Media Roundup: Mufti Memes, BDS, and Jerusalem

(Photo Credit: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/

The Mufti Made Me Do It 

Netanyahu and the Mufti memes, part deux, +972 – 22 October 

From The Simpsons, to Seinfeld to Joe Biden, Israelis keep poking fun at their prime minister for his comments earlier this week, in which he seemingly absolving Hitler of responsibility for the Holocaust. (See part one.)


By midday Tuesday even the German government felt the need to responded to Netanyahu’s revisionist history, putting out a statement saying: “We see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.”

One Israeli tied in the current refugee crisis in Germany with Netanyahu’s Mufti comments. “If you expel them, they’ll all come here,” German Chancellor is portrayed as telling Netanyahu, who is currently on a visit to Germany. “So what do you propose?” Netanyahu responds, in the Hebrew-language meme.


Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

In the Washington Post, Steven Levitsky (Harvard) and Glen Weyl (University of Chicago) support of BDS:

We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel, Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl, Washington Post – 23 October

The occupation has become permanent. Nearly half a century after the Six-Day War, Israel is settling into the apartheid-like regime against which many of its former leaders warned. The settler population in the West Bank has grown 30-fold, from about 12,000 in 1980 to 389,000 today. The West Bank is increasingly treated as part of Israel, with the green line demarcating the occupied territories erased from many maps. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin declared recently that control over the West Bank is “not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism.”

This “basic fact” poses an ethical dilemma for American Jews: Can we continue to embrace a state that permanently denies basic rights to another people? Yet it also poses a problem from a Zionist perspective: Israel has embarked on a path that threatens its very existence. […] 

It is thus, reluctantly but resolutely, that we are refusing to travel to Israel, boycotting products produced there and calling on our universities to divest and our elected representatives to withdraw aid to Israel. Until Israel seriously engages with a peace process that either establishes a sovereign Palestinian state or grants full democratic citizenship to Palestinians living in a single state, we cannot continue to subsidize governments whose actions threaten Israel’s long-term survival.

Elsewhere, in the Guardian, about more than 150 British authors – including Harry Potter‘s JK Rowling – have come out against the cultural boycott of Israel:

Star authors call for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue rather than boycotts, Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian – 22 October

JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Simon Schama and Zoë Wanamaker are among more than 150 figures from arts and politics who have signed a letter announcing Culture for Coexistence, published by the Guardian.

“Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace,” the letter says. “Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict.”

The signatories endorse a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “so that the national self-determination of both peoples is realised”.

The letter concludes: “Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change. We wholly endorse encouraging such a powerful tool for change rather than boycotting its use.”

After the leftist website Counterpunch published a critic of the letter by Omar Robert Hamilton (filmmaker, writer, and producer of the Palestine Festival of Literature), JK Rowling responded to the criticism; which was also published on Counterpunch:

I’ve had a number of readers asking for more information about why I am not joining a cultural boycott of Israel, so here it is:

As the Guardian letter I co-signed states, the signatories hold different views on the actions of the current Israeli administration. Speaking purely for myself, I have deplored most of Mr Netanyahu’s actions in office. However, I do not believe that a cultural boycott will force Mr Netanyahu from power, nor have I ever heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict.

If any effects are felt from the proposed boycott, it will be by ordinary Israelis, many of whom did not vote for Mr Netanyahu. Those Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against – to take random examples – North Korea and Zimbabwe, whose leaders are not generally considered paragons by the international community.

The sharing of art and literature across borders constitutes an immense power for good in this world. The true human cost of the Palestinian conflict was seared upon my consciousness, as upon many others’, by the heart-splitting poetry of Mahmoud Darwish. In its highest incarnation, as exemplified by Darwish, art civilises, challenges and reminds us of our common humanity. At a time when the stigmatisation of religions and ethnicities seems to be on the rise, I believe strongly that cultural dialogue and collaboration is more important than ever before and that cultural boycotts are divisive, discriminatory and counter-productive.

