Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Opposition - to what exactly?

Prime Minister Netanyahu does not really want Tzipi Livni in his cabinet. He made her and her party a particularly miserable and insulting offer. So insulting that even the most opportunistic members of her party – those who dream of joining the government – even as the deputy sub-minister in charge of unnecessary ministries – were not able to support it.

Still, Livni and her party are in trouble. More than half a year passed since she led the party into opposition, with a loud fanfare. Still she has not managed to make herself at all conspicuous in the Knesset nor did she gather the kind of public support of an adamant opposition leader.

Again and again, Tzipi Livini declares that the way to peace is via the creation of a Palestinian state – but Netanyhau also says that, now. True, Netanyahu's sincerity in these statements (and in general) is open to serious doubt. On the other hand, it is also a fact that for three years Livni held a senior position in the government of Israel, and that in these years she had not brought about any visible advance towards ending the occupation and making peace with the Palestinians. She did, in the same years, become deeply involved in acts which nowadays make it impossible for her to enter Birtain, for fear of a war crimes prosecution.

People simply don't understand what is the big difference between Bibi and Tzipi..

The horse and the rider

Raed a-Sarkaji, Anan Sabah and Raghsan Abu Sharah, inhabitants of the city Nablus - were they responsible for the killing of settler Meir Avshalom-Chai? Maybe yes and maybe not. The question will remain open and no court will decide on it. The Israel Defense Forces and the General Security Service made a shortcut.

Instead of troubling judges and lawyers, army officers and security agents judged the three in a very fast proceeding, condemning them to death and implementing the sentence on the spot, during a colossal show raid into the heart of the city Nablus (which is supposed to be under security control of the Palestinian
Authority ).

Alex Fishman - military commentator for Yedioth Ahronoth, and not particularly leaning towards the opinions of the Israeli peace camp - wrote:  "In such a politically sensitive period, it might have been better for an operation on such a scale to get a prior approval from the political echelon in Israel. There are now quite a few security officials biting their nails over the blunder of having destroyed the Fatah institutions during the Second Intifada .  Wasn't this medicine too aggressive? The operation in Nablus definitely eroded the status of the Palestinian Authority, a rude gesture straight in the face. It could turn out be the proverbial nail which causes the horse to lose its shoe, like in For Want of a Nail.


A war is going on there

Last week Rabbi Meir Abshalom Chai of the Shavei Shomron settlement was killed in a Palestinian ambush, while traveling in his car on the roads of the West Bank. All press reports emphasized that he was the father of seven. His fellow settlers made shrill demands to increase the roadblocks and prevent Palestinians from traveling on the roads, "so that they could not harm settlers".

"Nobody talks about the fact that we live in a war, here" complained Menorah Hazani, Rabbi Chai's neighbor at the Shavei Shomron settlement, on the pages of the extreme right "Makor Rishon". Indeed, the settlers live in a war, a ceaseless daily war. To rob the land of another people, trample on them and deny them the basic hope of being free in their own land is certainly an act of war. Meir Abshalom Chai was a soldier in the settlers' army, the army which in the name of God and the Bible conducts a war against the Palestinian people – a war to which most citizens of Israel are not party and don't want to be. A settler army which has made the whole of the Wild West Bank into a big battlefield. But why did this soldier have to travel on the battlefield in a vulnerable civilian car?

And why did he have to bring his seven children to live in the middle of the battlefield?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

As we already talk to Hamas…

Yesterday night, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his senior ministers discussed the proposals made to them by the Hamas leadership, and after long deliberations formulated a counter proposal, to be passed back to Hamas. This evening, Netanyahu's proposals will be on the desk of Ismail Haniye in Gaza and that of Khaled Mashal in Damascus. The Hamas leaders will draft their answer and send it to Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office. A regular process of negotiations, even if Netanyahu and Mashal are not sitting at the same table but corresponding via Egyptian and German mediators.

The government of Israel is negotiating with Hamas – openly, in the broad sight of all, with details of the proposals and counter-proposals leaked daily to the Israeli and international media. It is already going on for years. But the negotiations are on one subject and one only – an exchange of prisoners, Gilad Shalit for x Palestinian prisoners.

Why, in fact? When we talk anyway, why not open comprehensive negotiations between the government of Israel and the leadership of the Hamas movement – which won the elections three years ago and which undoubtedly represents a significant part of the Palestinian people? Negotiations with the Palestinians can only succeed when they include Hamas, too. Negotiations aimed at achieving peace, or at the very least a stable, long term cease-fire. (Among other things, it would be the best way to ensure that the Palestinians about to be released in exchange for Shalit will not engage in new acts of violence.)

