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Red Rag weekly column
By: Gideon Spiro
4 January 2012 (English translation 10 January 2012)

A government affected by radioactive contamination

The readers of this column are surely aware that I am one of those Israelis (unfortunately there are very few of us) who campaign for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction � atomic, biological and chemical.

Israel, as the possessor of a nuclear arsenal of hundreds of nuclear and hydrogen bombs in addition to its chemical and biological arsenals, has set the Middle East onto a nuclear arms race. If Israel is not subjected to a regime of nuclear disarmament within the framework of a regional accord under the auspices of the UN, not only will Iran have nuclear weapons, but all Israel�s neighbours will have them. In a volatile region like ours, nuclear weapons are suicidal weapons.

The government of Israel built the reactor in Dimona without any public discussion, and its acquisition of nuclear arms was also done in covertly by a small group of people who have forced us to live our lives under the shadow of the radioactive mushroom. The Israeli policy of �trust Big Brother and don�t ask questions� has never been acceptable to me � certainly not on an issue that puts our lives in the balance. Cumulative experience has shown that governments of Israel can be inept and foolhardy, not to say reckless, particularly when it comes to military matters and security.

Evidence of for my thesis is provided by a decision that was recently handed down at the district court in Petah Tikvah, on the matter of 44 workers from the Dimona reactor who have been afflicted with cancer are suing the State of Israel for payment of compensation and acceptance of responsibility for failures that have occurred at the reactor, of which there are many. Expert testimony shows that there have been more than a few security lapses. Areas that are supposed to be clean are contaminated with radiation, but important documents have been destroyed, which complicates the case for the plaintiffs. And in the background stands the government, which denies its responsibility and casts off the sick workers to contend with their sufferings in isolation. A government like that is also liable to act irresponsibly in the deployment of nuclear weapons, and then it will not end up causing 44 cases of cancer, but a new Holocaust.

The government that I trust the most on this cardinal matter is the government that has no weapons of mass destruction, and which therefore does not have the temptation to use them.

When Abu Mazen met Amna Muna

When Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen visited Turkey, he met Palestinian prisoners who had been freed in the Shalit deal and were exiled to that country. Among others he met with Amna Muna. In case you have forgotten: through of Internet conversations Muna lured the 16 year old Israeli Ofir Rahum from Ashkelon to meet her in Jerusalem, from whence they travelled to Ramallah, where Ofir was murdered by Muna�s friends.

A military court gave Muna a life sentence, even though she had not taken an active part in the murder. I point this out because if Muna had been a Jewish terrorist of the settler type, the court would have distinguished between those who helped and those who murdered, as happened in the trial of the Jewish underground in the 1980s. Whereas the Israeli courts in their deliberations on Jewish terror against Palestinians distinguish, for example, between those who transport a murderer to the scene of the crime and the murderer himself, that is not the case regarding a Palestinian who transports a bomber to the scene of the attack. In such a case the bomber�s associates receive the same treatment as the bomber himself.

Muna claimed in her trial that she did not want the youth to be killed, but the court did not believe her, which is only natural, because the role of a military court is not to seek justice but to act as an arm of the Occupation in its efforts to repress every spark of resistance.

You may ask: does luring a 16-year-old boy to his death constitute resistance to the Occupation? And I will reply: it was the Israeli Occupation that converted 16-, 15-, 14- and 13-year-olds into targets. The thousands of Palestinian youths who have been killed and wounded by the Occupation army�s fire, the repeated raids by soldiers of the Occupation into the Palestinian schools while classes are in session, the arrest and imprisonment of thousands of youths � all that contributed to �taking the gloves off� on the Palestinian side as well.

Counter to the view that is common among Israelis, that the role of the Occupation army is to fight combat what is called in referred to in military jargon as �armed elements� (hamushim), the main function of the army and the other components of the Occupation mechanism is above all to suppress the civil infrastructure of resistance to the Occupation and to neutralize as much as possible the yearning for freedom. Accordingly the schools in which young Palestinians study are primary targets. None of the foregoing prevents from me from strongly condemning the murder of Ofir Rahum; after all, what principle could underlie the principle of opposition to the Occupation if not the saving of human life?

