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Red Rag column
By: Gideon Spiro
21 April 2011 (English translation 28 April 2011)

We were slaves – and we still are

This is the 44th year I have not celebrated the usual Israeli Passover, because the State of Israel has castrated and distorted the meaning of the passage from slavery to freedom.

The Haggadah, in substantial parts, is not an inspiring document in my view.

In the Haggadah it is written, “in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.” Those words are anachronistic when read today. First, it was not in every generation, and certainly not in the past 60 years – a period during which we have accumulated hundreds of nuclear bombs as well as biological and chemical weapons and we have gone from being destroyed to destroyers. And when they did try to destroy us, and certainly during the period of the Holocaust, the Holy One blessed be He did not save us from their hand. It was the Red Army and the armies of the USA and Britain that saved the surviving remnants.

The Haggadah commands us to rejoice that we came out of slavery to freedom and entered the Land of Israel, but the Haggadah skips over the destruction of peoples that the conquest of the Land involved, as written in the Book of Joshua. The destruction of the Other casts a dark shadow over any freedom thereby attained. And the Ten Plagues of Egypt, which in modern translation included biological war and other war crimes, like killing every first-born child in Egyptian families (Death of the Firstborn) do not fill my heart with song and joy either. In today’s terms they are war crimes. It is all consistent with the line in the Haggadah that says, “Pour out Your wrath upon the nations [Heb. goyim] that do not acknowledge You”. Hatred of the Other. It could all be seen as a harmless legend if this were a peace-loving state that lives in harmony with its surroundings. But in a state in which hatred of the Goy is a guideline for a substantial part of the population and their leaders, for whom those texts constitute a manual for action, it is dangerous.

The text of the Haggadah needs to be changed and updated to make it consistent with human rights and love of humanity.

Instead of celebrating freedom we have become deniers of it – not only in those days but also at this time. [1] Since June 1967 it has been denied to the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, and in recent years, also to migrant workers and asylum-seekers.

We have become slaves – slaves to the army of Occupation, slaves to the settlers, and slaves to the Israel Security Agency (ISA). [2]

We have bred many pharoahs in the last 44 years. Every Occupation soldier is a little pharaoh, and like the higher they rise in rank the bigger pharaohs they become, and it is the same with the ISA, in coordination with the army. All the way up to the Chief of Staff, the Minister of Defence, the head of the ISA and the head of the Mossad, all of them under the canopy of the Prime Minister. Every one of them is a high and mighty Pharoah who strikes terror in the tormented occupied population. They are all slaves of the Occupation.

Our enslavement is expressed not only in the areas of the army and security. We are also slaves of the tycoons, the cellphone companies, the banks and consumerist brainwashing. In short – slaves of capitalist society in its swinish form.

When will we be free in our land? When we are freed from the bonds of enslavement, militarily and economically, and become a society of solidarity and equality that respects the Other.

A Jewish Zionist dream

The ceremony to of the changing of the commanders of the Paratroopers Brigade in the Israeli Occupation Army took place recently. Colonel Aharon Haliva is the outgoing commander of the brigade and is about to become be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.

In the ceremony of transferring command, Haliva said that “to be a paratrooper is the fulfillment of my Jewish and Zionist dream.” (Yediot Aharonot 15 April 2011).

Aharon Haliva was born into the Occupation in 1967. He joined the army in 1985 and since then his entire life has been spent in the army. A substantial part of his military service was carried out in the Occupied Territories. He is a creation of the Occupation and its faithful servant. His adult life in the army can be divided into two parts: in the first part he learned how to kill, in the second part, after he had become a commander, he taught how to kill. He does not recognize any reality other than the use of the army as an instrument of control over civilians – to kill them, to wound them, to tyrannize over them.

I am dwelling on Haliva because he is thought of in the army as an exemplary figure. He is one of the officers who are sent to high schools to increase motivation to join the army. One of his articles of faith is expressed in the statement that “whoever is suited to be an officer and refuses to take the Officers’ Course is a criminal.” That is what he said in a conversation with high-schoolers before their military service.

