|By: Nurit Peled-Elhanan|
10 March 2012
Speech at Beit Omar
I would like to dedicate my words to the memory of a five-year-old boy, Milad, the nephew of Wael Salame, one of the founders of the Combatants for Peace movement, who perished in a burning bus at the Adam settlement junction. The residents of the settlement did not send a rescue team and they refused to send ambulances. Nobody has brought them to justice for that. Nobody judged them and nobody arrested them. The land-thieves’ indifference to pre-school children burning to death at the gates of their home did not become the main headline in any newspaper or news broadcast. The reason is that racist behaviour of Israelis is not `news`. Rather it has been the norm for sixty years and more. Israel’s children are educated to it. We have all been educated to it – at school, at home, in the youth movements, in literature and theatre, art and music. The more than twenty racist laws that were passed last year with hardly any opposition except that of their victims did not strike us like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky. Those laws are the most callous Establishment expression of the norms that have been in effect in this place for four generations now. Already in 1948 the poet Natan Alterman was decrying the Hebrew public’s apathy in the face of “‘delicate incidents’ for which the true name, incidentally, is murder”. The present Israeli Knesset merely ripped the disguise off the face of the State when it made its repeated declarations that there will be no more pretending.
For decades now the Zionist project of colonizing the land and judaizing it has required the removal of the Palestinians one way or another, either by law or by the sword, and there is no longer any need to cover up those supreme objectives and to disguise them with empty words about democracy or security or historic rights. All of us are mobilized, willingly or unknowingly, in the project of the judaization of the land and all of us have memorized, since we began to memorize, the absolute necessity of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel. And the Land of Israel, as we all know, includes the State of Israel, the Palestinian territories and a lot more. There is no map in Israel that is called “The State of Israel”. All the maps are called “The Land of Israel”. Already three or four generations of Israeli children have been learning from books that contain maps that show the Palestinian territories as part of the Land of Israel which is devoid of colour, empty of institutions and empty of people ; an ancient area that is waiting and longing to be colonized by Jews – or at least by non-Arabs. Israeli children have been learning for generations now that their neighbours – whether they be Palestinian citizens of Israel or subjects of the State of Israel stripped of human rights – are nothing but a terrifying demographic problem and a security threat. Those very children have meanwhile grown up, their senses of truth and justice and human brotherhood have been dulled by racist education and they have risen to be the politicians and generals who now declare openly and with the arrogance of all-powerful masters what was once concealed with hypocrisy: that the other face of the judaization project is the elimination of the Palestinian people, whether by rubber bullets or by bullets without rubber, by bombs or by laws: As the fundamental principle of Jewish Kibbutzim states: Every member of the community is required to contribute to the Zionist project according to his or her ability, as needed. In recent years the Judaization project has taken on more momentum than ever before, mainly due to the undisguised and unrestrained support of the United States and rich countries in Europe.
In 2009 the Russell Tribunal on Palestine was established in order to demand that the countries of Europe stop being partners in crime with the Occupation state and thereby perhaps avoid a Third World War. In October 2011 the Tribunal, which had symbolically convened in Cape Town, ruled that Israel has established an institutionalised regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law. Israel is discriminating against and eliminating an entire nation on racial grounds in a systematic and institutionalized way, and therefore all collaboration with Israel should cease.
The legal definition of apartheid is a situation in which 3 components are present: 1) Two separate racial groups can be identified; 2) “acts of inhumanity” are committed by the ruling group against the subject group, and 3) Those acts are committed in a systematic way, with an institutionalized administration in which one of the groups is ruled over by the other.
The Tribunal heard testimony on acts that constitute “acts of inhumanity” towards the Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities:
• Control of their lives by military means.
• Arbitrary imprisonment and protracted illegal administrative detentions.
• Violations of human rights that negate their right to participate in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
• The Palestinian refugees are prevented from returning to their homes, and the laws of Israel facilitate the confiscation of their property and the denial of their human rights.
• The civil and political rights of the Palestinians are denied or arbitrarily restricted.
• Since 1948 Israel has maintained a policy of Occupation and colonization and accordingly of the expropriation of Palestinian land.
• The siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip, as a collective punishment of the civilian population of the area.
• Attacking civilians by means of large-scale military operations.
• The destruction of the homes of civilians without any security justification.
• The grave harm caused to the civilian population by the Separation Wall in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem
• The forcible evacuation of and destruction of houses in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev.
• Continuing practices of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.
• Various forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including restrictions on movement that subject Palestinians to humiliation by Israeli soldiers and Palestinian women being forced to give birth at checkpoints, and house demolitions as a form of inhuman and degrading treatment with severe psychological consequences for men, women and children.
• The entire Israeli legal system establishes an enormous gap between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, with legislation typically designed to favour Israeli Jews and keep Palestinian Arabs in a situation of inferiority.
All the foregoing are defined by the Tribunal as crimes against humanity. And the Tribunal further found that unlike the overt legislation that was passed in South Africa, Israeli law is characterized by the ambiguity and inaccessibility of many laws, military orders and regulations. But we know that all the laws and regulations of the State of Israel, be they ambiguous or clear, are intended to change the face of this place from a beautiful and fertile Middle Eastern country, a land of green hills, pomegranates and olives, to a monstrous conglomerate of supposedly Western housing developments, built in the image of their residents: ugly and brutal, their sole objective being to cover with asphalt, steel and concrete all the hills that have long withstood the tests of time. The only way to fight this tendency is through a blanket rejection of the racist laws of the democratic Jewish state, and especially to teach our children of their democratic right to say no to evil, no to ignorance, no to apartheid, no to service in the Occupation army and no to collaboration with ethnic cleansing.
We must reject the very term “Jewish and democratic state” and especially, remove the conjunction “and”, which is not merely a conjunction but a sequential “and” – that is: “Jewish” comes first, and only afterwards comes “democratic” – or an “and” of conditionality, i.e. only when the state is completely Jewish can it be democratic.
Meanwhile we are living in a state that has absolutely nothing to do with democracy. We who have not grown up with democracy and whom no one taught the values of democracy, who have been educated to think that exploitation, plunder, lies, discrimination and slaughter are the very essence of democracy, need to admit openly that we are living and have always lived in an apartheid state that is a danger to all of us. A state that educates its boys and girls to unlimited violence and indifference to the agonies of children trapped in a burning bus. If we do not do this, then we ourselves will turn into the settlers from Adam, we will become those who flung the wounded Omar Abu Jariban by the side of a road to die of thirst, and we too will be thrust into the category of war criminals.
If we do not raise the banner of rebellion today, in a few more years people like us – if we remain like as such – will be herded into detention camps or prisons. The freedom of speech that already now is dangerously restricted will be eliminated altogether, and then, as Sami Chetrit wrote: the poet will no longer versify, he will no longer sing, he won’t even chirp.
In conclusion, an anecdote: When Archbishop Desmond Tutu took the podium to welcome the Russell Tribunal to Cape Town, the chairman Pierre Galand announced that under the regulations of the Tribunal, there was to be no applause. Tutu, calling for an exception to be made to permit applause for the Tribunal’s honourary Chairman Stéphane Hessel, turned to the audience with a smile and said, “it is because we disobeyed laws like this one` that South Africans have come as far as they have. Let us hope that we too can get that far.
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent