Friday, April 30, 2010

Palestinian Israelis, the Arab World and Gadhafi

I usually don't understand it when Israeli authorities deny Palestinian citizens of Israel the right to travel to Arab countries. They are part of the Arab world, and should be able to interact with their fellow Arabs. This is especially true when it comes to cultural interaction. When the government recently denied author Ala Hlehel the right to travel to Lebanon to accept a reward at an Arab literary festival, the Supreme Court rightly stepped in and allowed him to go to Lebanon.

There should be certain limits to the right to travel to Arab countries, though. Meeting with leaders and terrorist groups to plot against Israel should not be tolerated.

That's not exactly what the delegation of Arab Knesset Members did when it visited Muammar Gadhafi in Libya this week. It was just bizzare. Why suck up to such an eccentric, ruthless leader? I don't think the MK's should be punished for this trip. It doesn't seem anything threatening to Israel came out of it. The only thing that was threatened was these particular MK's reputations.

Salman Masalha, an Israeli Arab, expressed his own frustration in yesterday's Haaretz. It's an interesting read. Here it is in English, and here it is in Hebrew.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mourning on the Anniversary of Israeli Independence

In Israel, Independence Day is oddly coupled with Memorial Day, the day we remember our fallen soldiers. First comes Memorial Day, followed immediately by Independence Day. Jewish holidays begin at sundown of the day before, and even the civil holidays and remembrance days in Israel follow this tradition. For this reason, at 8 PM sharp on the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, we go from manic to depressive. We stop crying and start celebrating.

This odd coupling has created a situation where our public schools don't celebrate independece. They can't do that on the day before Independence Day, because that's Memorial Day and schools have ceremonies for the dead. Some schools might have celebrations on the day after Independence Day, but many don't.

Another oddity of the Memorial Day/Independence Day duo is that by law, if the 4th of Iyar falls on a Sunday, then Memorial Day is pushed to Monday so Memorial Day Eve would not come immediately after the Sabbath, and then Independence Day is pushed to Tuesday. That means that, absurdly, on the anniversary of the declaration of independence, the 5th of Iyar, Israelis don't celebrate but rather mourn. That's the situation this year.

Imagine if every few years the United States would celebrate Independence Day on the 5th of July and held a day of mourning on the 4th of July. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Well, that's how we do it in Israel.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Lost" Theorizing: What the Timelines Are

If you haven't watched "Happily Ever After", the eleventh episode of the sixth season of "Lost", you might not want to continue reading. Spoilers ahead.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Anat Kam: Whistleblower or Spy?

Following a request by the prosecution, the court has lifted most of the gag order concerning the "Mysterious Security Affair", which has been in place for 4 months. I didn't expect to learn anything new, since I thought the foreign press has already published everything, but I was surprised to find some details that, if true and not prosecutors' spin, have given me more confidence in our justice system.

Until now, I thought the story was this: Anat Kam, a young gossip columnist, gave a couple of secret documents to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau in which Major General Yair Naveh, head of the Central Command, wrote illegal orders and instructions allowing soldiers to kill terrorist suspects even if they don't pose a threat to the forces. Kam was a whistleblower revealing the army's disregard for Israeli law and our own supreme court's decisions while Uri Blau was a good investigative reporter who had to flee from prosecutors who are unfamiliar with the concept of a free press.

Now, after reading the new information, the government sounds a lot less sinister, and Anat Kam a lot less innocent. It is not just two or three documents that she has. She is accused of stealing about 2,000 top secret documents, with very sensitive information. Most of it isn't about illegal actions by the army but about operational plans and troop movements. The most sensitive stuff there is. Our enemies would love to get their hands on this.

The gag order was even more counterproductive than I thought. Not only did many Israelis know about this affair from the internet, they got a distorted picture. If the accusations against Anat Kam are true, she deserves a few years in jail.

Uri Blau is now in negotiations with authorities over whether he'd be forced to testify against Kam and what materials that he got from her he'll have to return and destroy. He shouldn't have to testify. The big question in my mind is what documents he still has. If he has top secret information that would endanger soldiers, he should return it or destroy it. He shouldn't be forced to return materials that are uncomfortable to the army but don't endanger Israeli security.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Say No to the Gag Order

The freedom of the press in Israel is under attack. No less. I can't elaborate because of a gag order on the case. I'm pretty sure the authorities wouldn't do anything against a lowly, almost completely unread blogger like myself, but I still won't risk it. All I can say for now is something that I'm pretty sure doesn't fall under the gag order: an Israeli journalist has fled the country and will not return until authorities guarantee he will not be prosecuted. Sounds bad enough, doesn't it? Unfortunately, that's not all of it.

On April 12 the supreme court will hear Israeli media outlets' arguments in favor of allowing the press to report on this matter. Their main argument will certainly be that the Israeli public has a right to hear about this. It might have some aspects that should not be revealed because of national security, but most of the info should be out there - including the names of people involved. A second argument would be that foreign media has already reported this story and any Israeli with an internet connection (which is almost everybody) can find it all on-line, as I have. Israel's leading newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, even published an article decrying the gag order without giving any details, except for telling people to google "Israeli journalist gag" (in English).

I believe the supreme court will remove the gag order. I see it as the only option, if our democracy and freedom of the press is still strong.

It's hard to describe why this gag order and the whole case behind it is so undemocratic without going into details, so I guess I'll just have to to wait until I'll be able to say whatever I want.

Update (April 8): The gag order has been removed. See my newer post on the matter for details on the Anat Kam-Uri Blau Security Affair (yes, I can name them now).