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Red Rag column
Red Rag column

By: Gideon Spiro
18 February 2011 (English translation 23 February)

Israeli hypocrisy

The Jordanian Justice Minister, Hussein Mjali, declared that the time has come to free Ahmad Dakamseh, the Jordanian soldier who murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 while they were on a trip to the Naharayim area near the Israel-Jordan border. Today’s Jordanian Justice Minister was Dakamseh’s defence attorney during his trial.

The Justice Minister’s declaration provoked a great deal of anger in Israel. The Foreign Ministry, headed by the settler Lieberman, hastened to issue a protest to the government of Jordan. On this matter – the liberation of murderers – Israel would have done well to lower its voice. The leaders of the Jewish underground of the 1980s, who were convicted, among other things, of murdering innocent Palestinian students and sentenced to life imprisonment, were released after seven years following an amnesty by the then-President of Israel, General Chaim Herzog (of the Labour Party) – to teach us that those who murder Palestinians will not serve even a small part of their sentences.

The freed prisoners from the Jewish underground, most of them settlers, were re-absorbed into the “Jewish and Democratic” Israeli society without any Mark of Cain on their foreheads. Some of them went back to being land-thieves in the Occupied Territories, others were absorbed into the governmental Establishment. One of them, the terrorist settler Hagai Segal, is serving as a journalist on the Knesset television station. In comparison to Israel, Jordan is behaving with a great deal of fairness. The murderer Dakamseh has already been locked up for 14 years – twice the time served by his Jewish murderer colleagues. If Jordan acts like Israel, it will release Dekamseh immediately through an amnesty by King Hussein and put government aid at his disposal as Israel has done for the terror underground murderers. But don’t worry. Jordan has announced that Dakamseh’s release is not on the agenda. That is reasonable behaviour.


An excommunication by Our Rabbi David Rotem

The Chairman of the Knesset Constitutional Committee, the racist and active settler David Rotem, submitted to the Committee a bill for first reading in the Knesset that forbids Israeli citizens to call for a boycott of Israel and of settlements that are not part of Israel.

If the bill is passed, I will become a criminal. Not that I am not one today, since I have a rich record of arrests, investigations and trials due to my opposition to the Occupation, a record I consider an honourable one. Now one more Article will be added on under which I can be put on trial. Of course it is an unconstitutional law that contradicts all the values of democracy and freedom of expression, like a law that would forbid Jews to eat kosher food. Therefore I will continue to call and to work for the boycott of Occupation and apartheid Israel just as I supported the boycott of South Africa.

If the bill is passed, it will also have a positive aspect, because it will serve as powerful ammunition for all those who call for a boycott of Israel. A state with a clean conscience does not need laws like that. The bill proves the power and influence of activism for a boycott of Israel as long as it denies the rights of another people.

Even if it takes time, the Occupation and the apartheid regime that goes along with it will be defeated, and with them all their supporters.


Another unacceptable law

The legislative offensive to dissolve democracy is not stopping. The Knesset has just passed a law to cancel the pension of former Knesset Member Dr. Azmi Bishara. Hence its unofficial name as the “Azmi Bishara Law”.

To those who do not remember: Azmi Bishara was suspected by the ISA (Israel Security Agency – Shin Bet) of having helped Hezbollah aim to aim missiles at Israel during the Second Lebanon War (Summer 2006). He subsequently left Israel, gave to the Israeli consulate in Egypt his letter of resignation from the Knesset, and has not returned to Israel since then.

Azmi Bishara was one of the prominent proponents of the idea of a state of all its citizens, and his influence extended beyond what is called in Israel “the Arab sector”. Instead of dealing with him politically, the ISA decided to eliminate him by accusing him of security crimes.

Israeli judges are ISA judges, and nobody – certainly no Arab – has any chance of a fair trial when the ISA stands behind the prosecution. Conviction is a foregone conclusion. Given this state of affairs Bishara’s decision to leave Israel and save himself long years of imprisonment seems natural. I would not have acted differently myself.

The accusation itself sounds absurd and borders on libel. Bishara, who did not serve in the army and knows nothing about aiming weapons, is not capable of such activity. It is clear on its face that there this is an attempt at assassination by judicial means. A rational man would not put his head under a guillotine if he had a chance of escaping it. And Bishara escaped.

In any case the man was not put on trial and was not convicted. The judicial situation is one person’s word against another’s, and as long as that’s the way it is, the scales are tipped in favour of Bishara’s innocence on the principle of the assumption of innocence until guilt is proven.

