Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why debate disparity in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians -- everyone should be assured equal rights.

[I think this article by former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg is so valuable, I've taken it out from behind the paywall of Haaretz where it was published and posted it here so everyone can read it.  Haaretz, I hope you don't mind.  Hopefully, if enough people see and value this kind of writing, they'll pay the premium to get onto your site for everything you publish (as I do) and get access to all your articles. -- David]

Say a big 'thank you' to Martin Schulz
Why are we debating the exact disparity in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians, if Netanyahu admitted his belief that Jews deserve more of it?
By Avraham Burg | Feb. 14, 2014

A bit of disclosure: First, to me, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) is one of the shallowest people I’ve ever encountered here in recent years. Give me Moshe Feiglin, give me Uri Elitzur, give me Shlomo Ben-Zvi, but spare me this hollow charisma. 

Second, in my view, Habayit Hayehudi is a party of people who hate Arabs and non-Jews, of people who are eternally frightened, driven by the Holocaust and are, above all, horribly simplistic. If my father, one of the founders of the party that later became Habayit Hayehudi, were alive to see his political descendents in the Knesset on Wednesday (and not only on Wednesday), I have no doubt (to borrow the analogy so beloved by some of the Internet commenters so dear to my heart) that he would have died on the spot, if only to be able to turn over in his grave. 

Third, I was the first Knesset speaker to allow a German president (the late Johannes Rau) to deliver a speech there in the German language. That speech was full of the love and humanity which are so rare in the Knesset plenum. It turns out that every language can be either beautiful or ugly, depending on the speaker and his worldview. On Wednesday, for instance, we saw Hebrew in all its ugliness. So what? Because of them, we should forbid speaking Hebrew in the Knesset? 

And fourth, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, is a close friend of mine. On most issues connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we disagree. He is closer to the Israeli mainstream, and his positions resemble those of Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog. He once told me, during a frank and stern conversation, “For me, the new Germany exists only in order to ensure the existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” He’s a brilliant intellectual and a thoughtful politician, and we don’t need to worry – he won’t give up his existential friendship so easily. And certainly not because of Bennett or his colleague Orit Strock, the party whip. 

But if he sometimes needs to think a bit before he accepts the messages delivered by Israeli cabinet ministers, I’ll understand him, for Martin Schulz doesn’t come from that branch of the Bnei Akiva youth group I’ll call “the occupiers.” Nor was he a soldier in an elite unit. He’s a European public figure who learned in his parents’ home to stand up against all tyranny, evil and discrimination. He and his family were social democrats before Naftali Bennett knew anything about high-tech or how to shoot a gun, and even before Bennett’s parents moved to Israel. For him, equality is something he imbibed at home. The same as how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imbibed discrimination and victimhood at home. 

But beyond these personal disclosures, we ought to be grateful to President Schulz. Perhaps the disparity in access to natural resources isn’t precisely what he was told in Ramallah. Perhaps it’s even greater or perhaps it’s smaller. But that is completely unimportant. What matters is that he did to Netanyahu what Netanyahu loves doing to others: He removed a few masks from the prime minister's arrogant, hysterical face. 

“Those figures aren’t accurate,” the prime minister charged. “So what are the correct figures,” opposition members shouted back. What difference does it make?! What matters is that the prime minister admitted there are disparities between Jews and Arabs, between Israelis and Palestinians. So we’ve agreed on the principle; now we’re just arguing over the numbers?! Big deal.
I have no doubt that not many hours will pass before this newspaper's major talents, like Uri Misgav and others, make us much wiser about exactly how large this disparity is. But let’s get back to the principle. The current Israeli government, headed by that man of “moral confusion,” accepts the premise that the Jews deserve more. And this is the fundamental moral premise that is ticking like a bomb at the gateway to any present or future peace agreement. For only an agreement based on full equality has even the faintest chance of proving durable. 

Now that the mask has been stripped from the face of the current Israeli government, a rare opportunity has arisen, if only for a moment, to think of an alternative to the built-in Israeli discrimination. For several years now, we – a joint group of Israelis and Palestinians with similar views – have been trying to formulate principles utterly different from the premises of separation, discrimination, exploitation and arrogance. And this is what we have agreed on so far: 

Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, 47 years after the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by the Israelis and 66 years after the establishment of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba, we have reached a stalemate in which there is no freedom for the Palestinian people or security for Israelis. We have not even come close to a just and sustainable solution of two states for two peoples. For all practical purposes, we all live under a single regime of discriminatory Israeli rule. In addition, many of us have given up in despair and are no longer capable of imagining any such just solution in the foreseeable future. 