Back to the meeting between Abu Mazen and Amna Muna, of whom a photo appeared in the media. That meeting brought out worst in Israeli hypocrisy. Prominent journalists in the establishment Israeli media preached morality to Abu Mazen: how could he darken the door of a murderer? Is this the man who wants to make peace with Israel? Those journalists should be reminded that Abu Mazen is not the chairman of the Zionist Organization or the prime minister of Israel. He is supposed to be struggling against the Occupation and to embrace whoever takes part in that struggle. Let us remember that those who are terrorists in the eyes of the colonialists are freedom fighters in the eyes of the colonized.
Those whom we refer to as �those who ascended the gallows� (olei hagardom) or �martyrs� were in the eyes of the British occupiers despicable terrorists who planted bombs in civilian centres and murdered innocents in British Mandate Palestine.

There is not a town in Israel that has not immortalized those people by naming streets after them. Nor should we forget this: the institutions of the governing establishment in Israel are full of terrorists. They are in the Knesset, the government, the army and the police. It would therefore behoove Israel to tone down its excoriation of others for honouring terrorists.

The resemblance

I recently finished reading the book Alone in Berlin (or Every Man Dies Alone). It is a moving book, based on a true story that took place in Nazi Berlin during the Second World War. Over the course of three years a working-class couple distributed hundreds of postcards protesting against Hitler and his regime, which called for civil disobedience and workplace sabotage. It drove the Gestapo crazy. Its leaders thought they were dealing with an underground movement with many members.

The author, Hans Fallada, himself a victim of the Nazi regime, wrote a book that received global acclaim. The Los Angeles Times described the book as �one of the most extraordinarily ambitious literary resurrections in recent memory� by an author who �had a poet`s heart and a dramatist`s ear�, and the Italian author Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor who survived the Auschwitz extermination camp, wrote that it is `the greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis.` [1] I cannot but agree with those assessments.

As a native of Nazi Berlin and a survivor (thanks to my mother�s resourcefulness) of the Krystallnacht pogrom in November 1938, and as a refugee who was uprooted from my homeland and forced to become and Israeli citizen who is now campaigning against the crimes and injustices committed by my government, the book was of special interest to me.

Let me state right away that this is not a book about the Holocaust in the �Yad Vashem� sense of a memorial to the Jewish victims exclusively. It is a book over the course of the 660 pages [2] of which the reader is drawn into a sinister racist regime that imposed terror and fear on its citizens, especially those who were suspected of any form of non-cooperation, a regime that created a network of hundreds of thousands of informers which rendered any resistance nearly impossible. This book shows the reader the degree to which a nation under a tyrannical regime underwent a process of brutalization of which the Holocaust was the ultimate expression. It is a book with a universal message that warns of the catastrophic consequences that await those who live under regimes that violates human rights. Therefore I will not be surprised if the education ministry of the Netanyahu and Lieberman government does not make this book compulsory reading in Israeli schools.

Whoever reads the book with an open heart and mind will discern points of similarity with all tyrannical regimes. I could not but see, in some of Hans Fallada�s descriptions, a mirror of what is happening in the Occupied Territories.

On page 346 Fallada points out that one of the hallmarks of the Nazi regime was `stick and carrot, that was the way to go.` [3] To reward informants and collaborators and to punish those who fight for a humane regime that respects human rights. It was thus in Germany, and it is thus under the Israeli Occupation. Over 45 years of Occupation Israel has created, with German thoroughness, a ramified network of informers and collaborators who are rewarded by the Occupation forces, while pursuing, harassing and punishing those who struggle against the Occupation, their families and the social and political circles in which they move.

On page 353 there is a conversation between Police Inspector Escherich and the suspect Kluge whom he wants to confess to crimes he has not committed. The inspector explains to Kluge,

�It�s you they want now, Kluge, the gentlemen of the SS, and they�re keen to question you in their own inimitable fashion. They believe the statement, and they believe you�re the author, or at the very least, the distributor of the cards. And they�ll wring that from you, they�ll wring everything they want from you with their techniques, they�ll squeeze you like an orange, and then they�ll beat your brains out, or they�ll put you on trial before the People�s Court, which comes to pretty much the same thing, only your agonies will be more drawn out.�

The Inspector paused, and the wholly terrified Kluge pressed himself against him � the man he had just called a murderer � as though seeking help from him.