None of that interests the Right in the Knesset. To them, Bishara has been convicted without trial, and for that reason they decided to withdraw his pension. Withdrawing a pension violates Article 3 of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which states that “there shall be no violation of the property of a person”. He earned it through his work. To take away a person’s pension is also to harm their spouse and children. For that reason the pension of the former President, Moshe Katzav, will not be withdrawn, even though he has been convicted of rape, nor will the pension of former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson even though he was convicted of theft and sent to prison. And that is the way it should be. But Bishara, who has not been convicted, has an unforgivable fault in the eyes of the Right: he is an Arab, and so the rules about presumption of innocence and the right to property to not apply to him. Racism at its worst.

I read with satisfaction that the human rights organization Adala will appeal the law’s constitutionality in the Supreme Court. I am not optimistic about the outcome because racism is also licking at the robes of the Supreme Court judges, but we have to try.


Al ‘Araqib

Al ‘Araqib is a Bedouin village in the Negev the history of which dates back to the Ottoman period. The government of Israel is mobilizing against the residents of the village the full brute power of its authority in order to remove them from their village. In the past few months the village has been demolished 17 times by the police but the residents of the village have rebuilt it every time.

The destruction of the village and expulsion of its residents are part of a consistent Israeli policy since the creation of the State of Israel: stealing the land of the Bedouin and giving it to Jews, and concentrating the Bedouin in crowded ghettoes in violation of their culture and traditions. All in the ideological framework of the Zionist principle of as much land as possible for Jews and as little as possible for Arabs.

That policy has caused all the Arab communities in Israel to suffer from a shortage of land. There are no reserves for natural growth, because a substantial part of their lands has been expropriated for the establishment of Jewish settlements. In the entire history of the State of Israel it is difficult to find one single example of Jewish land being expropriated so that an Arab settlement can expand. But of course examples of the opposite abound. It is reminiscent of the policy of Aryanization in Germany during the 1930s, which included, among other things, the confiscation of Jewish property and its transfer to Germans.

So far Israel has succeeded in neutralizing the Bedouin population through a policy of divide and rule. The demonstrations in Egypt prove that another way is possible – to combine forces to uproot tyranny.


Listen to a story

The Syrian radio correspondent who reported from the north of the country was leaving his job, so a going-away party was organized for him. Nearly all the members of the Syrian General Staff attended the party, including the Chief of Staff himself, as well as senior figures in the government, including the prime minister and some of his ministers. At the party the guests praised the correspondent’s commitment to his job and his responsibility and loyalty to the State. The Syrian Chief of Staff exaggeratedly praised the correspondent, and stated that he was always accurate in his reports, as is to be expected of someone who is employed by a State broadcaster. And the army spokesman too, himself a general, was unstinting in his praise and said that the army’s official announcements were always given appropriate weight by the correspondent, who reported them in full.

They all emphasized that the picture that the Syrian listener received from the correspondent’s reports was always trustworthy and responsible. In recognition of his commitment the correspondent was transferred to a new post in the big city of Damascus, and “we have no doubt,” said the prime minister, “that the correspondent will put his professional talents at the disposal of the public which thirsts for trustworthy and responsible information.”

This is a story that could have happened in our neighbour to the north, with its one-party dictatorial regime and its media mobilized in support of the regime, which is not overly concerned, to put it mildly, about human rights.

But dear friends, replace Syria with Israel and Damascus with Tel Aviv and you will get a picture very similar to what happened just recently in “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Menachem Horowitz, who for many years was “our correspondent in the north” for the military radio station Galei Tzahal and Channel Two (the most-watched television station in Israel), recently left his job, and a party was organized for him that was attended by a large part of the General Staff, including the Chief of Staff – the former one and the one who has recently been appointed, as well as the army spokesman and the former prime minister and many journalists, all of whom generously praised the “responsible and committed” etc. etc. etc. journalist, as is the custom in democratic Syria.

Of course the party was broadcast as if it were a newsworthy event, and the entire nation saw it and heard the voices. Now he is in the big city of Tel Aviv in a new position as a correspondent who encourages consumerism. Just as he loyally served the army, now he will loyally serve companies and brands. If you want to get an idea of the reciprocal relationship between media, army, government and money in Israel, take Menachem Horowitz’ story and learn it well.


Idolators

I watched on television the ceremonies marking the replacement of the outgoing Israel Defence Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi with the incoming Benny Gantz.

The first ceremony was in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and the second one was at the General Staff HQ in Tel Aviv. It was impressive.

At the ceremony in Jerusalem the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the two Chiefs of Staff sat on the stage facing all the honourable guests, ministers, Knesset Members and families and friends who were invited to the ceremony. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence pinned the Lieutenant-General (Rav-Aluf) insignia onto Benny Gantz’ uniform, and now he is the Chief of Staff.

