Red Rag Column
17 January 2010
A righteous man in Sodom
The Iranian consul in Norway resigned from his position in protest against the government of Iran’s repressive policies towards its citizens. The consul could no longer remain silent in the face of the fatal shootings of demonstrators by the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian police, and in an interview with Norwegian television he said “I cannot do it any more.” (Maariv 7 January 2010). It is hard to overstate the courage of the Iranian consul. His humanity overcame his fears.
That is not the way it is in Israel. Of the hundreds of Israeli diplomats who are deployed all over the world there was not a single just person who took a stand in the face of the war crimes and the crimes against humanity committed by the government of Israel and its army in the Gaza war, and said, “I cannot do it any more – I am not able to represent this policy: I resign.”
They all toed the line like obedient functionaries and defended the war and its crimes. Which goes to prove once again that the potential for Eichmannesque “desk crimes” exists in every nation and language.
The cry of the robbed Cossack
Not long ago the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah held an official naming ceremony for a public square in honour of Dalal Mughrabi, who was a member of a Fatah cell that in March 1978 hijacked a bus belonging to the Israeli Egged company.
Most of the cell members were killed in the exchange of fire between the cell and the Israeli police, including Dalal Mughrabi.
The attack became known in Israel as “the bus of blood”, due to the large number of casualties – 35 killed and 71 wounded.
In Palestinian eyes Dalal Mughrabi is a freedom fighter who sacrificed her life for the liberation of her people from the fetters of Israel occupation and terror. In Israeli eyes she is a murderer and a terrorist. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu protested the event in Ramallah and saw as more evidence that not only are the leaders of the Palestinian Authority not fighting incitement against Israel, but they are collaborating with it.
Unsurprisingly, Israel is demanding of others what it is not willing to do itself. In the Har Homa [Jabal Abu-Ghneim] neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, built for Jews on land stolen from Palestinians, there is a street named after Shlomo Baum, who died in 1999. Since this column is translated into English, it is necessary to explain to non-Israeli readers who Shlomo Baum was, for the name is not known outside Israel, and perhaps not even by many young people in Israel.
Shlomo Baum was one of the founders of the Israeli terrorist Unit 101 under the command of Ariel Sharon, later the Prime Minister of Israel. Baum was Sharon’s deputy. The unit was set up in 1953 with the blessing of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and one of its first actions was the attack that year on the Jordanian village of Qibya, in the West Bank near Ramallah (which was then a part of the Kingdom of Jordan). The action was a reprisal for the murder of a woman and her two children in Yehud (formerly the Palestinian village of Yehudiyya) by a Fida’iyun cell that had infiltrated into Israel from Jordan.
Even though the cell’s tracks did not lead to Qibya, the village was chosen as the target of the action. Dozens of houses were blown up on the heads of their residents, and the number of killed reached 60, most of them women and children. Shlomo Baum was among those who planned and executed the action.
At the time the action provoked an international outcry, and Israel was condemned for slaughtering women and children. The international reverberations were so intense that the government of Israel tried to dissociate itself from responsibility by issuing a false statement to the effect that the action had been carried out not by a military unit but by angry Israeli civilians. Shlomo Baum was a lieutenant-colonel when he retired from the army.
After the June 1967 war Baum was a member of the extreme right camp, more than once expressing shocking opinions about how the army should deal with the Palestinians. In the eyes of most Israelis he was a courageous fighter; in the eyes of the minority a cruel officer whose right-wing views portended disaster for Israel and its neighbours.
In Palestinian eyes, Baum was a terrorist and a murderer of women and children, the mirror-image of the way Dalal Mughrabi is seen through Israeli eyes.
If the government of Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to refrain from naming streets and squares after those who have carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, the most effective course of action would be to set an example at home, and refrain from naming streets and other sites after people whose hands are stained with the blood of Palestinian civilians or who supported Israeli terror against the Palestinian people. There is much Israel could do, for example: changing the name of Shlomo Baum street; changing the name of Kahane Street in Kiryat Arba, named after the late rabbi and Knesset member one who referred to the Arabs as dogs and proposed to outlaw marriage between Jews and Arabs; and to remove from memorial sites the name of the former minister and general Rehavam Ze’evi, who called for the Arabs to be transferred out of the country. Those are three examples among many that are scattered all over Israel like sand on the seashore. It is a daunting task, and when it is over we will be in a position to talk to the Palestinians and ask them to take Israeli sensitivities into account.
