middle east, muslims, obama, politics, war on terror

Gideon Levy at UTM

Published on:
The Medium, September 27th, 2010 [http://mediumonline.ca/2010/09/27/gideon-levy-visits-utm/]

Around 250 to 300 people gathered at the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) for a lecture by the award-winning Israeli journalist Gideon Levy on September 22nd, 2010. Primarily based on the content of his new book The Punishment of Gaza, the lecture consisted mainly of Levy’s lamentations regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, and his thoughts on how “the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” will play out in the future.

Writing for Israel’s most famous daily newspaper, Haaretz, since 1982, Levy coupled his critique of Israel’s conduct towards the Palestinians with a pessimistic vision of the future. Having been on the receiving end of constant hate mail from his fellow Israelis for his consistent critique of Israeli policies, Levy stated rather assuredly that “there has never been an occupation where the occupier felt so good about himself, and there has never been an occupation where the occupier presented himself as a victim.”

Referring to Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as the “real drama of Israel in its dark backyard,” Levy went on to condemn the “so-called peace process” as a sham. He criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not willing to do even the “minimum of the minimum” for peace, which is to freeze all settlement building/expansion in the OPT, in lieu of negotiations. Regarding the United States’ long-time patronage of Israel, Levy expressed “disappointment” with the policies of President Barack Obama, policies that did not deviate much from previous administrations. And while describing Hamas, the Islamic Movement party currently in control of the Gaza Strip (elected in 2006 and pushed out of the West Bank by rival party Fateh), as “not my cup of tea,” Levy felt that any successful, realistic, and meaningful negotiations would have to include the choice party of the Palestinians.

It has been such views that have made Gideon Levy a deeply unpopular figure in most of Israel, a country which he describes as “fiercely nationalistic.” Having himself served in the IDF in his youth, it was not until the late 1980s when Levy began to travel into the OPT, something that “most Israelis never do,” and something that has ever since shown him the brutality of Israel’s occupation. Levy believes that it is necessary to “tell the story” of those who live under Israeli occupation, a conviction that has forced him to live with “absolute exclusivity” within Israel.

During the Q&A session which followed the lecture, some audience members expressed that they wished Levy had talked more about possible solutions in terms of resolving this protracted occupation. It seems that their disappointment is related to the fact that even Levy himself sees no real way out, and no concrete solutions—at least not from within Israeli civil society.

“Writing is all I know in this life,” Levy stated in a post-event interview, “and we all must do what we feel is right and just.”

Pointing to the disbanding of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of South African apartheid as positive examples, Levy did not seem completely hopeless. He expressed genuine surprise and joy regarding what he described as “high enthusiasm” among Canadians in support of justice for the Palestinians.

The lecture was organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), and partially funded by the University of Toronto at Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU).

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middle east, politics

“Passing” in the Jewish State

Published on:
http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=525

Just when you thought things in Israel couldn’t get much worse for its Arab citizens, it was recently announced that Sabbar Kashur, an Israeli Arab, has been sentenced to 18 months of prison time for posing as a Jewish man in order to have consensual sex with a Jewish woman.

“When the woman found Kashur was not a Jew but an Arab, she filed a police complaint that led to charges of rape and indecent assault,” reports Haaretz, Israel’s largest news outlet. The verdict came as the judge presiding the case frankly admits that “If she [Kashur’s sexual counterpart] hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated.”

Since his arrest in 2008, Kashur (married with two kids) has been under house arrest.

Also since 2008, the Israeli High Court has set a precedent (in an earlier case) regarding these types of cases—ones involving deception and sex. As reported by Haaretz: “High Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said a conviction of rape should be imposed any time a ‘person does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman, and as a result of misrepresentation she has sexual relations with him.’”

The application of this principle has elicited a mixture of responses from Israeli civil society, many of whom believe that the approach take by legal officials in the case of Kashur was much too severe. It is quite true, as stated by Dana Pugach of Israel’s Noga Center for Victims of Crime, that an individual deserves the truth before going into a sexual relationship or a fling with someone. This principle should apply across the board: diseases, class, occupation, etc. However, Kashur’s case is useful in the sense that it is illustrative of the unveiled racism present in Israeli society today.

It is quite obvious that the Jewish woman who sued Kashur would not have been so indignant if Kashur, who used the moniker “Dudu” when talking to the woman, was actually Jewish. The lady has a right to have sexual relations with whomever she chooses, but the fact that she decided to have Kashur arrested due to a lie based on his ethnic background is highly illustrative, if not exceedingly disturbing. Had the issue been one of say, HIV/AIDS, a stiff sentence would have been understandable.

But this woman, although deceived, certainly thought that Kashur looked Jewish enough to have sex with him. It was only after that the two went to bed together, when she found out the horrific truth that the man she just shagged was—gasp—an Arab, that she reported this “criminal travesty”. One cannot help but think of the numerous women who were tricked into the sack based on lies of say, social status or even money. After all, what’s Vegas good for anyway? This is not to whitewash deception, but to tease out the racist connotations of the contemporary Israeli social and legal systems.

The court ignored the community service option, and gave Kashur 18 months in prison, in addition to the years of house arrest.

Juan Cole of the massively popular “Informed Comment” blog draws the analogy between Kashur’s case and the phenomenon of “passing” during the Jim Crow era of American history.

The similarities are troubling to say the least.

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