Undoubtedly, the mediators – Egyptian as well as German – would be ready to pass Binyamin Netanyahu's offers to the Hamas leadership. If he has anything to offer.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Police in the service of robbers

It happened on Friday afternoon. The brave and industrious men of the Jerusalem Police charged head-on at demonstrators who marched through the streets, some of them drumming and others dressed as clowns. Twenty-seven protesters were dragged into the police patrol cars and sent to spend the weekend behind bars at the Russian Compound detention center.

No, these protesters did not riot or block roads, nor did they violate public order. They just walked, quietly and orderly, on the sidewalk, bound to a protest demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. A protest on the spot where settlers are, openly and in broad daylight, breaking into Palestinian houses, throwing the inhabitants out into the street and establishing themselves in residence, hoisting the Blue-and-White flag on the roof.

The Jerusalem police is very deeply concerned for the safety of these settler robbers. They must not be disturbed, either during the robbery or afterwards. Demonstrators must not be allowed to get to the vicinity of these houses, the police spokesperson explained – this is strictly forbidden. God forbid, the protesters might have actually prevented some of the settlers from returning in time to the house which they seized, there to hold Shabbat services according to the structures of Jewish tradition and to light Hanukah candles and sing of the heroism of the Maccabees.

Two hours after the detention of the protesters, the settlers and their friends came out to hold a public prayer in the streets of Sheikh Jarrah. Feeling elated by the prayer, they went on to throw stones there, beat Palestinians passing by, break into a house and there beat up two children, who needed medical treatment and were evacuated by ambulance. The Jerusalem police were apparently still tired of chasing peaceniks. For the settler antics the police had no energy left...

P.S. On Saturday night, the 27 detainees were brought before Judge Liran of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, their fellow protesters demonstrating and drumming outside the building. The police demanded that they be charged with "rioting" and ordered to stay out of the city of Jerusalem for 90 days. The judge rejected this out of hand and ordered all detainees released on their own recognizance.

The police representative complained that "leftist demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah lay a great burden on the police". The court reiterated the obligation of police in a democratic society to allocate sufficient forces to safeguard the holding of political protest.

To be continued next Friday, in Sheikh Jarrah.

Netanyahu buys cheaply

In her debut speech, the new European Union Foreign Minister strongly condemned the expulsion of Palestinian residents from their homes in East Jerusalem, and said that what Benjamin Netanyahu calls "settlement freeze" is "partial and insufficiant".

Ben Kaspit, political correspondent of Ma'ariv known for his extensive contacts in the corridors of power, wrote yesterday in his column: "Israel's diplomatic status is undergoing a rapid collapse, whose like we have never known before. We did undergo crises during the first Lebanon War, the First Intifada and on other occasions - but never did we fall from a such great height to such a low depth, and the bottom is still far down" (Ma'ariv, December 18).

And Kaspit added that "Netanyahu is licking his wounds from the settlement freeze. In retrospect, he greatly regrets it. The price is high, and no goods were delivered.". Daily, the Prime Minister is publicly embroiled with settlers, rabbis the extreme-right Hotobeli Faction inside his party - and yet the world still fails to recognize his merits as a great seeker after peace, the international criticism is still continuing and intensifying. Netanyahu's bureau tends to turn their fire on Attorney Yitzhak Molho, the man who ran the prolonged talks with the representatives of President Obama and cooked up the "freeze deal".

It's not nice to put all the blame on Molho, a faithful messenger and shrewd lawyer, who had gotten personal instructions from the Prime Minister and fully carried them out. He carried on tough and exhausting negotiations with the Americans, and managed to lower the price and obtain a settlement freeze lite, very lite indeed. Not a full freeze, without exception, but a freeze which enables the continued construction of three thousand housing units in the settlements, a freeze which does not include East Jerusalem, a freeze which puts no halt to the continued expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

Attorney Molcho did get goods for the price which the Prime Minister was willing to pay, a real bargain price. But the goods were no good. So it is not really a good deal even when the price was dirt cheap.

Villain of the week

First we were angry with Turkey and announced a boycott of tourism to Antalya.

Then we were angry with Sweden and announced a boycott of IKEA.

This week it is Britain's turn to be the target of Israeli national outrage.

