|By: Gideon Spiro|
16 November 2013 (English translation 23 November)
The Krystallnacht pogrom
For me, the month of November, especially the period between the 4th of the month and the 10th, is a period of ritual mourning, if in secular form. On 4 November the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated, and the 9th of the month is the anniversary of the pogroms against the Jews of Germany known as Krystallnacht . We have adopted the German name of the pogrom, which does not reflect the gravity of the event. If it were up to me it would be referred to by date, like the pogroms of 5408-09,  and we would call it the pogrom of November 1938.
There are more than a few points of similarity between the two events. Here are some of them:
Let us begin with the immediate pretexts: in both cases the noxious fumes were spread in consequence of actions that reinforced the negative labelling of a collective of human beings. In the case of Krystallnacht, the murder of Ernst vom Rath, the Third Secretary at the German Embassy in Paris, at the hands of Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Jewish native of Poland whose family had been expelled from Germany, ignited the pogrom. The murder reinforced the satanic picture of the Jews as a violent gang that was sticking a knife into the back of the nation. In the case of Rabin’s assassination, the agreement between Rabin’s government and the PLO and the public handshake on the White House grounds between Rabin and Arafat confirmed in the minds of many their impression of the Israeli Left as a bunch of traitors who were willing to sell Israel’s birth-right to the enemy in return for a mess of pottage  (Poor Rabin, there wasn’t a left-wing bone in his body). In both cases we are dealing with an extremist, fanatical, nationalistic and racist Right; in both cases, the event was preceded by rampaging mendacious incitement; in both cases, the victims were portrayed as traitors. The perpetrators portrayed the victims with imagery that aroused hostility, positions and opinions were falsely attributed to the victims and in both cases leaders who orchestrated the incitement were behind the crimes. In such an environment people can always will be found who are willing to burn, destroy and kill.
In a nutshell, it can be said that many of the negative qualities the Nazis attributed to the Jews are attributed to the Israeli Left by the Israeli Right. One need only read the inflammatory articles against the Left by Maariv’s Ben-Dror Yemini and his supporters in the media, the “Torah commentaries” distributed in synagogues every Sabbath which preach hatred of the Goyim and call for their expulsion and the appropriation of their property, the bills the extreme Right sponsors every week in the Knesset with the objective of doing away with human-rights organizations, the harassment of academics by Ronen Shoval’s fascist “Im Tirtzu” movement and the hateful catcalls from motorists as they pass demonstrations by Women in Black, to understand where we’re headed.
Was Rabin in fact a traitor? I mean treason as the Right sees it – that is, willingness to return all the Occupied Territories to Arafat, dismantle the settlements and set up an enemy state in the heart of the Holy Land in return for a fake peace? Were the Jews disloyal to Germany? Were they part of an international financial mafia that sought to take over the world? The answers to these questions are of course negative.
Regarding Rabin there is a double paradox. Not only was he no enemy of the settlers; he was their loyal friend. He embraced them not with words but with deeds. He did not dismantle a single settlement. After the Goldstein massacre he was advised to seize that unique opportunity to remove from Hebron the gang of crazy criminal settlers that had become a permanent headache to us. Rabin refused. He preferred to kill several Palestinians in the demonstrations that followed the massacre and to impose a curfew on Goldstein’s victims while permitting freedom of movement to the murderer’s supporters. After the Oslo Accord he thoughtfully built bypass roads so the settlers would not have to see any Arabs on their way home. Eitan Haber, who was the manager of Rabin’s office, periodically taunts the Likud by pointing out that Rabin never spoke of a Palestinian state, he did not dismantle any settlements like Sharon and he did not withdraw from Hebron like Netanyahu. Unlike Olmert, he was not willing to compromise on Jerusalem, and to him 60% of the Occupied Territories was not subject to negotiation.
In an article I published in the late lamented newspaper Davar under the heading “The weakness of the Oslo Accord”, I wrote: “The Israeli army is carrying on with the routine of the Occupation: brutalizing and humiliating Palestinians; the Shimshon and Duvdevan units continue to carry out extrajudicial executions; thousands of Palestinians still languish in Israeli prisons; the Civil Administration continues to confiscate land; the government of Israel is expanding the settlements … the Rabin government is successfully applying its extraordinary skill to making the Israeli people sick of peace, which will lead to the Right’s rise to power”. (Davar, 30 January 1995) Nevertheless, the rage of the settlers did not subside, and the rabbis in the Occupied Territories issued a ruling that Rabin was a “rodef”,  with the result that we all know. In other words, Rabin was murdered for a “crime” that was in reality no crime by the criteria of the Right. After the assassination some in the Israeli Left, especially the Zionist Left, made a similar error when they ascribed to him – no doubt with good intentions – positions that he never held, thereby upgrading Rabin to an Angel of Peace.
