Israel Supreme Court expels human rights activist

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director, looks up before his hearing at Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem, Sep 24, 2019. (photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
The government’s real motivation was to hamper Human Rights Watch activities in the country. Previously, Shakir had been forced to leave Egypt and Syria over his human rights work, and was denied an entry visa to Bahrain.

By Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Nov 5, 2019

‘The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights. If the government now deports a Human Rights Watch’s researcher for asking businesses to respect rights as we do across the world, there’s no telling whom it will throw out next.’
— Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the government could expel the head of Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine office after accusing him of supporting boycotts against the country.

The ruling represents the likely culmination of the protracted effort to remove Omar Shakir, a US citizen, and marks an escalation in Israel’s determination to prevent critics from operating in the country under new laws that equate support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) with challenging Israel’s right to exist.

Others have been denied entry visas under the laws, including two US congresswomen in August, but Shakir, who first had his work permit revoked in May 2018, would be the first to be expelled. He has 20 days to leave the country. . . .

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There will be a one-state solution

Waiting for a state: Palestinians at a checkpoint in Bethlehem, Aug 2010. (photo: Jeppe Schilder / Alamy Stock Photo)
But what kind of state will it be?

By Yousef Munayyer | Foreign Affairs | Oct 15, 2019 (Nov/Dec 2019 print edition)

For nearly three decades, the so-called two-state solution has dominated discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the idea of two states for two peoples in the territory both occupy was always an illusion, and in recent years, reality has set in. The two-state solution is dead. And good riddance: it never offered a realistic path forward. The time has come for all interested parties to instead consider the only alternative with any chance of delivering lasting peace: equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians in a single shared state.

It has been possible to see this moment coming for quite a while. As he tried to rescue what had become known as “the peace process,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that the two-state solution had one to two years left before it would no longer be viable. That was six years ago. Resolution 2334, which the UN Security Council passed with U.S. consent in late 2016, called for “salvaging the two-state solution” by demanding a number of steps, including an immediate end to Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories. That was three years ago. And since then, Israel has continued to build and expand settlements.

The arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House put the final nail in the coffin. “I am looking at two-state, and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump explained in February 2017. Policy wonks and seasoned diplomats rolled their eyes at the reality-TV celebrity turned commander in chief describing the options as if they were dishes on a buffet table. But the remark indicated a genuine shift: since the current phase of the peace process began in the early 1990s, no U.S. president had ever before publicly suggested accepting a single state. What Trump had in mind has become clear in the years that have followed, as he and his team have approved a right-wing Israeli wish list aimed at a one-state outcome — but one that will enshrine Israeli dominance over Palestinian subjects, not one that will grant the parties equal rights.

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The end of asylum

A boat full of lifejackets on the Greek island of Lesbos, Nov 2015. (photo: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)
Around the world, rich and poor countries alike are pulling up their drawbridges, slashing the number of refugees they are willing to accept, and denying asylum to those who might have been admitted in the past.

By Nanjala Nyabola | Foreign Affairs | Oct 10, 2019

Derived from the ancient Greek asulos, which roughly translates to ‘inviolable,’ the word ‘asylum’ first entered the English lexicon in the late Middle Ages, when it was understood to mean ‘an inviolable shelter or protection from pursuit or arrest.’ By definition, an asylum seeker was a person who sought a form of protection that could never be violated, broken, or infringed upon.

A small tent city is taking shape in Tapachula, on the Mexican-Guatemalan border, and its inhabitants are living proof of the systematic erosion of one of the foundational principles of the post–World War II international order. The residents are primarily refugees and migrants from African countries who fled political persecution, social upheaval, and economic uncertainty, taking one of the longest and most perilous migration routes in the world in the hope of reaching the United States.

Until recently, most would have been granted a 21-day grace period to either normalize their residency status in Mexico or continue on to the U.S. border. But since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that the administration of President Donald Trump can deny asylum to anyone who has crossed a third country en route to the U.S. border, Mexico has started denying Africans free passage through its territory. And so the migrants arriving in Tapachula have nowhere to go. They are trapped between hard-line U.S. asylum policies, Mexico’s acquiescence to those policies, and a growing global backlash against anyone seeking asylum.

