31 July 2007

31 July 2007 - Constitutional deliberations

This morning, I headed back to the Knesset to attend the deliberations of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, which is discussing Israel’s long-overdue constitution-writing project. The meeting was sparsely attended—only about five or six Members of Knesset (MKs) showed up—and there were fewer fireworks than last time, when the issue of Hebron was on the agenda.

There have been many discussions—notably, in the pages of Azure—about how Israel should actually go about writing a constitution. Some have recommended something along the lines of an American model, with a special elected assembly meeting for a specified amount to time. Other have suggested that the Knesset itself, reflecting the political diversity of the country, should write the constitution.

Others have objected to this idea, suggesting instead that the constitution be written by a small panel of expert representatives, which would then submit the product of its efforts to the Knesset for comment and amendment. Several non-governmental organizations have already submitted constitutional proposals, indicating that there is some desire for deeper public participation in the process.

At the moment, the process is being managed by a Knesset committee which also has responsibility for other issues. Theoretically, anyone can come and observe, or even participate in, the discussions. But the lack of formal representation and procedural urgency suggests that the constitution-writing project is not yet being taken that seriously. Perhaps there is too little—or too much—at stake.

Today’s discussions revolved around proposed changes to the way the Knesset conducts its budgetary process. The first speaker was a rabbi, an MK from one of the religious parties, to whom most of those present showed deference—that is, until the discussion got into the details of facts and procedures. At that point the professional staff—the legal advisors and so on—started chiming in as well.

There were other speakers, including advocates for one point of view or another. One fellow, for example, was a well-known advocate for a constitutional structure that gives the judiciary strong powers in relation to the legislature and the executive. Overall, however, the debate was rather boring. (I am reminded that even during the American constitutional convention the delegates often fell asleep.)

In my view, a constitution has three functions. One is to establish the structure of government. Another--perhaps more important—is to limit the power of the government by establishing the rights of the citizens. Finally, a constitution must provide the means for it to be changed by the people. All the rest is commentary—and the less of it, the better. Longer constitutions are harder to enforce.

A constitution is essentially a conservative document. It can be ambitious in defining the scope of individual (and even group) rights; however, to the extent that it attempts to force the government to create rights, it is less likely to succeed. In other words, negative liberties such as freedom of conscience and expression should trump positive liberties such as health and education and social security.

There are three outstanding issues that Israel needs its constitution to resolve: the relationship between religion and the state, the rights of the Arab minority, and the scope of judicial powers. There are other issues that it might also try to deal with, though these could also be left out: the relationship of Israel to the Jewish Diaspora, the relationship to Arab Palestine; and the identity and symbols of the state.

Above all, however, what the Israeli constitution needs to do is set itself above the government. I don’t think I’ve met anyone yet in Israel who understands this. The discussions today revolved around the structural details of the legislative process. These are important, but not necessarily of constitutional importance. The U.S. House and Senate, for example, create and amend their own procedural rules.

Whether the final document is written by the Knesset or a specially appointed committee, it clearly needs to leave the confines of this building—and the insular ideological realm of Israeli politics. The committee chair, for example, opened the meeting by discussing a few relevant texts from Maimonedes. On the one hand, it was quite unique. On the other, Maimonides was not exactly a political philosopher.

Israel doesn’t need less Maimonides, but it might (as Michael Oren says) need more Machiavelli. Right now the constitution-writing project is rather ad hoc. Over the past decade or two, Israel has created, then revoked, direct elections for Prime Minister. It’s now trying to pass a law that would require MKs who are elevated to Cabinet to give up their seats. Fine—but what is needed is something more focused and yet more inclusive, something that establishes and defines Israel’s sovereignty.

29 July 2007

29 July 2007 - Discrimination . . . or not?

I recently read an article by Eyal Benvenisti and Dahlia Shaham in the New York University Journal of International Law and Politics (36 NYUJILP 677 for all you WestLaw freaks) entitled "“Facially Neutral Discrimination and the Israeli Supreme Court.”

The authors that the Israeli High Court “has professed to respect the principle of equality by adopting a color-blind approach, while allowing the Israeli bureaucracy to allocate public resources with little accountability”—a contention that, even if true, would hardly set Israel apart from most other democracies (and the question is not even worth asking of Israel’s neighbors in the Middle East).

Central to the court’s role here is its responsibility for protecting minority rights. The authors refer to James Madison’s defense of the constitution in the Federalist, arguing that the separation of powers and the counter-majoritarianism of the courts could serve as useful remedies. The first, the authors argue, is useless without the second, which was the only real guarantor of minority rights in the United States.

Sometimes, the authors argue, minorities succeed in “capturing” part of the political process, as Jewish religious groups have done on certain issues in Israel. Here, the courts must intervene to dislodge the minority. The courts investigate both the substance of state decisions—whether discrimination was intended or resulted—as well as the procedure—whether decision-making was sufficiently inclusive.

The authors argue that the Israeli High Court does not use either of these approaches, but rather a “color-blind” approach that allows surreptitious discrimination to continue. They seek to prove this by focusing on “the allocation in Israel of public resources, such as state lands, education, and financial support.” And they seek to suggests judicial strategies for intervening to stop discrimination.

Instead of discrimination on the basis of army service, which used to hurt minorities most, the state now has opportunities for discrimination because these minorities live in “homogenous territorial enclaves” and have different institutions and interests. This leads to potential discrimination in development status, municipal boundaries, development, land allocation, educational and cultural funding, etc.

An examination of Benvenisti and Shaham’s thumbnail sketch of the potential discrimination suggests two conclusions: first, that the amount of discrimination is not severe, or is at least diminishing; second, that minority groups that lose out (such as Arabs) tend to be more poorly politically organized than minority groups that are well-organized and able to advocate their interests (ultra-Orthodox Jews).

The court has responded, the authors acknowledge, by upholding the principle of equality. However, they argue: “The simple color-blind application of the non-discrimination principle proves insufficient mainly in two contexts: (1) in protecting minority interests against facially neutral discrimination; and (2) in recognizing special needs of certain minorities that require positive measures, such as public funding of cultural institutions and educational programs.”

The authors argue that the Israeli court eschews the “strict scrutiny” test applied in American courts, which they describe as an investigation of whether discrimination is justified by some compelling government interest. However, they shift the goalposts: the “strict scrutiny” test applies to actual, not potential, discrimination.

The cases they use to demonstrate the pitfalls of color-blindness are from the early period of the state’s history, where color blindness was the norm throughout the democratic world. More recent cases demonstrate not only the vigilance of the Court against overt discrimination, but also the Court’s suggestion of a demographic (80/20) allocation of government resources to Jews and Arabs—an unusual step.

The authors go on to talk about the limited fact-finding powers of the Israeli High Court, as well as other institutional limitations. They complain that “what is often clear to readers of newspapers becomes unclear in court”—not questioning the fact-finding acumen of journalists, of course—and that “[a]t most, the court will require [state agencies] to act in accordance with the law.”

The proposed remedies include having judges prescribe procedural review mechanisms in state agencies, moving to systemic judicial pronouncements rather than encouraging ad hoc out-of-court settlements, and ensuring minority representation in state decision-making. This might be welcome interventions, but they might well be considered matters for the legislature, not for the courts.

In short, what the article provides is not concrete evidence of discriminatory rulings by the Israeli High Court but a critique of its judicial philosophy, which in the authors’ view is not activist enough. The need for a shift is not justified here.

26 July 2007

26 July 2007 - Plan B, on a roll

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unveiled a new peace proposal yesterday, one that would create a Palestinian state within 90 percent of the West Bank, with Israel withdrawing to the security barrier (its “Plan B”), and difficult issues like Jerusalem and refugees left to later negotiations. A tunnel beneath Israeli territory, rather than an elevated bridge, would connect the West Bank and Gaza.

Olmert made the announcement on the same day that the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers visited Israel as official delegates of the Arab League to present the Arab peace proposal—normalization in exchange for withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries—to the Israeli government. The two peace plans don’t match, but at least the region’s leaders are finally moving together in the right direction.

Tony Blair is also in the region, meeting leaders in his new role as the Mideast Quartet’s peace envoy, and is being told by countries such as the United Arab Emirates that the time for peace is at hand. There is even talk of a meeting between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which initiated the Arab peace initiative and is arguably the most important state in the Sunni world, the one that can deliver recognition.

Many, however, are skeptical of the chances for peace—and for good reason. I attended a lecture yesterday by former Soviet dissident and Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky, who argues in his book The Case for Democracy that “fear societies” cannot make peace because the creation and preservation of an external enemy is what allows the leadership to maintain tight control over the people.

In contrast to the Israeli government, which believes it must strengthen Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas now that Hamas has taken over Gaza, Sharansky says doing so will only encourage corruption and autocratc behavior, which will eventually encourage Hamas. Agreements are OK, he says, but should be based on autocrats’ fear of democrats’ force, and not the other way around.

Sharansky continues to believe that democracy is the key to peace and security in the region. He has refined his thesis somewhat. Democracy means more than elections, he says: it requires a free society first. And the Iraq case—supposedly the test of Bush’s neo-Wilsonian idealism—is not about whether Iraqis wish to live in freedom (they do), but about whether they want to live together (they may not).

