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This week in Israel: election campaigns, a kidnapping in France and more

Israel is now six weeks before general elections, and the campaigning is starting to heat up.

Shai Tsur of Shaister has a concise and intelligent roundup of the campaign platforms of the major parties. He writes that he likes the ad campaign of Meretz, a leftist Zionist party, the best.

Each ad features one of the candidates on the Meretz list, a large semi-provocative slogan, and a smaller second line of text which explains it. For instance, a picture of party chairman Yossi Beilin, with the slogan “I don’t have an Arab mother” (a reference to rumors about Peres in elections past), and a sub-line saying “…but I will fight for minority rights.” Or a picture of Meretz’s token religious woman Dr. Tzvia Greenfeld with the slogan “I believe in the Almighty … but I will separate state and religion.”


This Meretz campaign poster shows Knesset member Avshalom Vilan. The slogan is: “I am a happily married man. But I will fight for a civil divorce law.” (In Israel the religious authorities control all matters of marriage and divorce).

And this campaign poster shows Arab-Israeli Meretz candidate Issawi Farij. The slogan, written in Arabic, reads, “Don't patronize me! My voice is influential and my conscience is serene.”


Allison Kaplan Sommer of An Unsealed Room scooped the mainstream media when she wrote about Ilan Halimi, a Parisian Jew who was kidnapped and tortured to death by a gang called the Barbarians. Halimi’s family claimed that the Muslim gang members were motivated by anti-Semitism; they pointed out that two previous kidnapping victims were also Jewish; that the kidnappers had recited verses from the Koran during their ransom phone calls; and that they had told the family to “get the [ransom] money from their synagogue” if they could not come up with it themselves. Allison was surprised that the story was not covered by any of the wire services, so she started to write about it herself and got an instalanche via links from widely read blogs. Eventually, the papers started to pick up the story – but only about a week after Ilan died. She notes that it took quite a while for the newspapers – and the French government – to confirm that the crime was likely based on anti-Semitic motives.
Allison’s final post on the Halimi saga is here; scroll down to the bottom to find links to all her posts on the Halimi murder, in chronological order.

In another interesting post, Allison explains why Israelis reacted calmly to the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority elections.

Rinat Malkes, a journalist who blogs at Balagan, posted a photograph of herself in Ramallah, wearing a Hamas sash that she was given as a gift while covering the Palestinian elections. Readers reacted very strongly to the photo: some thought it was funny; others accused Rinat of being disloyal to Israel. Some of the negative commenters used very strong language.

Ari Miller, who blogs at Ari Lives in Israel, posts about why Israelis should see Paradise Now. He points out that most of the American Jews who oppose the film’s being categorized as Palestinian for the Oscar awards have not seen it. Ari writes:

“I have seen this movie and I do have personal feelings about it. I found it to be one of the most beautiful, moving, touching and empathetic works of film that I have seen in some time. It was much better than Cats. It presented a window into an existence that I can hardly begin to imagine.

Chayyeisarah, an Orthodox journalist who lives in Jerusalem, has an excellent post that points out the hypocrisy of both left and right wing Israelis in the wake of the Amona riots. After the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the West Bank settlement of Amona was illegal and that nine houses must be destroyed, right-wing demonstrators and Israeli police faced off in a violent confrontation that left several people badly injured. The right wingers accused the police of excessive violence; the left was either indifferent or claimed that the demonstrators had got what they deserved. Sarah takes both sides to task in her well-reasoned post.

Over at One Jerusalem (“frothing at the mouth about politics, ideas and culture”), Jill Cartwright, a non-Jewish Englishwoman who lives in Tel Aviv, is writing an ongoing memoir about how and why she moved to Israel at the height of the second intifada, and what it’s like to be a non-Jew in the State of the Jews. She has a very compelling (and funny) writing style; readers have written that they are hanging on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next installment. (part one; part two).

Jill also wrote a post about a photography exhibition she and I attended in Tel Aviv on Friday. The photographs were taken by the Israeli women volunteers of Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch); the volunteers stand in shifts at the Israeli army checkpoints in the West Bank and monitor the behaviour of the soldiers toward the Palestinians.

And finally, a bit of sock it to ‘em, irreverent Israeli humour.

An Israeli graphic artist, Amitai Sandy, has come up with a hilarious response to the Holocaust cartoon contest sponsored by an Iranian newspaper (in response to the Danish Muhammad cartoon-gate). Sandy is sponsoring an Israeli anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest.

“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy. “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”

So far, the post about the cartoon contest has received 276 responses, from Jews, Muslims and Christians all over the world. Check ‘em out – they make some pretty fascinating reading.

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