Havila is today an embodiment of the Jewish and Zionist dream shared by most members of the Knesset and the government. He embodies the militarization of Zionism and Judaism. He constitutes just the kind of educator figure that the Education Ministry wants to present to students. That is a Zionist and Jewish dream that those who embrace human rights must strive to undermine.


The Italian peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni was murdered in Gaza by Muslim extremists from the organization “al-Tawhid wal-Jihad”. Vittorio went to Gaza as a member of an international delegation that opposed the siege of Gaza and the collective punishment that it constitutes. He was abducted by the extremist organization after the Hamas government in Gaza arrested one of the organization’s leaders. The kidnappers conditioned Vittorio’s release on the release of their leader.

Since it went from being a movement to a government, Hamas has been afflicted by all the flaws and ills of government. Instead of conducting negotiations with the organization in order to save Vittorio’s life, the Hamas government acted like Rabin’s government did after the abduction of the soldier Nachshon Wachsman. How ironic – the governments of Israel and Hamas share the slogan “No negotiations with terrorists”, and the hostages pay with their lives.

The murder of Vittorio is not only a crime and an act of villainy in its own right, but also an illustration of how extremist cults bite the hands that feed them. It reminds me of the behaviour of the settler cults who rage and curse the whole world, even their benefactors like the army, the government and President Obama, without whom they could not exist.

We have here a kind of “Chad Gadya”. [3] The government of the settlers is a terrorist organization in the eyes of the Palestinian Authority, the latter is considered a terrorist organization by the settlers, the government of Israel is a terrorist organization in Hamas’ eyes, the Hamas government is a terrorist organization in the eyes of the government of Israel, and the Jihad organizations are terrorist organizations in the eyes of the governments of Hamas and Israel. As long as the terrorists don’t sit down and talk with each other, beloved people like Vittorio Arrigoni will pay with their lives.

Fifty years after the Eichmann trial

About two weeks ago an evening was held in Solokov House to mark the passage of 50 years since the Eichmann trial. The evening was organized by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Among the speakers were the historians Professor Moshe Zimmerman of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Professor Hava Yablonka of Ben-Gurion University, Yechiam Weitz of Haifa University, Prof essor Hajo Funke from the Free University in Berlin, Dr. Angelica Tim, director of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Israel, and your faithful servant, the writer of these lines.

The hall was packed, and the words of the speakers, which were insightful in my opinion, were listened to attentively. The participants were recorded and I assume that the Foundation will publish the proceedings.

What follows was my contribution, which was read from a written text and intended to be part of my column:

“A few words on my personal biography: I was born in Berlin in September 1935. I was born into the Nazi regime. My father, Dr. Shmuel Spiro, later the director of the medical service of the Youth Aliyah under the leadership of Henrietta Szold (for me Henrietta Szold is not the name of a street, but a flesh-and-blood person on whose lap I sat as a child), immigrated in 1938 to Jerusalem, then part of British Palestine, after the licences of Jewish doctors were withdrawn. My mother, Greta Spiro, a photographer, remained with me and my brother in an attempt to save what she could. We got through the Krystallnacht pogrom in Berlin without physical harm thanks to my mother’s ingenuity. We immigrated to Palestine in March 1939. From this you will understand that I am a refugee who survived the Krystallnacht pogrom. I assume that if not for the Nazi regime, my family, which had been in Germany for generations, would have stayed in Germany, and I can raise many scenarios about what would have happened to me if I had stayed in Germany. From this you will understand that I am interested in the subject not only from the point of view of an engaged person and political journalist, but also from the thoroughly personal perspective of a German Jew.

The Eichmann trial is a good point of departure for the thesis that I submit, which is that Israel has not learned the appropriate lessons from the Holocaust period, the main ones of which are democracy, human rights, the struggle against racism, respect for the rights of minorities, support for refugees and international solidarity with the forces that are struggling to eliminate racism and tyranny.

