Monday, September 27, 2010

Logic of our time


- This Bibi is not to be trifled with! Look how he confronted the whole world and won. Obama demanded that he go on freezing the settlement construction. And he did not.

- Who is this Obama, anyway? Who cares a fig about him? He talks and talks, we build on the ground.

- By the way, did you hear about the report of UN commission of inquiry about our operation to stop the Gaza Flotilla? Very annoying, we knew it, a very one-sided report. It's anti-Semitism, pure and simple.

- Yes, it's really annoying. But we'll manage. We just have to talk to the Americans and ask for their help. They'll see to it that this report is not approved.



Peace Tabernacle


Thousands, tens of thousands of tabernacles (Sukkot) are erected this week, to mark an ancient holiday.

The Religious Culture Department at the Ministry of Education of the State of Israel made sure to post this week quotes from different Jewish thinkers about the meaning and significance of this holiday. Among others were published the words of Hermann Cohen, a Jewish philosopher of the 19th century:

"There can be no hatred where peace has spread its tabernacle in a person's heart. That is why the prayer for this holiday uses the term "A Peace tabernacle". Sukkot is the holiday of peace, the holiday when we erect a tabernacle to mark our wanderings in the desert of mundane life. Peace makes life into a holiday."

The Ministry which published these words is not far from Sheikh Jarrah. This is where Israeli peace activists set up a Sukka, jointly with the Palestinians who have been expelled from their homes. But the municipal building inspectors did not read the words of the philosopher and came to destroy it, three times they destroyed it so that the message would be loud and clear: "Enough with this Peace Tabernacle - enough with peace, enough!"

The events around the Sheikh Jarah tabernacle can be seen at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teDol_n6t3c

The Locked Sea


Gaza is closed and locked. By land, and by sea, and by air. Gaza residents may not go out, and those who live elsewhere may not enter.

Those who attempt to defy the ban may come to a bad end. A few months ago, nine Turks returned home in coffins. The reasons why and how it happened this way are now investigated by no less than four commissions of inquiry in different locations around the world. Three days ago the 20 year old Gazan fisherman Mohammed Baker tried to sail into the Mediterranean, away from the shores of Gaza, and got slightly beyond the limits set for him and his fellows by the Navy of the enlightened State of Israel. The gun boats opened fire, and Baker will never again sail anywhere.

Nevertheless, this night a small boat is sailing on the Mediterranean waves, en route to Gaza. A Jewish Peace Boat. Its passengers and crew are all Jews who don’t endorse the policies of a state which insists upon being recognized as a Jewish state, the Jewish State. Jews from Britain and Germany and the United States, as well as Jewish citizens of Israel.

Yonatan Shapira, a former helicopter pilot in the Israel Defense Forces – and whose former colleagues had carried the naval commandos who raided the previous Gaza Flotilla - called from the boat on them to refuse this time.

What will happen when the boat gets near the coast of Gaza? In a few hours we will probably know.

After eight months


O. will not be reading this blog, at least not in the coming weeks. He is held in a military detention center in Jerusalem, where there are no computers.

O., a young Israeli resident of Metropolitan Tel Aviv, was not sure he wanted to refuse service. He joined the army in the hope that in its ranks he may get a chance to do something positive - but for eight months he tried and failed. The letter which he thereupon sent to the military authorities is worth reading:


"I refuse to be part of the Israel Defence Forces, an army that occupies and oppresses a Palestinian population on a daily basis, which undermines the chances to achieve peace, and thus also Israel’s security, and which corrupts the moral and democratic character of the state.

For more than 40 years the IDF has been daily oppressing the Palestinians in the occupied territories and denying them their most basic rights to live normally. This includes hampering their freedom of movement, undermining their economy, hurting their bodies, illegally arresting them and committing many other severe crimes that usually fail to make it to the mainstream media. The very fact that any simple soldier serving beyond the Green Line has power over the lives of local residents and can force them to do as he pleases is illegal and undemocratic, and obtains the exact opposite of what it is supposed to – it produces more terrorists, increases hatred towards us and undermines any realistic chances for peace. So what purpose does this oppression really serve? Only one – perpetuating the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal in their own right and which are the obstacle to reaching a compromise between the two peoples.