Mr. Hamilton offered a final response:

Dear Ms Rowling,

I don’t know if you read my response in Counterpunch to your signing the Cultures of CoExistence letter. I hope you will take the two minutes it asks of you. You’ve since expanded on your position and so, although I may be speaking to an empty room here, I feel I should step in again.

Firstly, the cultural boycott is not designed to force Mr Netanyahu from power. If it were not Mr Netanyahu in power it would have been Mr. Herzog and his track record leaves us no reason to hope he would be the kind of visionary leader needed to bring a just resolution to the great injustices that Zionism has wrought upon Palestine. The cultural boycott is designed to isolate institutions that are directly collaborating with the Israeli government in the ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestine. The cultural, economic and political boycott is designed to bring justice for the Palestinian people.

It is misrepresentative to suggest that BDS is a blunt instrument that blindly targets people based on their ethnicity. That’s what Israel does. BDS, on the other hand, is a carefully considered campaign based on ethical principles. It does not target individuals, it does not target people for their beliefs; it targets institutions that profit from death and their brand ambassadors, it targets people who, by accepting money, make themselves complicit with the Israeli state.

Let’s take two examples.

Gal Gadot is an Israeli actress soon to be an international star for playing Wonder Woman. She served in the Israeli Army and has no problem acting as a representative of her country. However, as no Israeli state institutions contributed to the financing of her films, she is not someone that would be targeted by BDS.

Idan Raichel, on the other hand, has hosted gala fundraisers for the Israeli Army and provided morale boosting entertainment for soldiers on active duty in the most recent assault on Gaza. In his own words, Raichel said “I believe that our role as artists is to be engaged in the Israeli propaganda campaign [Hasbara].”

Mr Raichel is the kind of artist that BDS targets.

It is laid out very clearly on the website for the Palestinain Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

BDS targets artists, companies and institutions that are in the service of the state and its policy of ethnic cleansing.

You ask why we don’t boycott North Korea? This is a question often asked by Israeli apologists and the answer is simple: North Korea has no international cultural propaganda programme to boycott. How many state-sponsored celebrations of North Korean culture are happening this year? How many North Korean lobbyists are at work in Washington DC? How many popstars have had to rescind tweets against North Korea? The answer is zero.

BDS does not stop the sharing of art or of literature across borders. BDS stops government-sponsored propaganda from masquerading unchallenged as art. BDS demands that art be art and that artists speak for themselves and not be mouthpieces of an apartheid regime. Real cultural dialogue between individuals or institutions not affiliated with the state is of no interest to this campaign. What BDS targets is state-sponsored smokescreening designed to buy Israel more time to conquer more land.

As a signatory to BDS there would be no preventing you from talking and working with as many ‘ordinary Israelis’ as you like. In fact, it would guarantee that this sector about whom you are so concerned is identified. Israelis resistant to their state’s policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid are welcomed with open arms. But those that profit from it: they are the ones that we are no longer interested in dialogue with.

I believe that if you consider this carefully you will find that it is actually BDS, and not the Cultures of Co-Existence Clan, that is in line with your stated principles.

A photo of a Palestinian lawyer kicking back an Israeli tear gas canister went viral due to the resemblance of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry uniform in Harry Potter. (Photo Credit: Unknown).
A photo of a Palestinian lawyer kicking back an Israeli tear gas canister went viral due to the resemblance of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry uniform in Harry Potter. (Photo Credit: Unknown).

BDS Campus

As the momentum in support of BDS on U.S. college campuses continues to grow, so have university administrative efforts – often due to pressure from pro-Israel groups and individuals –  to silence pro-Palestinian activism often in the name of upholding a “safe space” for pro-Israel Jewish students who feel “uncomfortable” hearing criticism of Israel. While guarding the “comfort zone,” as it were, of pro-Israel students gets a lot of attention, pro-Palestinian students often face direct harassment and intimidation:

SJP Chicago members harassed, threatened, Adeeba Mabruk, Palestine in America – 24 October

Members of SJP at the University of Chicago launched a poster campaign in solidarity with victims of Israeli violence. The posters were displayed all over campus on various bulletin boards. Since then, SJP at U of C experienced backlash.