Already at the Eichmann trial, the tendency, which has intensified over the subsequent years, to press the Holocaust into service for the current requirements of Israeli policy, was manifest. Hanna Arendt observed it in her report on the Eichmann trial in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem by pointing to the question that the prosecutor Gideon Hausner flung at more than one of the witnesses: ‘Why did you not resist?’ As if there was such an option for civilians, including women, children, old people faced with an armed military force in the valley of death. Hausner continued to ask the question, even though it had clearly been no different among other nations. But that question had a clear Zionist message: in the Holocaust you did not resist, but here in the State of Israel with the Jewish army, it will not happen again.

That was confirmed this week with the publication of the protocols from the cabinet meetings after the abduction of Eichmann, according to which the main priority of then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was to exploit the trial for Israeli hasbara. [4]

There is a straight line from the Eichmann trial to the youth delegations the Ministry of Education sends to the death camp at Auschwitz.

The visits by young people to Auschwitz before their military service are infused with Israeli Jewish nationalism, and are intended to increase their motivation to join the army. In these visits there is no mention of the universal human aspect of the Holocaust period outside the Jewish experience. Eichmann was in fact convicted of crimes against humanity, but that was given very little expression in the trial. Those who planned the trial were not interested in non-Jewish humanity. And it is also thus in the visits of Israeli youth to Auschwitz. Indeed, a researcher from Tel Aviv University has found that there was a higher rate of willingness to join combat units among the youths who visited Auschwitz. Mission accomplished.

And the program of sending IDF officers to visit Auschwitz, which has involved thousands of officers so far, is also an expression of contempt for the Holocaust. Officers are taken from their duties of Occupation and violation of human rights in the Occupied Territories straight to Auschwitz, whence they return full of motivation to continue their duties, seeing no contradiction between the visit and their activities in the framework of an army of occupation. This is the militarization of the Holocaust, if you will.

A creature from outer space who landed in Israel and studied the official Israeli approach to the Holocaust would get the impression that to the Israelis, the Nazis were not an enemy of humanity, but only the enemy of the Jewish people. On one of my visits to Germany, a German told me in a personal conversation that in his opinion the Nazis made a terrible mistake with the Jews. Instead of destroying them they should have enlisted the Jewish genius in the service of the Nazi regime. If they had done that, he added, everything would have been different. Germany would have won the war.

I sometimes hear an echo of that same viewpoint in Israel too. That could explain the friendly and intimate relations between Israel and the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa, with its Nazi laws. As long as the Apartheid laws did not affect Jews, but only Blacks, Israel was an ally of that regime.

That attitude was expressed by the invitation to Israel of South African Prime Minister John Vorster as the guest of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. After the Likud’s rise to power, known as the revolution of 1977, South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha visited Israel as the guest of Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan. There was no difference between the Labour Party and the Likud when it came to friendship with the regime with Nazi laws. Ironically, both leaders from racist South Africa visited Yad Vashem, [5] and nobody saw that as contempt for or desecration of the Holocaust. It was the same with the fascist dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, to which Israel exported arms. The policy of exporting arms to dictatorial regimes continues to this day.

Since the Reparations Agreement was signed by David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer, Israel has exhibited a great deal of flexibility in its relations with Germany in everything related to the service of Nazis in its governmental, judicial and military apparati. As long as the money and political support flowed, Israel lived in peace with people who had been members of the Nazi Party. That is how it was with Hans Globke, Adenauer’s secretary and advisor, who participated in drafting the Nuremberg Laws, and that is how it was with Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger, who had been a member of the Nazi Party.

When in 1971 Gerhard Schröder, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, visited Israel as the guest of the Foreign Minister Abba Eban, I filed an appeal at the Supreme Court to have him put on trial under the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law of 1950, because he had been a member of the Nazi Party and the SA! The appeal was rejected. I was a student at the time and Yoel Zussman, the acting president of the Supreme Court (and later its president), suggested that I concentrate on my studies and not concern myself with politics. A very democratic suggestion.