Righteous Gentile – or Israeli criminal?
Miep Gies, who hid Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam during the Second World War, died in Holland a few days ago at age 100. For two years she attended to the needs of the people in the hiding place, bringing them food every day. When the hiding place was discovered by the Nazi occupation authorities after someone informed, the Frank family was sent to the Auschwitz death camp. In the eyes of those to whom obedience to the law is a supreme value, Miep Gies broke the law. She was arrested, but to her good fortune she was released after the investigation.
Miep Gies found the diary that Anne Frank had written in the hiding place, and kept it with her until the end of the war. Otto Frank, the father of the family, is the only one who survived the horrors of the camp; and upon his return to Holland Miep Gies gave him the diary. The diary of Anne Frank became one of the best-known documents in the world.
Miep Gies was named a Righteous Gentile by the Yad Vashem institute. Upon her death President Shimon Peres sent a letter of praise to Queen Beatrix of Holland, stating among other things that “Miep’s humanity inspires us to continue to believe in the good and integrity of the human race in the face of unending evil”. Nice – right?
It could have been even nicer if Peres had exhibited similar humanity in the State of which he is the President. Currently a draconian bill is in the final stages of being passed in the Knesset, which will impose prison terms of 7 to 20 years on those who escape from the genocide in Darfur and infiltrate into Israel. The bill also says that Israeli citizens who help the refugees from genocide can get the same penalty as the infiltrators themselves – that is, 7 to 20 years in prison. (This is in contradistinction to other laws in which the punishment for the accomplice is half that of the direct offender) The objective of the law is to prevent Israelis from providing any assistance to refugees from the genocide in Darfur.
If Miep Gies had been an Israeli citizen who hid a family of Sudanese genocide survivors like she hid the Frank family, she would have run the risk of up to 20 years in prison.
That is the humanity that Israel has learned from the Holocaust. Instead of sending the queen of Holland a letter dripping hypocrisy, it would have behooved Peres to bring his influence to bear to remove that shameful bill drenched with wickedness from the Knesset’s agenda.
Who liquidated the physics professor?
Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a professor of nuclear physics and lecturer at Tehran University, was murdered a few days ago as he was going from his house to his car. An explosive device that had been concealed in a motorcycle parked near his car was remotely detonated with precise timing.
Israeli experts in the field of personal liquidations who have been interviewed by military correspondents indicated that the operation was executed with a high degree of professionalism. The appearance of that kind of language in the Israeli news, accompanied by a wink, tells us that we should not be astonished if Israel had a hand in the deed.
The government of Iran immediately accused Israel and the US of the murder. Official Israel did not respond, but it is not inconceivable that Israel played a part in the murder.
The Israeli Mossad has a long tradition of carrying out liquidations all over the world, and not always with expertise and professionalism. Recall the murder of the Moroccan waiter Ahmad Bouchiki in the town of Lillienhammer in Norway in 1973, who was incorrectly identified as a Palestinian that the Mossad had decided to liquidate. The Israeli murder cell was caught by the Norwegian security services and its members were sentenced to prison. Israel was forced by Norway to apologize and to pay 400 thousand dollars in compensation to the waiter’s family.
Today the Mossad is led by Meir Dagan, who retired from the army with the rank of general. In 1970 Dagan set up the Rimon unit with the objective of suppressing the Palestinian resistance in Gaza of that period. The unit’s modus operandi bordered on war crimes, including extra-judicial executions by particularly cruel methods. It has been pointed out more than once in the Israeli and foreign press that Dagan is concentrating on disrupting the Iran’s nuclear project, by means of liquidating individuals who are connected to the project, among other things.
Israeli physics professors who knew the Iranian professor from international conferences, indicated that he was a mild-mannered man whose expertise was not connected to the production of nuclear weapons. One Israeli professor emphasized that he now feels that his own life is in danger, for if the liquidation of physics professors has become an accepted way of doing things, Israeli professors too will be targets.
