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Red Rag weekly column: Haneen Zoabi, Azmi Bishara and Hani Zubida
By: Gideon Spiro
21 October 2014 (English Translation 30 October)

Do not enlist

The five hundred children who were killed by the bombs of the Israeli air force
in the who-knows-how-manyeth Gaza War, which named “Solid Cliff” (“Defensive
Edge” in English) were not the last Palestinian children killed by the soldiers
of the Israeli Occupation army. On Simhat Torah Occupation soldiers killed 13-
year-old Baha Samir Badr of Beit Laqiya near Ramallah. The killing of the child
did not spoil the celebrators’ enjoyment of the holiday. Whenever I come a
across news like this I become still more inclined to call on Israeli youth who
have not yet enlisted, and to tell them: if you do not want to kill children,
don’t enlist. Go to Berlin, where they do not kill children. Learn German with
the help of a government grant, and then hundreds if not thousands of
institutions of higher learning or professional training schools will be
available to you. For those that do not want to remain in Germany, there is the
rest of the European Union with its abundance of opportunities. Instead of
oppressing another people and endangering your own lives and the lives of
others, enjoy the freedom Europe offers you.

How can you compare?

Once again Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi is getting on everybody’s nerves. This
time she has said that there is no difference between an ISIS throat-cutter and
an air force pilot who drops bombs on Gaza. In the both cases they are
terrorists and murderers.

No difference, Haneen? Now you’re getting on my nerves too. The ISIS murderer,
that throat-cutter, works in the primitive and barbaric style of the Middle
Ages. After he cuts off the head the blood splatters on his clothes and he had
to do a lot of work to get cleaned up, and in the Middle Ages there were no
washing-machines or variety of products to remove stains.

The pilot, the airplane and the missile are all products of the scientific era,
everything is digital and functions flawlessly. One push of a button and the
missile is released and liquidates ten children, or an entire family of 15 souls
at one blow. And in attacks like that there are always corpses with parts torn
off, a head or an arm or a leg, or an abdomen ripped open with all the internal
organs splattered all about. Now try to imagine, Haneen, how hard that throat-
cutter would have to work to get such a result. And the pilot, Haneen, returns
to his base in clean clothes, drinks a cup of hot chocolate and reports to the
commander about the success of the mission. You can see, Haneen, there is no

So what remains for him to clean? His conscience. The conscience, now there’s a
devious device. It works in different ways and on different frequencies with
different people. Sometimes the conscience is paralyzed, and then the pilot
tells himself: no one told me there were children in Gaza, I am at peace with
myself. Sometimes the conscience is partially functional and then the pilot has
an internal struggle, he wavers: to bomb or not to bomb? Usually military
discipline wins out in the end.

In the more rare event of the conscience working at full capacity, the pilot
sweats profusely when he is recalls the painful images that result from the
bombings. He wavers, his conscience patiently guides him through stages of yes,
no and maybe, What about my comrades? And what awaits me? And gradually a
crystal of light grows that tips the scale: thus far and no further. I will not
continue. And thus a refuser is born.

Azmi my friend, the most important thing is not to be afraid at all [1]

The Israeli Premier Football League comprises 14 teams. Racism is widespread
among football fans and keeps those who cannot stand that contamination away
from the football stadiums. One team, Beitar Jerusalem, surpasses them all. Its
fans are racist and violent, and no Arab player can approach its gates for fear
of being lynched. The racism of Beitar Jerusalem is so monstrous that the new
president of Israel, Rubi Rivlin, who served as chairman of Beitar Jerusalem in
the past, has declared that he will not attend its games.

According to the regulations of the international football federation FIFA, a
team that is racist or has racist fans must be disqualified. If the FIFA
regulations were applied as they should be, Beitar Jerusalem would have been
removed from the league and disbanded long ago. But as usual, Israel brushes off
international regulations and not only is the team wallowing in a swamp of
racism, it constitutes a showcase for what is happening in the government of

If Beitar Jerusalem is a popular team that is acceptable to the present ruling
establishment, that is not the case with another team, which to Israel’s
racists, both in the government and outside it, constitutes a stain on the
Jewish (and non-democratic) character of the State of Israel. That team is
called Bnei Sakhnin (literally, “Sons of Sakhnin). An Arab football team that
bears the name of an Arab town. The princes and princesses of racism in Israel,
including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Culture and Sports Minister
Limor Livnat, are looking for a pretext to remove the Arabs from the Premier
League, news of which dominates the sports reporting on television and in the
newspapers nearly every day. Their eyes are pained, they block their ears, their
stomachs churn and their bodies shrink at the thought of the Sakhnin supporters,
some of whom wave Palestinian flags at games, which cannot be concealed in the
media reports. “May our camp be pure” is their slogan, and so Bnei Sakhnin must
be transferred to one of the minor leagues, where most of the Arabs are
concentrated, and the activities of which do not interest anyone. There they can
wave Palestinian flags as much as they want, the media won’t report it, and what
is not reported might as well not exist.