Even before enlisting I had my doubts about whether or not to join the army, whether to support the army that represents my country or to refuse. I eventually decided to enlist, because I felt that I could refuse from within, to do things otherwise, to effect change. Today I understand that the army’s actions in the occupied territories themselves, its very presence there, are what constitutes the occupation, and no action I could make, not even if I offer a more positive treatment to Palestinian civilians, could make any difference.

I believe that in a country that claims to be a democracy, it is good and even necessary for each of us to voice criticism and indignation when the country is wrong. The IDF is an organisation that fights for interests that I don’t believe in, performs anti-democratic and immoral actions and seriously undermines the chances to achieve piece. I am no longer willing to be part of it.

For the time being, O. is serving a sentence of twenty days in detention. But from the experience of many others who went the same route, this is just the beginning. He would probably have to pass many times in and out of the military prison gates, before the military authorities become convinced that a soldier of occupation he would never be.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

The clock is ticking


The clock is ticking. The decision will fall in 72 hours.

Naftali Bennett, General Manager of the settler Judea and Samaria Council, addressed the Prime Minister via large ads in the Israeli press. He demands that Mr. Netanyahu end the freeze and allow the resumption of full-scale construction in the settlements. If the Prime Minister does not respond to his demand, Mr. Bennett threatens to mobilize Knesset Members and government ministers to topple the government.

Barack Obama, President of the United States addressed the Prime Minister directly and urgently, via a televised speech from the podium of the UN General Assembly. He demands that Mr. Netanyahu continue the freeze and facilitate continuation of negotiations with the Palestinians. The President did not elaborate on what he would do if the prime minister does not respond to his demand.

What will Netanyahu decide? Samer Sirhan of Silwan will never know. He was killed yesterday - by a settler.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An explicit promise


With the opening of what is billed as direct negotiations with the Palestinians, Binyamin Netanyahu's aides expressed themselves through Ben Kaspit, senior political correspondent of Maariv. They certainly had some interesting things to say, whatever credibility one would give it.

"The root of the problem, under the Israeli perception, is an unprecedented explicit promise which Obama made to Abu–Mazen: A Palestinian state – a viable one, with territorial contiguity etc. – would come into being within a one year deadline. The Israelis have learned about this promise only indirectly, via intelligence reports, and were appalled. Since then, tremendous energy has been expended in an attempt to show the Americans how wrong they were. Equally tremendous energy was directed to trying to prove to the Americans how the stupid construction freeze damaged the prospects of the negotiations. Every time when it seems that the Americans understand the message and adopt the Israeli approach (last week was the latest such occasion), Obama suddenly comes up and upsets everything (suddenly stating again that the freeze should continue). It is difficult to stomach this pattern of behavior, but there is no choice, since it is the Americans' behavior." (Ma'ariv, September 16, 2010)

Quite explicit things, indeed: a viable Palestinian state, with territorial contiguity etc is to come into being within a deadline of one year. In September 2011 it will be possible to read this article again. It would be then possible to find out, in a clear and authoritative way, what worth and what value should be placed on an explicit and unprecedented promise by the President of the United States of America.

The eve of Yom Kippur


A few hours before the start of Yom Kippur. soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces arrived at Nur a-Shams Village east of Tulkarm, where they shot and killed Iyad Shelbaya, who had been wanted as a senior Hamas member.

According to soldiers, Shelbaya had been running towards them in a suspicious and threatening manner, and they had fired in self-defense - though it later turned out that he was unarmed. Shelbaya's brother said that he had gotten no chance to do any running, because the soldiers broke into the bedroom and shot him in bed.

This will evidently be one more of the cases when the killing of a Palestinian by the army would never be investigated. No one is likely to try to examine seriously what happened or get at the truth. As B'tselem recently disclosed, in the past ten years the army ceased investigating the circumstances of killings committed by its soldiers.

According to Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is a day of self-searching, when all should give a serious thought to their deeds in the past year...

A Jewish State


"There can be no agreement without the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state." So the ministers and government speakers keep on saying day by day, and even several times on the same day.

It only remains to be seen whether the Jewishness of the state would have to be like the Jewishness of the army which has accelerated the conversion process for soldiers who are not considered Jewish, or to the Jewishness of the rabbis who still don't recognize these soldiers as Jews - thereby depriving them of the possibility of getting married.