In Krystallnacht many Jews shared Rabin’s fate. They were murdered for no crime they committed after a campaign of incitement put false labels on them. They were not traitors, they were not members of any international mafia; they were loyal German citizens. They had fought in Germany’s wars, worked its land, enriched its culture and loved its language, but the inflamed masses believed the lies of the German equivalent of the Yesha Council,  whose leaders had issued a “din rodef” against the “traitorous” Jews.
And there are still more points of similarity. There, synagogues were burned; here mosques are burned. There the police turned a blind eye, and here too the police and the Israel Security Agency, which yank sleeping Palestinian children out of their beds at night, suddenly find themselves powerless to do anything, and close files on pretexts such as “unknown perpetrator” or “no public interest”. There, Jewish shops were looted and display windows smashed; here the settlers do similar things: they shoot at water-tanks, break windows of private homes, burn cars, beat Palestinians and sometimes shoot and wound and kill; but their main area of expertise is uprooting Palestinian farmers’ olive trees.
At the Yad Vashem institute there was a memorial ceremony and rally to mark the 75th anniversary of Krystallnacht. Who were the speakers? Yuli Edelstein, Dina Porat and Reuven Merhav. Yuli Edelstein is the Speaker of the Knesset and a settler, a party to the crimes of the Occupation; Prof. Dina Porat is Yad Vashem’s chief historian, who minutely scrutinizes every manifestation of what she considers to be antisemitism anywhere in the world, however trivial it may be, but gives no reasonable weight to the universal lessons to be learned from the Holocaust, such as the importance of mobilizing against the racism that is flourishing in Israel (otherwise the settler Yuli Edelstein would not have been invited to speak at a rally in commemoration of the victims of racism). In this light it is not surprising that she stands in defence of Israel in every international forum; Reuven Merhav is the the chairman of the presidium of the Association of Israelis from Central Europe, who served the Occupation as the director-general of the Foreign Ministry and in the Mossad, as well as occupying some position in the Claims Conference, a Jewish umbrella organization that has been given recognition as the heir of Jewish property “for which heirs have not been found”, and consequently the property of my aunt, for example, instead of returning to the family, or at least being channelled to needy Holocaust survivors, is transferred to the Claims Conference. The organization has accumulated hundreds of millions which pay for huge salaries, luxurious offices and lavish lawyers’ fees, money which could have raised above the poverty line thousands of Holocaust survivors who are living in misery.
Nearly every night the settlers stage some kind of krystallnacht against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Yad Vashem has nothing to say about that. No official statement, no condemnation. The organization’s managers are silent. No wonder some people see the management of Yad Vashem as Holocaust-mongers in the service of the policies of Occupation and apartheid.
So – what then? Is it all the same thing? Rabin, Krystallnacht, apartheid?
Yes and no. All racists are nourished through the same toxic taproot and so there are patterns of action and behaviour common to German racists and Jewish racists in Israel, just as there is much in common between the German democrats and their Jewish counterparts. Along with the similarities there are of course differences due to the unique circumstances of each country. As a native of Berlin who was exiled from Germany by racism, it is but natural that the struggle against racism in my original homeland as well as in the country to which I immigrated should be seared into my DNA. The public interest in marking the 75th anniversary of the Krystallnacht pogrom leads naturally to an examination of similar phenomena in the country of the victims – Israel – which has learned no lessons. And indeed, the points of similarity are alarming to me, and I am not obliged to wait until the Israeli fascist coalition, which is today a partner in the government, takes over completely and sets up a “Jewish and democratic” version of Bergen-Belsen in the Negev.
In closing, a personal observation: I am one of the few still living who were in both Berlin during Krystallnacht and Israel when Rabin was assassinated. I call this month Black November. But I have no chance of being invited to speak at any official memorial rally, because my heart and my lips speak as one, and what I write here I would say at the rally. Yad Vashem has many professors and few outlets for opinions that diverge from the consensus.