The worst thing Israel can do, he says, is give millions of dollars and new weapons to Abbas and his Fatah proto-government—which is exactly what the Israeli government has done in recent days. Instead, Israel and the world should make assistance conditional on democratic reforms. Until the Palestinian Authority is willing and able to prevent terror against Israelis, Israeli concessions should be few.

Sharansky believes that the alliance of “moderate” Arab states occasioned by the Iranian threat is real but that its importance should not be overstated. There is nothing “moderate,” he says, about regimes like Saudi Arabia. The west has convinced itself that it needs the Saudis, but in fact the opposite is true. And just as the US did in the 1980s regarding the USSR, trade should be conditional on reform.

An answer to this might be that the Sunni Arab states have, in fact, reached the point where they are ready to deal with Israel and the western democracies on their own terms—first, because the strength of Israeli defence and the threat of American regime change remain potent; and second, because without the power of the U.S. and Israel on their side, the Sunni regimes will have to face Iran on their own.

I was interested in asking Sharansky about his views on human rights. In his book, Sari Nusseibeh accuses Sharansky of being inconsistent in his support for human rights because he built settlements as housing minister in the Israeli government. I asked Sharansky how he reconciled Israel’s settlement policy with the country’s commitment to human rights—and his own.

I found his answer quite interesting. First, he said, we must look at the peace process as a whole. It was a mistake, he argued, for the world to link the concept of a Palestinian state with principles of human rights. The right to self-determination is not inherent: you have to stake a claim to it by organizing your own institutions. As it happened, the world, not the Palestinians, created the Palestinian Authority.

Second, he said, settlements are not an obstacle to Palestinian statehood, nor are they a violation of human rights. No settlement—with the exception of Hebron, he allowed—interferes directly in the life of any Palestinian community. Settlements are also a major source of jobs and investment in the Palestinian territories. Terror, and not settlement, has created the need for checkpoints and roadblocks.

I persisted. What about the obstacle that Israeli settlements pose to Palestinian-initiated economic development? and reports that settlements are infringing on Palestinian private property? Sharansky answered that as minister, he had found that Palestinian leaders were uninterested in investment projects unless they could use them to line their pockets, claim strategic territory and circumvent agreements.

On the issue of property rights, he noted that Israeli courts had been extremely diligent in investigating Palestinian claims, as well as quite lenient, lowering the standard of proof substantially to favor claimants. In some cases, he said, the courts had ordered the government to pay compensation to Palestinian property owners. Calls for the total pullout of all settlers, he said, were not based on human rights concerns but on the implicitly antisemitic idea that Jews cannot live in the area.

Sharansky also attacked international human rights organizations for their bias against Israel—a call echoed this week by U.S. Senator Norm Coleman—saying they ignored differences between the types of governments in different countries. By all means, he said publish 1,000 pages of criticism of Israel and 1 page of criticism of the Palestinian Authority—but put the reports in different sections, because free societies and fear societies cannot be equated. Relativism destroys of human rights.

Sharansky also suggested that the U.S. forget UN reforms, and create a new international organization outside of the UN, an alliance of democracy where no country would have a vote whose government had not been voted into office itself.

I found his answers quite satisfactory. Sharansky’s words are also a timely warning against misguided pledges by U.S. presidential canditates to offer legitimacy and diplomatic concessions to the world’s worst dictators. But I’m also willing to trust Olmert’s leadership in a new peace process. This may, in fact, be a unique opportunity to begin resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s plan B—but let it roll.

25 July 2007

25 July 2007 - "Just Jerusalem," or just Jerusalem?

Yesterday, Jews across the world observed the fast of Tisha B’Av (Ninth of Av), commemorating the day on which both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Here in Jerusalem itself, the observance of the day was especially intense. Crowds walked through the streets of the Old City to pray at the Western Wall. Shops shuttered and cars disappeared for a hot, melancholy day.

When I was studying at the Pardes yeshiva in 1999, the big question was: “What is the point of mourning the destruction of Jerusalem when Jerusalem is being built all around us?” That question remains valid, I suppose, but a lot has happened to Jerusalem since then—the hundreds of dead and wounded in suicide bombings, the wall (and in Jerusalem, it is a wall for much of its length) snaking across the city’s eastern municipal boundary, dividing communities.

Today, Jerusalem’s future is in some doubt. At the Camp David talks in 2000, former (and future?) Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem and sovereignty over most of the Temple Mount (Haram A-Sharif), but Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat walked away, denying Jewish historic claims and religious connections to Judaism’s holiest city.

That proposal for a shared capital—radical even at the time—is now almost a non-starter, as far as Israelis are concerned. And though Israel has always maintained, as official policy, that Jerusalem will be its “eternal, undivided capital,” it is only united on the “left” side of the wall. Its eastern suburbs and its Arab satellite towns in the West Bank are cut off; only Jewish settlements remain connected to the city.

The streets of Jerusalem today feel much safer than they did before the wall was built. And the city feels more integrated, too. Arabs move through the downtown area in greater numbers and with greater ease. But the city is apparently on an economic slide, as young professionals and businesses migrate elsewhere. And there are tensions between secular Jews and the growing ultra-Orthodox community.

Public transport is still fairly good, though the the construction of a high-speed rail line to Tel Aviv have been stalled for a while. On a weekday, it takes two-and-a-half hours to get from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv on the train—comfortable, but at least twice as long as the drive. The park system is improving, and cultural life is vibrant, but the infrastructure needs an upgrade, especially in East Jerusalem.

Into this mess wades the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is holding a “Just Jerusalem Competition”—a design contest that has invited teams to submit their visions of the city’s future in 2050. Actually, there’s more to it: the contest asks entrants to envision “what [Jerusalem] might be if justice and urban livability, rather than competing nationalist projects, were the principle points of departure.”

In other words: picture Jerusalem without Israel or Palestine. Read charitably, the MIT contest has an “internationalized” Jerusalem in mind. A less forgiving reading is that MIT is actually asking for a plan for Jerusalem in a unitary state. Looking at the contest jury, which is stacked with severe critics of Israel, the latter interpretation seems to be the correct one. Either way, the exercise is moot.

On Monday morning, I traveled to Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem to meet its president, Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, whom I am interviewing for New Society, Harvard’s new student journal on the Middle East. Nusseibeh grew up in East Jerusalem, and in his recent memoir, Once Upon a Country, he describes the changes in the city over time—how the wall in No Man’s Land fell in 1948, and today’s wall rose.

I asked him what he thought about the fact that Jews were preparing to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago. He smiled and said that though Muslims and Jews were always trying to outdo each other in demonstrating their claims to the holy city, it was better for the peace process to give less attention to Jerusalem and more to the basic economic and security needs of both sides.

What about the barrier? I asked him. You protested—successfully—when its proposed path would have cut across your campus. Yet hasn’t it made the city safer, and more integrated, even if unintentionally so? Maybe it makes sense, from an Israeli viewpoint, he suggested. Then he walked to the window and pointed out how the path of the barrier cut off part of his Arab neighborhood from the city, while including a distant Jewish neighborhood, all along the same line of sight.

The Israelis have fallen into the fallacy of post hoc, ergo proper hoc, he said, thinking that because the suicide bombings stopped after the barrier was built, the barrier must be the reason. I thought: yes, but that applies to every other possible explanation. And of those, the security barrier is certainly the most likely cause.

No matter what the Just Jerusalem crowd proposes, the barrier will not come down within a generation at least—not until Palestinians forget to hate Israelis, and Israelis forget to be afraid. The first priority of any city must be the security of its inhabitants—which is why Suleiman re-built the walls of the Old City when he conquered it in 1517. Perhaps by 2050 things will be different. But perhaps not.

The city’s next priorities should be to repair its infrastructure, improve services (particularly in East Jerusalem), and encourage new investment that can drive economic growth. Only a prosperous city can hope to achieve greater tolerance and integration. Whatever capital is planned for the future Palestinian state will have to be outside the walls or else “extraterritorial” within Jersualem’s current map.

The city does not need elaborate new designs; it needs to get the basics of municipal government right. “Just Jerusalem”? Perhaps just Jerusalem, for now.

24 July 2007

24 July 2007 - Dowty's democratic defense

The Harvard law class I’m preparing materials for has included some genuinely pro-Israel material alongside some simply atrocious anti-Israel stuff. Some of the material I’ve suggested; some comes from the professor. One article in the latter group is Alan Dowty’s “Is Israel Democratic? Substance and Semantics in the ‘Ethnic Democracy’ Debate,” from the journal Israel Studies in 1999 (Vol. 4, No. 2, p. 1).

Dowty, a professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, presents a summary of, and response to, the debate in Israel Studies over whether Israel should be considered a democracy, or whether it deserves some other (perhaps pejorative) label such as “ethnocracy.” Common to all the disputants, Dowty observes, is the question of how Israel treats the non-Jewish minority. But first, he argues, it is necessary to define “democracy” in technical terms.

Oren Yiftachel, et al.—who refer to Israel as an “ethnocracy”—propose four factors in a definition of democracy: “(a) equal and inclusive citizenship and civil rights, (b) popular sovereignty and universal suffrage; (c) protection of minorities; and (d) periodic, universal and free elections.” They later add a fifth requirement: clear borders. According to these criteria, Dowty notes, Israel clearly fails the test of democracy.