The leaders of the team know that they are under a microscope. And Bnei Sakhnin
has played it smartly. The team has maintained its position in the Premier
League for several years now, and once it even won the Israel State Cup, and as
such became the Israeli representative in the UEFA Cup tournament in Europe for
national cup winners. And the racists? They were bursting with frustration.
Sakhnin did not provide them with any pretext to remove it from the Premier
League. Until Saturday, 18 October, 2014.

On that Saturday, before the game began, there was a ceremony to award
certificates of appreciation to people who had contributed to the club,
including Dr. Azmi Bishara. It was a red flag waved in front of the bulls of
hate and racism.

Here I will parenthetically say a few words about Azmi Bishara. He headed the
group that founded the Balad party, which he represented in the Knesset. He is a
man of many talents. An intellectual compared to whom most Knesset Members are
mental dwarves. A philosopher by training, charismatic, a political leader, a
Knesset Member who raised the level of the debate by several degrees. With the
vision of a state of all its citizens, he introduced the alternative to the
oxymoron of a Jewish and democratic state. In the 1999 elections, the last
elections with a double ballot, one for the prime minister and the other for the
party, he ran for prime minister. The political and security establishments were
horrified. An Arab as prime minister of Israel? What’s this country coming to?
Those ignoramuses had not read Jabotinsky, who envisioned a democratic state in
which Arabs would enjoy equal rights, and he did not rule out the possibility of
an Arab prime minister with a Jewish deputy, and vice-versa.

Bishara was seen as an increasingly dangerous figure, who could attract support
not only from Arabs but Jews as well, and so he had to be gotten rid of, the
sooner the better. So the Israel Security Agency cooked up an accusation of
espionage against him, according to which he helped Hezbollah aim at targets in
Israel in the Second Lebanon War. Whoever knows Azmi knows that this was a libel
intended to put him away for the rest of his life. He was never in the army, he
knows nothing about firing mortars, and he knows nothing about gun laying. I
myself, who served in the army and completed a course for mortar commanders – if
I were asked to gun-lay for mortars today, I would not know what to do. And if
that is the case for me, it is all the more true of Bishara, who as I said has
had no military training at all.

Bishara, who was interrogated several times by the ISA, clearly saw which way
the winds were blowing. He knew that in the Israeli reality he had no chance of
receiving a fair trial – not with the ISA against him. His choice was between
prison for life and taking advantage of the parliamentary immunity he still had
in order to leave the country permanently, or until it returned to sanity. He
made the wise choice, he chose life – which is a commandment in Judaism, but you
don’t have to be Jewish to do make that choice. After he ensured his future
freedom he resigned from the Knesset.

Back to the football team: governmental brainwashing with the help of servile
media have converted Azmi Bishara into a “suspected spy in time of war” who has
“fled from justice”. The inclusion of Bishara among the recipients of
certificates of appreciation played into the hands of the two L’s – Livnat and
Lieberman – and the other Israeli racists. They all launched a well-orchestrated
attack on Bnei Sakhnin. The Sports Minister, in line with her unique
understanding of the concept of the separation of powers, demanded that the Israel Football Association court punish Bnei Sakhnin severely, and dictated the punishment to the judges: protracted suspension from the Premier League. The charge: introducing politics into sport, which is forbidden by the regulations. The leaders of Bnei Sakhnin replied that this was a tempest in a teapot. There’s no politics here, they said: just recognition for a man who made a contribution to the club. And I might add that it would be easy to verify this: let Limor Livnat contribute to the club and we will see if she receives a certificate of appreciation like the one Azmi Bishara received. Now we must wait and see whether the judges of the Football Federation court will show some independent judgement or function as emissaries of the minister. [2]

For the ears of the Rainbow

Dr. Hani Zubida, a senior lecturer (i.e. he has tenure) in political science at
the College of the verdant Jezreel Valley, has been given a rare privilege by
the editorial board of the newspaper Haaretz: an opportunity to respond
in an entire column. But he blew the opportunity. (Haaretz supplement, 10
October 2014). He creates enemies where they do not exist except in his
imagination. The three articles that fuelled his rage, by the journalists Elon
Idan, Hila Glazer and the “peach” as he put it, Vered Lee, are innocent of any
racism. I do not know those three, but I read them from time to time and not
only have I found no racism there; my impression is that they are allies in the
struggle against racism. The big failure by Dr. Zubida and his friends adheres
to the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, the directorial committee of which he is now
the chairman. Racism against Mizrahi Jews, if indeed it still exists, is a
product of racism against Arabs. The 1950s were the years of immigration to
Israel from Arab countries. The immigrants, who looked like Arabs and spoke
Arabic as well as having a low level of education, were targets for racism and
arrogance from the Ashkenazi Zionist establishment. They were also destined to
play a role similar to that of Israeli Arabs: working in unprestigious jobs for
low pay. It was in those days that the Hebrew language began to be polluted with
various kinds of racist expressions.

