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Red Rag Weekly Column
By: Gideon Spiro
10 October 2010

The judges of the Deportation Service

9 October 2010

To the Honourable Dorit Beinish, Asher Grunis, Neal Handel

Judges of the Supreme Court

Rami Amir, Judge of the Central District Court

Madame, Sirs:

The State of Israel has adopted a procedure that is characteristic of totalitarian states, according to which people who have been tagged as critics of the regime are barred from entering the State. The list of those who have been denied entry into Israel keeps growing, and recently the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire was added to it. In late September 2010 she went to Israel with a delegation of female Nobel Peace Prize winners as a guest of an association of Israeli and Palestinian women, for the purpose of advancing dialogue and peace. Mairead Maguire was separated from the delegation and put into the airport jail for people who are forbidden to enter Israel. Israel and the generals’ junta that cruelly rules Burma are two states that throw Nobel Peace Prize laureates into jail. Even fundamentalist Iran has exhibited more openness towards Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is unsparing in her criticism of the regime.

Mairead Maguire petitioned the courts against her deportation through the human rights organization Adala. The first deliberation took place with Judge Rami Amir of the District Court in Petah Tikvah (1 October 2010) and since he rejected her petition she appealed to the Supreme Court (4 October 2010), which rejected her appeal.

It is a pity: you were given an opportunity to show a more enlightened face than that of the government, but you failed. Instead of dealing with the substance of the matter – whether the issuance of a removal order by the Minister of the Interior against a critic of the government’s policy is consistent with the State’s pretension to be democratic – you acted like obedient functionaries and moved ahead with the formalities.

Mairead Maguire received a removal order of 10 years’ duration from the Minister of the Interior for her participation in the voyage of the Rachel Corrie boat that was on its way to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged. The boat was stopped in the open sea by the navy in early June 2010 and taken to the Ashdod port. Mairead Maguire found herself in Israel against her will. As if it were not enough that she was effectively abducted and forced to go to Israel, she was also punished for that with a removal order. Is that the way a democratic state behaves?

Instead of discussing that, you preferred to act like the long arm of the Minister of the Interior, a benighted man, a homophobe, a proponent of the deportation of children who were born in Israel just because they are not Jews, who slandered migrant workers and asylum seekers by saying that they spread diseases, similar to the atrocious Nazi propaganda against Jews who were described as sewer-rats who spread diseases. It is but natural that such a man would also bar the entry to Israel of a woman of peace who dedicated her life to building bridges between enemies and whose trip to Israel was part of that mission. Instead of being allies of Maguire, you preferred to take shelter under the umbrella of the benighted Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai and his racist ally Avigdor Lieberman. For that you are worthy of hoots of contempt.

I know Mairead Maguire from many joint activities over many years. I was together with her in an international delegation that reached Gaza in the flotilla October 2008, which included doctors and medical supplies, and I can attest to her good faith. She says to the leaders of the Hamas administration in Gaza what she says in Israel or in Ireland: that Israelis and Palestinians need to overcome the hostility between them and to find a way to live in peace with each other.

Like me, she was astounded at the cruelty of the Israeli blockade, as we witnessed during a visit to the Shifa hospital in Gaza, where we saw an MRI machine that was not functioning because Israel did not permit the entry of replacement parts. We saw how that increased the suffering of the patients, and we were unable to help. (You can read my impressions from the visit to Gaza in the “Gaza Diary” I wrote, which has been published in several Internet sites

She is critical of the Occupation, believes that it is the cause of grave violations of human rights, and that peace and Occupation cannot coexist at the same time. That is also believed by hundreds of thousands of Israelis and millions of people all over the world. You, Dorit Beinish, stated in the judgement that Mairead Maguire had not come to Israel for friendly purposes. That is not the case. Indeed her visit was not friendly to the policies of the government, but it was very friendly to human rights activists, both Israelis and Palestinians.

I have participated in more than a few actions of protest in other countries, and I was not barred from entering them. In the democratic world it is understood that the right to protest also applies to those who are not citizens of the state, for after all, many problems transcend the narrow confines of the nation-state. That is one of the hallmarks of the global village.

Former prime minister Menachem Begin said in his time that anti-Semitism is not the internal problem of any one country, and that every person in the world with a conscience, whether Jewish or not, has the right to protest against it. At the height of the struggle to open the gates of emigration for the Jews of the Soviet Union, which was conducted under the slogan “Let my people go,” Israel encouraged non-Jewish people to participate in the struggle, correctly claiming that it was a human rights issue that transcended geographical, religious and national borders. Catholic and Protestant people of religion all over the world joined in the struggle and the government of Israel, as well as the Jewish communities, welcomed it.

