Despite the “hope in the West that Tehran would be nudged toward a more moderate path” once the nuclear agreement was reached in July, Iran has increased its domestic repression, according to The Wall Street Journal on Friday. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and security forces are increasingly persecuting those opposed to them. On Saturday, authorities arrested Hila Sedighi, an Iranian poet, “who backed a reformist candidate in 2009's disputed presidential election.” Reuters reported that, “[d]ozens of journalists, activists and artists have been arrested on charges such as ‘propaganda’ since October in an apparent crackdown on free expression and dissent ahead of next month's election.” Two Iranian poets, arrested in October, received 99 lashes each “for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex,” according to the Associated Press. Also in October, an award-winning filmmaker, Keywan Karimi, was given six years in prison and 223 lashes because of his work. Ehsan Mazandarani, editor in chief of the Iranian newspaper, Farhikhtegan, was arrested in November. His son said that his father was “taken to an unknown location by seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”
In 2009, the regime violently repressed the Green Movement, a series of protests sparked by the allegedly fraudulent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Journal reported that not only did it catch the administration by surprise, but the White House was not prepared to support it because they were making secret attempts to reach out to the Iranian regime in hopes of restarting nuclear talks. A senior U.S. official said, “It was made clear: ‘We should monitor, but do nothing.’” Following the protests, Iran killed “as many as 150 people” and jailed thousands.
Two Israeli left-wing NGOs, including the watchdog group B’Tselem, have come under scrutiny after their members were revealed to be helping the Palestinian Authority catch and kill Palestinian land dealers who intend to sell property to Jews, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported on Saturday.
Last week, the Israeli investigative television show Uvda broadcast a secret recording in which Ezra Nawi, described as a “Jewish far-left activist from the Ta’ayush group,” talks about his encounter with four Palestinian land sellers who thought he was interested in buying real estate. “Straight away I give their pictures and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Force,” Nawi was heard saying. The Preventative Security Force is one of the PA’s security services. “The Palestinian Authority catches them and kills them,” Nawi added. “But before it kills them, they get beat up a lot.”
According to the Palestinian penal code, selling land to Jews is a capital offense. While Palestinian courts have not carried out executions of those charged with this violation, Palestinians suspected of selling land to Jews are often kidnapped and murdered.
In separate footage, Nawi was also seen saying that he intends to turn over information about a Palestinian land dealer who thought he was a potential Jewish buyer to the PA. In this instance, a field researcher for B’Tselem helped Nawi put together a sting operation in which the seller would be caught.
Reporting in Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz provided further details on Uvda’s investigation. He identified the B’Tselem worker as Nasser Nawaja and described both men’s backgrounds.
Both Nawi and Nawaja are among the most internationally renowned members of Israel’s radical left. Earlier this year, Nawaja published an anti-Israeli op-ed in The New York Times, accusing the Jewish state of “dispossession and oppression.” Nawi is considerably more prominent: when he was arrested, in 2007, for attacking Israeli policemen during a West Bank demonstration, more than 20,000 people—including a long list of prominent Israeli academics as well as progressive American celebrities like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein—signed a petition demanding his release.
Leibovitz added that instead of criticizing the actions of Nawi and Nawaji, B’Tselem seemed to excuse them, with a post on the NGO’s Facebook page saying that although they opposed torture and execution, reporting land dealers to the PA was “the only legitimate course of action.”
Shmuel Rosner offered an explanation as to why B’Tselem would cross the line into justifying such behavior:
Why do human rights activists turn to such immoral methods? Many of them do it because of anger and because of fear. They are angry at a country that refuses to accept their political recipe for Israel. They fear that their activity of many years will be in vain as the country moves in a direction they disagree with.
The angrier they become, the more apprehensive they become – the more they lose their inhibitions. Thus they turn to immoral methods, they turn to other countries to look for the support they cannot get among Israelis, and they turn to language that makes Israel a caricature – a fascist state, an apartheid state, a villain among nations. They say that they act out of love of Israel – and some of them certainly do – but with time and frustration some are made hateful. And hate makes them lose the ability to separate right from wrong, acceptable from unacceptable, useful from not-useful.
