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Red Rag column
By: Gideon Spiro
11 February 2010
(English translation 18 February)

An evil wind is blowing over Israel

A few days ago I was at an event in which a minister in the Israeli government was also present. We got to talking, and he surprised me with statements that were radical by the standards of his party and government. He stated that Israel is in on a slippery slope towards fascism, and the savage attack on the New Israel Fund is one of the signs of that. According to him the generals who hold political office, especially as ministers, constitute a danger and the harm that they have caused is incalculable. I asked whether I could quote him, and he said not right now, but added that if there is no change for the better, he is planning a significant political action in a few months. We shall see.

The media and political storm over the New Israel Fund in general and against human rights organizations that were quoted in the Goldstone Report in particular, is reminiscent of the dark days of the American Senator Joseph McCarthy, who in the 1950s was the head of a committee of inquiry in the US Senate and saw Soviet agents everywhere.

Two journalists who work for Maariv, Ben Caspit and Ben-Dror Yemini, a McCarthyite pair that specializes in incitement against the Israeli Left, recently launched a witch-hunt against human rights organizations like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Physicians for Human Rights, B’tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adala, and others. They accuse those organizations of aspiring to eliminate of Israel, no less. All because they agreed to testify on Israel’s war crimes to the Goldstone Commission that the UN had appointed to investigate the war in Gaza.

That journalistic incitement immediately precipitated a chain reaction in the form of a debate in the Knesset and the establishment of a committee to investigate the financing of the human rights organizations. McCarthyism in journalism and the Knesset work hand-in-hand.

According to those journalists’ world-view, to give information about Israeli war crimes and human rights violations to outside actors is to verge on treason. By their lights, whoever is not a Zionist or does not accept the definition of the State of Israel as “a Jewish and democratic state” wants to eliminate Israel.

What those journalists do not understand is that human rights organizations are committed above all to the preservation of human rights, and that commitment does not stop at the borders of the state in which they are active. Human rights defenders are a supranational family, and no state has immunity from their criticism. The struggle for human rights transcends national borders and geographical regions.

It is the duty of human rights defenders to raise a hue and cry the moment they find themselves witness to violations such as the commission of war crimes by government of the state in which they are operating, within the country and outside it, in order to put a stop to the crimes. Violations of human rights and war crimes are not the “internal affairs” of any state. Accordingly, cooperation with the Goldstone Commission and others like it was a normal part of the functioning of Israeli human rights organizations. It is embedded in the DNA of their principles.

Does my opposition to Zionism as it has been understood by all governments of Israel and most Israeli parties, especially during the 42 years of the Occupation, or my opposition to the definition of the State as “Jewish and democratic”, mean that I seek the destruction of the State? Of course not.

It means that I want the end of the Occupation and the creation of a democratic state, which will be the state of all of its citizens. For the moment Israeli law gives “Jewish” priority over “democratic”, it enshrines discrimination towards non-Jews, which in fact has been practiced in Israel since the day of its inception. It is not the existence of a Jewish majority that I object to, but discrimination against the minority. The creation of a state of all its citizens is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the realization of full equality of rights for all, including the minority.

The liar

Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a successful Jewish American lawyer and professor of law at Harvard University, is completely mobilized for Israel. A few days ago in conjunction with the program, “The True Story” (“Ha-Sipur Ha-Amiti”), the film “The Case for Israel: Democracy’s Outpost” was shown on state television. It is an English-language propaganda film starring the lawyer Alan Dershowitz who represented Israel as the epitome of perfection.

This is a very well-made film, intended for an American audience, preferably one that does not know Israel and is not well-grounded in the facts. Indeed, those who lack any knowledge about Israel will be swept up by the film and undoubtedly become convinced sympathizers of Israel. There is only one small flaw: the story is not true and Israel is far from being an outpost of democracy.

Alan Dershowitz is not an idiot. He knows the facts and ignores them. He lies brazenly. And the picture that emerges is clearly a distorted one.

Some examples:

Dershowitz asks the audience: “Israel is an apartheid state? Saudi Arabia is an apartheid state for women,” says Dershowitz (and regarding Saudi Arabia I do not disagree) “but Israel? Arabs enjoy full democratic rights there.”

Dershowitz knows that two legal systems exist in the Occupied Territories, one for Jewish settlers who enjoy full rights, and the other one, a discriminatory, oppressive system of military laws devoid of rights, for the Palestinians. When two legal systems like that exist in the same territory, that is apartheid. That is how the racist regime in South Africa acted. Dershowitz knows that. But he tells his audience lies.

