Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning from the Germans

Germany's Prime Minister Angela Merkel invited Binyamin Netanyhau and his senior minister to come to Berlin and hold extensive discussions. Meanwhile, interesting things have been happening in Germany itself. The German Army's chief of staff, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, had to resign after it was revealed that he tried to cover up the killing of Afghan civilians in a bombing in which German troops were involved.. Also the German Defence Ministry State Secretary Peter Wichert, had to resign because of the same affair, as did several other senior officers and politicians.

It turns out that in present day Germany, such things are taken very seriously indeed. Netanyahu is going there – perhaps he will learn something. Why, by the way is he so afraid of the Goldstone Report about the Gaza War? He was not yet Prime Minister then.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


"If Binyamin Nethanyahu approves the deal for the release of Gilad Shalit, this will be a surrender to terrorism" says the respectable political commentator Shimon Shiffer ("Yediot Aharonot", November 23). A surrender to terrorism?

As long as human beings have been fighting each other (that is, more or less, throughout the whole of recorded human history) they have also been capturing each other. When both sides hold POW's from the other side, they usually exchange them. It is the natural and obvious thing to do in such situations. Usually, no one calls it a surrender.

The State of Israel has waged many wars, and conducted very many prisoner exchanges. Also before Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas. In fact, also long before Gilad Shalit was born. In 1956 and 1967 a lot of Arab prisoners were exchanged for a handful of Israelis. In 1974 the numbers were a bit more balanced. No one called it a surrender to terrorism. And nobody checked how much blood there was on the hands of the released prisoners.

On whose hands?

During the Gaza War, in January this year, the IDF forces attacked the compound of the extended Samouni family in the Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza. Twenty-nine members of the family, all of them civilians, were killed - 21 during the shelling of a house where IDF soldiers had gathered some 100 members of the family a day earlier.

Salah Samouni told Amira Hass of Haaretz: "I asked Judge Goldstone to find out why did the army do this to us. They have taken us out of the house, one by one. The officer talked in Hebrew with my father, and confirmed that we were all civilians. Why, then, did they shell us? Why did they kill us? That's what we want to know".

He recounted that his father Talal – one of the 21 killed - "had been employed by Jews" for nearly 40 years. Whenever he was sick, "the employer would call, ask after his health, and forbid him to come to work before he had recovered."

On January 4, under orders from the army, Salah Samouni and the rest of the family left their home, which had been turned into a military position, and moved to the southern side of the street. The fact that it was the soldiers who had relocated them, had seen the faces of the children and the older women, and the fact that the soldiers were positioned in locations surrounding the house just tens of meters away, instilled in the family a certain amount of confidence - despite the IDF fire from the air, from the sea and from the land, despite the hunger and the thirst. Nothing prepared him for the three shells and the rockets the IDF fired on the house which they thought safe.

"My daughter Azza, my only daughter, two and a half years old, was injured in the first hit on the house," Salah told Haaretz. "She managed to say, 'Daddy, it hurts.' And then, in the second hit, she died. And I'm praying. Everything is dust and I can't see anything. I thought I was dead. I found myself getting up, all bloody, and I found my mother sitting by the hall with her head tilted downward. I moved her face a little, and I found that the right half of her face was gone. I looked at my father, whose eye was gone. He was still breathing a little, and then he stopped."

From this horrific story alone, there are a lot of people in the State of Israel with blood on their hands. The soldiers who pulled the trigger, and their commanders, and the commanders of the commanders, and the minister who sent the soldiers and called the Goldstone report a lie. At least under Israel's criteria all of them have blood on their hands. According to such criteria Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat (to mention a few conspicuous examples) were sent to multiple terms of life imprisonment,.

Had any of those involved with the killing of the Samouni family fallen into the hands of Hamas, the State of Israel would have firmly demanded their release and spared no effort to get them free. After all, they are “our boys.”

If you did not read Amira Hass' articles when they were published, it is still very worthwhile – though far from pleasant - to do it now:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fanatics and the army

There was a time when citizens of Israel took seriously the name of the Israeli Defense Forces. There was a time when this army was seriously considered as the people's army. It was a long, long time ago.

The State of Israel is holding under occupation rule millions of Palestinians for 42 years, more than two-thirds of its entire history. Decades have passed since the army for the last time fought a real war of army against army.