The furor over B’Tselem and Ta’ayush comes as Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is attempting to pass a law which, like the American Foreign Agents Registration Act, seeks to force NGOs that receive a majority of their funding from foreign governments to identify themselves as such. A European Union group gave B’Tselem 30,000 Euros last month to fight the proposed NGO transparency law.
Writing last week in the Lawfare Blog, Gerald Steinberg, the president of the watchdog group NGO Monitor, explained the rationale behind the proposed legislation:
The most important aspect of the bill is the symbolism conveyed by the “foreign agent” designation, particularly in Israel, where sovereignty and self-determination are taken seriously.
In this sense, the proposed legislation is similar in spirit and purpose to US Foreign Agent Registration Act (1938), and the rules adopted last year in the House of Representatives, requiring witnesses testifying before a committee in a “nongovernmental capacity” to disclose “the amount and country of origin of any payment or contract related to the subject matter of the hearing originating with a foreign government.” Such regulations seek to prevent foreign governments from secretive and undue influence over democratic processes, outside diplomatic channels.
Palestinian land dealers have been targeted for selling land to Jews for nearly twenty years. Tawfiq Tirawi, a Palestinian security official who was implicated in the deaths of several land dealers in 1997, remains a member of the Fatah Central Committee.
B’Tselem was also in the news this weekend after a fire engulfed its Jerusalem office. Authorities believe that the fire was sparked by faulty electrical wiring.
How often do you find yourself wanting to take a video or photo, only to realize there’s no space left on your phone? While cloud services can back up your photos and video, you must first store the media on your mobile device. The Camra app from Israel, available globally, lets you quickly upload photos and videos (including full HD videos) directly to the cloud, bypassing your phone’s storage. Camra’s patented technology is the result of two years of research by Invoke Mobile in Tel Aviv. The video or photo is converted while being uploaded to the server, so users can watch right away. Those you share with don’t need to download the media either; they can stream it from the cloud. Camra’s secure solution gives you control of the media you share with fellow Camra users: If you delete the photo or video, it is deleted from everywhere on the platform. You can also share content with predefined contacts and across other platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp (the safety feature doesn’t apply to these cross-platform shares). (via Israel21c)
Education is important. What shapes our youth shapes the future, and so we need to craft our school curricula carefully. So it is worth carefully deconstructing the troubling new K-12 curriculum, Reframing Israel, produced by Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman. The curriculum was introduced at the beginning of the school year, and Zimmerman claims that more than 10 Hebrew schools have already adopted it. The stated goal of Reframing Israelis “teaching Jewish kids to think critically about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” But is this the actual impact of the curriculum?
The answer is no.
First, it is crucial to note that the main author and the majority of contributors to Reframing Israel are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This includes the writer of the curriculum’s “historical overview of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
This is deeply problematic, because while BDS sells itself as a movement for justice and human rights, its ultimate goal is the elimination of Israel and the violation of Jewish rights to self-determination. According to recent polls, only four percent of American Jews strongly support BDS, and the overwhelming majority see the denial of Israel’s right to exist as racism. Members of the Jewish community are of course free to support anything they choose, but responsible parents and educators should take BDS’s agenda into account when thinking about the goals and biases ofReframing Israel.
At first glance the curriculum appears well-balanced, filled with pride-building activities like learning Hebrew songs and creative exercises aimed at building understanding of both Israeli and Palestinian narratives. The educational method is also well thought out, encouraging students to actively engage with diverse points of view instead of expecting them to “passively accept the information.” These aspects of Reframing Israel could indeed help Jewish kids think critically about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is therefore disturbing that when digging a little deeper into the material, the message becomes overwhelmingly anti-Israel and pro-BDS. This is particularly apparent in the “Historical Overview” and “Key Terms” sections, which guide the majority of the curriculum.
To continue reading, click here for The Tower Magazine.