In an effort to pave a new path toward historic reconciliation and true political commitment between both nations, we must give up the view of the current solution that is based on many layers of separation, isolation and acts of built-in discrimination. We need to replace that solution with a completely different method and set of principles. Many of our members, Israelis and Palestinians, both here and in the diaspora, have reached this conclusion and, as a result, share a commitment and an understanding that it is both possible and vitally important. The purpose of these principles is not to propose practical, detailed solutions, but rather to lay out a completely different groundwork for a just and sustainable Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian partnership. Our starting point is founded in the belief that the fate of both nations is bound up in an unbreakable link; that the Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are part of the Middle East, and neither of them has a surplus of rights or exclusive sovereignty over any part of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. 


* Every person who lives (or has the status of a resident) between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea shall be assured equal personal, political, economic and social rights. These rights include: the right to protection and security; equal treatment without regard to sex, race, ethnic origin or religion; freedom of movement; ownership and possession of property; the right to bring a lawsuit to court; and the right to vote and hold elected office. 

* The collective rights of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians - linguistic, cultural, religious and political - shall be ensured in every political setting. It is understood that neither side shall have exclusive sovereignty over any part of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (including exclusive ownership of land, exclusive access to natural resources, and so on). 

* All remaining exclusive rights possessed solely by Jewish Israelis, including ownership of land and access to natural resources, shall be abolished. All resources - material and political - shall be redistributed on the basis of principles of affirmative justice. 

* The right of return of the Palestinians is an integral part of UN Resolution 194. The implementation of this resolution shall take into account the existing reality. The moral and political injustice of dispossessing the Palestinians in the past shall not be remedied by creating new injustices. 

* The new political institutions shall make democratic immigration and citizenship laws. However, Jews and Palestinians who live in the diaspora will be able to receive immunity in situations of danger (according to UN resolutions) and will have special status in the process of obtaining citizenship in comparison with any other ethnic or national group. 

Like many people, both among my colleagues and others, I believe with all my heart that mutual recognition based on these principles could advance a different political reality, in which memories of exile and being refugees would give way to a comprehensive realization of rights, citizenship and belonging. They would turn bereavement into life, and despair into hope. And so, I want to say a big “thank you” to Martin Schulz, one of Israel’s last and best real friends in the world. 

This article was originally published at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

US Senator Pat Toomey naive about Jerusalem realities

I am a US citizen.  I vote in Pennsylvania for Federal offices and I stay in touch with my U.S. Senators from there. 

Senator Pat Toomey just sent out a newsletter saying he proudly cosponsored the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act to force moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv -- where all embassies of all countries are located. 

I just had to respond and wrote the following:

Dear Senator Toomey,

I am a rabbi and have lived in Jerusalem for four years. In contrast to what is said in your newsletter, Jerusalem is a tragically divided city.  Many Muslims and Christians cannot access the holy sites of their religion. 

Jerusalem is sharply divided between its Jewish areas and Palestinian areas, many of which are entirely neglected and bereft of any municipal services whatsoever. Most people who live in Jerusalem very fearful to cross from their sector to the others' and never do so. 

Regarding access to holy places, many Christians and Muslims who are Palestinian cannot access their holy places and cannot even enter Jerusalem at all. Access to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa Mosque is regularly restricted; young men not allowed to enter the area at all. 

People born in Jerusalem of families resident there for centuries are not permitted by the Israelis to return if they leave for longer than brief period Israeli regulations stipulate. Thousands of Christian and Muslim Jerusalemites have been deprived of their legal right to reside in the very city in which they were born and their families still live.

I hope you will take the trouble to develop a more honest understanding of the reality on the ground in Jerusalem and not be manipulated any longer by those who perpetrate and wish to cover up these very unjust realities. If you would like suggestions for sources of information, I will be very happy to help.


