|By: Gideon Spiro|
10 March 2013
Warriors of the stones
Operation Pillar of Cloud (AKA “Pillar of Defence”) provoked demonstrations by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Most of the demonstrators were youth and students who expressed their protest by, among other ways, throwing stones at the forces of the Occupation: soldiers and settlers. The young Palestinians stood exposed before the soldiers of the Occupation army who were armed with deadly equipment, which they used. Several youths were killed and hundreds were wounded. Using the military language of the Occupation, the commanders described the actions of their soldiers who opened fire as “restrained”.
And indeed, since the Israeli occupiers could have killed a hundred demonstrators, three killed is “restraint”. The military correspondents, who generally act as an extension of the Military Spokesman in the press, also adopted that characterization. According to that logic, every Israeli military action is “restraint”. The nearly two thousand killed in Operation Cast Lead was an example of this “restraint”, for they certainly could have killed ten thousand. And Operation Pillar of Cloud was also an expression of this Israeli “restraint”, because instead of merely wiping out two Palestinian families and wounding hundreds, they could have caused ten times as many casualties.
In other words: it doesn’t matter how aggressive an Israeli operation is or how many casualties it causes; it will always be “restrained”, because it could always be worse. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a German who sat in the same compartment with me in a train from Paris to Frankfurt, who told me at one point that one should always look on the positive side in life. For example, he said, look at the killing of the Jews in the Second World War. It could have been a lot worse.
On Friday 8 February the confrontations between the children of the stones and the forces of the Occupation reached the mosque compound in Jerusalem, and the Occupation police stormed the holy mosque, filled the whole area with tear gas, stun grenades and plastic bullets, and dispersed the demonstrators. The casualties comprised “only” wounded people, due to – how could it be otherwise? – the “restraint” of the police.
These confrontations between the warriors of the stones and the forces of the Occupation have raised the question of whether we are on the verge of a third Intifada. Army commanders, who in Israel are considered experts on the Palestinian issue, are trying to reassure the worried Israeli public: there is no Intifada in sight, they say: the Palestinians are tired, they have no energy. These commanders have already proved in the past that their oppression of the Palestinians does not make them experts. In fact they failed to anticipate the first Intifada, and the second as well.
The truth of the matter is that a popular uprising has been going on for the past few years. It fluctuates in intensity – it goes up and down. But there has never been a complete cessation. The warriors of the stones are today a Palestinian David facing the Israeli Goliath. Naturally my solidarity is with the Palestinian David who is struggling to throw off the chains of the Occupation.
Arafat Jaradat, RIP
Arafat Jaradat, 30, married, father of two, with a pregnant wife, a third-year university student in political science, was arrested by the Israel Security Agency (ISA – Shin Bet) on suspicion of having participated in a demonstration at which stones were thrown at soldiers of the Occupation. He was transferred to the Megiddo jail, interrogated for five days, and died. The ISA played innocent and claimed that the causes of Jaradat’s death are unknown. So a young man died suddenly with no advance warning. The Palestinians claimed that he died of torture. His family reported that he had been healthy.
A Palestinian doctor observed the autopsy at the government pathological institute at Abu Kabir. The results were not surprising. The controversy was not resolved. The Israeli doctor claimed that there were no signs of torture and that the cause of death was unknown, and the Palestinian doctor claimed that signs of beatings were visible on Jaradat’s body. That’s what the file looked like. But it just looked that way.
I have come to the conclusion that Jaradat did not die but was murdered by torture at the hands of ISA interrogators. I conclude this not from the Palestinian report but from the ISA report according to which Jaradat was examined five times during five days of interrogation. The announcement was intended to clear the ISA’s name, but ironically it was self-incriminating.
As a member of Physicians for Human Rights, I have a fairly good idea about how the ISA conducts interrogations. Why was Jaradat examined five times in the five days of his interrogation? Because that is the modus operandi of the ISA. The prisoner is tortured and after a torture session he is taken to a doctor who is sitting near the torture-chamber who examines the prisoner and informs the interrogators that the prisoner is fit to undergo another round of torture. These doctors are betraying their profession and their oath. Jaradat was interrogated and taken to a doctor or doctors who were on duty at the time, they examined him and gave him a clean bill of health, which means he’s fit for another session of torture. Relying on the doctors, the ISA interrogators subjected Jaradat to intense tortures the accumulated effects of which Jaradat could not withstand. That is how Hannah Senesh,  who became a symbol, was murdered, and that is how Jaradat, who has also become a symbol, was murdered. Forty thousand people, from all the Palestinian factions, attended his funeral. With its wickedness, its baseness and its stupidity, the ISA has had a hand in promoting the Palestinian national ethos.
