A toothless condemnation
A spokeswoman of the US State Department condemned the Israeli government’s decision to build thousands of houses in settlements in East Jerusalem, on the other side of the Green Line. The spokeswoman said that the US is disappointed at the pattern of repeated provocations in construction in the Occupied Territories. This condemnation, even if it has a certain verbal severity, is not worth a fig if it is not accompanied by actions. The government of Israel is pissing from the diving-board on the US and the European Community in full knowledge that the condemnations are mere lip-service, because the US will continue to provide Israel with weapons and billions of dollars and will continue to veto every Resolution at the Security Council that criticizes Israel’s policy of colonization and war. We who support peace and human rights and oppose the Occupation say to President Obama in his second term: there is no point in verbal condemnation if it is not accompanied by economic and military sanctions. Stop giving Israel aircraft and missiles, stop the flow of money that helps Israel perpetuate the Occupation and the apartheid regime, the theft of lands and shooting at a civilian population. The same appeal goes out to Chancellor Angela Merkel: Netanyayu is smiling to himself when at a press conference he hears you utter a rebuke that is mild and nearly friendly, like `we have agreed to disagree`. On the other hand, if your disagreement with the policies of Israel in the Occupied Territories is accompanied by, for example, halting the delivery of submarines to Israel, submarines that carry nuclear weapons, he will stop smiling and understand that you are serious. This appeal goes out to all states that see themselves as friends of Israel: it is necessary to impose sanctions on Israel as long as the Occupation continues. Stop supplying the thief with burglary tools. Only thus will the government and citizens of Israel understand that the Occupation has a painful price.
The corrupt politician
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is a combination of Berlusconi and Putin. From Berlusconi he takes his hedonism and enrichment by underhanded means, and from Putin he takes his despotism.
Lieberman is suspected of having recieved millions of dollars and euros through straw companies that he and his people set up all over the world, either in his name or the names of family members or those of his underlings. As a public official he was not allowed to accept that money. He conducted shady deals with criminals. Some of the straw companies were registered in various tax-shelters, a well-known way to avoid paying taxes.
I have no problem with people who are not happy about paying taxes while billions are wasted on financing war crimes like the Occupation and the settlements, to finance a bloated army, the Israel Security Agency (ISA - Shin Bet) and the Mossad, the reactor and Dimona and the Israeli nuclear bombs, and who seek ways to reduce to a minimum their tax burden. Those people do not pretend to be patriots, for to them it is impossible to be a patriot of a colonial state that maintains a regime of Occupation and apartheid. Nelson Mandela was not a patriot of South Africa under the Apartheid regime; he was its declared enemy, and the same is true of opponents of Israeli apartheid, at least the ones I know.
But Lieberman is a patriot of the oppressive Israel of the Occupation which tramples human rights underfoot. He is a settler in a remote settlement which costs millions of shekels. He is the inventor of the slogan “No citizenship without loyalty”. One might think that at least he would invest his millions to finance Israeli ventures; but go find a fascist with decency! This patriot costs the State a vast amount of money which would have been better spent on other things, such as the struggle against poverty, and he also evades taxes like the last of the hypocrites. Where his money is concerned, he has no loyalty to the State. On his own terms he should be stripped of his Israeli citizenship.
In light of the fact that his companies and his money are spread out all over the world, the police were forced to send investigators to the ends of the Earth in to find documents and evidence to back up the case against him. On the basis of the documents that were found the police believed that there were grounds to put Lieberman on trial under laws that would put him in jail for many years. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein declared a year and a half ago that he was considering putting Lieberman on trial for a string of economic crimes.
A year and a half has passed and the Attorney General has changed direction and closed the file on the grounds that it is difficult to summon witnesses. The Director of the Economic Department of the State Attorney’s Office , like as well as the State Attorney and police investigators, still believe that the documents that have already been compiled still suffice, and justify a strong indictment with good chances of conviction. What caused the Attorney General’s change of heart? The formal pretext of difficulty summoning witnesses is no more than an escape-hatch. I share the view of those who claim Weinstein was reminded by certain parties that before his appointment as Attorney General he had served as the defence lawyer for members of the country’s political and economic elite and that he was chosen for his current position so that he could help those with power and wealth escape the clutches of justice. Accordingly the file was closed on the major case against Lieberman, who is now celebrating with the millions that remain in his pocket.
