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Red Rag column
By: Gideon Spiro
5 April 2011 (English translation 9 April 2011)

Juliano Mer – of blessed memory

When on the afternoon of Monday 4 April I heard the news announcer say, “and this just in: the actor and director Juliano Mer has been murdered in the Jenin refugee camp” – my heart skipped a beat. It is no exaggeration to say that the man was killed in the line of duty, while working at the Freedom Theatre that he had founded in Jenin. This is first of all an inestimable loss to his family, his children, his wife and his brothers, and after that to those who loved him, his acquaintances, friends and admirers.

He came from a distinguished line of peace activists, the most famous of whom was his mother, Arna Mer, with whom I participated in a delegation that went in 1988 to Larnaca and after that to Athens in solidarity with the Palestinian Return Ship initiative (which did not set sail because the ship was sabotaged, evidently by Mossad agents).

Our paths crossed more than once in struggles against injustices and the crimes of the Occupation, and he always won over the participants with the energy that flowed from him. He was a rare combination of personal charm, acting talent, directing ability and boundless commitment to human rights. He carried on and took to new heights the project of his mother, the peace activist Arna Mer Khamis, who founded the children’s theatre in the Jenin refugee camp, which he immortalized in the moving award-winning film “Arna’s Children”.

As these lines are being written no suspect has yet been arrested in the murder, but by most assessments Juliano fell victim to the religious extremism which to my dismay abounds in our region in devastating quantity.

Juliano was an engaged artist on the order of magnitude of Berthold Brecht. Against the background of the wretchedness and moral corruption of most of Israel’s artists, who live in peace with the Occupation or at least indifference toward it, Juliano was a giant figure that shed a glowing light of civilization.

Juliano conducted a non-violent struggle against the Occupation by means of theatre. It is a unique enterprise from which Nobel Peace Prize winners can be selected.

I hope that the enterprise Juliano founded will not be shut down. Let us hope that Jenin does not repeat the experience of Israel, where Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, saw his crime crowned with the rise to power of the Right.


Judge Richard Goldstone, who headed the UN Commission of Inquiry into war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead, published an article in the Washington Post in which he wrote that if he had had the information that he has today, he would have written a different report.

In Israel the article was interpreted as a sign of contrition, and “Shushan rang with joyous cries”. [1] At one stroke Goldstone was transformed from a satanic figure who hates his people and aspires to undermine the existence of the State of Israel to a beloved local hero. Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas Party) has already made haste to talk to Goldstone, to congratulate him on the “courageous step” he took and to invite him to Israel. According to media reports, Goldstone accepted and will come to Israel in the summer.

The government of Israel and the Israeli Right are again repeating the hackneyed clichés about how “the IDF is the most humane army in the world” (do you know of a humane army that has ruled over another people for 44 years?). Ministers and Knesset Members from the governing coalition are demanding that human rights organizations and people of the Left beg forgiveness from the People of Israel for their part in the libel, and Goldstone has now been asked by Defence Minister Ehud Barak not to stop at an article but to appear before all international fora to help refute the Report of the Commission of Inquiry that determined that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On the margins of the left-wing camp I hear voices trying to placate the Right and praising Goldstone for his “integrity”. Official Israel is acting like a child who is surprised to receive a gift he had not expected and is so beside himself with joy that he is losing his head a little bit. Sorry friends. I do not share the chastened mood that is afflicting parts of the Left, to the effect that we may have erred or exaggerated in apportioning blame.

Let us begin with the article. It came as a surprise but it was not surprising. It could have been expected.

Since the publication of the report about two years ago, a campaign of slander with few precedents has been conducted against Goldstone. The campaign was conducted and orchestrated by the government of Israel, and the Jewish establishment in the Western world joined in. Goldstone was boycotted and ostracized wherever there was a Jewish community. He was portrayed as an enemy of the Jewish People and the State of Israel, he was compared to the authors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and his congregation in South Africa announced that he was not welcome at the synagogue where his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah would be held. Not many people could long withstand such a campaign of slander. The article, as I interpret it, was a kind of declaration to the effect that: OK, you win. I am back in the fold.

Can an article of a few hundred words overturn a report of over 500 pages on which the members of the Commission of Inquiry worked for nearly a year? For my part, I did not need the Goldstone Report to conclude that Israel committed war crimes during “Cast Lead”. In my column of 20 January 2009, the day after the end of the operation, I wrote: “Where the state commits war crimes, it is a duty to rebel against the state.”

How do I know that war crimes were committed? From the Israeli and international media, from the images that were shown on the news broadcasts. The scale of the destruction and killing was vast, and the victims were mainly the non-combatant civilian population. Israel fought an unnecessary war – which is a crime in itself – after it violated the ceasefire with Hamas two weeks before it was due to expire, with a ground incursion into Gaza. That incursion was intended to provoke Hamas into returning fire, and that fire served as the pretext for an operation that had been planned long before.