However, he observes, this definition of democracy is both atypical and overly “unforgiving.” (Indeed, it seems designed for the failure it later produces.) He notes several other scholarly definitions of democracy—making use of various freedoms, institutions, and processes—all of which include Israel among the democratic nations. Dowty adds: “None of these operational definitions, it will be noted, required equality of rights, non-exclusion of minorities, or clear and unambiguous borders. . . .Of course, Ghanem, Rouhana, and Yiftachel are free to argue that a defnition of democracy ought to include minority rights, and to so define it themselves. Nominalists such as myself have no problem with that so long as it is made clear and explicit, and so long as it is applied consistently to all states.” (original emphasis)

It might also make sense to ask the group in question what they think of Israel. A 1999 survey of Palestinians by the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, Dowty notes, showed that “75 percent rated the status of democracy and human rights in Israel as either ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good,’ against 67 percent for the United States, 55 percent for France, and 32 percent for the Palestinian Authority.”

Dowty moves on to the question of how Israel compares to other countries. The “ethnocracy” authors compare Israel against a selected group, and implicitly against an ideal that no democracy actually meets. They also look at the formal structures of democracy rather than its actual practices, and when the practices of democratic states are concerned—particularly in times of conflict—Israel meets the standard.

Dowty agrees with the “acid test” of the debate—the measure of Arab minority rights—but not the “either-or” approach assumed by Israel’s critics. What those who accuse Israel of being an “ethnocracy” ignore is the relationship of ethnicity to the nation-state. All nation-states run into questions regarding minority rights; the real issue is how closely and definitively ethnic identity is tied to the state’s identity.

To address this question, he distinguishes between the “New World” model, in which the state forms the nation, and the “Old World” model, in which the nation forms the state. Israel is an “Old World” type, he says, but so is Germany, and so are many others. Israel also has a problem in that its minority is an “enemy minority”—but this is not unique, either, and he provides other examples.

Dowty’s research reveals that among nation-states with large ethnic minorities, only about a third are considered “free” according to the annual Freedom House survey, and Israel is among them. Israel does not, however, practice a form of ethnic power-sharing, as only a sixth of ethnic nation-states do. (South Africa, once considered at the cutting edge of democratic innovation, does not, either.)

Of those states that have an ethnic minority making up less than 20 percent of the population, only one—Finland—practices ethnic power-sharing, Dowty notes. The others all have larger minorities. Dowty suggests that Israel—with a non-Jewish minority of 19 percent—is at the “upper limit” of what simple majoritarianism will tolerate, and near the lower boundary that allows for stable “consociationalism.”

He notes that Israel also has power-sharing relationships—among Jewish parties, not with Arab ones—and proposes that this working model be expanded. In addition, Dowty suggests that Israel needs “an overarching identity, a common framework that transcends the division into Jew and Arab, to counter the feeling of Israeli Arabs that they do not belong.” This might include new Arab institutions.

He adds that a solution to Israel’s internal democratic contradictions may depend on a resolution to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. For now, he affirms Israel’s legitimacy as both a Jewish and democratic state. An interesting read.

22 July 2007

23 July 2007 - Something to complain about

Once in a while, Israel—like every country—does something completely inexcusable. And it is the duty of those of us who care about Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state to protest. Last week, I attended a demonstration (below) at the Knesset against the demolition of unrecognized Bedouin settlements in the Negev. This week, I feel like marching again, to protest a horrid piece of legislation.

Last week, the Knesset approved a bill, in its preliminary reading, that would force the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to lease lands to Jews only. Currently, the JNF, which is not funded by Israeli taxpayers but undertakes many public projects in Israel, owns 13 percent of the land in the country. Recent High Court rulings and executive decisions indicated that Arabs may apply for leases as well as Jews. (They have, apparently, done so successful in the past already.)

Now, the Knesset is attempting to undo what the courts and the administration have done. The bill has not become law: it still has to pass three more readings in the Knesset, and be signed into effect. But it is a disgrace nonetheless. Ordinary provisions barring the introduction of racist legislation were not invoked because the bigotry is not explicit in the text of the bill itself. As if it could be any clearer!

There is nothing wrong with the JNF, under certain conditions, deciding to serve Jews primarily or even uniquely. After all, Jewish donors provide its funding. But if the JNF is to discriminate in that way, the state should have nothing to do with it or say about it. That means no Knesset bills telling the JNF what to do—and it means untangling the relationship between the JNF and the state in public projects.

I am almost equally irritated at the editors of Ha’aretz for their editorial yesterday, which called Israel “a racist Jewish state.” That is both a premature and immature judgment. The bill was introduced in order to reverse a state decision. In addition, while the motives of some politicians who supported the bill certainly seem racist, others seem moved by a concern—misapplied, but perhaps sincere—about the JNF.

The bill will no doubt be seized upon by enemies of Israel who want to declare it an apartheid state. In addition, several left-wing politicians—such as Ami Ayalon, who recently ran for the leadership of the Labor Party—supported it. That will, no doubt, satisfy those rejectionists who like to say that there is no Zionist left—that all Israeli political parties, except for the most radical, are equally morally corrupt.

But the core problem, in my view, is that Israeli politicians—both left and right—think the state is the solution to everything. So if the state decrees that the JNF cannot discriminate, then political leaders think the government must be forced by law to intervene—not that it should restructure its relationship with the JNF, spinning it out into the private sector where it can do whatever it likes.

The Ha’aretz editorial is correct in observing that “a racist Knesset” can overturn the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court “[i]n an instant.” That is a constant danger, particularly in a conflict that drags on so long. Yet it also points to the need for constitutional and legal reforms that devolve power away from the legislature and create a supreme, indepdendent system of government and rights.

I understand and empathize with the outrage of the Ha’aretz editorial; I would, however, have put things differently. Certainly one can sense the frustration that has set in among many Israelis who are tired of occupation and inequality. But it seems to me the right answer is to call on concerned citizens to make use of their democratic rights to oppose the bill, not to condemn the state itself so reactively.

In the end, what lurks behind the bill is a corrosive myopia and self-indulgent self-righteousness that has slowly inured many (though not, I believe, most) Israelis to the suffering of others—not just across the Green Line, but within Israel. However, it is equally self-indulgent—and dangerous—to throw tantrums of despair. Outrage is demanded here—but so, too, is clear thinking and appropriate action in response.

22 July 2007 - Israeli law and the occupation

This weekend, I looked through some of the Israeli government replies to accusations that it fails to uphold human rights norms in the occupied territories. One early response was a pamphlet called The Protection of Human Rights in Areas Admitted by Israel: United Nations Findings and Reality written by Dov Shefi in 1973, contesting UN reports of Israeli rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank.

The pamplet describes the legal posture adopted by Israel in the occupied territories, as well as the unfair composition and conduct of the UN investigations. In one bizarre section, the author disputes the testimony of a witness who told the UN he had been castrated by Israeli forces by producing the man’s medical records to show he had his testicles surgically removed due to infection before the war.

Another Israeli response was produced by the Israel National Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in 1981, entitled The Rule of Law in the Areas Adminsitered by Israel. It was written in response to an earlier report by Raja Shehadeh and Jonathan Kuttab, called The West Bank and the Rule of Law, which attacked Israeli practices and had been published and distributed by the ICJ.

The booklet highlights the fact that the personal jurisdiction of Israeli courts had been extended to the occupied territories, allowing any resident access to the judicial system of the occupying power. This, the booklet claims, “is perhaps the most meaningful expression of the Rule of Law in the Region.” It describes various other legal checks and balances that Israel had adopted in the territories.

A more recent response to international criticism is Israel, the “Intifada” and the Rule of Law, a short book published in 1993 by the Israeli Ministy of Defense and put together by the office of the Military Advocate General of the Israel Defense Forces. The book endeavors to explain that the Rule of Law operates in the territories, qualified only by the limited doctrine of military necessity.

The book states that the Rule of Law in the territories “can be said to rest on four main pillars”: 1. International Law, specifically the humanitarian provisions of the International Law of Belligerent Occupation; 2. The doctrine of legality, meaning every government action and power must have specific authority; 3. Israeli administrative law; and 4. Judicial review of the Israeli court system.

Finally, I looked at David Kretzmer’s Occupying Justice: The Supreme Court of Israel and the Occupied Territories, which examines the record of Israel’s High Court of Justice (through 2001) with regard to the occupied territories. In his introduction, Kretzmer quotes some of the early studies above, noting that “[j]udicial review has frequently been mentioned in response to criticism of government actions in the occupied territories.” (1)

He then argues (2-3, footnotes omitted):

“Actually, the Court has interfered infrequently in decisions of the military. The negative attitude of critics stems mainly from the notion that mere accountability of the military to an outside body undermines its authority, that delays caused by judicial review reduce the deterrent effect of some measures (such as deportations and house demolitions), and that pressure by judges or even the threat of judicial review have often forced authorities to back down from proposed action.

