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Red Rag weekly column: Brutal police - Whither Egypt? Oh, Obama! Informers - A courageous ruling on circumcision
By: Gideon Spiro
27 June 2012 (English translation posted 30 June 2012)

Police thuggery

The police violence against demonstrators of the social protest movement proves to those to whom such proof is needed that there is no such animal as �apolitical police�. Police are intended first and foremost to defend the existing political order, and alongside obeying the orders of the government they are attentive to the �spirit of the commander�. The coalition that now numbers 94 Knesset Members (out of 120) has produced a sense of power-drunkenness, of the ability to crush the social protest movement that is demanding more equality and an end to the privatization of essential services. The police understood very well what the masters of finance and government expected of them, and accordingly acted with brutality and insolence.

The demonstrators, men and women, would do well to adapt themselves to the new reality and to demonstrations equipped with suitable means of defence (for example, helmets to protect their scalps). In the face of police thuggery, according to my understanding as a person who is not a jurist, non-violent demonstrators are permitted to implement, with the appropriate adjustments (i.e., without weapons and without killing anyone), the Shai Dromi rule, which is a modification to the law, which states: �No person shall bear criminal responsibility for an act that was required in an immediate way in order to repel someone who has broken into or entered a residential or commercial structure or a fenced-in farm that belongs to him or to someone else, for the purpose of committing a crime, or someone who is attempting to break in or enter as stated.�

A violent police officer who beats a demonstrator should be seen as one who is breaking into the domain of the individual without authorization, and accordingly those who are so attacked are permitted to defend themselves. Thus the ruling also permits citizens to defend themselves from police who are implementing violence without justification. These words are not to be seen as a recommendation with judicial validity, but fragments of reflections that are binding only on myself.


Whither Egypt?

The election of Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as President of Egypt concludes an impressive process by which elections were conducted democratically, which few thought had a chance. There is something heartwarming about the fact that the man who has been elected President sat in prison as a political prisoner on the orders of the deposed president.

The democratic test begins now: whither Egypt? To a Muslim Sharia state along the lines of Iran, or a state with moderate, pluralistic Islam that respects human rights, political freedom, changes of government following elections and not obliging women to dress �according to Sharia�? The first scenario means that the presidential elections were democratic, but with an undemocratic outcome. The second scenario combines democratic elections with democratic content. And of course there are other scenarios, more grim, that have components from both sides.

And then there the Israeli angle. Will he leave the peace agreement as it is? Will he cancel the Camp David accords, which Israel has violated and continues to violate every day? Will Hamas� status be upgraded? This is going to be interesting.


Oh, Obama

Barack Obama was the hope of liberals and the moderate American Left. He not only distinguished himself with his pleasant appearance and stirring speaking style, he also projected the values of human rights, peace, and a more equal society. The height of the hopes is now matched by the depths of the disappointment. He promised to close the detention camp at Guantanamo, and did not do it. As soon as his presidency began he received the Nobel Peace Prize, so much did he impress the members of the Prize Committee, who decided to give him a kind of Peace Loan in the hope that he would return it in the form of some peace agreement; but so far he has been busy with so many wars that he has not had time to arrange any peace, however small.

The New York Times recently reported that Obama has authorized assassinations based on a list of names that he personally approves, which includes US citizens. Here he is playing God, who decides who will live and who will die, all without judicial process. [1]

And in the Israeli context Obama has also proved a disappointment, from the point of view of peace-loving Israelis who are against the Occupation. The hope was that Obama would set new rules of the game according to which America would stop supporting Israel automatically and be a lot more resolute in opposing the Occupation, the settlements and the apartheid regime that prevails in the Occupied Territories.

What happened was the exact opposite. Netanyahu did whatever he felt like, construction in the settlements continued, and on one of his visits Netanyahu humiliated the President before the eyes of the whole world: Netanyahu turned Obama into a schoolboy who doesn�t know his right from his left, and in front of television cameras gave Obama a short and one-sided course about the Arab-Israel conflict and Zionism. Obama continued to support Israel in every international forum, he appeared before the Jewish lobby and expressed pride in his support for Israel and emphasized that on the security level he had done more for Israel than any other President. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for the presidency, and Barack Obama are quarrelling over which of them is a more loyal supporter of Israel. The tail is wagging the dog.

Now the hope is for Obama�s second term, which will not involve another election. Maybe then we will see a new Obama.


Informers

In the 1980s I visited Germany with my friend the journalist and writer Israel Segal, of blessed memory (1944-2007). He was then serving as the Israel Broadcasting Authority�s correspondent in Germany. During a conversation between the two of us Segal said that he had noted a phenomenon which, it had become clear to him over time, was very characteristic of the Germans: the practice of reporting to the police. For every trivial thing that diverges from the norm, right away they call the police. He began to understand how the Nazi regime had managed to get cooperation from the residents: informants. Someone is hiding a Jew, the neighbour immediately reports it. I only told him that in my opinion that characteristic is not typical of the Germans alone; in Israel the situation is no better � and left it at that. He disagreed with me but we did not continue to dwell on the subject.

Years later the manhunts for domestic workers from the Philippines began in Israel. Immigration police (who were replaced in 2009 by inspectors of the Oz unit of the Interior Ministry) went to many addresses that had been provided by anonymous informers. Once when I met Israel I reminded him about our conversation in Germany, in the face of what was happening in Israel.

�You can see with your own eyes that it�s no different here,� I told him. The inclination to collaborate with the regime against those who are different transcends this or that national border. Recently I read about the existence of an Internet website that permits anonymous informers to leave information about Africans who have managed to evade the radar of the Interior Ministry�s manhunters.

Today, if citizens hide asylum-seekers from Africa that the Israeli regime is pursuing, their fate will be a bitter one: a criminal trial, imprisonment for several years and a huge monetary fine that will impoverish the humanitarians to the point of hunger. Close to being put to death. That and worse was the fate of those who were caught hiding Jews in Nazi Germany.


A courageous decision

A court in Cologne, Germany, has handed down a ruling that the circumcision of small boys is a criminal offense. From time to time I am asked about the subject, and express my opinion that circumcision is a barbaric ritual, the mutilation of a healthy baby, which parents impose on their children without their permission. If man is indeed the product of creation as the religious believe, then creation should be respected, because it has taken care to ensure that the baby is born without physical defects. To wound a baby with a knife and inflict pain on him for no sin he committed and without his being able to resist, on the basis of the religious belief or tradition of his parents, is a fundamental violation of his rights under the international Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The court in Cologne was right when it said that the decision to belong to a religion, if any, should be taken when a person is an adult.

If he wants to get circumcised when he turns 18, then he can go ahead and cut.


Translator�s note

1) Jo Becker and Scott Shane, New York Times, 29 May 2012. �Secret �Kill List� Proves a Test of Obama�s Principles and Will http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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