Category Archives: Israel- Palestine

من أجل فلسطين حرة غير مقسمة

Published in Filastin al-Thawra (probably in 1991)

من أجل فلسطين حرة غير مقسمة

الفكرة التي يدافع عنها الكاتب هي أقرب مما تكون إلى التالي إذا كانت ثمة علل بنيوية وإيديولوجية تحول دون إندماج إسرائيل في محيطها الشرق الأوسطي. فما الذي يمنع طلائع الجالية الناطقة بالعبرية في فلسطين من الإنخراط في الثورة الديمقراطية الفلسطينية. ويقول: هذه الرؤيا تبدو بعيدة الآن لكن الوعي يتطور(يتغير) بسرعة.

بقلم: الياس دفيدسون، فلسطين الثورة ١٩٩١

بالرغم من إنني لم أسكن فلسطين منذ كنت صغيراً ولكنني لا أُخفي عواطفي تجاه هذا البلد المُعذب النازف. ولدت سنه ١٩٤١ في فلسطين لأبوين مهاجرين نفيا من ألمانيا النازية. إنني مدين بوجودي لفلسطين. الأرض التي قدمت المأوى لأبوي, التي كان من الممكن أن أُقتل فيها . ولي من العمر أربع سنوات. حينما هاجمت مجموعه عربية غاضبة الحافلة التي كنا نسافر فيها, ولكن تم إنقاذي على يد فلاح عربي عجوز ولطيف. إنني أُفكر في فلسطين وقلبي ينزف على جروحها.

كانت سنواتي الأولى في ”باقة“ وهي ضاحية من ضواحي القدس, حيث كان اليهود والعرب يعيشون جنباً إلى جنب بسلام وكان لعائلتي علاقات جيدة مع العائلات العربية الفلسطينية في الجوار وأنا فخور في أن أقول أن والدتي تعلمت لغة البلد وبالنسبة لي فإنني لم أمسح من ذاكرتي ومن كياني الصور الأصوات الروائح والأحاسيس التي تغلغلت في هذه السن المبكرة, إني أحمل كل هذا الأحدث لنفسي لأجد فيه مصدر إلهام وطاقة حيوية.

لقد أبعدني مسار حياتي عن فلسطين. ولكن وبرغم المسافه البعيدة. فإن ولعي بمسقط رأسي لم يخفت. وإهتماماتي لم تخف في أن أراه يعيش بخير.

مثل معظم الأطفال ”الإسرائيليين“ خضعت في شبابي لجهاز حزبي صهيوني وقضيت سنوات المراهقة في فرنسا حيث إنضممت إلى حركة الشباب الإشتراكي الصهيوني هي ”هاشومير هاتسعير“ وأعجبتني النشاطات في هذه الحركة وسياستها وتأكيدها على الإشتراكية والإجتماعية. وعلى العدالة وعلى الشجاعة المدنية لكن علمونا مبادئ الصهيونية وكانت مهمة المرشدين المبعوثين خصيصاً من إسرائيل تتمثل في أن يجعلوا منا صهاينة صالحين وشددوا على أننا شعب خاص لأننا يهود ولا مكان آخر لنا تحت الشمس سوى فلسطين (كان المبعوثين يسمونها إسرائيل) وكانت الحجة الرئيسية المقدمة هي أن كل اللذين ليسوا يهوداً …. من الصين إلى البيرو ومن فنلندا إلى الكاميرون , يكرهون اليهود. عن قصد او بدون قصد… وعلى ذلك فإنه كان من الساذج خوض نضال ضد العنصرية أو التمييز العادي لليهود. وكان الدعاة هؤلاء لايرون أن مشاعر العداء لليهود او لليهودية متأصلة في شخصية (غير اليهود) وقد إنتقلت, إنتقلت بمعنى ما,بالوراثة من الأب إلى الولد. وفي سعيهم لرفع هذه الأسطورة القذرة إلى حالة القانون الطبيعي. كانوا يقولون لنا : أن الدولة القومية اليهودية وحدها قد تحفظ الأمن الشخصي ”لليهود“ .

من جانبي فإنني عارضت هذه المحاججة. فأنا لا أستطيع قبول هكذا أحكام مسبقة ضد الإنسانية. وتمثلت فلسفتي الخاصة في أن كل شخص لايمكن أن يصدّق ما لم يثبت العكس فيما أن تجربتي الشخصية. خاصة علاقاتي مع غير اليهود تناقضت تماماً مع هذه الأحكام المسبقة.

في ذلك الوقت لم أكن أعرف المرامي العملية للصهيونية  كما هي حقيقة. لكن هذه الرؤيا كانت تٌستقبل برعب من الصهاينة والقادة الدينيين اليهود. الذين يرون في أن الزواج المختلط كارثة على العرق اليهودي, يمكن مقارنتها بقوة مع ـ الهولوكوست ـ ولأنهم يرون في الإختلاط عملية إستيعاب لليهود وكتهديد لوجود الشعب اليهودي فإنه من المنطقي أن يحاولو مجابهة هذا (التهديد) بكل الوسائل المتاحة بما فيها الإرهاب الفكري والجسدي.

إن لازدراء الزعماء الصهاينة التقليدي للثقافات الشرق أوسطية جذوره في الآراء الإستعمارية ـ العنصرية الأوروبية لغير البيض . إذ أن إنخراط إسرائيل في مختلف النشاطات الأوروبية والإستفزازات المدروسة ضد الدول المجاورة والقمع المتطرف ضد الوطنية الفلسطينية ومايبدو لي أنه مرض مرعب يجعل النظام الصهيوني يأبى الدخول في حوار مع م ت ف . ماهي إلا علامات لتصرف غير عقلاني. إنها إشارة واضحة إلى الدول المجاورة والأمة العربية في أن إسرائيل لا ترغب أن تنخرط كعضو عامل. في حياة الشرق الاوسط  وسبق لفلاديمير جابوتنسكي المعلم الإيديولوجي للزعيمين الإرهابيين شمير وبيغن أن رأى في العشرينيات الحاجة في أن يبني المستوطنون الصهاينة حائطاً حديدياً بينهم وبين الفلسطينين سكان البلد الاصليين.

يتوجب عل كل أولئك الذين يصرّون على الحاجة إلى ضمان دولة إسرائيل المبنية على العقيدة والممارسة الصهيونية ان تصبح دولة مسالمة وملتزمة بالقانون بحيث تستطيع أن تنخرط في حياة الشرق الاوسط؟

من جانبي فإنني أعتبر أن النضال من أجل تحرير الجالية الناطقة بالعبرية في فلسطين (أي الإسرائيلين) بمثابة الحل المتطور للمسألة الفلسطينية الممثلة في م ت ف   هي التي تمسك هذا المفتاح وسبق ل م ت ف أن إتخذت إجراءات حذرة في ضم مناضلين ناطقين بالعبرية (إسرائيلين) في صفوفها إن هكذا إجراءات هي هامة لكنها حالات معزولة جداً لاتصنع حالة سياسية.

وينبغي أن نأخذ في حسابنا أن المجلس الوطني الفلسطيني يعتبر نفسه يمثل أولئك الفلسطينيين الذين يعرفون أنفسهم بأنهم عرباً . هكذا فإن الغالبية الساحقة من اليهود الإسرائيلين (الذين أٌفضل أن أسميهم الفلسطينين الناطقين بالعبرية) لا يرون في أنفسهم شركاء مؤثرين في الحركة الفلسطينية لأنهم لم يكونوا فيها مطلقاً. أو لم يدعوا للمشاركة فيها كأعضاء متساوين وهنا فإنني أتحدث أساساً عن أولئك التقدميين الإسرائيلين الذين قد يرغبون في الإنضمام إلى الصفوف إذا أُعطي لهم خيار مشرف لعمل ذلك.

اليوم تمسك الثورة الفلسطينية مفتاح الحل السياسي للقضية الفلسطينية. بينما تعتري الصهيونية حالة من التآكل (الإهتراء) السياسي . إنه من الواجب أن تستخدم الحركة الوطنية الفلسطينية مصداقيتها وسلطتها لبناء مستقبل يسوده السلام والرخاء لإولئك الذين يحبون بلدهم الاصلي فلسطين…. وذلك بدعوة شعب فلسطين بغض النظر عن الدين مكان الإقامة الحالي أو الإنتماء العرقي للمشاركة في الثورة الديمقراطية الفلسطينية وفي رسم أهدافها ووسائل نضالها ويمكن أن تتمكن الثورة الفلسطينية من إيجاد منهج يسهل خوض نضال مشترك لتفكيك الدولة الصهيونية واستبدالها بدولة فلسطينية ديمقراطية موحدة لكل السكان هذه الرؤية تبدو بعيدة الآن لكن الوعي يتطور بسرعة ومن المحتمل أن يستقبل العديد من الإسرائيلين بارتياح الإطار الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني المشترك للكفاح ضد البنيان الصهيوني.

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The Single-state Solution Is Already Here

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.680882

The Single-state Solution Is Already Here

Now, of all times, out of the fire and despair, we must start talking about the last way out: one Israeli state with equal rights for both Jews and Arabs.
Gideon Levy
Oct 17, 2015 8:28 PM

Here is irrefutable proof that the one-state solution should not even be considered: the bloodshed, hatred and fear currently washing over the country. Advocates of the two-state solution and, especially, those who seek no solution, those Israelis who saw the one-state solution as treason and heresy, are now proclaiming victory. “There, that’s what the binational state will look like,” they are saying. “It will be a bloody, endless civil war.”

The same intimidatory arguments that were used for years against the two-state solution (the “Auschwitz borders”) are now being enlisted against the one-state solution. Now, as then, everything is judged according to the contours of the current, depressing reality, and it doesn’t occur to anyone that another reality is possible.

The nationalists say, “An agreement will never be possible with those bloodthirsty people.” The center-left says, “There’s no way to live together.” The common denominator is racism, and the assumption that the hatred will last forever. To this we must add the arguments over the Jewish state’s sanctity and the end of the Zionist project. In short, one state means the end of the world.

And now to the facts. One state already exists here, and has done so for 48 years. The Green Line faded long ago; the settlements are in Israel, and Israel is also the settlers’ land. The fate of the two million Palestinians who live in the West Bank is decided by the government in Jerusalem and the defense establishment in Tel Aviv, not by Ramallah. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, is their ruler far more than Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is. They are clearly part of the binational state and have been its subjects, forcibly, for some three generations. This state has three regimes: democracy for the Jews; discrimination for the Israeli Arabs; and apartheid for the Palestinians. But everyone lives in one inseparable state.

The binational state that was born in 1967 is not democratic. In fact, it’s one of the worst states in the world, because of the military dictatorship it upholds in part of its territory – one of the most brutal, totalitarian regimes in existence today. It is also one of the most racist states, since it determines its residents’ rights based solely on their nationality. This is the one state that is washed in blood right now, and will continue to be washed in blood as long as it remains in its malicious, nondemocratic format.

Those who say the current bloodbath is proof that Arabs and Jews can’t live together base this on the current state of injustice. And they’re right. If Israel continues to be a state of iniquity, Jews and Arabs will never be able to live together in peace. But the growing few advocating the one-state solution are not thinking of this state – quite the opposite. They wish to undermine it and establish a different, more just and egalitarian regime. When that is established, the hatred and despair will most likely be forgotten.

One may not want to believe this, of course, but one must not deceive. You cannot deny the possibility of life together with arguments based on the existing conditions. Blood is being spilt because of the injustice, and stems from it. How can you rule out in advance the possibility that in a democratic, egalitarian state, different relations will be formed? There are quite a few historic precedents of hatred and horror that dissipated when the injustice dissipated.

We could go back to the two-state solution, of course. Not a bad idea, perhaps, but one that has been missed. Those who wanted a Jewish state should have implemented it while it was still possible. Those who set it on fire, deliberately or by doing nothing, must now look directly and honestly at the new reality: 600,000 settlers will not be evacuated. Without evacuation, there will not be two states. And without two states, only the one-state solution remains.

Now, of all times, out of the fire and despair, we must start talking about the last way out: equal rights for all. For Jews and Arabs. One state is already here, and has been for a long time. All it needs is to be just and do the right thing. Who’s against it? Why? And, most important, what’s the alternative?

In Israel, we walk amongst killers and torturers

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.662364
Ha’aretz: Jun. 22, 2015 |

In Israel, we walk amongst killers and torturers

By Amira Hass

The harassment of the Al-Midan Theater stems from envy of our subjects’ ability to overcome oppression, to think and create, in defiance of our image of them as inferior.

In our homes, our streets and our places of work and entertainment, there are thousands of people who killed and tortured thousands of other people or supervised their killing and torture. I write “thousands” as a substitute for the vaguer “countless” – an expression for something that cannot be measured.

The vast majority of those who kill and torture (now as well) are proud of their deeds, and their society and families are proud of their deeds – although usually it’s impossible to find a direct link between the names of the dead and the tortured and the names of those who kill and torture, and even when it is possible, it’s forbidden. It’s also forbidden to say “murderers.” And it’s forbidden to write “lowlifes” or “cruel people.”

Me, cruel? After all, our hands aren’t covered with blood when we push the button that drops a bomb on a building housing 30 members of a single family. Lowlife? How can we use that word to describe a 19-year-old soldier who kills a 14-year-old boy who went outside to pick an edible plant?

The Jewish killers and torturers and their direct commanders act as they do with official permission. The Palestinian dead and tortured that they have left behind over the past 67 years also have grieving nieces and families for whom bereavement is a constant presence. In university hallways, shopping malls, buses, gas stations and government ministries, Palestinians don’t know which of the people they encounter have killed, or which and how many members of their families and their people they have killed.

But what’s certain is that their killers and torturers are walking around free. As heroes.

In this morbid contest with the Palestinians over bereavement and pain, we, the Israeli Jews, cannot win. With our air force and our armored corps and our Givati Brigade and our famed elite commando units, we are the underdogs in this contest. But because we are the unquestioned rulers, we fake the results of the contest and appropriate bereavement to ourselves.

We’re not satisfied with the land, the homes and the direct connection to the place that we stole from them and appropriated and destroyed, and that we continue to destroy and appropriate and steal. No. We also deny all the reasons, all the historical and social context of expulsion, dispossession and discrimination, that have led a very small handful of those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel to try to imitate us by taking up arms. They deluded themselves into thinking that weapons were the proper means of resistance, or reached a peak of fury and helplessness and decided to take lives.

Whether or not they regret it, their delusion doesn’t cancel out the fact that they had and have every reason to resist the oppression and discrimination and wickedness that are part and parcel of Israel’s rule over them. Convicting them as murderers doesn’t turn us into the collective victim in this equation. Instead of reducing the reasons for resistance, we are only intensifying and improving the means of oppression. And one means of oppression is insatiable vengefulness.

The attack on the Al-Midan Theater and the play “A Parallel Time” is part of this vengefulness. And it involves a lot of envy as well. Envy of the ability of those we oppress to overcome the oppression and the pain, to think, create and act in defiance of our image of them as inferior. They don’t dance to our tunes like miserable weaklings.

And as in an anti-Semitic caricature, for us everything focuses on the funding, on money. We don’t shut people up, we brag. We’re enlightened, we only cut off their funding. We turned them into a minority in our land when we expelled them and didn’t allow them to return, and now the 20 percent who remain here should say thank you and pay with their tax money for plays that extol the state and its policy. That’s democracy.

This isn’t a culture war, or a war about culture. It’s yet another battle – probably a lost cause, like the previous battles – over a sane future for this country. Palestinian citizens of Israel were a kind of insurance policy for the possibility of a sane future: Call them a bridge, bilingual, pragmatic, even if against their will. But we have to make changes, and we have to know how to listen to them, in order for this insurance policy to be valid. Yet we, the unquestioned rulers, aren’t planning to listen and don’t know the meaning of change.

One final note: Reports about the murder of Lod resident, Danny Gonen, at the Ein Bubin spring near the village of Dir Ibzi’a were accompanied by links to recent previous attacks: the people wounded in a vehicular terror attack near Alon Shvut settlement, the border policeman who was stabbed near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. And what was not mentioned? Of course, two young Palestinians killed recently by IDF soldiers: Izz al-Din Gharra, 21, who was shot to death on June 10 in the Jenin refugee camp, and Abdullah Ghneimat, 22, who was run over on June 14 in Kafr Malik by an IDF jeep.

Every night, on average, the IDF conducts 12 routine raids. For the Palestinians, every nighttime raid, which often entails the use of stun grenades and gas and shooting, is a mini terror attack.

The nuts and bolts of racial discrimination, Zionist style

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/May-11/297484-israels-west-bank-housing-policy-by-numbers.ashx

Israel’s West Bank housing policy by numbers

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Since seizing the West Bank in 1967, Israel has held full control over all planning matters for both Palestinians and Jewish settlers in an area covering over 60 percent of the territory.

Although settlers can secure building permits with ease, the opposite applies for Palestinians who are forced to build illegally, with Israel bulldozing hundreds of such structures every year, rights groups say.

Villages vs. settlements Over 60 percent – around 360,000 hectares – of the West Bank is classified as Area C, which Israel aims to retain under any final settlement. This is where Israel has full control over security and also civilian affairs which are managed by the Civil Administration.

U.N. figures show there are an estimated 298,000 Palestinians living in Area C, in 532 residential areas. There are also 341,000 Israelis living in 135 settlements and 100 or so unauthorized outposts.

Less than 1 percent of Area C is designated for Palestinian development, compared to 70 percent which falls within the domain of local settlements, the U.N. says. Palestinian construction in the rest of Area C is subject to severe restrictions and almost impossible to carry out.

Demolition orders vs. permitsSince the 1993 Oslo autonomy accords were signed, Israel has issued more than 14,600 demolition orders, according to Israeli planning rights watchdog Bimkom.

So far, about 2,925 structures have actually been demolished.

Bimkom architect Alon Cohen Lifschitz estimates there are an average of two structures per order, meaning that over the past two decades, Israel has issued demolition notices to nearly 30,000 Palestinian-owned structures.

