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Red Rag column: Elections in Israel; political Supreme Court; Noam Kaminer, RIP
By: Gideon Spiro
16 December 2014 (English translation 22 December 2014)


The Netanyahu government has dissolved itself and the public is feeling fed up
with Netanyahu. That’s the good news. The bad news is that no change is visible
on the horizon. Netanyahu is a liar, he talks peace and does war, occasionally
mutters about two states but strengthens the apartheid state. He talks about
justice but enriches the rich and raises the burden on the poor. He is not the
only liar in the government; he is joined by Yair Lapid, who set up a party
dictatorship under the name of “Yesh Atid” (There Is a Future) and turned out to
be a political con-man who managed to mislead hundreds of thousands of middle-
class voters with promises that he would take care of them. In fact he screwed
them and his big achievement as Finance Minister was to transfer thousands of
Israelis from the middle class to the ranks of the poor. The cost of living in
Israel has turned the lives of the middle class into a protracted nightmare.
And the trouble is, there is no real alternative that has a chance of winning
the elections that are scheduled for March 2015. The pretender to the crown,
Opposition Leader and Chairman of the Labour Party, Isaac Herzog, is a rag of an
oppositionist; a member of the social and economic elite of the state; a beloved
son of the financial-governmental junta, and as such he is part of the problem,
not the solution. [1] Herzog’s baby face is likely to lead people astray, as are
his smile and his good manners. Herzog is a member of the camp of Ehud Barak,
the man who imported from the USA the line that “there is no partner” and was
responsible for the outbreak of the Second Intifada. He dealt the Left a blow
from which it has still not recovered, and paved the way for the Likud’s return
to power. In the election campaign of 1999 Herzog was responsible or among those
responsible for raising money for the various associations Barak founded to
finance his electoral campaign. When suspicions emerged that this fundraising
contravened the Elections Law, a police investigation was initiated. Herzog was
invited to give a statement, but exercised his right to remain silent. The file
was closed. That is the behaviour of a member of a Mafia gang, not a respectable
public figure.

In a news conference Isaac Herzog held with the dismissed Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni on the occasion of the political marriage that the two contracted for the
purposes of the election, Herzog invoked the values inculcated in him by his
parents. And because he said that, I feel that I have the right to remind him
that his father, the general, who was the first military governor in the
Occupied Territories, initiated a kind of transfer when he encouraged
Palestinians to cross over to Jordan, for which purpose he provided buses.
As President, he amnestied the Jewish underground murderers who had been
sentenced to life in prison after they served seven years – which they served
under relaxed conditions. He thereby shamefully affixed a Presidential seal on
the racist abomination that Arab blood is cheap in comparison to Jewish blood.

Through an impressive performance on television, Tzipi Livni succeeded to a
great extent in identifying herself with negotiations for a political solution,
even though she has resolutely supported all the Gaza wars and their crimes. It
is a mystery how voters who had voted for Meretz fell into her web after that

And so I was not surprised when in their press conference the two of them stuck
to general non-committal declarations that are repeated in every electoral
campaign. Nor do the ongoing negotiations with Mofaz, a refugee from Kadima,
over his entry into the new alliance bode well. Shaul Mofaz served as IDF Chief
of Staff and Defence Minister, among the cruelest Israel has known. If
indictments are filed at the International Criminal Court for crimes of the
Israeli Occupation, Mofaz will figure prominently among the defendants. Ask
Livni and Herzog what are the borders of the Palestinian state they envision,
and they will resort to the same reply as Netanyahu – now is not the time. In
short: this is not a party of the Left, but another party in the crowded ranks
of the “Centre”, which will keep spinning its wheels with the “process” until
the Messiah comes or until the USA and Europe get fed up and decide to teach the
hooligans a lesson.

Perhaps I am mistaken, and the pair have really changed. But even then they
won’t be able to achieve anything substantial. Even if a miracle occurs and the
Labour Party forms the next government, it will still need a coalition with
parties of the Right, which will ensure that nothing changes. The garbage will
not be taken out. [2] Does this mean that there is no hope? Absolutely not. All
you have to do is look left.

A political Supreme Court

One of the successes of Israeli propaganda is the marketing of the Supreme Court
as the keeper of the seal of human rights. Aharon Barak was particularly good at
that when he was President of the Supreme Court. He spun a web of international
connections with counterpart judges and law professors in leading universities
worldwide, he appeared as a guest lecturer and always carried with him an
English translation of enlightened judgments – and there were indeed some such –
which made a great impression. When I was on a lecture tour in the US, mostly at
universities, and spoke about the decline of the Israeli justice system to the
status of maidservant for the Israel Security Agency (ISA – Shin Bet) and the
Occupation army, invariably somebody would yell, “even Barak?” I replied, “not
even Barak but under Barak’s direction. The stories they tell you about
an independent and liberal justice system are nothing but cheap propaganda. The
civilian justice system in Israel, from the magistrates’ courts all the way up
to the Supreme Court, has ratified and whitewashed through sanitized language
nearly all the crimes of the Occupation and apartheid, from shooting at civilian
populations to torture and collective punishment. And to that must be added the
system of military justice in the Occupied Territories, a wicked and cruel
system that constitutes a pool for filling judicial positions inside Israel. A
growing number of judges from the military court system and the settlers are
contaminating the civilian justice system from top to bottom.” I write all this
as a preface to a shameful performance at the Supreme Court.

A few days ago the Supreme Court adjudicated an appeal by MK Haneen Zoabi
against a decision by the Knesset Ethics Committee to suspend her from Knesset
debates for six months. This was a decision by a parliamentary Masada, mass
democratic suicide. It strikes at the spinal cord that enables a Knesset Member
to act without fear of harassment – none other than the Law of Immunity. It is
in the interest of all Knesset Members to preserve their immunity so that they
can act and speak freely. Governments and Knessets change. Hostility to Zoabi,
which led Likud MK Miri Regev to such foolishness, has affected their judgment
and they have shot themselves in the foot. Zoabi is being punished for her
positions that challenge the Israeli consensus, but it is precisely for such
situations that the Law of Immunity was intended – to permit Zoabi to annoy
whomever she sees fit to annoy.

The role of the judges, if they did their jobs right, was simple in this case:
to tell the majority that they are forbidden to trample on the minority; that is
an important rule in democracy. You have acted in contravention of the Law of
Immunity, and so we hereby overturn the decision of the Ethics Committee. Simple
and to the point. But that is not what the judges of the Supreme Court did. They
adopted the practice of totalitarian regimes and rebuked MK Zoabi and preached
morality to her. Judge Esther Chayot asked her how she could say that the
abduction and killing of the three youths was not an act of terror. And I ask
Chayot, how is that your business? When you sit on the high bench of judgeship,
you are not a lecturer in political science, you are bound to the legal aspect
alone. If you are interested in the opinions of MK Zoabi, invite her to have a
cup of coffee with you after work hours, and be prepared for her too to ask you
questions, such as, for example: my dear Esther, how can you explain the
judicial services that you render from your lofty chair to the terror machine of
the Israeli Occupation, while using the sterile language of a pharmacy?

In the swearing-in ceremony for new judges that is held at the residence of the
President of the State, it is said in solemn speeches that they must judge only
on the basis of the law and not the inclinations of their hearts or their
personal views, and they certainly must not involve their political opinions.
Miriam Naor and Hanan Meltzer wasted a lot of time trying to find another case
of a parliament member who called for a siege of his country. They searched and
did not find. And I ask them, have you gone insane? What are you wasting your
time for? Are you judges or officers in the morals department of the police?
Regarding the appeal, what she said is of no importance. She can say what she
wants. She should not have been summoned to the Ethics Committee as a defendant.
And her freedom of speech should not have been interfered with. You have
ratified a dangerous precedent and it will not end with Haneen Zoabi.

This gave me yet more confirmation of my thesis there is no such animal as
apolitical judgeship. Basically there are two kinds of judgeship. There is the
kind that respects human rights and the kind that endorses oppression,
Occupation and racism. You have chosen to immerse yourselves in the murky waters
of racism. Protracted bathing in the lake of the Occupation, the waters of which
were once clear but which have become polluted, has prepared you for immersion
in the miserable waters of the pool of racism. Five judges deliberated on the
appeal, four Jews and one Arab. The four Jews, in a display of tribalism,
rejected the appeal, and metaphorically we can say that they went out onto the
street and joined the demonstrations where people yell “Death to Arabs!”

The Arab judge, Salim Joubran, accepted the appeal. Joubran makes great efforts
to be accepted by the Israeli Establishment. The Israel Security Agency sees him
as a “good Arab”, an Israeli concept that signifies cooperation with the
governmental system. Whoever is chosen for a judicial position must receive
clearance from the ISA to the effect that there are no “security problems” with
the appointment. And if there are, the appointment is cancelled. Joubran was
cleared by the ISA. He has written more than one judgement that revolted me. But
there are limits to bowing the head. In Zoabi’s appeal he understood (this is my
interpretation, I have not talked to him) that his Jewish colleagues were acting
like an inflammatory and incited mob that has submitted to the madness of racism
that seeks to restrict freedom of expression for the minority. And so he thought
that the appeal should be approved. In so doing he was like the boy who tried to
stop a breach in a dam with his finger. God bless him.

Who is the teacher and who is the pupil?

A committee of the US Congress that investigated the activities of the CIA has
published a report that has shocked the USA. The report reveals that the CIA is
a wasps’ nest of liars. For years its representatives have been submitting
mendacious reports to the Congress and the President. In their appearances
before the Congress, the leaders of the agency reported that there was no
torture and that the rights of interrogees were being respected in accordance
with the laws and Constitution of the United States. The committee revealed that
this was a blatant lie, and that the interrogations have been accompanied by
among the cruelest methods of torture. Those techniques are detailed in the
report and they are known to the activists of the Committee against Torture in
Israel from Palestinian reports of torture that have been found to be reliable.
Another interesting finding: the committee looked at thousands of confessions
that were extracted from interrogees by torture and not one of them provided
accurate information. Take that report, translate it into Hebrew, replace the
CIA with the ISA and the USA with Israel and you have an accurate picture of
what is happening in Israel. Considering the close cooperation between Israel
and the USA in the intelligence field, we can assume that there has also been
mutual inspiration in the field of torture. The difference is that there will be
no parliamentary committee that will investigate and publish the truth about
what is happening in the ISA’s torture basements because yesterday’s torturers
are the legislators and the ministers of tomorrow, and one hand washes the

Ban it? Better think again

The leaders of the extreme right-wing organization Lehava were arrested after
its members were arrested as suspects in the burning of a bilingual school in
Jerusalem. It was reported in the media that banning the organization is being
considered. Experience has shown that not only would that not help, but it would
increase the organization’s popularity. Kahane’s party was outlawed back in the
day. I thought at the time that that was a mistake, and indeed Kahane’s power

In 1972 I interviewed Kahane for the University of Haifa student newspaper
Post Mortem. It was a long and comprehensive interview. Later one of
Kahane’s supporters told me that he had heard Kahane say that it was the fairest
publication that had been done with him in the Hebrew press. The questions I
asked were penetrating but his answers were given as he said them, without
editorializing on the part of the interviewer. Kahane of 1972 was a moderate
person compared to the Kahanists of today. The slogan scrawled on walls, “Kahane
Was Right”, is not completely wrong. He was right in that he believed that the
conflict was not about to end in the near future and as long as it continued to
burn, sometimes on the small burner and sometimes on the big one, hatred of
Arabs would grow, and he would benefit from it. The toxic fumes that the
conflict produces are the soil from which he sprouted. Kahane, Lehava and their
ilk enjoy today thousands of supporters, including in the Knesset and the
Government. Illegalization would not help. Only draining the swamp and
eliminating the poisonous fumes will cause them to wilt.

Noam Kaminer, RIP

Noam Kaminer has died. Word passed from one person to another. It was hard to
believe. A young man, in the prime of his years, what’s going on here? And then
they told me about his illness, which chooses its victims randomly. Noam came
from a rare family in Israel: three generations of peace-lovers. Reuven and
Dafna were the first generation. They passed the torch of peace and human
freedom to the second generation with dazzling success. Noam and Smadar in turn
passed the torch to the third generation, Matan and Carmel, again with great
success. The father and his son sat in prison as Occupation refusers, and the
grandfather and grandmother demonstrated for them, sometimes on the hill
opposite Prison 6 and sometimes next to the prison in Ramleh. Where else can you
find families like that?

I met Reuven in Jerusalem in the 1950s, around the time of Noam’s birth. There
were more than a few disagreements between us, and of course points of agreement
too, otherwise we would not have been partners in various struggles. What
excited me about Reuven was his ability to withstand a hostile society for years
upon years, sometimes a truly hated minority, but he projected the determination
of one who understood that this was a long-term struggle and not everyone has
the ability and the patience to stand fast for 80 years and more. If I am not
mistaken, Noam, Matan, Carmel and Smadar were endowed with a similar quality:
quiet determination, not provocative, not strident, but the firm determination
of those who understand that the struggle is a long-term one and who recognize
at the outset that some will fall by the wayside.

I was not a close personal friend of Smadar and Noam in the sense of family
visits, after all there was an 18-year age difference. But we were comrades in
the struggle in Yesh Gvul and the Committee against the War in Lebanon, we met
at demonstrations against the Occupation, we knew each other and always greeted
each other. Then one day I spent an enchanted time with Noam and Smadar, in
March 2013. We made a solidarity visit to the Druze refuser Omar in his village
in the Galilee. When the time came to leave I asked if someone could give me a
ride to Tel Aviv. Noam told me that he had room. I was the only passenger, along
with Smadar and Noam, who was driving. Nearly two hours of driving, during which
we closed gaps in our knowledge. Truth to tell, I do not remember all the
subjects we talked about. I remember that all the talk was calm and pleasant, in
keeping with the drive itself which was also serene. When we got to Tel Aviv, he
drove me home, even though it was on the other side of the city. The experience
of driving with Noam and Smadar enchanted me, and I wanted to share that
enchanting memory with my readers. We will remember him with love.

Translator’s notes

1. Isaac Herzog’s father, General Chaim Herzog (1918-1997), was the head of
Israeli Military Intelligence, the first military governor of the West Bank,
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations from 1975 to 1978 and President of the
State of Israel from 1983 to 1993.

2. In an appearance on a satirical political television show, Tzipi Livni joked
about the future division of household tasks after her political “marriage” to
Labour leader Herzog, saying that they would “take out the garbage together`.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
Gideon Spiro at Yale, 1986
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