The murder of Arafat
After President Arafat died in a military hospital in France, the doctors announced that they could not determine the cause of his death. My friend the late Dr. Amnon Kapeliouk, one of the best journalists and Middle East scholars Israel has ever had, told me that based on interviews he conducted he had no doubt that Israel had a hand in Arafat’s death. And he wrote that in his last book, which was published in France. Now Kapeliouk’s working premise has scientific backing. A respected scientific institute in Switzerland which analysed samples from Arafat’s body taken from his grave in Ramallah has published its findings, according to which a fatal dose of polonium was found in Arafat’s body. Polonium is a highly toxic radioactive material, a small amount of which can kill a human being. Polonium is not owned by private individuals but by governments. The scientists determined that Arafat was poisoned by polonium and that is what caused his death. Now we need only put two and two together. Sharon is the prime minister of Israel who deeply loathes Arafat. Sharon, a military man, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Israel has accumulated a great deal of experience in the extra-judicial execution of political activists, including heads of state. The Israeli army contains death-squads whose duty is to kill/liquidate/murder leaders based on a list of names, using the classical techniques of the underworld. Now the picture is clear. Sharon decided to slip polonium into Arafat’s food. Experts in death from the Israel Security Agency or the Mossad were assigned the task, perhaps with the help of a Palestinian collaborator who was planted in Arafat’s personal staff. Did Sharon want to send a message to Yigal Amir that there are more elegant ways to kill heads of state, without leaving any trace, instead of shooting the victim in the back in view of the whole world?
The prime minister and his ministers have to be aware of the fact that if it is permissible to them to assassinate ministers and heads of state, they too will become targets for assassination.
After Avigdor Lieberman was acquitted, I wrote in a short post on Facebook that corrupt judges had acquitted a corrupt politician. One reader asked me how they were corrupt. Had they received bribes? Did Lieberman meet with them privately and offer them kickbacks? There is no doubt that Lieberman, a millionaire on an international scale whose money is spread around in various front-companies registered in tax-shelters abroad, could slip every one of the three judges a million shekels or dollars and still have more than enough for himself, his children and his grandchildren. I have no evidence that he gave a bribe, nor is there any need for that. The acquittal was largely a matter of judicial arbitrariness. Based on the facts before them, the judges could have convicted him or acquitted him. The judges can say that the prosecution made an unimpressive case, leading to an acquittal, or they could make an opposite finding, casting doubt on the credibility of the witnesses for the defence, leading to a conviction.
The judges’ corruption takes the form of accepting the situation of discrimination, Occupation and all that derives from it as a natural state of affairs that does not detract from the democratic nature of the State. One of the three, Judge Yitzhak Shimoni, stood solidly behind the creeping transfer in Sheikh Jarrah and ruled that a Palestinian family of seven should be thrown into the street and their apartment handed over to settlers. Judge Hagit Mak-Kalmanovitz, the president of the court, acquitted a settler who shot at a Palestinian shepherd and then beat him bloody. She accepted the rotten premise that the settler-occupier who invades land that is not his is the legitimate owner and the local shepherd whose family has lived there for hundreds of years is an invader. In her eyes that is democratic jurisprudence. Therein lies the corruption. Whoever thinks that a justice system that produces such rulings from the magistrate level all the way up to the Supreme Court will be our salvation is living in a Hollywood movie. The justice system is part of the regime. There are a few just judges such as the late District Court Judge Dov Eitan, who signed a Yesh Gvul  petition against the war in Lebanon and was forced to resign. Later he resigned from his post as military judge in protest against the amnesty Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan gave to soldiers who had murdered Arabs. Where are such judges today?
A warning of impending disaster
The government has decided to remove hundreds of Bedouin from their village in the Negev and build in its place a settlement to be inhabited by religious Jews.
This is apparently the first course in the Prawer Plan to dispossess tens of thousands of Bedouin from their land and to concentrate them in ghettoes like Soweto, stricken with unemployment and poverty. The land the government stole from the Bedouin must be returned to them and they should be permitted to build agricultural villages with all the services that are provided to kibbutzim, moshavim and isolated Jewish farms in the Negev. We must stop the policy of theft and discrimination. The government is playing with fire here. It is pushing the Bedouin citizens of Israel down a one-way road that will lead to an intifada.
1. In Israel the massacres of Jews that occurred during the Khmelnytsky Uprising in Ukraine in 1648 and 1649 are referred to by the corresponding years in the Jewish calendar: 5408 and 5409. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmelnytsky_Uprising#Jews