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Red Rag column
By: Gideon Spiro
22 February 2010
English translation 27 February 2010

Band of murderers

Israel was euphoric the day after the murder of the Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. With one side of their faces, Ministers of the government gave a wink and a nod towards the mantra “Israel does not respond,” while the other side smiled with satisfaction at a “great job.” Mossad chief Brigadier General Meir Dagan, a contract killer from the first days of the Occupation in Gaza, has been praised from most of the political spectrum as having brought glory back to the Mossad. The day after the murder, the feeling was still that it had been a “clean and professional” liquidation (a typical expression in Israel after a successful liquidation), that did not leave any tracks. It was clear to all, without Israel’s formally taking responsibility, that Israel had a hand in the operation.

Then the commander of the Dubai police came along and spoiled the pastoral picture. Exhibiting a high level of intelligence and technological competence, the Dubai police pieced together the disparate pieces of evidence and completed a puzzle that reproduced the liquidation operation one step by step, including the names of the assassins, their pictures, the passports they used (most of them fake), their preliminary staking-out of the hotel where Mabhouh was staying, and more.

By now there was no longer any doubt – Israel had a hand in the liquidation. Every day more details were revealed, and we learned that the planning was sloppy. Nearly ten Israeli citizens who hold dual citizenship woke up one morning to find that the Mossad had stolen their identities and inserted them into fake passports. Now their names adorn Interpol’s wanted list. The falsification of documents is a serious crime that carries a sentence of several years’ imprisonment. Will Dagan be put on trial for that, at least?

The one foreign passport that the Mossad executioners used that was not fake was the German passport.

It turned out that it was issued in Cologne to an Israeli citizen by the name of Michael Bundheimer, who claimed that his family was destroyed in the Holocaust and that they were of German origin. Under German law those two facts give a person the right to German citizenship.

There is indeed an Israeli citizen by that name, a US citizen and Haredi Jew who lives in the Haredi city of Bnei Brak, having immigrated to Israel 30 years ago. But that same Bundheimer claims that no German passport was ever issued to him and he does not know what they want from him. Apparently this was a case of an innocent citizen getting caught up in a storm not of his making.

It turns out that a man named Mike Bundheimer presented himself at a passport office in Cologne, submitted an authentic-looking document that he said was his parents’ German marriage certificate, claimed that he wanted to emigrate from Israel to Germany, and gave an address in Herzliya. A passport was accordingly issued in the name of that Bundheimer. Journalists from the German weekly Der Spiegel who began to investigate the subject found that the Herzliya address was a “virtual” one and that the man who received the passport had disappeared. By all indications it appears that he was a Mossad agent who represented himself as Mike Bundheimer, and submitted falsified documents to prove the German roots of his family that had perished in the Holocaust.

This is a cynical case of enlisting the Holocaust into the service of the Israeli government’s assassination programme.

There is nothing new about the use of the Holocaust in the service of the criminal acts of the government of Israel. The assumption in Israel is that Germany will swallow every Israeli caprice lest it be accused of anti-Semitism – a well-known method of extortion used by the authorities of the State of Israel.

As a German citizen, I hope that my government will not let this travesty pass. There are limits to what Germany has to take from Israel.

In the Israeli Mossad there is a unit called “Kidon” which is responsible for assassinations. General Dagan, along with a few other anonymous people, decide who will live and who will die. The Prime Minister generally signs off on the Mossad’s recommendations, and according to the reports of the Sunday Times of London Netanyahu visited the unit’s offices before the action in Dubai and wished the assassins success “in the name of the people in Israel.”

This process is reminiscent of the tyrannical regime of Francois Duvalier in Haiti (1957-1971). The dictator Duvalier, who was also known by the nickname “Papa Doc”, set up a secret police called the “Tonton Macoutes” would would carry out assassinations of whomever Papa Doc decided was deserving of death. Mossad chief Dagan is a kind of Papa Doc on a small scale. Dagan is the Papa Doc who is in charge of assassinations outside of Israel and the Occupied Territories, and the head of the ISA (Shin Bet), Yuval Diskin, is the Papa Doc in charge of extra-judicial executions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

At this stage no Israeli citizen has yet fallen victim to the government’s assassination programme, but from the moment that programme became operational none of us has been secure, especially not opponents of the government’s policies, who have been described more than once “enemies within” by leaders of Israel’s right-wing regime. And the danger that the system of murder and assassinations will infiltrate across the border into the State of Israel, and all kinds of “Papa Docs” will dispatch our “excellent boys” (as the Mossad and ISA assassins are called) against citizens of Israel as well is not just a theoretical one.

The government’s propaganda mouthpieces in the Israeli media repeatedly pumped out the message that Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was “deserving of death” (Hebrew: ben-mavet). As an opponent of the death penalty in general, and especially when it is done without trial, I think that no one is deserving of death, especially not by secret decision made by three or four people after secret deliberations. Mabhouh is not my cup of tea, nor is Netanyahu, nor Barak, nor Lieberman, nor all the generals of the army, nor most of the members of the Knesset. The list is long. Barak’s hands are a lot redder with the blood of innocents than were those of Mabhouh, and his hands, along with those of all the generals who hold office in the government of Israel, represent an ocean of blood. Does that fact confer on anyone the right to take their lives or to decide that they are “deserving of death,” much less by the decision of some covert organization? The answer is a huge no. War criminals and murderers on all sides should be put on trial. No one has the right to kill a human being.

Besides being immoral, adventures like the one in Dubai are also unwise and ineffective. Everyone who is murdered or liquidated will be replaced, sometimes by someone who turns out to be a much more formidable adversary (As when Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah replaced Hizbullah leader Musawi, whom Israel assassinated in 1992). These actions also have very practical implications for each one of us. Every assassination like this strengthens the desire of the other side for revenge. Thus a bloody cycle of actions and counter-actions is perpetuated, and the lives of all of us are endangered.