This belligerent Israeli approach, according to which the murder of individuals is a legitimate tactic – apart from the fact that it is wrongheaded and immoral, will boomerang against us. The names of physics professors are not a secret. The bottom line is that everything the Mossad murderers know how to do can also be done by murderers working for the intelligence agencies of other countries. For principled and practical reasons it would be wise to liquidate the liquidations policy.
The policy of individual liquidations will not stop Iran on its path to the nuclear bomb, if that is indeed its goal. The most efficient way to stop the Iranian bomb would be to act to dismantle Israel’s own nuclear arsenal in the framework of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. The prime minister of Turkey is right when he says that Israel should be dealt with on the same terms as Iran in this matter. It is Israel that set the region on course for a nuclear arms race, and without Israel’s neutralization, the Middle East will continue to march towards the dangerous situation in which everyone has nuclear arms.
The disaster in Haiti
Those who believe that The Almighty plans things from above have to reproach Him for the unfairness with which He distributes distress. As if it were not enough that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, where it is hard to contend with the hardships of daily life even without earthquakes, a terrible disaster has befallen it in the form of an earthquake, 7 on the Richter scale, which destroyed the capital and buried tens of thousands of people under the ruins.
The international community is mobilizing to provide first aid, and that is gratifying. That aid is for the immediate term, and it is far from sufficient for the long-term reconstruction of that unfortunate country. Israel too has mobilized to help, and sent a field hospital. That is commendable. There is only one small problem that has not yet been solved: devastation on the scale of an earthquake of that magnitude, which was not caused by the clashing of tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust but came from the sky in the form of the bombs dropped on Gaza by the Israeli air force.
Gaza remains closed off, without international aid. The ruins remain untouched, and Israel, with the strange collaboration of Egypt, is taking pains to ensure that the destruction, devastation and human suffering will remain as they are, by blocking all international aid.
Here’s an idea: maybe on their way back to Israel, the Israeli team could stop in Gaza, set up a field hospital, help clear the ruins and bring in food for the needy population, especially the children, even if the government of Israel opposes it, because the ban on relief for the suffering in Gaza borders on being a patently illegal order. The imperative to violate dictatorial and oppressive law is one of the lessons that should be learned from the Righteous Gentiles.
Every Friday for a few weeks now there has been a demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighourhood in East Jerusalem against the eviction of Palestinian families from their houses for the benefit of Jewish settlers. The demonstrations are characterized by a joint Israeli-Palestinian struggle, and that drives the Israeli police and the ISA (Shin Bet) crazy. Jewish-Arab cooperation against the regime’s injustices is seen by the regime as a threat, and so the police spare no efforts to suppress the demonstrations by means of mass arrests. Last Friday (15 January 2010) saw the arrest of Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): an escalation in the police effort to suppress the protest.
So far the police repression has failed, and the demonstrations have not stopped.
The situation in Sheikh Jarrah represents one of the lowest points to which the Israeli justice system has sunk. These are Palestinian families, who in 1948 were forced to leave their homes in West Jerusalem, in neighbourhoods like Talbiyyeh, Katamon and others, and were housed by the UN in apartments in East Jerusalem.
An Israeli organization by the name of the Sephardic Community Committee claimed ownership over the apartments on the basis of problematic documents from the Ottoman (Turkish) period. The Israeli court in Jerusalem recognized those documents and authorized the eviction of the Palestinian families that have been living there for decades and enjoy the status of protected tenants. Where Palestinians are concerned, protected means not protected, and so the eviction process began.
The evicted families set up tents near the site, but the municipality is trying to remove those as well. In Israel, the restitution of property goes in only one direction: from Arabs to Jews. Those Palestinian families are not entitled to recover their houses in the neighbourhoods where they lived before 1948. The legal structure in Israel bars that possibility. Another example of judicial apartheid.
Israelis and Palestinians who see this as intolerable injustice are not willing to let it pass, and the police, as we have seen, are acting like a band of bullies in their efforts to stop the demonstrations. At this stage the world is still letting the injustice pass. Maybe they’re afraid of official Israel’s manipulative accusations of anti-Semitism. Until when?
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.