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Red Rag column
By: Gideon Spiro
4 February 2011 (English translation 7 Feb. 2011)

Tsunami in Egypt

The political-social volcano that has erupted in Egypt surprised all the experts and alleged experts, in academia, the media and the military intelligence bodies. On the first day of the demonstrations nearly all of them were still predicting that Mubarak’s regime was stable and strong, that the army was with him, the police and the intelligence services were with him, and they would be able to crush the popular uprising. In the following days, as the uprising gathered momentum and the number of demonstrators kept growing, the experts, with and without quotation marks, were forced to eat crow. The impressive, moving and nonviolent million-person demonstration broke all the stereotypes about Arabs in general and Egyptians in particular.

I have never presumed to call myself an “expert in Arab affairs”, but as a person with a humanist outlook who respects human rights and social justice, it was always clear to me that tyrannical regimes are destined to crumble. I cannot anticipate dates, but the processes are clear.

The demands of the demonstrators are an ABC for all who desire a reasonable decent democracy: against oppression and police state, corruption, and the sale of public assets so that people close to the regime can enrich themselves; for democratic elections without fraud, for employment, housing and social justice. As these lines are being written it is impossible to know how the uprising will end. Mubarak is trying to by means of his violent thugs to sow fear among the demonstrators. Maybe he will buy a few more months in power, but it can be assumed with a fair degree of certainty that Egypt will not go back to being the way it was under Mubarak’s dictatorial regime.

If the demands of the demonstrators are met, we will witness the birth of a new Middle East in which Israel will not be “the only democracy in the Middle East” as the fraudulent slogan goes (for a state of Occupation and apartheid cannot be a democracy); Egypt will have the honour of being the first democracy in the Middle East, and we must hope that it will be the beginning of a process that will encompass additional Arab states.

The idea that Egypt might become a democracy fills the leaders of Israel and the victims of their brainwashing with dread and fear. Israel has gotten used to dealing with a dictator, without all the democratic “bullshit” – or as the late Prime Minister Rabin put it in his time: “without the High Court of Justice and without Betselem.” [1]

A democratic Egypt will be likely to demand that Israel fulfill the terms of the Camp David accord, which is, according to the original formulation, “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East” and was signed in September 1978. On the issue of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Israel committed itself “to recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements.” That commitment has been brazenly disregarded.

Governments of Israel scorned that clause, the meaning of which is clear: the end of the Occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories that have been occupied since June 1967 (except for the Golan Heights) and the evacuation of the settlements. Mubarak was a convenient party to the agreement, because he did not firmly demand that Israel fulfill its part. A democratic Egypt, that respects human rights, will probably tell Israel: if you do not fulfill the Palestinian part of the Framework Agreement that was and still is the basis for the peace treaty that was signed in March 1979, we will consider ourselves to be released from our commitments.

What is happening in Egypt has implications for Israel too not only on the level of the peace treaty. The huge gap between a small corrupt wealthy class and masses subject to miserable poverty constitutes fertile soil for an uprising. Israel is privatizing itself to death. Its economy is controlled by a few families, its middle class is being constantly eroded, the CEO of a public bank earns a million shekels a month while a cleaning lady does not even get the minimum wage, which itself does not suffice for a dignified life. Those huge gaps will at the end of the day bring about a popular uprising here as well.

The nonviolent uprising in Egypt is also an instructive lesson for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. There is no doubt that at the end of the day the regime of Occupation and apartheid in the Occupied Territories will crumble and be defeated. But the Palestinians can speed up the process with an Egyptian-style nonviolent struggle.

A pincer movement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators, 100 thousand from the Bethlehem area, a hundred thousand from the Hebron area, a hundred thousand from the Nablus area, a hundred thousand from the Ramallah area and a hundred thousand from Jerusalem, who would march towards the settlements, sit on the apartheid highways and not let the vehicles of the Israeli Occupation army pass, who would be joined by Israeli peace activists, would excite the world’s imagination and shorten the life of the Occupation. The Israeli Occupation army will be defeated; the question is, will it respond with a bloodbath before collapsing? Much depends on the reactions of those who are called “friends of Israel”, starting with the USA, but also including Germany and the other states of the European community.

The government of Israel and its “experts” on Arab affairs in the media are scaring the public with terrible scenarios of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Egypt. I do not disregard the possibility. It is indeed possible, and if it happens, it will probably mean that the Egyptian people will go from the frying pan into the fire, as occurred in Iran. Indeed, it does sometimes happen that democratic elections produce undemocratic results. That is what happened in the last elections in Israel. That is no reason to defend the Mubarak dictatorship. Based on events so far, it is by no means clear that the Muslim Brotherhood will come to power in the event of free elections.