Dershowitz relates with a mellifluous tongue that the Arabs in Israel enjoy full rights, including the right to property. Arabs have a judge in the Supreme Court. Dershowitz knows that Arab citizens are discriminated against in every aspect of life in Israel within the Green Line. He knows that the lands of Arab citizens have been expropriated in order to establish Jewish settlements on them, such as Carmiel in the Galilee or isolated farms for Jewish families in lands confiscated from Bedouin in the Negev.

Dershowitz states that the Arabs in the Occupied Territories can appeal to the Supreme Court. But he does not tell his audience that 95 per cent of those appeals are rejected and that the Supreme Court has given its backing to most of the crimes of the Occupation.

The film ignores the issue of the settlements. Dershowitz knows that according to international law it is a war crime for an occupying nation to transfer its population to the territory of the occupied nation.

Dershowitz interviews former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak on the subject of the apartheid wall – the “separation fence” in official language, and asks him, in a staged propaganda interview: “Was the international court in The Hague right to rule against the fence?” And Barak replies: “Of course it is forbidden to build a political fence in occupied territory, but the fence that Israel has built is a security fence, and that is permitted.” They are both lying. Dershowitz and Barak know that the fence that Israel has built in the Occupied Territories was built for reasons that have to do with politics no less than they do with security. After all, Israel declares from every stage that the route of the fence is intended to keep the big settlement blocs in Israel.

Nor does the film eschew deployment of Israel’s “doomsday” propaganda weapon: accusing critics of Israeli policy of being motivated by anti-Semitism. A well-known method of silencing critics.

Dershowitz represents the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli-Arab conflict in stereotypical terms of the Wild West, black-and-white, good guys against bad guys, white men against Indians. All the justice is on the Israelis’ side and all the wickedness on the Palestinians’. The Palestinian struggle against the Israeli Occupation is represented as unjustified terrorism: there is no occupation, there are no settlements, the over a thousand Palestinian children who have been killed by the Israeli army’s gunfire never existed, there is no collective punishment, and if only the Palestinians had responded to Israel, there could have been peace long ago. The distortions in the film are too many to enumerate, and the viewer who does not know the facts will easily be misled.

Dershowitz, who is lauded in the USA as a defender of civil rights, forgets all the principles of the American Constitution when it comes to Israel, and metaphorically positions himself unequivocally on the side of the Israeli Ku Klux Klan.

No peace – hardly even a judge

Yitzhak Shimoni has been a judge (magistrate – literally “peace judge” - shofet shalom in Hebrew) at the Magistrates’ Court in Jerusalem since 1993. Full disclosure: I have clashed with Shimoni in the past. Recently I sent him the following letter:

22 January 2010

To: Yitzhak Shimoni
Vice-President of the Magistrates’ Court
6 Heshin Street
Jerusalem 91156

Re: Sheikh Raed Salah,* who was convicted of participating in a riot and attacking a police officer with the goal of preventing him from carrying out his duties – your judgement of 13 January 2010

If we sift through all the excess verbiage in the nine pages of the judgement that you wrote, we are left with its essence, and from that we learn that what really bothered you and caused you to sentence him to nine months in prison is the fact that the sheikh spat in the face of a policeman with whom he was in confrontation at a demonstration in Jerusalem.

There is also a monetary cost to spitting, and the sheikh was fined NIS 7,500 which the policeman will receive in compensation.

This is a racist judgement from a racist Jewish judge who cannot abide the image of an Arab spitting at a Jew. That’s the whole story.

The racism is as prominent as the Eiffel Tower when we compare the penalty that you imposed on the sheikh to penalties that have been imposed on settlers who were convicted of much more serious transgressions.

For example: the sentence that was agreed upon in a plea bargain for a settler, a student at the a yeshiva from Yizhar, who bit an officer of the Occupation army and perforated an army jeep with a retractable knife. Take note of the charges: preventing a public servant from discharging his duties, sabotaging a vehicle, aggravated assault on a public servant, flight from legal detention and illegal possession of a knife. The sentence: three months, to be discharged as community service, and a fine of NIS 5,000. (Haaretz, 4 January 2010). There are many such examples.

Your ruling isn’t even worth spitting on.

Gideon Spiro

CC: Dorit Beinisch, President of the Supreme Court of Israel, and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.**

Translator’s notes

* The leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Much of his activity has centred around protest against alleged Israeli encroachment on the Haram al-Sharif compound in East Jerusalem, which contains the al-Aqsa Mosque.

** On 1 February 2010 Menahem Mazuz was replaced as Attorney-General by Yehuda Weinstein.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent


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