Last year, Israel issued 911 demolition orders on grounds of a lack of building permits. There are currently more than 9,100 outstanding demolition orders which can be implemented, Bimkom says.

Structures can include anything from a house to an animal shed, a road or fence, foundations, infrastructure, cisterns, cemeteries and solar panels. Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures.

According to Amnesty International, there were 76 building permits issued to Palestinians between 1996 and 1999. And from 2000-2014, only 206 building permits were issued, Bimkom says. In 2014, Israel granted a single permit.

Two-tier planning system

In Area C, a two-tier planning system operates based on ethnic-national background: a civil and representative system for Jewish settlers, and a military system without representation for Palestinians, Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights says.

In planning for Palestinian villages, the objectives are to limit land use and encourage dense construction, whereas in the settlements, the trend is often the opposite – to include as much area as possible, producing low density, it says.

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/05/quantum-mechanics-israeli-totalitarianism-150507072609153.html

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

To understand how it feels to be a Palestinian, you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist.

Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2015

With the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily the most ultranationalist and conservative government in Israel’s history, even the most cockeyed optimist would shrink from imagining that Oslo can still be revived, if only the right treatment were concocted.

The problem today is not that anyone but the most self-interested Israeli, Palestinian or US officials still pretends that the peace process is functioning. Rather, it’s that hardly anyone in a position of power can explain precisely when, how and especially why it died. To do so requires moving far more deeply into the dynamics of the endlessly troubled peace process than most policy-makers or commentators are willing to delve, into what I term the “quantum mechanics” underlying Oslo’s fatally flawed structures.

Israel has long claimed uniquely democratic credentials in a region besot with authoritarian regimes.

The unending occupation, the sheer chutzpah with which the Israeli government continues to expand its presence in the West Bank while sieging Gaza, the escalating protests by minorities inside the country’s 1967 borders, and the composition of the new government, all put the lie to such claims today.

Matrix of control

What’s still poorly understood by most non-Palestinians is just how deep the level of control has long been. Even if you’ve spent decades travelling through the West Bank and Gaza, the intensity of that control remains hard to grasp.

As I walked through the Jordan Valley last month near the front-line village of Fasayel, I began to understand how one reason why it’s been so difficult to explain the intensity and all-encompassing scope of Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Territories is that even its critics don’t use strong enough language to describe it.

Israel is not just an “occupier” or a “coloniser”. However democratic it may (or may not) be inside its 1967 borders, in the Occupied Territories Israel’s rule is nothing short of totalitarian.

In calling Israeli rule totalitarian, I am not arguing that the government mimics the worst policies of thought control and ideological purism practised by the 20th century’s Fascist and Communist states such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China (although Israel’s constant harassment and imprisonment of Palestinian activists does reflect a desire to control how Palestinians think and act, at least publicly).

Rather, I’m talking about a much deeper level of control, at what can only be described as the quantum level of Palestinian daily life.

To understand how it feels to live as a Palestinian today you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist. Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. And it’s through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell’s description of totalitarianism, to “control the past as well as the future”.

Israeli geographer Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) coined the “matrix of control” to describe these forces. The name evokes numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even “nature reserves”. The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people’s behaviour and movement.

With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of “bio” and “necro”-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.

Three, four and five dimensions

A look at the group of detailed maps created by ICAHD reveals upwards of two dozen parameters of control that can intersect at any given coordinate on the map. But the map is only a two dimensional representation of a multidimensional and multi-levelled reality. It’s not just various forces meeting on the ground. When you’re walking through the 97 percent of the West Bank that is in Areas B or C and thus under Israel security control, you realise that the matrix extends both under the ground you’re walking on and above your head.

Below ground, Israel controls all the water resources in the West Bank, and for 50 years has systematically taken most every possible well, stream, aquifer or other water source from Palestinians (in direct violation of international law, it must be remembered).

It also controls the airspace above Palestinians’ heads, as the constant buzz of Israeli fighter jets training overhead in the Jordan Valley, and the ubiquitous presence of drones and helicopters almost everywhere at any time, and the prohibitions on building new floors on existing structures makes clear.

In whatever direction Palestinians look or want to step or reach – left or right, forwards or backwards, above or below them – the land, air and water surrounding them is largely outside their permanent control.

Blink of an eye

But it is not just that most of their territory is out of Palestinian hands. The quantum physics of Israel’s matrix of control also has its own Heisenberg, or uncertainty principle.

In quantum mechanics this principle asserts that it is impossible to know with precision the exact state of a particle because the very act of observing it changes its state. In the same way, merely by changing their location Palestinians change the state of territory upon which they are moving.

On the one hand, despite the rockiness of the landscape, the geography of the West Bank can be among the most liquid on earth. It changes as one moves through it, depending on who you are – Jew or Palestinian, settler or refusnik, soldier or international. Spaces that seems open and free can suddenly be surrounded by military forces and closed off, declared off limits for any length of time for a variety of reasons merely because Palestinians moved into and through it or used it for grazing, water, or other normal activities.

Moreover, their very movement through the geography can change it not just for a moment, but permanently. At the same time, the uncertainty principle can also operate with a time lag. If Palestinians decide to walk through a Jordan Valley village, for example, or to plant trees on their land in the hills around Hebron or Jenin, it’s not at all uncommon for the Israeli military to issue demolition or confiscation orders a few days later.

In particular, the movement of Jews has an even more profound effect than Palestinians especially when establishing an outpost or settlement. Once land is claimed even on the flimsiest of pretexts the military usually moves in and declares a still larger area a security zone, making it impossible for Palestinians to access the land for months, years or even decades.

And so, it seems that land in Palestine can change states from liquid to solid almost instantly, freezing in place whatever Israel decides it wants frozen, from people to legal categories. The quantum physics of Palestinian geography can thus produce permanent changes not just in the three normal dimensions of space, but in the conflict’s “fourth dimension” as well, namely time.

But however many dimensions one considers, the goal remains the same: to achieve, in the words of the Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop group DAM, “Maximum Jews on maximum land; minimum Arabs on minimum land.”

Neoliberal policies

There is even a fifth, economic dimension in which the physics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict operates. The neoliberal policies imposed on the Occupied Territories under Oslo have ensured that when Palestinians aren’t being displaced by Israeli settlers or bombs, they are fixed in place as objects of development, whose economic life is confined to small spaces that remain largely under Israeli control. The possibility of their becoming subjects able to shape their own destinies is, it seems, outside the laws of physics operating in the Holy Land.

It is the changeling nature of the political, physical and economic geographies of the Israeli-controlled Occupied Territories that has made it so difficult for Palestinians and their supporters internationally (including in Israel) to develop effective strategies of resistance, nevermind transcending the occupation.

With Oslo’s final demise, Palestinians don’t just need new strategies for resisting an occupation without end; what’s needed is an entirely new physics as well.

Indeed, it has long been argued that Palestinians are still waiting for their Ghandi. It might well turn out that to overcome decades of totalitarian Israeli rule, a long-dead peace process, and ineptitude, corruption and authoritarianism internally, Einstein would be a far more useful figure.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
 
Source: Al Jazeera

Israel’s road signs policy ‘erases memory of place’

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/israel-road-signs-policy-erases-memory-place-150202105553841.html
Israel’s road signs policy ‘erases memory of place’

In some areas, street signs only indicate the nearest Israeli settlements.

Rania Zabaneh, Dalia Hatuqa |  Al Jazeera, 04 Feb 2015

Ramallah, West Bank – Just outside of Ramallah, on the edge of the main West Bank north-south artery known as Road 60, a large green road sign is hard to miss. It indicates that the Israeli settlements of Kokhav Yaakov and Geva Binyamin are nine kilometres to the south, while Pesagot is another 13km away.

Just south are the Palestinian villages of Deir Dibwan, Burqa, Mikhmas and Jaba – but they are not mentioned on any of the major signs on the highway. This is a situation replicated across the West Bank, where approximately 150 settlements peppering the higher elevations are connected by a network of roads.

A United Nations report said this network is “primarily for Israeli use that specifically link West Bank settlements to each other and to Israel … Palestinian access on to this network is restricted by a closure regime consisting of … checkpoints, roadblocks and a permit system for Palestinian vehicles.”

Israeli authorities have long banned the Palestinian Authority (PA) from putting up its own road signs that refer to Palestinian towns and villages. This is true mostly for population centres in Area C, the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under Israeli administrative and security control.

The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said: “The matter is being checked and addressed.” COGAT is an Israeli defence ministry unit that encompasses the Civil Administration, the Israeli governing body in the West Bank.

On an intersection on a two-lane highway in the northern West Bank, cars, lorries and taxis whiz by, travelling to various destinations. But it is difficult for Palestinian travellers here to pinpoint where they are; street signs only indicate where the nearest Israeli settlements are.

“We normally know this street as the ‘Yitzhar line’,” said one truck driver, referring to the settlement thrust in the heart of three Palestinian villages; Burin, Madama and Asira al-Qibliyeh. “We are between Qalqiliya and Huwara. There isn’t anything to indicate where Nablus or Qalqiliya are except Yitzhar.”

Not only are the proper names of Palestinian locales – in either Arabic, English or Hebrew – often absent from street signs, but in some cases, even the Arabic spelling of Hebrew names has been painted over or erased.

“We got used to the Hebrew name of the area because there are no other signs,” one taxi driver told Al Jazeera. Another added: “We have a hard time getting to places. We have to ask for directions the whole time.”

In 2009, the PA kick-started a US-funded project to install road signs in Arabic and English script. The $20m project was expected to last four years. However, about half of the signs were not erected because of Israeli opposition, and the project was subsequently shelved.

“Israel does not allow us to erect street signs, especially on main streets and bypass roads in Area C,” Mohammad Jabarin, the deputy minister of local government, told Al Jazeera. “We managed to put up signs inside Palestinian population centres, but not outside.”

That has not made it easier for Palestinians to navigate their way through the West Bank, carved up by a matrix of Israeli infrastructural obstacles, including the separation wall, about 100 fixed checkpoints, concrete blocks, and earth mounds.

Critics contend that the Israeli military occupation has not only effectively changed the landscape, but also affected Palestinian memory “through visual and linguistic manipulation.”

“Perceived as mundane and experienced as mere informative images, innocent and indisputable, road signs can constitute part of a highly invested political strategy for producing a linguistic landscape,” wrote Liora Bigon and Amer Dahamshe, who studied Israeli road-sign policy.

Others say the presence of Israeli military infrastructure has affected Palestinians’ usage. Places like Qalandiya, the name of a West Bank refugee camp, are now synonymous with the checkpoints thrust in their midst.

“The most imminent danger is when the colonial terms are used by individuals under occupation,” said Abaher el-Sakka, a professor of social sciences at Birzeit University.

Another danger, according to Sakka, is “erasing the memory of the place, connected to the original owners of the land, by using names that serve the interests of the colonisers, and this means the ultimate success of the colonial project”.

Sakka’s fears do not seem to be inflated: Many drivers on the “Yitzhar line” could not name the nearby Palestinian villages where the settlement was built. “There’s no Arabic name for this area,” said one taxi driver. “There’s an Arab village here, but I can’t remember its name, because there are only Hebrew signs.”

Source: Al Jazeera

The Taste of Mulberries

The following beautiful texts are taken from the book “Israel, an Apartheid State” by Uri Davis, Zed Books Ltd, 1987.

Prolegomena: The Taste of Mulberries

by Havah ha- Levi

(a) The Female Snake

Someone said something about Tantura…1

Soft hills rolled silently into each other’s embrace [towards the beach] and right on the edge of the hills there was a dense plantation of low palm trees clustered on the beach. A scenery of soft and misty dream. Only the feeling of nausea returns to trouble me.

At a short distance from the cluster of palms there was a group of empty houses.

Some of them were slightly damaged, but generally, the houses were intact and beautiful. Everything [about the houses] was very neglected, empty and filthy. A few ancient shoes exposed their seams along the footpath. There in the deserted village of Tantura the kibbutz set up the summer camp for its children.

The houses were cleaned up. A large long tent was erected to serve as a dining hall. The place was a paradise for children.

I remember the heat of the scorching sun over my tanned skin. The salt taste of the sea water. The swimming competitions. The beautiful and quiet beach. And thirty or forty happy children. Really happy.

And yet I listen to my memories. I try to redraw the lines that chart my memory.

There are things that already had their beginning in another place.

There were these half scornful sentences, such as: if the Arabs come, they will steal you first. You are blonde and the Arabs like blonde girls; if the Arabs come, they will see your golden head in the dark and will steal you first. They will think perhaps that it is a ball of gold; here is an Arab shoe. Such sentences …

Towards the end, two days before the conclusion of the summer camp, they asked who wanted to go on a tour and listen to Motke telling stories about the conquest of Tantura. I went, too.

We went into the cluster of palms, and the leader of the summer camp, a nice jovial kibbutznik who evidently loved children, was already there telling something. I lagged behind as usual. I walked along daydreaming and slightly bored. When I eventually caught up with the group, they were all standing near a large house which had perhaps originally been situated at the edge of the village, and I remember the words: ‘We attacked at both ends. Most of them had already run away. Suddenly a huge Arab came out behind this house and began to run. I shot him, and he jumped in the air like a rabbit, turned a somersault and fell’.

Even today I do not know whether this was a factual description of what had happened. But at our place, they used to say that if you kill a snake, you should throw it away or hide it, because if it is left exposed, all the snakes (the family? the tribe?) will come to the place to look for it and this could be very dangerous. And that if you kill a bee that has stung you, it is likewise necessary to throw it away or hide it, since otherwise all the bees will come there after its smell. And that if you kill a lion, the lioness will always come to search for it.

And then, suddenly, together with the Arab, shot in the air with his white kufiyya and black agal, all the Arabs who had lived there in these houses, who had worn those shoes now discarded on the footpaths, the children who had run about naked on the beach, the fat, erect women who had carried the jars on top of their heads… they all came out suddenly in my imagination to look for him. I recalled the warning not to leave the corpse of the snake in the place where it had been killed because the female snake will come to look for it and I turned to look behind me, terrified. There was nothing there. Only the beautiful houses and the sea. A bit angry and a bit curious, I thought about this bad Arab who had come to attack our soldiers. I thought he had deserved to die like that, yet he did not seem to have been dangerous when he was shot there in the air, like a rabbit. I wanted to know if he was from this village, or from another place.

We returned to the beach and ate a water melon. I wanted to have the ‘heart’ of the water melon, but I never got it because I always arrived late. Everything lost its taste. I told my friend: Mira, I am already fed up with this summer camp. I want to go back home.

She looked at me surprised, beautiful, suntanned: ‘Why?’

(b) The Taste of Mulberries

The name of the villages was Sarkas, which probably refers to the former origin of its inhabitants, Circassians, who came, I would not know how, to the Middle East and settled here.2Anyway, when I came to know the village, all of its inhabitants were Palestinian Arabs. In fact, I never came to know the village properly; I was never there, though this is only half the truth, and I shall return to that later.

In our eyes, the eyes of children four or five years old, the village was represented by two women: Khadija and Hanifa. Maybe they were more courageous than the rest, or maybe they served as something like the ‘Foreign Office’ of the village. They often walked about in the kibbutz, and as far as I can remember they were mainly preoccupied with the picking of khubeiza (mallow) leaves which grew in wild abundance along the roadside. When we asked why they pick the khubeiza, we were told that the Arabs cook the leaves and eat them. And so, the first thing lever knew about Arabs was that they eat khubeiza. I also knew, of course, that they ride on camels, since the camels used to pass through the kibbutz and occasionally camp there; I knew that they ride on donkeys along the white road which probably stretches up to the very end of the world. But at that time there were also in the area British soldiers (the Mandate) and Australian soldiers (World War II), and thus it was imbedded in my consciousness that Eretz Israel3 consists of us, as well as passers by: Arabs, British, Australians …

About that time they all disappeared, and I really did not notice their disappearance all that much. Of course, the departure of the British was accompanied by much talk on the radio and in the yard of the kibbutz. But as to the fact that Khadija and Hanifa ceased to show up – well, there are many events that pass through the universe of any child, and he or she accepts their appearance os well as their disappearance as a matter of fact. Later, I came to know that the village had been destroyed by bulldozers, and I was a little scared. And then I forgot, und many years passed be fore Sarkas again emerged before my eyes as a place where people lived.

The destroyed village was made into the kibbutz garbage dump. I do not know who was the first to discover that in the midst of the ruins and the dust und the stench there remained a mulberry tree. A huge mulberry tree, which, In summer, produced huge mulberries: black and deliciously sweet. The mulberry trees in the kibbutz were grown on much water and their fruit was therefore somewhat watery, and anyway they were much too high to climb. But this mulberry tree was low, spreading wide, and heavily laden with fruit, to the deep delight of a little girl who was rather quiet and clumsy and who loved mulberries. And thus, every Saturday we would go on pilgrimage to the mulberry tree, stand around it for hours and eat of its fruit and return home with hands and faces blackened by the dark dye of mulberry sap. Never, not once, while standing there among the ruins and the dust under the scathing sun did we talk or think of the inhabitants of Sarkas who lived here: where are they? Where did they go? Why?

From the distance of fifteen years of difficult political development, I watch this group of children devouring mulberries in the midst of a destroyed village, and I just cannot comprehend: how? Wherefrom this utter blindness?

For many years I would walk on Saturdays to Sarkas. At times with company. At times alone. Now Sarkas was no longer embodied in Khadija and Hanifa. Now Sarkas was reduced to the stench of the kibbutz garbage dump and the mulberries In summer. On either side of the road to Sarkas there were sabr cacti hedgerows along all roads, but today they have all disappeared, except in books and in Arab villages, where they still remain. In summer the sabr would bring forth their fruit, and raise masses of tiny red and orange flags glued to their rounded green flagpoles in a summer festival. And when the sabr fruit was ripe, the Arab women would appear out of nowhere, fill their big tin containers with the red and orange fruit and walk away. Today I remember these Arab women and I ask myself: where did they come from? Who were they? Were they exiled inhabitants of the of the village? And in the evening, when they eat the fruit that they had gathered or when they sell it at the roadside, do they feel the taste of their lost homes?

