This first post – Beachwashing? – previously appeared as an article on the blog titled Apartheid Sur Seine. It is being republished here as part of the Media Roundup.
The Electronic Intifada recently reported “‘Tel Aviv beach’ in Paris sparks outrage a year after Gaza slaughter”:
Palestine solidarity activists in France are expressing outrage that a “Tel Aviv beach” is being created in Paris to promote Israel.
For a few hours on 13 August, a section of river bank in the French capital near the Pont d’Arcole, will be turned into “Tel Aviv sur Seine” (Tel Aviv on the Seine), complete with falafel stands and “Israeli nightlife.”
According to Coolisraël, a website that markets Israel to a French-speaking audience, the propaganda event is a joint project of the Paris and Tel Aviv municipal governments.
[…] The city’s response, a copy of which was seen by The Electronic Intifada, states: “This festive day, open to all, underscores the strong cultural and high-tech ties between Paris and [Tel Aviv].”[…]
It adds – in a form of balancing rejected by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – that Paris plans to pursue “partnerships with Bethlehem,” in the occupied West Bank, “in the field of water management.”
BDS France, a national coalition that supports the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, has denounced Tel Aviv sur Seine.
“One year after Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in Gaza, less than one month after the Israeli parliament voted to authorize the force-feeding of prisoners, one week after the latest colonial violence burned alive the members of the Dawabsha family in Duma in the occupied West Bank killing 18-month old baby Ali, the incursion of Tel Aviv onto Paris Plage is a real provocation,” BDS France said in a statement.
“Tel Aviv is not a city like others,” BDS France added, “it is built on top of the ruins of seven Palestinian villages.”
BDS France called on the public to email Paris City Hall and to leave comments on Mayor [Anne] Hidalgo’s Facebook page.
. . .
#TelAvivSurSeine has been met with a hashtag backlash in #ApartheidSurSeine. It is not clear who is winning the Twitter war of information, as both hashtags are being used in roughly equal measure, although many tweeting #TelAvivSurSeine do so to tweet their opposition to the planned event. The Palestinian solidarity group Plateforme Palestine tweeted:
Some opponents are posting photos of devastation in Gaza next to the official promotion photos of #TelAvivSurSeine:
Many created YouTube videos contrasting Gaza’s beaches under attack with the idyllic image promoted by #TelAvivSurSeine:
In recent years, Israel has opted for a Brand Israel campaign highlighting the nation’s cultural and entertainment side in an effort to derail attention from the nearly fifty-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territories. Rather than recognize it has an image problem because it has an actual image, the Israeli leadership has chosen a PR approach over a policy reappraisal. In any case, the Israeli government is convinced it is not at fault for the conflict and opposition to a Palestinian state is so solidly anchored among the Israeli right wing that the current coalition government would probably prefer international isolation than placating foreign critics.
So if you’re unwilling to accept a Palestinian state—the source of grievance for critics of Israel—and if you’re also convinced that the seemingly interminable occupation is really irrelevant (i.e., critics are implacable anti-Semites just picking on Israel, no matter what it does), then why not throw a beach party?
Detractors have labeled such efforts #Pinkwashing (promoting Israel as a gay tourist destination), #Greenwashing (promoting Israel as environmentally friendly) or the old-fashioned #Whitewashing.
This new #Beachwashing may backfire as critics of Israeli occupation have seized the attention to relate their own criticisms of the country-at-large, whose political reality, they argue, is incongruous with the liberal and secular bubble of Tel Aviv.
In the last Israeli election, the Likud party – which heads the current right-wing ruling coalition – came a distant second to the center-left Zionist Union among voters in Tel Aviv. Nonetheless, Likud won eight of the ten largest cities in Israel and cobbled together a coalition with parties further to the right, which fared even worse in Tel Aviv. Israel’s right-wing and far-right parties appear to be keen to promote Tel Aviv’s convivial culture abroad while disdaining it at home. The nationalist-religious right that dominates Israeli politics and increasingly the nation’s culture are gradually remodeling the country in their own image, challenging the old Labor Zionist establishment (such as the recent effort to undermine the independence of the High Court), and foreclosing the possibility of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, a peace that would usher in the normalcy desired by many in Tel Aviv.
