Saturday, July 11, 2015

Celebrations at Syntagma - bulldozer games in Susiya

Athens, Juy 5 - photo IBTimes

This week we were all Greeks. The Israeli media traced the intricacies of Greek political life with nearly as much detail as it gave to our own politicos. The woes of the Greek economy were described side by side with the intensive struggle over the monopoly which tycoon Yitchak Tshuva established over the Israeli offshore natural gas deposits.

As on everything, Israelis took vehement positions on the Greek issue (“They are lazy parasites, living off other people’s money!” “Nonsense, the Greeks already paid the original debt long since, but with the usurious interest put on the debt they are forced to pay and pay and pay, bleed endlessly”).  
The night of the Greek referendum, with the massive “No” vote completely confounding the pollsters, was for many of us a rare moment of uplifting exhilaration.  On TV we could see the celebrating crowds in Athens’ Syntagma Square,– facing terrible crisis ahead yet exultant with their country’s defiant gesture. Above the dancing crowd were waving an enormous number of Greek national flags. In a country which holds no occupied territory and whose army is not oppressing another people, it is possible to be at one and the same time a principled, militant left-winger and an ardent, flag-waving patriot…
Here follows a rather long excerpt of what Knesset Member Dov Khenin wrote: 
"This week’s Greek revolt stunned the world. Greek citizens dared to reject the diktat of the European establishment and chose to take an unknown course, a new path that poses many risks. The Greek crisis came from the long-term control of a corrupt political-economic oligarchy, in which right-wing conservatives and centrist ‘social democrats’ were partners. When the crisis erupted five years ago, the Greek oligarchy agreed to the European establishment’s radical austerity program, which harmed everything in Greece except the oligarchy itself. Unemployment and social distress increased to unprecedented proportions. 
Then, at the end of January this year, Syriza was elected. It was elected not to continue the previous policies, but to advance an alternative to austerity – a policy of economic recovery and a more equitable distribution of the burden. And now – what a surprise! – the Greek left apparently plans to actually do what it promised to do before it was elected. Such a left in power is naturally seen as a political threat to the entire European establishment, to its financial institutions and their representatives in the political system. From the start the Greek crisis was used as a political tool to subdue the Greek left for all to see. That’s why all the logical proposals made by Greece were rejected, proposals that had the support of some of the world’s leading economists, including Nobel Prize-winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.
So what’s a left-wing government meant to do in such a situation? The Syriza leadership thought that the European dictates must be rejected, but given the great risks and legitimate concerns, it decided to take the question to the people through a referendum. Underlying the choice of a referendum is a perception of the relationship between democracy and socialism. Syriza demonstrated with its actions that it has learned the most important lesson from the socialist experiments of the 20th century, and that’s that one cannot differentiate between socialism and democracy. 
Along with illustrating the necessary connection between real socialism and democracy, the Greek story also reveals the deep contradiction between democracy and contemporary capitalism. How correct for our times is the statement by the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies that, ‘We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’”
Still, however exasperated one might feel with the capitalist Eurozone, few would want to see the edifice of European Union crumble and collapse. After all, the EU has brought decades of peace to a continent which had known centuries of bloody wars and conflicts, nationalism in its most oppressive and murderous forms.
With the repeated disappointments and rebuffs which Israeli peace-seekers had from Obama since the the great euphoria of his election in 2008, we had entertained the slender hope of a daring European initiative to end the occupation, with the tacit support of the White House. In the past half a year, this centered on the declared intention of France to present a resolution in the UN Security Council, declaring the June 4, 1967 lines to be the basis on which the future border between Israel and Palestine should be based and setting a timetable by which Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians should be concluded – failing which, France (and possibly other European countries) would proceed to recognize Palestine. It was speculated that the Obama Administration, given its ongoing fight with Netanyahu, would refrain from vetoing the French proposal.
We were told to wait patiently for this scenario to materialize – first, the Israeli elections had to be allowed to take place, with nothing which could be construed as “interference in internal Israeli affairs”. Then, with Netanyahu victorious and re-installed in power, we were to wait for the elusive agreement with Iran, which at present takes up the full attention and energy of the relevant diplomats and decision makers. But we were assured from Paris that the resolution will be duly tabled by this year’s UN General Assembly  in September.
This week, however, the French initiative seems to be losing steam. Very similar accounts were given by such disparate persons as 'Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Palestinian Authrity’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. According to both, the French found that the Americans would only let the French resolution pass if its contents were considerably “watered down” – in which case, the Palestinians would consider it useless. With this added to the vehement opposition of Netanyahu, the French seem to be losing heart. Which leaves us stranded without much of a glimmer of hope on the arid diplomatic horizon, on the 48th year of stifling occupation and on the first anniversary of the last year’s devastating Gaza War.
A few days ago, activists observing the situation on the South Hebron Hills noticed militaty trucks bearing fearsome giant bulldozers heading towards the small community of Susiya. Susiya had long been living under the constant threat of demolition and destruction. Its very  existence was ruled to be “illegal” by the Israeli military authorities, its meager plot of land coveted by the nearby Israeli settlement which is also named “Susiya”. The situation of Susiya had become desperate on May 6 this year, when Israeli Supreme Court Judge Noam Sohlberg (who himself lives in a West Bank settlement) rejected out of hand a petition submitted by Rabbis for Human Rights on behalf of the Susiya villagers. Justice Sohlberg (to give him his correct judicial title) refused to grant a stay of execution, and authorized the army to raze Susiya at their convenience. The army usually does not issue advance notices in such cases.
After the bulldozers’ photos were put on the net, activists spread an urgent action alert, to which was added weight by the demarche of European diplomats, several of whom visited Susiya in the past weeks and called upon the Israeli authorities to avoid destroying the village. Whatever happened behind the scenes, the fearsome bulldozers were not unloaded from the trucks. After two days a clarification was made: it was all part of maneuvers by the IDF Engineering Corps, the placing of bulldozers near Susiya had been completely coincidental, and anyway if and when Susiya is demolished a completely different type of bulldozer would be deployed. And so it remains, as of this evening.
Whatever the EU’s faults, Susiya’s 340 inhabitants, still with a roof over their heads, have a reason to feel grateful.

This week, a call landed in our boxes: 


As the one-year mark approaches since Operation Protective Edge began, we call on our government to return to the negotiating table. The war did not bring an end to the conflict nor did it bring us more security. A diplomatic agreement is the only real hope for a secure Israel.

Here’s how we plan to deliver that message this summer: Women Wage Peace will mark the 50 days of last year’s war (July 8 – August 26) with “Operation Protective Fast.” Each day women

will fast for 50 hours each (or 25 for those who so choose) in a tent set up across from the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Our tent will also be a site for presentations and discussions.

As reported by Michael Salisbury-Corech of the +972 alternative news website, “at the entrance to the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, nearly 30 women are sitting on mattresses, surrounded by banners calling for peace negotiations. One of their shirts reads ‘Women waging peace’ and ‘Stopping the next war!.’ Some of them hold signs that read: “Fasting!” Despite the uniform dress, the women come from different backgrounds: some are Arab, some religious, some Mizrahi, others Ashkenazi.

Yael Trader, one of the activists at the protest camp, the reasoning behind the fast: “We wanted to do something significant, because since the last war there has been no process toward an agreement. The last war broke me because of the force that was used, as well as how strong the Israeli consensus was. It frightened me because the common conception here is that only force will solve our problems, and it was clear to me that this doesn’t work. I was close to asking myself whether I can continue to live here. The only remedy for my desperation was to get up and do something.”