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Red Rag column
By: Gideon Spiro
24 January 2011

Nobody was surprised

When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed the Turkel Commission to look into the events of the Turkish flotilla to Gaza, he declared that the commission would prove that Israel was right in everything it did. That was one of the few times I have agreed with him. I too thought that the commission would whitewash all Israel’s crimes, since Netanyahu had made sure that its composition would be such that a sweeping acquittal of the government that had appointed it was to be expected. And that is what happened.

The core of the commission is three members: its chairman, Yaakov Turkel, a man close to the Right and the settlers, who served as a judge in the Supreme Court and distinguished himself with judicial corruption that mainly took the form of obedience to the security services, backing for the Occupation and discrimination against Palestinians and bowing his head to owners of capital; Reuven Merhav, who was a Mossad man for decades, its representative in various countries, and who also served as director-general of the Foreign Ministry; and Amos Horev, who retired with the rank of general from the army, where he worked on developing weapons.

To those were added two foreign observers without the right to vote, whose backgrounds were carefully studied, and only after it was clear that they were friends of Israel from whom no surprises could be expected in the form of a challenging opinion were their appointments ratified.

Only a panel of such composition, beholden to the army and the government, was able to use the Orwellian language according to which the attack on the Mavi Marmara in international waters was legal, the armed soldiers who attacked the ship were the victims of attack and the people on the ship who were defending themselves were violent aggressors, the blockade of Gaza is not collective punishment and does not violate human rights, there is no hunger in Gaza and so on. The report is nothing more than a propaganda document for the foreign policy of the government of Israel. The commission was appointed for that purpose, and it delivered the goods to the government. I assume that experts in international law who are not pawns of the government of Israel will know how to put the report in the correct light.

”Arab money”

Right-wing Knesset Members who voted in favour of the creation of the parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate the sources of funding of human rights organizations in Israel brainwashed the citizenry with their claim that “Arab money” supports those organizations and so they are essentially enemy agents. For their part, the organizations themselves deny this, and invite everyone who wants to get information on their funding to look at their Internet websites, where detailed information on their donors is provided.

I would like to disperse the clouds of demonization that characterize the generalizing and slanderous statement about “Arab money.” It reminds me of the anti-Semitic tones of those who have tried to characterize “Jewish money” as controlling the world.

Arab money is no better and no worse than American, British or Swiss money. It all depends on the value systems of the donator. As an activist in the Committee for a Middle East Free from Atomic, Biological and Chemical Weapons, I am willing to accept funding from any source that opposes weapons of mass destruction. If a foundation in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco or Qatar that supports the campaign for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons were to offer a donation to the Israeli committee, I would wholeheartedly support accepting it, because it is a legitimate and appropriate source – a lot more legitimate and appropriate than the American fundamentalists who finance extremist and racist right-wing organizations in Israel the main mission of whom is to expel Palestinians from their homes.

What to do with a murderer of Muslims?

A few days ago an Israeli citizen was arrested on suspicion of the crime of genocide. Aleksandar Cvetković was arrested on the request of the justice ministry of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is requesting his extradition. The citizen Cvetković, a Serb who got Israeli citizenship on the basis of his marriage to a Jewish woman, came to Israel five years ago. He is accused of having participated in the murder of over a thousand Muslims in one day in the infamous massacre at Srebrenica in 1995.

In the racist right-wing mindset that prevails today in Israel, the murder of Muslims is not something that will cause anybody to fall off a chair. The phenomenon is not foreign to Israelis. The Israeli Occupation Army has murdered a lot more than a thousand Muslims, including women and children – though not all in one day. Be that as it may, Israel still wants to be part of the international community, is a signatory to extradition agreements and is a member of Interpol; and moreover, this is a case of alleged genocide, which is a sensitive issue in Israel. So on those grounds I expect that at the end of the day Cvetković will be extradited to Bosnia.

Shamefully, the idea of genocide has entered the political discourse in Israel. The newspaper Haaretz (23 January 2011) has revealed that a religious organization called “Ma’yanei ha-Yeshu’a” (“Sources of Deliverance”) distributes tens of thousands of leaflets at nationalist-Zionist synagogues every Sabbath. One of the leaflets discusses – in the context of an internal religious debate – “concentrating the Amalekites in extermination camps” (Heb: “mehanei hashmada”). The Torah commands the destruction of Amalek. “Blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 25:19). In the Book of Samuel God ordered Saul, through the Prophet Samuel, to “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3).

Who is Amalek? For Hitler the Amalekites were above all the Jews and the Roma, but also the Communists, the socialists and the liberals. And he implemented the commandment to “slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.”

In Israel, among a growing number of Jews, especially religious ones of the extreme type, but also racist seculars, the Amalekites are the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular. After them come the “internal enemies” in the form of human-rights activists, who are categorized by the right as “lovers of Arabs and haters of their own people.” On the slippery slope where Israel finds itself, genocide is no longer taboo in political discourse. That is what the Occupation is doing to us.