Instead of being reflective of Israel as a whole, marking campaigns centered around Tel Aviv—the very residual liberalism in Israel that the current government is at odds with and would rather see banished—serve to cloak an illiberal country with a veneer of liberalism that is an Israeli exception rather than the norm. It’s as if the Israeli right is telling its liberal counterparts: “We do not want liberalism here, but Tel Avivis will always have Paris.”
On opening day, organizers may have unwittingly reminded guests of the other Israel, the one with checkpoints for Arabs:
Many who turned out for #TelAvivSurSeine were greeted by protesters, some of whom were forcibly removed by police:
While French police removed Palestine solidarity activists, the police force apparently coordinated with the far-right and racist organization Ligue de Défense Juive—the French offshoot of the Jewish Defense League founded by the late American Rabbi Meir Kahane. The Israeli branch of the JDL was banned by the Knesset and a similar fate may await the French branch, as reported by theElectronic Intifada:
French police allowed members of the extremist Ligue de Défense Juive, including its founder Jean-Claude Nataf, to coordinate and direct security with them.
The national daily Libération reported that LDJ members moved around freely inside the “Tel Aviv beach” enclosure carrying walkie-talkies or wearing ear pieces.
The newspaper said that some of the LDJ members “went as far as following journalists and listening in to their conversations.” Nataf was “at the entrance, regularly speaking with the police.”
According to the news website Les InRocks police were allowing certain people to pass through the security checkpoint without being searched whenever Nataf vouched for them.
Asked by Libération whether LDJ’s presence was a problem, Paris City Hall said the event was “open to everyone. As long as they don’t hold a demonstration or hand out flyers, they have the right to be there.”
Last year, senior police sources told Libération that the interior ministry was considering banning LDJ under laws that prohibit “provocation of discrimination, hatred or violence for ethnic or religious motives” and that ban “private militias.”
Lastly, France24 reviewed the local press coverage of the event:
Death by Checkpoint
“Court Rules Compensation for Palestinian Woman Delayed at IDF Checkpoint With Dying Baby,” Revital Hovel, Ha’aretz – 13 August
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled last month to award 30,000 shekels in compensation to a Palestinian woman who was delayed at an Israel Defense Forces checkpoint with her 9-day-old baby boy dying in her arms.
In the lawsuit filed by the woman, Hashan Wakaman from the village of Alnasaria in the Nablus district seven years ago, she claimed that in November 2006 she was on her way to the hospital in Nablus because of her infant’s serious condition. She claimed that the soldiers at the checkpoint in did not allow the car in which she was traveling to pass, until an officer intervened. The infant died when they arrived at the hospital.
The plaintiff did not claim that her infant son died due to the delay at the checkpoint. Although she said that she believes that he died due to the behavior of the soldiers at the checkpoint, she explained that after she consulted with experts it was explained to her that she would have difficulty proving a causal connection between the death and the incident at the checkpoint.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions
“Why No One Ignores The Boycott Israel Movement Anymore,” Beenish Ahmed, Think Progress – 11 August
The campaign makes clear that it is “inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid,” but it has a long way to go and many roadblocks to navigate before it can have anywhere near the impact of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
Boycotts of corporations and divestment from Israel are not to be underestimated, but, as many historians have noted, the Anti-Apartheid Movement drew its most critical support from state actors — especially the U.S. government — who essentially forced the hand of private investors away from South Africa.
It was only when the U.S. became serious about the possibility of government enforced economic sanctions that “Disengagement became a self-interested option for risk-averse managers,” Kenneth A. Rodman, a professor of government, explained. That is, investors’ temptation to “buy low” in an already flailing economy was totally quashed by the threat that South African businesses would only tank if kept from exporting their goods because of sanctions.
But financial strain from divestment alone didn’t singlehandedly ring the death knell of Apartheid in South Africa. “Popular pressure led institutional investors to challenge the morality of profits obtained from collaboration with the repressive apartheid regime,” Cecelie Counts, a former Anti-Apartheid activist wrote in a New York Times op-ed. Divestment was only one part of “a very broad and well engaged struggle on a variety of fronts.”
Israel doesn’t have the same financial stake in the well-being of Palestinians who are not nearly as integrated into the Israeli economy as the black South Africans before Apartheid ended there in 1991. Unemployment is at a staggering 75 percent in the West Bank and Gaza, and only one in ten Palestinians over the age of 15 are employed in Israel or its settlements.
