Monday, May 30, 2005

Societal Meltdown?

KIC isn't only about peacemaking and terrorism. When I facilitate Current Affairs discussion, I do make an effort to broach other Israeli issues. One such issue is glaring me in the face this morning as the Israeli papers scream out headlines of murder, underworld bombings and other drive-by shootings, rape, beatings etc.

For many years I have argued that while terrorism might too often rule the day here in Israel, the streets of the this Land are still safer as far as crime (violent or not) is concerned. Many of my female friends express their comfort at walking Jerusalem streets at night, a comfort not enjoyed overseas. But try making that point to mourning family & friends of Ma'ayan Sapir in Rechovot. Point in case!

When you look at the long and ever-increasing list of horrific rapes (often by teenagers), intra-family murders, playground knifings, bank robberies and the like, you begin to ponder where this is all going and why. Many blame it plainly on the 4 years of tension, fear and financial losses (personal and national). I am not ruling that out. Others often point fingers at Israel's large immigration of the last decade or so.
Maybe this is simply and sadly the continuing McDonaldization of Israel that brings some good and some very bad with it.

I personally still feel safe here crime-wise. But maybe I'm naive or at least a little protected from societal reality. Just maybe I'm not feeling the KIC of a young developing society that is arguably on the brink of social meltdown...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Sunday KIC

As strange as it may seem, I am finding it difficult to find any mention of the AUT (UK) re-vote results on the Israeli news websites. Why is that? Maybe it's not as crucial as we made out! OK, here it is on the Jerusalem Post. I am sure the fight will not finish there...

Mahmoud Abbas' visit to Bush passed without too much controversy. It appears that the US wants to increase its involvement in the peace process (or starting it!). That's not a bad thing. As reported, Sharon and Israel will be under a great deal more pressure (re: settlements etc) should Abbas manage to dismantle the terror groups. It appears that that is the understanding - if Abbas succeeds, Israel will also need to give.

Still after these last few days of attacks and discovery of suicide bomb belts etc on their way to central Israel, it seems unlikely that we're going to have a quiet summer. It really is quite clear that Hamas and brothers are simply using this quieter (but far far far from quiet) time to re-build for the "Day after Disengagement".

Two websites for you to check out: TeachKidsPeace that is prominent on the Haaretz advertisement banners these days and JewWatch which was sent to me accompanied by a neo-Nazi website that is monitoring the New Zealand Jewish community. Oh what a pretty world we live in! The former site (above) is pretty impressive. Worth a read!

Soccer/football fever is approaching Israel again this coming Saturday. Israel playing Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers. I must admit, soccer is a very silly sport in comparison to the holy rugby of New Zealand but I can't help but admit my excitement at Israel's last two performances and I did watch both games. Israel always needs morale-boosting achievements. Sport can provide that. Let's hope this weekend gives us a few more smiles.

Shavua Tov!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Today's Guests: George, Abu and Sari

At some stage today I saw a brief mention in the media that the PA is thinking of removing Prof. Sari Nusseibah from his position as head of al-Quds University in Jerusalem because he teamed up with the Hebrew University to condemn the AUT (UK) boycott of Israeli universities. What a shame if that happens! (Watch this space...) It was so nice to know that there was a moderate voice on the other side.

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is the new moderate PA leader who has shown only moderate (if that!) progress in controlling his people and reforming his PA. Still, he's got one step further than Arafat in that today he is rocking and rolling with George, Condi and crew at the White House. I await with anticipation the results of these meetings. George W often comes out with some big statements after similar meetings with Sharon. Rumors are that Bush will not pressure Abbas to dismantle terror until after PA elections (and when will they be you might ask?!!) and that he will also call for an end to settlement expansion. What comes out of George's mouth matters - alot! At least psychologically. Should be interesting...

Last night I ran my 4th session for the Machon group on Israel Advocacy. In evaluating BBC TV clips, it was not hard to notice the shock on the faces of my students who could not believe the filthy bias approach of the British organisation. And my students are not the "rolling burning tyres on to the highway day-to-day" team, trust me. Take a look at BBC reports online. In the last couple of days, they have come up with some shocking headlines that completely mislead the reader.