If this continues in this pace we will soon only be doing business with Micronesia.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In those days and in this time

An interesting coincidence. Exactly the time when Jews, in this country and world-wide, are celebrating Hanuka, was also when Israeli soldiers were sent to capture Abdullah Abu Rahme of Bil'in Village and bring him into detention. Already for years Abdullah Abu Rahme is organizing the people of his village to a persistent struggle, with no weapons in their hands, about the theft of their lands and livelihood – supposedly for erection of the "Separation Fence", in fact in order to extend the giant ultra-Orthodox settlement Modi'in Illit.

Abdullah Abu Rahme is leading the struggle of villagers who defend their land with courage and determination. The soldiers who are sent by the State of Israel come to oppress these villagers by brute force, use again and again their full might – and the villagers remain unbroken.

Two thousand years ago there lived in exactly the same region villagers, not so different, who bravely resisted the brutal soldiers sent by a king named Antiochus. The victory over occupying soldiers won by these ancient villagers led by the Maccabees, is the event which the Jewish religion sought to commemorate by instituting the holiday called " Hanuka"...

I host here the report of Roy Wagner, who every week reports on the struggle of Palestinian villagers whose lands are stolen, and on the activists who come to support them.

"A total of about 25 Israelis and internationals joined the Palestinians of Bil'in for a relatively small demonstration against the wall. The focus of the protest was the arrest of Abdullah Abu Rahme, a member of the popular committee, whose prominent presence in demonstrations and attempts to curb the use of stones and gas canisters made him such a dangerous person, that the Israeli army had to break into Ramallah in the middle of the night to abduct and arrest him. The new border police soldiers were very eager to spend gas canisters, and the wind made it difficult to maintain steady presence near the gate, which was nevertheless opened by the demonstrators. Many suffered from gas inhalations, some were bruised, and some went on to get arrested in the demonstration in Sheikh Jarah, just in time for the lighting of the first Hanuka candle. May the occupiers be defeated as was the evil king Antiochus."

So far the report of Roy Wagner, you can contact him at rwagner@mta.ac.il

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nuri el-Okbi's Day in Court

Bedouin property and Israeli law

December 7, 2009, 9.45am - "What is going on here? So many visitors, and all for one case!", asked the guard at the entrance of the high rise housing Be'er Sheva's courts of law. In Justice Sarah Dovrat's hall at the District Court, all 22 chairs for the public were occupied, and many were left outside, waiting for a place to become free. Peace and Human Rights activists came, some from far, especially for this session. And Dr Becky Cook, of the political science department of Ben Gurion University, brought the 15 students of her seminar to witness the proceedings, as part of their studying the problems of Israeli society.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Speaking a non-truth

Some months ago Prime Minster Netanyahu delivered a famous speech at Bar Ilan University. After many apologies and roundabouts; he uttered the explicit words "Palestinian State". And after several more months of complicated maneuvers, he uttered also the words "Settlement Freeze". Now, there can be no doubt that the ball is in the Palestinians' court.. The government of Israel has done its share, above and beyond expectations! So, at least, say the government speakers.

This week Netanyahu found time to meet with the settlers and try to calm them down. The freeze is limited, it will last only ten months and not a single day more, and afterwards construction will resume and increase. And anyway, even during the freeze construction will continue through all kinds of methods and tricks, despite the settlers' highly publicized confrontations with the government building inspectors.

In at least one of the places, our respectable PM said what lawyers like to call "a non-truth". If truly Binyamin Netanyahu meant what he said in Bar Ilan, and he truly means to end the occupation and reach peace with the state of Palestine, than what will happen after ten months is not a resumption of construction but a transition from freezing the settlements to a complete dismantling. And if he meant what he said to the settlers, than there will be no Palestinian state, the occupation will continue and the Palestinians have no reason to negotiate with such a government.

And meanwhile, the European foreign ministers gathered in Bruxelles played the ball back to Israel.

Exacting a Price

Enabus. I was there two years ago, to help with the olive harvest. A Palestinian village south of Nablus. Industrious, lively and hospitable inhabitants. A very steep mountain terrain. Not the most ideal of agricultural lands, but the people of Enabus do their best. They build terraces on the mountainside, plant olive trees even on the most tiny plot available.

This week uninvited guests arrived in Enabus. Settlers. They arrived in Enabus in the middle of the night, burned cars and also a tractor, tried to set a house on fire, threatened inhabitants with their guns. (The guns which had been provided to them by the army for "self defense").

