|By: Gideon Spiro|
30 November 2012 (English translation 10 December 2012)
They held out
On the very day after the beginning of ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas government, Israel violated it when its soldiers shot to death an unarmed Palestinian civilian who had approached the delineation fence. Therefore I waited a few days before writing about the air attack on the Gaza Strip under the name “Pillar of Cloud” (or “Pillar of Defence” in English), lest armed Hamas operatives respond to the Israeli provocation and renew the fighting. This time the Hamas government and its forces exhibited self-restraint and refrained from responding. As these lines are being written the quiet is still being preserved.
There is no doubt that the Hamas movement sustained a hard blow from Israel’s aerial bombardment. Much of the Hamas infrastructure in Gaza was seriously damaged. Hamas has no means of defence against the Israeli air force. It has no ground-to-air missiles. It has no Iron Dome. There are no bunkers in which a million and a half people in the most densely-populated area in the world can seek shelter from attacks. Spokespersons of the Israeli army and their journalistic servants reported that Israel fired thousands of missiles and struck or destroyed over a thousand targets during the 8 days of the campaign.
In addition to the air force, the navy, which controls the territorial waters of Gaza, was also put into action, and it shelled the Strip from its vessels. From this too Hamas had no means of defence. Nevertheless Israel did not succeed in putting a stop to the firing of missiles and rockets. Residents of Gaza could not sleep because Israel bombed day and night. There was much talk in Israel about the trauma of the children of the Jewish communities that were within firing range of Hamas, but little thought is given to the much graver psychological harm done to the children of Gaza, who were exposed day and night to the effects of Israel’s implements of destruction. Despite Hamas’ military inferiority and the great harm that was caused to the armed forces and the civilian population, Gaza was not broken.
Metaphorically Gaza became a kind of Palestinian Stalingrad, which did not surrender, just as the Soviet Stalingrad withstood the German siege and was not subdued. It is very fortunate that President Obama managed to prevent Israel from launching a ground invasion, for had that happened it must be assumed, due to Israel’s advantage in numbers and advanced weaponry, that Gaza would have been occupied, but not before a battle that would have inflicted great losses on the attacking side as well. That would have engendered – again metaphorically – a story of the heroism of the Palestinian ghetto, which fought against a cruel and well-armed enemy, like the rebels of the Warsaw Ghetto who fought with courage and perseverance against the enemy, but were defeated due to the Germans’ advantage in weapons and numbers. Since the leaders of the State and the army are speaking of the ceasefire as “temporary until the next round”, that scenario is not fantastical. I write these words with sorrow, because I have no interest in glorifying Hamas or helping those fanatics make a heroic national-religious stand that will be a legend to future generations; but that is what Israel is going to accomplish with this enormously foolish approach.
The government of Israel has succeeded in implanting in the Israeli consciousness and to a great extent in the international one as well that the purpose of Operation Pillar of Cloud was to defend southern Israel from Hamas’ rocket fire. That is misleading, for that result could have been achieved by other means. The operation was a violation of a ceasefire agreement that had been attained through Egyptian mediation. Gershon Baskin, an activist for Israel-Palestinian rapprochement, had previously created a working relationship with the Hamas chief-of-staff Ahmad Jaabari in reaching an agreement for an exchange of prisoners, in the context of which the Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit was released in return for the liberation of Palestinian prisoners.
Baskin returned to Israel from Egypt while the operation was at its height, and in an interview on Israeli television he stated that Ahmad Jaabari (before he was executed by Israel at the beginning of the operation) had been engaged in contacts aimed at reaching a long-term ceasefire with Israel.
I am inclined to agree with the view expressed by one of my readers, American Jewish author Kenneth Brown, to the effect that the air raids to destroy the Fajr missiles in Hamas’ possession were part of the overall plan for the bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Accordingly we must be prepared for the next stage, which will be an Israeli attempt to destroy the long-range missiles in Hezbollah’s possession in order to prevent them from being launched at Israel when Israel attacks Iran. In other words, Israel is planning for an attack on Iran is liable to ignite a regional war with the potential to spread beyond our neighbourhood. The author Gunter Grass was right when he wrote that a nuclear Israel constitutes today the starting-point for a global conflagration.