The AUT (UK) boycott re-vote results will be out soon. This is a crucial event in the ongoing battle for Israel's right to fair treatment in this increasingly unfair world.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Suspicious Minds

Maybe I need a good KIC (and a good sleep!) ... and correct me if I'm wrong - but aren't the Americans and Brits now playing in the political playground with Hamas?

Today, like other times this week, there are reports of diplomatic contacts between Western world leaders and the infamous terror group. In fact, according to some sources, 'the world' is offering to take Hamas off the terror list if they stop attacks against Israel and dismantle its military wing.

Now regardless of your opinion on Middle East peace, does this not all seem a bit mind-blowing. This is the same Hamas (that while segments might provide clothing and food for the poor etc) has otherwise happily (joyfully infact!) murdered countless Israeli civilians over the last 4 years and previously. When they say 'end the occupation', they have always intended ending the Zionist enterprise - period! That is no secret.

I just don't know about all this? As a reader of exclaimed - is it that you give someone the 'democratic' label and then immediately you climb into the diplomatic hottub with them?

Ok so Hamas will be part of upcoming PA elections and according to the polls, they might well control the PA come August. How does that strenghten Abbas as Israel has been pressured to do? And is that the great concept of democracy at work or simply a poor (and horrific) reflection on the current ideology of Palestinian voters.

I can't see Georgy and Tony offering sweet incentives to Bin Laden and their wasn't much sweet talk with Sadaam. Hamas only recently entered a ceasefire that they barely (in fact DO NOT) adhere to and now they're candidates for removal from the terror list?

"But they'll disarm and accept Israel", say the West. Ok sure... now I'm convinced.

A strange thing democracy!

Monday, May 23, 2005

KICing for the Palestinians

I've been asked to give a KIC session to a group of students who are in Israel for the year. No big deal, right?!! Actually, it presents itself as an irresistable and refreshing challenge seeing as the coordinator wants me to facilitate understanding of the Palestinian view on the conflict.
The truth is that I always recognise the Palestinian position (though I reserve the right to regularly disagree with it). The challenge will be to build a thought-provoking and interactive session that focuses on the other side's view of Israel and the world they experience. I'll keep you updated with this new aspect of the KIC educational sessions.

The other Bush (Laura, the First Lady) came (almost too) in touch with the essence of the conflict yesterday as she visited Jerusalem on her whirlwind tour. The media (Israeli & foreign) has been highlighting the emotional atmosphere that enveloped her entourage. Still, I liked the concept of her visit and the understanding of the tension that she spoke about to the media. Grasping the religious and emotional sources of the conflict is an important step in understanding the tension (and violence) that can exist here. World leaders could learn a lot from Laura Bush's approach.

One Israeli-Arab has already caught on to a good idea. He has opened up his own Holocaust Museum in Nazareth in attempt to expose Arabs to the Shoah concept. Worth a read and let's hope such initiatives will encourage a new sense of mutual understanding, even if there is some concern about the museum's underlying message to Palestinians and the establishment of the Jewish state.

KIC me when you feel like it - I welcome your feedback!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Joint Respect & Btselem

Shavua Tov KIC readers!
Nice to read this morning that Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, the Head of al-Quds University in East Jerusalem has united with the Hebrew University to denounce the AUT (UK) boycott of Israeli universities. The joint statement said: "Our position is based upon the belief that it is through cooperation based on mutual respect, rather than boycotts or discrimination, that our common goals can be achieved". How refreshing!

On the other hand, Israeli Human Rights Organization "Btselem" continues to leave me feeling frustrated and seems to have the opposite approach to peace-making. I am all for the important role that they play but I can not fathom their apparent bias against Israel through its statistics. I have written to them without reply... that is, until recently when they did reply.

I'm pasting the correspondence below and would like to hear some thoughts from you.

As for Eurovision, it was always going to be a tough one! European callers are not the biggest Israel fans right now I'd imagine. And yet, France gave Israel 10 points!

See the Btselem correspondence below...

RE: Btselem Statistics
Wed, 4 May 2005 16:16:50 +0200
"Sarit Michaeli"


I'm not completely sure I understand the question, so will answer it based on ths assumption that you are asking why we do not divide, in our lists, the Palestinian casualties into combatants and civilians. If this is wrong, please explain your question further, and I will try to do as best I can.

