Preliminary results of Israel's election show Benjamin Netanyahu weakened but likely to serve a third term as prime minister, in a shift toward what mainstream accounts call "the center." Netanyahu's bloc made up of the right-wing Likud and far-right Yisrael Beitenu came out on top with 31 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset—down form 42. Coming in second, the new "centrist" Yesh Atid (There is a Future), led by ex-TV personality Yair Lapid took a projected 19 seats. The center-left Labor, once the mainstay of Iraeli politics, came in third with only an estimated 15 seats. Arab parties are projected to have won 12 seats. The biggest party in the last Knesset, the "center"-right Kadima, dropped from 28 seats to none. (Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel blog, JTA, Jan. 23) But an election-time controversy demonstrated the degree to which ultra-right positions have become mainstreamed in Israeli politics...
Hungary's far-right Jobbik party is radicalizing as fast as it is being mainstreamed. Prime Minister Viktor Orban belatedly condemned Jobbik lawmaker Marton Gyongyosi's call to create a list of Jewish politicians—the day after some 10,000 demonstrated in Budapest to protest the proposal. "Last week sentences were uttered in Parliament which are unworthy of Hungary," Orban told parliament Dec. 3. Gyongyosi called for the list during a Nov. 26 parliamentary debate on Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Gyöngyösi later clarified his remarks amid the outrage: He intended only to challenge the government's "one-sided support" of Israel in the Gaza conflict, and to "call the attention to the threat posed by government members and in parliament by Hungarian-Israeli dual citizens."
We have noted before the systematic discriminaiton against the Ethiopian Jews, or Falash Mura, in Israel—including a recent move to abolish their traditional priesthood. Now a Dec. 11 report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency loans credence to long-standing charges of contraception abuse against the community. JTA cites a report in Hebrew on Israeli Educational Television, charged that coercive contraception is behind a 50% decline in the Ethiopian birth rate in Israel over the past decade. Israeli and Jewish aid officials are denying the report. Ethiopian women interviewed for the program, called "Vacuum" and hosted by Gal Gabbai, said they were coerced into receiving injections of Depo-Provera, a long-acting birth control drug, both at Jewish-run clinics in Ethiopia and after their move to Israel.
In news that shocked the world Nov. 18, an Israeli bomb destroyed a Gaza City home, killing 11 people, including nine from three generations of a single family—from a grandmother to a two-year-old child. Gaza's Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, called the attack a "massacre" that "exceeded all expectations." Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, chief spokesman for the Israeli military, said it was "examining the event." He added: "The wanted target in this case was responsible for firing dozens of rockets into Israel. I do not know what happened to him, but I do know that we are committed to the safety of the citizens of Israel." The following day, Israeli air-strikes killed five Palestinians at the Gaza refugee camps of Nuseirat and al-Bureij. Israeli forces have now killed over 100 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Cloud six days ago.
Dozens of Palestinians were injured as protests were held across the West Bank in support of Gaza under its third day of Israeli bombardment Nov. 16. At Kafr Kaddum village, a youth was hospitalized after a tear gas canister hit him in the back of the head. Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and foreign activists joined a march in the village, holding banners saying "Relief of Gaza." In Bethlehem, Israeli forces fired tear gas and a foul-smelling chemical liquid as protesters gathered outside Aida refugee camp to support Gaza—and another youth was hit in the head with a tear gas canister. In Jenin, a youth was wounded by rubber bullets in clashes with Israeli forces near the Jalama crossing into Israel. Protesters who gathered at the Enav checkpoint east of Tulkarem after Friday prayers were also met with rubber bullets and tear gas. Near Ramallah, four were arrested at a demonstration in Nabi Saleh and two Palestinians were injured in a protest in Bilin village condemning the assault on Gaza. Near Hebron, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians at a weekly demonstration in Beit Ummar, dedicated in solidarity with the Gaza Strip. In Hebron city, political and religious figures led a march to the main square, demanding the Arab world do more to stop the bombardment of Gaza. Marches were also held in Ramallah and Nablus. (Ma'an News Agency, Nov. 16)
Hamas spewed some predictable ugliness about a Palestinian official's visit to the site of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland—and the mainstream and Zionist press predictably plays it for all it is worth. Ziad al-Bandak, an adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, made the visit this week, prompting Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum to say: "It was an unjustified and unhelpful visit that served only the Zionist occupation." He called the visit "a marketing of a false Zionist alleged tragedy....at the expense of a real Palestinian tragedy." The comments were picked up by Reuters and flaunted with open glee by the settler organ Arutz Sheva, which also offers more such gems from Hamas sympathizers.
Israel's Supreme Court on April 29 ruled that buildings of the Givat HaUlpana settlement outpost at Beit El on the West Bank, ordered destroyed because of a claim by Palestinian land-owners, would receive a 60-day reprieve. The State Attorney's Office had filed the appeal on two days before, asking for a three-month delay in the scheduled demolition of the Ulpana outpost. The high court had earlier ordered the evacuation of the five apartment buildings by May 1 because they were built on land found to be private Palestinian property. Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, which helped the Palestinian claimants submit the petition against the outpost in 2008, has slammed the government for failing to raze the 30-apartment complex, which is inhabited by settler families. The stay is intended to allow time to find an "alternative solution."
Under pressure from UNESCO, Israel has agreed to remove the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb—two Jewish holy sites on the West Bank—from its list of "National Heritage Sites." This of course immediately sparked a backlash from Israel's religious right, with Science and Technology Minister Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz calling the omission "like denying our elementary heritage." (The Algemeiner, Feb. 1) Following recent clashes at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, Palestinian protesters also vented rage at the Rachel's Tomb site Feb. 21, hurling stones and prompting closure of the compound. Jewish visitors were evacuated by the Border Guard. (YNet, Feb. 21)