Kluge: �But you know it wasn�t me!� he stammered. �God�s own truth! You can�t deliver me to them, I can�t stand it, I�ll scream ��

�Of course you�ll scream,� affirmed the Inspector equably. �Of course you will. But that won�t bother them, they�ll enjoy it. You know what, Kluge, they�ll sit you down on a stool and they�ll hang a strong light in your face, and you�ll keep staring into the light, and the heat and the brightness will be like nothing you�ve ever experienced. And at the same time they will ask you questions, one man will take over from another, but no one will take over from you, however exhausted you get. Then when you fall over from exhaustion, they�ll rouse you with kicks and blows, and they�ll give you salt water to drink, and when none of that does any good, they will dislocate every bone in your hand one by one. They will pour acid on the soles of your feet ��

�Please stop, sir, oh, please stop, I can�t hear any more ��

�Not only will you hear it, you will have to suffer it, Kluge, for a day, for two, three, five days � and all the time, day and night they will give you nothing to eat, your belly will shrivel up to the size of a string bean, and you will think you can die from sheer pain. But you won�t die; once they have someone in their hands, they don�t let them go that easily. No, they will �� [4]

The text that Fallada puts in the mouth of Inspector Escherich resembles and is sometimes identical to reports from the Israeli Committee Against Torture. In 45 years of Occupation Israel has assembled, with the punctiliousness of erstwhile Germany, a sophisticated and cruel torture system. Hundreds if not thousands of Palestinians have been physically and psychologically harmed by the saga of torture they underwent in the basements of the Israel Security Agency.

Fallada dedicates six chapters to the German judicial system, an opaque, cruel and evil system that serves the regime of evil with boundless dedication.

The judges are coarse; they curse the accused like any contemporary hooligan. It reminds me of the system of justice in the Occupied Territories that serves the Israeli terror regime with the same devotion.

The president of the People�s Court, the Supreme Judge Freisler, [5] with a mean mouth, hard lips, cruel but sensuous, is described as �a sybarite who sought all the pleasures of this world and left others to pay the bill.� [6] On page 589 Fallada writes of the prosecutor Pinscher, �If Judge Freisler�s proceedings suggested to an unprejudiced viewer those of a bad-tempered bloodhound, the prosecutor played along as a little yapping terrier, only waiting to give the bloodhound�s quarry a nasty little nip in the calf while his big brother had him by the throat.� [7]

It is very easy for me to identify the Israeli counterparts in the military justice system � not that the civilian system is any cleaner.

Chapter 16 is dedicated to the demise of Frau Rosenthal. She convinced her husband Siegfried to wait, and not to sell their assets cheaply. Maybe change will come. Meanwhile her husband has been taken for interrogation by the Gestapo and she awaits his return. While she is waiting, three Germans in uniform take up position in front of the entrance to her apartment: Inspector Rusch, his assistant Friedrich and the young Baldur Persicke from the Hitler Youth. Rusch orders Friedrich to take �the old Jewess� to the kitchen and to watch her. She is to be taken later for interrogation. Frau Rosenthal jumps to her death from the window to the courtyard of the building. Inspector Rusch and Baldur come to an understanding over what each of them may take from the Jewess� apartment. Her property is free for the taking. Plunder is permitted. And that leads me to the Israeli Occupation, which has legalized the plunder of Palestinian property under the racist Israeli code.

Israel�s judges, from magistrates to justices of the Supreme Court, have given backing to the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in places like the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem based on the problematic pretext that it once belonged to Jews, whereas Palestinians have no right to recover their houses in Katamon, Talbiyeh and other such places. Pure racism. In the Occupied Territories there is no need even for that flimsy allegation. There the plunder of private Palestinian property is brazenly carried out in the light of day, whether in outposts like Migron or established settlements like Ofra. The common denominator is the permission that the tyranny confers on itself to loot from whomever they decide, because their rights and their status are inferior. Does this mean that the racist tyranny in Israel is identical to that of the Nazis? No. There are still differences. But there are lines of similarity and overlapping points which suffice to arouse concern. Those who ignore them are burying their heads in the sand.