“From a radically different perspective, it may be argued that the main function of the Court has been to legitimize government action in the Territories. By clothing acts of military authorities in a cloak of legality, the Court justifies and rationalizes these acts. Even if this has not produced legitimization in the eyes of residents of the occupied territories, it has done so for the Israeli public, in whose name the military authorities are acting, and for foreign observers sympathetic to Israel’s basic position. The main evidence in support of this view is that in almost all of its judgments relating to the Occupied Territories, especially those dealing with questions of principle, the Court has decided in favor of the authorities, often on the basis of dubious legal arguments. It is true that in a few cases the Court has decided against the authorities. However, these ‘landmark cases’ serve only to enhance the legitimizing function of the court by reinforcing the ‘image of the court as an impartial body which boldly challenge[s] the government in pursuit of justice.”

This is a bold argument, and Kretzmer re-visits it in his conclusion:

“In its jurisprudence relating to itself, the Supreme Court of Israel has earned a well-deserved reputation as a rights-minded court. . . . This rights-minded approach is conspicuous by its absence in decisions relating to the Occupied Territories. The jurisprudence of these decisions is blatantly government-minded.” (188)

Kreztmer elaborates:

“If we restrict our attention to actual Court decisions . . . it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Court’s legitimizing function has dominated. But, when the overall picture is considered, the conclusion is far less clear, since the Court’s shadow has played a significant role in restraining the authorities.” (190)

He goes on to explain that the Court’s apparent schizophrenia—“forging a democratic and essentially liberal body of jurisprudence” while “consistently display[ing] a government-minded approach in decisions relating to the Occupied Territories”—is partly the result of the ongoing conflict. Judicial attempts at neutrality, he observes, “cannot be maintained when the dispute is perceived to be an ‘external dispute’ involving a challenge to the very authority of the state.” In addition, he says, challenges to the identity of Israel as a Jewish state are also perceived as security threats, and this had an effect on early cases about whether to restrict the participation of radical Arab political parties in Israeli elections.

Kretzmer winds up by returning to the radical question of whether the Court legitimizes occupation, asking: “Is it possible that in the medium or long term, the very lack of restraint that would have resulted from the absence of judicial review would have made the occupation less palatable for Israeli elites, and that the pressure to end the occupation by political settlement, which began after the Intifada started in 1987, would have been felt much earlier? I leave the reader to speculate on this question.”

Well, here are my speculations: “no.” I think the absence of judicial review would not only have hurt the interests of Palestinians, but would have hidden the occupation even more from Israeli elites, while entrenching military authority from the start in a way the court would have found even more difficult to unravel later.

I like Kretzmer’s overall analysis, and his scholarship seems flawless, but I think his conclusions rest on three faulty assumptions. The first is that the continuation of the Israeli occupation is Israel’s fault, and depends primarily on the posture adopted by Israeli elites. The second is the political fallacy, common to many on the radical left, that things have to get worse before they can begin to get better.

The third and perhaps most problematic assumption is that the courts “legitimize” bad government laws and policies by dealing with them. This confuses legal legitimacy with political and moral legitimacy. It is true that the rule of law, which is a bedrock principle of liberal democracy and justice, is different from rule by law, which can be—and often is—practiced by authoritarian governments.

However, courts are constrained to act within the law. The difference between liberal and illiberal systems of justice is that in the latter the courts have no way to appeal to an authority outside the law—such as a constitution or principles of right—in opposing or overturning unjust laws. Israel does not have a constitution but its basic laws and judicial traditions allow the High Court of Justice to review both Knesset legislation and military actions in the occupied territories.

We can get at the heart of the matter by asking whether Israel’s highest court could have overturned the occupation itself. Not only would this have required the Court to have sweeping powers of review it did not possess at the time, but it would also have given the Court the power to undo the military outcomes of a war with Jordan that Israel tried to avoid. It would have meant rule—military rule—by the Court.

The underlying problem here—aside from the political factors of continued Arab intransigence and Israel’s undue deference to the settler movement—is Israel’s lack of a formal constitution. Countries, and judicial systems, can survive and thrive without a constitution—or fail even though they have one—but in Israel’s case there is too much legal and political ambivalence to sustain clear principles of justice.

That has provoked extensive rule-making by an activist Court, which in turn has prompted the government to try to reel in the Court’s powers. That would threaten to bring about a constitutional crisis—or would, if there were a constitution. There is an urgent need for a constitution to replace the current ad hoc system. Until then, I think the verdict on the Court must be that it has done a remarkable job under the circumstances, and added to Israel’s—not the occupation’s—legitimacy.

20 July 2007

20 July 2007 - Israel: guilty until proven innocent

In my spare time, I am helping a Harvard Law School professor put together material for a class on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He’s quite anti-Israel, and we’ve argued with each other in the past. He surprised me by asking for my help in providing materials presenting the Israeli case. Somewhat hesitantly, I agreed, hoping to contribute some balance but knowing he had a rather different agenda.

The early versions of the syllabus include Ilan Pappé’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. It is not history; it is incitement. Pappé claims that Israel’s early leaders crafted a plan to expel the Palestinians, and carried it out during the course of the 1948 war. He provides no proof; rather, he chooses a few pieces of evidence, leaves out the rest of the facts, and fills in the wide gaps with nightmarish fiction.

Pappé’s repeated refrain—explicitly stated in the title of his book—is that the Palestinian refugee problem was planned and executed by Zionist leaders in “Plan Dalet” (or D) as a form of “ethnic cleansing.” Benny Morris, one of Pappé’s fellow “New Historians,” has rejected his methods and findings, writing in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, Revisited that “Plan D was not a political blueprint for the expulsion of Palestine’s Arabs.” (164) But Pappé doesn’t care about the facts.

He claims, for instance, that “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine began with a series of Jewish attacks . . . in retaliation for the buses and shopping centres that had been vandalised” by Palestinians (40). Here is Pappé’s technique at work. He admits that Palestinians were the first to attack—since the Jewish attacks were “in retaliation”—but he still claims that Jewish forces “began” the war.

In addition, Pappé refers to acts of “vandalism,” when these were in fact murderous terror attacks. Morris notess that the violence began “when two buses were attacked and seven Jewish passengers were shot dead.” (65) Elsewhere, Pappé refers to discredited claims—such as claims of collusion between Israel and Jordan during the 1948 war—as if they were widely accepted and unassailable truths.

Pappé also sanitises the war aims of Arab states, whom he describes as benignly waiting for the British Mandate to end before attacking Israel. He compares the relative strength of the two sides by considering only the Palestinian militias, not the array of several armies that Israel actually faced, which were slightly smaller but “better equipped and, theoretically, better trained,” Morris writes. (17)

In 1994, Morris said of Pappé and his approach: “Pappe . . . attacks historians such as [Avi] Shlaim and myself not so much from the left as from above. His basic assertion is that we are (merely) ‘critical’ or ‘positivist’ historians, not true “New Historians” at all. Pappe defines proper ‘New Historiography’ as necessarily judgmental, with the historian duty-bound to ‘pass judgment on the events [and protagonists] of the past . . . Shlaim and myself, he implies, have failed as ‘New Historians’ . . . What Israel and the Middle East conflict need, Pappe seems to be saying, is a new breed of New Historians, committed to and propounding certain political attitudes and programmes, unafraid of passing judgment, and utilizing various social science methods.” (1948 and After, 47-48)

Recently, in a 2004 review of Pappé’s A History of Modern Palestine, Morris wrote: “The multiplicity of mistakes on each page is a product of both Pappe's historical methodology and his political proclivities . . . Pappe's errors are not merely a matter of sloppiness born of a contempt for that leaven of dullards, ‘the facts.’ The book is also awash with errors resulting from the writer's ideological preferences.”

Morris concluded: “This truly is an appalling book. Anyone interested in the real history of Palestine/Israel and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would do well to run vigorously in the opposite direction.” Pappé admitted he had made mistakes but accused Morris of racism for rejecting a single-state solution: “Morris will probably feel unwelcome in such as (sic) society of equality between people and races.”

Anyhow, I told the professor recently that I objected to his use of Pappé. He said that he wanted to present Pappé alongside Morris to include all “points of view.” Such is the damage wrought by relativism in today’s academy: Pappé’s propaganda is to be given the same weight as serious history (and Morris, too has his critics).

He invited me to submit a “canonical” Zionist text. But there is no such thing,the very idea is a caricature of the complex historical debates among Israeli historians. I sent him an excerpt of Shmuel Katz’s Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine, a right-wing text that I would prefer not to use but which I thought might be a sort of counterweight to Pappé. The professor included it—as optional reading.

He also challenged me to show that Pappé’s account was wrong—as if it were up to the non-expert reader to disprove the conspiracy theory, rather than Pappé’s responsibility to prove it in the first place. Specifically, the professor wanted me to provide evidence that David Ben-Gurion did not, as Pappé claims, believe prior to the 1948 war that Israel’s armies would be far stronger than the Arab armies.

The evidence—which took me less than an hour to find—is that Israel did not even win most of its clashes with Arab armies during the war. And Ben-Gurion was, as his own diaries suggest, deeply worried about Israel’s ability to repel an attack. He did express confidence in Israeli forces—which leader would not, when taking a nation to war?—but only after spending two years building up their strength.

So the reality is somewhat complex. But Pappé hates complexity, and insists—along with lesser cranks like Norman Finkelstein—that the facts are clear, and any attempt to introduce complications is a Zionist ploy. And for willing believers, such as my professor, Israel is guilty until proven innocent. He offered to include texts refuting Pappé—but refused to take Pappé off the list. All “points of view,” you see.