This was not because of something which the Enabus villagers had done. It was because the settlers are angry at Netanyahu's "settlement freeze". When settlers are angry at something which the Government of Israel is doing (or pretends to be doing), they are quick to "exact a price" from the first Palestinians they happen to encounter.

In fact, this is not the settlers' own invention. This method is already centuries old. Historically, in quite a few countries people who were furious with the King's latest decree took out their anger on the nearest Jews. In such places, this was called simply "a pogrom".

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is there justice for Bedouins?

Day after tomorrow, on Monday December 7 at 10 a.m., there will take place before judge Sarah Dovrat at the Beer-Sheva District Court the testimony of the Bedouin human and civil rights activist Nuri al Okbi, a decisive point in his prolonged legal and public struggle to prove his ownership over family land in the Al_Arakib area northwest Beer-Sheva.

"In 1951, while still a child, the army deported my family and my entire tribe from the land. They told us that it was only for half a year, but we were never allowed to go back" says al Okbi. Nearly forty years ago, Sheikh Sliman Muhammad al Okbi ', father of Nuri, presented a claim over the land to government's Land Arrangement Clerk (Pkid Hahesder). However, the hearing dragged on interminably, like most ownership suits filed by Bedouin residents in the Negev. For the past two years, the case is heard by judge Sarah Dovrat.

"On December 7 will come the moment I waited for a long time – the moment when I will have the opportunity to address the court and present documents, some of them a hundred years old, making abundantly clear that the land had belonged to - and was inhabited and worked by our tribe - generations ago, long before the State of Israel was established. Contrary to the lie often heard in the media, about 'Bedouins invading state lands', we are not invaders or squatters – we are on our own ancestral lands."

For the past three years, Nuri al Okbi is living in a tent erected on the lands of Al-Arakib, close to the site of the house where he was born and spent his early childhood. He was many times evicted – sometimes with considerable violence – by the police and "Green Patrol" – but always came back.

Nuri al Okbi issued a call for all seekers for peace and justice in Israel to come to the court on Monday, be present during the testimony and express support for his struggle.

Contact: Nuri al Okbi 054-5465556

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another day in the Eternal Capital

This morning, Israel's Foreign Ministry came out with a great outcry about the European Union's intention to proclaim that Jerusalem should be the capital of two states – West Jerusalem the Capital of Israel and East Jerusalem the Capital of Palestine. The Israeli ambassadors at all 27 European capitals were asked to approach the governments and make a sharp protest.

While the angry retorts of Lieberman and his officials continue to reverberate through air waves, at noon today extreme right settlers took over the home of the Al-Kurd Family at the Sheikh Jarah Neighborhood in East Jerusalem and expelled by force the family members. This is the fifth Palestinian house in this neighborhood to be taken over by setters, with the approval of the Israeli courts and active participation of the Israeli police. So far, some sixty inhabitants were literally thrown out into the street. Now they live in tents outside what were their homes. The settlers live in them, and the Blue-and –White flags fly proudly from the roofs.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile for the Foreign Ministry to invite European representatives to tour Sheikh Jarah and see with their own eyes Israel's eternally unified capital.

A Matter of Education

General Gaby Ashkenazi, the IDF Chief of Staff, made a speech in a conference of school principals and sharply criticized the kind of education which new soldiers entering into the army's ranks are bringing with them. "We get young people who have not learned about the State of Israel, its heritage and its landscape. A third of the soldiers have never in their lives visited Jerusalem until we in the army arranged for them a visit. And there are soldiers who think that Massada is a place which we conquered in 1967! This is not funny".

No, it is not funny. And one might note several more substantial flaws in the education provided by Israeli schools in our time. Flaws which the Chief of Staff somehow failed to mention. Young people who finish school and get to the army without the educational system having instilled in them basic values of human dignity and human rights, without their becoming truly aware that all human beings are equal and were all "created in the shape of God". Young people who put on a uniform and get in their hands a gun and the power to kill – without anybody having ever explained to them what are manifestly illegal orders, on which the black flag of illegality flies. Orders which a soldier is not allowed to disobey, but is legally bound to disobey. Certainly, the young people get to the recruitment bureau and beyond, without having ever learned what is the Fourth Geneva Convention (of which Israel was among the first signatories), so they even don’t know what is permitted - and what isn't - to the soldiers of an occupying power.

Had the education system in the state of Israel done its job, to truly educate the young people facing military service, the Goldstone Report might have a been a lot thinner.