The great majority of soldiers and officers serving in this army today - conscripts, reservists and career personnel - know only the type of service known as "ongoing security" and "maintenance of order" and "guarding settlements" and "struggling against terrorism" and other terms expressing: forcible control over a rebellious civilian population which does not want to live under Israeli occupation. An army of occupation and oppression, an army of which occupation and oppression are the main mission.

Who wants to serve in this kind of army? Many do not. Many feel disgusted by the very idea. Some state it clearly and openly, and enter into a head-on confrontation with the military authorities, and go to prison, sometimes for long terms. (For example, Or Ben David, girl refuser of the Shministim protest letter, who entered on her second prison term a few days ago.)

Then, there are those who manage to avoid service in one way or another, for example by the psychiatric discharge. (There are more and more of these, as there are less and less who feel that the army is really important and that serving in it is a moral duty which it would be a shame to shirk.)

And there are those who do go to the army, spend three years of service with little motivation and much disgust, and when finally free throw away their uniforms and set off to refresh themselves in Thailand or South America.

But who, then, does go with a high motivation to today's army? Who would volunteer for exhausting duty and take up officers' training and consider devoting their whole life to the army? In principle, two types of people: those who failed in civilian life and for whom the army is the last refuge from a life of utter failure, and those who are actually fond of the missions and activities entrusted to an army of occupation.

In particular, there is one section of the public who are perfectly fitted and attuned to occupation duty - the Religious Nationalists. Those who feel a strong urge to settle on every hill and dale, who regard the entire Land of Israel as ours and ours only, because of our Fathers, because God promised it, etc. etc.

These are the people who embrace military service with a great desire and motivation, serve in all units, go up on the chain of command and increasingly become the backbone of the IDF. With great enthusiasm do they guard the bulldozers building more houses for their settler brethren, highly motivated they keep Palestinians waiting at roadblocks roads and break into village homes in the small of the night to carry out arrests and charge into the heart of Gaza to shoot and wound and kill. And their rabbis bless the guns of the warriors of the Holy War and exhort them to kill without mercy, to kill even children.

But what happens if the government of Israel is trying to carry out even a tiny bit of its international commitments, and entrusts the mission to the soldiers of the IDF? Not, of course, the full dismantling of all the hundred illegal outposts which have been created since 2001 and which the State of Israel has promised again and again to remove - promised to the Americans and Europeans and the rest of the world. (Ehud Barak also promised it to such voters as were still willing to vote for him and his party, at the elections exactly eight months ago.)

No, it is much less than that, small actions, tiny token acts, removal of a house or two in one or two settlement outpost. And that is enough to throw the National Religious soldiers into a firestorm of protests, with soldiers shouting and raising provocative signs in front of the waiting TV cameras.

What is this? It is not for this that they joined up. They have come to fight the Arabs and kill them. This is what they want, this is what they really like to do. What is this nonsense of suddenly demanding of them to strike at their beloved settler comrades?

In truth, it is not these young people who are really to blame. They are but the poisonous growth which sprung from the ground that successive governments of Israel plowed, sowed and manured since 1967, more than two-thirds of Israel's entire history.

And how, after all, shall we dismantle the settlements?

The State of Israel knows one method only of dismantling settlements (if and when). Soldiers come - very many soldiers, whole masses of them. They enter into a settlement, grab every individual settler by the arms and legs, and carry them away.

It is a bad method, very difficult to implement, which imposes a huge burden on the army, and gives settlers the maximum opportunity to resist (by loud shouting and sometimes also by physical force). Most importantly, settlers get a chance to stage a huge show for the local and international media.

The system happened to have been invented by a man named Ariel Sharon. He made use of it when evacuating the North Sinai settlements in 1982, and again at the Gaza Strip settlements (Gush Katif) in 2005. Not by chance did he resort to this method, and not because he was unable to think up a more efficient way of doing it. It was on purpose, because Ariel Sharon wanted to demonstrate how difficult and complicated the dismantling of settlements is - even of small ones. Because Ariel Sharon wanted to say to the entire world: "See how hard it was to remove even a few thousands of settlers, so don’t expect us to remove hundreds of thousands".

