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Red Rag column: not democratic and not legitimate
By: Gideon Spiro
30 March 2015 (English translation 4 April 2015)

Not democratic and not legitimate

The day after the election (17 March 2015) Gideon Levy wrote a column in
Haaretz under the heading “Change the people”. That idea has been heard
from time to time, usually from people of the Left, and it expresses
frustration and despair at the chances of diverting Israel from the path to
destruction that it’s now on. Netanyahu is like the conductor of the orchestra
on the Titanic. People keep dancing merrily to his tunes, captivated by his
musical charms, then comes the collision with the iceberg and the mighty ship
sinks. (Disclosure: I too once used that title in my column in the newspaper
Yerushalayim, from the Yedioth Ahronoth school, a column that
summed up the Jewish year 5756, the year Rabin was assassinated, published on
13 September 1996.)

A different approach is proposed by the Left journalist Uri Misgav, also in an
article in Haaretz, under the headline “Lose with dignity”,
Haaretz 22 March 2015.

I will begin by asserting that the latest elections were not democratic. The
elected government, Netanyahu’s dream coalition, the Right and the religious,
is not legitimate (and I will not change this assessment even if the Labour
Party joins an expanded coalition). For after all, what have the commanders of
the majority said? That it is permitted to continue to oppress the
Palestinians, to desecrate their human dignity and to trample their natural
rights underfoot – all without asking their opinion on whether they have any
interest in continued rule by the Israeli military junta. Netanyahu’s appeal
to his supporters to get out and vote because masses of Arabs were streaming
to the polls raises more question-marks regarding the propriety of the
elections, for after all, incitement to racism is forbidden by law. I do not
know exactly what authority has been conferred on the Supreme Court judge who
heads the Electoral Commission, but I know what he should do: immediately
suspend the election, put Netanyahu on trial under the law against incitement
to racism and set a new date for elections, which will take place in both
Israel and the Occupied Territories, where elections will be held under the
auspices of the UN, through which the Palestinians will decide whether they
have an interest in the continuation of the Occupation, like the slave who
said, “I love my master”, [1] or request to be annexed to Israel as citizens
with equal rights, or to end the Occupation, return the settlers to their own
country and begin seriously to set up a Palestinian state.

I do not delude myself that such a plan or something similar will be accepted
so fast, but it seems to me that in general terms that is the alternative to
the continuation of the vicious circle one of the dangers of which is a
conflagration that will engulf the region, and maybe – God forbid – even

When leaders try to flatter the electorate they say things like “the people
are wiser than that.” But since when have the people been wise? From the
moment the majority accepts the positions of the politician. To the best of my
understanding there is no such creature as a wise nation. Most nations do not
learn from failed experiments and keep voting for slick politicians who know
how to incite the masses until the bitter end.

A state of war is a comfortable pillow for stupefying the people and drugging
them against the enemy at home, the “traitors” who identify with the enemy.
Thus do those who are harmed by the policies of the government shoot
themselves in the foot and vote for it again. One of the known consequences of
brainwashing is that its victims harm themselves. Forty-seven years of
Occupation and colonization have proved to be an intoxicating drug, addiction
to which is hard to break. The latest elections in Israel embody this very
well, without distinction between the Jewry of Africa and Asia and that of
Europe. The elections in Germany in 1933 (go to the polls before the Jews take
over Germany too) are the ultimate example.

The isolated immigrant can change nationalities, but a national collective
cannot, and even if it were possible, with whom to exchange? With the
Americans, who voted twice for the crook Nixon and the war criminal George W.
Bush who brought America nearly to bankruptcy, who impoverished the masses,
launched a war under false pretences and left Iraq bleeding in civil war? With
the French, millions of whom forgot the lessons of the antisemitic Vichy
regime and now vote for Marie Le Pen, who is headed for the presidency? Maybe
the Egyptians, who voted in their masses for the Muslim Brotherhood? Conjoined
to this grim reality is religion, an empire of sedation. The Jews take pride
in having brought monotheism to the world; I ask, what’s to be proud of? You
have brought calamity to humanity. Throughout history tens if not hundreds of
millions of people have been slaughtered on the altar of religious fanaticism.
Every religion grabs a piece of God and says, “it’s all mine!” – and so people
murder their fellow human beings. And within every religion there is division
into different sects, and every sect says “it’s all mine!” with the result
that people cut off the heads of their brothers. Protestants against Catholics
in Ireland, Sunnis against Shiites in Iraq, Jews against Muslims in the Land
of Israel/Palestine, Christians against Christians in the wars in Europe when
the Church Establishment pressed God into the service of the government and
army of the state. We can go back to the genocides in South America by the
Catholic Spanish Conquistadores. To come back to our own age we can see
Israel’s Chief Military Rabbi blessing the soldiers before the invasion of
Gaza in the name of the Lord of Hosts. [2] The list is long and depressing.

It is against this background that I read that article by Uri Misgav, “Lose
with dignity”. Let Bibi rule with his dream team for four years, he says, and
let’s see what he can do. Uri is without a doubt a true gentleman. But you’re
dealing here with thugs, and probably in another 4 years you will find
electoral laws that will exclude Arabs and the “other traitors” from the right
to vote. So today and no later we need to launch a worldwide campaign to
undermine the legitimacy of the Bibi regime. Whoever has not fallen into one
of the Right’s nets of hate, and remains committed to democracy, equality and
the struggle against racism must join this campaign, for we have no surplus of
manpower. With thugs you have to be thuggish. That is: don’t attack them or
murder their leaders, but attract followers for an international boycott of
Israel. Try to get to Obama and tell him: Bibi is provoking you because he is
a Tea Party man who cannot accept a Black president, and your criticism of
Netanyahu isn’t worth a fig if meanwhile you keep sending arms to Israel. You
must declare an embargo on all military-related supplies to Israel as long as
it continues to fortify the apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories.
Go from country to country that way, convincing them that there is a danger
called Israel, which must be neutralized before the doomsday weapon is
deployed. We want to ensure that our children, our grandchildren, our great-
grandchildren and those who follow them will not be vaporized in a mushroom

My friends, the situation is difficult – as the man of the Second Aliyah said
to his comrades.

Have you murdered and inherited? Yes, precisely. A true story

On 25 November 1999 the journalist Ron Ben-Yishai published a story according
to which Mordechai Vanunu, while still serving an 18-year sentence in the
Ashkelon prison, passed notes to Hamas prisoners which contained formulas for
the production of powerful explosives. The story was published as a leading
item in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, at the time the best-selling
newspaper in the country. Ron Ben-Yishai is not a journalist in the normal
sense of the word; he is part of the military establishment, at home in the
offices of the military elite. A sign of the intimacy of his relations with
the army was his appointment as commander of the military radio station Galei
Tzahal, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Ben-Yishai published the article
without asking for Vanunu’s response, either directly or through his lawyer
Avigdor Feldman or members of the Committee for Mordechai Vanunu, who were in
contact with him and his lawyer. The ethics court of the Israel Press Council
found that Ben-Yishai had been negligent and not acted in conformity with his
journalistic duties when he published the article without asking for a
response. At first Ben-Yishai refused to disclose from whom he had received
the information, saying only that it was a source the credibility of which he
had no doubt. The commander of the prison and the Commissioner of the Prisons
Service denied the story, but that made no impression on Ben-Yishai, who
continued to stand by it.

As one of those who complained against him, I asked Ben-Yishai in the course
of deliberations at the ethics court whether he had seen any such note, and he
refused to answer. Vanunu, upon his release from prison in April 2004, after
he had served his full 18-year sentence in prison, sued Yedioth
for slander. His release from prison was another sign that the
article was mendacious, for if he had passed such notes in prison he certainly
would have been put on trial and given another 18-year sentence.

During the trial it was revealed that the source was the head of the Israel
Security Agency at the time, Ami Ayalon. In his testimony, Ayalon admitted
that he himself had not seen any such notes, and that the information came to
him in a telephone conversation. Ayalon then transmitted the information to
journalists in a closed meeting with military correspondents, of the type
called “background meetings”, which are off the record. Ron Ben-Yishai suffers
from “publication madness” – that is, a craving to publish that is sometimes
insatiable, and so he decided to publish the information. Of course he had
never seen any such note either.

So it would seem that everything is clear. This was a false, slanderous
article that the journalist could not substantiate, nor did he make any effort
to determine its truth or falsity before publishing it. Basic rules that every
journalism student learns in a first-year course. Vanunu is despised in Israel
but seen as a hero of peace in the rest of the world, where he has been
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But none of that helps him, because
unfortunately here in Israel his blood is cheap.

Which brings us to Judge Tal Shahar. If he is a professional man, he must
neutralize any personal feelings of hostility and enmity and order
compensation for Vanunu on the principle that was established by the Supreme
Court in Civil Appeal 259/89, in which Judge Gabriel Bach wrote, with the
agreement of Judge Dov Levin and Eliyahu Matza: “The ruling of the magistrate,
which the District Court agreed with, to the effect that even a person with
extremist opinions is entitled not to have his views represented in a
newspaper as more extreme than they really are, seems correct to me.”

Tal Shahar did not act like a professional judge in a democratic state, but
like a judge of wickedness in an obscurantist state, as if he had been trained
in North Korea. He wrote a judgement that surprised even the respondents. They
did not expect such categorical agreement. Judge Shahar slandered Vanunu and
raised matters that were not to the point, all in order to blacken Vanunu’s

He ruled that a journalist who receives information from the head of the ISA
is entitled to assume that it is proven and so is excused from due diligence
to verify it. North Korea at its best. (I do not know if the lawyer for
Yedioth Ahronoth, M.M., is happy with that part of the ruling. See the
story about M. M. by Leonid Pekarovsky in the Literature and Arts page of
Haaretz, Friday 27 March 2015 [3])

At the end of the ruling, the judge ordered Vanunu to pay the other side 36
thousand shekels. An innovation in Israeli jurisprudence: the injured party
pays compensation to the victimizer. Even George Orwell did not think of that.
That ruling was handed down in 2005. The newspaper used the Execution Office
to collect the debt. The Execution Office people claimed that they could not
find his address, and the interest kept accumulating. A while ago Vanunu
wanted to open a bank account, but his name pulled up a notice that he could
not open a bank account until he settled the debt. Lawyers for both sides
agreed that Vanunu would pay 40 thousand shekels in a single payment. Failure
to pay could land Vanunu back in prison. The man lives modestly and cannot
make that payment without aid from his supporters. He has opened an account at
the website that is linked here, and through it you can make donations to
Mordechai Vanunu.

Translator’s notes

1. Exodus 21:5

2. “Lord of Hosts” also means “Lord of Armies”.

3. In Hebrew only (originally in Russian):

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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