But at that time I did not think of them in the least. The Arabs were something whose temporary provisional existence was eternal. They pass along the white mild on a donkey-cart, emerging out of somewhere and going on to somewhere else, Only once, for some reason … There was a big scout night game, a sort of test of courage. I hid behind the sabr hedgerows and waited for my pursuers to pass by. I sat there in the dark for a long time, quietly. I was not afraid. And all of a sudden they were with me. The women of Sarkas. The women who pick khubeiza along the roadside. The women with the long knives who steal wheat from the fields of the kibbutz. The women with the water cans and the bundles of dry wood on their heads. Slowly, slowly, they slipped by on their bare feet, black and silent. Their round outline, like the sabr cacti leaves, merged with the darkness around, silent.

Today there stands on the site a huge plant for the processing of agricultural products. An exemplary cooperative venture. And the hill? The hill of the village of Sarkas, where is it? The entire area was levelled down, and around the huge factory orange groves were planted, and there is not one single cut stone left as testimony. Yet, I remember. I testify.

In 1961, a very young woman from kibbutz Giv’at ha-Sheloshah married an Arab youth who was employed in her kibbutz. The kibbutz refused to allow them to remain there, and they applied to join ‘my’ kibbutz. The debate on whether they are to be admitted or whether they are not to be admitted extended over one and a half years and shook the kibbutz in a way that no other subject ever did, either before or since. The debate cut across families, and brought sons to rebel against their parents, brothers against brothers and husbands against wives. The leadership of the Ha-Shomer ha-Tza’ir kibbutz federation was called to present its position (opposed), and threats of leaving the kibbutz on this matter were voiced in both camps. In the end, the ‘mixed couple’ was not admitted to the kibbutz. Both camps were already tired of endless debates and rows. In a bitter discussion which I (who supported their admission) had with one of the leading opponents he told me: ‘Do you know that Rashid is a son of the village of Sarkas? Do you think he can live here, raise his children here and always see across the street the hill which was his village, and not think anything?’

At that moment, together with the scorching sun and the dust, I felt in my mouth the taste of the mulberries, and I understood what homeland means, and also, for the first time, vaguely and at a distance and a little bit afraid, I understood that this homeland, the homeland of the songs and of school textbooks, is simply just the taste of mulberries, and the smell of dust, and the moist earth in winter, and the colour of the sky, and that it is a homeland not only for me, but also for Rashid Masarwa. At that very moment, in the midst of the heated discussion, the taste of mulberries and the shock, I remembered one fearful memory.

It was towards the end of the 1948 war, after we had won the war and defeated the Arab armies and had a state of our own. We were lying in bed. Eight children in the children’s house. It was night. From the distance we heard the heavy and rumbling noise. It was not very far away, but one could clearly hear that the noise did not come from inside the kibbutz. And the noise went on and on and on. I asked what this protracted and continuous noise was, and one of the children told me that two kibbutz members had gone with bulldozers to Sarkas to destroy the houses of the Arabs. In real fear of Arab revenge I asked: ‘But what will the Arabs do when they come back and see that we have destroyed their homes?’ And he then answered: ‘That is why we destroy their homes, so that they do not come back’.

I then knew that the matter was lost. The home of Rashid was destroyed then so that he would not return. So that he, his mother in the long black robe who walks erect with the bundle of wood magnificently balanced on her head, and all his brothers and sisters who run barefoot on the stones would not return. And also now they will not let him come back.

In December 1972, the entire country was shaken with what was dubbed in the press as the ‘affair of the espionage and sabotage network’. Some thirty Arab youths and six Jewish youths, Israelis, were arrested on charges of forming a ‘sabotage organization’, operated by Syrian intelligence, whose object was ‘to damage the security of the state’. One of the Jewish detainees, a youth aged 26, was a son of my kibbutz. Another detainee from the Arab village of Jatt, was a youth named Mahmud Masarwa. In his defence speech he stated as follows:

The Honourable Court, Your Honourable Judges,

My father was born in the village of Sarkas, near kibbutz .. , in the vicinity of Haderah. My father was the son of a peasant. In 1948, he was removed from his land, expelled by force. Their lands were confiscated. Their homes were destroyed. On the site a factory for the kibbutz was built. My father was compelled to go out and seek work as a labourer in order to feed … [his family]. We went to live in such a tiny house: twelve people in the space of metres times 3 metres. In 1957, I remember this quite well, one year after the Sinai war, my father told me and my brother who sits here [in the court room]: ‘Go out to work in order that you at least help me to finance your studies .. .’ (Quoted from the official Protocol of the court proceedings.)

‘My brother who sits here in the court room!’

His brother who sat there was Rashid Masarwa who, in 1961, applied to be admitted to the kibbutz together with his Jewish wife. It was Rashid Masarwa who told the members of the kibbutz:

I want to live here as a loyal kibbutz member like everyone else, but I want my children to know that their father is an Arab, and I want my children to know the Quran, and I want them to celebrate all the Jewish holidays, but also know what Ramadan is, and that their grandfather and grandmother will come to visit them here in the kibbutz, and that my children will also go to the village to be with their grandfather and grandmother in the holidays.

Now he is sitting here, Rashid Masarwa, and watches his brother being sentenced for wanting to take by the force of arms what he himself had hoped to gain by application and consent, and all the brotherhood among the nations in the world could not be of any avail to them.

In the Ramleh central prison the son of the dispossessing kibbutz und the son of the dispossessed village met again. Only one youth, one Udi Adiv, from that kibbutz. resolved in his mind to cross the road. But the world has no space to accommodate the naive.

And if prisoners in jail do dream – both prisoners, no doubt, see in their dreams the colour of the sky, and perhaps they also savour the taste of mulberries.

1 Tantura is a Palestinian Arab village on the Mediterranean coast, some 13 km north of Caesaria. In 1944 its population was estimated at 1,470 Muslim and 20 Christian inhabitants. It was occupied by the Israeli army in 1948 and subsequently almost completely destroyed. All of its inhabitants were expelled and made refugees. The lands of the Palestinian Arab village of Tantura are now cultivated by the Israeli Jewish kibbutz Nahsholim (established 1948; population 350; area of cultivation 1,500 dunams). [Footnote probably by Uri Davis]

2 After the Russian conquest of Circassia from the Ottomans in 1878, many Circassian clans and families loyal to the Ottoman regime emigrated to various countries throughout the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid extended his support to the Circassian resettlement and made lands available to them in Palestine, inter alia, where there are two Circassian villages, Kufr Qama in Lower Galilee and Rihaniyya in Upper Galilee. The attempt to settle Circassians in the Northern Sharon, in the northern coastal plain, where they established the village of Sarkas failed, and the original Circassian inhabitants were gradually replaced by native Palestinian Arabs. In 1947 the village population totalled some 400 inhabitants. [Footnote probably by Uri Davis]

3 The Hebrew designation of historical Palestine.

 

Israeli soldiers are licensed thugs applying state violence in the West Bank

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.631735

Israeli soldiers are licensed thugs applying state violence in the West Bank

Even without tear gas grenades and grabbing Ziad Abu Ein by the throat, the presence of IDF troops in Turmus Aya was an act of violence in itself.

By Amira Hass, Haaretz, 15.12.14 3
 
The death of the Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein is more evidence of how the violence of the Israel Defense Forces has become normal, an obvious routine, one that is not seen and not changed. We have been busy with “a heart attack or not a heart attack,” we dealt with “suspending security coordination or not suspending security coordination” and with “how the IDF prepares for escalation.” In other words, we have been dealing with what slightly tickles Israeli fake normalcy.

Nobody addressed the naturalness with which a line of IDF soldiers and Border Police and army jeeps set up in a Palestinian field to prevent farmers from accessing their land. There is no criticism of the nonchalance with which the licensed thugs shoot tear gas and stun grenades at old people, women and young people. And why? So they will not come near the unauthorized and illegal outpost of Adei Ad, located on their land.

Even without tear gas grenades and stun grenades, even without grasping Abu Ein’s throat – the presence of IDF and Border Police forces there was pure violence. Every pillbox in the West Bank, every military camp and Civil Administration jeep, and every tractor of the Jerusalem municipality in the eastern part of the city, they are all an inseparable part of the state violence.

The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 as part of a deal for a period of five years: The Palestinians will not respond to the Israeli state violence, and Israel will gradually reduce the areas in which its licensed thugs apply their violence. This was the practical essence of the Oslo Accords. But the best and brightest of the Israeli forces did everything so that the Palestinians would be portrayed as the agreement’s violators if they respond to Israel’s non-shrinking violence. To shout at a soldier is also a violation of the deal. That is why Abu Ein was grabbed by the throat.

We are now 20 years after. And even if there are pockets of pseudo autonomy with Palestinian policemen (who hide during the IDF’s nighttime invasions), state violence has not retreated, not been reduced. On the contrary – it has only spread, grown stronger and even more arrogant.

The job of the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the police is to protect the Jewish citizens of Israel, including the settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem, of course). With every settler added to the proud list of preferred citizens, the means of protection must be increased. The settler population is growing, and so does the violence of the state and its institutions. The soldiers are thugs on behalf of the state and the settlers are licensed thieves, thieves on behalf of the authorities.

The land the unauthorized and illegal outposts stole is insignificant compared to the land stolen by the illegal official settlements, the bypass roads, the official institutions (Border Police, police, government, army). This theft is what must be protected. And that is the job of every soldier.

Only a minority among the settlers personally attack and endanger the lives of Palestinians. Only a minority personally abuse and harass the residents of the villages, whose bitter fate has brought them such “neighbors.” The rest of the settlers – their work is being carried out by the IDF’s lawyers and the State Prosecutor’s office, by the clerks and officers of the Civil Administration, architects and contractors, and the thugs in uniform. To be more precise: The settlers are just the well-pampered representatives of the state, its institutions and its mission of dispossession.

The minority that personally does harass is Jewish Israeli, and the IDF is required to protect them. This protection, for all the settlers, is done in two ways. One is passive: When the settlers attack Palestinians, the soldiers are absent or stand to the side. The night before Abu Ein’s death, a large group of Israeli citizens went down from the direction of the Adei Ad outpost and raided the village of Mughayer. They threw rocks at houses and cars, damaged trees and land between Mughayer and its neighboring village of Turmus Aya. The explanation that reached Palestinian authorities: The Israelis claimed a horse had been stolen from them.

The second form of protection is active: arrests, shooting, wounding, killing Palestinians and blocking their access to their land. This is the easy solution for the army: So they will not have to prevent Jews from harming Palestinians, it forbids the Palestinians from working their land.

The history of these attacks and their results – the evaporation of tens of thousands of dunams of land and a source of sustenance for Palestinian villages – is found in the impressive and shocking content of two studies: “The Road to Dispossession: A Case Study – The Outpost of Adei Ad” from Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights; and the Kerem Navot’s (Naboth’s Vineyard) “Israeli Settler Agriculture as a means of Land Takeover in the West Bank” by Dror Etkes in cooperation with Quamar Mashriqi-Assad of Rabbis for Human Rights – Israel. They are required reading for anyone who wants to understand how state violence and the violence of the settlers join together, are dependent on one another, feed each other.

On Wednesday the lawyers of Yesh Din were supposed to present on the land of the four villages the petition they filed that same morning in a demand to evacuate Adei Ad. The response of Adei Ad, as was distributed to some of the journalists last Wednesday, testifies to the alliance between the thugs: “The residents of Adei Ad are busy at the moment pushing back a security incident initiated by Yesh Din. It turns out that this same organization filed a petition with the High Court of Justice this morning against the community. The residents will not be dragged into a provocation, and trust the army to do its job and distance the terrorists from the houses of the community.”

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba: First “truth commission” in Israel

http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-12-14/israelis-rattled-by-search-for-truth-about-the-nakba/

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba
14 December 2014

‘truth commission’ avoids issue of reconciliation as veteran Israeli fighters due to confess to 1948 war crimesMiddle East Eye – 9 December 2014

The first-ever “truth commission” in Israel, to be held on Wednesday, will feature confessions from veteran Israeli fighters of the 1948 war who are expected to admit to perpetrating war crimes as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

The commission is the culmination of more than decade of antagonistic confrontations between a small group of activists called Zochrot, the Hebrew word for Remembering, and the Israeli authorities as well as much of the Jewish public.

Founded in 2002, Zochrot is dedicated to educating Israeli Jews about what Palestinians call the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, referring to Israel’s creation on the ruins of their homeland more than six decades ago. The group also campaigns for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, probably the biggest taboo in Israeli society.

The commission, which has no official standing, could be the first of several such events around Israel, to investigate atrocities and war crimes committed in different localities, said Liat Rosenberg, Zochrot’s director.

“We have looked to other such commissions around the world as models, most obviously in South Africa,” she said. “But unlike the one there, ours does not include the element of reconciliation because the conflict here has yet to be resolved.

“We cannot talk about reconciliation when the Nakba is ongoing. We are still in a situation where there is apartheid, constant violations of human rights and 70 percent of the Palestinian community are refugees.”

The commission is likely to provoke outrage from the Israeli government, which passed the so-called Nakba Law in 2011 to try to make it harder to commemorate Palestinian suffering. The impact of the law is being widely felt. Just last month, the culture ministry vowed to block a government grant to a Tel Aviv cultural centre that hosted a Zochrot film festival on the Nakba.
Names kept secret

Rosenberg said Israeli veteran fighters and Palestinian witnesses participating in the truth commission had asked for their names to be kept secret until the hearings for fear that friends and family would put pressure on them to withdraw.

The commission is being held in the city of Beersheva, a once-Bedouin town that was ethnically cleansed in 1948 and is today the largest Jewish city in the Negev region in southern Israel.

Zochrot said it had chosen the city to host the first event event because forced expulsions of Bedouin from the Negev had taken place not only in 1948, but had continued on a large scale, out of view of observers, for many years afterwards.

The commission is the latest project by Zochrot that discredits a traditional Israeli narrative that some 750,000 Palestinians left under orders from Arab leaders and that Israel’s army acted only in self-defence. Such beliefs have fed into the common assumption from the Israeli public that Israel’s army is the “most moral in the world”.

“This is not just about researching the truth,” said Rosenberg. “The truth of the Nakba is to a large degree known, but the task is to expose the truth to the Israeli Jewish public – both so that it is forced to take responsibility for what happened and so there can be accountability.”

The commission is the direct result of a project launched by Zochrot two years ago to create an alternative archive of the Nakba, based on filmed testimonies from Palestinian refugees and Israeli veterans. Activists fear that, as the generation of refugees and fighters dies off, they will take their secrets to the grave.

Israeli military archives relating to the 1948 war began being opened to academics in the late 1980s. This led to a group of so-called “new historians” overturning the traditional accounts of that period and unearthing written evidence of massacres and ethnic cleansing operations for the first time.
Archives closed

However, historians have reported in recent years that the Israeli authorities have become more reluctant to open files and many of the more controversial episodes of the 1948 war are still unclear.

Rosenberg hopes the commission will begin to fill some of the gaps.

According to Rosenberg, three Israeli fighters and three Palestinian witnesses will testify before a panel of six commissioners. The commissioners will then question them further about events and make follow up recommendations.

The hearings are due to be streamed online.

One veteran of the fighting in the Negev, Amnon Neumann, has already gone on record in testimony that can be seen in Zochrot’s film archive.

He has said the Bedouin in the Negev – contrary to popular Israeli perception – put up almost no resistance to advancing Jewish forces because they lacked “a military capacity” and “had no weapons”. Nonetheless, he said, the Israeli army terrified the Bedouin villagers out of their homes by shooting either at them, or above their heads.

“We drove them out. Women and children went to Gaza. … By the morning there was nobody there. We burnt their houses,” Neumann said.

When villagers tried to sneak back to tend crops or vineyards under the cover of night, he recounted, the soldiers opened fire. “We would shoot and kill them. This was part of the horrible things we did.”

In other filmed testimony, Mordechai Bar-On, an officer in 1948 with the Givati Brigade, confirmed that orders were to shoot “infiltrators” – a reference to refugees who tried to return to their villages. “Even if there were women and children. I remember I told myself that we would do it. … There was an order to kill, not even catch them,” Bar-On said.

For the most part, the Israeli veterans are coming forward now out of a feeling of guilt.

“At that time I did not see anything wrong with what we were doing,” Neumann said. “If I was told to do things that I do not want to mention [here], I did them with no doubts at all. … Not now. It is already 50, 60 years that I am filled with regret.”

But challenges remain, and despite veterans coming forward, piecing together events can still be difficult.

Rosenberg said many of those giving filmed testimony, including Neumann, have been reluctant to go into details of the war crimes they participated in. It is now hoped that the questioning by the commissioners will encourage participants to be even more forthcoming.
Put on trucks to Gaza

The commission will also move beyond the 1948 period and examine expulsions in the semi-desert Negev region, comprising nearly two-thirds of Israel’s landmass, for the 12 years following the war.

Isolated from the rest of the new state of Israel, the Negev was largely unmonitored as the Israeli military carried out expulsions of Bedouin throughout the 1950s, said Raneen Jeries, a Zochrot organiser.

More than 2,000 Palestinian inhabitants of al-Majdal, which later became the Jewish city of Ashkelon, were put on trucks and shipped to Gaza nearly two years after the war ended, according to Nur Masalha, a Palestinian historian and expert on Israeli “transfer” policies.

Jeries said the legacy of the events of 1948 was being felt to this day, with policies of expulsion continuing in the Negev and the occupied territories.

Haaretz reporter Amira Hass revealed three months ago that the Israeli military was planning to forcibly relocate for a second time the Jahalin tribe. The tribe was driven out of the Negev in 1948 and fled to the safety of the West Bank, then under Jordanian control. However, Israel occupied the land after the 1967 war, and it seems that Israeli authorities now want to expel some 12,500 Jahalin tribes people, this time to a site near Jericho.

Zochrot had been successful in forcing Israelis to recognise the Nakba and a darker side to the 1948 war, said Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, where the truth commission is to be held.

“A decade ago, if I mentioned the Nakba in a class of 150 students, hardly any of them would have known what I meant. Now 80 or 90 per cent would know,” Gordon told MEE.

