Israel’s reputation as a vibrant democracy has been seriously tarnished by a new law intended to stifle outspoken critics of its occupation of the West Bank.
The law, approved in a 47-to-38 vote by Parliament, effectively bans any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.
It would enable Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations instigating such boycotts, and subject violators to monetary penalties. Companies and organizations supporting a boycott could be barred from bidding on government contracts. Nonprofit groups could lose tax benefits.
“For years now there have been laws in the United States that come with fines and prison sentences for anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, and yet the Israeli who persuades American companies to boycott us is completely exempt. That is ludicrous,” Mr. Elkin was quoted as saying in the popular Yediot Aharonot newspaper. He was referring to a federal law in the United States that forbids Americans from complying with, furthering or supporting a boycott of a country that is friendly to the United States.
We are also opposed to boycotts of Israel, but agree this is a fundamental issue of free speech.
Israel’s conservative government is determined to crush a growing push by Palestinians and their supporters for boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. Since last year, many Israeli artists and intellectuals, as well international artists, have canceled performances and programs in Israel and the West Bank to protest the settlements. The bill’s sponsor, Zeev Elkin, said his concern was that the calls for a boycott “increasingly have come from within our own midst.”
“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.”
-Ronnie KasrilsIsrael’s current practice is clearly well within the limits of an open democracy. Singling out Israel for laws that are identical to, or just as restrictive as, laws on the books in America and Europe manifests the very problem that exists with the boycotts themselves – theapplication of an entirely different set of standards to Israel than to the rest of the free world.One of the most curious features of the Obama administration’s foreign policy is the contrast between the silky, non-confrontational public diplomacy it employs when dealing with dictatorships and adversaries, such as Russia, China and Venezuela — and the brusqueness with which it often addresses U.S. clients and allies.So it was startling to hear Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offer, in Baghdad, the following description of his message to Iraqi leaders: “Dammit, make a decision.”
The tone of that remark, like other administration rhetoric on the potential deal, suggests that Obama and his top aides believe they are offering Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a favor by inviting a request to leave troops behind, and don’t think a stay-on force is a vital U.S. interest.
Others see it quite differently. Maliki, like U.S. commanders in the Middle East, understands very well that without an American military presence, Iraq will be unable to defend itself against its Persian neighbor. Iranian-backed militias are already stepping up attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces with sophisticated rockets and roadside bombs; without U.S. help, Iraqi forces cannot easily counter them. Moreover, Iraq’s conventional forces are no match for those of Iran.
Clinton and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the OIC, which represents 57Muslim nations in international forums, announced plans for talks on how to reconcile freedom of speech with tolerance."We cannot and must not ignore the implications of hate speech and incitement of discrimination and violence," Ihsanoglu. He said the OIC did not want to inhibit free expression. "Our cause, which stems from out genuine concerns, should not be interpreted as calls for restriction on freedom," he said.
A joint statement was issued by the Co-Chairs at the end of the meeting in which they called upon all relevant stakeholders throughout the world to take seriously the call for action set forth in resolution 16/18, which contributes to strengthening the foundations of tolerance and respect for religious diversity as well as enhancing the promotion and protections of human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world.
Siavosh Derakhti, one of the organizers, said when the film was shown in the school auditorium: “There is ignorance about the Holocaust in Malmö. And many are directing their hatred against both Jews and Muslims. We want to show that you shouldn’t blame all Jews for what happens in Israel and that we, as Muslims, aren’t terrorists.” Björn Lagerbäck (FP), coordinator of the Dialog Forum, was at hand and invited the youth to participate in the forum, which was formed to combat hate crimes and discrimination.
Drugs are a new income source for Hezbollah?
Nasrallah would not approve of Hezbollah being in the drug trade?
Is Nasrallah really so unaware of what Hezbollah is up to?
Richard Holbrooke spoke at the last session of the conference, addressing a large audience of Arab dignitaries, scholars and pundits. After repeating the great things that America can do for the Muslim world – in science, education, freedom, entrepreneurship and more – and after saying all the things that a seasoned diplomat would say on occasions like this one, he added one innocent remark that fell like a bombshell: “By now,” he said, “two and a half generations of Arabs have been brought up on textbooks that do not show Israel.”
The audience was stunned. I can still hear the pin-dropping silence as he calmly went on: “Such continued denial of reality, at the grassroots level, is a major hindrance to any peaceful settlement of the conflict.” (I am quoting from memory.)
I watched Holbrooke’s colleagues from the Brookings Institution to see how they reacted. Their faces were blank.
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