I met recently with Benjamin Pogrund, who recommended a book he co-edited entitled Shared Histories: A Palestinian-Israeli Dialogue. There is one exchange about the 1948 war where the conversation between Israeli and Palestinian historians completely breaks down. A Palestinian historian, when challenged to prove claims that Israel planned and carried out “the massacres,” protests: “You are too objective and you overlook our narrative.” Narrative, not fact, is what counts.

In another section of the book, Palestinian historian Adel Yahya, who conducted interviews with 1948 refugees, reveals that while they felt that Israel was to blame for their plight, they did not believe there had been a planned expulsion:

“Something else that Palestinian historians don’t like is the response to questions about a cohesive plan on the part of the Jewish Zionist groups to expel the Palestinians. They said ‘no.’ They didn’t believe it. They didn’t think for a minute that the Jews were out to expel the Palestinians. If there was or was not a plan, they didn’t know about it.” (235-6) So much for Pappé’s conspiracy theory.

But never mind. Pappé will be taught at Harvard Law School this fall, because he has a “point of view.” And unlike other points of view, his is not optional reading.

I’d really like to sit with a group of concerned scholars and students and explore the difficulties and deficiencies in Israeli law, and how to overcome them. I’d like to talk about the Knesset bill to prevent the Jewish National Fund from leasing to Arabs, for instance. But when Pappé is being shoved at me, I have to respond with Katz—which is an insult to Katz, actually. I have to fight instead of learning. It’s sad.

19 July 2007

19 July 2007 - The federal idea in Zionist thought

I’m currently reviewing a book by Prof. Yosef Gorny of Tel Aviv Univeristy entitled From Binational Society to Jewish State: Federal Concepts in Zionist Political Thought, 1920-1990, and the Jewish People. It’s an intellectual history, part of a series on Jewish identity, and Gorny says he wrote with a sense of “disillusionment” about the future prospects of confederation between Israel and its neighbours.

Indeed, one of the most striking things about the book is its conclusion, in which Gorny writes that Zionism “is beginning its second historical journey”—back to Europe, where he foresees a future cultural center of world Jewry. Gorny is not, like Avraham Burg, giving up on Zionism and celebrating the Diaspora; rather, he is worried about the fate of Jews if there is no resolution to the conflict with Arabs.

Putting this aside for now, let us return to the beginning, and Gorny’s definitions of the “federal” idea. A “federation” is “a sovereign state composed of autonomous political units that derive their power from one political center”; a “confederation” is “a regional alliance of sovereign states that maintain join institutionst in various domains.” Power devolves down in the former, and up in the latter.

Gorny also defines different versions of utopian thinking. Utopianism considers “society as it should be”; realistic utopianism, such as Marxism, considers society as it is but imagines the ideal situation will emerge; and utopian realism is more concerned with how things actually are, with the ideal merely serving as a guide. Zionism, he says, always moved between utopia and reality, vision and pragmatism.

He goes on to demonstrate how different versions of the federal idea have been proposed by various Zionist leaders as a way of bridging the gap between utopian national visions and the practical obstacles to establishing and maintaining a state. Often, federation and confederation were proposed to resolve the fact or potential of Jewish minority in Palestine, and Israel’s solitude among Arab nations.

Gorny excludes versions of the federal idea, such as certain forms of binationalism, that did not uphold the general Zionist principle of a Jewish majority in the part of Palestine that was to be theirs. Turning to mainstream Zionist leaders of both the left and right, he shows how the federal idea was inspired by various precedents, including the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the United States, among others.

Leaders who proposed federal ideas often changed their model as circumstances changed. Thus David Ben-Gurion first proposed (separate) autonomy for Jews and Arabs in Palestine in 1922; a joint federation of Jewish and Arab nations in the mid-1920s; a complex federal arrangement between Jews and Arabs, in 1931; and a confederation of a Jewish state within a larger Arab formation, in the mid-1930s.

One of the most interesting subjects Gorny addresses is the federal idealism of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, who is considered a right-wing and militant thinker. Gorny points out that Jabotinsky was a political liberal, and that despite his conviction that Jews woud have to resort to the use of force, he continued to believe in a federal solution that recognized the national rights of both Jews and Arabs.

Gorny demonstrates that in their deliberations with each other and themselves, the Zionist leaders were capable of considering a wide range of different ideas. The idea of “transfer”—which was considered impractical but not “morally illegitimate” at that time, having recently been implemented to resolve matters between Turkey and Greece—coexisted with utopian ideas of shared states and confederations.

Demography played a role in the formulation of the various models—just as it does today. After the Six Day War, Israeli Labor politicians Arie Eliav and Shimon Peres proposed different forms of the federal model as a way of resolving the moral and demographic challenges of occupation. Today, the “demographic threat” is in doubt, given the Gaza disengagement and questions about Palestinian population figures.

The geopolitical environment has also changed, with Arab states now prepared—at least in theory—to accept peace with (if not the legitimacy of) Israel. These two factors, perhaps unforeseen by Gorny when he wrote his book, have pushed the federal idea even further to the margins of Israeli discourse. However, it has not disappeared, because the fundamental conflict remains to be resolved.

It is possible, and perhaps even likely that the next few years will indeed see some form of Palestinian state emerge—whether along the lines of the old “autonomy” model, as a “provisional” state, or a fully-fledged nation-state. If so, there will also be a need for institutional arrangements between the two states to govern affairs, such as water, that must be dealt with in common. The federal idea lives yet.

18 July 2007

18 July 2007 - Bush's Middle East summit

President George W. Bush brought new hope to the Middle East this week with a speech announcing that he would soon convene a regional peace summit. Many jaded observers and committed Bush skeptics dismissed or mocked the idea. There have certainly been dozens of failures before. But there are three very good reasons to believe things might be different this time around.

The first reason is that Bush has finally assembled a coalition of Arab states that are ready to move in the direction he wants to take them. The elder Bush achieved the same thing during and after the Gulf War, and the results were the Madrid summit and the Oslo peace process. Here, shared fears of Iran and Shia domination in the region are quietly prodding Arab states in Washington’s direction.

The second reason is that Hamas’s victory has jarred Arab leaders into action. Sarah Kass, writing in the Wall Street Journal, is boldly optimistic about the possible opportunities for peace that might be seized from Hamas’s victory. She may be a bit too optimistic, but it is true that Hamas has reminded Arab states of the potential for Islamist revolution and the urgent need to stop it before it spreads.

The third reason is that both Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert are politically weak within their own respective nations, and may need to achieve something substantial in order to protect their political power. They need peace, and they need each other. All three of these factors have created an opportunity for a renewed American peace push.

The less skeptical observers have made some interesting comments. Michael Oren notes that Bush’s proposals are not only idealistic, but place an unprecedented amount of responsibility on Arab leaders. Shmuel Rosner sees Condoleeza Rice’s influence in Bush’s proposals, and suggests what we are seeing is primarily her vision for the Middle East, with both risks and potential for Israel.

It is worth noting that the Madrid summit in 1991 was a failure, partly because when Israel is surrounded by Arab states at the table, they seem to goad each other into hard-line positions. But the process did indirectly create a side track that led to the Oslo negotiations. And this time, with the Arab peace plan in the background, a summit might be less confrontational and more productive. I’m willing to hope.

There’s a lot one can criticize in Bush’s foreign policy, but one of the elements I support wholeheartedly is its idealism about democracy and human rights. The U.S. has erred in putting democracy before the rule of law, which I think is the main reason Iraq has turned into such a terribly difficult and bloody place. But for the first time since Woodrow Wilson, American policy is promoting American values.

Two years ago, I was invited by a group of students at the University of Cape Town to debate Bush’s foreign policy. They found a professor to oppose it right away, but could not find anyone on UCT’s faculty to support it. Eventually they found me, a graduate student. It was a really fun debate, and I felt I had won the exchange, partly because my opponent refused the opportunity to rebut my arguments.

Below is the text of my speech.


I would like to thank Robert Krause for organising this debate and inviting me to defend George W. Bush’s foreign policies in the Middle East. I understand that only thirty-five people turned him down before he asked me.

I’m also very glad to see so many of my friends here—though it seems many of them have come to support the other guy.

I think we must begin a discussion like this with a few disclaimers.

In defending American policy I am not, as some would have it, cheering for the deaths of innocent bystanders in war, or celebrating the military occupation of foreign lands.

And I accept that my colleague, in criticising American policy, is not praising dictatorial regimes or terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.

I also wish to emphasise that we are confining our remarks to the Middle East, and there are many parts of Bush’s foreign policy—to say nothing of his domestic policies—that we are leaving out.

Some of these foreign policies I support, such as Bush’s unprecedented contributions to aid for developing countries, especially in Africa. And some of these I oppose, such as Bush’s policies in Latin America and his intransigence on global climate change.

I imagine that my colleague’s main objection to Bush’s Middle East policy is the projection of American power across the globe.

In an increasingly interdependent world, in which everyone depends on everyone else in various ways to keep the global economy going, it can be frustrating to think that one country is less constrained than others from taking independent or even unilateral actions.

I also think that many people fear they will be forced to bear the potential negative consequences of US actions over which they have no power or control.

I view these as legitimate concerns.

However, history teaches us that inaction by the United States often has consequences that are far more devastating.