With the amount of support from foreign governments that Israel continues to receive along with its own booming economy, the BDS movement has a long way to go before it can influence Israeli policy towards Palestinian territory.
From Ferguson to Palestine
“St. Louis police bought Israeli skunk spray after Ferguson uprising,” Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada – 13 August
Three months after Ferguson erupted in protest over the police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) added an Israeli weapon called skunk to its protest-crushing arsenal, arms industry news website Defense One has confirmed.
Skunk is a crowd control “malodorant” developed by the Israeli police in collaboration with Odortec, an Israeli company that specializes in scent-based weapons, and tested on Palestinians.
Released at high pressure from a water cannon, canister or grenade, skunk liquid emits an odor — described as a mix of rotting animal carcass, raw sewage and human excrement — that sticks to walls, clothing, hair and skin for days to weeks and is impossible to wash away without a special soap that is only accessible to police.
Ramallah-based activist and writer Mariam Barghouti once told The Electronic Intifada that “the water lingers on your skin to a point when you want to rip your skin off.”
First deployed by Israeli armed forces in 2008, skunk water has become a fixture in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Moral Blind Spot Tour
“10 Places AIPAC Would Never Show Members of Congress on Their Upcoming Propaganda Trip,” Max Blumenthal, AlterNet – 12 August
Congresspersons routinely make almost obligatory trips to Israel sponsored by pro-Israeli organizations, most prominently the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). These trips are designed to strengthen pro-Israel sympathies among members of Congress.
Most members of Congress have little, if any, knowledge of Israel and Palestine and what they do know, or think they know, probably leans toward the Zionist/Israeli narrative ubiquitous in American politics and culture.
Due to their own prejudices and ignorance, newly elected senators and congresspersons would already be inclined to adopt a very pro-Israel voting record. Nonetheless, AIPAC and similar organizations fly representatives to Israel for carefully choreographed trips that conceal more than they reveal:
[Journalist Max Blumenthal has] composed a tour route that might allow congressional newcomers to the situation to expand their understanding of Israel beyond the strict limitations imposed by their AIPAC-endorsed guides. They should engage with the reality of Israel, not only within the illusory realm of “Israel proper,” but in the Jews-only settlements and Palestinian ghettoes that make up the Occupied Territories.
Below is an abridged version of Blumenthal’s travel guide:
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons. In this economically depressed southern Israeli city, members of Congress will find the location of the nuclear weapons plant that the Israeli government officially refers to as a “textile factory.”
2. “The Arab room”
Members of Congress don’t have to travel far to see one of the first places many Americans are forced to visit as soon as they arrive to the Holy Land. It is the so-called “Arab room” inside Ben Gurion International Airport where Americans of Palestinian and Arab descent are interrogated and humiliated by Israel’s Shin Bet. The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee has said it registered around 100 complaints a year from Americans of Arab descent who said they had been denied entry by Israeli security services on the basis of their ethnicity.
Among the Americans most recently deported by Israel is Susan Abulhawa, the best-selling author of the critically acclaimed book, “Mornings in Jenin.” “This is our Israel. This is for Jews. No Palestinian should come to Israel,” an Israeli security officer said a few days later as he deported George Khoury, a Palestinian-American professor on his way to visit his birthplace in Jerusalem.
3. Ofer Military Prison
Just inside the occupied West Bank stands a gigantic military prison called Ofer. Inside are Palestinians who have been jailed for crimes against the occupation. Many are children who were arrested, often late at night, by Israeli soldiers and coerced into confessing to stone throwing.
The conviction rate in Israel’s kangaroo courts is 99.74%.
4. Teddy Stadium
Members of Congress who want to see one of Israel’s best soccer teams in action should make their way down to Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium for a Beitar Jerusalem match. There, they can witness Beitar’s “ultras” — its hardcore fan base — bellow out “Death to Arabs!” after goals while waving flags honoring the late terrorist gang leader Meir Kahane.
5. Zion Square
Zion Square is the heart of central Jerusalem’s commercial district, a favorite haunt for international revelers, and the site of an increasing number of “Death to Arabs!” marches. After grabbing a cup of frozen yogurt, lawmakers should make their way over to the organizing table manned by Lehava, an organization dedicated to preventing romantic relationships between Jewish women and Arab men. For legislators representing districts located below the Mason-Dixon line, this stop on the Real Israel tour might offer a trip down memory lane.
