said that?”

There was silence in the courtroom and then Ofra said “I,” already prepared to be thrown out of the hall for disturbing the hearing.

However, in lieu of the expected scolding, the judge told Ofra that she should not worry and that the trial was conducted with great fairness.

Since discussion between the judge and the public had been legitimized, Ofra added that she had examined the minutes of the trial and that not everything that was said in the courtroom was recorded in them.

The judge patiently explained her policy regarding writing the protocol: only what was of legal value was recorded. When some of the audience repeatedly argued that important things were not recorded, the judge replied that if something important was missing in the protocol, the defense could file an official request for its amendment.

Daren Tatour is seen in her home in the town of Reineh, near Nazareth, August 23, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Daren Tatour in her home in the town of Reineh, near Nazareth, August 23, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Toward the end of the hearing, another activist, Bilha Golan, remarked: “this is a political trial.” In response the judge resumed the rare dialogue with the public. It was, in essence, a lecture by the judge — not to be mentioned in the protocol, of course — designed to prove that this was a fair process whose sole purpose was to enable her to judge objectively, according to the facts presented to her.

“Everyone is here to examine the truth,” the judge claimed. She explained patiently – again – and at one point even said she was talking to us as she sometimes spoke to her children. At one stage, she even claimed that we, Tatour’s supporters, were hurting her. According to her, we, by our one-sided approach, made Tatour feel that the process was unfair and that she had been wronged!

Activist Hana Safran took the opportunity to remind the judge that while the trial was being held, Tatour’s life had been put on hold for more than two years. Even if she is eventually acquitted, she has suffered greatly – and no one can undo that suffering. The judge replied that the matter of house arrest was not her responsibility, but was rather determined in another proceeding by different judges. Perhaps this judge is unaware that the judge responsible for Tatour’s detention rejected the latest request to revoke her house arrest — without even scheduling a hearing.

What next?

As expected, the judge rejected the defense’s objection to the proceedings.

She told Lasky to choose between summarizing on the spot, and promised that she would stay until the middle of the night to hear her arguments, and presenting written summaries. In the end, she gave Lasky seven days to submit a written response.

Only after receiving these summaries will the judge set a date for announcing the verdict. Until it is given, Dareen Tatour will have lost more than two-and-a-half years of her life to prison and house arrest.

Yoav Haifawi is covering this trial and more on his blog, Free Haifa. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Hundreds of asylum seekers march to desert prison to protest deportations

Hundreds held in Israel’s desert detention facility march to nearby Saharonim Prison after seven asylum seekers were transferred and imprisoned there indefinitely — for refusing to leave the country. 

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Asylum seekers protest outside Holot against Israel's deportation plan. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Asylum seekers protest outside Holot against Israel’s deportation plan. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Hundreds of asylum seekers detained in Holot, Israel’s desert detention facility for African asylum seekers, marched to nearby Saharonim Prison on Thursday after seven asylum seekers were imprisoned there for refusing to be sent an unnamed country in Africa, widely presumed to be Rwanda, as part of a “voluntary” deportation program. The demonstrators chanted “We are refugees not criminals,” “We are human beings,” “Bring back our brothers,” “Stop the deportations,” and “We are not for sale.”

Israel is giving Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers an impossible choice: leave for a third country where they are not guaranteed any legal status, or be imprisoned in Israel — indefinitely.

Asylum seekers protesting the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers protesting the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)


The letter asylum seekers attempted to give to the prison authorities during the protest march on Thursday, February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The letter asylum seekers attempted to give to the prison authorities during the protest march on Thursday, February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The march comes a day after 700 asylum seekers detained in Holot began a hunger strike to protest the transfer of the seven asylum seekers, who were moved to Saharonim without being allowed to pack their belongings. Two of them are survivors of torture camps in the Sinai Desert, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. Israeli authorities had previously stated that victims of torture would be exempt from the deportation program.

In the coming weeks, many more of the asylum seekers detained in Holot will be transferred to the Saharonim Prison and imprisoned indefinitely, or until they agree to leave the country.

