Jo-Ann Mort

Jo-Ann Mort writes frequently about Israel and the Palestinians for The American Prospect and elsewhere, including as a regular contributor at TPM Cafe. She is the co-author of Our Hearts Invented a Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today's Israel?

Recent Articles

The Roadblock to Damascus

Tel Aviv, Israel -- It's often said, and sometimes not in the kindest of ways, that the United States looks out for Israel's interests rather than its own. But the current crisis in the Middle East is demonstrating that, sometimes, the opposite is true. In this case, Israel's interests are being subjugated to the Bush administration's ideological hang-ups -- at the expense of the security needs of both countries. The provocations on Israel's northern and southern borders that have led to escalated engagements in Gaza and southern Lebanon share a common link: Syria. But the Bush Administration has made it clear that it doesn't believe Syria can or should be engaged diplomatically to resolve the crisis. On Friday, the United Nations Middle East Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen told reporters that the crisis couldn't be resolved without engaging Syria. This is a widely shared sentiment -- and whether or not the United States yields on its stance could very well determine how long the fighting...

Ramallah Stirs

The trip from Jerusalem to Ramallah used to take around 20 minutes. But ever since the roadblocks, checkpoints, and cement wall barrier went up following the Second Intifada several years ago, it can take hours, depending on who you are. For Jewish settlers and those with U.S. passports or some NGO (nongovernmental organization) cards, there are the settler bypass roads, built for and used primarily by Jews living in the surrounding settlements and outposts. A diplomat can get through with relative ease. But lately, not too many diplomats -- certainly none from the United States -- have made frequent visits there. Ramallah houses the Palestinian government and the Muqaata, the presidential compound where Mahmud Abbas sits and Yassar Arafat is entombed. Construction has begun on a large mosque in the heart of the compound, in tribute to Arafat. But the Fatah stronghold remains a secular city, with an active nightlife, good restaurants (that serve alcohol), and a vibrant but struggling...

A Crisis Foretold

Early last week, I visited friends in Haifa, Israel's third largest city. Their apartment is at the top of the Carmel, a mountain that leads to the University of Haifa. From their living room I looked out over Haifa's port to the mountains of Lebanon and thought about the beauty of that area along the border. By week's end, Haifa was struck by Katushya rockets from southern Lebanon. Israelis in that border area are now being ordered to stay inside and sleep in bomb shelters, as Lebanese are subjected to heavy bombardment by the Israeli army. On Friday morning, my cousin called me from a suburb of Nahariya to tell me that everyone is OK; her kids had a slumber party with neighbors the previous night -- in a bomb shelter. Nahariya, a quiet, quaint Mediterranean town, is experiencing the worst of the Katushyas. One resident has already been killed. I am now in Tel Aviv, where the tourist hotels are full and people spent their weekend at the beach. But, unlike the situation just a few...

Drawing In, Lashing Out

Jerusalem -- As the annual Jerusalem Film Festival opened on Thursday, several thousand people sat under the stars in the Sultan's Pool, a valley just outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls, to watch the opening film on a gigantic screen. Fireworks, kosher hot dogs, beer and rock music adorned the scene. It was the first time in its 23-year history that the festival opened with an Israeli film, Someone to Run With, adapted from David Grossman's novel about Jerusalem street kids with drug habits. The presentation captured the desire of Israel today to deal with domestic social issues and look to the experiences of its younger generations. But the reality of the current low-grade war in Gaza intervened as the program opened. American actors Jeff Goldblum and Debra Winger welcomed the crowd on behalf of the festival's organizers. Goldblum offered a short statement of support for abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat and for “peace now and forever,” while Winger talked about the power of...

Israel's Populist Hope

Amir Peretz, the new chairman of the Labor Party, is a progressive populist -- but he may be George W. Bush's best hope. Peretz, who won a surprise, cliffhanger victory over incumbent chairman Shimon Peres last week, is a trade unionist in his gut. He is a masterful negotiator who has pledged that, if he is elected prime minister in the next Israeli elections (likely to be scheduled for spring 2006), he will move his country toward direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Peretz's ideology is directly counter to everything the current U.S. administration believes in, but unlike the current prime minister, Ariel Sharon, Peretz wants to negotiate a final agreement that brings peace to the two sides. Peretz ran his primary campaign promoting a higher minimum wage in a party that long ago lost its claim to the title "labor." Under Peres, and Ehud Barak before him, Labor's constituency shrank to a base in the well-heeled northern suburbs of Tel Aviv as its leaders championed a...

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