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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire on the Mount

A bit of history: on the evening of June 10, 1967, the last day of the Six Days' War (which 42 years later is in fact still going on), the Israeli bulldozer made a debut appearance in United Jerusalem, Eternal Capital of Israel etc.etc.etc. The inhabitants of the Mugrabi Quarter – a neighbourhood of thousands of people, which had existed for hundreds of years – were given expulsion orders, effective immediately. Within a few hours, the entire neighbourhood was razed and wiped off the face of the earth. As later told by Etan Ben Moshe, the officer in charge, an old woman who did not leave her home was crushed to death, her body found the next morning under the ruins of her home.

It was not done because of any deed with which the inhabitants were charged. Simply. it was their bad luck that they lived near the Wailing Wall. Moshe Dayan, the then all-powerful Minister of Defence, wanted to have a very big open space to all the Jewish worshippers who would come to pray at the Wailing Wall. So was created the great , wide (and not exactly beautiful) Wailing Wall Plaza,

You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughrabi_Quarter

At least. Dayan had the sense not to go too far in provoking the Arabs and Muslims. The Jews were given a big and wide place for prayers at the Wailing Wall, and the Mount above left to the Muslims who had been praying there for 1300 years already. It just happens that this place was very holy and precious to about a billion people all over the world, and it would be unhealthy to heat them up. True, the Jewish Temple had stood there once upon a time, and when the Messiah comes it might stand there again Meanwhile, the Chief Rabbinical Council ruled unanimously that until the coming of the Messiah it is neither worthwhile nor advisable to ascend the Mount – if fact, it is strictly prohibited on purely religious grounds.

That was 42 years ago. Meanwhile things have changed – and not for the better. A new generation of rabbis has arisen – nationalist rabbis, settler rabbis, fanatic rabbis, provocateur rabbis, rabbis who are already used to create accomplished facts at every hill and vale. Now they cast covetous eyes also at this holy mount, caring not at all that they are setting aflame a very big fire.

How shall we put off the fire? There is needed a clear and unequivocal declaration, on the most senior level of the State of Israel: This Mount is a Muslim place of prayer, and so it will stay. Jews wanting to pray in this area have a big and wide plaza available at the Wailing Wall. To climb the Mount they can – but only as guests of the Muslim owners. Those for whom this is not enough will just have to wait patiently until the coming of the Messiah.

A governmental declaration? Certainly not from Binyamin Netanyahu's government. Meanwhile, the fire will continue to burn. It might burn all of us.

A Temple? No, thanks!

A small question. Supposing that the space was completely open, and that it was possible to create a Jewish Temple without harming anybody and without provoking a billion Muslims, would that have been what we really want, in the Israel of 2009? To go back to the time when the public slaughter of living beings was the peak of religious worship?

If there are people living among us who get a sublime feeling of closeness to God by watching poor sheep and cows being killed and their blood scattered around, they can get complete satisfaction by just going to the nearest abattoir. And they had better also see a psychiatrist.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The ceaseless chattering

In his address to the gala opening of the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, PM Netanyahu called on Palestinian President to renew peace negotiations. "Tell your people that the time has come to end this conflict; tell them that the time has come for two nations to live side-by-side in peace and security. I believe that peace with the Palestinians is possible, but that requires brave leadership on both sides".

Nice words. Nice words? Nice chattering. Had our Prime Minister meant a single word of what he said, he should at the same time have addressed the settlers and exhibited a brave leadership. He should have told them something like this: "Ladies and Gentlemen, your story is over. There will be no more construction in the settlements, not a single building more – it is a waste of money. Moreover, start packing your belongings and prepare for getting out of the territory – unless you are ready to become citizens of Palestine".

Everybody knows that without a dismantling of settlements there will be no State of Palestine – and without a state of Palestine, there can be no peace, either. Everybody knows it – even the chattering Netanyhau.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Those nasty Turks

What a chutzpah! Turkey cancelled the joint exercises with the air force of Israel. They are just not willing to let the planes which killed hundreds of civilians in Gaza come to hold exercises over Turkish territory. For fifty years, ever since Ben Gurion's time, the state of Israel had worked so hard to establish and maintain political and economic and military ties with Turkey. And in a single month of bombings over Gaza, all that has been destroyed? Commentators on the Israeli media express shock: Why do we deserve this? Why?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Paying back the loan

Dear Mr. President, the Nobel Peace Prize you have gotten is like an advance payment, a loan on which you have hardly started paying off the first instalment.