Posters were taken down and vandalized within the same hour that they were put up, according to U of C SJP member and Ph.D student Alex Shams. […] 

On Monday, posters were put up that used the SJP logo and the U of C emblem stating: SJP – Stabbing Jews for Peace.


“The posters don’t make any argument, or present any facts. They are primarily used to slander SJP and attack students who are standing for justice for Palestinians on their campus. This aggressive lashing out is indicative of their juvenile response and their inability to respond with reasoned arguments,” said Shams.

SJP students are planning on reaching out to administration to report the type of harassment and to see how this sort of climate can be addressed. 

Members of SJP at the University of Illinois at Chicago held a die-in and peaceful demonstration in the quad on its campus. Hundreds of students rallied outside and participated in the action that happened during a passing period in the afternoon.

On Monday a member of the UIC chapter (PiA has elected not to name the member because of safety concerns) was sent a threat to his personal email from an anonymous person stating:


“Pro-Israel students on campus are the ones to always claim ‘unsafe’ from actions and peaceful demonstrations that we do, yet they are the ones sending threatening emails to our members. This kind of behavior and hostility is not acceptable. It is ironic that they go to administration, yet are the ones inflicting physical harm threats,” the threatened student told PiA.

Elsewhere in Great Britain, the atmosphere for pro-BDS campus activism is markedly different:

UK academics sever ties with Israeli universities, Megan O’Toole, al Jazeera International – 27 October 

(Photo Credit: EPA)
(Photo Credit: EPA)

Hundreds of university professors in the United Kingdom say they will halt all cooperation with Israeli schools in an effort to draw attention to Israel’s violations of international law.

In a statement released on Tuesday, 343 UK academics announced that they would no longer accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions, act as referees in any of their processes, or participate in conferences funded or organised by them.

“We couldn’t have done this five years ago. The change in mood is palpable; many people have been critical of Israel and its policies privately, but until now, many have not thought they wanted to state this publicly,” London School of Economics professor Jonathan Rosenhead, who helped to organise the academic commitment, told Al Jazeera.

Violence in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, in context, Noam Sheizaf, +972 – 19 October 

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a powerful piece in The Atlantic last week claiming to scrutinize Palestinian violence through the history of Jewish and Arab ties to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif over the past 100 years. (“The paranoid, supremacist roots of the stabbing Intifada,” the headline reads.) Goldberg starts by discussing Palestinian “paranoia” over Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and ends with a broader, more common claim: that the Palestinian refusal to recognize Jewish ties to the land of Israel is the primary source of the conflict’s intractability, replete with its frequent rounds of violence. […] 

[…] history has proven that Palestinian fears about Jewish intentions regarding the Temple Mount and Old City of Jerusalem were not entirely irrational. There is a large, powerful camp in Israel that would like to change the status quo on the mount; it includes more than half of the Likud party, which has always been obsessed with the Temple Mount. Polls find that an overwhelming majority of the national-religious public supports Jewish visits to the site, and one-fifth have already visited it. […] 

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Just like with demands to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State” (rather as “the State of Israel,” something the Palestinians already did in 1993), Goldberg’s insistence that the Palestinians abandon their historical narrative in favor of the Jewish or the Israeli one is an attempt to force on them a maximalist abstract notion which prevents the pragmatic, political compromise at hand.

And that’s exactly what’s missing from Goldberg’s piece. History and political context. […] 

The largest share of stabbing attacks (19 out of 49 incidents, according to analyst Nehemia Gershuni-Aylho’s count) were carried out by Jerusalemites, who comprise less than 15 percent of Palestinians west of the Jordan River, excluding Gaza. (The second largest number of attacks, 12, were in Hebron and the surrounding settlements.) Do religious Muslims from Umm el-Fahm or Nablus care any less about Haram al-Sharif? Are they less “paranoid” or “supremacist?” It seems that some other factors are also at play here and should be taken into account when attempting to put the current wave of violence in context.