You are indeed right in implying the division between combatants and civilians - this is an essential and fundamental part of International Humanitarian Law. And when viewing Israel, the distinction is very clear and obvious: members of the security services, and civilians. We used to use a similar classification when counting Palsetinian casualties, but at the moment, this classification is meaningless - very soon into the intifada, Palestinian police stopped being relevant in terms of the combat, and most Pal. militants are not members of the Pal security forces. Furthermore, International law only recognises 2 options: either combatant or civilian, but the status of Pal militants is vague - Israel doesn't consider them combatants, and hasn't ratified the Geneva Convention Protocol of 77 relating to Combatants in a national liberation struggle. So as you can see, the situation is complex.
At any rate, the most meaningful way we can describe and categorise Pal. casualties at this point in time, is whether they've participated in fighting when they were killed, or did not. Thiough not perfect, I'm sure you'll agree it is better than non-classification.
Now, one more thing - this is the case for listings in Hebrew, where we have put up the entire named list. We are still working to put up the full list in English, therefore it is only available by numbers for the time being. I very much hope we will be able to provide the full list in the coming weeks.

I hope this answers your question -
Sarit Michaeli - B'Tselem Press/PR+972 2 6735599 (office)+972 50 5387230 (cell)

From: Keeping It Current []

Posted At: Monday, April 18, 2005 3:53 PMPosted To: MailConversation: Btselem StatisticsSubject: Btselem Statistics

Can you explain why your organisation includes different categories of fatalities/casualities in the current intifada - all categories that is except "Palestinian combatants killed by Israelis" nor "Palestinian terrorists who killed themselves while attacking Israelis".

The non-existence of these two categories on your website calls your objectivity and important work into question. As an educator on the Intifada and the like, I can not understand this eye-catching omission from your statistics.

I would apprecaite a reply with explanation.

Thank you

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Maturity, Security & Peculiarity

At age 57, has Israel begun to mature somewhat? The decision to back Arab Gulf state Qatar in its bid to get a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council suggests a new and forward-thinking approach to Israel's foreign relations policy. In fact, Qatar is showing some maturity too, seeing as they made the request to Israel in the first place. Don't get me wrong, they're not great mates but it is refreshing to see some give-and-take and maybe (just maybe!) it will open doors to other states in the region.

Here we go again? Looks a bit that way. Yesterday Hamas returned to firing (at least 20) mortars and anti-tank missiles at civilians and IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip. Some say it's the Hamas way of competing with the PA and a reaction to the PA's canceling of recent municpal election results.
Regardless, Israel is not likely to take on the role of sitting Zionist duck for Hamas to enjoy and there is already talk up at the Knesset about returning to harsher responses.
It does worry me that upon Disengagement, the Strip will be left in the hands of Hamas, Jihad and Brothers Inc. What's the point then? How does that strengthen Abbas as we're instructed to do? And what hope does that give to Ashkelon and the like who will become the next rocket destination? Maybe it's none of my business and we should get on with things and let the PA deal with their own internal problems after we've left Gaza. The 'Orange Team' have a point don't they?

And lastly - peculiarity! Listen, I don't have a PHd in Pollard but the whole affair does seem very unusual. I'm not going to sit here and tell the Americans how do deal with spies - that's their right and being spied against by an ally (or anyone) is never fun!
But I can not fathom the apparent reluctance by Israeli leaders to pressure the US to release Jonathan Pollard. The man 'helped' Israel and yet while we were willing to release 100s of Arab prisoners to get Tannenbaum released from his (self-inflicted?) stay with Hezbollah, we seem 'hands off-ish' in helping Pollard. The 3 dead IDF boys who we brought home with Tannenbaum fully deserved their redemption. Pollard also took risks for Israel and lost his freedom for it.

It's all nice and lovely that Israeli Ambassador Ayalon visited him this week but after almost 20 years in prison, shouldn't we be doing more? We shouldn't spy on allies (though they almost certainly spy on us!) but we also shouldn't abandon those who risk their lives for Israel. Since when does Israel leave its men and women behind in the field?

KIC me if you want! I might be wrong about all this.
Michael - KIC

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Fake Mistake

Last night, at my traditional Monday evening KIC session with olim (new immigrants) at Ulpan Etzion, we delved into the borders that should be drawn for those anti-Disengagement Israelis who have started a somewhat successful yet cynical program of civil disobedience.