The government of Israel is now seizing on the part of Goldstone’s article where he writes that it is now clear to him that there was no deliberate decision to harm civilians. Sorry, that is a misleading excuse, as the Goldstone who wrote the report would be the first to acknowledge. Anyone who plans a military attack on the Gaza Strip – the biggest prison in the world, a small area with nearly the highest population density in the world, a million and a half people in 360 square kilometers – with aircraft, tanks, artillery and other weapons, knows in advance that they are going to harm a civilian population. And indeed, after the operation concluded with the withdrawal from Gaza, it became clear that the Hamas administration had not been harmed; even its fighting force (which did not fight) remained intact, and those who had been harmed were mainly the civilians: 1,400 killed, many of them children, and thousands wounded. Hospitals, ambulances, schools, United Nations facilities, agricultural areas and flour storage sites were shot at. White phosphorus was used among a civilian population and caused serious burns. Traffic policemen were slaughtered on a parade-ground, medical assistance was withheld from wounded people who bled to death, entire families were wiped out, and more. Once again: we knew these things long before the Goldstone Report, which confirmed them anew. To now come and say, “it was not deliberate” is just throwing sand in our eyes.

Goldstone’s article cannot negate the following passage from the report: “IDF strikes on electrical facilities, police stations, a mosque, a school, a hospital, UNRWA facilities, water reservoirs, flour mills, agricultural equipment and civilian structures constitute attacks on civilians, which are forbidden under international law. The IDF and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and perhaps crimes against humanity as well.”

Human rights organizations and left-wing activists have nothing to feel guilty about. They committed no slander but spoke the truth and did their duty according to the Jewish mitzvah: “Reprove your kinsman.” (Leviticus 19:17)

Kidnappers Inc.

Sometimes one gets the impression that the State of Israel is a terrorist organization that has disguised itself as a state. We should check to see if Israel appears in the Guinness Book of World Records as the state that has kidnapped more people than any other state during the years of existence. The latest Israeli achievement is Dr. Dirar Abu Sisi, who was kidnapped in Ukraine and found himself in an Israeli prison. Until his kidnapping Abu Sisi was an electrical engineer who managed the Gaza electricity station. After a month of interrogation in the basements of the ISA (Shin Bet), he has become the “father of missile development” in Gaza, and we did not know. In Israel information is published about every junior Hamas official – not to speak of the senior ones. Only the name of the “father of the missiles” we had never heard, and that is strange. Therefore the bombastic charge-sheet against Abu Sisi sounded to my ears like an Israeli invention from the production facilities of the ISA.

Let’s assume that Abu Sisi is a rocket scientist. Even the rocket scientists of Nazi Germany were not put on trial. After Germany’s surrender, Wernher von Braun and hundreds of members of his staff who had worked on the development of rockets for the Nazi regime were transferred with their documents to the US, where they began to work on developing the American rocket industry. Ironically Israel also benefitted from the work of von Braun and his colleagues, for American-produced missiles that von Braun had a part in developing were transferred to Israel.

However, I am definitely willing to accept the idea that those who develop missiles that are intended for military use should be put on trial on the grounds that thousands of people have been killed because of their work. In Israel alone there are hundreds of engineers in the aeronautical industry, in Rafael and other institutions, who dedicate their lives to the development of missiles for the Israeli army that have caused the deaths and injury of tens of thousands of Palestinians. Let us begin, for example, with the professor and general Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, who today is serving as the head of the Security Studies program at Tel Aviv University, and before that he was the head of research for the development of weapons and technological infrastructure at the Defence Ministry. All we are missing is for some sophisticated intelligence agency to begin to kidnap all the rocket scientists in Israel and to put them on trial on the same charges as those being faced by Dr. Dirar Abu Sisi.

If Israel’s judges were truly independent they would send all the ISA, police and prosecutors who asked for the extension of Abu Sisi’s remand to a course on remedial international law. A state that claims to be democratic does not kidnap people but acts according to international extradition treaties. They would instruct Israel to return the man to Ukraine, and if he is wanted for interrogation, to please act in conformity with an extradition treaty with Ukraine.

But whenever it comes to security or so-called security, Israel’s judges have revealed themselves again and again to be judicial weaklings who bow their heads in submission to the ISA. This time it is the judges Leah Lev-On (Petah Tikvah Magistrate’s Court), Avraham Tal (Petah Tikvah District Court) and Dov Meged (Beersheba District Court) who have distinguished themselves with their contempt of court by ruling, each one in turn, that Dirar Abu Sisi’s remand should be extended.

Translator’s note

1. Esther 8:15

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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