Analysis from Israel

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aptly noted yesterday, it’s “strange” that even as European governments loudly condemn anti-Semitic attacks like the one on the Brussels Jewish Museum, they “speak about friendship with a Hamas unity government that commits these very same acts and glorifies them.” The same goes for the Obama administration, which condemns terror with one side of its mouth while rushing to recognize the new Fatah-Hamas unity government with the other, even though Hamas leaders openly refuse to recognize Israel, give up anti-Israel terror, or disarm.

Yet this willingness to whitewash and even reward Palestinian misbehavior isn’t confined to government circles. As examples, consider two recent art shows–one sponsored by the Ottawa municipality and the Ontario Arts Council, the other by a Pittsburgh museum.

The Ottawa municipality is currently hosting an exhibition by Palestinian-Canadian artist Rehab Nazzal. It features a video called “Target,” which, according to official publicity material, shows “artists, writers and leaders” who were “assassinated” by Israel. But when Israeli Ambassador to Canada Rafael Barak watched the video, he discovered that many of these “assassinated artists and writers” were actually leading terrorists. They include Khalil al-Wazir, planner of the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, in which PLO terrorists hijacked an Israeli bus and killed 37 civilians; Dalal Mughrabi, one of the perpetrators of that attack; Salah Khalaf, founder of the PLO faction that massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics; and Khaled Nazzal, a senior official of another PLO faction that massacred 22 Israeli schoolchildren at Ma’alot in 1974.

Moreover, several people featured in the video were actually killed by fellow Palestinians–including both Khalaf and one genuine artist, a caricaturist murdered for drawing derogatory cartoons of PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Still others were indeed killed by Israel, but hardly “assassinated”: Mughrabi, for instance, died in a shootout with Israeli soldiers who stormed the bus in an effort to stop the massacre. In short, Nazzal’s work is a piece of vile anti-Israel incitement and a glorification of terrorism, funded wholly by Canadian taxpayers.

No Western government would finance works glorifying, say, the 9/11 terrorists or the London subway bombers. But when Barak and local Jewish groups protested this exhibit, city hall trotted out the standard excuse: It was chosen by a committee of artists, and politicians shouldn’t interfere with artistic decisions.

The Pittsburgh museum’s behavior was, if possible, even worse. After Palestinian “anti-normalization” activists launched an online campaign to pressure Palestinian artists to quit a show featuring works by Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans, the Israelis–in my view wrongly, but certainly generously–offered to withdraw instead. Yet the Palestinians still withdrew, and one even published a vicious statement accusing the “Jewish lobby” of forcing them out.

Then, rather than letting the Israelis and Americans exhibit anyway, alongside a note explaining why the Palestinians withdrew, the Mattress Factory museum opted to penalize the innocent by canceling the entire show. Even worse, it cravenly issued “a public apology to all Palestinians everywhere for the misunderstanding of this exhibition.”

Both exhibitions thus sent the same message: Palestinians can engage in anti-Israel incitement, glorification of terror, and online bullying, but not only will they suffer no penalty, they will even be rewarded. Respected institutions will provide taxpayer funding for these activities, expel Israeli and American artists to accommodate them, and even issue fawning apologies for offending Palestinian sensibilities.

Needless to say, rewarding such behavior encourages Palestinians to continue it. And in so doing, well-meaning Westerners actually perpetuate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by ensuring that Palestinians never have an incentive to develop the culture of peace needed to end it.

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Israel’s constitutional crisis has been postponed, not resolved

After years of leftists crying wolf about democracy being endangered, Israel finally experienced a real constitutional crisis last week. That crisis was temporarily frozen by the decision to form a unity government, but it will come roaring back once the coronavirus crisis has passed.

It began with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s refusal to let the newly elected Knesset vote to replace him as speaker and culminated in two interventions by the High Court of Justice. I’m one of very few people on my side of the political spectrum who considers the court’s initial intervention justifiable. But its second was an unprecedented usurpation of the prerogatives of another branch of government, in flagrant violation of legislation that the court itself deems constitutional.

Edelstein’s refusal, despite its terrible optics, stemmed from a genuine constitutional concern, and was consequently backed even by Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, who had opposed Edelstein many times before and would do so again later in this saga. The problem was that neither political bloc could form a government on its own, yet the proposed new speaker came from the faction of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party that adamantly opposed a unity government. Thus whether a unity government was formed or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s caretaker government continued, the new speaker would be in the opposition.

But as Yinon told the court, speakers have always come from the governing coalition because an opposition speaker can effectively stymie all government work. And once elected, he would be virtually impossible to oust, since 90 of the Knesset’s 120 members must vote to do so. An opposition speaker would thus “hurt democracy,” warned Yinon. “We’re planting a bug in the system, and this, too, undermines our constitutional fabric.” That’s why Edelstein wanted to wait, as Knesset bylaws permit, until a government was formed and could choose its own speaker.

Yet despite this genuine and serious concern, the fact remains that a newly elected majority was being barred from exercising its power. Moreover, it had no parliamentary way of solving the problem because only the speaker can convene parliament and schedule a vote. Thus if you believe majorities should be allowed to govern, the court was right to intervene by ordering Edelstein to hold the vote.

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