The hut dwellers

Earlier this week, the police came back to the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib , northeast of Beersheva, to destroy it for the fifth consecutive time in the past two months. Later this week the police forces roamed all over the Negev, accompanied by heavy bulldozers and visited dozens villages many miles apart, destroying a house here and a house there. There was no obvious reason why the one house was destroyed and its neighbor spared - unless the goal was to intimidate as many people as possible, in all of the "unrecognized" villages.

The Bedouin residents do not give up. They began immediately to rebuild their homes once again. Volunteers from all over the country arrived at Al-Arakib to help reconstruct it - for the sixth time. But the village is being built of wooden huts, which could easily be reconstructed after the next devastation , too.

There is no point in spending money and effort on real, solid houses, which would only fall victim to the bulldozers within a week or a month. Such homes are a luxury meant for the residents of Tel Aviv or Be'er Sheva, not for the Bedouin third- of fourth-class citizens scattered throughout the Negev.

Amos Gvirtz' Open Letter to a Policeman


The following was written this week by Amos Gvirtz, member of Kibbutz Shefayim and a decades-long tireless activist for peace and justice.

One of the ills of human society is crime. People experiencing theft, robbery, rape or assault hope that police would arrive on the scene of the crime to prevent it, apprehend the criminals and bring them to trial. Society cannot function without blocking the spread of crime. In a properly constituted state, it is the task of the police and of the policemen to give citizens a feeling of security in daily life.

In Israel, there is an entire community which lost most of its possessions and which lives under a constant threat of losing the few things remaining, losing the very roof overhead. Unlike most Israeli citizens, they have no one to whom they could turn to protect them from the criminal acts which blight their lives. It is not criminals nor lawbreakers who come to demolish their homes, destroy their crops and rob them of their last remaining lands. It is government representatives, accompanied by the police of the State of Israel, who are doing it! It is the government which sends its representatives to commit these acts, after having taken care to enact laws which would make them all legal. Crime authorized by law! It is no wonder that after nearly all their land was robbed from them, after their ability to earn a livelihood was so greatly diminished, there are so many criminals among them.

You are told that say the Bedouins in the unrecognized villages are violating the building laws. You are sent to enforce the law against these lawbreakers. Did you ever ask yourself how could an entire population, about 90,000 people, be lawbreakers? All of them lawbreakers? After all, it is well known that lawbreakers constitute a certain percentage in every society – they are never the whole, entire society. How is it possible that the entire Bedouin population of the unrecognized villages, in exercising the basic human right to shelter, is in violation of Israeli law? Can there be something problematic about the law itself?

The State of Israel evacuated entire Bedouin tribes from their land, while robbing these lands and taking them to itself. The Bedouins were settled in the area known as Sayag (the Reserve). Then, the government passed a law (The Planning and Construction Act of 1965) which defined the same Sayag Area as a "no-construction zone". In this way, by means of a cynical, politically motivated law, the state made all the Bedouins into lawbreakers. Some of the Bedouin villages in the Sayag Area had existed there even before the State of Israel came into being. The state refuses to recognize these, either. By means of the political legislation, the state has made their inhabitants into criminals, too.

Many of the Jewish communities created in the Negev before the creation of Israel were established on land which the Zionist movement bought from Bedouins. But since the state came into being, it refuses to recognize the Bedouins' ownership of their lands. The state makes use of you – a police officer, a person entrusted with power to fight crime – in order to rob the Bedouin lands by brute force! Of course, the state has taken care to give it all a "legal" cover and pretext.

Try to imagine a situation – an utterly impossible one, I hope – that the Knesset would enact a law making robbery legal. I'm sure you would refuse to go on serving in a police force which is not committed to oppose banditry. But by means of its Planning and Construction Laws, the state has created a situation which makes it possible to rob with impunity the lands of the Bedouins! In the early 1950's many Bedouin tribes were removed from their land – being promised that that this was temporary, and that they would be allowed to return after the army has used the land for a limited period of training. Instead, the state enacted the 1953 Acquisition of Land Act, by which the lands reverted to its ownership. Robbery, pure and simple! And after decades in which the state made no use of these lands, the Jewish National Fund is sent to plants woods on them, so as to prove that they are being used – and most importantly, keep their owners from returning to them. A Bedouin demanding to get back his land, who tries to cultivate them or return to live on them, is being punished. Destruction of crops, destruction of houses, destruction of villages – all are part of safeguarding the robbery! And you are being sent to enforce such laws!