6. Kiryat Arba and Hebron
There are few sites in Israeli-controlled territory that contain as much recent historic significance of the memorial constructed in honor of Baruch Goldstein.
After visiting Goldstein’s shrine, lawmakers should take a stroll through the narrow lanes of Hebron’s Old City, which lies just a short way from Kiryat Arba. There, Palestinian shopkeepers rely on a steel net to protect themselves from the bricks and soiled diapers that settlers and their children dump on them each day. Beyond the market is Shuhada Street, a Jews-only road where hundreds of Palestinian shops have been closed by the Israeli military.
7. Al Araqib
Lawmakers seeking a first-hand look at how Israel makes the desert bloom might consider a trip to the little Bedouin village of Al Araqib. Nestled comfortably inside the territory that Peter Beinart refers to as “democratic Israel,” Al Araqib is among the scores of unrecognized villages dotting the Negev Desert whose residents are unable to receive public services because they are not Jews.
“This country belongs to us, the white man.” Those were the words of former Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who promised non-Jewish African migrants that he would “make their lives miserable.” In keeping with Yishai’s vow, the Israeli government has constructed Holot, an internment camp in the Negev Desert for African asylum seekers who committed the crime of attempting to live in Israel while non-Jewish, and whose lack of J-Positive blood prevents them from a path to citizenship or even asylum.
9. Deir Yassin
When members of Congress visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, they will emerge from a heart-rending exhibition documenting Jewish genocide in Europe and find themselves on a veranda that offers a sweeping view of Israeli-controlled Jerusalem — the supposed answer to thousands of years of Jewish suffering. In the valley below, they might see the ruins of a village called Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948 the Zionist militia known as the Irgun massacred over 200 of Deir Yassin’s residents, triggering a wave of terror throughout Palestine and accelerating the forced expulsion of 750,000 indigenous Palestinians. In order to preserve Israel as an ethnically pure Jewish state, those refugees have not been allowed to return.
* Due to the US-backed Israeli-Egyptian siege of Gaza, members of Congress will not be able to meet any of the 1.8 million people living in the ruins of this stateless coastal enclave, where Israel killed over 2200 people in 51 days last year, including 550 children. For a look at some of the 18,000 homes destroyed during the Israeli army’s rampage, this video will have to suffice.
Still Burning Things
“Bedouin tent burned in alleged ‘price tag’ attack,” +972 Magazine – 13 August
Despite a recent Israeli government crackdown on illegal and radical settlers in the wake of an arson attack on a Palestinian home, which left an 18-month-old baby dead and his brother and mother badly burned; Israeli settlers are anything but deterred from their efforts to expel Palestinian villagers.
If anything, they are keen to double-down on their terrorism in retaliation for Israel’s belated – and, if history is any guide, short-lived – crackdown. Settlers call such acts “price tag”: destruction and attacks against Palestinians and, at times, the Israeli state in opposition to any actions by the Israeli government that may curtail settlers’ “rights” to trample over Palestine, confiscate territory, and terrorize Palestinians.
Although only the Israeli state is capable of blocking the ambitions of settlers, Palestinians often bear the burnt of “price tag” attacks. Of course, for such settlers – often from the United States rather than Israeli-born – such actions are justified in the belief that all of the land belongs to the Jewish people as promised by God. “Price tag” is divinely blessed.
A Bedouin tent was burned Wednesday night in Ain Samiya, in the West Bank, in a suspected attack by the “price tag” movement, a group of pro-settler Israelis […]
The tent was not occupied at the time, and only contained food that was intended for the Bedouin owner’s herds, according to the human rights NGO Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) which arrived to the scene. On a rock nearby the perpetrators left graffiti, reading, “administrative revenge,” possibly in reference to the administrative detention policy applied in the past weeks to militant “price taggers,” by which suspects deemed terrorists are not provided a trial or informed of the charges against them. […]
A number of high profile right-wing activists were arrested and placed under administrative detention, including Meir Ettinger, the grandson of ultra-nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahana whose Kach party was outlawed by the Israeli government for racism, and who is believed to be involved in an underground movement planning to attack civilians and oust the Israeli government in favor of a more authentic “Jewish state.”
In response to the crack down, many from the pro-settler movement have responded with disdain and accusations of betrayal, calling the campaign “a terror attack on Judaism,” in the words of Ettinger, who wrote a blog post on August 4 on the issue on the ultra-right website The Jewish Voice.