The same applies to the issue of the Occupation that Israel has been maintaining for 43 years. The violations of human rights that are happening in the Occupied Territories at the hands of the Israeli regime are not an internal affair, and all proponents of human rights are entitled to come here to express their opinions and to participate in protest. Mairead Maguire’s deportation from Israel is a denial of her basic rights to freedom of movement and freedom of expression.

The deportation has implications for citizens of Israel. For if the opinions of Mairead Maguire are grounds for deportation, and the highest courts of justice bowed their heads in submission to that, who then will stop the slide down the slippery slope when the Yishai-Lieberman duo or others like them decide to expel Israeli citizens too, because of their identification with Mairead Maguire’s criticisms?

My advice to you is to reconsider your position one more time and to permit this beloved woman to enter Israel.

Hoping for better days,

Gideon Spiro

Cc: the Attorney-General

Dr. Strangelove

Recently the protocols of the sessions of the Security Cabinet in the government of Golda Meir during the first days of the Yom Kippur War (6-8 October 1973) were published.

The text reveals a group of people who were gloomy and terrified, though they had projected arrogance and euphoria in earlier times. Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, the former Chief of Staff, an object of admiration and a symbol of the fighting Israeli, the brave, the Sabra, the first child of the first kibbutz (Degania), in short, the realization of “the new Jew” of the Zionist dream (unlike the negative anti-Semitic imagery of the cowardly and submissive Diaspora Jew that Zionism adopted), is revealed as a balloon that was rapidly deflating.

The Israeli press harshly criticized both the intelligence services that had failed to provide a correct picture, and the false military kontzeptzia. [1] The arrogance that followed in the wake of the victory of the June 1967 war was accompanied by the racist assumption that Arabs were not capable of any sophisticated operation that could surprise Israel. And even if they did initiate a war, they would die like flies after a light fumigation.

As I saw it, the major failure of the Israeli leadership at the time was manifested by the inability to read the Egyptian map correctly. A year before the Yom Kippur War, President Anwar Sadat offered peace with Israel in return for complete withdrawal from the Sinai. The government of Israel rejected that as propaganda and took the wrong path. Remember also Dayan’s foolish and boastful phrase, “better Sharm al-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm al-Sheikh.” I was then a student and editor of a student newspaper, and Spiro the student, who was not privy to secret documents and had not read the intelligence reports, better evaluated the intentions of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

If I may be permitted a moment of immodesty, I will quote from an article I wrote at the time: “In an interview that Sadat gave to the The Times of London, he explicitly stated that he was willing to make peace with Israel … and despite this no wave of joy swept over Israel. In my naivety I thought that in a country the leaders of which declare every Thursday and Monday “our yearning” for peace would not assign this a low priority. And then, upon reflection, I recalled an interesting phenomenon. Every time the president of Egypt or one of his ministers or military commanders makes a warlike declaration against Israel, a disciplined choir of journalists, analysts, Knesset Members etc. raises its voice in Israel, warning the nation to take seriously the Egyptian threats of war. On the other hand, every time the president of Egypt or one of his ministers declares that Egypt is prepared to make peace with Israel, that same disciplined choir appears and warns the nation that the Egyptian peace declarations are not to be taken seriously, they are camouflage for aggressive intentions and are intended to mislead public opinion.

And then I remembered that the Egyptian peace declarations always emphasize that there can be no peace without withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.

The question that deprives me of sleep: is there not some correlation between the lack of seriousness with which we take the Egyptian peace intentions for peace, and the excessive seriousness with which we take the Occupied Territories?” (Post Mortem, the student newspaper of Haifa University, December 1971).

Just as they did not correctly read Egypt in its willingness for peace, so were the leaders mistaken regarding the Egyptian intentions for war. After the hard blows the Israeli Occupation army sustained in the first days of the Sinai campaign, Dayan went into a profound depression and talked about the Egyptians’ desire to eliminate the Jews. In moments of despair the idea was raised of using the “madman’s means,” a code word for the use of nuclear weapons.

The Egyptian leadership did not plan to eliminate the Jews. The Egyptian war initiative was intended to break the stalemate that had been created as a result of the rejection of the Egyptian peace proposals. Today everybody knows what was clear to me and others like me a long time before the war: that Israel was a peace refuser, that it had fallen in love with the Occupied Territories and thought that it would be able to keep them until the end of time. Israel needed three thousand slain soldiers and thousands of wounded to understand that peace with Egypt is preferable to the Sinai. In other words, it would have been possible to prevent the Yom Kippur War if a truly peace-seeking government had been ruling in Israel. That lesson is relevant today as well.