When Willy Brandt of the Social Democratic Party replaced Kiesinger, concern was expressed in Israel that because Brandt had fought the Nazis in exile, maybe his anti-Nazi past would liberate him from feelings of guilt and he would be less friendly towards Israel.

That was not the case regarding East Germany, with the pretensious name of the DDR (German Democratic Republic). There, there were indeed fewer former Nazis in governmental positions, but the DDR’s membership in the Communist bloc and its refusal to pay reparations prompted Israel to preach hypocrisy-laden morality to it, from which West Germany was spared.

The Holocaust also served as an effective instrument for justifying Israel’s nuclear arsenal. The State of Israel has become a Garden of Eden for the production of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, biological and chemical. Hence the absurdity, that in the name of the last Holocaust, Israel is exposed to a new holocaust, a nuclear holocaust – at its own hands.

The government of Israel uses the Holocaust and anti-Semitism as a weapon to suppress criticism of its politics. It has proven to be a useful tool whenever Germany is concerned, but not only Germany. Even in the German left-wing party they tread very lightly whenever it comes to criticizing Israel over the Occupation.

That and more: the government of unified Germany, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (not the one from the appeal) and his deputy, Green Party leader and Foreign Minister Yoschka Fischer, provided Israel with submarines (as a gift) that can carry nuclear-tipped missiles.

The Green Party was founded as a movement against nuclear arms. When I asked Yoschka Fischer (who before he became Foreign Minister signed a petition in support of Moredechai Vanunu) to condition the transfer of the submarines on their not being nuclear-armed, I received no reply. And thus was created another absurdity, that Germany is donating the next holocaust to us as compensation for the previous Holocaust.

The Yad Vashem institute is well integrated into the picture that has been described here, maybe because for most of its existence it has been headed by retired generals. It is a fact that during all 44 years of the Occupation Yad Vashem has not seen fit to come out against the violations of human rights and the apartheid regime that exist in the Occupied Territories.

The late philosopher and scientist Yeshayahu Liebowitz coined the term ‘Judaeo-Nazi’, which caused a lot of controversy. It was his somewhat provocative way of challenging the political establishment and its followers. If I understood Liebowitz correctly, he wanted to say that the Nazis are not specific to any one people, but a dangerous political phenomenon that can exist in any nation, and the Jews are no exception. And that is my opinion as well. When I interviewed him for the Jewish German monthly called Semit, he gave a concrete example of what he meant. A female Palestinian prisoner about to give birth. She was taken to a hospital in Israel, and there, on the orders of the ISA or the police, she was chained to a bed, where she gave birth. ‘That is Nazism’, stormed Liebowitz in his familiar voice, and the willingness to obey such a barbaric order is the essence of Eichmannism – hiding behind the excuse that ‘I was only following orders.’

The willingness to carry out any order is one of the characteristics of Israeli military society today. The lessons have not been learned.

The life of Rosa Luxemburg, who was the inspiration for this conference, and her essential outlook, are for me the model of a different Germany but also for a different Israel.”

Translator’s notes

1. Allusion to a Hannukah prayer, which says, “Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time.”

2. Also known as the Shin Bet, the Hebrew letters that stand for its name in Hebrew (“Sherut ha-Bitahon” – “Security Service”)

3. Allusion to a song, “Chad Gadya” (“one little goat”, in Aramaic), traditionally sung at Passover. It is cumulative: father buys a goat, which is eaten by a cat, which is bitten by a dog, which is beaten by a stick, which is burnt by a fire … etc., all the way to the Angel of Death, who is struck down by God in the song’s triumphant climax.

4. Hasbara: literally, “explanation”. The term is widely-used in Israel to refer to Israeli government public relations efforts, public diplomacy, advocacy or propaganda.

5. Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, museum and research institute.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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