What actually makes Jerusalem and Hebron unique is that both have mixed Jewish-Palestinian populations, each with separate and unequal legal statuses. Following the 1967 war, Israel annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem (including the Old City) and more than 20 villages and towns surrounding it. What is referred to in the Israeli media as “East Jerusalem” is actually an area 10 times larger than what constituted the eastern part of the city under Jordanian rule, with more than 300,000 people living it, including over 50,000 refugees in the Shuafat refugee camp.

Although these people hold blue Israeli identity cards, they are not citizens, only “permanent residents” (a legal term usually reserved for foreigners). They cannot purchase land, participate in general elections, and if they leave the country for several years they risk of losing their status and never being able to return. Furthermore, East Jerusalem is one of the most neglected areas in Israel, with skyrocketing poverty and unemployment and a contemptuous lack of municipal services.

The last decade saw two developments in the city, the importance of which in changing the reality in Jerusalem cannot be exaggerated. The first is the construction of the concrete separation wall between Jerusalem and the West Bank, leaving almost a third of the Palestinians in a no-man’s land, cut off from both Jerusalem and the PA — without municipal services at all. These neighborhoods, along with those left fully on the West Bank side of the wall, have become hotbeds of lawlessness, ranging from unauthorized and unsupervised construction to criminal activity. Israeli police don’t serve and protect the Palestinian population in these areas: when police do go in they enter military style to make an occasional arrest, and then leave.

Occupied Gaza

UpFront – Reality Check: Gaza is still occupied, al Jazeera English YouTube – 23 October 


Occupied Jerusalem 

Strict movement restrictions in East Jerusalem are prohibited collective punishment of PalestiniansB’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – 21 October

Roadblock in the neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabber. (Photo Credit: ‘Amer ‘Aruri/B'Tselem)
Roadblock in the neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabber. (Photo Credit: ‘Amer ‘Aruri/B’Tselem)

Since 14 Oct. 2015, Israeli security forces in Jerusalem have begun to impose a closure policy as decided at a cabinet meeting that day. As part of this policy, staffed checkpoints and concrete roadblocks have been put into position at various entry points to Palestinian villages and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, as well as on internal roads. On 18 Oct. 2015, B’Tselem’s field researcher documented 35 of these (data updated on 21 Oct.):

  • 21 concrete roadblocks completely preventing the passage of vehicles. Four of these roadblocks are staffed by Border Police officers who check pedestrians wishing to cross (one of these, on the road from el-‘Esawiyah to Hadassah Mt. Scopus Hospital, is made of rocks and soil and has been in place for many years, but has only recently been staffed by police officers). The remaining 16 roadblocks are not staffed.
  • 14 checkpoints staffed by Border Police officers allow the passage of traffic subject to random inspections of the vehicles and passengers.

These new checkpoints and roadblocks are in addition to the 12 permanent checkpoints that divide East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and from a number of East Jerusalem neighborhoods whose residents have been abandoned beyond the Separation Barrier. Over the last few days, B’Tselem has also documented several flying checkpoints in various parts of the city at which police officers have stopped traffic and inspected drivers and passengers. Yesterday, 19 Oct. 2015, Israeli media reported that certain relaxations may be introduced in the movement restrictions over the coming days and that a small number of roadblocks had already been removed.

Déjà vu in Jerusalem

Intifada Childhood, Ruth Margalit, New Yorker – 27 October 


In recent days, in light of the bloodshed, you hear a lot of Jerusalemites, current and former, talk about a feeling of déjà vu. It sounds hackneyed and jaded—this we’ve seen it all before. But how can we not say it? When that bomb went off in downtown Jerusalem, in 1997, the Prime Minister was a fresh-faced newcomer named Benjamin Netanyahu. He had ridden a hot wave of jingoism all the way to office, and then tried to appease the international community by making empty diplomatic overtures. Almost twenty years later, not much has changed (including his infuriating, reality-defying comments about the mufti of Jerusalem having planted the idea for the Final Solution in Hitler, which he first made in the early nineteen-nineties). Just as Netanyahu offered no political vision to Israelis and Palestinians during his first term in office, the same is true during his fourth. His professed strategy of “managing the conflict” isn’t a strategy at all; it’s a ticking clock.