The problem is that the world does expect hundreds of thousands of settlers to be removed. Because they have settled in Occupied Territory, in violation of International Law. Because they are blocking with their bodies the creation of an independent Palestine - which means that they also block any possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, indeed they block the possibility that Israel will become an accepted and legitimate part of the region where it is located. So, how to remove them?

In fact, such things already happened in other countries and places around the world. Algeria, for example, was for 120 years under French rule, and many French settlers went there - about a million and a half. Some of them were fourth generation, or even fifth generation, born on Algerian soil. And despite the fact that no God had ever made them a Divine Promise of that land, they very strongly insisted on regarding Algeria as part of France, which should always stay such. They resisted by force - a lot of force - any idea that France withdraw. And there were many attempts to stir up mutiny among the soldiers.

How, then, did Algeria become an independent Arab state, which just this week won a soccer match with Egypt? How did French President Charles De Gaulle succeed in removing a million and a half settlers? Had he commanded the army to grab each and every individual settler by the arms and legs and take them on board a France-bound ship, even ten times the soldiers of the entire French Army would not have been sufficient for the task.

But De Gaulle simply announced to the settlers the date on which the army would leave and Algeria become an independent state, giving every settler the free choice of evacuating or remaining. Settlers who stayed were offered the choice between Algerian citizenship, French citizenship or a dual one. In practice, almost all of them went back to France (and did not do too badly there).

When finally an Israeli government will come into being which will seriously intend to make peace with the Palestinians, it will likely take up the de Gaulle Method. Once settlers have been informed of the date for the IDF's departure and the Independence of Palestine, they will undoubtedly cry out very loudly indeed - and long before the designated date, the great majority of them will depart, under their own power. The Government will only have to provide some trucks - to move their furniture.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One day in the eternal capital

- The plan to defy the whole world and build 900 Jews-only housing units in the Gilo Neighborhood (which was built – though many have forgotten it – on confiscated Palestinian land).

- The inauguration of Irwing Moskovitz's new provocation in east Jerusalem (“Nof Tzion”).

- The demolition of a Palestinian house in the Issawiya Neighborhood, a house built "without a permit" because the Jerusalem Municipality just does not give building permits to Arabs, nor does it provide itself for their housing needs.

Everything was done today, really every conceivable thing, to make clear to the whole world what policies the government of Israel is implementing in the place which it calls “capital”. Policies which no country calling itself "a democracy" would dream of implementing even in a godforsaken province.


"If the Palestinians declare a state unilaterally, Israel can undertake unilateral action, too" – so declared Prime Minister Netanyahu and so did threaten Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But what is it you are doing all the time in Jerusalem, Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Foreign Minister? Are these not unilateral acts?

And what about the settlement construction and extension in general? Does that not happen to be unilateral? Did anybody, anywhere in the world, agree to your creating accomplished facts in a territory whose future is subject to negotiations, before the negotiations had even begun?

When you anyway take unilateral steps all the time, what have you got left with which to threaten the Palestinians?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Preconditions in Sheikh Jarah

A few days ago it happened again, in the Sheikh Jarah Neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The settlers arrived, accompanied by large police forces, to throw a Palestinian family out of its home and take it over. This is the fourth time that it happened. Three families are already living for several months in the street, in tents, opposite the houses which were theirs.

For the settlers, this is far from enough. Their plans are well-known. One more house and then another, one more family and then another. In the end, there will be there a wonderful new Jewish neighbourhood of the gloriously united Jerusalem, Eternal Capital of Israel.

It is all legal under the laws of the State of Israel, the Only Democracy in the Middle East. It is legal, with a kosher certificate from the honourable judges of our judicial system. Kosher but stinking.

"Let's talk without preconditions" Binyamin Netanyahu again and again implores the Palestinians. In every possible forum. And also Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres and some other well-spoken representatives.

"Without preconditions". In plain English: at the table we will go on talking pleasantly, and on the ground the settlers and their friends the police will throw some more families out of their homes. Without preconditions

Again, no one to talk to

Prime Minister Netanyahu will make a big effort to convince President Obama that Abu Mazen does not seriously intend to resign. It is just a trick. He is not serious. There is no need to make any concessions in order to convince him to stay.