But letting him off scot-free is not an option either. Faced with public criticism of the decision to close the major economic-crimes file, the Attorney General decided to put Lieberman on trial for a relatively trivial violation related to an illegitimate appointment he made within the Foreign Ministry.
That minor indictment means that Lieberman can consider himself exonerated and declare that what had taken place was not really a crime. He now hopes that by the time the elections take place the whole judicial process will have been completed and he can go back to being an MK and senior Minister. But at this point matters get a bit complicated. Weinstein has been accused by legal experts, mainly academic ones but also from the media, of acting as a servant of the elite when he closed the major file against Lieberman, rather than as the holder of a senior public office that requires independent judgment detached from the governmental teat. That critique apparently hit a nerve, with the result that Weinstein is standing on his hind legs to prove by means of the minor indictment that he has not lost his independence. As these lines are being written Weinstein is maintaining that Lieberman will receive a conviction with moral turpitude, which will prevent him from serving in the next Knesset and maybe in the government as well. Lieberman’s best chance is for a quick plea-bargain without moral turpitude. Will the Attorney-General fold again? Will Lieberman be removed from political life, or will he return to the government as a conquering hero? This is going to be interesting.
In praise of being scared and running away
Embarrassment and shock within the Right. Television news reported on an incident in the Occupied Territories in which a group of armed soldiers was seen running away when a group of Palestinian children and youths threw stones at them. A shame and a disgrace! – cried the settlers. A Jewish army withdrawing in a confrontation with children? How can such a thing be? Such images will cause Israel to lose its power of deterrence, they added in sanctimonious wrath. In their opinion the soldiers should have used their weapons and shot the children. Those vampires want to see the blood of Palestinian children. The military command tried to soften the blow a little by using terminology more pleasing to the colonial Israeli ear. They weren’t running away, said the Chief of Staff, his Spokesman and the army’s lackeys in the press; it was a “withdrawal in order to regroup”.
No one who saw the images on television will buy that spin. The soldiers were indeed in flight, loaded down with steel helmets, guns, ammunition and communications equipment. I am not in the habit of speaking of the Occupation army in positive terms, for after all, its role contradicts all the democratic values that guide defenders of human rights. But this time I would like to congratulate the soldiers who fled. They did well by not shooting at the children. Their flight was the expression of a healthy instinct not to get themselves involved in the war-crime of shooting children. Running away created a distance between themselves and the small stones (children don’t throw boulders, after all) that were being thrown a short distance, and the outcome was that no one got hurt.
I admit without shame that I am on the side of the Palestinian children. First of all because in general I am always with those who are struggling for freedom from foreign rule, with the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter, the beaten against the beater and the victim against the aggressor; but also because they reminded me of my childhood under British rule. As children we provoked the British occupiers more than once, sometimes even throwing stones, but we knew that they would not shoot at us. That is not the case for today’s Palestinian children. They know that soldiers and police of the Israeli Occupation army will shoot even at children. In 45 years of Occupation several hundred children have been killed by the Israeli occupier – army, police, ISA and settlers. The number may even exceed a thousand. Unlike us Jews during the British Mandate, Palestinian children endanger their lives when they protest against the occupier and the Occupation. Children are the most vulnerable group subject to this Occupation, in all its evil and filth.
Protest by Palestinian children is pure. They are not Fatah or Hamas. Their protest is distilled to its essence; they take their lives into their hands. There is primeval heroism here, of a Palestinian David with his sling against the ugly fat Israeli Goliath, armed from head to toe as he confronts a Palestinian child with a stone in his hand. If I were younger and fitter I would join them, not necessarily throwing stones, but I would be present as an expression of solidarity with their protest and struggle against what my State is doing to them: shooting them, killing and wounding them, invading schools and pulling children out by day, while by night brutally bursting into their homes, waking them up and hauling them off to detention camps. There are international conventions on the rights of children, but they are not recognized in the Occupied Territories, or even in East Jerusalem which has supposedly been annexed to Israel, but where in fact the Israeli regime relates to Palestinians like the population of an occupied territory.