The obvious conclusion: liquidate the liquidations.

“Why do you love Arabs?

This week I had an unplanned encounter with a right-winger. We got to talking, and as has happened more than once in such encounters, both written and oral, I was asked the irritating question “why do you love Arabs?” I have a prepared answer, which I deliver almost automatically: I do not love Arabs. Nor do I love Chinese, or Americans, or Jews, or Swedes, or English, because I do not love nations. I love my children, my grandchildren, my spouse, and a few other people I know.

Then came the next irritating question: “Why do you hate Jews?” And my answer is similar in spirit to the previous one: I do not hate Jews, nor Arabs, nor Chinese, nor Americans, etc.

Then he asked me whether I support Israel when it is fighting against an enemy. That depends, I told him: When Israel was fighting in Lebanon, I thought it had no reason to be there, that it was a criminal invasion of a neighbouring country, and I wanted Israel to get out of there, otherwise the mutual killing would not end. There was no danger that Hizbullah would conquer Israel, and so I hoped for the failure of the government of Israel which would mean Israel’s departure from Lebanon and a halt to the war.

That’s also how it is with the Palestinians. There is no danger that they will conquer Israel. A Palestinian achievement in the form of Israel’s departure from the Occupied Territories may be a failure for the Israeli government, but it would be a victory for peace-loving Israeli citizens.

On the other hand, in the event of a war with an Arab state, for example Syria, I will oppose the war but if it comes to a danger that Israel will be conquered by Syria, I will desire an Israeli victory because Syrian occupation would mean a substantial deterioration in the human rights situation. But, I added, if the European Community declared war on Israel for the purpose of ending the apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories, I would hope for its victory because the occupation of Israel by the European Community would produce an improvement in the human rights situation.

I then told him: I answered you without evasion, on your own terms, because you live in terms of war. I, on the other hand, live in terms of non-violent struggle, and so I hope that the just causes for which I struggle will be realized without the need for the mass killing that is always a necessary consequence of war. Therefore, I added, I hope that the Golan will be returned to Syria without war, that the Occupation will be ended without war, and that the European Community will impose on Israel an end to the apartheid regime without war. A serious boycott would suffice.

“You’re naïve,” he told me.

A return to the days of the Monkey Trial

In 1925 in the state of Tennessee in the USA, a trial took place that would be known in history as the Monkey Trial.

In summary: in March 1925 the Tennessee state legislature passed a law forbidding the teaching of the theory of Darwin’s theory of evolution in educational institutions, schools and universities that were fully or partly financed from the state’s budget.

Under the law it was forbidden “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” The law also said that any teacher who was found guilty of violating that law would be charged with a crime.

The American Civil Liberties Union wanted to challenge the law in court on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, and offered to defend any teacher who taught the theory of evolution in contravention of the law. A 24-year-old science teacher named John Scopes decided to take up the challenge, taught the theory of evolution and was put on trial. The trial, which pitted a scientific against religious faith, received a great deal of public attention. Scopes was convicted. Only in 1967 was the state law repealed after the Supreme Court of the US decided that it was unconstitutional after all.

Israel, which is now ruled by a right-wing, conservative and religious coalition, is showing signs of returning to the days of Tennessee in 1925. Dr. Gabi Avital is the new chief scientist of the Education Ministry. He is a religious man and his field of specialization is aeronautical engineering. This is the first time a person who is not an education specialist has been appointed to that position. His main qualification is membership in the Likud, which is the Education Minister’s party.

A few days ago this man expressed his positions on educational and curricular issues. Some of his insights: “If textbooks explicitly state that man originates from the monkey, then I think students should be exposed to and contend with other views. There are many people who do not think that the theory of evolution is correct.” He also said in an interview, “when your theory is based on Darwin’s theory of evolution and its offshoots, you are basing yourself on faithless foundations, that is, there is no God, there is something primeval, and there were various kinds of accidental developments that brought about the creature that is the crown of creation – that is, man.”

Avital also said, “I make a point of putting the plastic in the regular garbage can. The planet Earth will not be destroyed. The Almighty made us a promise, and the influence of man is negligible.” (All quotations from Haaretz, 21 February 2010)

In a normal country a phenomenon like Dr. Avital might have been a mere passing curiosity, but in a country like Israel, in which religion rules over growing sectors of society, the enlightened citizen has cause for worry. The religious element in the senior officer corps in the army is growing before our very eyes, and the Occupation and the settlements are based on religious imperatives. In a country like this, a chief scientist like Avital in the Education Ministry promises that the next generation will be ignorant and fanatical, immersed in nationalism and religious fanaticism on a continuum that leads to the destruction of peoples along the lines described in the Book of Joshua.

There is a clear correlation between the willingness to fulfill orders and carry out cruel acts without any moral reflection, and nationalist-religious narrow-mindedness. This is not to say that knowledge in and of itself is a guarantor of a moral society. There are too many examples that contradict that. We have learned from recent and remote history that the imparting of knowledge that is not accompanied by a humanist education leads to disaster. But ignorance and narrow-mindedness constitute a fertile soil for the cultivation of obedient citizens who do not ask moral questions.

With a chief scientist like Avital, an Interior Minister like the Shas Party’s Eli Yishai, who sees refugees as spreaders of disease, a Foreign Minister like Avigdor Lieberman who espouses transfer, a Defence Minister like Ehud Barak who commits war crimes with chilling equanimity, a Prime Minister like Binyamin Netanyahu who considers the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the Occupied Territories to be an Israeli Heritage Site, and a Knesset that passes racist laws, in the end we may have no choice but to appeal for mercy from Heaven.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.

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