The leaders of the State and the army have spoken a great deal about how the operation was “surgical” – that is, great care was taken to avoid civilian casualties. But that claim is groundless. A hundred and sixty Palestinians were killed during the eight days of bombings, including women and many children, and one family was nearly completely destroyed. That information was greeted with indifference in Israel, and an official announcement by the IDF spokesman explained that a pilot had erred in identifying a target, and “we express our sorrow”. Now the Palestinians will forgive the pilots of the Israeli air force, for after all, nothing is more human than to err. So a few children were killed. These things happen. This whole “surgical” business is utter nonsense, all the more so when it involves an area as densely-populated as Gaza. In this confrontation, just as in all the previous ones between Israel and the Palestinians, the number of killed on the Palestinian side is inestimably higher than that on the Israeli side: 160 Palestinians to five Israelis. And the ratio is similar regarding the wounded. Gaza’s main hospital, al-Shifa, was unable to treat the hundreds of wounded who streamed to its gates. My right-wing readers – I do have some – will immediately reply with Pavlovian conditioning, “What do you want – for 160 to be killed on our side too?” They have already received my answer: No, no and again no. I want nobody to get killed on our side or theirs – not children, not women, not old people, not at all.
One of the results of the operation was the endurance of the Hamas movement and its government in Gaza. In Israel Hamas is normally categorized as a terror organization that is not to be negotiated with. But Israel has achieved the exact opposite: Israel was forced to conduct negotiations with Hamas, with Egyptian mediation, over a ceasefire. And Gaza itself, in the face of the great destruction that Israel wrought, became a destination for visits by ministers, princes and diplomats from various countries, which has promoted its upgrading to a legitimate political entity. As part of the agreement for a ceasefire, Israel has been forced to continue to negotiate with Hamas for a series of concessions over the blockade of Gaza. Not only has the government of Israel eaten the rotten fish; it has also been flogged and expelled from the city as well! 
The ceasefire agreement got a very negative reception in Israel. A public-opinion survey found that the majority of the public in Israel was against it. This was due to expectations, which turned out to be unrealistic, that this time Israel would eliminate Hamas in Gaza. Many of the soldiers who were mobilized under Order 8  in preparation for a ground invasion, including family men, expressed disappointment being cheated of their ground war. They were willing to leave widows and orphans at home, in return for the privilege of sacrificing their lives in an unnecessary war. This pathological phenomenon is part of the death-cult of the Israeli Sparta.
Israel (and America) against the world
The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, was in the process of losing public standing, above all in the eyes of his own people. The government of Israel humiliates him, but he continues to use his armed forces to suppress any and all violent attacks on Israelis, including the settlers who have invaded Occupied Palestine and plundered its land. With the help of his police, who have received training in Jordan from European Union instructors, Abu Mazen is suppressing his people’s anger over the daily depredations of the Israeli settlers and army. Hence the absurdity that Abu Mazen’s regime is being used to ensure – among other things – freedom of movement on the apartheid highways for the occupying settlers whose very presence is a violation of international law. He stands ashamed before Hamas, which declares that the Israelis understand only the language of force and tauntingly ask him what he has achieved with his diplomatic approach. Given these facts, it is no wonder that there are those who have accused Abu Mazen of collaborating with the Israeli occupier in return for benefits of various kinds. Matters had come to such a pass that I heard a senior Palestinian figure refer to Abu Mazen as a Palestinian Pétain.
It appears that Abu Mazen has been aware of this process, and decided to take action to enhance his position. And indeed, he salvaged much prestige by submitting an application for Palestine to be upgraded to an observer state at the United Nations. Israel responded with savagery, and using a nightclub bouncer who has been upgraded to Foreign Minister threatened to eliminate the Palestinian Authority. Pressure was applied on Abu Mazen from many quarters, including the President of the USA and European Union heads of government, who pressed him not to submit the request to the UN, and after it was submitted, they pressured him to withdraw it.
This time Abu Mazen did not succumb to Israel’s threats of harsh measures that would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse. Also in vain was the American threat to withdraw its financial aid, which, while modest, is vital as oxygen for the continued functioning of the Authority. Abu Mazen stood firm in his resolve to continue the process until its completion.
The Palestinian leadership arranged in advance for the discussion at the UN to take place on 29 November, the date on which the United Nations General Assembly voted for the creation of two states in the Land of Israel/Palestine in 1947 – a Jewish state and an Arab state. That same UN which stood over the cradle of the infant State of Israel, which would not have come into being in 1948 without the Resolution it passed – that same UN has suddenly become irrelevant. The Arab rejectionism of 1947 has been converted in 2012 into Israeli rejectionism. The Resolution of the General Assembly to recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders passed in the UN with a decisive majority of 138 member-states, with only 9 votes against and 41 abstentions, including nearly the entire European Union, including some of Israel’s friends, such as Germany. The colour returned to Abu Mazen’s cheeks. The celebrations in Ramallah reminded me of the eruptions of joy and the dancing on the streets in Tel Aviv after the passage of the Partition Resolution in 1947.