Gordon also attributed the change both to Zochrot’s activities and statements by Arab legislators representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority, comprising a fifth of the total population.
Law against commemoration

But as the issue of the Nakba has become more visible in Israel, sensitivity about it has only grown. Ahead of Nakba Day last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the Palestinian Authority for commemorating the day, saying: “They are standing silent to mark the tragedy of the establishment of Israel, the state of the Jewish people.”

Palestinians were educating their children with “endless propaganda” calling for the disappearance of Israel, he said.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett went further, saying: “We need not tolerate Israeli Arabs who promote Nakba Day.”

The government has backed up its rhetoric with legislation, passing a Nakba Law in 2011 that denies public funds to institutions and organisations that commemorate the Palestinians’ dispossession. The measure is partly seen as a reaction to Zochrot’s growing success.

The original legislation, which would have criminalised any commemoration of the Nakba – making many of Zochrot’s activities illegal – was water-downed after Israel came under strong international pressure.

In Zochrot’s early years, its main efforts were directed at escorting Israeli Jews and Palestinian refugees to some of the more than 500 Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed during and after the 1948 war. The villages were razed to prevent refugees from returning home.

The remnants of most of the villages are now barely traceable, hidden under forests planted by a charity called the Jewish National Fund or lost within gated communities in which only Jews can live.

Zochrot has continued such visits, placing signposts to remind the new Jewish inhabitants that their communities are built on the ruins of Palestinian homes, often belonging to neighbours living a short distance away. A large proportion of Israel’s Palestinian minority were internally displaced by the 1948 war and live close to their original homes but are barred from returning.
Backlash on campuses

Eitan Bronstein, who founded Zochrot, said the current challenge was how to change Israeli Jews’ perception of the Nakba.

“They now recognise the word but what does it mean to them? Many, it seems, think it is simply a negative label Palestinians have attached to Israel’s establishment. We have an Independence Day that they call their Nakba,” Bronstein said.

“We need to educate them about the events of the Nakba, what occurred and our responsibility for it. They have to stop thinking of it as just propaganda against Israel.”

The right wing, including the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has grown increasingly rattled by Zochrot’s agenda-setting programme of events.

The popularity of a far-right youth movement, Im Tirtzu, has grown rapidly on Israeli university campuses over the past few years, in part as a backlash to commemorations of the Nakba by Zochrot and Palestinian students.

Last month, when Zochrot held its second Nakba and Right of Return Film Festival in Tel Aviv, the culture minister, Limor Livnat, immediately threatened to pull a government grant worth more than $450,000 from the cinema that hosted it.

“The state cannot bear the cost of funding of an entity that encourages debate over what the Palestinians call ‘the right of return’,” Livnat said in a statement. She was reported to have based her decision on her reading of the Nakba Law.

“The antagonism towards Zochrot and the idea of the Nakba is part of the educational process,” said Bronstein. “It is a necessary phase Israel needs to pass through if we are to get to a point of reconciliation.”
Unfazed by threats

Bronstein and others have faced angry opposition from the Israeli public and police as they have tried to stage Nakba commemorations – most notably in Tel Aviv in 2012, when they were surrounded by riot police for four hours. Three Zochrot activists were arrested.

Yet Zochrot’s organisers, whose members include both Jewish and Palestinian citizens, seem largely unfazed by the threats and hostility their group generates.

Last year Zochrot arranged a conference that for the first time examined not just the principle of the right of return but practical ways to implement it.

This year the group launched a phone app, called iNakba, in three languages, which provides users with detailed maps and information on the destroyed villages.

Jeries said it had had thousands of downloads, giving Israelis for the first time the chance to peel away the subsequent layers of construction and forestation to see what was destroyed, often on their doorstep.

Tagged as: Bedouin, destroyed villages, Nakba
– See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-12-14/israelis-rattled-by-search-for-truth-about-the-nakba/#sthash.DPL33FIB.dpuf

Imploding the Myth of Israel

Imploding the Myth of Israel

http://www.truthdig.com/repor/item/imploding_the_myth_of_israel_20131103/

By Chris Hedges, November 4, 2013
 
Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.

And yet, the hard truths about Israel remain largely unspoken. Liberal supporters of Israel decry its excesses. They wring their hands over the tragic necessity of airstrikes on Gaza or Lebanon or the demolition of Palestinian homes. They assure us that they respect human rights and want peace. But they react in inchoate fury when the reality of Israel is held up before them. This reality implodes the myth of the Jewish state. It exposes the cynicism of a state whose real goal is, and always has been, the transfer, forced immigration or utter subjugation and impoverishment of Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories. Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bare the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.

There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality. This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s“Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse.

I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, including months in Gaza and the West Bank. I lived for two years in Jerusalem. Many of the closest friends I made during my two decades overseas are Israeli. Most of them are among the Israeli outcasts that Blumenthal writes about, men and women whose innate decency and courage he honors throughout his book. They are those who, unlike the Israeli leadership and a population inculcated with racial hatred, sincerely want to end occupation, restore the rule of law and banish an ideology that creates moral hierarchies with Arabs hovering at the level of animal as Jews—especially Jews of European descent—are elevated to the status of demigods. It is a measure of Blumenthal’s astuteness as a reporter that he viewed Israel through the eyes of these outcasts, as well as the Palestinians, and stood with them as they were arrested, tear-gassed and fired upon by Israeli soldiers. There is no other honest way to tell the story about Israel. And this is a very honest book.

“Goliath” is made up of numerous vignettes, some only a few pages long, that methodically build a picture of Israel, like pieces fit into a puzzle. It is in the details that Israel’s reality is exposed. The Israeli army, Blumenthal points out in his first chapter, “To the Slaughter,” employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped inside its open air prison just above starvation; a government official later denied that he had joked in a meeting that the practice is “like an appointment with a dietician.” The saturation, 22-day bombing of Gaza that began on Dec. 27, 2008, led by 60 F-16 fighter jets, instantly killed 240 Palestinians, including scores of children. Israel’s leading liberal intellectuals, including the writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, blithely supported the wholesale murder of Palestinian civilians. And while Israelis blocked reporters from entering the coastal Gaza Strip—forcing them to watch distant explosions from Israel’s Parash Hill, which some reporters nicknamed “the Hill of Shame”—the army and air force carried out atrocity after atrocity, day after day, crimes that were uncovered only after the attack was over and the press blockade lifted. This massive aerial and ground assault against a defenseless civilian population that is surrounded by the Israeli army, a population without an organized military, air force, air defenses, navy, heavy artillery or mechanized units, caused barely a ripple of protest inside Israel from the left or the right. It was part of the ongoing business of slaughtering the other.

“Unarmed civilians were torn to pieces with flechette darts sprayed from tank shells,” Blumenthal writes. “Several other children covered in burns from white phosphorous chemical weapon rounds were taken to hospitals; a few were found dead with bizarre wounds after being hit with experimental Dense Inert Metal Explosive(DIME) bombs designed to dissolve into the body and rapidly erode internal soft tissue. A group of women were shot to death while waving a white flag; another family was destroyed by a missile while eating lunch; and Israeli soldiers killed Ibrahim Awajah, an eight-year-old child. His mother, Wafaa, told the documentary filmmaker Jen Marlowe that soldiers used his corpse for target practice. Numerous crimes like these were documented across the Gaza Strip.”

 

By the end of the assault, with 1,400 dead, nearly all civilians, Gaza lay in ruins. The Israeli air force purposely targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, including power plants, to reduce Gaza to a vast, overcrowded, dysfunctional slum. Israel, Blumenthal notes, destroyed “80 percent of all arable farmland in the coastal strip, bombing the strip’s largest flour mill, leveling seven concrete factories, shelling a major cheese factory, and shooting up a chicken farm, killing thirty-one thousand chickens.”

“Twelve [years old] and up, you are allowed to shoot. That’s what they tell us,” an Israeli sniper told Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass in 2004 at the height of the Second Intifada, Blumenthal writes. “This is according to what the IDF [Israel Defense Force] says to its soldiers. I do not know if this is what the IDF says to the media,” the sniper was quoted as saying.

The 2008 murderous rampage is not, as Blumenthal understands, an anomaly. It is the overt policy of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who advocates “a system of open apartheid.” Israel, as Blumenthal points out, has not lifted its state of emergency since its foundation. It has detained at least 750,000 Palestinians, including 10,000 women, in its prisons since 1967. It currently holds more than 4,500 political prisoners, including more than 200 children and 322 people jailed without charges, Blumenthal writes, including those it has labeled “administrative detainees.” Israel has a staggering 99.74 percent conviction rate for these so-called security prisoners, a figure that any totalitarian state would envy.

Blumenthal cites a survey of Jewish Israeli attitudes on the Gaza bombing, known as Operation Cast Lead. The survey, by Daniel Bar-Tal, a political psychologist from Tel Aviv University, concluded that the public’s “consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians, and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal tells Blumenthal “these attitudes are the product of indoctrination.” And Blumenthal sets out to chronicle the poison of this indoctrination and what it has spawned in Israeli society.

The racist narrative, once the domain of the far right and now the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream, demonizes Palestinians and Arabs, as well as all non-Jews. Non-Jews, according to this propaganda, will forever seek the annihilation of the Jewish people. The Holocaust, in which Israeli victimhood is sanctified, is seamlessly conflated with Palestinian and Arab resistance to occupation. The state flies more than 25 percent of Israeli 11th-graders to Poland to tour Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps a year before they start army service. They are told that the goal of Arabs, along with the rest of the non-Jewish world, is another Auschwitz. And the only thing standing between Israelis and a death camp is the Israeli army. Israeli high schools show films such as “Sleeping With the Enemy” to warn students about dating non-Jews, especially Arabs. Racist books such as “Torat Ha’Melech,” or “The King’s Torah,” are given to soldiers seeking rabbinical guidance on the rules of engagement. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, the authors of the 230-page book, inform soldiers that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and may have to be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “If we kill a gentile who has violated one of the seven commandments [of Noah] … there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira and Elitzur write. The rabbis claim that under Jewish law “there is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

These narratives of hatred make any act of deadly force by the Israeli army permissible, from the shooting of Palestinian children to the 2010 killing by Israeli commandos of nine unarmed activists on the Turkish boat the Mavi Marmara. The activists were part of a flotilla of six boats bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The Israeli propaganda machine claimed that the small flotilla was a covert terror convoy. Never mind that the Mavi Marmara was in international waters when it was attacked. Never mind that no one on the boat, or any of the five other boats, was armed. Never mind that the boats were thoroughly searched before they left for Gaza. The Israeli lie was trumpeted while every camera, video and tape recorder, computer and cellphone of the activists on board was seized and destroyed—or in a few cases sold by Israeli soldiers when they got back to Israel—while those on the boats were towed to an Israeli port and detained in isolation. The ceaseless stoking of fear and racial hatred—given full vent by the Israeli government and media in the days after the Mavi Marmara incident—has served to empower racist political demagogues such as Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, a camp follower of Meir Kahane. It has also effectively snuffed out Israel’s old left-wing Zionist establishment.

“In Israel you have three systems of laws,” the Israeli Arab politician Ahmed Tibi observes in the Blumenthal book. “One is democracy for 80 percent of the population. It is democracy for Jews. I call it an ethnocracy or you could call it a Judocracy. The second is racial discrimination for 20 percent of the population, the Israeli Arabs. The third is apartheid for the population in the West Bank and Gaza. This includes two sets of governments, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers. Inside Israel there is not yet apartheid but we are being pushed there with … new laws.”

As Blumenthal documents, even Israeli Jews no longer live in a democracy. The mounting state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents has reached the proportions of U.S. Homeland Security. The overtly racist cant of the political elite and the masses—“Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches—has emboldened mobs and vigilantes, including thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu, to carry out indiscriminate acts of vandalism and violence against dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and the hapless African immigrants who live crammed into the slums of Tel Aviv. Israel has pushed through a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that eerily resemble the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law, for example, permits “small, exclusively Jewish towns planted across Israel’s Galilee region to formally reject applicants for residency on the grounds of ‘suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.’ ” And all who denounce the steady march of Israel toward fascism—including Jewish academics—are attacked in organized campaigns as being insufficiently Zionist. They are branded as terrorists or collaborators with terrorists. As a headline in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz read: “The settlers are the real government of Israel.”

“Woody [a law school graduate from New York] became my initial liaison to Tel Aviv’s radical left, introducing me to a loose-knit band of a few hundred anarchists, disillusioned ex-soldiers, disaffected children of ultra-Zionists, queers, academics, and generally idealistic and disillusioned young people who came of age during the Second Intifada when the liberal Zionist ‘peace camp’ closed ranks with the militaristic right wing,” Blumenthal writes. “This tiny band of social deviants comprised the only grouping of people I met who sincerely embraced multiculturalism and who took concrete action against the discriminatory foundations of their country’s political apparatus. Right-wingers and many Jewish Israelis who considered themselves part of the social mainstream referred to members of the radical left as smolinim, which simply means ‘leftists,’ but the word carried a deeply insulting connotation of an unacceptable caste, an Other. As branded social outcasts, inflexible in their principles, disdainful of ordinary politics, and brazen in their racial liberalism they resembled nothing so much as the pre-Civil War abolitionists.”

The late Amnon Dankner, the former editor of Maariv, one of Israel’s major newspapers, Blumenthal notes, denounced “neo-Nazi expressions in the Knesset” and “entire parties whose tenor and tone arouse feelings of horror and terrifying memories.” David Landau, the former editor-in-chief of Haaretz, has called on Israelis to boycott the Knesset “to stand against the wave of fascism that has engulfed the Zionist project.” And Uri Avnery, a left-wing politician and journalist, says: “Israel’s very existence is threatened by fascism.”

The disillusionment among idealistic young immigrants to Israel dots the book. As one example, Canadian David Sheen is recorded as saying that everything he had known about Israel and Palestinians was, in Blumenthal’s words, “a fantasy cultivated through years of heavy indoctrination.” But perhaps what is saddest is that Israel has, and has always had, within its population intellectuals, including the great scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who sought to save Israel from itself.

Leibowitz, whom Isaiah Berlincalled “the conscience of Israel,” warned that if Israel did not separate church and state it would give rise to a corrupt rabbinate that would warp Judaism into a fascistic cult.

“Religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism,” said Leibowitz, who died in 1994. He understood that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war that captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, was dangerous and would lead to the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state and any hope of democracy. “Our situation will deteriorate to that of a second Vietnam, to a war in constant escalation without prospect of ultimate resolution.” He foresaw that “the Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.” He warned that the rise of a virulent racism would consume Israeli society. He knew that prolonged occupation of the Palestinians would spawn “concentration camps” for the occupied and that, in his words, “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”

But few, then or now, cared to listen. This is why Blumenthal’s new book is so important.

Book Review of Gilad Atzmon’s “The Wandering Who”

Book Review of Gilad Atzmon’s “The Wandering Who”

Elias Davidsson, November 16, 2011

A compendium to Mein Kampf

At the outset, the author, whose main qualities are neither modesty nor civility, makes sure to inform the reader about his courage and fame as a jazz saxophone player. His book, presented as an essay on Jewish identity politics, is essentially a fraud. The object of the book is to demonstrate the existence of a global Zionist network, that according to the author determines U.S. foreign and domestic policy, in short a network whose purpose and effect is world domination.

The author makes it clear at the outset that he rejects the view of Zionism as a national, colonial movement for a Jewish State in the Middle East. Under the subheading Zionism, a Global Network, he writes: “Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine, as some scholars suggest. Zionism is actually a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity of third category members (…) While in its early days, Zionism presents itself as an attempt to bring the world Jewry to Zion, in the last three decades it has become clear to the Zionist leadership that Israel would actually benefit from world Jewry, and especially the Jewish elite, staying exactly where they are.” (page 19). Adolf Hitler reveals a similar view in his book Mein Kampf: “For [a] while Zionists try to make the rest of the world believe that the national consciousness of the Jew finds its satisfaction in the creation of a Palestinian state, the Jews again slyly dupe the dumb “Goyim”. It doesn’t even enter their heads to build up a Jewish state in Palestine for the purpose of living there; all they want is a central organization for their international world swindle, endowed with its own sovereign rights and removed from the intervention of other states.” Hitler then goes on to describe the nefarious machinations of this Jewish world cabal.

Rejecting the common view of Zionism as a nationalist ideology, the author presents Zionism as a headless, amorphous “organismus” (German in the original): “It is more than likely that `Jews’ do not have a centre or headquarters. It is more than likely that they aren’t aware of their particular role within the entire system, the way an organ is not aware of its role within the complexity of the organism….Looking at Zionism as an organismus (sic) would lead to a major shift in our perspective of current world affairs.”(page 21). The author appears to have borrowed the German term organismus from Hitler, who used it in Mein Kampf to designate the organic nature of a state. Borrowing again from Mein Kampf, the author asks in all innocence: “How did America allow itself be ENSLAVED by ideologies inherently associated with foreign [Zionist] interests”? (page 26 – emphasis added). In Mein Kampf, Hitler repeatedly warned against the “enslavement” of the German nation by world Jewry.

The idea of a Zionist organismus or network appears widely throughout the book. Here another example: “Within the Zionist network there is no need for a lucid system of hegemony. In such a network, each element is complying with its role. And indeed the success of Zionism is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” (page 69) By such description, the author establishes the appearance of an amorphous but well synchronized functional entity that must necessarily possess a brain. Other would simply call it a secret organization.

The author reveals his desperate efforts to demonstrate the existence of such organismus and its responsibility for the initiation of wars of aggression when he arbitrarily selects three leading American Jews, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby and Alan Greenspan, to represent, as it were, this “collective functioning system”, or as he prefers to call it “third category brotherhood”, an expression that he equates with “racial solidarity” and with “Zionism” (page 21).