The New York Times recently published a report according to which the number of Palestinians who have been arrested (and/or interrogated and/or tortured and/or stripped – G.S.) by the forces of the Israeli Occupation over the course of the 45 years of the Occupation has reached the fantastical figure of 800 thousand. This news should have shaken the roof-beams, but that did not happen. Except for a small number of human-rights activists, the report produced no signs of unease in Israeli society. This fact places Israel among the top-ranking regimes of oppression in history.
Eight hundred thousand constitutes nearly a third of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories (the West Bank and Gaza Strip). If we add the Palestinians that the Israeli Occupation has killed over the course of the Occupation, the number rises by a few thousand more.
These figures confirm my suspicions, which I have expressed more than once, that there has been a consistent effort on the part of Israeli governments to break the spirit of the Palestinian people, to drive them to despair, to instill in them the conviction that they have no chance of being free, that it is their fate to live without human or civil rights. In other words, we are confronted with a policy of destroying a people – not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual and psychological sense. The forty-five years of Occupation, on the one hand, which have not caused Israel to be isolated, and the large-scale theft that is the settlement enterprise on the other, which has been met with indifference on the part of the international community, which sees itself as a friend of Israel, have fostered Israeli racism and instilled in many Israelis a feeling of superiority which causes them to see this spiritual and psychological destruction as a natural process that is proceeding as a matter of course. The Palestinians are destined to be the `damned of the Earth` and `prisoners of starvation`, as the original lyrics of `The Internationale` put it. In this context, the need for an international boycott of Israel to undermine Israeli racism and apartheid takes on particular urgency. The longer the Occupation and oppression last, the harder and more painful will be the eventual fall.
Mississippi in Israel
The situation in Mississippi in the 1950s – of a White regime that burned Black churches, forced the Blacks into separate public transportation and carried out racially-motivated lynchings – is slowly coming into being in Israel with a delay of 60 years. The Occupation regime has acceded to the settlers` demands to bar Palestinians from using Israeli public transportation. Lynch attacks by Jews against Arabs are on the rise. In Tiberias an Arab couple who had gone to relax by Lake Kinneret was attacked by a group of Jews. They beat the man badly and tried to drown him in the lake. He needed several operations on his face. In Tel Aviv a municipal street-cleaner, an Israeli Arab, was beaten all over his body and had to be hospitalized. In West Jerusalem a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem was beaten by young Jewish women. Also in Jerusalem two teachers, a Jewish woman and an Arab woman, were attacked by yeshiva students. The Jewish woman was cursed to the effect of `shameless Jewish bitch who rides with an Arab`, and the car was smashed and its tires slashed. A 60-year-old Arab woman was attacked by youths in Upper Nazareth. All this happened within ten days. Neither the Prime Minister nor any of his ministers issued any condemnation. I am reminded of the film Mississipi Burning.
Pollard - not the Saint of the Generation
In advance of President Obama`s visit to Israel, a petition is being circulated to demand that Jonathan Pollard be amnestied. He has been in prison for 28 years, and indeed, that is more than enough. I support the request to amnesty him, but let us take care not to convert him into a martyr. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat crossed the line with his decision to confer on Pollard the Jerusalem Freedom Award. Let us remember that Pollard was recruited as a spy who sold his merchandise to Israeli intelligence for substantial sums of money. No ideology; just greed.
While sitting in prison, he tried to upgrade his actions retroactively and to confer on them the ideological motivation of aiding Israel. In a gradual process he grew a beard, began to wear a kippa and became a Repentant Jew. If you want to buy this maneouvre – be my guest. I am very skeptical. The Israeli government itself did not ascribe to Pollard a moral motive of aiding Israel either, for it returned to the US the material that Pollard had provided and expressed regret at having spied on a friend, thereby contributing to Pollard`s conviction and life sentence.
There are grounds for requesting Pollard`s release on humanitarian grounds, and also on the grounds that in the civilized world the usual practice is for a life sentence not to actually last for the rest of a convict`s life. Pollard seems to meet that criterion.
A new government
Within a few days there will be a new government. There will be more opportunities to write about the government and its ways. But it is already clear that it will not be good news. The Occupation and apartheid will continue, as will construction in the settlements. Peace will not break out. Clouds of war are visible on the horizon. The rich will get richer and the poor will continue to rummage through garbage bins. It would be nice if I were wrong.