I have been an activist against the Occupation nearly since it began, in every form and framework of activism. I was one of the founders of the Committee Against the “Iron Fist” that Rabin declared as Defence Minister in the Likud-Labour government in the 1980s, the first Israeli-Palestinian committee of its kind since the beginning of the Occupation in June 1967. The late Faisal Husseini and I served as spokesmen for the Committee. I participated in more than a few activities against the Occupation along with Palestinian allies. I took part in a work camp at the Deheisheh refugee camp (in the 1980s) organized by the Israeli Committee in Solidarity with Bir Zeit University. While the camp was in progress the military governor and his retinue came and stopped the work. Nothing scares the Israeli Establishment more than Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. And despite all that, every time I meet Palestinian children I feel the same kind of shame that Germans of conscience feel when they encounter Jews.
The grim impression left on the public in Israel by the image of the fleeing soldiers was replaced a few days later by a feeling of euphoria: a policewoman on duty at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron killed a 17 year old Palestinian youth, Muhammad al-Salayma, with three shots. The official version states that the youth attacked a policeman and pulled a gun out of his pocket, whereupon the policewoman killed him. It later turned out that it was a toy gun. The policewoman became an Israeli heroine. She is being referred to as a “fighter”  – a title of great honour in Israel – as is the policeman who was attacked. She was interviewed on television and in the press, she had an audience with the General Commissioner of the Israel Police, and in reply to the questions of journalists who made no effort to conceal their sympathy, she simply said, “that’s what I was trained for and that’s what was expected of me.” And indeed, that is the sad truth – first you kill an Arab youth and afterwards you find out that he wasn’t endangering anyone. Let us assume for a moment that the policewoman thought that there was a real danger; she could have shot him in the leg and thereby put him out of action. But then we would have been left with one more live Arab on this Earth, which is simply intolerable. As she said: they trained her to kill. In a telephone conversation with her mother, which was also broadcast on television, the mother expressed her pride in her daughter. And most Israelis feel the same way. How many women can feel pride at the killing of a young Palestinian? She did a great deed, and as far as the Israeli on the street is concerned, the leftists can go blow themselves up for all they care; they will not spoil the celebration. One of these days, no doubt, the Government of Israel’s Film Service will make a propaganda movie about her.
No miracle happened here
The Jews have recently finished celebrating the feast of Hanukkah. According to tradition, Hanukkah is a feast of miracles. The miracle of the cruse of oil, about which, according to what we have been told, when the Hasmoneans wanted to reconsecrate the Temple and light the candelabrum, they found only one cruse of pure olive oil, which normally should have sufficed for only one day.
Miraculously, it kept the candelabrum burning for eight days. And of course there was also the miracle of the victory of the Hasmoneans over the Greeks. None of that would have happened if the Almighty had not been enlisted on the side of the Jews.
Many wondrous events occurred thousands of years ago and have not been repeated. For example, the parting of the Red Sea: “And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22). Moses is the only person who spoke to God face-to-face.
Every year, on the eve of Hanukkah, I anxiously wait for some miracle to occur, and nothing happens. No sea is parted, no talking to God – no one knows how to call Him; and a quantity of olive oil sufficient for only one bowl of salad has never suddenly sufficed for eight in my home. Nor have any miracles happened in politics. Netanyahu has not disappeared, Lieberman has not disappeared, the settlers have not disappeared and peace remains stuck. As in the words of the song, “No miracle has happened to us, we have found no cruse of oil” (Nes lo qara lanu, pach shemen lo matza’nu” – lyrics, Aharon Ze’ev, music, Mordechai Zeira). What is clear at this point is that God is not with us – i.e. those who seek peace and international fraternity. But then this thought occurs to me: maybe there is more than one god? A god for the good and a god for the wicked, a god of war and a god of peace, a god of equality and a god of social rifts, a god of the poor and a god of the rich, a god of swinish capitalism and a god of democratic socialism, a god of Rabbis for Human Rights and a god of the settler rabbis? And there is more. An unsentimental and cruel struggle is being waged among all those gods. At the moment, the god of the wicked has the upper hand. But I do not despair. Maybe next year the pendulum of miracles will swing the other way, in favor the good.