I have heard that many of the police officers sent to destroy homes and villages do not carry the name tags on their uniforms. I'm sure they are ashamed of their acts, as they have a good reason to be! After all, they joined the police in order to fight crime, not in order to perpetrate it!

 At the end of your work day you come home and proudly tell your family of apprehending criminals and wrongdoers! But what can you tell your parents on a day which you spent evicting other elderly people? What can you tell your wife and children when your day's work had been to drive women and children from their homes and leave them homeless? Can you not perceive the horrible gap between a worthy job of protecting society from destructive criminals and destroying the fabric of daily life of living human beings, people whose only crime is being born Bedouin in the State of the Jews?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Politeness x 2

- On Sunday, two days before the summit, the Israel Defense Forces troops on the Gaza Strip border shot into the other side and killed the 91-year-old Ibrahim Abu Assad and his grandson Hussam. This morning, when the Prime Minister was already in the air en route to the peace summit in Sharm a-Sheikh, the army checked and conclusively found that Abu-Assad had not been a terrorist. Not at all! Nor did his grandson deal in terrorism, either. Killing them was just an unfortunate and regrettable mistake, nothing more. Isn't it enough that we say sorry?

- At least, the talks themselves were useful and positive, so we are assured by the prime minister's advisers. Only, it is such a pity that the Palestinians continue to nag and make so much trouble over this insignificant issue of the construction freeze in settlements. Too bad that the Americans began once again to encourage them in this folly.
Do they have to start already talking about what really matters? How unpolite.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Peace Summit in Hebron

Last week, on the same day that the leaders gathered in Washington to resume direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and deliver festive speeches in front of TV cameras, there were contacts between Israelis and Palestinians also in Hebron. Israeli soldiers arrived at the home of the Palestinian Salayma Family on the city's outskirts and handed over to the family father Salem Salayma a legal decree, properly signed by the lawfully authorized military commander, stating that the family home was required by the Israeli Defense Forces for urgent security reasons, until further notice.

The army was not too tough, and gracefully allowed Salayma family - ten adults and four children – to continue living at the lower part of the house. Only the top floor and roof were taken over by the soldiers, who quickly set up firing positions on the roof and embarked on military training in the garden. But next week the family will have to further squeeze themselves, as the army' security needs require a further expansion of the military presence in their home.

Meanwhile, unofficial news came of the creative plans formulated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It is the Prime Minister's intention to hold accelerated negotiations so as to reach within a year a framework agreement with the Palestinians, it being understood that actual implementation of the agreement would take about thirty years. So, the Salayma Family will have to make do for thirty-one years at the most.



Saturday, September 4, 2010

A few square miles, so what?

"At last we meet! Abu Mazen, you are my partner! ! This is our opportunity, a historic opportunity to reach a historic compromise which will be inscribed in all the history books!

Wait a minute, what are you muttering there? What about the construction freeze in the settlements? Really, at such a historic moment you start hair-splitting and bringing up trivial details? So we will build a few houses, and the settlements will expand a bit, so what? What are several thousand acres between you and me? Well, a few square miles, so what? Stop making a problem of everything! Yes, it's true; the Jordan Valley must remain under Israeli control, and a few other fortifications and roads at strategic points in the north and the south and the east and the west – so what, we must safeguard the security of Israel, don’t we? Security above all! Well, stop nagging me! Everything will be fine, you will get a few crumbs, that's what you can have. Enough with the complaints and the moans, let's make a historic compromise at last! Don’t you hear  the wing-beat of history?"



The new leftist

A big headline in the extreme right paper Makor Rishon: "Netanyahu is a Leftist"

Columnist Ariel Kahane is in a hurry to cry out and alert the paper's readers throughout the settlements":

"Had anyone not been sure yet where Netanyahu stands, the events of the past two days removed the last doubt. Netanyahu is a Leftist! The wording which Netanyahu used at the Washington summit betrays the ideological shift he has undergone: 'West Bank', 'President Abbas', 'you are the partner', 'painful concessions'. This is the terminology of a person who has abandoned his nationalist doctrines".

Perhaps. But equally, it could be the terminology of a talented chameleon, who mastered the protective coloring necessary for survival in Obama's Washington.