The self-isolation of the US after the First World War remains an important example. America’s failure to intervene in Europe’s struggles created a power vacuum which fascism and Nazism rushed in to fill.

I support Bush’s Middle East policy because it is the first attempt by an American President, or anyone else for that matter, to make human rights and democracy a priority in the region.

I recognise that the US has not always lived up to its own standards, and that it has other priorities in the region as well that it sometimes places above these noble ideals.

Yet on the whole, I believe that Bush’s policy has resulted in positive changes and will pave the road to a better future for the Middle East and the world.

The evolution of Bush’s policy

It is important to remember that Bush’s original policies toward the Middle East were quite different from what they are today. In fact, they were quite isolationist.

When Bush took office in January 2001, he pledged to pursue a hands-off approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and even supported a partial reform of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

The attacks on New York and Washington nine months later, on September 11th, shattered the isolationist paradigm, just as surely and completely as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 destroyed the illusion that the US could stay out of the Second World War.

Bush then adopted a new policy: henceforth the US would target terror groups—and would also target states that sponsored or supported terror.

This policy, known as the Bush Doctrine, was clearly an interventionist strategy, one that could and indeed did lead to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But war is only one tool of the Bush Doctrine, and the US has in fact used many different approaches in the Middle East, knowing full well that regime change is difficult, that it is not always legitimate and that it may create as many problems as it solves.

Two years after 9/11, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, Bush embraced a new policy, which he called the “Strategy of Freedom”. This strategy aimed at promoting democracy and human rights in addition to fighting terror and maintaining security in the Middle East.

It grew from the realisation that, as former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky pointed out, governments that do not honour the human rights of their own citizens will always have the need to create external enemies and sow hatred as a way of maintaining their own power.

As Bush said in November 2003: “As long as the Middle East is a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export”.

Obstacles and successes

Bush’s new strategy, in which security would go hand-in-hand with human rights, represented a profound new direction for the US and for the region.

But it faced two major obstacles from the start.

The first was the continued violence and terror that challenged the new democratically-elected governments of Afghanistan and Iraq, which suggested that democracy might not easily take root in societies that are at once highly authoritarian and socially fractured.

The second obstacle was the embarrassment of America’s own human rights failures in the Middle East—not just its continued support for autocracies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but also its torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and its extralegal imprisonment and interrogation of “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

However, the Bush administration also achieved a steady stream of successes—not just in its Strategy of Freedom but also regarding the security goals of the Bush Doctrine.

On the security front, Bush helped persuade Libya to abandon its programmes and plans for developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and to submit to UN inspections. He also successfully pressured Syria to end its military occupation of Lebanon.

Bush became the first US President to endorse a Palestinian state; in return he saw the rise of a Palestinian leadership that renounced terror. Finally, he helped Sudan end its 30-year civil war between the Khartoum government and rebels in the south of the country.

On the democracy and human rights front, Bush’s new policy encouraged and assisted popular revolutions against corrupt and autocratic governments in Georgia, the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

In January this year, Palestinians and Iraqis voted in the first fully democratic elections in the Arab world. A month later, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens took to the streets in an unprecedented show of “people’s power” to demand an end to Syrian domination.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia held its first-ever municipal elections, and Egypt promised to allow opposition candidates to contest upcoming presidential elections.

These are great achievements indeed.

No doubt there were some local causes that contributed to this unprecedented stirring of freedom, such as the emergence of semi-independent satellite news networks such as Al-Jazeera.

But the catalysts for these changes were undoubtedly the actions of the US—first, in toppling Saddam Hussein, and showing how weak the authoritarian governments of the region really were; and second, in holding democratic elections to replace them.

Enduring contradictions

There are some persistent contradictions in Bush’s Middle East policy. The most glaring of these is America’s continued close relations with Saudi Arabia, despite the Saudi government’s still largely autocratic rule and its continued support for extremist ideologies.

There are many reasons for these enduring ties, the most salient of which is that the US remains dependent on Saudi oil.

In addition, the US is building a stronger relationship with Pakistan, which is a military dictatorship, and Uzbekistan, which is governed by a regime that is not afraid to shoot its own citizens in their hundreds to maintain power.

In both of these cases, as well as in the Saudi case, the US sees these authoritarian governments as bulwarks against extremist Islamic groups. Pakistan and Uzbekistan have also been important military allies in the war against Al-Qaeda.

These contradictions are a warning that we should not view Bush’s Strategy of Freedom uncritically or in an overly idealistic fashion.

Put another way, we might say that the fight against terror is clearly Bush’s first priority. The Bush Doctrine is fundamental and the Strategy of Freedom is secondary.

At the same time, we must acknowledge some of the long-term changes that Bush is pursuing in order to resolve these contradictions.

One is the shift away from Middle East oil as an energy souce, and the shift towards other oil-producing regions (such as West Africa) and eventually towards alternative energy sources.

Another is the gradual but steady pressure that the Bush administration is applying to autocratic regimes, including those that are US allies.

Bush has withdrawn American troops from Saudi Arabia, for example, where they had previously provided protection to the Saudi government from its belligerent neighbours.

In addition, the US has tied a free-trade agreement with Egypt to the promise of political reforms, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently told Egyptian officials, in public, that her government expected to see further democratic changes.


What we are witnessing today in the Middle East is a slow and fretful awakening of human energies in a region that has failed to participate in the most progressive political changes of the second half of the twentieth century.

Many Arab states, for example, sided with Hitler during the Second World War. But unlike Germany, these countries did not go through a process of “de-Nazification” or a conscious introduction of liberal principles and democratic ideals.

Previous US administrations coddled the dictators of the Middle East for the sake of Cold War geopolitics. Yet the end of the Cold War did not bring about changes in those relations, or new constitutional processes within those states, as occurred here in South Africa.

And those countries that fell into the embrace of the Soviet Union never experienced a Berlin Wall moment. The end of Soviet control did not bring an end to human rights abuses or authoritarian government.

Until today.

The emergence of democracy and human rights as a central theme—even if it is not the only theme—in US policy towards the Middle East is a fundamentally positive change.

What is missing at the moment is a coherent strategy for advancing and strengthening the cause of democracy even further.

The Middle East needs a vision like Africa’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), and new leadership able and willing to drive the changes.

It is likely that this new leadership will arise from small Arab states like Bahrain, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Whereas Saddam Hussein gave 10 000 US dollars to the family of every Palestinian suicide bomber, the UAE is contributing millions of dollars to building new Palestinian towns in Gaza.

The real test of Bush’s policy will be: is it successful in fighting terror? Or, rather: is it more successful than another approach would have been?

I believe Bush’s approach is, in fact, the only alternative. That is why US Senator John Kerry, who ran against Bush in the 2004 elections, proposed a Middle East policy whose fundamental elements were essentially the same as those of the incumbent.

It will be impossible to stop every lunatic with a gun or homemade explosives. But it will not be impossible to build societies over the long term that can discourage, and withstand, terror—societies whose leaders do not need to teach their people to hate in order to maintain control, societies who look forward to solutions rather than backward to old grievances.

It is through a combination of approaches—fighting terror on the one hand, encouraging democracy and human rights on the other—that the threat of terror can be suppressed, and the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and around the world can be changed for the better.

Our freedom, and our courage to use that freedom as we do here today, is the best—and the only—security.

17 July 2007

17 July 2007 - Protesting home demolitions

Yesterday I joined my colleagues at a demonstration against the demolition of Bedouin homes by the Israeli government. There are dozens of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev, which conflict with the government’s plans for the region’s development. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the government recognizes tiny Jewish towns but not Bedouin towns of similar size.

We showed up at the Wohl Rose Garden, opposite the Knesset, wearing the crimson shirts of ACRI. There were several other demonstrations nearby, including rallies by former Gaza settlers demanding better compensation from the government. We couldn’t find our demonstration at first, and asked some border guards who were lounging under a tree to help us. They knew exactly where it was and pointed us in the right direction. En route, some police stopped us and asked where we were going. “To the demonstration about home demolitions,” someone said.

“For or against?” he joked.

“For, if there is a proper solution. Otherwise, against,” she replied.

We walked downhill to a fenced-off area facing the Knesset. There were about two hundred or so demonstrators, mostly Bedouins from the Negev. Most of the women wore the hijab; a few were fully veiled, and some of the men wore traditional Arab headdress. There were a couple of Arab members of the Knesset standing in front, and little kids running everywhere. I saw a fellow I recognized from Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) hovering at the edge with some American students.

Six years ago, he visited South Africa ahead of the Durban racism conference. I took him around the townships of Cape Town, including Muslim areas such as Gatesville. He had appeared at two panel discussions as a counterweight to anti-Zionist fanatic Uri Davis. The first discussion was at a Reform synagogue in the center of Cape Town; the second was at the radical Gatesville mosque.

The Uri Davis meeting in Green Point was really the beginning of it all. It’s where uninformed Jewish lefties like Jonathan Shapiro got their inspiration (as Shapiro himself happily testifies). It’s also where dovish Zionists began to put up a fight. I first met Theo Schoklne there, after he told a reddened Davis that he “lacked equal empathy”—the best and most effective critique of the afternoon, I thought.