Rabbi David Mivasair
State College, PA

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Brief report on: Independent Jewish Voices -- Vancouver protest at CIJA conference, May 5

Objectively, the demo was very small – half a minyan of our IJV chevra.  A far greater number specifically expressed interest and support but were unable to come.  Rick Marcuse was the fifth and last to arrive, giving us immediate and undisputed hegemonic numerical superiority over the four police officers who were sent in to keep the peace.  In addition, our ally Rev. Don Grayston of Building Bridges Vancouver and a young fellow I don’t know named Tim also came.  Together we seven created a presence for about an hour outside the building where the CIJA conference was and engaged about a dozen or so people in conversation including several who were at the conference.
Subjectively, my sense is that it was well worthwhile to simply protest visibly and publically against CIJA doing business as usual.  The simple fact that we were there – despite our small numbers – meant that the assumptions implicit in CIJA’s intentionally distorted perspective were being challenged.  In addition, through our various social media connections we had impact far beyond what we accomplished on the Granville Street sidewalk this afternoon.  People learned through Facebook, Twitter and other media about this Jewish protest against CIJA and its militant support for Israel’s violence, injustice and repression.  Even though we had a very small numerical presence, the fact that we did this action at all reached hundreds of people and builds toward the future.
I hope in the future we will collaborate more effectively and make a bigger impact.  We need brief, crisply-worded, well-designed and well-produced literature pieces to hand out -- like what Jewish Voice for Peace has in the US.  And, I think we need more creativity about actions that communicate effectively with the public – more catchy than standing on the sidewalk holding signs with slogans on them.
I thank everyone in the IJV-Vancouver chapter who contributed to this today.  All members who join and support the chapter were effectively part of our presence there today.  A special thanks goes to Sheila who supported this idea from beginning to end and who made the signs for the demo and brought them today.


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Independent Jewish Voices protest at CIJA conference, Sunday, May 5

Independent Jewish Voices Vancouver chapter will hold a protest at the conference of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs on Sunday, May 5, 4 pm, outside 500 Granville Street.
Speakers at the CIJA conference include Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Israel's ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv and former US ambassador to the Middle East Dennis Ross.
IJV will point out that CIJA should not be believed when it postures as if it speaks for Canadian Jewry and that specific CIJA-supported policies promote ongoing large-scale violence and injustice.
Please come and join us.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me by e-mail or at (604) 781-7839.
To learn more about the CIJA conference, see here.
The IJV demonstration will take place at the same time as another demonstration against CIJA by the Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North America.  Learn more about that here

"CIJA does not represent the majority of Canadian Jews.  Rather it is a highly partisan political lobby organization which uncritically supports policies of the Israeli government which have been ruled illegal by the World Court and which are contrary to Canadian Foreign policy such as the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestine, expanding settlements on that land,  the separation barrier, and its refusal to negotiate about the rights of Palestinian refugees.  It is clear to us, as Jews, that Israel holds and abuses its overwhelming power in a way deeply inconsistent with Jewish values and human rights." -- from IJV letter to Canadian senators

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Friends, here's an initiative to help people in British Columbia vote in the coming May 14 election even if they don't have the usual ID or housing stability.  It's a great effort by the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.  I've posted it here with permission because they hadn't gotten it set up for social media yet.

Anyone familiar with the DTES knows that proper identification is one consistent barrier for many in our community. We also know that this is a significant barrier to acquisition of housing, establishing bank accounts, cashing cheques, even the most basic right to vote.

The majority of our community live in the margins, with very little ‘voice’ in society. What a privilege it is then as Service Providers in the DTES of Vancouver, to help aide and facilitate opportunities that empower our community. The upcoming election is one significant opportunity.

With the cooperation of a broad collective of DTES Service Providers and Elections BC, we have developed DTES Get Out the Vote OUTLINE docx. and editable deliverables that will assist YOU and others in the DTES community encourage, empower and facilitate our community vote.

Please share this communication and all deliverables as broadly as possible - this is for our DTES community.

Please reply with any feedback, questions or concerns you may have.

I am greatly encouraged by the support I have received from the community on this project. Thank you for all of your cooperation.



Jeffrey Baergen Community Engagement Coordinator
601 East Hastings Street. Vancouver, BC V6A 1J7
t: 604.215.5445 xt 487   m: 604.768.9394   f: 604.253.3496