Civil disobedience - OK. Placing burning tyres on highways - maybe! Placing fake bombs in bus stations - I don't think so my friends! I can't think of much that is more insulting to the Israeli public who has suffered terribly at the hands of'real bombs' in the last few years and throughout Israel's existence. For 57 years, Israelis have spotted the unaccompanied bag or parcel and reported it immediately - always to be followed by the arrival of police, sappers, closed streets, malls and the like.

Surely there is a red line. The Right is trying to show to what extent they will be able to tie up police and army resources when Disengagement Season arrives. Honestly, I can totally understand the great distress of many in the Israeli population in regards the Disengagement. But please...

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Media Disease

Yesterday I started facilitating a 6-session course on Hasbara and Israel Advocacy with 30 students in the Machon (of the Jewish Agency) on their year off in Israel. Having shown them a surprisingly open-minded CNN clip that displayed Gaza settlers as human beings with emotions and feelings, some in the class expressed deep concern that we (as Israel supporters) would favor such a one-sided clip.

That is, surely if we are trying to encourage fairer media coverage, we must demand that the networks put the "Palestinian viewpoint" in such an article too.

All this raised a question that had not quite struck me in this way previously. Is it acceptable for pro-Israel advocates to accept one-sided seemingly pro-Israel news reports?

Unsure myself, I raised the quite legitimate argument that we must look at 'news reporting' in the wider context. That is, that the world media in general is somewhat swayed towards excessive criticism of Israel and it is therefore not such a terrible thing that there is the odd article that presents an (not 'the') Israel view only.

This argument was not accepted by all in the class and that's OK.

BBC recently tried to show 'all sides' after the recent Stage (Tel Aviv) nightclub terror attack. BBC (both in print and in TV coverage) spent 1/2 the report showing the mourning of the bomber's parents and had them crying over photos of him etc. BBC came under extreme criticism over this approach and cut the report from their website.

My concern is that with most TV news clips being about 3 minutes long, we might be encouraging even worse reporting by demanding that they cover every opinion and view in each clip.

It's always refreshing to have such issues proposed by students. That's what my KIC business is all about - making people think, not telling them what to think.

Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Quick KICSTART For The Week

After our mangal (BBQ) with friends in the forest near Beit Shemesh, a family engagement party in Chasmonaim and the weekend in Zichron Yaakov, I've returned to Jerusalem feeling pretty positive about Israeli life once again.

It wasn't just the countless 100000s of houses and cars with Israeli flags waving, (though that's always good for the soul!) but rather, the (almost) carefree, relaxed (certainly sunny) atmosphere that enveloped the country over the 3-day Yom Haatzmaut holiday. It was a pleasure to see and to feel.

Being Israel though, it is not surprising to return to 'normal' life and update oneself with news of Hezbollah attacks in the North, Madonna and Silvan Shalom's wife's soap opera episodes in Washington and the like.

The impending Disengagement from Gaza has meant the cancellation of the International Gay Parade in Jerusalem - an inititaive that has invited great debate (not always polite!) among Jewish, Christian and Moslem leaders, here and overseas.

The Palestinians commemorated al-Naqba ("Catastrophe") Day as they do each Yom Haatzmaut. This year focused on the Right of Return with Mahmoud Abbas reiterating his commitment to this sacred Palestinian goal. Let's hope that the Palestinians do not allow this goal to drown yet another chance at statehood. While I do not belittle their grief and longing, I would hate to see them "fail to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity' once again.

Shavua tov - a good week to all!
Michael - KIC Founder

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

KICBLOG - Independence Day 2005!

I felt Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) a good occasion to begin the KICBLOG. Why not? Besides, my new educational initiative (KIC-Keeping It Current) centers around opening doors (windows and shutters too!) that lead to a better, more thorough understanding of Israeli Current Affairs.

Israel is such a tiny country geographically and yet remains the focal point of news agencies worldwide and often the target of much criticism and attack. Maybe some of the criticism is justified? We'll talk about it another day...

But today, as the wailing memorial sirens begin to drift from our chilled spines and we begin the quick and difficult transition into the celebratory world of Independence Day, let us not forget those who have fallen (soldiers and civilians) in defense of this interesting, Holy and ever-exciting Land and may we be blessed with a secure, just and honest peace for all in the coming year.

Keep KIC-ing along with me - I look forward to your thoughts too!