The Mizrahi uprising in Wadi Salib in Haifa in 1959, which was suppressed with
an iron fist, ignited a red light for the governmental and party establishment.
It was decided that the emphasis should be put on socializing immigrants from
Arab countries, especially the second and third generations. What they failed to
accomplish before 1967 was abundantly achieved in the subsequent 47 years of
Occupation. The success was dazzling. Jews from Arab countries adopted the
Zionist-racist narrative, whether of the Labour Party or the Likud. All the
Zionist parties nurtured Mizrahi cadres which continued to promote more sinister
aspect of the Zionist project. They reached the highest levels in a variety of
roles and continued with dedication what their Ashkenazi predecessors had

Mizrahi finance ministers did nothing to reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Mizrahi defence ministers continued the policies of Occupation, oppression and
building settlements. High-ranking Mizrahi officers were just as warlike as
their kibbutznik predecessors and the racist plague keeps infecting more and
more youths before their enlistment.

Things have come to such a pass that the more right-wing and racist an
organization is, the more Mizrahis are represented in it disproportionately to
their share of the general population. I come across them nearly every day,
whether it is a taxi driver, the manager of my local post office branch or a
shop clerk. I always hear the same words: “You can’t trust Arabs, they will stab
you in the back, we know them, we came from there”, and so on, as if they were
speaking out of the throat of Knesset Member Brigadier-General (Res) Miri Regev,
who is the most popular representative of Mizrahi Jews today.

When The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow first appeared, I was hopeful that here at
long last was a Mizrahi organization that supported peace, equality and
democracy, the members of which would storm the strongholds of racism and
destroy them, or at least reduce them, as much as its strength would permit,
working hand-in-hand with other human-rights organizations. A major hothouse for
the cultivation of racism is the Occupation and the regime of apartheid that
Israel has set up in the Territories. I hoped that the Rainbow as a body would
join Yesh Gvul and support the refusers of occupation and racism, but that did
not happen. I wanted to see the Rainbow standing on the front-lines in the
struggle against hatred of African asylum-seekers, and that did not happen; I
hoped that the Rainbow would embrace the prisoner of conscience Mordechai
Vanunu, whom Israel has been tormenting for 29 years now, and that too did not
happen. As if there were an over-abundance of Moroccan-born Jews whose names
appear on the list of Nobel Peace Prize candidates and have received the
Alternative Nobel and the LennonOno Grant for Peace and the Carl von Ossietzky
Medal. A partial list. More than once have I appealed to the leadership of the
Rainbow, orally and in writing, asking them to support the campaign for Vanunu.
I received no reply. Why get involved with such a hated and reviled figure? For
that purpose there are lots of Ashkenazis who can make themselves targets for
the rage of the incited masses.

In personal conversations I have had with prominent members of the Rainbow I
stressed the racist aspect of the Establishment’s harsh approach to Vanunu. And
so it would mean a lot if an organization like the Rainbow, to which the crème
de la crème of Mizrahi Jewish (or Arab Jewish, as Professor Yehuda Shenhav
prefers to put it) society belongs, would link hands with the existing
committee, which is reviled as – among other things – a bunch of “Ashkenazi
leftists who hate their People.” My interlocutors agreed with me that this was a
shortcoming, but it was not corrected. Still, even now it is not too late for
the Rainbow to join the campaign to lift the arbitrary restrictions that have
been imposed on Vanunu, and to allow him to leave Israel.

In conclusion, an anecdote that illustrates the situation: On 21 April 2004, the
day Vanunu was released from the Ashkelon prison, two groups were standing in
front of the entrance to the prison, on each side of the narrow street. On one
side were supporters who had come to congratulate Vanunu and thank him for what
he had done, and on the other side a group of Ashkelon residents, most of them
Mizrahi Jews, who had come to protest. Next to me stood then-MK Issam Makhoul.
The moment they recognized an Arab Knesset Member, they began to rain a shower
of curses and abuse, some of which was taken from Our Teacher Rabbi Ovadia
Yosef’s elaborate arsenal of curses, and some of which were homemade. They
hurled abuse at him just for being an Arab. At that point I stepped in and said
to them, “Why are you saying that? After all, you are Arab Jews!” They took that
as a terrible insult, and their faces red with rage, spitting sparks of hatred,
they replied to me: “You’re an Arab!” In their view that was supposed to insult
me, as well being as a clinching argument to which I could give no answer. And
indeed I had no answer.

A lot of work remains for the Rainbow to do in the struggle to uproot racism. My
advice to Zubida: don’t go in search of enemies. If you act along the lines
proposed here, you will find that you have more than enough enemies.

Translator’s notes

1. Allusion to a famous quote attributed to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, 1772-1810:
“All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the important thing is not to be
afraid at all.” Also the title line of a popular Israeli song.

2. On 23 October it was reported that the team was fined NIS 15,000.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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