Ascribing perfidy to Wolfowitz and his friends, Iraqis are described by the author “as the victims of those third category INFILTRATORS within British and American administrations” (emphasis added). The Bush administration is said to have “complied” with Wolfowitz’s political philosophy (page 25), implying that he had the power to coerce the Bush administration, which duly “complied”. The author makes it clear that according to him the former two individuals are part of a group of Zionist infiltrators who are responsible for the Iraq war: “THEY planned to rob the Arab oil and to simultaneously `secure’ their beloved Jewish state.”(page 26 – emphasis added).

The author asks in what appears as contrived innocence: “How is it that America failed to restrain its Wolfowitzes? How is it that America let its foreign policy be shaped by some ruthless Zio[nist]-driven think tanks?”(page 27). But he does not provide an answer. Had he attempted to answer his own question, he would have had to inquire why the numerous American billionaires and board members of the largest US corporations, including Boeing, Enron, Halliburton, and IBM, did not oppose this alleged Zionist perfidy, if the Zionist plans were contrary to their interests. The inference left unexpressed by the author is, that absent Zionist infiltration, the US ruling circles would not have attacked Iraq (or Panama, or Grenada, or Afghanistan, or Libya) and that US imperialism is actually a Jewish enterprise.

A similar, yet somehow less successful effort, is undertaken by the author to impute to Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, a plan to manufacture the credit crunch and defraud the American people, in order to serve Israel. In order to emotionally prepare the reader for such insinuations, the author mentions, in passing, that Jewish bankers have had a “reputation” as “backers and financiers of wars and even [of] one communist revolution.”(page 27) This casual remark is clearly intended to suggest that Alan Greenspan – by virtue of his Jewish background – is also one of these perfidious bankers. After making these highly suggestive remarks regarding Alan Greenspan, but sensing the danger that readers might regard him as peddling the idea of a “Zionist plot or even a Jewish conspiracy” to defraud America, he says that the US credit crunch was after all nothing but “an accident”.(page 30)

Readers who have not read Atzmon’s writings before, might be surprised to discover that he spends inordinate efforts to discredit anti-Zionist leftist groups such as “Jews Against Zionism” and “Jews for Justice in Palestine”(page 62), i.e. groups who oppose Israeli policies and support Palestinian rights in the name of Jews. For him, such groups exemplify a pathological clinging to Jewish identity. The author takes issue with a long defunct Jewish organisation in Tsarist Russia, the Bund, which opposed Zionism and attempted to represent the interests of Jewish workers. Another defunct organisation that appears to greatly bother the author is the leftist, socialist Israeli organisation Matzpen, one of the first ones to oppose Zionism and the occupation of Palestinian lands. The author writes, under the sub-heading “Matzpen and Wolfowitz”: “For the Matzpenist, to liberate Arabs is to turn them into Bolsheviks; the neocon [who attacked Iraq] is actually slightly more modest – all he wants is for Arabs to drink their Coca-Cola in a Westernized democratic society” (page 108). Leaving aside the absurdity of the claim that Matzpen intended or had the capacity to “liberate Arabs” or turn them into Bolsheviks and that the primary aim of U.S. imperialists is to make Arabs drink Coca-Cola, he reveals hereby his deep hatred towards Jewish socialists and his shallow understanding of imperialism.

Not content to lambast Jewish socialists, the author cites approvingly Karl Marx who believed that “in order for the world to liberate itself from Capitalism it had better emancipate itself from the Jews.” (page 115) The author then writes: “Within the modern Jewish national and political context, Jews kill and rob…[T]he progressive Jew [robs] in the name of `Marx'”(page 123) For Adolf Hitler Marxism was actually a Jewish theory.

The reader will probably be shocked to discover that the author – who claims to support Palestinian rights – actually rejects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because “it impedes an authentic moral exercise” and because it “fails to provide answers to some different questions that arise as we proceed in time and live through some dramatic changes.”(page 63) He does not explain what he means by these laconic statements and does not appear to base his opposition to racism and to Zionism on any normative ground.

While showing no interest for rights, norms or principles, the author displays a surprising interest in Holocaust Denial: “65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we (…) should ask for historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws.”(pages 174-175). He does not reveal what should be asked and why. Is the author doubting that Jews were industrially exterminated by the Nazis? Or does he believe that the Jews themselves organized the Holocaust? He also suggests that we ask “Why were the Jews hated” (page 174), leaving the reader to fill in the blanks. And lest we will not heed his advice, the author admonishes us that should we fail to ask the above questions “we will continue to kill in the name of Jewish suffering.”(page 176).

As these glimpses demonstrate, this is a book that deals primarily with the concept of a Jewish (or Zionist) global and omnipotent conspiracy, notwithstanding the author’s objection that there is no such conspiracy, because Jewish control is exercised openly. The German elite used successfully the deadly myth of a Jewish world conspiracy to divert anti-capitalist sentiment and prevented thereby a Socialist revolution. The price was paid by millions of deaths. This book might one day serve the same purpose for the U.S. elite, particularly as it is written by a bona fide Jew and Israeli. It purports to offer evidence that Israeli agents in the garb of American citizens had for decades manipulated and deceived patriotic Americans, politicians, public officials, journalists and others, to act against the interests of America. In that sense, this book represents a danger both to ordinary Jews and to those who oppose U.S. imperialism. The book is not recommended for the general public.

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/palestinian-children-tortured-used-as-shields-israel-un_n_3471009.html

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

06/20/2013
By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 20 (Reuters) – A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.

Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.

“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had responded to a report by the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in March on ill-treatment of Palestinian minors and questioned whether the U.N. committee’s investigation covered new ground.

“If someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that,” spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Kirsten Sandberg, a Norwegian expert who chairs the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, said the report was based on facts, not on the political opinions of its members.

“We look at what violations of children’s rights are going on within Israeli jurisdiction,” she told Reuters.

She said Israel did not acknowledge that it had jurisdiction in the occupied territories, but the committee believed it does, meaning it has a responsibility to comply with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report by its 18 independent experts acknowledged Israel’s national security concerns and noted that children on both sides of the conflict continue to be killed and wounded, but that more casualties are Palestinian.

Most Palestinian children arrested are accused of throwing stones, which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the committee said.

The watchdog examined Israel’s record of compliance with the children’s rights convention as part of its regular review of the pact from 1990 signed by 193 countries, including Israel. An Israeli delegation attended the session.

The U.N. committee regretted what it called Israel’s persistent refusal to respond to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories and occupied Syrian Golan Heights since the last review in 2002.

“DISPROPORTIONATE”

“Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of (Israeli) military operations, especially in Gaza,” the report said.

Israel battled a Palestinian uprising during part of the 10-year period examined by the committee.

It withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but still blockades the Hamas-run enclave, from where Palestinian militants have sometimes fired rockets into Israel.

During the 10-year period, an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained, the U.N. report said.

Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.

It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.

Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings before them and to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing, it said.

Almost all had remained unpunished or had received lenient sentences, according to the report.

Sandberg, asked about Israeli use of human shields, said: “It has been done more than they would recognise during the dialogue. They say if it happens it is sanctioned. We say it is not harsh enough.” (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; editing by Alistair Lyon and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come

http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/palestinian-recourse-to-the-international-criminal-court-the-time-has-come/

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come
By Prof. Richard Falk

[Prefatory Note: “Palestine’s Dilemma: To Go or Not to Go to the International Criminal Court” was published on July 13, 2014 on the website of Middle East Eye, a site I strong recommend to all those with an interest in Middle East issues; this post represents a somewhat revised text, but within the framework of the original; the political plausibility of invoking the Inteernational Criminal Court to investigate allegations of criminality directed at Israel increases with each passing day.]

Ever since this latest Israeli major military operation against Gaza started on July 8, there have been frequent suggestions that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and that Palestine should do its best to activate the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its behalf. The evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations—Israel is guilty either of aggression in violation of the UN Charter or is in flagrant violation of its obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population of an Occupied People; Israel seems guilty of using excessive and disproportionate force against a defenseless society in the Gaza Strip; and Israel, among an array of other offenses, seems guilty of committing Crimes Against Humanity in the form of imposing an apartheid regime in the West Bank and through the transfer of population to an occupied territory as it has proceeded with its massive settlement project.

Considering this background of apparent Israeli criminality it would seem a no brainer for the Palestinian Authority to seek the help of the ICC in waging its struggle to win over world public opinion to their struggle. After all, the Palestinians are without military or diplomatic capabilities to oppose Israel, and it is on law and global solidarity must rest their hopes for eventually realizing their rights, particularly the right of self-determination and the right of return. Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank are demanding that their leaders in the Palestinian Authority adhere to the Rome Statute, and become members of the ICC without further delay. It has become part of the message of Palestinian street politics that the Palestinians are being criminally victimized, and that the Palestinian Authority if it wants to retain the slightest shred of respect as representatives of the Palestinian people must join in this understanding of the Palestinian plight and stop ‘playing nice’ with Israeli authorities.

Such reasoning from a Palestinian perspective is reinforced by the May 8th letter sent by 17 respected human rights NGOs to President Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestine to become a member of the ICC, and act to end Israel’s impunity. This was not a grandstanding gesture dreamed up on the irresponsible political margins of liberal Western society. Among the signatories were such human rights stalwarts as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, and the International Commission of Jurists, entities known for their temporizing prudence in relation to the powers that be.

Adding further credence to the idea that the ICC option should be explored was the intense opposition by Israel and United States, ominously threatening the PA with dire consequences if it tried to join the ICC, much less to seek justice through its activating its investigative procedures. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, herself long ago prominent as a human rights advocate, revealed Washington’s nervous hand when she confessed that the ICC “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.” I am not sure that Power would like to live with the idea that because Israel is so vulnerable to mounting a legal challenge that its impunity must be upheld whatever the embarrassment to Washington of doing so. France and Germany have been more circumspect, saying absurdly that recourse to the ICC by Palestine should be avoided because it would disrupt ‘the final status negotiations,’ as if this pseudo-diplomacy was ever of any of value, a chimera if there ever was one, in the elusive quest for a just peace.

In a better world, the PA would not hesitate to invoke the authority of the ICC, but in the world as it is, the decision is not so simple. To begin with, is the question of access, which is limited to states. Back in 2009, the PA tried to adhere to the Rome Statute, which is the treaty governing the ICC, and was rebuffed by the prosecutor who turned the issue over to the Security Council, claiming a lack of authority to determined whether the PA represented a ‘state.’ Subsequently, on November 29th the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as ‘a nonmember observer state.’ Luis Moreno–Ocampo who had acted in 2009 for the ICC, and now speaking as the former prosecutor, asserted that in his opinion Palestine would now in view of the General Assembly action qualify as a state enjoying the option of becoming an ICC member. Normally, ICC jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after the state becomes a member, but there is a provision that enables a declaration to be made accepting jurisdiction for crimes committed at any date in its territory so long as it is after the ICC itself was established in 2002.

Is this enough? Israel has never become a party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, and would certainly refuse to cooperate with a prosecutor who sought to investigate war crimes charges with the possible intention of prosecution. In this regard, recourse to ICC might appear to be futile as even if arrest warrants were to be issued by the court, as was done in relation to Qaddafi and his son in 2011, there would be no prospect that the accused Israeli political and military figures would be handed over, and without the presence of such defendants in the court at The Hague, a criminal trial cannot go forward. This illustrates a basic problem with the enforcement of international criminal law. It has been effective only against the losers in wars fought against the interests of the West and, to some extent, against those whose crimes are in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa. This biased form of international criminal law implementation has been the pattern since the first major effort was made after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Surviving German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted for their crimes while exempting the winners, despite Allied responsibility for the systematic bombing of civilian populations by way of strategic bombing and the American responsibility for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Unfortunately, up to this time the ICC has not been able to get rid of this legacy of ‘victors’ justice,’ which has harmed its credibility and reputation. All ICC cases so far have involved accused from sub-Saharan African countries. The refusal of the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes of the aggressors in relation the Iraq War of 2003 is a dramatic confirmation that leading states, especially the United States, possess a geopolitical veto over what the ICC can do. The ICC failure to investigate the crimes of Bush and Blair, as well as their entourage of complicit top officials, vividly shows the operations of double standards. Perhaps, the climate of opinion has evolved to the point where there would be an impulse to investigate the charges against Israel even if procedural obstacles preventing the case from being carried to completion. Any serious attempt to investigate the criminal accountability of Israeli political and military leaders would add legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle, and might have a positive spillover effect on the global solidarity movement and the intensifying BDS campaign.

Yet there are other roadblocks. First of all, the PA would definitely have to be prepared to deal with the wrath of Israel, undoubtedly supported by the United States and more blandly by several European countries. The push back could go in either of two directions: Israel formally annexing most or all of the West Bank, which it seems determined to do in any event, or more likely in the short run, withholding the transfer of funds needed by the PA to support its governmental operations. The U.S. Congress would be certain to follow the lead of Tel Aviv even if the Obama presidency might be more inclined to limit its opposition to a diplomatic slap on the PA wrist as it did recently in reacting to the June formation of the interim unity government, an important step toward reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and overcoming the fragmentation that has hampered Palestinian representation in international venues in recent years.

A second potential obstacle concerns the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, which extends to all war crimes committed on the territory of a treaty member, which means that leaders of Hamas would also likely be investigated and indicted for their reliance on indiscriminate rockets aimed in the direction of Israeli civilian targets.There is even speculation that given the politics of the ICC such that crimes alleged against Hamas might be exclusively pursued.

If we assume that these obstacles have been considered, and Palestine still wants to go ahead with efforts to activate the investigation of war crimes in Gaza, but also in the rest of occupied Palestine, what then? And assume further, that the ICC reacts responsibly, and gives the bulk of its attention to the allegations directed against Israel, the political actor that controls most aspects of the relationship. There are several major crimes against humanity enumerated in Articles 5-9 of the Rome Statute for which there exists abundant evidence as to make indictment and conviction of Israeli leaders all but inevitable if Palestine uses its privilege to activate an investigation and somehow is able to produce the defendants to face trial: reliance on excessive force, imposing an apartheid regime, collective punishment, population transfers in relations to settlements, maintenance of the separation wall in Palestine.

The underlying criminality of the recent aggression associated with Protective Edge (Israel’s name for its 2014 attack on Gaza) cannot be investigated at this point by the ICC, and this seriously limits its authority. It was only in 2010 that an amendment was adopted by the required 2/3 majority of the 122 treaty members on an agreed definition of aggression, but it will not become operative until 2017. In this respect, there is a big hole in the coverage of war crimes currently under the authority of the ICC.

Despite all these problems, recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the PA thin deck, and playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law. If this should happen, it would also be a great challenge to and opportunity for the ICC finally to override the geopolitical veto that has so far kept criminal accountability within the tight circle of ‘victors’ justice’ and hence only accorded the peoples of the world a very power-laden and biased experience of justice.

The most moral army in the world

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.577295

The most moral army in the world

The Israel Defense Forces believes brute strength is the only way to act, yet Israelis refuse to see what Amnesty International and others tell them.

By Gideon Levy |  02.03.14

The most moral army in the world fired an anti-tank missile at the house in which a wanted young Palestinian was hiding. The most moral army in the world ran a bulldozer over the top of the house and destroyed it.

The most moral army in the world used dogs to search the ruins. The most moral army in the world used a drill it calls a “pressure cooker” – a rather disgusting drill it invented for itself.

It happened last Thursday, at Bir Zeit in the West Bank. The soldiers of the most moral army arrived early in the morning for another “arrest operation,” like others that happen every night and which you rarely hear anything about.

It involves sowing fear in villages in the middle of the night, invading houses whose inhabitants – including the children – are sleeping soundly, brutal searches and destruction. Sometimes, like last Thursday, it also ends in death.

All this is happening at a time when terror operations are very limited.

Sometimes these operations are conducted for a true operational need, but also sometimes as a training routine in order to preserve the readiness of the forces and a demonstration of sovereign power toward the residents.

The Israel Defense Forces has also created a heartwarming name for all this: the “Tool of Disruption” – storming a civilian community for the purpose of causing panic and fear, and to disrupt its life – as was once exposed in the military court and by the Yesh Din human rights organization.

In Bir Zeit, it was for three young men who were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization that is not especially active.

And even as the military correspondents rushed to say, as is their wont, that the IDF claimed the three “had the intention to carry out a terror attack in the near future” – yes, the most moral army in the world is also an army that reads intentions – it is doubtful if they were worthy of death.

But the IDF killed Muataz Washaha, who refused to surrender, claiming he had a rifle – an assassination in the third watch without a ticking bomb, and Israel also accepted this story with a yawn.

That is how the most moral army in the world acts, and how it believes it must act. There is no other way to arrest a young man except for killing him with an anti-tank missile and destroying his family’s home.

As luck would have it, that very same day a professional opinion was released on the true morality of the IDF: Amnesty International published a report, called Trigger Happy, in which it determined that IDF soldiers demonstrate gross contempt for human life, expressed in the killing of dozens of Palestinian citizens, including children. The organization states that this is intentional killing that is possibly even a war crime.

Of course, this did not succeed in breaking the enthusiastic belief of Israelis in the exalted morality of their army. “Go to Syria” is their frequent riposte.

The Foreign Ministry and the IDF explained that Amnesty International suffers a “complete lack of understanding of the operational challenges.”

And in truth, what does Amnesty understand? At the end of last week, the military regime that rules in Myanmar (Burma) halted the activities of the Médecins Sans Frontières organization within its borders, for similar reasons. If it could, Israel would also stop the work of Amnesty and similar groups.

But a respectable citizen does not need Amnesty International to know. Only two days ago, the IDF killed a woman on the Gaza border at Khan Yunis, after conducting another protocol against her – the “Distancing Protocol.” The killing of demonstrators near the fence that chokes the Gaza Strip is routine – what’s to report? It’s just like the firing on fishermen.

In the West Bank, too, protesters, stone throwers, children and young people are shot and killed.

That is how the child Wajih al-Ramahi was shot in Jalazun, about two months ago. Two weeks ago, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories published its autopsy conclusions: Ramahi was shot in the back, from a range of 200 meters.

This was also the fate of the youth Samir Awad from Budrus, and of dozens of others killed who did not endanger the lives of anyone and were shot to death by a frighteningly easy trigger finger, dying for no purpose.