Can these bones live?[1]

Ehud Barak, formerly the head of the Labour Party, announced one fine morning that he was leaving the party. He took four Knesset Members with him and set up a new faction. The moment he perceived that a majority was consolidating within the party’s central committee in favour of leaving the government, he up and fled from the party. The speed with which he bolted brings to mind the flight of the corrupt Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who feared the rage of his people in revolt. Barak coordinated his flight with Netanyahu. He signed a coalition agreement with the Likud according to which he will continue to serve as Defence Minister and three of his faction colleagues will get ministerial posts. Now we have a five-member faction four members of which are ministers. That is a world record for the proportion of members of parliament to members of the government from the same faction. Governmental corruption in its full nakedness.

At the same time, the withdrawal of Barak and his colleagues corrects an anomaly on the political map, because in reality Barak is a man of the Right and proximity to the Likud is a natural place for him. Now the Labour Party has been freed of the obstacle of Barak. The question now is whether the battered party will succeed in recovering from the political contamination that Barak spread in it over the years, and manage to become a social democratic party. There is no answer yet, but there is hope.

Susannah York

Not long ago the British actress Susannah York died. Not only was she a wonderful actress, an artist of stature; she was also a human being who was socially and politically involved – for human rights, for social justice and for a world free of weapons of mass destruction. As an activist against nuclear weapons in Britain, she joined the campaign to free Mordechai Vanunu, the prisoner of conscience and whistleblower who exposed Israel’s nuclear arsenal in an interview with the British newspaper The Sunday Times.

She visited Israel many times as a member of delegations in solidarity with Mordechai Vanunu and his struggle against nuclear arms, with the objective of hastening his release or at least breaking the isolation to which he was subjected. I had the honour of hosting her in my home in the context of our joint struggle and I accompanied her to a demonstration in front of the President’s residence in Jerusalem, which ended, if memory serves, with a meeting with President Ezer Weizmann.

During a visit to Israel she was invited to be a guest on Popolitika, which at the time was the leading television talk show in Israel, hosted by the journalist (and later Justice Minister) Yosef (“Tommy”) Lapid. Lapid attacked Susannah York with the crudeness that was typical of him and evoked the Holocaust while distorting its meaning, but Susannah made an impressive appearance, and with nobility and tact but also with firmness put Lapid in his place, and gave expression to the humanistic ideals for which she had come to Israel and which were so foreign to Lapid and the nationalist and racist gang that squawked around him.

I preserve her memory with much love.

The Jerusalem Prize for Literature

An international book fair has been held in Jerusalem every two years since 1963. One of the events at the fair is the awarding of the Jerusalem Prize for literature to a writer whose work expresses and advances the idea of “the freedom of the individual in society.” The first winner was the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, the Nobel Prize laureate for literature (1950), and who in addition to his literary and philosophical work was a pacifist and worked for nuclear disarmament. (If he were living today he certainly would be among the supporters of Mordechai Vanunu and the Committee for a Middle East Free of Atomic, Biological and Chemical Weapons)

Since the beginning of the Occupation in 1967, when East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel in violation of international law and the regime of Occupation, discrimination and apartheid became part of the everyday reality of Jerusalem, a widening and deepening rift has been created between the pretension of those who confer the award to sing the praises of “the freedom of the individual in society” and the reality of the suppression of freedoms and human rights in Jerusalem.

Despite that, writers of stature, including people of the Left like Simone de Beauvoir, Susan Sontag and others agreed to accept the prize, maybe in the hope that their acceptance would help to effect a change in the reality of Jerusalem in the direction of peace and equality.

That did not happen! Exactly the opposite. New neighbourhoods were built and are being built on Palestinian land stolen from its owners by the Israeli regime, Palestinians are being expelled from their homes as part of the project of judaizing neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, and the Occupation’s fist remains poised to strike.

The winner of the Jerusalem Prize this year is the British writer Ian McEwan. The prize is to be awarded as part of the book fair on 20 February 2011. I expect that opponents of the Occupation in Britain will try to convince the British writer to announce that he will refuse to accept the prize as long as the Palestinians in East Jerusalem cannot realize their right to freedom.

And these are our judges

The Yesh Gvul movement submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court against the appointment of General Yoav Gallant as the next Chief of Staff of the IDF, because of the crimes that were committed in Operation Cast Lead which he led as head of the Southern Command.

The three judges Asher Grunis, Esther Hayut and Uzi Fogelman decided on 18 January 2011 to reject the appeal, ruling that it did not show cause. In other words, the mass destruction and killing, the shooting at civilians who were waving white flags, the use of white phosphorus in populated areas that caused terrible burns, the shooting at schools, medical teams and hospitals, the abandoning of wounded people in places where they died from loss of blood, none of that shows cause. These are your judges, Israel.

Translator’s note

1. Ezekiel 37:3

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

Links to the latest articles in this section

European leaders said to implore Netanyahu not to advance annexation
Israelis, drop your denial and recognize the Nakba (includes reactions to `Neither Intractable nor Unique`)
For a new political imagination, Israeli Jews must unlearn Zionism