If a lot seems familiar about the tense climate in Israel, it’s worth recalling not only the example of Netanyahu but also that of Shamir, another Likud Prime Minister who faced a wave of street stabbings. Back then it was the murder of a fifteen-year-old girl, on her way to school in the city of Bat Yam, in 1992, that sent Israelis to the streets in protest. Those protests, and the overriding sense of helplessness, precipitated his and Likud’s downfall and gave rise to a voice that offered hope.

These days, hopeful voices are hard to find. An eerie quiet has settled over Jerusalem. In the evenings, the city’s parks are empty, except for solitary joggers who occasionally pass through. Otherwise, the parks are silent but for a persistent droning from above: a police helicopter is patrolling overhead.

Coming Soon?

The Israeli organization Peace Now put out a video promoting a two-state solution as an alternative to what a de facto one-state solution of continued Israeli occupation entails:


48 Years Of Occupation

Confessions of an Israeli traitor, Assaf Gavron, Washington Post – 23 October 


There have been calls to kill attackers in every situation, in defiance of the law or any accepted rules of engagement for the military. Lapid, for example, said in an interview, “Don’t hesitate. Even at the start of an attack, shooting to kill is correct. If someone is brandishing a knife, shoot him.” Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan also gave his blessing to that notion. And the head of the Jerusalem police department, Moshe Edri, announced, “Anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocent people is due to be killed.” Knesset member Yinon Magal tweeted that authorities should “make an effort” to kill terrorists who carry out attacks.

Such sentiment has led to incidents like the death in East Jerusalem of Fadi Alloun, suspected of a knife attack but shot by police as they had him surrounded. Sometimes, it backfires: This month, a Jewish vigilante near Haifa stabbed a fellow Israeli Jew who he thought was an Arab. Late Wednesday, soldiers killed an Israeli Jew whom they mistook for a Palestinian attacker.

The low point (so far) was last Sunday night’s lynching of 29-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum, mistakenly identified as a perpetrator of a terrorist attack in Beersheba. Zarhum was shot by a security guard then beaten to death by a mob of passers-by in a predictable response to the incitement from our own politicians to kill as revenge. And the increasingly intolerant, boiling, racist tone of the Israeli conversation is — there is no other way to put this — a result of 48 years of occupying another people: of Israelis receiving a message (or at least understanding it as such) that we are superior to others, that we control the fate of those lesser others, that we are allowed to disregard laws and any basic notions of human morality with regard to Palestinians.

2016 Presidential Campaign 

Follow our coverage of the candidates in our Special Series on 2016 Presidential Election.

A few candidates have spoken out on the recent violence in Jerusalem.

Rand Paul: Greater Palestinian Freedom Could Ease Violence, Daniel Marans, Huffington Post – 21 October

“Now, I don’t fault Israel at all for how they defend themselves, they have to do what they have to do,” [Republican presidential candidate Rand] Paul added.

But Paul suggested that if Israel allowed greater commerce in the West Bank and Gaza, it would lessen some of the violence.

“It’s going to be incremental change, where maybe there’s more trade, the West Bank’s allowed a little more autonomy with trade, maybe a little more control over the tariff fees that go in and out of the West Bank,” Paul said. “Little things like that — maybe eventually allowing Gaza to have a port, maybe under the joint authority of Israel and others.”