My acquaintance from RHR later told me that at the Gatesville meeting, where the crowd chanted “one Zionist, one bullet” and burned an Israeli flag outside, he had shocked the the audience by asking them to pray for his children in Jerusalem. I thought of saying hello today but I didn’t want to re-connect in the context of the demonstration. I decided just to hang back and observe a bit.

The demonstrators wore white t-shirts in Hebrew, Arabic and English bearing slogans such as “No More Home Demolitions”; “I am from Arsala” (one of the unrecognized villages; “Don’t Destroy My House.” Groups held large banners in Hebrew: “We Are Also Citizens of the Negev”; “There Is Someone to Talk To—the Council of Unrecognized Negev Villages”; “Destroying Homes Builds Hatred.”

One guy held a sign that had a large photograph of a barren piece of ground—presumably, where a village had once stood—and the Hebrew words: “Darfur… is here.” Another large sign simply read: “Don’t let them destroy our houses—please.” There were also signs in Arabic, many of them simply carrying the names of some of the unrecognized villages that were represented at the demonstration.

A man with a bullhorn began leading chants in Hebrew: “No, no to demolition! Yes, yes, to recognition!” “No, no to destruction! Yes, yes to construction!” There were also chants and songs in Arabic. An old woman whipped the crowd into clapping hands in time to the chants. She also moved some kids to the front, to make sure they were there for the TV cameras and the newspaper photographers.

The demonstration was loud but fairly laid back. The police officers standing at the front joked with each other and smoked cigarettes. Behind the crowd, some bored Bedouin kids started a soccer game. The ball sailed out of bounds and a police officer kicked it back into play. An Arab gardener addressed some men lounging under a tree and complained that people were trampling the new rose bushes.

The American students stood around with signs bearing rather abstract slogans in English: “Democracy not demolition”; “Citizens don’t deserve this.” They looked a bit awkward. Israeli journalists moved through the crowd, filming demonstrators and conducting interviews. Al-Jazeera was there, but they just did a set-up shot and an interview outside the crowd. I get the sense that that’s their journalistic style.

I had seen a fair number of anti-demolition rallies in South Africa, as well—generally outside the Western Cape provincial legislature. South Africa’s Constitution guarantees the right to housing, which was the subject of the famous Grootboom case (full judgment here). The court ruled that the state did not have to immediately provide homes to people it had evicted, but had to provide emergency shelter and had to work towards the “progressive realization” of housing rights.

Israel doesn’t have a constitution, and the right to housing is not recognized by the courts as one of the nation’s core “constitutional principles.” One of my colleagues explained to a group of visiting American rabbis who stumbled across the demonstration that what is needed is equality in planning between Jews and Arabs. Equality is indeed recognized as a constitutional principle—but within some limits.

Ruth Gavison, who helped found ACRI, takes an interesting and nuanced approach to the issue:

“In the context of the ongoing conflict, Israel is justified in establishing Jewish towns with the express purpose of preventing the contiguity of Arab settlement both within Israel and with the Arab states across the border: Such contiguous settlement invites irredentism and secessionist claims, and neutralizing the threat of secession is a legitimate goal. By contrast, the blatant discrimination against Arabs in the quality of housing and infrastructure cannot be justified. The Israeli Supreme Court’s declaration in Kedan v. Israel Lands Administration (2000), according to which the state must not discriminate against Arabs in these matters, is therefore welcomed. However, I do not accept the ruling’s further implication that there is no basis for permitting the creation of separate communities for Jews and Arabs. In a multi-cultural society such as Israel, most individuals prefer to live within their respective communities, and they should be allowed to do so, provided that this does not severely undermine the common civic identity.” (“The Jews’ Right to Statehood: A Defense,” Azure 15 (5763/2003))

She adds, in a footnote:

“The issue of housing should be handled in cooperation with representatives of both the affected villages and those communities seeking a solution to their housing problems. It is important that there be no illegal building: This sort of construction could be dangerous and might disrupt vital development plans. However, in the absence of formal planning that allows for legal construction according to need, efforts to stop illegal construction would be arbitrary at best, and almost certainly doomed to failure. The decision to demolish illegal structures (or to “legalize” some of them) will be easier if it is accompanied by the development of an integrated building program in Arab villages. Moreover, plans of this nature will encourage the Arab population to adopt a variety of housing styles, as opposed to the single-story type of construction to which they are accustomed and that is wholly unsuitable for the population’s size and financial resources. (supra, n. 30)

Some Israelis have far blunter opinions. On the way back to the office, our cab driver quizzed us: “But surely the government demolishes illegal Jewish houses as well? Arabs are always building big houses, anyway—for sons, daughters, grandchildren, whatever. Besides, the Bedouins are all criminals. All the cars that are stolen in Jerusalem end up in the Negev.” “Not all,” one of us replied, “and I’ve seen quite a few kippot in the criminal courts.” “Maybe not all, but most,” he said.

16 July 2007

16 July 2007 - International law, the UN, and reality

In reading Menachem Begin’s account of the Jewish underground in Palestine, The Revolt, I was struck by the way Begin justified attacks against the British authorities by calling on “international law.” Strictly speaking, he may have been right—the British were violating the terms of their League of Nations mandate—but it is interesting how terror groups of all kinds appeal to international law.

Calling on international law is like threatening a schoolyard rival by telling him that you have a big brother that will beat him up if he messes with you. And just as the big brother may in fact be made up, so international law, too, is a kind of fiction. That is not just because it is “unenforceable,” as a friend of mine once complained, but because it is in fact just a label given to all kinds of different arrangements.

Probably the most successful forms of international law are bilateral treaties between nations. Multilateral treaties can create stable rules, but less stable as more nations are added to the mix. Customary international law, created by the behavior of states and interpreted by organizations such as the International Red Cross, is far weaker. And weakest of all are the UN and its various institutions.

That is ironic, given that the UN was designed to have the muscle that its predecessor, the League of Nations, did not. But the two have foundered on similar grounds—specifically, the lack of will among member states to enforce their joint decisions, and the ease with which evil designed are tolerated or even encouraged within the system. The problem is moral and political, not legal or institutional.

Former Israeli ambassador to the UN and Sharon adviser Dore Gold takes up the UN’s failures in Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos. It’s an excellent, well-researched and well-written book, and I spent part of my weekend reading through it. There’s far more to it than I can summarize here, but I thought I’d present the general outline of Gold’s argument below.

The first failures of the UN, writes Gold, came in response to the Arab attacks on Israel in 1948 and Pakistani attacks in Indian-ruled Kashmir in 1947-48. The UN failed to identify and punish the aggressor nations. This created a precent that later encouraged further aggression by developing countries against their neighbors, such as the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950. Only rarely did the UN object or intervene.

In the Korean conflict, the UN responded quickly, but that was because the Soviet Union had boycotted the Security Council and the other countries came to swift agreement. When the USSR returned, the US was able to marshal support in the General Assembly, but decolonization would later create an anti-Western majority. It was decisive US action, not any UN action, that responded to the North Koreans.

Unable to stop aggressive behavior by third world states, especially Soviet-aligned ones, the UN then tried intervening on behalf of developing countries caught between the U.S. and USSR, a strategy that ran into trouble in the Congo. The UN then failed to stop the Soviet crackdown against the Hungarian revolution in 1956, while quickly condemning British, French and Israeli action in the Suez war.

This revealed that the UN had an effect on democracies, where it could affect public opinion. However, UN pressure was useless with regard to totalitarian states. Therefore, while ostensibly “neutral,” the UN effectively became a Soviet tool. This led the U.S. to lean on the Organization of American States, not the UN, in the Cuban Missile Crisis—though it did embarrass the USSR in the Security Council.

Far from preventing conflicts, the UN actually helped encourage them in some cases. In the Six Day War, for example, the UN’s compliance with Egypt’s demand to remove UN forces from the Sinai encouraged Nasser to mobilize and provoked Israel’s pre-emptive attack. Security Council Resolution 242, which was meant to encourage negotiations, was undermined by subsequent UN interpretations of it.

In the 1970s, the UN “abandoned its normal ambivalence in global conflicts to come down against Israel,” writes Gold. It passed General Assembly Resolution 3379, the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution, which was only one among dozens of resolutions that the UN began passing against Israel as a kind of yearly ritual. Only decades later, in 1992, was Resolution 3379 rescinded.

The end of the Cold War brought new hope for the UN, as it authorized the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. However, this came after decades of indulgence towards Iraq, its genocide against the Kurdish minority, and its various weapons programs. The UN also failed to act against massive post-Gulf War human rights abuses by the Iraqi government against Shiites and the Marsh Arabs.

In the years that followed, the UN failed to enforce its Gulf War cease-fire resolution. Although it initially enforced the portions dealing with weapons of mass destruction, this mechanism faltered under Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who expanded the corrupt oil-for-food program. Only the U.S. and its allies, acting independently of UN authorization, bothered to enforce the UN’s own resolution.

The worst examples of UN failure in the post-Cold War era, Gold argues, have been the numerous cases in which it has failed to act against genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and elsewhere. All of these cases, he points out, involved Annan in some way or another. Annan’s approach was to treat the perpetrator and the victim equally, creating a false neutrality that gave an effective green light to murder.