No one was put on trial for these acts of killing. With Awad, who was shot in the back in an ambush and whose death was documented at the time, the case has been gathering dust for over a year with the military prosecutor.

And all this from the most moral army in the world. Just try to appeal it. Just try to claim that the IDF is the second most moral army in the world – let’s say, after the army of Luxembourg.

Spotlight shines on Palestinian collaborators

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/spotlight-shines-palestinian-collaborators-201421611151157762.html

Spotlight shines on Palestinian collaborators

Spate of recent films addressing collaboration with Israeli agents has brought the issue out from the shadows.

Jonathan Cook, Al Jazeera, 17 Feb 2014
 
Jerusalem – Fadi al-Qatshan is one of the latest casualties of a war taking place in Gaza’s shadows, as Israel seeks ever more desperate ways to recruit collaborators while Hamas, the Islamic movement ruling Gaza, enforces tough counter-measures.

The 26-year-old graduate died in November. He was killed not by a bullet or in a missile strike, but when a simple piece of medical hardware – an implant in his heart – failed. His repeated requests to the Israeli authorities over more than a year to be allowed out of Gaza for medical treatment had gone unheeded.

According to his family, Israeli security services knew his life was in danger but denied him a permit to attend a medical appointment at a hospital in East Jerusalem. Gaza’s own hospitals, in crisis after years of Israel’s blockade, warned him they could no longer help.

Following a request for a travel permit, his family says al-Qatshan received a call from someone identifying himself as from the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service. Speaking in Arabic, the man said he knew the device in his heart “might explode any minute”. He was urged to “cooperate” in return for a permit.

Al-Qatshan was told he could call the mobile phone number on his screen and arrange an appointment at Erez, the Israeli-controlled crossing that is the only way for ordinary Palestinians to exit Gaza. The agent reportedly rang off with the words, “See you in Tel Aviv”, Israel’s large coastal city. Al-Qatshan sealed his fate by deleting the number.

‘Terrible choices’

Issam Yunis, director of Al-Mezan human rights organisation in Gaza City, says his group regularly records cases of Palestinians in desperate need of medical treatment being approached to collaborate. “The choice for these patients is really a terrible one. It is to cooperate with Israel or die in Gaza.”

Although Israel is suspected of recruiting tens of thousands of Palestinians as collaborators since its creation in 1948, the practice has rarely attracted more than superficial attention. Palestinians are ashamed that cooperation with the Israeli security services is widespread, while Israel is loath to draw attention to the systematic violations of international law at the root of its system of rule in the occupied territories.

But the issue of collaboration is finally emerging from the shadows, assisted in recent months by a spate of films addressing the subject.

In the running for an Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony next month is Omar, a Palestinian film that places the awful dilemmas faced by collaborators at the heart of its love story.

Omar nudged out of the competition Israel’s own entry, Bethlehem, which features a similar story about the fraught relationship between a Shin Bet agent and a young Palestinian informant.

And last month the audience award at the Sundance Festival went to the Green Prince, an Israeli documentary based on the memoirs of Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of a Hamas leader in Gaza who channeled information to the Shin Bet for 10 years before fleeing to the United States. His father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, was recently released from an Israeli prison.

With Palestinian collaborators a hot topic in Hollywood, they are also in the spotlight in the occupied territories.

A missile strike that killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari in November 2012 – the opening salvo in Israel’s eight-day attack on Gaza known as Operation Pillar of Defence – has been widely ascribed to intelligence provided by a collaborator.

In response, Hamas carried out public executions of several suspected informants in the streets of Gaza City, including dragging the body of one behind a motorbike.

‘Tightly classified’

According to Hillel Cohen, who has researched Israel’s recruitment of collaborators since the state’s earliest years, the extent of the problem is difficult to assess. Israel keeps most of the archives on its intelligence operations in the occupied territories “tightly classified”.

The use of collaborators, he says, was probably most extensive in the 1970s and ’80s, before Israel handed over areas of the occupied territories to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords and before the advent of today’s more sophisticated surveillance technology.

Nonetheless, the practice has far from ended.

“Israel still needs people on the ground,” says Cohen. “If they want to place a bomb in a car or supply a phone with a hidden tracking device, someone has to do it. The technology can only help so much.”

According to Saleh Abdel Jawwad, a politics professor at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, there are many different types of collaborators.

In East Jerusalem, for example, where Israel hopes to prevent any future Palestinian control of the city, a feature of life are the “land dealers”, Palestinians who buy land in strategic areas, secretly on behalf of settler organisations.

Israel also uses economic collaborators, who, for example, act as contractors for Israel in selling its products in the occupied territories. Israel has also tried to recruit political collaborators, in an effort to place them in charge of Palestinian communities or weaken candidates Israel opposed.

But Israel prizes most highly the recruitment of active members of Palestinian national organisations, who can provide reliable information on resistance operations or the movements of Palestinian leaders.

Typically, these collaborators are “turned” after their arrest. They may agree to cooperate under torture or as a way to receive a reduced prison sentence, said Morad Jadalah, a researcher with Addameer, a prisoners’ rights organisation in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Children recruited

But the most common type of collaborator is the informant, who provides general information about the activities of political groups or the movement of individual activists, as well as the names of those taking part in demonstrations.

Jadalah says when Palestinians are arrested, as they try to cross a checkpoint or during a raid on their village, the weakest and most vulnerable – often children – are targeted during interrogation with a mix of threats, violence and inducements.

Long jail terms and the use of administrative detention – imprisonment on secret charges – are the most obvious threats, but there are other ways to pressure Palestinians in detention, says Jadalah.

“The interrogators may beat them, or threaten to beat or rape their mother or sister, or arrest a close relative. They usually already know something about the family, so they can threaten, for example, to revoke the father’s work permit. They may even threaten to spread rumours that the family are already acting as informants.”

In other cases, the Israeli security services may offer inducements. “Israel controls most people’s lives, including their ability to work and move around. Between 30 and 40 per cent of adults are unemployed. That gives Israel the leverage it needs to recruit collaborators.”

According to Jadalah, the Israeli security services usually want general information about the neighbourhood where the collaborator lives, or details about a specific person.

Reports suggest in recent years the Shin Bet has been using arrested children to gain information about the leaders of non-violent resistance movements in the West Bank. They have shown special interest in villages such as Bilin, Nabi Saleh and Budrus where well-publicised protests are trying to stop Israel’s efforts to build the separation barrier on Palestinian land.

Cohen says the benefit to Israel of controlling an extensive network of collaborators is not limited to the information they pass on.

“It encourages the atomisation of Palestinian society. It fosters mistrust within the society and between members of the political movements. When everyone becomes a potential suspect, political passivity is encouraged. That is, in fact, the main goal.”

‘Infiltrated society’

Yunis, of Al-Mezan, agrees: “We are an infiltrated society. When there is so much suspicion, organised and effective resistance to the occupation becomes extremely hard.”

In addition, Jadalah blames the Palestinian Authority for setting a bad example. “When it is clear that our leaders are working with Israel on ‘security cooperation’ and that they look to Israel for protection, a very powerful message is sent to Palestinian society that only Israel can offer such guarantees.”

Hamas, apparently fearful of its inability to organise in the face of extensive collaboration, has officially waged war on Gaza’s informants.

Early last year it offered a brief amnesty to existing collaborators, many of them recruited before Israel’s 2005 disengagement, allowing them to turn themselves in in return for lenient sentences and financial help for their families. However, it has vowed a policy of zero tolerance since.

Faced with a shrinking pool of collaborators in Gaza, says Yunis, Israel has increased its use of electronic surveillance, especially drones. But it has sought new ways to recruit collaborators too.

That includes exploiting increased opportunities to reach Palestinians in Gaza indirectly, through social media. In particular, youngsters, often those without jobs or whose families are in dire need, are approached via Facebook or receive a call to their mobile phone.

“The caller might introduce himself as a businessman and says he can help them to get a permit out of Gaza. Once they attend the meeting, they are ensnared,” says Yunis.

Fishermen are also reported to have been targeted since Israel tightly limited the extent of the waters they are allowed to fish. When they cross out of that zone, they can be picked up by a naval patrol and taken for interrogation in Israel. There they can be pressured to turn informant.

‘Desperate’ situation

But the most wrenching cases, says Hamdi Shaqura, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, occur with patients such as al-Qatshan who need urgent medical treatment.

Because they are among the few cases that Israel still treats as humanitarian, they and the relative that accompanies them present the Shin Bet with a rare opportunity to try to recruit a collaborator directly.

“These permits from Israel become a tool for blackmail. It is a serious violation of international law. Because Israel still occupies Gaza, the welfare of these patients is fully its responsibility. Israel is obligated to facilitate their movement and access to proper healthcare.”

According to the World Health Organisation, about 150 patients from Gaza were called for a security interrogation by the Shin Bet last year, including a 16-year-old girl in November. In most cases they were denied a permit afterwards.

Israel also arrested five patients at Erez and six of their companions over the course of last year. They included Mohammed Saber Abu-Amsha, a 33-year-old patient with damage to his eyes, who has been held in prison in Israel since his arrest on December 4.

Amal Ziada, a researcher for Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, said her organisation was hoping to launch a new campaign to raise awareness among the Israeli public of the pressures being used against medical patients.

That included lobbying members of the Israeli parliament and taking high-profile cases to the Israeli supreme court.

“What these patients go through is a kind of torture,” she said. “The danger is that some of them avoid seeking medical treatment because they are afraid. They are worried about being arrested, or the suspicion among other Palestinians that they may have collaborated if they receive a permit.”

Guy Inbar, spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli military unit that coordinates civilian matters in the occupied territories, said he awarded permits to Palestinians for medical treatment based only on medical need and the applicant’s security record.

A senior Israeli security official said the accusation that Israel used the permit system to recruit collaborators was “baseless”. “There have been many recent instances where terror organisations have manipulated people needing humanitarian help so that they assist in carrying out terror operations.”

According to an Israeli human rights lawyer, Yadin Elam, most of the collaborators whose cover is blown and manage to flee the occupied territories do not receive the warm welcome in Israel they may have expected.

Israeli authorities divide collaborators into two groups, he says. Important collaborators, categorised as sayanim, or helpers, fall under the responsibility of the defence ministry and receive a salary and status inside Israel.

But most collaborators who reach Israel – numbering a few hundred, according to Elam – are classified simply as “threatened people”, referring to the fact that they might be killed if they return to Palestinian areas.

Elam says Palestinians in this latter category are usually left in a desperate situation, sometimes given a temporary permit to stay for a few months, but denied permits for their immediate family or the right to work. Typically they live underground in Israel with their families and drift into crime.

Elam says these collaborators’ insecurity, and their frequent arrests, provide an ideal opportunity for Israel to keep up the pressure.

“When things are so desperate, it is easier to persuade the family, including the children, to continue working for the intelligence services.”

Memorandum by Lord Balfour Respecting Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia, 1919

Memorandum by Mr. Balfour (Paris) Respecting Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia, 1919 (1)
(excerpts)

In 1915 we promised the Arabs independence; and the promise was unqualified, except in respect of certain territorial reservations. In 1918 the promise was by implication repeated; for no other interpretation can, I think, be placed by any unbiased reader on the phrases in the declaration about a ‘National Government’ and ‘an Administration deriving its authority from the initiative and free choice of the native population’.

[…]

“Now where the covenant of 1919 is in contradiction with the Agreement of 1916 [Sykes-Picot] it is presumably the Covenant which must be held to represent our policy. We are seemingly committed, therefore, to the view that the whole area we are considering already consists of an independent nation or nations; and that all we have to do, after having got rid of the Turk, is to supply every independent nation with one, but not more than one, suitable mandatory.

Without further considering whether the political picture drawn by the Covenant correponds with anything to be found in the realms of fact, let us ask on what principle these mandatories are to be selected by the Allied and Associated Powers.

On this point the Covenant speaks as follows: 

“The wishes of these communities (i.e. the independent nations) must be a principal consideration in the selection of a mandatory.”

The sentiment is unimpeachable; but how it is to be carried into effect ? To simplify the argument, let us assume that two of the ‘independent nations’ for which mandatories have to be provided are Syria and Palestine ? Take Syria first. Do we mean, in the case of Syria, to consult principally the wishes of the inhabitants ? We mean nothing of the kind. According to the universally accepted view there are only three possible mandatories – England, America, and France. Are we going ‘chiefly to consider the wishes of the inhabitants’ in deciding which of  these is to be selected ? We are going to do nothing of the kind. England has refused. America will refuse. So that, whatever the inhabitants may wish, it is France they will certainly have. They may freely choose; but it is Hobson’s choice after all.

The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the ‘independent nation’ of Palestine than in that of the ‘independent nation’ of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-lng traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

In my opinion that is right.

[…]

If Zionism is to influence the Jewish problem throughout the world Palestine must be made available for the largest number of Jewish immigrants. It is therefore eminently desirable that it should obtain the command of the water-power which naturally belongs to it, whether by extending its borders to the north, or by treaty with the mandatory of Syria, to whom the southward flowing waters of Hamon could not in any event be of much value.

For the same reasons Palestine should extend into the lands lying east of the Jordan. It should not, however, be allowed to include the Hedjaz Railway, which is too distinctly bound up with exclusively Arab interests…

—-
1 Reprinted in Walid Khalidi, “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948”, The Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington 1987, pp. 201-211

Meeting of Justice Brandeis and Mr. Frankfurter with Balfour in Paris, 1919

An Interview(1) in Mr. Balfour’s Apartment, 23 Rue Nitot, Paris, on June 24th, 1919, at 4:45 p.m.

Present    Mr. Balfour, Mr. Justice Brandeis, Lord Eustace Percy and Mr. Frankfurter(2)

Mr. Balfour expressed great satisfaction that Justice Brandeis came to Europe. He said the Jewish problem (of which the Palestinian question is only a fragment but an essential part) is to his mind as perplexing a question as any that confronts the statesmanship of Europe. He is exceedingly distressed by it and harassed by its difficulties. Mr. Balfour rehearsed summarily the pressure on Jews in Eastern Europe and said that the problem was, of course, complicated by the extraordinary phenomenon that Jews now are not only participating in revolutionary movements but are actually, to a large degree, leaders in such movements. He stated that a well informed person told him only the other day that Lenin also on his mother’s side was a Jew.

Justice Brandeis stated that he had every reason to believe that this is not so and that Lenin on both sides is an upper class Russian. He continued to say that after all this is a minor matter, that all that Mr. Balfour said was quite so. He believes every Jew is potentially an intellectual and an idealist and the problem is one of direction of those qualities. He narrated his own

approach to Zionism, that he came to it wholly as an American, for his whole life had been free from Jewish contacts or traditions. As an American he was confronted with the disposition of the vast number of Jews, particularly Russian Jews, that were pouring into the United States year by year. It was then that by chance a pamphlet on Zionism came his way and led him to the study of the Jewish problem and to the conviction that Zionism was the answer. The very same men, with the same qualities that are now enlisted in revolutionary movements would find (and in the United States do find) constructive channels for expression and make positive contributions to civilisation.

Mr. Balfour interrupted to express his agreement, adding: ‘Of course, these are the reasons that make you and me such ardent Zionists’.

The justice continued that for the realisation of the Zionist programme three conditions were essential:

First that Palestine should be the Jewish homeland and not merely that there be a Jewish homeland in Palestine. That, he assumed, is the commitment of the Balfour Declaration and wilb of course, be confirmed by the Peace Conference.

Secondly, there must be economic elbow room for a Jewish Palestine; self sufficiency for a healthy social life. That meant adequate boundaries, not merely a small garden within Palestine. On the North that meant the control of the waters and he assumed that Great Britain was urging the northern boundary necessary for the control of the waters. That was a question substantially between England and France and, of course, must be determined by the Peace Conference. The southern and eastern boundaries, he assumed, raised internal British questions.

Mr. Balfour assented that that was so as to the southern boundary but questioned as to the eastern boundary.

The justice added that, of course, the interests of the Hedjaz were involved, but after all, the disposition of questions between the Arabs and the Zionists was, in effect, an internal British problem. He urged on the east the Trans-Jordan line for there the land is largely unoccupied and settlement could be made without conflict with the Arabs much more easily than in the more settled portions of the North.

Mr. Balfour pointed out that in the East there is the Hedjaz railroad which can rightly be called a Mohammedan railroad.

The justice replied that there is land right up to the railroad and Mr. Balfour stated that he thought that Feisul would agree to having an eastern boundary of Palestine go up to the Hedjaz railroad.

Thirdly, the justice urged that the future Jewish Palestine must have control of the land and the natural resources which are at the heart of a sound economic life. It was essential that the values which are being and will be created because of the cessation of Turkish rule and due to British occupation and Jewish settlement should go to the State and not into private hands.

Mr. Balfour expressed entire agreement with the three conditions which the justice laid down. He then proceeded to point out the difficulties which confronted England. He narrated at length the Syrian situation and the appointment of the Inter-Allied Commission which finally terminated in the present American Commission. Feisul3 was a comrade in arms with the British; he undoubtedly was of military help and by sheer force of events the British and the Arabs find themselves together in Syria. Feisul interpreted British action and British words as, in effect, a promise either of Arab independence or of Arab rule under British protection. On the other hand, are the old interests of France in Syria and the Prime Minister has given (and in Mr. Balfour’s opinion, rightly given) definite word that under no circumstances will Great Britain remain in Syria. It would involve a quarrel with France which would not be healed. But Feisul prefers Great Britain to France, (at least, so he says), and all advices indicate that French rule in Syria will meet
with the greatest opposition and even bloodshed on the part of the populace.

The situation is further complicated by an agreement made early in November [1918] by the British and French, and brought to the President’s attention, telling the people of the East that their wishes would be consulted in the disposition of their future. One day in the Council of Four, when the Syrian matter was under dispute, the President suggested the despatch of a Commission to find out what the people really wanted. It began with Syria but the field of enquiry was extended over the whole East. Mr. Balfour wrote a memorandum to the Prime Minister, and he believed it went to the President, pointing out that Palestine should be excluded from the terms of reference because the Powers had committed themselves to the Zionist programme, which inevitably excluded numerical self-determination. Palestine presented a unique situation. We are dealing not with the wishes of an existing community but are consciously seeking to re-constitute a new community and definitely building for a numerical majority in the future. He has great difficulty in seeing how the President can possibly reconcile his adherence to Zionism with any doctrine of self-determination and he asked the Justice how he thinks the President will do it. The justice replied that Mr. Balfour had already indicated the solution and pointed out that the whole conception of Zionism as a Jewish homeland, was a definite building up for the future as the means of dealing with a world problem and not merely with the disposition of all [an] existing community. Mr. Balfour stated he supposed that  would be the President’s line. He continued to point out the great difficulties that are now besetting Great Britain in the East, namely, the ferment in the whole Eastern world, the Mohammedan restlessness, the new Arabic imperialism (sic) and the relations with the French. Then there is also the Sykes-Picot Agreement;4 that is dead, but its ruins still encumber the earth. He was anxious that the justice should know these difficulties for they all bear upon the Palestinian situation. He expressed the greatest satisfaction that the justice was going to the East to study the problem at first hand.

The justice hoped that while he was away at least nothing would be done which would embarrass the fulfilment of the three conditions which he laid down as essential to the realisation of the Zionist programme.

Mr. Balfour then stated that he understood justice Brandeis’ request that no decision be taken as to the boundaries and the extent of control over the land in any way counter to his views until his return in about four or five weeks. He thought it was perfectly safe to give him the assurance that no decision will be taken on those matters during that time to embarrass the aims which the justice indicated.

Mr. Balfour stated that he would be either in Paris or in London when the justice returned and he hoped that he will report to him at once upon his return on the questions as they appear to him from a study on the spot.

No statesman could have been more sympathetic than Mr. Balfour was with the underlying philosophy and aims of Zionism as they were stated by Mr. justice Brandeis, nor more eager that the necessary conditions should be secured at the hands of the Peace Conference and of Great Britain to assure the realisation of the Zionist programme.

F.F.

—-
1 From E.L. Woodward and Rohan Butler, eds. Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, 1st Series, Vol. IV (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1952), pp. 1276-78. The interview was recorded in a memorandum by Mr. Frankfurter. [Reprinted in Walid Khalidi, “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948”, The Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington 1987, pp. 195-199]

2 Felix Frankfurter (1882-1925), Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, later Associate justice, Supreme Court of U.S. 1939-62, and President Wilson’s Consultant at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Lord Eustace Percy (1887-1958), British diplomat, later Conservative Member of Parliament, 1921-37.

3 Faisal I (1885-1933) was the third son of The Sharif Hussein of Mecca and the leader of the Arab Revolt during World War I. After the War, he was proclaimed King of Syria by a Syrian national congress (March 1920) but was deposed by the French (July 1920). He then became King of Iraq until his death.
4  The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 had arranged that the Fertile Crescent would be divided into four areas, two to be directly administered by France and Britain respectively, while the other two would be administered by Arab Governments under the guidance of each of the two Western Powers.

The Morning After

The Morning After
Edward Said
London Review of Books, Vol. 15 No. 20 · 21 October 1993
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/edward-said/the-morning-after


Now that some of the euphoria has lifted, it is possible to re-examine the Israeli-PLO agreement with the required common sense. What emerges from such scrutiny is a deal that is more flawed and, for most of the Palestinian people, more unfavourably weighted than many had first supposed. The fashion-show vulgarities of the White House ceremony, the degrading spectacle of Yasser Arafat thanking everyone for the suspension of most of his people’s rights, and the fatuous solemnity of Bill Clinton’s performance, like a 20th-century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance: all these only temporarily obscure the truly astonishing proportions of the Palestinian capitulation.

So first of all let us call the agreement by its real name: an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles. What makes it worse is that for at least the past fifteen years the PLO could have negotiated a better arrangement than this modified Allon Plan, one not requiring so many unilateral concessions to Israel. For reasons best known to the leadership it refused all previous overtures. To take one example of which I have personal knowledge: in the late Seventies, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance asked me to persuade Arafat to accept Resolution 242 with a reservation (accepted by the US) to be added by the PLO which would insist on the national rights of the Palestinian people as well as Palestinian self-determination. Vance said that the US would immediately recognise the PLO and inaugurate negotiations between it and Israel. Arafat categorically turned the offer down, as he did similar offers. Then the Gulf War occurred, and because of the disastrous positions it took then, the PLO lost even more ground. The gains of the intifada were squandered, and today advocates of the new document say: ‘We had no alternative.’ The correct way of phrasing that is: ‘We had no alternative because we either lost or threw away a lot of others, leaving us only this one.’

In order to advance towards Palestinian self-determination – which has a meaning only if freedom, sovereignly and equality, rather than perpetual subservience to Israel, are its goal – we need an honest acknowledgment of where we are, now that the interim agreement is about to be negotiated. What is particularly mystifying is how so many Palestinian leaders and their intellectuals can persist in speaking of the agreement as a ‘victory’. Nabil Shaath has called it one of ‘complete parity’ between Israelis and Palestinians. The fact is that Israel has conceded nothing, as former Secretary Of State James Baker said in a TV interview, except, blandly, the existence of ‘the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people’. Or as the Israeli ‘dove’ Amos Oz reportedly put it in the course of a BBC interview, ‘this is the second biggest victory in the history of Zionism.’

By contrast Arafat’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist carries with it a whole series of renunciations: of the PLO Charter; of violence and terrorism; of all relevant UN resolutions, except 242 and 338, which do not have one word in them about the Palestinians, their rights or aspirations. By implication, the PLO set aside numerous other UN resolutions (which, with Israel and the US, it is now apparently undertaking to modify or rescind) that, since 1948, have given Palestinians refugee rights, including either compensation or repatriation. The Palestinians had won numerous international resolutions – passed by, among others, the EC, the non-aligned movement, the Islamic Conference and the Arab League, as well as the UN – which disallowed or censured Israeli settlements, annexations and crimes against the people under occupation.

It would therefore seem that the PLO has ended the intifada, which embodied not terrorism or violence but the Palestinian right to resist, even though Israel remains in occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The primary consideration in the document is for Israel’s security, with none for the Palestinians’ security from Israel’s incursions. In his 13 September press conference Rabin was straightforward about Israels continuing control over sover-eignty; in addition, he said, Israel would hold the River Jordan, the boundaries with Egypt and Jordan, the sea, the land between Gaza and Jericho, Jerusalem, the settlements and the roads. There is little in the document to suggest that Israel will give up its violence against Palestinians or, as Iraq was required to do after it withdrew from Kuwait, compensate those who have been the victims of its policies over the past 45 years.

Neither Arafat nor any of his Palestinian partners who met the Israelis in Oslo has ever seen an Israeli settlement. There are now over two hundred of them, principally on hills, promontories and strategic points throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Many will probably shrivel and die, but the largest are designed for permanence. An independent system of roads connects them to Israel, and creates a disabling discontinuity between the main centres of Palestinian population. The actual land taken by these settlements, plus the land designated for expropriation, amounts – it is guessed – to over 55 per cent of the total land area of the Occupied Territories. Greater Jerusalem alone, annexed by Israel, comprises a huge tranche of virtually stolen land, at least 25 per cent of the total amount. In Gaza settlements in the north (three), the middle (two) and the south, along the coast from the Egyptian border past Khan Yunis (12), constitute at least 30 per cent of the Strip. In addition, Israel has tapped into every aquifer on the West Bank, and now uses about 80 per cent of the water there for the settlements and for Israel proper. (There are probably similar water installations in Israel’s Lebanese ‘security zone’.) So the domination (if not the outright theft) of land and water resources is either overlooked, in the case of water, or, in the case of land, postponed by the Oslo accord.

What makes matters worse is that all the information on settlements, land and water is held by Israel, which hasn’t shared most of these data with the Palestinians, any more than it has shared the revenues raised by the inordinately high taxes it has imposed on them for 26 years. All sorts of technical committees (in which non-resident Palestinians have participated) have been set up by the PLO in the territories to consider such questions, but there is little evidence that committee findings (if any) were made use of by the Palestinian side in Oslo. So the impression of a huge discrepancy between what Israel got and what the Palestinians conceded or overlooked remains unrectified.

I doubt that there was a single Palestinian who watched the White House ceremony who did not also feel that a century of sacrifice, dispossession and heroic struggle had finally come to nought. Indeed, what was most troubling is that Rabin in effect gave the Palestinian speech while Arafat pronounced words that had all the flair of a rental agreement. So far from being seen as the victims of Zionism, the Palestinians were characterised before the world as its now repentant assailants: as if the thousands killed by Israel’s bombing of refugee camps, hospitals and schools in Lebanon; Israel’s expulsion of 800,000 people in 1948 (whose descendants now number about three million, many of them stateless); the conquest of their land and property; the destruction of over four hundred Palestinian villages; the invasion of Lebanon; the ravages of 26 years of brutal military Occupation – it was as if these sufferings had been reduced to the status of terrorism and violence, to be renounced retrospectively or passed over in silence. Israel has always described Palestinian resistance as terrorism and violence, so even in the matter of wording it received a moral and historical gift.

In return for exactly what? Israel’s recognition of the PLO – undoubtedly a significant step forward. Beyond that, by accepting that questions of land and sovereignty are being postponed till ‘final Status negotiations’, the Palestinians have in effect discounted their unilateral and internationally acknowledged claim to the West Bank and Gaza: these have now become ‘disputed territories’. Thus with Palestinian assistance Israel has been awarded at least an equal claim to them. The Israeli calculation seems to be that by agreeing to police Gaza – a job which Begin tried to give Sadat fifteen years ago – the PLO would soon fall foul of local competitors, of whom Hamas is only one. Moreover, rather than becoming stronger during the interim period, the Palestinians may grow weaker, come more under the Israeli thumb, and therefore be less able to dispute the Israeli claim when the last set of negotiations begins. But on the matter of how, by what specific mechanism, to get from an interim status to a later one, the document is purposefully silent. Does this mean, ominously, that the interim stage may be the final one?

Israeli commentators have been suggesting that within, say, six months the PLO and Rabin’s government will negotiate a new agreement further postponing elections, and thereby allowing the PLO to continue to rule. It is worth mentioning that at least twice during the past summer Arafat said that his experience of government consisted of the ten years during which he ‘controlled’ Lebanon, hardly a comfort to the many Lebanese and Palestinians who recollect that sorry period. Nor is there at present any concrete way for elections to be held should they even be scheduled. The imposition of rule from above, plus the long legacy of the occupation, have not contributed much to the growth of democratic, grass-roots institutions. There are unconfirmed reports in the Arabic press indicating that the PLO has already appointed ministers from its own inner circle in Tunis, and deputy ministers from among trusted residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Will there ever be truly representative institutions? One cannot be very sanguine, given Arafat’s absolute refusal to share or delegate power, to say nothing of the financial assets he alone knows about and controls.

In both internal security and development, Israel and the PLO are now aligned with each Other. PLO members or consultants have been meeting with Mossad officials since last October to discuss security problems, including Arafat’s own security. And this at the time of the worst Israeli repression of Palestinians under military occupation. The thinking behind the collaboration is that it will deter any Palestinian from demonstrating against the occupation, which will not withdraw, but merely redeploy. Besides, Israeli settlers will remain living, as they always have, under a different jurisdiction. The PLO will thus become Israel’s enforcer, an unhappy prospect for most Palestinians Interestingly, the ANC has consistently refused to supply the South African government with police officials until after power is shared, precisely in order to avoid appearing as the white government’s enforcer. It was reported from Amman a few days ago that 170 members of the Palestine Liberation Army, now being trained in Jordan for police work in Gaza, have refused to co-operate for precisely that reason. With about 14,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails – some of whom Israel says it may release – there is an inherent contradiction, not to say incoherence, to the new security arrangements. Will more room be made in them for Palestinian security?

The one subject on which most Palestinians agree is development, which is being described in the most naive terms imaginable. The world community will be expected to give the nearly autonomous areas large-scale financial support; the Palestinian diaspora is expected, indeed preparing, to do the same. Yet all development for Palestine must be funnelled through the joint Palestinian-Israeli Economic Co-operation Committee, even though, according to the document, ‘both sides will co-operate jointly and unilaterally with regional and international parties to support these aims.’ Israel is the dominant economic and political power in the region – and its power is of course enhanced by its alliance with the US. Over 80 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza economy is dependent on Israel, which is likely to control Palestinian exports, manufacturing and labour for the foreseeable future. Aside from the small entrepreneurial and middle class, the vast majority of Palestinians are impoverished and landless, subject to the vagaries of the Israeli manufacturing and commercial community which employs Palestinians as cheap labour. Most Palestinians, economically speaking, will almost certainly remain as they are, although now they are expected to work in private-sector, partly Palestinian-controlled service industries, including resorts, small assembly-plants, farms and the like.

A recent study by the Israeli journalist Asher Davidi quotes Dov Lautman, president of the Israeli Manufacturers Association: ‘It’s not important whether there will be a Palestinian state, autonomy or a Palestinian-Jordanian state. The economic borders between Israel and the territories must remain open.’ With its well developed institutions, close relations with the US and aggressive economy, Israel will in effect incorporate the territories economically, keeping them in a state of permanent dependency. Then Israel will turn to the wider Arab world, using the political benefits of the Palestinian agreement as a Springboard to break into Arab markets, which it will also exploit and is likely to dominate.

Framing all this is the US, the only global power, whose idea of the New World Order is based on economic domination by a few giant corporations and pauperisation if necessary for many of the lesser peoples (even those in metropolitan countries). Economic aid for Palestine is being supervised and controlled by the US, bypassing the UN, some of whose agencies like UNRWA and UNDP are far better placed to administer it. Take Nicaragua and Vietnam. Both are former enemies of the US; Vietnam actually defeated the US but is now economically in need of it. A boycott against Vietnam continues and the history books are being written in such a way as to show how the Vietnamese sinned against and ‘mistreated’ the US for the latter’s idealistic gesture of having invaded, bombed and devastated their country. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government was attacked by the US-financed Contra movement; the country’s harbours were mined, its people ravaged by famine, boycotts and every conceivable type of subversion. After the 1991 elections, which brought a US-supported candidate, Mrs Chamorro, to power, the US promised many millions of dollars in aid, of which only 30 million have actually materialised. In mid-September all aid was cut off. There is now famine and civil war in Nicaragua. No less unfortunate have been the fates of El Salvador and Haiti. To throw oneself, as Arafat has done, on the tender mercies of the US is almost certainly to suffer the fate the US has meted out to rebellious or ‘terrorist’ peoples it has had to deal with in the Third World after they have promised not to resist the US any more.

Hand in hand with the economic and strategic control of Third World countries that happen to be close to, or possess, resources like oil that are necessary to the US, is the media system, whose reach and control over thought is truly astounding. For at least twenty years, Yasser Arafat was taken to be the most unattractive and morally repellent man on earth. Whenever he appeared in the media, or was discussed by them, he was presented as if he had only one thought in his head: killing Jews, especially innocent women and children. Within a matter of days, the ‘independent media’ had totally rehabilitated Arafat. He was now an accepted, even lovable figure whose courage and realism had bestowed on Israel its rightful due. He had repented, he had become a ‘friend’, and he and his people were now on ‘our’ side. Anyone who opposed or criticised what he had done was either a fundamentalist like the Likud settlers or a terrorist like the members of Hamas. It became nearly impossible to say anything except that the Israeli-Palestinian agreement – mostly unread or unexamined, and in any case unclear, lacking dozens of crucial details – was the first step towards Palestinian independence.

So far as the truly independent critic or analyst is concerned, the problem is how he is to free himself from the ideological system which both the agreement and the media now serve. What is needed are memory and scepticism (if not outright suspicion). Even if it is patently obvious that Palestinian freedom in any real sense has not been achieved, and is clearly designed not to be, beyond the meagre limits imposed by Israel and the US, the famous handshake broadcast all over the world is supposed not only to symbolise a great moment of success but to blot out past as well as present realities.

Given a modicum of honesty the Palestinians should be capable of seeing that the large majority of people the PLO is supposed to represent will not really be served by the agreement, except cosmetically. True, residents of the West Bank and Gaza are rightly glad to see that some Israeli troops will withdraw, and that large amounts of money might start to come in. But it is rank dishonesty not to be alert to what the agreement entails in terms of further occupation, economic control and profound insecurity. Then there is the mammoth problem of the Palestinians who live in Jordan, to say nothing of the thousands of stateless refugees in Lebanon and Syria, ‘Friendly’ Arab states have always had one law for Palestinians, one for natives. These double standards have already intensified, as witnessed by the appalling scenes of delay and harassment that have occurred on the Allenby Bridge since the agreement was announced.

So what is to be done, if crying over spilt milk is useless? The first thing is to spell out, not only the virtues of being recognised by Israel and accepted at the White House, but also what the truly major disabilities are. Pessimism of the intellect first, then optimism of the will. You can’t improve on a bad situation that is largely due to the technical incompetence of the PLO – which negotiated in English, a language that neither Arafat nor his emissary in Oslo knows, with no legal adviser – until on the technical level at least you involve people who can think for themselves and are not mere instruments of what is by now a single Palestinian authority. I find it extraordinarily disheartening that so many Arab and Palestinian intellectuals, who a week earlier had been moaning and groaning about Arafat’s dictatorial ways, his single-minded control over the money, the circle of sycophants and courtiers that have surrounded him in Tunis of late, the absence of accountability and reflection, at least since the Gulf War, should suddenly make a 180-degree switch and start applauding his tactical genius, and his latest victory. The march towards self-determination can only be embarked on by a people with democratic aspirations and goals. Otherwise it is not worth the effort.

After all the hoopla celebrating ‘the first step towards a Palestinian state’, we should remind ourselves that much more important than having a state is the kind of state it is. The history of the post-colonial world is disfigured by one-party tyrannies, rapacious oligarchies, social dislocation caused by Western ‘investments’, and large-scale pauperisation brought about by famine, civil war or outright robbery. Any more than religious fundamentalism, mere nationalism is not, and can never be, ‘the answer’ to the problems of new secular societies. Alas one can already see in Palestine’s potential statehood the lineaments of a marriage between the chaos of Lebanon and the tyranny of Iraq.

