Would sanctions bring sanity to Israel?

The common wisdom is that, barring an unlikely turnaround in the moribund peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, 2014 will be a year of increasing sanctions and boycotts aimed at Israel.

Next year, commentators are saying, could be the year in which the international community finally grows fed up with Israel and establishes a sanctions regime similar to that applied against South African apartheid in the Seventies and Eighties.

It’s not a far-fetched scenario. Over the past few weeks several organizations and countries have taken clear steps in that direction – the American Studies Association announced a boycott of Israeli academic institutions; the Romanian government said it would not send any more construction workers to Israel; the largest Dutch water company, Vitens, severed ties with its Israeli counterpart Mekorot; Canada’s largest Protestant church announced a boycott of three Israeli companies and a U.S. student group announced plans to boycott a graduation ceremony featuring an address by Israeli businesswoman Sheri Arison. Continue reading

Netanyahu’s Mandela manipulation

Haaretz, December 9, 2013

In his tribute to Nelson Mandela following the South African statesman’s death, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as “a man of vision, a fighter for freedom who rejected violence.”

Really?

Here’s an extract from Mandela’s statement to the court during his 1964 trial for sabotage and treason: “We were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the Government. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and when the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.”

Elaborating in the same speech on why he and his comrades had resorted to violence, Mandela said: “I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love for violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the whites.” Continue reading

The Jewish myth of matrilineal descent

I’m Jewish because my mother was Jewish. She was Jewish because her mother was Jewish. And so on, down the ages – matrilineal descent.

Apart from her penchant for preparing Danish herring at any and every conceivable opportunity, my mother had little that was Jewish about her. She was neither religious not Zionist, the two defining streams of Judaism in the modern day. I don’t think she ever went to shul, except on weddings, bar mitzvahs etc., she took no part in Jewish community activities in Johannesburg, where she lived, and there was little about Israel that attracted her. Even her choice of bridge partners –she fought with them regularly, so there were several –was ecumenical. She spent her last years in a non-Jewish home for the aged.

Barely Jewish as she was, my mother was a paragon of Jewishness when compared to her own mother, of whom I have no Jewish memories whatsoever. Born in Whitechapel, in the poor, east-end of London, she spoke English with what we took to be a Cockney accent and was more a hovering shadow than a concrete presence. She ended up in a home for the aged run by the local Jewish community, cursing Jews and blacks in equal measure, if I remember correctly. Continue reading