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Red Rag column - Basel Ghattas - A Hanukkah miracle - Eran Torbiner`s new project
By: Gideon Spiro
1 January 2017 (English translation posted 24 January 2017)

The smuggler

As these lines are being written Knesset Member Basel Ghattas has been freed from police detention to house arrest, and he remains under suspicion of having smuggled cellular telephones to a person who is referred to in official argot as a “security prisoner”. Whether he did it or not, the Right has exploited the news for a campaign of collective inflammatory incitement against Arab citizens. From the moment the “security” code was invoked, the Knesset exhibited marvelous efficiency and within two days the parliamentary immunity of Knesset Member Ghattas of Balad-Joint List was withdrawn.

Knesset Member Ghattas is in a quandary the resolution of which is like squaring a circle. He is a Member of the Knesset in state that oppresses his people, and he supports his people’s struggle for liberation from the Occupation. It is natural that he feels an obligation to help his people in the struggle. My guess is that his commitment to his people has stood more than once in contradiction to his oath of office to abide by the laws of the apartheid state. The question of what is the limit of supporting the Palestinian struggle is something that every Palestinian with Israeli citizenship who is a Member of the Knesset has to contend with. Sometimes that demands the agility of an acrobat walking on a tightrope. A similar dilemma was also the lot of Jewish police in British Mandate Palestine, who swore allegiance to the British Crown and smuggled military supplies to the Jewish Underground. MK Basel Ghattas did not smuggle weapons.

Some will claim that Ghattas’ smuggling of cellular telephones to Palestinian prisoners, who in his eyes are freedom fighters, does not cross a red line and is within the bounds of his legitimate parliamentary role. Was it a legitimate act within the Israeli reality? If we’re talking about a freedom fighter who is languishing in prison and wants to maintain contact with his family, the answer is positive; if we are talking about a “regular” criminal murderer, the answer is negative. Moreover, if the MK had asked my opinion I would have advised him to refrain from smuggling telephones, because the failure was likely, and to concentrate instead on a public struggle for the rights of Palestinian prisoners.

A Hanukkah Miracle

The Security Council Resolution declaring that the settlements are illegal, which passed without a US veto, is news to gladden the hearts of all who struggle against the Israeli government’s policy of Occupation and apartheid. Almost a Hannukah miracle. I lit a candle in honour of those responsible for the Resolution. Of course, one might also ask President Obama, who is now a month before the end of his term – where were you during the past 8 years of your presidency, when you cast a veto on every Resolution that condemned the Occupation and the settlements?

On this matter the aphorism “better late than never” is fitting. Important though it is, the Resolution is flawed, because it includes no measures like the imposition of sanctions under Article 7 of the UN Charter. Metaphorically we’re talking about messianic times – but the Messiah himself has not yet appeared.

The hysterical reaction of Netanyahu and his ministers only proves how important and relevant the Resolution is. But as has been said before, it should be complemented by an additional Security Council Resolution that will call for the creation of an international task force to remove the affliction that is the settlements.

Such a Resolution, even if it is delayed, will indeed come, if Israel continues to provoke the International community. The settlements are a festering open wound that cannot be healed as long as the Occupation continues.

The international community continues to see the two-state solution as the ultimate response to the conflict. That solution is constantly receding into the distance and we must think about alternative solutions. One of them is unity between the Occupied Territories and the State of Israel in the framework of the creation of a new federal state with a legislature with two chambers: an upper chamber and a lower chamber. The lower chamber will reflect the demographic situation, and the upper chamber will reflect the regional division. The division of regions will be done by a group of international experts, in order to prevent the one side from ruling over the other. The upper house will have the right to annul any law that would discriminate in favour of one side against the other.

The name of the State of Israel will be changed to reflect the new reality. The discriminatory laws will be repealed. The national anthem and the flag will reflect the new situation. The new state will be the state of all its citizens. The Law of Return will be blended with the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees. The constitution will be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The new state will divest itself of its nuclear weapons and realize Jabotinsky’s vision of a Jewish prime minister and an Arab deputy prime minister, and vice-versa. Preliminary thoughts on a new path.

Contribution that is a duty of every person of the Left

With joy and solidarity I put my column at the disposal of Eran Torbiner’s request for donations for a project on the history of the Left.

22 December 2016
Dear friends,

A little over nineteen years ago I videotaped a conference marking the 35th anniversary of Matzpen. The moderator was Daphna Baram, and the speakers – Akiva Orr, Michel Warschawski (Mikado) and Jamal Zahalka. Things I heard there and the way they were said affected me deeply, and I decided to proceed and film veteran activists of the independent left, as well as occasional conferences and demonstrations. Some of this material was used in films – screened and broadcast – about Matzpen, the International Brigades in the Spanish War, and about the members of the Bund. Some of the interviews – such as those with Ruhama Marton and Haim Hanegbi – I edited into short films posted on Youtube. From interviews and demonstrations with others – Tikva Honig-Parnass, Yaacov Chen and YaelLotan, for example – only short segments appeared on Youtube. To my surprise, in most cases I was the first and only person to document them on video or at all.

Presently I find myself at a critical junction: only about twenty hours of the interviews I held have been edited and translated into English thanks to the solidarity support I received from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. However, most of the interviews and conferences which I recorded and continue to do so – at least 200 hours of footage – are not yet edited and some are still kept only in cassettes and may not last too long. I feel committed to pass on, in the broadest sense possible, the story of the people I filmed, many of whom are no longer with us, and to continue to film, edit and have translated into English. At the same time, I would like to persist and find partners, an association or institute that would believe in the importance of this video documentation, and share the responsibility for distributing it. Until then, I also need to know to what extent you would be interested in this project and are willing to support it.

Any part of the work that appeals to you can be supported. Such support might be for the project in its entirety, or alternately – the continued documentation of Matzpen members, or editing and translation of the interviews with the International Brigade volunteers, or the Bundists, or one or more of the four short films I intend to edit in 2017: about Moshé Machover – one of the Matzpen founders, Dora Levin – an International Brigades volunteer, Attorney Felicia Langer, and Yissachar Artusky who founded the Bund in Israel.

I will be delighted to acknowledge you among the credits for every material I will film, edit or translate thanks to your support, and welcome your mails on any question, request or suggestion.

Support can be sent through my Paypal account whose address is the same as my Gmail address: or transferred to my bank account whose details appear in the attachment. Every supporter will receive a receipt, my gratitude and partnership in this journey.

In solidarity,

Eran Torbiner

Tel Aviv

[English text of Eran Torbiner’s message from Eran Torbiner’s Youtube page:

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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