If this isn’t to happen, a number of quite specific issues need to be addressed. One is the diaspora Palestinians, who originally brought Arafat and the PLO to power, kept them there, and are now relegated to permanent exile or refugee status. Since they comprise at least half of the total Palestinian population their needs and aspirations are not negligible. A small segment of the exile community is represented by the various political organisations ‘hosted’ by Syria. A significant number of independents (some of whom, like Shafik al-Hout and Mahmoud Darwish, resigned in protest from the PLO) still have an important role to play, not simply by applauding or condemning from the sidelines, but by advocating specific alterations in the PLO’s structure, trying to change the triumphalist ambience of the moment into something more appropriate, mobilising support and building an organisation from within the various Palestinian communities all over the world to continue the march towards self-determination. These communities have been singularly disaffected, leaderlees and indifferent since the Madrid process began.

One of the first tasks is a Palestinian census, which has to be regarded not just as a bureaucratic exercise but as the enfranchisement of Palestinians wherever they are. Israel, the US and the Arab states – all of them – have always opposed a census: it would give the Palestinians too high a profile in countries where they are supposed to be invisible, and before the Gulf War, it would have made it clear to varions Gulf governments how dependent they were on an inappropriately large, usually exploited ‘guest’ community. Above all, opposition to the census stemmed from the realisation that, were Palestinians to be counted all together, despite dispersion and dispossession, they would by that very exercise come close to constituting a nation rather than a mere collection of people. Now more than ever the process of holding a census and perhaps, later, world-wide elections – should be a leading item on the agenda for Palestinians everywhere. It would constitute an act of historical and political self-realisation outside the limitations imposed by the absence of sovereignty. And it would give body to the universal need for democratic participation, now ostensibly curtailed by Israel and the PLO in a premature alliance.

Certainly a census would once again raise the question of return for those Palestinians who are not from the West Bank and Gaza. Although this issue has been compressed into the general ‘refugee’ formula deferred until the final status talks some time in the future, it needs to be brought up now. The Lebanese government, for instance, has been publicly heating up the rhetoric against citizenship and naturalisation for the 350-400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, most of whom are stateless, poor, permanently stalled. A similar situation obtains in Jordan and Egypt. These people, who have paid the heaviest price of all Palestinians, can neither be left to rot nor dumped somewhere else against their will. Israel is able to offer the right of return to every Jew in the world: individual Jews can become Israeli citizens and live in Israel at any time. This extraordinary inequity, intolerable to all Palestinians for almost half a century, has to be rectified. It is unthinkable that all the 1948 refugees would either want or be able to return to so small a place as a Palestinian state: on the other hand, it is unacceptable for them all to be told to resettle elsewhere, or drop any ideas they might have about repatriation and compensation.

One of the things the PLO and independent Palestinians should therefore do is raise a question not addressed by the Oslo Accords, thereby pre-empting the final status talks – namely, ask for reparations for Palestinians who have been the victims of this dreadful conflict. Although it is the Israeli Government’s wish (expressed quite forcibly by Rabin at his Washington news conference) that the PLO should close ‘its so-called embassies’, these offices should be kept open selectively so that claims for repatriation or compensation can be pressed.

In sum, we need to move up from the state of supine abjectness in which the Oslo Accords were negotiated (‘we will accept anything so long as you recognise us’) into one that enables us to prosecute parallel agreements with Israel and the Arabs concerning Palestinian national, as opposed to municipal, aspirations. But this does not exclude resistance against the Israeli occupation, which continues indefinitely. So long as occupation and settlements exist, whether legitimised or not by the PLO, Palestinians and others must speak against them. One of the issues not raised, either by the Oslo Accords, the exchange of PLO-lsraeli letters or the Washington speeches, is whether the violence and terrorism renounced by the PLO includes non-violent resistance, civil disobedience etc. These are the inalienable right of any people denied full sovereignty and independence, and must fee supported.

Like so many unpopular and undemocratic Arab governments, the PLO has already begun to appropriate authority for itself by calling its opponents ‘terrorists’ and ‘fundamentalists’. This is demagoguery. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are opposed to the Oslo agreement but they have said several times that they will not use violence against other Palestinians. Besides, their combined sway amounts to fewer than a third of the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza. As for the Damascus-based groups, they seem to me to be either paralysed or discredited. But this by no means exhausts the Palestinian opposition, which also includes well-known secularists, people who an committed to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, realists and democrats. I include myself in this group which is, I believe, far bigger than is now supposed.

Central to this opposition’s thinking is the desperate need for reform within the PLO, which is now put on notice that reductive claims to ‘national unity’ are no longer an excuse for incompetence, corruption and autocracy. For the first time in Palestinian history such opposition cannot, except by some preposterous and disingenuous logic, be equated with treason or betrayal. Indeed our claim is that we are opposed to sectarian Palestinianism and blind loyalty to the leadership: we remain committed to the broad democratic and social principles of accountability and performance that triumphalist nationalism has always tried to annul. I believe that a broad-based opposition to the PLO’s history of bungling will emerge in the diaspora, but will come to include people and parties in the Occupied Territories.

Lastly there is the confusing matter of relationships between Israelis and Palestinians who believe in self-determination for two peoples, mutually and equally. Celebrations are premature and, for far too many Israeli and non-Israeli Jews, an easy way out of the enormous disparities that remain. Our peoples are already too bound up with each other in conflict and a shared history of persecution for an American-style pow-wow to heal the wounds and open the way forward. There is still a victim and a victimiser. But there can be solidarity in struggling to end the inequities, and for Israelis in pressuring their government to end the occupation, the expropriation and the settlements. The Palestinians, after all, have very little left to give. The common battle against poverty, injustice and militarism must now be joined seriously, and without the ritual demands for psychological security for Israelis – who if they don’t have it now, never will. More than anything else, this will show whether the symbolic handshake is going to be a first step towards reconciliation and real peace.

The Templers: German settlers who left their mark on Palestine

The Templers: German settlers who left their mark on Palestine

In the late 19th Century a group of German Christians called the Templers settled in the Holy Land on a religious mission. What began with success though ended three generations later, destroyed by the rise of Nazism and the war.


By Raffi Berg BBC News, Jerusalem
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22276494
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Kurt Eppinger’s community of German Christians arrived in the Holy Land to carry out a messianic plan – but after less than a century its members were sent into exile, the vision of their founding fathers brought to an abrupt and unhappy end.

The Germans were no longer welcome in what had been first a part of the Ottoman Empire, then British Mandate Palestine and would soon become Israel.

“On 3 September 1939, we were listening to the BBC and my father said: ‘War has been declared’ – and the next minute there was a knock at the door and a policeman came and took my father and all the men in the colony away.”

Aged 14 at the time, Kurt was part of a Christian group called the Templers. He lived in a settlement in Jerusalem – the district still known as the German Colony today.

Who were the Templers?


• Breakaway movement founded in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in 1861 by clergyman Christoph Hoffmann
• Name derived from scriptural concept of Christians as temples embodying God on Earth
• Established Templer communities in the Holy Land hoping to hasten Second Coming of Christ
• Seven Templer colonies founded across Palestine from 1869-1906
• Reconstituted in Germany and Australia as Temple Society
• No connection with Knights Templar

By the late 1940s though, the entire Templer community of seven settlements across Palestine had been deported, never to return.

They had landed two generations earlier, led by Christoph Hoffmann, a Protestant theologian from Ludwigsburg in Wuerttemberg, who believed the Second Coming of Christ could be hastened by building a spiritual Kingdom of God in the Holy Land.

Kurt’s grandfather, Christian, was among several dozen people who joined Hoffmann in relocating from Germany to Haifa in Palestine in 1869.

Hoffmann had split from the Lutheran Evangelical Church in 1861, taking his cue from New Testament concepts of Christians as “temples” embodying God’s spirit, and as a community acting together to build God’s “temple” among mankind.

But building a community in what was then a neglected land was an immensely difficult endeavour. Much of the ground was swamp, malaria was rife and infant mortality was high.

“The Templers saw ‘Zion’ [Biblical synonym for Jerusalem and the Holy Land] as their second homeland,” says David Kroyanker, author of The German Colony and Emek Refaim Street. “But it was like being on the moon – they came from a very developed country to nowhere.”

In fact, the Templers arrived in Palestine more than a decade before the first large-scale immigration of Jewish Zionists, who fled there to escape destitution and pogroms in Russia – and in many ways they served as a model for the Jewish pioneers.

“Testimony. Christian Eppinger of Kornwestheim was instructed in the local Mission School for the Orient from 1 January 1859 until now and is to leave for Palestine during the month of March to work there for the spreading of the Gospel. This testifies. Kirschenhardthof 14 February 1860. Christoph Hoffmann, Principal of the Mission School” (Picture shows Christian and Babette Eppinger)
Initially the Templers concentrated on farming – draining the swamps, planting fields, vineyards and orchards, and employing modern working techniques unfamiliar to Palestine (they were the first to market “Jaffa Oranges” – produce from their Sarona settlement near Jaffa).

They operated steam-powered oil presses and flour mills, opened the country’s first hotels and European-style pharmacies, and manufactured essential commodities such as soap and cement – and beer.

In his book The Settlements of the Wuerttemberg Templers in Palestine 1868-18, Prof Alex Carmel of Haifa University observes how the Templers “soon gained a reputation for their skills and their diligence. They built exemplary colonies and pretty houses surrounded by flower gardens – a piece of their homeland in the heart of Palestine”.

Symbols of their fervent religious beliefs are still evident in the Jerusalem neighbourhood where the Templers began to settle in 1873. They named the district Emek Refaim (Valley of Refaim) after a place in the Bible, and verses from the Scriptures, inscribed in Gothic lettering, survive on the lintels of their former homes.

Most of the buildings, with their distinctive red-tiled roofs and green shutters, are intact (protected by a preservation order) and lend the district a continental elegance which has helped make it one of Jerusalem’s most expensive areas.

“In the first years of Jewish immigration, in Palestine the know-how in terms of agricultural and industrial modernisation was in the hands of the Germans,” notes Jakob Eisler, a Templer historian in Stuttgart.

A Biblical verse on the lintel of a former Templer house in the German Colony, which reads: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. Isaiah 60, 1”

“Although they were few in number, they had a very big impact on the whole of society, and especially on the Jews who came there,” he says.

“Without the help of the Templers it would have been much more complicated for the Jewish settlers to establish so much.

“If you compare the modernity of Jewish colonies in the 1880s and ’90s with the German colonies at that time, the Germans are leading.”

While Palestine was worlds apart from Germany, the Templers remained fiercely patriotic, proudly retaining their German citizenship and even their Swabian dialect.

When the German Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Jerusalem in 1898, the Templers turned out in their finest attire to cheer him, and their colony of Wilhelma, near Jaffa, was named in honour of King Wilhelm II of Wuerttemberg.

With the advent of World War I, many Templers went to fight for Germany, dying on the battlefields of Europe and in Palestine, which was eventually conquered by the British.

A memorial to 24 of their WWI dead stands in the Templers’ well-tended cemetery, tucked away behind two large green gates on Emek Refaim street.

Germany’s defeat was disastrous for the Templers. Their German loyalties meant they were now considered enemy aliens by the British, and in 1918 850 of them – most of their population – were sent to internment camps in Egypt and their properties and livestock seized.

The visit of the Kaiser was an important event for the Templers in 1898
It would be another three years before they were all allowed back to rebuild their now dilapidated settlements. The returnees displayed the same drive as their predecessors half a century before but there was no longer such close collaboration between the Templers and Palestine’s Jewish immigrants.

“In the 1920s the Jews didn’t need any Germans for modernisation because the British were there, so the British Mandate authority was building the roads and planning the expansion of the cities and doing all those things which in the Ottoman time no-one was caring for,” notes Dr Eisler.

“In the Mandate time Jews came to the land and were competing with the Germans so a lot of the Germans no longer saw themselves as helping development but rather they saw their own future under threat.”

After WWI, hundreds of Templers were expelled to Egypt, where they lived in internment camps
Nevertheless, relations between Templers and the Jewish community remained good, and despite increasing violence between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, life for the Templers was peaceful.

Rosemarie Hahn, who was born in the Jerusalem colony in 1928, recalls the period with a deep sense of nostalgia.

“I have only happy memories,” she says, her German accent, like Kurt’s, still discernible. “For us as children it was like living in our own homeland – we didn’t know anything else. We were friends with everybody – my best friends in kindergarten were a Jewish girl and an Arab girl. English, Jewish, Arab, Armenian – everybody was accepted into our school.

“But that changed after 1934. My Jewish friend was taken out of school, and my brother had a Jewish friend who never came back – because of the politics.”

Rosemarie Hahn (circled near front) went to a Templer school in the German Colony in Jerusalem. Ludwig Buchhalter (circled, back row), head of the Nazi party in Jerusalem, was a teacher there
By this time, the Nazi party had risen to power in Germany and the ripples had spread to expatriate communities, including in Palestine. A branch was established in Haifa by Templer Karl Ruff in 1933, and other Templer colonies followed, including Jerusalem.

While National Socialism caught the imagination of many of the younger, less religious Templers, it met resistance from the older generation.

“The older Templers were afraid that the Fuehrer would overtake Jesus ideologically,” says Mr Kroyanker.

“Many of the young people were easily influenced by Nazism – there were many young Templers who studied in Germany at the time… and when they came back they were very excited about Nazism.

“At the beginning there was some sort of disagreement between the older generation and the newer generation, and in the end the newer generation won the battle.”

In Jerusalem, a teacher at one of the Templer schools, Ludwig Buchhalter, became the local party chief and led efforts to ensure Nazism permeated all aspects of German life there.

The Nazi party gained a foothold in Templer communities across Palestine (Ludwig Buchhalter circled)
The British Boy Scouts and Girl Guides which operated in the German Colony were replaced by the Hitler Youth and League of German Maidens. Workers joined the Nazi Labour Organisation and party members greeted each other in the street with “Heil Hitler” and a Nazi salute.

Under pressure from Buchhalter, some Germans boycotted Jewish businesses in Jerusalem (while Jews did the same in return).

David Kroyanker tells of a macabre turn of events when, in 1978, a box containing a uniform, dagger and other Nazi artefacts was discovered hidden in the roof-space of a house belonging to an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor in Emek Refaim.

Buchhalter’s house – now the site of a luxury apartment block – on Emmanuel Noah Street served as the Nazi party headquarters and Buchhalter himself drove with swastika pennants attached to his car. He later recalled how he once forgot to remove them while driving through a Jewish area and was stoned and shot at.

The extent to which the Templers as a whole adopted Nazism is a matter of historical debate. While some were enthusiastic followers, others were less committed, and among others still there was defiance and resistance.

“You can find dozens of those who were really active and you can find those who were going with the stream and others who were afraid not to go into the party, exactly as you could find in Germany,” says Dr Eisler.

Figures vary, but according to Heidemarie Wawrzyn, whose book Nazis in the Holy Land 1933-1948 is due to be published next week, about 75% of Germans in Palestine who belonged to the Nazi party, or were in some way associated with it, were Templers.

She says more than 42% of all Templers participated in Nazi activities in Palestine.

Curiously, Nazi chief Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Final Solution, cultivated a legend that he was born in the Templer colony of Sarona just north of Jaffa – though this was untrue.

As war loomed in Europe, once again the position of the Templers in Palestine became insecure.

In August 1939, all eligible Germans in Palestine received call-up papers from Germany, and by the end of the month some 249 had left to join the Wehrmacht.

As a child I couldn’t understand why we were being deported, but as it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise”

On 3 September 1939, when Britain (along with France) declared war on Germany, all Germans in Palestine were, for the second time, classed as enemy aliens and four Templer settlements were sealed off and turned into internment camps.

Men of military age, including the fathers of Kurt and Rosemarie, were sent to a prison near Acre, while their families were ordered into the camps.

For the next two years at least, the Templers were allowed to function as agricultural communities behind barbed wire and under guard, but it was the beginning of the end.

In July 1941, more than 500 were deported to Australia, while between 1941 and 1944 400 more were repatriated to Germany by train as part of three exchanges with the Nazis for Jews held in ghettos and camps.

A few hundred Templers remained in Palestine after the war but there was no chance of rebuilding their former communities. A Jewish insurgency was under way to force out the British and in 1946 the assassination by Jewish militants of the former Templer mayor of Sarona, Gotthilf Wagner, sent shockwaves through the depleted community.

Contemporary reports say Wagner was targeted because he had been a prominent Nazi. Sieger Hahn, Wagner’s foster son, says Wagner was killed because he was an “obstacle” to the purchase of land from the Germans.

With the killing of two more Templers by members of the Haganah (Jewish fighting force) in 1948, the British authorities evacuated almost all the remaining members to an internment camp in Cyprus.

The last group of about 20-30 elderly and infirm people was given shelter in the Sisters of St Charles Borromeo convent in Jerusalem, but in 1949 some of them too were ordered to leave the country – now the State of Israel – accused of having belonged to the Nazi party. The last Templers left in April 1950.

Some of the last group of Templers, ordered out of the new State of Israel in 1949
The movement was reconstituted as the Temple Society in Germany and Australia, and in 1962 it was paid 54m Deutsch Marks by Israel for the loss of its properties – the equivalent of about $100m (£65m) in today’s money. Of this, Ludgwig Buchhalter, who died in Germany in 2006 aged 96, reportedly received $60,000, the equivalent of currently just under $500,000.

Both Kurt and Rosemarie, who still belong to the Temple Society in Victoria, are sanguine about the past and are not interested in recrimination.

“As a child I couldn’t understand why we were being deported,” says Kurt, “but as it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise.

“After the Second World War, there was no future for us in Palestine. Australia gave us the opportunity to start again.”

Archive images in the slideshow courtesy of David Kroyanker, Mona Halaby, Central Zionist Archive, Horst Blaich, Alfred Blaich Family Archive – Australia and Alfred Klink. Contemporary images by Noam Sharon. All images subject to copyright.