A visit to Ramallah
Last Saturday I violated the ordinances of the Israeli Occupation and visited a friend in the Bantustan of Ramallah. My friend is a senior figure in the Palestinian leadership. It is a pleasure to talk with him and hear his views. Those who go to Ramallah are compelled to travel along Apartheid Highway 443. All along the route, on both sides, the traveller sees fences and walls to prevent the villages near the highway from having access to it. It is not just Gaza that is a big prison; the West Bank too is an even larger detention camp in effect.
I strolled through the streets of Ramallah on my way to meet my friend. Its main streets are teeming with people and there are many shops, but that gives a false impression. The city is under occupation. The Palestinian Authority has no real authority except for sewage disposal and suchlike. My friend tells me that Ramallah’s being in Area A, which supposedly means that it is under Palestinian control, has no practical meaning, because the Israeli Occupation army enters Ramallah to carry out Aktionen (actions in German) whenever it wants to arrest people or seize property. Only recently soldiers of the Occupation Army entered the city in a convoy of vehicles, broke into the offices of various non-governmental organizations, seized computers, stole thousands of shekels and left destruction and ruin behind them. The authority of the Authority in such cases resembles the authority enjoyed by the Judenrat when the German army decided to enter the Ghetto. I must emphasize here that the Israeli actions do not include sending people to extermination camps, thank God. At this point they are satisfied with detention camps and torture basements. But in all that has to do with the occupier’s treatment of the occupied – their humiliation, seeing them as sub-human and so on – there is more than a little similarity between the two occupiers.
To all those who will repeat the mantra, “you can’t compare”, I continue to insist that not only is it possible, it is also necessary, with the correct context. Here is what Dr. Amos Goldberg of Hebrew University wrote on the occasion of the publication of the Hebrew edition of Raul Hilberg’s book The Destruction of the European Jews:
It seems that in the vast sea of studies, through some process of natural selection, the Hebrew reader has been denied access to most of the works that could have the effect of moderating the uniqueness of the Holocaust on the one hand and link it to phenomena of nationalist racism, modern nationalism’s desire for purification, colonial violence, expulsions and ethnic cleansing, territorial expansion and bureaucratic mechanisms of occupation – phenomena which are not so foreign to our region and which would convert the discourse of the Holocaust to an internal discussion of the justice of our own ways, on the other. In other words, it appears that the public in Israel is interested in remembering the Holocaust in a way that will strengthen its self-consciousness as the ultimate victim, and is less interested in understanding it as a complex historical phenomenon that points to the dangers of racism and modern nationalism, especially in their colonial contexts. Maybe the publication of Raul Hilberg’s book, if more than half a century late, will change this situation.” (Haaretz literary supplement, 21 November 2012)
What is called the “Peace Process” is nothing but a code-word for the perpetuation of the Occupation. I asked my friend: ‘Why doesn’t Abu Mazen hand the keys over to the government of Israel and say, “we are fed up with living under Occupation and apartheid, you have convinced us that now that you’ve transferred half a million Jews to the Occupied Territories the vision of a Palestinian state has become unrealistic: we give up on an independent Palestinian state. Annex all the Territories. We will accept civil rights and together we will create a democratic state, a state of all its citizens.” If Israel agrees, so much the better; and if not, the racism will be exposed in all its nakedness.’
To which my friend replied: “That is on the agenda. I have discussed it with Abu Mazen. It will come as a surprise, at a time that is most inconvenient to the Israelis.” The world will then see the real Israel, which has not been Jewish for some time now, because there are five million Palestinians in the territory under its control, and its denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians means that it is not democratic. The war with the Palestinians has become in effect a civil war between masters and slaves. We are waiting for a Spartacus who will lead the slave rebellion.
1. Or “warrior” – lohem in Hebrew. Feminine: lohemet.
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent