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Song of the Watermelon: National Post Letter

Should any readers take a look inside today’s National Post, they might find a letter of mine defending Canada’s United Church and its boycott of goods from Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Click here to read my letter and scroll down to the heading “… or is it just?”

Filed under: Letters to the Editor, Middle East Tagged: boycott, Israel, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, National Post, Palestine, settlements, United Church

Song of the Watermelon: Vancouver Sun Letter

A letter of mine in the Vancouver Sun today, this one about the “Disappearing Palestine” ads on public transit here in the city. I try to defend the ads against the absurd charge that they target Jews. Click here to read it.

Filed under: Ethnicity, Letters to the Editor, Middle East Tagged: Israel, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish, Palestine, TransLink, Vancouver, Vancouver Sun

Song of the Watermelon: An Open Letter to TransLink Regarding the “Disappearing Palestine” Ads

Dear TransLink:

I am writing to express my wholehearted support for your decision to display the pro-Palestinian transit ads recently unveiled at the Vancouver City Centre Skytrain station and on several buses. The ads offer an important perspective that needs to be heard as part of any informed debate on the Middle East conflict.

My commendation may sound a bit strange, since, as you yourselves have noted, “within defined limits TransLink has no legal authority to decline advertising content.” A 2009 Supreme Court decision established that TransLink, as a public body, is bound by the free speech provisions (Read more…)

Song of the Watermelon: Thoughts on the New Israeli Government

On the same day that the world erupted in joyous, teary-eyed celebration following the selection of a new pope, a slightly less climactic breakthrough was reached thousands of kilometres away as four Israeli political parties, nearly two months after elections, quietly decided to form a coalition government. Right away, the deal seemed like it might fall apart over a last-minute dispute regarding deputy prime ministerial appointments, but two days later, all differences have been ironed out and the coalition agreement signed.

The chances were never exactly high that Israel would bend far enough to conclude a successful peace agreement (Read more…)

Song of the Watermelon: Israel’s Election Results and the Prospects for Peace

Yair Lapid

Well, that wasn’t quite as bad as I thought.

Sadly, Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly remain prime minister of Israel after his Likud party and its electoral partner Yisrael Beiteinu won a plurality of seats in Knesset elections today. But their share has gone down sharply since the last election. Even Habayit Hayehudi, an extreme right ultra-nationalist party that was widely expected to come in third or perhaps even second, suffered an upset with a fifth-place finish.

The Knesset now appears to be split clean in half between the right wing on one side and the centre, left,

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Israel’s Election Results and the Prospects for Peace

Song of the Watermelon: Fanatics, Zealots, Warmongers, and Peaceniks: Israel’s Crowded Electoral Landscape

Haneen Zoabi

Due perhaps to my Jewish identity and my family’s history, Israel tends to be the country whose politics I follow most closely apart from Canada’s and the United States’. Nevertheless, there is a giant gulf separating numbers one and two from number three. My understanding of Israeli parties, personalities, and issues is far from perfect, and when I observe the campaign leading up to the January 22 elections to Israel’s Knesset, I do so as an outsider.

There is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that I feel very passionately about, as I strongly believe in Palestinian national aspirations, equal

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Fanatics, Zealots, Warmongers, and Peaceniks: Israel’s Crowded Electoral Landscape

Song of the Watermelon: Two-State Twilight

For many years, I have felt that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were an exaggeration. Yes, Israel has been unyielding in its expansion of settlements in the West Bank in clear violation of international law, effectively dividing the already-slight territory into several isolated segments and making the creation of a viable Palestinian state nearly impossible. But Israel has withdrawn settlers from occupied territory before, in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Unlikely as it may now appear, it could always happen again.

The above represents the

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Two-State Twilight

Song of the Watermelon: Montreal Gazette Letter

Joel Lion, Israel’s Consul-General in Montreal, wrote an op-ed in the Montreal Gazette detailing the virtuous lengths Israel goes to in order to avoid civilian casualties in its unrelenting bombardment of the Gaza Strip. At the urging of Canadians for … Continue reading . . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Montreal Gazette Letter

Song of the Watermelon: Live From Gaza

Nothing cuts through the bullshit quite like live footage. The following comes inadvertently from a CNN interview conducted with a Palestinian in Gaza and an Israeli in Ashkelon. I will let the video speak for itself: . . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Live From Gaza

Song of the Watermelon: An Open Letter to Israeli and Palestinian Hawks

Dear Israeli hawks: What are you thinking? I realize that you consider every destructive, civilian killing, infrastructure shattering air raid you launch on the impoverished people of the Gaza Strip to be an act of self-defence against the terrorism of … Continue reading . . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: An Open Letter to Israeli and Palestinian Hawks

Song of the Watermelon: Israeli Settlements and the United Church Boycott: Three Common Distortions

*** Note: An unfinished draft version of this post mistakenly went out to e-mail and feed subscribers yesterday. Please do your best to scrub it from your memory and enjoy the updated post — as its author intended — below. Many thanks and apologies. ***

After months of controversy and negative media attention, the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, finally made it official. The church’s General Council voted today to call on its members to avoid buying products coming from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Presbyterian and Methodist churches in the United States have

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Israeli Settlements and the United Church Boycott: Three Common Distortions

Song of the Watermelon: Israel, the Settlements, and the United Church: Three Common Distortions

- proposed United Church boycott of products from Israeli settlements

Distortion #1: Why Israel? The world is full of tyranny and injustice. Of all the places and issues, why boycott the Middle East’s only democracy?

Three assumptions are packed into this distortion: that the United Church is boycotting Israel, that Israel’s critics routinely let others off the hook, and that Israel is a democracy. All three assumptions are false.

First, it is true that the United Church has never in its history chosen to boycott any other country except for apartheid South Africa, but it is not boycotting Israel

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Israel, the Settlements, and the United Church: Three Common Distortions

Song of the Watermelon: On Israel and Apartheid

Message on a wall at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Last month, university students and activists around the world marked Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual series of lectures and protests designed to bring attention to the plight of Palestinians, and as usual, the condemnations were heavy and hyperbolic. Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, obscuring the purpose of the event, used the opportunity to urge “all Canadians to reject anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, discrimination and intolerance.” In 2010, Ontario legislator Peter Shurman commented, “The use of the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ is about as

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: On Israel and Apartheid

Song of the Watermelon: Pushing the Envelope on Palestinian Sovereignty

There has not been much movement of late on the Israeli-Palestinian front. This may partly be explained by the relative lack of violent activity by Palestinian groups. The conflict has dropped off the radar for most of the Israeli public, and the only constituency the government needs to worry about is that of the far-right pro-settler parties which hold the balance of power and effectively wield a veto over any potential moves towards territorial concessions. In other words, the political calculus of the Israeli government currently favours doing nothing on Palestine.

By contrast, if Palestinians were to reintroduce violent tactics

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Pushing the Envelope on Palestinian Sovereignty