Land thief

General Yoav Galant, who was supposed to be Israel’s next military Chief of Staff, was disqualified because it was discovered that he had annexed to the castle that he had built in Moshav Amikam parcels of land that did not belong to him. He was also accused of making false affidavits to administrative and judicial authorities. In other words, Galant was found to be a liar and a land thief. There is a certain irony in this whole affair, because it concerns the appropriation of a few dozen dunams, which is small change compared to the large-scale land plunder that the State and the army carry out in the Occupied Territories. There they rob hundreds of thousands of dunams from the Palestinians for the benefit of the settlements and army and police bases. The number of fake papers that the army creates in that campaign of theft could fill several encyclopaedias.

It would have been appropriate to disqualify Galant because of the war crimes over which he presided as the head of the IDF Southern Command in the Israeli invasion of Gaza in December 2009-January 2010. Of course, that did not happen, because in the Israeli Occupation State, a land thief and war criminal is a fitting person to command the army. In that regard there is no cause for “worry”; whoever replaces Galant will also be involved in war crimes and violations of human rights. All the “degenerals” who serve in the army today are graduates of the Occupation system. There is no general who has not passed through the crucible of the Occupied Territories at a certain stage in his career. Before they know how to wage war they know how to abuse an occupied civilian population. The Israeli army today is a combination of an Occupation police and a colonial army, and as such will disintegrate in the long run. When real democracy prevails in Israel they will be brought to justice.

Another story about “Israeli democracy”

The newspaper Haaretz published (3 February 2011) a report that the State of Israel has barred the immigration of Dale Streisand because he is suspected of believing in Jesus.

The case received publicity because Dale Streisand is a cousin of the famous actress Barbra Streisand. Dale Streisand is a “Kosher Jew” according to the religious laws in Israel – that is, he is the son of a Jewish mother and according to the Law of Return is entitled to immigrate to Israel and to become a citizen the moment he lands.

He requested to make “’aliyah” [2] – which is what the immigration of Jews to Israel is called. The Jewish Agency and the Israeli Interior Ministry decided to check his kosherness – not only according to Jewish religious law, but also as regards his overall outlook – before approving him. So they checked out his Facebook page, and there they discovered a terrible thing: a link to a Christian website. In light of that they announced to him that his immigration to Israel would not be approved. Dale tried to explain to the Israeli authorities that he did not know how that link got on his Facebook page, and that he does not believe in Jesus.

In order to prove that, he went to the other extreme of Jewish religious nationalism. He set up a new personal profile on Facebook on the background of an Israeli flag and indicated that his new friends were a rabbi from Chabad, a messianic Jewish sect that believes that its deceased leader is the “King Messiah”, and the settlers’ Internet radio and television channel, Arutz Sheva. But that did not help him, because the terrible suspicion that he believes in Jesus has stuck. It reminds me of the phenomenon of the Germans during the Nazi regime who were suspected of having Jewish roots and spared no efforts to deny it, including by means of joining the most extreme wing of the Nazi Party, saying in effect, “our German-ness is beyond any doubt, and the proof is that we loathe Jews more than anybody.”

What do we learn from this story? First of all, we learn about the fear that the Israeli Jewish Establishment has for those who believe in a different religious approach. He might, God forbid, poison the pure souls of our children. In Israel it has been forgotten that Jews suffered for generations from exclusion that was expressed in fear of the different Other.

This brings us back to the question that has troubled Israel more than once, and it has even gone to the Supreme Court: can a person be both a Jew and a believer in Jesus at the same time? The Supreme Court has ruled that such a Jew cannot enjoy the rights conferred by the Law of Return. As a secular person, I of course recognize the right of every person to define his or her own religious faith as he or she wants, and to believe in any religious admixture that he or she sees fit. That recognition is not shared in Israel, and so groups of messianic Jews who believe in Jesus are isolated, threatened and sometimes murdered by Jewish religious extremists in Israel. And that again raises the question: is a Jewish and democratic state possible?

Translator’s notes

1. Rabin notoriously used that phrase to defend the Oslo Accord on the grounds that it would permit the suppression of Palestinian resistance to be effectively contracted out to the Palestinian Authority, which would relieve Israel of the inconvenience of having to deal with objections that were occasionally raised by the Israeli justice system (“the High Court of Justice”) and Israeli human rights organizations (“Betselem”) when Israeli soldiers and police did it directly.

2. The Hebrew word “’Aliyah” literally means “ascent”.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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