Asylum seekers protesting the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers protesting the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)


Asylum seekers protesting the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers protesting the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers protesting outside of the Saharonim Prison, joined by dozens of Israeli activists, attempted to submit a letter to the prison authorities, demanding the authorities release the imprisoned asylum seekers. The prison personnel, however, refused to accept the letter.

Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers protest Israel's deportation plan, following the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country in Africa. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers protest Israel’s deportation plan, following the indefinite detention of seven asylum seekers who refused to leave Israel for a third country in Africa. February 22, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

As corruption cases close in, Netanyahu will move further right to survive

Netanyahu is already painting the police recommendation to indict him as a political witch hunt. That will have significant consequences on how the attorney general proceeds, and what Israel’s second-longest serving prime minister does to survive.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting, January 21, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting, January 21, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

The Israeli police on Tuesday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two corruption cases, referred to as Case 1000 and Case 2000. In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of trying to advance the interests of Israeli tycoon Arnon Milchen in exchange for lavish gifts he and his wife demanded; in Case 2000, Netanyahu was recorded plotting to pursue regulatory changes that would have assisted the daily paper Yedioth Ahronoth in exchange for “indefinite” positive coverage, as promised by the paper’s publisher, Arnon Mozes. Netanyahu is suspected of receiving or being offered bribes in both cases.


Netanyahu doesn’t deny the facts, only the police’s interpretation of them. In a live message Tuesday evening, he tried to rally his base by claiming (as he has in the past) that he is the victim of politically motivated attacks. He also vowed not to resign. Tuesday’s big news – the involvement of Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s main political rival, as a key witness for the prosecution in Case 1000 – assists Bibi in politicizing the discourse around the affair even further.

So what’s next for Bibi?

The decision whether to press charges lies in the hands of the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will likely take months to consider the evidence, maybe even a full year. Theoretically, Mandelblit could make up his mind much sooner, since the prosecution was involved in the police investigation from its inception, as it does in high profile cases – but this is unlikely for legal and political reasons alike.

If Mandelblit presses charges, the assumption is that Bibi’s coalition partners would resign, leading to early elections. But the common wisdom is that if Bibi senses an indictment coming he will call snap elections. Mandelblit won’t be able to announce his decision during a campaign – for fear of tipping the elections, and once Bibi wins, it will be politically difficult for the attorney general to press charges at all (if Netanyahu loses it won’t matter anyway). On the other hand, if the public pressure against Bibi intensifies, things might move faster.

Personally, I don’t see how Mandelblit can avoid pressing charges without it being seen as a cover-up. A decision not to indict would almost certainly be challenged in the High Court, and it could doom the attorney general’s own aspirations (to serve on the Supreme Court, like many of his predecessors). Lest we forget, Netanyahu is tied (though not a formal suspect yet) to a couple more investigations, much broader in scope – Case 3000, dealing with attempts to influence contracts for the purchase of submarines from Germany (Bibi’s most intimate proxies – attorneys Shimron and Molcho – are the key figures here), and Case 4000, involving regulatory changes in favor of the telecom giant Bezeq. It’s simply too much.

Mandelblit wants to avoid being seen as the man who took down a popular prime minister. He would much rather let the political process work, hoping that Bibi’s coalition falls apart or that he loses an election before he is forced to make a final decision about whether to indict. That way, Mandelblit would end up prosecuting Netanyahu as a private citizen. But judging from Netanyahu’s appearance yesterday, that scenario is unlikely: Bibi will do all he can to keep his coalition together for the time being.

The key for Netanyahu’s strategy is his popularity on the right. As long as he maintains high approval ratings among his base, none of his rivals from the right will come out against him, out of fear of political revenge from his supporters.

Which leads us to the broader implications of the recent developments: since Netanyahu’s survival now depends on his most loyal base, he is likely to move even further to the right politically – both with regards to the Israeli culture war, and on the Palestinian issue. These are going to be rocky years ahead.