I return to the danger of the use of the “madman’s means,” that is, nuclear weapons. Israel came close to using them in the Yom Kippur War as a result of an incorrect reading of the adversary’s intentions. If Israel had done that, it would have run the risk of destruction. Dropping a nuclear bomb on Egypt would have entailed the danger that the Soviet Union would launch such a weapon against Israel.

Israel continues to possess huge quantities of weapons of mass destruction, and today as then, there is no shortage of madmen who propose that Israel use nuclear weapons. The danger has not diminished since the Yom Kippur War, but has grown and intensified.

Professor Michael Cohen of Bar Ilan University proposes that Israel employ its nuclear weapons against its neighbours (including Gaza), even if they have neither used nor possess weapons of mass destruction (article in Haaretz, 1 October 2010). The professor sees himself as part of the civilized world, but since, in his words, “Israel lives in an insane region” the rules of the game must be changed.

The professor’s proposal is part of that insanity and we have already learned from Stanley Kuberick’s film Dr. Strangelove (1964) that academics are not immune to the kind of madness that can ignite a nuclear war.

Cohen’s proposal emphasizes all the more forcefully the importance of creating a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. Israel is today a vast storehouse for weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, biological and chemical. It is the moving force behind a nuclear arms race, which will soon see Israel as no longer the only state in the region that possesses nuclear arms.

When everyone threatens everyone else with doomsday weapons in a region that is “insane,” as the professor put it, the spectre is raised of a holocaust that will convert the region into a radioactive wasteland in which no human, animal or plant life can survive. The best way to prevent such an outcome is to take that toy away from all the leaders of the region, so that no one can threaten others with those weapons.

As long as the Bomb is in the hands of any leader, there will be the risk that he will be unable to withstand the temptation to use them, or will incorrectly assess the intentions of the other side. And then all of us will pay the price.

Not to speak of the dangers to which we are exposed even without war, like a man-made disaster in the nuclear reactor at Dimona or an earthquake that could release a radioactive cloud over Israel and render the country – if not entirely, at least in part – unsuitable for human habitation. The Bomb must be brought up from the basement, for the purpose of dismantling it.

A further step towards fascism

The government of Israel has passed a bill according to which non-Jews who want to become naturalized Israeli citizens must swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.”

In other words, non-Jews – a rather sanitized expression because it refers mainly to Arabs – will be obliged to swear allegiance to a state that will not permit them to marry Jews, in which there is no separation between religion and state, that implements discriminatory laws for non-Jews and that is operating an Occupation regime over another people.

No democratic state obliges those who take citizenship to swear allegiance to a ruling religion, for a democratic state must ensure freedom of religion and freedom from religion, equality of rights, first and foremost for minorities. Based on the decision of the government, Jews will be excused from the requirement to swear allegiance.

In the Occupied Territories Israel is already implementing a Halacha [2] State for non-Jews, in which their status is of resident strangers – subjects and not citizens. This malodorous business is reminiscent of the Nuremberg laws, as Professor Gabriel Solomon, Israel Prize laureate for education, correctly pointed out at a rally against the new law that took place in on Rothschild Avenue in Tel Aviv in front of the building in which the Declaration of Independence was read by Ben-Gurion in May 1948.

The Declaration of Independence is not the crown of perfection: it too is a compromise between religious and secular, Left and Right and Zionists and anti-Zionists; but in general it can be said that the document is a symbol of enlightenment that shines particularly brightly in comparison to the situation today, a document that expresses the desire to see an Israel that is integrated into the family of democratic nations and not a state of Occupation and apartheid that has the scent of fascism as it is today.

Upon the conclusion of the rally the participants were asked to sign a “Declaration of Independence from Fascism,” which reads as follows:

“A state that forcibly invades the sacred space of the conscience of the individual citizen and punishes him if his opinions and beliefs are not those of the regime and do not conform to the ‘character’ of the state, ceases to be a democratic state and becomes a fascist state.

“Behind these stairs the State of Israel was proclaimed. The state that is in the process of replacing Israel – while filling the land with a plethora of racist legislation proposed by the Knesset and the government – is removing itself from the family of democratic nations.

“Accordingly we, citizens of the Israel of the Declaration of Independence who have gathered here, do hereby declare that we will not be citizens of the state that is impersonating Israel and which violates its basic commitments to the principles of equality, civil liberty and the sincere aspiration for peace on which the State of Israel was created.” I signed.

Translator’s notes

1. Kontzeptzia: the main strategic assumption or set of assumptions that guide and underlie the decision-making of the top commanders of the Israeli armed forces, the IDF. Sometimes referred to in English as the “dominant concept.”

2. Halacha or halakha: Jewish religious law.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.

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