All four gave speeches. The Prime Minister mentioned Gantz’ mother, who was liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp weighing 28 kilos. Gantz and Ashkenazi spoke loftily about the values of the IDF, and the Defence Minister too spoke, but I do not remember what he said. Then there was the ceremony at the General Staff HQ in Tel Aviv, with the military band, honour guards and the raising of glasses and more speeches about `the splendid quality of the members of the General Staff`, and Gantz himself, tall and handsome, lifting up his son who is studying in first grade, like any proud father anywhere, and tears flowed from my eyes.

After I finished crying I wondered: does this army really defend me? Is this really a Force for the Defence of Israel, like its official name? Or is it a police force, the main duty of the soldiers of which involves policing and oppressing a civilian population – heroic against children, women and old people? Not the IDF but IPF (Israel Police Force). None of this was mentioned in the ceremonial proceedings. The word “occupation” did not come up in any of the speeches. What values are they talking about?

Between one ceremony and the next they showed the two Chiefs of Staff visiting the Western Wall. Evidently secular men, they were acting like worshippers of stars and planets, [1] murmuring a text dictated to them by the Rabbi of the Wall, and sticking a piece of paper between the stones like the last of the Messianists. Diskotel, [2] as the late Professor Yeshayahu Liebowitz [3] called the custom of inserting notes into the Wall: nothing but the worship of stone idols.

I do not place my confidence in an army like that.


Israeli justice – this time in Haifa

First the dry facts: a man entered a restaurant in Haifa wearing an army uniform. Evidently a soldier. It was an Arab-owned restaurant. A waitress approached the soldier and asked him to leave in conformity with the policy of no admission for people in uniform. The soldier filed a lawsuit for damages on the basis of humiliation and discrimination. He was joined by the fascist movement “Im Tirztu” which is conducting a McCarthyite campaign against university lecturers whom they perceive to be leftists.

Im Tirtzu’s joining of the suit strengthens the claim by the restaurant owners that this is all a provocation. They also claimed that there was no discrimination on the basis of national background, because the soldier was invited to eat at the restaurant in civilian clothes, and besides, there are non-Jewish soldiers in the Israeli army.

A judge at the Magistrate’s Court in Haifa, Adi Chen-Barak, accepted the suit and ordered the restaurant to pay the soldier 5,000 (five thousand) shekels.

Question: is it legitimate for an Arab restaurant not to want to see soldiers in uniform among its clients? In my opinion, yes. For it could be that relatives of the owners of the restaurant have been killed by the Occupation army, or the pictures they see every day on television of the abuses of members of their people, the Palestinians, by soldiers of the Occupation army cause them not to want to see wearers of uniforms in their restaurant.

Question: is it legitimate for a Jewish restaurant owner in New York to ask a guest wearing a uniform that resembles a World War II German army uniform to leave?

Question: Is it legitimate for a Haredi restaurant owner to ask a female guest who is dressed in an excessively revealing way, in violation of the Haredi dress code, to leave?


I submit with a great deal of confidence that in those two cases the Im Tirtzu movement would not join a suit for discrimination. But given the chance to harass an Arab who does not participate in the cult of idolization of the military in Israel, they will not forego that “mitzva”.


Between culture and art, a little Dimona

This week the architect Yitzhak Yashar, one of the most important architects in Israel, died. He designed the Tel Aviv art museum and the building of the art faculty at Tel Aviv University. And in between he also designed the nuclear reactor at Dimona (in laundered language – the Negev Nuclear Research Centre). I do not know if he felt the contradiction between art, which represents that which is most sublime about humanity, and the creation of nuclear weapons, which represents death, devastation, destruction and laying waste. In short – holocaust. This is an expression of the Israeli duality, like the doctor who in the morning saves lives in the emergency room, and in the afternoon does reserve duty at an Israel Security Agency interrogation facility, where he approves torture.


Boycott the State of Emergency

An apt observation by my friend Mordechai Vanunu: whereas Egypt the army is promising to lift the emergency laws that Mubarak implemented 30 years ago, in Israel it is business as usual, and the emergency laws which have been in force since the creation of the State are still in force. The time has come for “democratic” Israel to follow in Egypt’s footsteps and repeal the emergency laws, which constitute a foundation for human-rights violations.




Translator’s notes

1. In Jewish religious commentaries, the Hebrew acronym for “worshippers of stars and planets”, “’Akum”, refers to non-Jews who worship forces of nature instead of God. Synonymous with “idolators”.

2. Combination of “discotheque” and “kotel”. “Kotel” means “wall”.

3. The philosopher and scientist Professor Yeshayahu Liebowitz (1903-1994) of Hebrew University was one of Israel’s foremost intellectuals. Although an Orthodox Jew, he was a strong proponent of the separation of religion and state and was one of the first public figures to call on Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in June 1967. He angered many in Israel when he described Israeli soldiers who abused Palestinians in the Occupied Territories as “Judaeo-Nazis”.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent






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