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Red Rag column
Gideon Spiro
17 November 2010

Bribery

Whether or not Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sees fit to declare a freeze on additional construction in the Occupied Territories as requested by the USA, the victory of the Right in the US Congressional elections has evidently returned the colour to his cheeks. He managed to run out the clock on the first two years of the Obama presidency without making a single substantial concession, apart from a few flowery speeches that did not commit him to any real action.

Netanyahu and his advisors are now racking their brains for ideas on how to spend the next two years in neutral gear, until the end of Obama’s presidency, in the hope that he will not be re-elected. Even though in fact, Netanyahu does not have any real cause to hope for Obama’s fall, because contrary to the fears of the Israeli Right, President Barak Obama has shown himself to be a paper tiger when it comes to Israel. His speeches are not accompanied by painful bites. On the contrary, Obama takes pride in having contributed more to Israel’s security than did the president who preceded him. Not only has he disappointed American voters, who have turned their backs on him, but now he is also disappointing the Israeli peace camp.

While Netanyahu negotiates stubbornly with the American administration over the precise conditions for an additional three-month construction freeze in the Occupied Territories, Obama hastened to give him an advance in the form of a package of aid and support, including 20 F-35 aircraft valued at three billion dollars, and a continuation of American support for the Israeli nuclear project.

As I said, this is disappointing. The last thing that Israel needs is more expensive military toys. Israel is already armed to the teeth, far beyond what a peace-loving country needs. All that expensive equipment will make it easier for an Israeli government to initiate another warlike adventure.

If President Obama is serious in his declarations about Israel-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace that will lead to regional peace, the last thing he should do – if it must be done at all – is send more warplanes to Israel and endorse its nuclear arsenal. Instead of feeding the Israeli war machine, it would be more appropriate to force Israel to divest itself of its nuclear arms in the context of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, for the Israeli nuclear arsenal is fanning the flames of a nuclear arms race in the region, which contradicts the Obama’s declarations about a world free of nuclear weapons. And at the same time the military and civilian aid package to Israel should be cut as a warning sign that support is not guaranteed if the policy of Occupation and apartheid continue.

Freedom fighters turned freedom deniers

In 1944 the British occupation authorities exiled over 200 members of the Etzel and Lehi [1] undergrounds to detention camps in Eritrea and Kenya. They were kept in the camps for four years, and after the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 they were released and returned to Israel.

During their detention there were many escape attempts. Most failed, one succeeded. With the passage of years many of the detainees rose to senior political positions in Israel, including Knesset members, ministers, judges and one prime minister: Yitzhak Shamir.

Those ex-prisoners manned the flagship of the policy of Occupation, settlement and apartheid. Those who had seen themselves as fighters for freedom against imperialism and colonialism turned into colonialists who deprived others of freedom.

The former inmates of the detention camps in Kenya who are still living today are 80 years of age and older. Some of them returned to Kenya on a voyage of reminiscence, and visited the camps where they had stayed. Israeli state television recently broadcast a documentary film about the trip. The Kenyan army hosted the old men with great respect, as befits freedom fighters. The narrator of the film spoke of fraternity between the Kenyan Mau Mau underground, which fought against the British occupation, and the old men of Etzel and Lehi. I doubt if the Kenyan military hosts were aware of the fact that some of their guests had turned into the racists and colonialists against whom their first president, Jomo Kenyatta, fought.

One of the scenes I recall involved Culture Minister Limor Livnat’s father, who had been one of the detainees. At the entrance to the pavilion where he had stayed, he said that it is possible to arrest a man physically, but impossible to suppress the spirit of freedom that surges within him. Very nice. How sad that the father forgot that noble principle when it came to Palestinians. During 43 years of Occupation the State of Israel has put thousands of Palestinian freedom-fighters and freedom-seekers into prison. About ten thousand of them are in the prisons today. They have not lost the spirit of freedom and resistance to Occupation. Culture Minister Limor Livnat, a member of the extremist wing of the Likud and a fervent supporter of the regime of Occupation and apartheid, is currently waging a campaign against the spirit of freedom that surges within artists who refuse to entertain the settlers in occupied areas. It is sad to see victims of oppression who have turned into oppressors.

Chutzpah to the power of six million

The settler MK Ben-Ari of the “National Unity” party, a former member of the Kach movement which was declared illegal, still describes himself as a disciple of Rabbi Kahane today. A reminder: the Supreme Court, which had done so much for the Occupation and the settlements, could not ignore the blatant racism of Kahane and his movement, and observed that their ideology was reminiscent of the dark days of Nazi Germany.

A few days ago the deputy chairperson of the Bundestag (the German parliament), Petra Pau, a member of a party of the Left, visited the Knesset. Michael Ben-Ari greeted her by yelling, “is no forgiveness for the people of blood” and “six million Jews stand with me” (parenthetical note: since the six million murdered included some people of the Left, including my aunt, of whom my father attested that she was not a racist, I permit myself to subtract them from the six million in whose name Ben-Ari spoke).

Petra Pau was born in 1963, and so was Ben-Ari; but what a difference between the two! Petra Pau learned the lessons of the Holocaust, and so she struggles against racism and anti-Semitism and for universal human rights. Ben-Ari is the exact opposite: a racist settler who calls for the transfer of Arabs. The lesson that he learned from the Holocaust is that he has permission to be a racist and a fascist. Of all the Knesset members, he comes the closest to the ideology that ruled Germany in the 1930s. (There are other Knesset members who cruise in the same waters, but Ben-Ari surpasses them all). Ben-Ari, who refused to condemn the burning of the mosque in the village of Yasuf by settlers, is the ideological counterpart of a German who burned a synagogue on Krystallnacht. (And I say this as a survivor of the Krystallnacht riots in Berlin)

Ben-Ari told President Shimon Peres that “he is not the president of the Arabs.” A style used by the Nazis when they addressed Leftists in Germany who were accused of being “servants of the Jews.” (And to none other than Peres, who has done so much for the settlements, he said this, just because he condemned the burning of the mosque)

Ben-Ari’s presumption to speak in the name of the six million is as brazen as the appeal of a man who kills his parents and then asks the court for compassion because he is an orphan. To be a racist and at the same time to speak in the name of the victims of racism is chutzpah to the power of six million.

Petra Pau is my sister and Ben-Ari is my enemy.

Justice begins at home

Hundreds of Polish prisoners are restoring Jewish cemeteries. It is a joint project of the Israel Prison Service and its Polish counterpart. The Israeli prisons ministry is helping to finance the project by means of donations from wealthy Jews in England.

I suggest that the Israeli Prison Service adopt the idea in Israel. There are Muslim cemeteries that have been desecrated by the Israeli authorities, and Israeli prisoners can be recruited for the work of repairing and restoring those cemeteries. Before going all the way to Poland it would be fitting to correct injustices at home.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

Translator’s note

1. Etzel: a right-wing armed Jewish organization in British Mandate Palestine, sometimes called the Irgun. It was led by Menachem Begin. Lehi: another such organization, generally considered more extreme than Etzel. One of its leaders was Yitzhak Shamir, who served as prime minister of Israel from 1983 to 1984 and from 1986 to 1992.

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