There is a constant slide towards the closure of the remaining gaps. Only a few days ago MK Likud MK Danny Danon convened the Knesset Absorption Committee for a discussion from which blew the winds of the Nuremberg Laws. The ludicrous subject under discussion: �The phenomenon of the abduction of young Jewish women by Bedouin.� Organizations for racial purity like �Yad le-Ahim� play a leading role in poisoning the atmosphere. We have to preserve the purity of Jewish women lest it be defiled by Arabs. If we go on like this, the day will not be far off when Danny Danon convenes a discussion on the �phenomenon� of Arabs using the blood of Jewish children to make pita. God preserve us. For those who believe.

The preserver

Director and cameraman Eran Torbiner has many achievements to his name in the field of documentary filmmaking. In fact he is today the great documentarian of the Left, who rescues political phenomena that should be considered to be inalienable assets of our national culture from the abyss of oblivion and forgetfulness, but in nationalistic, colonialist and racist Israel they are shunted aside. Eran�s films are preserving the spark and when better days come they will occupy the position of honour they deserve.

Eran has a special sixth sense for finding movements and organizations on the left side of the political map at the 11th hour, before their last members depart from this world. I fondly remember his 2006 film, �Madrid Before Hanita�, about the Palestine Jews who joined the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

Now he has finished his film �Bundists�, the wonderful story of the Bund. Over five years he interviewed the last remaining members of the Bund, and the result is a film that will move the viewer to tears. The Bund, a socialist Jewish workers� organization, was founded in 1897, which is also the year Zionism was founded. Unlike Zionism, which espoused a territorial solution, the Bund believed that the home of the Jews was where they lived and that they should struggle for an egalitarian society along with their non-Jewish comrades.

The organization flowered in Poland in the 1930s, when it was the most significant Jewish organization, with a youth movement and schools where the language of instruction was Yiddish. The organization advocated secular Jewish cultural autonomy while promoting Yiddish as the language of Jewish culture.

The Holocaust affected the Bund as it did the rest of the Jewish community and precious few members of that glorious organization survived the extermination camps. Those survivors made an effort to re-establish the organization, but Communist Poland was unfriendly to Jews in general and the Bund in particular. The democratic socialism of the Bund and the idea of cultural autonomy it promoted were incompatible with exclusive rule by the Communist Party, and it was not long before Bund activism was banned. That situation compelled the remnants of Polish Jewry to uproot themselves from their homeland. The main destinations of emigration were Israel, Australia and the USA.

In 1951 the Israeli branch of the Bund was founded in Tel Aviv. Not long ago it celebrated its 60th anniversary. Veterans of the Bund found a home there and tried to preserve the objectives of the organization. They even founded a periodical � in Yiddish, naturally. Eran came across the branch clubhouse in 2006, was captivated by its charms and the result is visible in this compelling film. Where else can you find people like this, who in their 80s and 90s continue to be committed to the ideal of socialism? The film discloses interesting facts of which we were not aware, because of limited exposure to the Yiddish publications of the Bund. Already in the 1950s the Bund organ in Israel was writing that we must not ignore the problem of the Palestinian refugees, for we too are a nation of refugees.

Immediately after the war of June 1967, when the whole country was having a collective LSD trip over the conquest of the Territories, the Bund organ in Israel was writing that we should not be a nation that rules over another nation. Never has been heard more delightful Yiddish than in this film, but even the enjoyment of those who do not know the language will not be diminished, because the film has Hebrew and English subtitles. If it were up to me there would also be Arabic subtitles.

Eran made the film with his own resources for the most part, without financial backing from the Israel Film Fund or any television station. We on the Left can express solidarity by ordering the film for NIS 100 at this address: . If Eran manages to sell a decent number of DVDs, he will be able to finance Arabic subtitles. Mit khavershaft � in comradeship � ��� ����������.

Translator�s notes

1. Matthew Shaer, �Hans Fallada is resurrected in the U.S.�, Los Angeles Times, 22 March 2009.

2. The page numbers mentioned in the present article do not correspond to the page numbers in the English translation of Fallada`s book quoted below. That translation is accessible online at

3. Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone, translated by Michael Hoffmann. (New York: Melville House, 2010) 131.

4. Ibid, p. 133.

5. In other English translations available online the judge�s name is �Feisler�.

6. Fallada, op. cit., p. 237.

7. Ibid, p. 240.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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