This, Gold writes, reinforced the UN’s failure to adjudicate among competing national interests on the basis of a firm set of moral principles. Relativism, in this sense, was deadly. In Rwanda, where Annan headed UN peacekeeping operations, the UN refused to intervene to stop the genocidaires because that would have meant taking sides. In some cases the UN forces actually facilitated the killing.

In Bosnia, the UN soon repeated its mistakes by failing to protect Bosnian Muslims from slaughter by Bosnian Serb forces. It was reluctant to take sides because it was afraid that doing so would undermine its diplomatic leadership. However, it may have taken sides anyway, through its inaction. There is evidence that the UN may have made a deal with Bosnian Serb forces to trade UN hostages for UN inaction.

“It was true,” Gold writes, “that the Bosnian Muslims themselves engaged in war crimes against the Serbs . . . But those facts had little bearing on the immediate danger”—the danger the UN knew about and failed to stop. True impartiality, he argues, would have meant protecting both sides from genocide, not adopting a false even-handedness that placed the source and target of the danger on the same plane.

Finally, Gold describes the UN’s attempt at “institutionalized moral equivalence”—the International Criminal Court (ICC). The original idea, proposed after the Second World War, was to establish an institution that could prosecute and deter atrocities. But the Rome conference that established the ICC in 1998 failed to define “aggression” and did not include terrorism on the list of its “core crimes.”

The Rome Statute was the epitome of false moral co-equivalence, in which Israeli settlements were equated with the worst war crimes; even damage to the environment or “outrages upon personal dignity” were listed as war crimes. The U.S. and Israel voted against the ICC, fearing that it could become a tool for enemies of human rights to haul their citizens into court on spurious pretexts.

There were other reasons to be suspicious of this form of international justice. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled against Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank, despite lacking jurisdiction to do so. And Belgian courts allowed cases to be filed against foreign leaders under a universal jurisdiction law until NATO threatened to move its headquarters out of Belgium if the law remained.

In general, these international institutions, and the parties making use of them, have adopted an anti-American line. In effect, they have placed those who try to stop terror and military aggression on the same level as those who foment terror and carry out aggression. In the Middle East, the UN has actually funded, protected and even directly assisted terror organizations such as Hizbollah and Hamas.

In UN institutions, the UN has allowed authoritarian dictatorships to take up positions on the Security Council; it has allowed rights abusers to lead the Human Rights Council; and it has allowed destructive regimes to head committees on disarmament. It is a bureaucracy that is not only inefficient but politically, financially and morally corrupt, a negative force in international affairs.

Gold points out that successful forms of international cooperation outside the UN do exist, such as the Multinational Force and Observers (MNO) that keeps the peace between Israel and Egypt. He suggests an independent alliance based on shared values—not, like the Community of Democracies, a bloc within the UN, but an organization outside the UN itself. Meanwhile, the UN needs a radical overhaul.

I agree with Gold’s recommendations, with one reservation: it is disagreement among democracies, as much as opposition from autocracies, that makes the UN a failure. Perhaps any institution aimed at enforcing general rules, and not at dealing with a specific challenge or threat, would face the same weakness. Rather than a single UN alternative, several issue-based alternatives may be necessary.

15 July 2007

15 July 2007 - South African foreign policy for sale?

Since I’ve been in Jerusalem, I’ve encountered lots of questions about South Africa. My colleagues in human rights activism want to know more about the post-apartheid legal world, and in anti-apartheid political strategies. Those I have encountered in the academic and policy world want to know why it is that South Africa has such a skewed and one-sided policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Over the past few months, there has been growing international criticism of South Africa’s foreign policies in general and towards Israel in particular. An article in the Washington Post observed South Africa’s policies are being condemned by human rights activists, while an article in Israel’s Azure journal concludes: “What a shame . . . that the ANC pursues policies hearkening back to its country’s discredited past.”

In addition, the past few weeks have been particularly embarrassing for South Africa’s chief Israel-hater, intelligence minister, who was caught encouraging Palestinians to attack Israel. Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, produced the following translated quote from the Palestinian daily Al Ayam on May 6, reporting on Kasrils’s speech at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah:

“Kasrils called for national unity, as the only road to success, particularly because the enemy conspires to divide and control. Kasrils emphasised that the guns should be pointed towards the enemy, to better serve the struggle for liberation and independence.” Kasrils has protested that his words were “spun” and taken out of context, and he did not back attacks against civilians. (Guilty as charged, I’d say.)

The question I am often asked is whether Kasrils really believes some of the things he says, or whether he’s being put up to the job by the ANC, President Mbeki or someone else. The answer I give is that I am certain Kasrils’s views on the Middle East are his deeply held convictions. However, the timing and intensity with which he expresses those views may possibly be the result of political calculations.

I think part of the reason that Kasrils has been especially vocal lately is that he is trying to protect his political position on the central committee of the South African Communist Party (SACP)—which he appears likely to do—as well as the National Executive Committee of the ANC, to be elected later this year. Kasrils has been seen as too close to Mbeki by those supporting Jacob Zuma or a leftist alternative.

By taking up the Palestinian cause with such vigor, Kasrils has tried to show the SACP and the ANC’s left wing that he is indispensable in at least one respect—namely, as the Jew who opposes Israel. (And we who oppose his stance so vigorously have played our part, however unintentionally, by adding to the controversy and allowing him to impress his comrades with the contrived mantle of victimhood.)

But there is another reason, and I believe it has to do with South Africa’s growing relationship with Iran, among other rogue nations. The inexplicable positions that South Africa has taken on the UN Security Council, in the UN Human Rights Council and elsewhere are partly the result of lingering nostalgia for Cold War politics, and the desire to create a “multipolar” world in opposition to the US.

Beyond the ideological connections, there may be more concrete connections as well. It is widely known that the ANC is strapped for cash for party activities. Before 1994, it received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments, but these turned off the taps when the party came to power. Since then, the ANC has been seeking a way to keep money flowing through the sieve-like party coffers.

One method has been to use domestic laws, such as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) legislation, that direct the government to do business with companies that meet certain race-based criteria. The ANC then helps create BEE companies, or makes sure that the ANC is represented on existing corporate boards. BEE deals are then awarded to these companies, which then kick back funds to the ANC.

This is the pattern that was followed in the Oilgate scandal, in which the ANC-front-cum-BEE-company gave the party R11-million ($2 million) after receiving an oil contract from the state energy company (a contract it never fulfilled). In addition, the ANC has set up local front companies, such as Chancellor House, that secure lucrative BEE stakes in local businesses for the enrichment of the ANC.

However, the party is also thought to have sought outside fundraising opportunities as well. The Mail & Guardian newspaper investigated the ANC’s links to Saddam Hussein and alleged that party officials had used state visits to discuss potential oil deals with the Iraqi regime, which could have brought the ANC billions had Saddam stayed in power. These claims have yet to be properly investigated.

So far, the ANC’s overseas fundraising efforts have not borne fruit, which is perhaps why it has shifted back to domestic fundraising schemes. The ruling party has proposed increases in public funding for political parties in parliament—much to the irritation of opposition parties, who see the plan as a naked cash-grab. But it is possible the ANC has not given up entirely on finding foreign sources of money.

In 2004, defense minister visited Iran and signed a memorandum with his Iranian counterpart. It was initially reported by several sources that the deal provided for South Africa to sell uranium to Iran, though this was later denied. The precise contents of the memorandum are unknown. However, more South African mining companies have been getting into the uranium market in recent years.

Earlier this year, Kasrils visited Iran and was quoted by the official Iranian news agency as having endorsed the Iranian nuclear programme. Again there were denials, and it is unclear what the purpose of his visit actually was. South Africa certainly seems to spend a lot of time on foreign policy; at the moment, at least five ministers seem to be involved in foreign affairs on matters outside their portfolios.

South African Cabinet ministers have sometimes been accused of using overseas visits to further their personal business interests. Another question, however, is whether their travels are connected to fundraising efforts for the ANC. It is difficult to know, given how little is known about what ministers do on foreign visits, what agreements they make, or what investements or arrangements follow afterwards.

However, I believe there is a strong possibility that South Africa’s foreign policy is being hawked to rogue regimes. Hypothetically, these regimes would provide the cash and the contracts to the ANC, while South Africa would offer international diplomatic protection. Such deals would utilize the old links of the Cold War era, which may have morphed into a post-Soviet network serving private interests.

There is still plenty of ideological enthusiasm for the old Soviet connections. ANC-aligned political analyst Adam Habib recommended last week that South Africa build support in “Moscow and Beijing” for a new anti-Israel, anti-US alliance. This would, he said, help South Africa out of its dilemma on Palestine, where it seems to be eager to abandon its old PLO ally in favour of Iranian client Hamas.

Whether the ANC's ideological inclinations are truly backed by financial considerations is purely speculation on my part. It would be impossible to follow up any of the theories I have outlined without serious and difficult research. However, one day we may know the true story of whether—and if so, to what extent—the ANC’s fundraising priorities are dictating its foreign policy stances. The sooner, the better.

Update: The South African intelligence services include a branch responsible for “economic intelligence,” which is defined as “the identification of economic opportunities for South African entrepreneurs.” This prompts the question of who the government is conducting “espionage” for, as well as how and why. The label could potentially provide cover for foreign visits on behalf of ANC front companies.

Second update: Kasrils has been dumped from the central committee of the SACP.