On several occasions you have declared that, as far as you are concerned, the ending of Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state is neither lip service nor empty rhetoric, but a real and concrete goal to be achieved during your present term in the White House. In fact, you and your aides repeatedly mentioned a specific time frame: during the year 2011. To achieve that - as you must be fully aware - it would not be enough to restrain the settlements nor even to freeze them. Quite a lot of dismantling will have to be done, too. When the free and sovereign State of Palestine is created and signs peace with the state of Israel, then – at least as far as I am concerned - you will have fully earned your Nobel Prize.

Get to work, Mr. President, and good luck!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who is the inciter here?

Exactly two months ago a man named Yehoshua Tor, who heads a body known as "The Movement for Restoration of the Temple", said the following: "There, at the top of Temple Mount, there is a foreskin which should be removed. The Temple will arise in place of that boil, full of pus". So he said, about the mosques which are holy to a billion Muslims all over the world. So he said, and nobody cried "Incitement". No minister demanded the outlawing of him and of his movement. Nobody even took care to implement a government decision from 2003, by which this man lives in an illegal settlement outpost (in the South Hebron Hills) which the government is obliged to remove.

A band of extremists with an implausible, mad, twisted dream? Unquestionably. But in the past forty two years, it happened more than once that this kind of crazy bands got the full support of the IDF, and the Israel Police, and all government ministries, in implementing their crazy dreams and crazy ideas right there on the ground. Not so far from the Temple Mount there is the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah, where such a band of crazies came in the middle of the night and with the full support and protection of the police threw two (Palestinian) families out into the street and took over their homes. Even closer to Temple Mount is Silwan Village, the place which settlers call "City of David", where settlers are digging deep into the earth, and undermine the homes of their Palestinian neighbors, and nobody really knows where and how far they are digging.

In short: When Arabs and Muslims are worried about these extremist groups and their crazy plans, these fears are far from unreasoned or baseless. It is not just paranoia and certainly more than manipulation. But when somebody comes to cry out "Al Aqsa is in danger!" the Government of Israel immediately comprehends what it means, Hurrah, hurrah, we have found the inciter!

Israel fears violence following arrest of Islamic Movement head

Islamic leader tells Haaretz Temple Mount clashes won't end until occupation of Jerusalem does

WATCH Organizer admits City of David endangers Arab homes

Yehoshua Tor speaks frankly

Monday, October 5, 2009

From one to forty-nine

As all Israeli governments have said since 1967, and as PM Netanyahu reiterated a few weeks ago, Israel is committed to the freedom of religious worship in Jerusalem.

This week, like so often before, the Jerusalem Police forbade Muslims aged less than fifty to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Jerusalem Police also detailed large forces to safeguard the prayers of Jews at the Wailing Wall, for whom no age limitations were set.

Yes, there is freedom of religious worship in Jerusalem – but sometimes you have to wait until you are fifty…

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Born to be free

Release him - now!
Because this young man, who stands prolonged detention with so much courage and dignity, deserves to be free. Because three years and three months are long enough and far too long. Because the state of Israel which sent him to the border of Gaza must bring him back, with no further delay. Because on this issue the people in Israel are united, more than on anything else. Because his whole country wants Gil'ad Shalit back home with his family.

Release them - now!
Because his whole country wants Gil'ad Shalit back home with his family. Because there can never be peace while Israel's prisons and detention camps are full of thousands of Palestinian prisoners. Because there is hardly any Palestinian family which did not have a member in prison at some time in the past forty two years. Because Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Shamir had also been called terrorists. Because their whole people wants the Palestinian prisoners back home with their families.

Friday, October 2, 2009

If only...

"The Goldstone Report endangers peace" said Prime Minister Netanyahu. Why? "When we disengaged from Gaza, we thought that the world would let us use self-defence. If it does not, we can't take any more risks for peace".
Translation to plain English: "If you don't give us a free hand to bomb the West Bank after we have withdrawn from there, to bomb, to kill and to destroy, we will just not withdraw".

And, with that permission you would? Really, Mr Prime Minister? From the whole West Bank?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This goes a bit too far

Officers of the Israeli Defence Forces are supposed to be ever ready to lay down their lives for their country. But what the hell - are they also supposed to sacrifice the chance of a nice holiday in Europe? Perhaps, after all, it just does not pay to kill civilians...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Takes one to know one

The Government of Israel is warning the West about Iran's nefarious intentions. "The Iranians have no intention to conduct real negotiations. They just want to conduct futile negotiaitons and meanwhile continue enriching Uranium. They just want to gain some more time."

Interesting. How come that the government of Israel is so clever in decyphering such tricks?