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No matter how many Palestinians vote in Israeli elections, we still can’t win

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List coalition of Palestinian parties, votes in Haifa, Israel, in Tuesday’s election. His group will be the third-largest bloc in the next Knesset. (photo: Ariel Schalit / AP)
Whether Netanyahu or Gantz forms the next government, the right-wing policies will remain the same.

By Henriette Chacar | The Washington Post | Sep 20, 2019

By giving only a certain class of Palestinians the right to vote, Israel maintains a veneer of democracy, even though more than 75 percent of Palestinians who live under varying degrees of its rule are disenfranchised.

As polling in Israel came to a close Tuesday night, my family turned on the news to watch the results trickle in. Flashes of blue and white fired from the screen onto my brother’s face, revealing a sense of relief and confusion. Despite — or perhaps because of — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rampant racist rhetoric in recent weeks, about 60 percent of eligible Palestinian voters participated in the elections, up by 10 percentage points over turnout in the April elections, which left no party able to form a government. The Joint List, the slate uniting non-Zionist Palestinian and Jewish candidates, will be the third-largest party in the Knesset, with 13 seats.

“That’s great, no?” my brother asked.

Well, it’s complicated.

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Arab parties throw support behind Gantz

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin consults with Likud party members in Jerusalem on Sunday, Sep 22, 2019. (photo: Menahem Kahana / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)
It is unclear how Rivlin will get the sides to cooperate, after their campaigns promised not to be part of a government that included certain candidates or certain parties.

By Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post| Sep 22, 2019

‘We will recommend Benny Gantz as prime minister. We want to return to be legitimate political actors and bring an end to the Netanyahu government.’
— Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List [of Arab Israeli parties]

In a historic move, an alliance of Arab Israeli parties recommended a prime ministerial candidate to President Reuven Rivlin for the first time in almost three decades, saying in consultations Sunday that it would support a bid by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz to replace Benjamin Netanyahu.

The process of selecting Israel’s next prime minister has entered its second stage, with eyes firmly on the country’s largely ceremonial president as he looks for a way out of a deadlocked election result to avert a third vote.

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Israeli elections: Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and his wife wave to supporters in Tel Aviv on Sep 18. (photo: AFP)
Regardless of what new coalition government emerges, Israel has broken no new ground on resolving its largest problem.

By Richard Silverstein | Middle East Eye | Sep 18, 2019

But Israel is not a secular democracy. It is rather an ethnocracy, in which the rights of Palestinian citizens are subordinated to those of Jews. No ruling Israeli coalition has ever included Palestinian parties.

Israel’s second election in the past five months has led to yet another political stalemate. As occurred in April, the two main political parties, the far-right Likud and center-right Blue and White, fought to a virtual tie.

The political kingmaker today, as he was in April, is Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu. In the last election, he refused to offer his party’s seats to a Likud-led coalition headed by his once-patron and now arch-rival, Benjamin Netanyahu. This is what led to the current round of voting.

Though it is hard to predict what Lieberman will do, he is holding out for a secular “unity government” consisting of Likud and Blue and White. His main aims are to keep the Orthodox parties out of the ruling coalition and pass a military draft law to compel currently-exempt Orthodox youth to join the army.

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Netanyahu is in trouble, and other takeaways from the Israeli election

Ponomarev / The New York Times)
Israeli voters went to the polls on Tuesday for the second time in five months. The results aren’t certain, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to gain the support he had hoped for, and Israeli Arabs are poised to become the third largest party in the Knesset.

By Megan Specia | The New York Times| Sep 18, 2019

•  Netanyahu’s reign appears to be fading. He had hoped to achieve a stronger mandate this time around, with the support of smaller parties on the religious right, but he seems to have made no gains and the support of those groups seems unlikely to be enough to form a governing coalition.
•  What happens now? Benny Ganz, whose broader bloc of center-left parties may give him the support he needs, may be able to form a coalition provided he can count on the backing of Mr. Liberman.
•  What will Mr. Liberman do? The secular ultranationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, which is expected to win nine seats in the Knesset, may have the potential to make or break a coalition. Its leader, Avigdor Liberman, appears to hold the power to be a kingmaker.
•  Arab voters came out in force. The Joint List of Arab parties — a coalition of the four largest Arab-majority parties — has regained the influence it lost in April and looks set to be the third-largest party in the Knesset, according to early results.

A day after Israel’s general election — the second in five months — there is still uncertainty about the final outcome, but it appears the long reign of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be coming to an end.

As expected, neither Mr. Netanyahu nor his main rival, the former army chief Benny Gantz, a centrist, won enough votes to claim an outright majority in the Israeli Parliament. Crucially, neither seems to have a straightforward path to forming a governing coalition with at least 61 of the 120 lawmakers in Parliament.

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How conservative American money helped the religious right take over Israel

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walking past a Likud party election campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in Jerusalem, Sep 11, 2019. (photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
The religious right is successfully dominating Israel’s public discourse — with the help of funding and tactics used in the US.

By Rami Hod and Yonatan Levi | Haaretz | Sep 17, 2019

Perhaps what is most remarkable about Israeli politics’ swerve to the right is that it has no parallel, or precedent, in public sentiment. The vast majority of Israelis still support the two-state solution, progressive economic policies and freedom of religion.

Regardless of the election results, the Israeli religious right is on the rise. The public face of its success may belong to Benjamin Netanyahu — a patently secular politician, whose weakness for luxurious nonkosher restaurants is a well-known fact in Israeli politics — but the long-term consequences of its ascent will outlive the career of any specific leader.

A closer look at the political camp Netanyahu has been heading for over a decade — from its key institutions, to its flagship legislation, to its grassroots organizations — reveals that most of the right’s ideas and energies don’t stem from the prime minister’s palatial villa in seaside Caesarea, but rather from a new political elite based in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank. It also indicates just how radically the Israeli right has changed in the past few years.

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Israeli Arabs get a second chance to oust Netanyahu. Will they use it?

Hazem Bader / AFP / Getty Images)
If 65 percent of the Arab citizens of Israel vote, Netanyahu won’t be prime minister anymore.

By David Halbfinger | The New York Times | Sep 14, 2019

Odeh’s ads practically beg Palestinian citizens to vote on Tuesday, saying that one million citizens, if they all voted, would translate into 28 seats [23%] in the Knesset.

Arab citizens of Israel have no love lost for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who routinely resorts to fear-mongering against them to rally his right-wing Jewish base. But when they had a chance to help toss him from office in April, fewer than half of eligible Arabs voted — a record low.

Now, with a do-over election on Tuesday, they have a second chance, and Israeli Arab leaders say they are doing things differently this time.

The often-overlooked Arab vote will be one of the most important subplots in this election, and could well determine Mr. Netanyahu’s fate. A robust enough turnout could deprive Mr. Netanyahu of the 61-seat majority in Parliament he needs to secure another term.

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“Less space to breathe” — Palestinian response to Israel’s annexation plans

The Old City of Jerusalem is seen from the Mount of Olives, Jan 13, 2017. (photo: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)
Given the Trump Administration’s support for Netanyahu, Palestinians now fear they will be pushed into a quasi-state comprised of Gaza and isolated plots of West Bank land, surrounded by Israeli settlements. Jerusalem isn’t even on the table.

By Dalia Hatuqa | Time | Sep 13, 2019

‘Annexation has been de facto the case for a long time, some might argue from the beginning of the occupation, but certainly since the Second Intifada [2000–2005]. But this process of creeping annexation has been gathering pace under Netanyahu’s government as officials push for formal annexation and have begun introducing bills to the Knesset in that direction.’
— Tareq Baconi, a Ramallah-based analyst with the International Crisis Group

On a chilly April evening, several elderly Palestinian men sat in a smoke-filled downtown Ramallah cafe watching the news. The anchor on the enormous flat-screen mounted on the wall read election results that would affect their lives in every way imaginable. The tally was not from Palestinian polls, which haven’t been held in 14 years, but next door, in Israel.

As the days went on, Palestinians saw how much Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was willing to secure an electoral victory, including vowing to annex West Bank settlements. They watched as Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, made compromises with the most fringe elements of the Israeli far-right to draw votes from his competitors. Though Netanyahu had won the elections, he failed to form a coalition, spurring a do-over that has left him more politically exposed than he has been in over a decade. And with that, he has gone even further to secure another victory in the next elections on Sept. 17: On Tuesday, he announced plans to annex the Jordan Valley, a large and important part of the West Bank, if his party wins.

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