Daily Kickoff: O’Malley on violence in Israel, Jewish Journal – 26 October 

During a speech to the Arab American Institute’s national leadership conference in Dearborn, Michigan, [Democrat [presidential candidate Martin] O’Malley addressed the recent violence in Israel and the West Bank […] 

“We’ve lost 50 Palestinians in recent violence, many of them teenagers – their entire lives before them. We’ve lost 8 Israelis, including an American couple shot in front of their young children. Some people in this room have family members who’ve been affected, no doubt, some of them for generations… all of them are brothers and sisters, and all of them leave behind bereaved families with holes in their hearts.

“This senseless violence produces nothing but tragedy and more distrust, and it does not move the people and the parties closer to a peaceful and long-lasting resolution,” said O’Malley. “Both sides have to take steps to end this violence and address the underlying cause of it. Both sides have to make the resumption of discussion, talk and dialogue to include a fair, safe and adequate access to sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Provocative actions on either side must be avoided.” 

Rabin’s Legacy

Twenty years to the Rabin assassination: Martin Indyk talks about his legacy, Shmuel Rosner, Jewish Journal – 26 October

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk recently discussed the tenure of late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

There’s a story that I tell in my book in which I describe the event that was held here in Washington after Arafat and Rabin had signed the Oslo II Agreement, which was for the disengagement from the West Bank. The original disengagement from 40% of the West Bank. That evening, in the art gallery across from the White House, there was a big reception that the President hosted for the leaders. Mubarak was there. King Hussein was there, and the Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia was there. Rabin got up and spoke and he didn’t have prepared remarks and he said: “what we need, Mr. Chairman” – Addressing Arafat – “what we need is separation, not out hatred, but out of respect.”

It was the first time he’d actually talked about a Palestinian state, because there’s no Palestinian state in Oslo. He had not agreed to it. He’d only agreed to an interim process. He didn’t shut it off, but there was not a word in there about state-hood. In this speech, he began to address it and it was in the context of separation, which, if you remember, was his driving vision – the solution was to separate the two populations and part of the reason he was so against settlements was because settlements made it so much more difficult. Separation, but out of respect, not out of hatred. That’s what I think about when I think about Rabin. […]

For that to work required a relationship of trust between the leaders which Rabin had cultivated with Arafat. On the other hand, he was also tough on Arafat. Rabin was the one that closed Gaza the first time. It was a pretty devastating closure. It was after the first terrorist attacks. He imposed a really tough closure on Gaza. He was not at all afraid of taking tough actions to pressure Arafat to control the situation, but at the same time, Arafat had the incentive to control the situation because he understood that Rabin was serious about finding a way to achieve Palestinian aspirations. […] 

The alternative to a two state solution is no solution. It’s the kind of situation of chronic conflict that we now are living through. Every year or so, some horrendous eruption of violence and then things settle down, and we’ll continue to manage a conflict that can’t be managed. Rabin reached across the abyss of conflict and bloodshed and shook hands with his enemy, Yasser Arafat, out of an understanding that what Israelis needed was separation out of trust, not out of hatred.

Hummus to Share

Israeli hummus cafe gives Jewish-Arab tables half off, Cajsa Wikstrom, al Jazeera – 20 October

(Photo Credit: Hummus Bar)
(Photo Credit: Hummus Bar)

A hummus cafe in Israel is giving a 50 percent discount to tables mixing Jewish and Arab diners, in a campaign the owner hopes will bring people together as dozens of people have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence this month.

Kobi Tzafrir, the owner of Humus Bar in the town of Kfar Vitkin, initially posted the offer on Facebook.

“With us we don’t have Arabs! But we also don’t have Jews… With us we’ve got human beings! Real excellent Arab hummus! Excellent Jewish falafel!”, the post, which by Monday evening had been shared more than 1,000 times, read.

Tzafrir told Al Jazeera he wanted to show that there are a lot of Arabs and Jews who are not taking part in the violent events reported in the media.

“We want to show that we’re all human beings, just like each other, not so different,” he said over the phone.

Tzafrir said at least three tables took up the offer of discounted chickpea paste on Monday. But there were more mixed tables, he said, with some customers turning down the offer to pay less – instead paying the full price to support the initiative.

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