While nine suspects were arrested in direct connection with the fatal July 31 attack in Duma, none have yet been brought to court.
“Carter: Zero Chance for Two-state Solution,” Ha’aretz – 13 August
“At this moment, there is zero chance of the two-state solution,” Carter, 90, told Prospect Magazine, in an interview published on Thursday.
Carter added that after the failure of the last negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.S. “has withdrawn” from the issue.
Carter said Netanyahu “does not now and has never sincerely believed in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine,” and accused him of deciding “early on to adopt a one-state solution, but without giving them [the Palestinians] equal rights.”
Carter told Prospect that while he is “reluctant” to use the word apartheid in a news article, claims that the term applies to Israel have real force because of the growing number of Palestinians who live in lands controlled by Israel.
Graphic from Jewish Voice for Peace posted on Facebook along with link to article in Ha’aretz: The Israeli ‘Watergate’ Scandal: The Facts About Palestinian Water.
When Israeli Officials Speak and Israeli Reporters Write
“Herzog Meets Abbas in Ramallah: A Third Intifada Must Be Prevented,” Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz – 18 August
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog met Tuesday in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and told him that every effort must be made to stop the escalation of violence in the territories and prevent a third intifada.
Apparently Herzog, who couldn’t convince enough Israelis to follow his lead, thinks he can otherwise dictate to the Palestinians how they should manage their frustration in the face of Israeli occupation and colonialism.
The meeting was initiated by the Palestinian president, apparently in light of the reports of negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a long-term cease-fire in Gaza.
Read: the Palestinian Authority is more interested in cultivating favor with the Israeli opposition in the Knesset than with its own Palestinian opposition. Both Hamas and Fatah are seeking to strike their own bargains with Israel at the expense of national unity, a prerequisite for ending the occupation.
A considerable part of the meeting between Herzog and Abbas dealt with the security escalation on the West Bank in recent weeks – the murder of the family in the village of Duma by Jewish terrorists, and an increase in attacks against soldiers and settlers by Palestinian terrorists.
Jewish settlers who attack Palestinian property and kill an infant and injury his family for the purpose of furthering the Jewish/Zionist colonization of Palestine are, by definition, terrorists: using violence against civilians in the service of a political cause. Palestinians who attack (often with nothing more than rocks and pebble) armed soldiers and armed settlers – settlers that IDF officials in the past referred to as auxiliary units of the army who help patrol the occupied territories – are not guilty of terrorism, but have a sacrosanct right under international law to resist occupation by a foreign power. To equate the two – between militants seeking to drive out a native people and the said native people seeking to overthrow their oppressors – is to distort the reality and present a false image of power symmetry and equal moral rights between Israeli settlers/occupation forces and Palestinians.
“The terror of recent days is liable to lead to a third intifada, and that must be prevented with everything at our disposal,” said Herzog after the meeting. “That means an uncompromising war against terror, and on this subject I’m even more extreme than [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Good to know what constitutes the left in Israel is to the right of Netanyahu.
A Case In Point About Power Asymmetry
“East Jerusalem Village Virtually Sealed Off After Stone-throwing,” Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz – 17 August
Police closed off one of the three entrances to the village of Isawiyah, in East Jerusalem, on Monday following incidents of stone-throwing. According to the police, the entrance to the village was closed to prevent danger to traffic on the nearby Jerusalem-Ma’ale Adumim road. However, Isawiyah residents said they were being subjected to collective punishment.
“In East Jerusalem, the Sky Isn’t Exactly the Limit,” Daniel Tchetchik, Ha’aretz – 18 August
A new Israeli website (Hebrew and Arabic) features stories and photographs focused on Palestinians living in Jerusalem, thus named Project 37% as the Palestinians make up 37% of the city’s population. Most Israelis only know Palestinian Jerusalemites through distorting news stories. Project 37% aspires to break that frame:
Usually, we only hear one-dimensional stories about these residents.
Project 37% tries to look past the headlines in the newspaper. This is a project for the long-haul. And it contains stories of men and women in different ages, from different neighborhoods and with different jobs, that make up the picture, partial but important, of Palestinian life in Jerusalem.
Ha’aretz featured some of the Parkour photographs from Project 37%:
Media Roundup is a weekly feature of Palestine Square.