The speech of Israel’s Ambassador at the UN, Ron Prosor, was intended for Western ears. Israel extends its hand for peace … and it’s always good to quote from the Bible, and he did. But it was a speech replete with lies: a state that wants peace does not transfer a half million of its citizens to occupied territory, build settlements, annex territories, keep millions of Palestinians under occupation and deny basic human rights for 45 years. Israel demands negotiations without preconditions, but that is binding only on the Palestinians, not Israel. And Israel is also permitted to continue to colonize and to create facts on the ground.
How much longer will Obama’s USA continue to cover for colonial Israel, clean up after all its messes and be pushed into international isolation in consequence? Just a short while ago Obama visited Burma and met with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who had been held under house arrest for 17 years by the military dictatorship. Obama declared before her and before the rulers of Burma that he had come to visit after a process of democratization began in Burma. He conditioned aid to Burma on the continuation of democratization until human rights are guaranteed for Burmese and the national minorities who are still suffering from oppression and persecution. If Obama is serious in his declarations of his commitment to human rights, he will be expected to hold Israel to at least the same standard, and to condition military and economic aid to Israel upon the end of the Occupation and the apartheid regime that prevails today in the Occupied Territories.
The new face of the Likud
The Likud candidates who were elected in the primaries in advance of the general elections to the Knesset that will take place on 22 January 2013 reveal a new or renewed Likud with a face that is much more extremist and right-wing than was seen in the outgoing Knesset. In the outgoing Knesset too the Likud was a right-wing party, with a clearly neo-fascist wing, which also promoted an anti-democratic legislative agenda, some of which was reined in by ministers and Knesset Members from the Likud faction that was more liberal – all in relative terms, of course. In the elections to the new list the leaders of the liberal wing were ousted and their places were taken by people from the extremist right-wing branch. For all practical purposes the Likud is now controlled by the settlers. Moshe Feiglin, one of the most extreme settlers, who planned to take over the Likud with great patience, succeeded for the first time in getting put on a realistic position on the list, which will ensure his election to the Knesset. If we add the Israel Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) Party headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which linked up with the Likud to form a single electoral list, we discover an alarming right-wing combination which verges on fascism. In a situation like this it is but natural that a Likud Knesset Member, Miri Regev, who during the Second Lebanon War was still serving as the Spokesperson of the Israeli Invasion Army with the rank of Brigadier General, should declare in a public quarrel with MK Jamal Zahalka, “I am happy to be a fascist”. That declaration is in keeping with the sharp rightward turn that Israeli society is taking, and yet it also represents a quantum leap, for there is no precedent for a Member of the Knesset in Israel in general and in a ruling party in particular, male or female, to define themselves as fascists, let alone happy to be such. I fear that if the Right wins in the approaching elections and forms the new government, tough times are in store for lovers of peace and human rights. More than a few citizens from the Left may find themselves forced to choose between political exile or arrest and detention in an Israeli prison. For after all, that is what fascists are happy to do: throw their opponents into prison.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak has announced his departure from political life. His supporters in the media have described him as the “responsible adult” in the government, but his biography does not justify that characterization. Barak, a native of Israel and child of a kibbutz, is both a product and a shaper of the Israeli culture of force. He held a series of positions in the army and the government. He was Chief of Staff, Minister of the Interior and Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and Defence Minister. On his journey to the position of Chief of Staff he made a stopover as head of the Central Command – effectively the sovereign ruler of the Occupied Territories. During Barak’s term the Occupation was enhanced.
Barak is known as a man who is very fond of “liquidations”, which in non-military language means extra-judicial executions in effect. As a soldier he took part in several of them. As Chief of Staff (1991-95) he had a decisive part in the decision to assassinate Hezbollah Secretary-General Abbas Musawi, which later proved to have been a hasty decision because in his place we got a much more extreme adversary in the form of Hassan Nasrallah. Barak came up with the demented idea of assassinating Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, for which he appointed the army’s most prestigious unit, the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal). In 1992, in the course of training for the mission, at the final stage, a concluding exercise was conducted with the participation of the whole top level of the armed forces. Very regrettably the exercise ended in disaster in which five of the unit’s soldiers were killed and another six were injured. The assassination plan was cancelled. Barak was accused of leaving the scene without aiding the injured. To this day the generals are arguing among themselves over who was responsible for the disaster. At the beginning of his term as Chief of Staff, Barak promised a “small and smart army”, but in his time the army kept adding layers of fat, and ended up a bigger and stupider army.
As Prime Minister (1999-2001) he missed a chance for a peace accord with Syria, and he stood aside during the events of October 2000, when 13 Arab citizens of Israel were killed by the police while they were demonstrating their anger at the government’s policies. A commission of inquiry headed by Supreme Court Judge Theodor Orr found him responsible for failing to provide guidance to the police on how to respond, but took no measures against him. He was largely responsible for the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, after he permitted Ariel Sharon, then the leader of the Opposition, to tour the mosque compound in Jerusalem. President Yasser Arafat begged Barak (including during a visit to his home) not to authorize the visit, because it would ignite unrest, but Barak refused. The visit went ahead, and the expected Palestinian uprising then occurred, the first stages of which were non-violent; but the Israeli army tried to suppress it with live bullets, causing many casualties among Palestinian civilians, which contributed to the choice to use violence on the Palestinian side as well. That does not justify the attacks by suicide bombers, who killed many Israeli civilians, and on whom an aura of sainthood was conferred. One war-crime does not justify another war-crime.