Because what will happen if, God forbid, this time it is for real? What will happen if Abu Mazen is really not willing any more to play the game? Not willing any more to get photographed in all kinds of nice conferences while settlements continue to be built all around him?

What will the Government of Israel do now? Whom shall we mock? Whom shall we call "a chick without feathers"? With whom can we negotiate till the end of days and never reach any conclusion?

No, don’t go, Abu Mazen! Don't do this to us!

An automatic majority

The Arabs command an automatic majority in the UN Assembly General. The resolution to adopt the Goldstone Report was preordained. Israeli speakers could only praise the few Member States which voted against Goldstone and call them "The Moral Minority, those who were not intimidated".

Israel commands an automatic majority in the US Congress. The resolution to condemn the Goldstone Report was preordained Arab speakers could only praise the few Representatives who voted in favour of Goldstone and call them "The Moral Minority, those who were not intimidated".

He deserves it

"An embarrassing moment was registered yesterday, at the memorial rally for the late Prime Minister Rabin. When Defence Minister Ehud Barak rose to speak, loud whistling and booing were heard in the audience" (Yediot Aharonot, November 8, 2009.)

He deserves it. For daring to come there and address a crowd of peace-seekers, Ehud Barak should be noted down in the Guinness Book of Records. With a record level of chutzpah to his name, or of mendacity. Or both.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Legal Smugglers

Throughout the Mediterranean, ships are sailing, carrying weapons. A lot of weapons and ammunition of all kinds, light weapons and heavy weapons. Guns and machine guns and missiles, also tanks and artillery pieces, sometimes also helicopter gunships and fighter planes. A very great quantity of weapons is carried over the waves in a great many ships and boats. Nobody stops them and nobody intercepts them, en route to the ports of Haifa and Ashdod and from there to the armouries of the Israeli Defence Forces.

The arms smugglers of the State of Israel need not hide, need not put civilian cargoes in front for camouflage or raise all kinds of flags of convenience. Everything is perfectly legal.


It turns out that there are now in Gaza missiles which can reach all the way to Tel Aviv (at least, they can get to the city of Holon, to this house where I am just now sitting at the computer). Rather unpleasant.

It is already known for a long time that in Tel Aviv there are fighter airplanes which can reach all the way to Gaza. That, too, is quite unpleasant – especially to the inhabitants of Gaza.

What now? Perhaps it is worthwhile to ensure that there will be no new war? No bombardment – either of Tel Aviv or of Gaza? Perhaps it would be good to include in the peace negotiations – if and when there will be negotiations – also the Hamas? As the late Yitzchak Rabin said, peace is something which you make with your enemy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rabin's Heritage

On November 1, 1995, three days before he was assassinated, the late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was interviewed on TV. Among other things he was asked: "Do you think that a government relying for its majority on the support of Arab Knesset Members is a legitimate government?"

Rabin answered: Of course such a government is legitimate, and anyone who says otherwise is simply a racist. We live in a democratic state, and all citizens of Israel are equal. All Knesset Members are equal".

Will we hear this part of the Rabin Heritage quoted by any of the many speakers scheduled to address the Rabin Memorial Rally, this coming Saturday in Tel Aviv?

Extremist weeds in the settler garden

It is true, not all settlers are like Yaakov Teitel. Not all of them go out at night to kill Palestinians indiscriminately. Not all of them go to burn their neighbours' olive groves. Many of them are honest and law abiding people, who are content to let the army do their dirty work for them.
It is the army which declared land which had been Palestinian for generations to be "state land" and passed it on to settlers. The soldiers keep tight guard all around when the settlement is being built. And if one of the people whose land it was tries to come near, it is the army which shoots tear gas and rubber bullets and sometimes also live bullets which kill. And the army continues to guard the settlement day and night, and if its inhabitants decide to create outposts and take over some more hilltops, the army guards the outposts day and night, too. (Even when it is an outpost which had been declared illegal).

The army also creates Jews-only roads for the settlers' private use. And if a Palestinian on whose land the road passes tries to drive on it, soldiers remove him from the road immediately (and sometimes beat him up for good measure).

Yaakov Teitel is really a fool. He could have trusted the army instead of getting his own hands dirty. Than, he would still sit safe and sound in his home at the settlement of Shvut Rahel, a respectable and law abiding citizen.