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Red Rag column: On silence; Balad MKs; Dov Yermiya, RIP; letter to the Attorney-General
Gideon Spiro (R) and Dov Yermiya (photo: Gideon Spiro)
By: Gideon Spiro
13 February 2016 (English translation 03 March 2106)

On silence

“[They] Are propelled,
Mumbling `necessity` or `revenge`,
Into the domain of war criminals.” [1]

From Nathan Alterman’s poem “About this”, in his seventh column in
Davar, November 1948.

The anti-Occupation organization Breaking the Silence is being subjected to a
campaign of incitement by the fascist movement Im Tirtzu, which began as an
ephemeral delusional grouplet, a kind of ugly little fascist, and which
developed into a highly influential venomous snake that spreads democracy-
killing poison wherever it goes, to the point of adopting Nazi propaganda
methods along the lines of Goebbels’ allegations of “sticking a knife into the
back of the nation”, as the historian Professor Daniel Blatman correctly
points out (Haaretz 20 December 2015). This campaign is the best proof
of the importance of silence in concealing the realities of the Occupation.
The Occupation could not have lasted for fifty years if Israeli society had
been aware of human rights and had learned lessons from the sufferings of the
Jewish people throughout history in general and the Holocaust in particular.

In Israeli society there is the principle of the victim who emulates the
methods of oppression they suffered from, like an abusive parent who was
beaten as a child. Silence is not one-dimensional; sometimes silence is an
expression of courage, as we read in Hans Fallada’s book Alone in
, when a German citizen knows that his neighbour listens to the BBC,
which was a serious offence under the Nazi regime, and does not inform the
authorities. We have not yet reached that condition in Israel, but we are
headed that way. One of the minimal conditions for the existence of oppressive
colonial regimes is the consent that is in the silence of the oppressor
nation. If we add to that the desensitization of a considerable part of the
intellectual elite and the practical indifference of the international
community, as happened in Germany (the academy’s collaboration with the Nazi
ideology, the Berlin Olympics 1936) and as is happening before our eyes in
Israel (the 2015 European swimming championship, ongoing financial-economic
and military aid, the Israeli academy’s acceptance of the upgrading of the
Ariel apartheid college in the occupied territories, to the status of a
university by decision of the military governor), then we have an explanation
for the weakening of pockets of democratic resistance.

Some people identify with the norms of the Occupation and some accommodate
themselves to the messages of a regime of oppression. As we know, those
phenomena exist in Israel, for various reasons. There are those who are coldly
inured, like the lawyers who are willing to serve as military judges in the
Occupied Territories during their reserve duty; then there are judges in the
civilian justice system who raise a finger to the air to see which way the
wind is blowing, and rule accordingly. One egregious example is Aharon
Barak!!! Law professor Barak is a knight of human rights; Supreme Court judge
Barak is a despicable collaborator with the Occupation. There are doctors who
collaborate with the torture factory of the Israel Security Agency and the
police. Many of them feel uncomfortable about it in private, but they keep
silent and give no expression to their discomfort for fear that they will be
marked as “disloyal” and dismissed from their jobs. And there are many flocks
of what in German are called “Mitläufer”, [2] who are particularly
receptive to the winds of racism and hate that blow from the government, easy
targets for diverting anger and frustration. In Israel we will not be able to
say “we did not know”. The Israeli media have published a great deal of
information on the horrors of the Occupation, largely thanks to human-rights
organizations that do not collaborate with the government’s policy of “be
quiet, we’re shooting”. That is why the Netanyahu-Bennett government is
working assiduously to close the pipelines of information so that the
Occupation orchestra can play without the discordant voices of “plants” in the
background. This is the behaviour of a government that silences and paralyzes

The treatment of Breaking the Silence is a reliable measure of the values-
system that prevails in Israeli society, in which the army has become the
foundation of the nation, a supreme entity, a kind of secular substitute for
bowing down before the graves of saints that is typical of totalitarian
regimes. All that did not happen in one day. For fifty years we have passed
more than enough milestones in the process of decline on our way to the
present stage of disintegrating democracy. I was present at one of those
milestones as a founding member of Yesh Gvul, which began with refusal to take
part in the criminal war of choice that was the First Lebanon War in 1982, and
continued with refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories.

I published articles condemning the war, for which I was subjected to a
disciplinary hearing under a provision that had never been used before, which
forbids a state employee from publicly criticizing the policies of the
government. The civil-service tribunal, which was composed of 3 judges,
including a representative of the workers, decided unanimously to find me in
violation of the law. The ruling was dismissal and withdrawal of pension, so
my small children and my partner were also punished for my opinions. (My
pension was reinstated after an appeal to the Supreme Court: Civil Service
Appeal 5/86). The message was clear: the government wants an obedient and
silent civil service and army. At the end of that path stands the black flag
of the Holocaust. The media covered that precedent-setting hearing extensively
and the message was received loud and clear: workers were afraid to come out
in my defence, even the State Employees’ Organization, the role of which is to
defend workers.

Most citizens of Israel were born into the Occupation, and the greater part of
its youth have served in the army as part of the Occupation force, and those
years have wreaked havoc with Israel’s ethical and moral codes. Increased
racism, intensified aggressiveness and the treatment of the Palestinians like
a rabble with no rights are the inevitable consequences of the regime of
apartheid that Israel has set up in the Occupied Territories. As a graduate of
kibbutz education I note with dismay that the human solidarity that was
supposed to be a guide for moral behaviour has not withstood the test of
events. The kibbutz movement has turned into the spearhead of what are called
the elite units of the IDF, and the norms of the Occupation ripped apart what
was known as kibbutz socialism like a tornado. The environment of hostility
towards the Left and human-rights activists has received a sympathetic boost
from people and organizations in the labour movement, who have shown
themselves to be idol-worshippers when it comes to the army.

When it comes to Breaking the Silence, Labour Party leader Yitzhak Herzog
stops serving as leader of the opposition and becomes a sheep going along with
the Right-nationalist flock. More than an oppositionist he is a son of the
amnestier of murderers, President Haim Herzog, who amnestied those who were
convicted of murdering three students at the Islamic College in Hebron in
1983. Instead of serving life sentences, they were freed after less than seven
years. And even those they served under conditions that a Palestinian
convicted of murder could only dream of. President General Haim Herzog was an
excellent example of a man of the labour movement, which comprises part of the
government-military racist establishment. As Israel’s ambassador to the United
Nations, he tore the paper on which the UN resolution stating that Zionism was
a form of racism was printed, but his political path embodied the correctness
of that resolution. If you are a settler who murders Arabs you have the
protection of the Almighty, which is not worth much without the massive
support of a flesh-and-blood government. In 1990 I filed an appeal to the
Supreme Court against the release of the murderers, but was rejected by judges
who were appointed by a Mapai government and had no trouble at all adapting
themselves to the norms of a Likud government, which goes to show that when it
comes to the Occupation and its crimes the opposition is no opposition but a
collaborator with the regime of oppression. Then as today, there was no mass
protest against the government’s double standard – harsh with Palestinians
convicted of murdering Jews and easy on Jews convicted of murdering Arabs. No
one raises their voice except a few “crazies” who protest and are themselves
punished under such provisions as “insulting a public servant” and contempt of
court. Silence is triumphant!

The entire justice system underwent this process of coarsening, from the
magistrates’ courts all the way to the Supreme Court, which over the years has
gotten more subservient to the norms of the Occupation and given it its stamp
of approval.

The campaign of incitement has also made its mark on those who were once
counted among the human-rights establishment, such as the journalist Ari
Shavit, who was once chairman of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. A
few decades ago he was an “informer” by the lights of of Im Tirtzu, when he
published an article in Haaretz about the torture and humiliation of
Palestinians he witnessed while on reserve duty in the Gaza Strip. But Shavit,
who meanwhile became a senior journalist in Haaretz, understands that
in the prevailing atmosphere he has to cleanse himself of the label of
informer that stuck to him after that article was translated and published
internationally. In his article “Breaking the silences” (Haaretz 12
Dec. 2015), he endeavoured to sanitize his past as an “informer” and draw a
line of separation, artificial in my view, between himself and “Breaking the
Silence” by slandering the organization. This phenomenon of liberals that have
become desensitized and lost their shame is well known in countries that have
undergone periods of dark regimes and does them no honour in the long run.

At the bottom of the ladder is MK Yair Lapid, who showed himself to be an
arch-fascist by cynically exploiting the hostility towards Breaking the
Silence and adding fuel to the fire of hate when he appeared jointly with
supporters of Im Tirtzu. Same for Movement for Quality Government in Israel
headed by Attorney Eliad Shraga, which in its annual awards ceremony for
people of the year in various fields for the year 2015 gave Defence Minister
Moshe Yaalon an award for exemplary person and for abiding by the law. When a
person who is responsible for war crimes, who belongs in the dock at the
international court in The Hague, is held up as an exemplary person, we are
dealing with a complete distortion of the fundamental concepts of a democratic

The complaints from the government of Israel and right-wing organizations that
Breaking the Silence is receiving donations from foreign governments, which
constitutes intervention in Israel’s internal affairs, sound hollow
considering that no other country in the world receives as much support from
foreign governments as Israel, and on such a massive scale, without which
Israel would long ago have given up the ghost. And I am helped here by former
Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who said that antisemitism is not an internal
matter of any state, thereby unwittingly echoing human-rights organizations
like Amnesty International when they say that racism and human-rights
violations, which are the infrastructure of the Occupation, are not the
internal affair of Israel but the business of the international community and
that activism within the international community is an inseparable part of the
struggle. Those who slander the soldiers of Israeli army are the government of
Israel who have converted the army to from a defence army to an Occupation
police that enforces apartheid policies.

As these lines are being written it has been reported that five right-wing
Members of the Knesset are demanding illegalization of Breaking the Silence.
They do not understand that Breaking the Silence is not just the name of an
organization but a principle that is the life’s-breath of human-rights
organizations, in Israel and worldwide. If you outlaw Breaking the Silence,
ten others will take its place. The only way to break Breaking the Silence is
to break the Occupation.

An incorrigible plant

Confession: I hereby declare that I am a planted agent of all the human-rights
organizations in Israel. Moreover I am also a plant of international human-
rights organizations like Amnesty International. If to be a plant means being
a traitor in the eyes of Im Tirtzu, Jewish Home and their members, than I
consider that a badge of honour in the tradition of traitors like Willy
Brandt, the German Chancellor who fought against his country in the ranks of
the Norwegian resistance, Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria – The Passionflower)
who fought against Spanish fascism led by the dictator Franco, Mordechai
Vanunu who blew the whistle on the danger of Israeli nuclear weapons and Rosa
Luxemburg who opposed the First World War and was murdered in 1919 by a right-
wing organization of demobilized soldiers. Im Tirtzu is a local variant of
that German right-wing organization. Four examples among of many others.

Let’s say

Let’s say that the three Knesset Members from the Balad faction who visited
Palestinian families whose children were killed by gunfire of the Israeli
colonial Occupation stood for a minute of silence in memory of the victims of
the struggle against Israeli terror. OK, so what? The Zionist camp, from Ilan
Gilon of Meretz to “Opposition” leader Yitzhak Herzog to Prime Minister
Netanyahu and the dictator Lapid of the No Future faction all the way to
Education Minister Benito of the Jewish Home Party have not internalized the
idea that Balad is not at war with their own people, they support their right
to liberate themselves from the Occupation, and so it is but natural that they
would behave like civilized people and honour those families in their pain. As
Knesset Members who have been elected by their voters, they were fulfilling
their role. They are not the first Israelis who have visited bereft
Palestinian families. Long before Balad was founded, I, along with other Jews
and Arabs opposed to the Occupation, visited Palestinian families who had lost
a son or a daughter to Israeli terror and expressed condolences and solidarity
with their pain. We were simply promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Netanyahu’s initiative to pass a law to remove Balad members from the Knesset
is crude racism that is taking Israel another step down the road to an
authoritarian regime.

Dov Yermiya

Dov Yermiya, the oldest fighter for peace in Israel, has departed this world
at the age of 101. He was a charming man of many qualifications and talents,
of whom I had the privilege of being a friend and admirer. A military man for
many years, Dov understood that living by the sword will not guarantee
Israel’s survival and is no long-term substitute for peace. If Israel does not
get rid of the Occupation, he warned, the Occupation will get rid of Israel.
He enlisted wholeheartedly in the struggle for peace and friendship between
Jews and Arabs. In his life Dov realized the vision of Isaiah and beat his
spear into a pruning-hook. I refer readers to a comprehensive article in his
memory published in Haaretz on 4 February 2016. [3] I carry his memory
with love and admiration.

Letter to the new Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit

February 2016

To General (Res.) Dr. Avichai Mandelblit

Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, Jerusalem

At your swearing-in ceremony as Attorney General you spoke of the importance
of the struggle against corruption. I wondered what George Orwell would have
had to say about the appointment of a corrupt person as a corruption-fighter.
In your role as Chief Military Advocate General of the IDF you raised
corruption to previously unseen heights. Is there any bigger swamp of
corruption than the military justice system you presided over? As the judicial
Caesar of the Occupation army you dismissed cases of child-killing, approved
the abduction of children from their beds in the dead of night and authorized
the judicial horrors of military courts in the Occupied Territories that
symbolize the regime of apartheid. You conducted the orchestra of repression
and violated human rights. At the Nuremberg trials as well as the Eichmann
trial it was established that “desk crimes” were no extenuating grounds and
that a high-ranking officer does not merely follow orders but is a party to
the implementation of policy. And so your name appears on the human-rights
Interpol’s list of wanted persons who must give an accounting of themselves.

Gideon Spiro

Locked gates

Our neighbour Syria is wracked by a cruel civil war. The situation is
catastrophic. Half a million killed, refugees, including women, children and
old people, are fleeing for their lives from the horrors of the war. Jordan
has absorbed a million refugees, as has Turkey. Syria’s rich neighbour Israel,
on the other hand, has locked its gates to preserve the purity of the race. As
a refugee I protest the Israeli government’s indifference to the suffering of

Translator’s notes
1. English translation: Yesh Gvul.


3. Ofer Aderet, Haaretz, 4 February 2016. Hayav ha-so’arim shel zqan
ha-hayalim she-shavar shtiqa (The stormy life of the oldest soldier who broke
silence). In Hebrew.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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