In July 2000 Barak went to Camp David for peace talks with Yasser Arafat under the auspices of US President Bill Clinton. Barak returned from there with the statement “Arafat’s true face has been revealed – there is no partner for peace.” The press then reported that “Barak offered to return 90% of the territory and was answered with refusal”. But a glance at the map that Barak proposed explains the refusal. That ten percent that Barak left in Israeli hands was like the ten percent of a prison where the guards are, from which they control the 90 percent of the space where the prisoners live. Barak’s version was well-absorbed into the Israeli consciousness and was the direct cause of the shattering of the Left, from which it has not yet recovered.
As Prime Minister he promoted the privatization of public assets.
As Defence Minister in Olmert’s government he was one of those responsible for the crimes of Operation Cast Lead, and as Defence Minister in Netanyahu’s government he was one of the authors of Israel’s peace-rejectionism. One of his roles was to soften that refusal in contacts with the Americans under the guise of a “moderate”. Barak has experience in disguises: as a soldier he disguised himself as a woman in an operation to assassinate PLO leaders in Lebanon’s capital Beirut, an operation that was given the pastoral name “Spring of Youth” (April 1973). Construction in the settlements increased while he was Prime Minister. His “moderation” was a pretence. As Defence Minister he was of course a central figure in preparing the army for independent action against the nuclear facilities in Iran, an action that was planned for the autumn of this year and postponed under American pressure. Now they’re talking about implementing it in spring 2013. Prepare for war with Iran.
I shed no tears over Barak’s departure, but I fear that he will yet return, because in the past he left and then returned after making a few million bucks to feather his nest.
Wonders of Israel
In a report on an agreement between two religious and nationalist parties, the Jewish Home and the National Union, both of which contain many settlers from the zones of Occupation and apartheid, to go to Knesset elections on a joint list, I came across the name of Orit Struk. She is a candidate for the Knesset on the new unified list. Struk is a hard-line settler from Hebron. She heads an organization that absurdly bears the name “Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria”. You will not believe this, but in Wikipedia she receives the honourable description of a “human rights activist”. I doubt that even George Orwell, author of Animal Farm, could have imagined such a strange phenomenon. This lady lives in an occupied area in Hebron that has been ethnically cleansed. She enjoys the privileges granted to members of the ruling nation, who rob the lands of the neighbouring peoples. She and her husband have raised a brood of many children, one of whom was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for abusing a young Palestinian and killing a goat. She complained at the court’s having believed the testimony of Arabs, like a Ku Klux Klansman in the US who complained about courts believing Blacks or a German anti-Semite who couldn’t forgive a judge for having believed a Jew. In the Book of Exodus, Jews are enjoined as follows in the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (20:07)
As I see it, Orit Struk has sinned twice: she takes the name of the Lord in vain. Her god is an idol of stones and hatred of the other, and my God commands love of the stranger and forbids defrauding them (Deuteronomy). Moreover, she takes the name of human rights in vain, because human rights are just that: rights for all human beings, regardless of geographical and national divisions. Human rights for the ruling nation is an oxymoron. She should read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in advance of Human Rights Day, which falls on 10 December.
Along with Orit Struk’s organization there is another organization, which bears the name “Judicial Forum for the Land of Israel”. A primary mission of the Forum is to put everything that is published by leftists under a magnifying-glass and then to file complaints with the police, using the threat of prosecution in the service of the Department of Silencing People (metaphor). And there is also a right-wing academic organization called Israel Academia Monitor, which monitors publications by members of the academic staffs of Israeli universities and colleges, and if, God forbid, a professor or lecturer publishes a critique of Israel or signs a petition critical of the polities of the Israeli authorities, they report the matter to whomever must be reported to, and in some cases even demand criminal prosecution. They want a North Korean academy. The next government might give it to them. One People, One God, One University and One Leader.
1. Allusion to a talmudic parable about a servant who, having been charged with the task of buying a fish at the market, brought his master a rotten one. For this infraction his master instructed the servant to choose one of three punishments, the first of which was to eat the rotten fish. Due to his poor judgement and lack of willpower, the servant ended up receiving all three punishments instead of only one.
2. ``Order 8`` (Heb. ``tzav 8``). Emergency call-up for military duty of civilians who are in the army reserves.
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent