Category Archives: Various writings

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 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.

 

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.

Israel confirms killing Arafat deputy (Abu Jihad) in 1988

http://news.yahoo.com/israel-confirms-killing-arafat-deputy-1988-161310127.html
Israel confirms killing Arafat deputy in 1988
By ARON HELLER | Associated Press – 11 hrs ago….

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel acknowledged Thursday it killed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s deputy in a 1988 raid in Tunisia, lifting a nearly 25-year veil of secrecy and allowing a rare glimpse into the shadowy world of its secret operations.

One of the commandos was disguised as a woman on a romantic vacation, and one of the weapons was hidden in a box of chocolates.
Khalil al-Wazir, who was better known by his nom de guerre Abu Jihad, founded Fatah, the dominant faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, with Arafat and was blamed for a series of deadly attacks against Israelis.
Two of those involved in the operation that killed al-Wazir now hold high political office in Israel — Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon. At the time, Barak was deputy military chief, and Yaalon was head of the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal. Their precise roles in the operation were not divulged, and both men’s offices declined comment.

Israel has long been suspected of assassinating al-Wazir. But only now has the country’s military censor cleared the Yediot Ahronot daily to publish the information, including an interview with the commando who killed him, at least 12 years after the newspaper obtained the information.

“I shot him with a long burst of fire. I was careful not to hurt his wife, who had showed up there. He died,” commando Nahum Lev told Yediot prior to his death in a motorcycle accident in 2000. “Abu Jihad was involved in horrible acts against civilians. He was a dead man walking. I shot him without hesitation.”

Dozens of similar operations have been attributed to Israel over the decades. But Israel rarely takes responsibility and typically does not comment about covert operations.

Israeli officials did not openly confirm the operation. But the censor’s decision to allow publication, after years of stifling the account, amounted in effect to confirmation.

The military censor’s main task is to block publication of material deemed a threat to national security. Israel has a longstanding policy of preventing publication of any information that would expose agents, tactics and intelligence gathering methods or put anyone still alive who was involved in harm’s way.

In the al-Wazir case, though, it appears that after years of rumors and foreign reports claiming to expose the operation, along with the death of the triggerman, the censor’s office decided to drop its objection to publication. Many of the details and identities of those involved still remain classified.

The Yediot report, coupled with a more detailed account in the military affairs magazine Israel Defense, described a well-planned operation months in the making.

According to the Yediot report, the operation was a joint effort by the Mossad secret service and the Sayeret Matkal.

At the time of the raid, the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Arafat, was based in the North African nation of Tunisia.

From a command post on an Israeli boat in the Mediterranean Sea, 26 Israeli commandos reached the Tunisia’s shores on rubber boats.

Lev, the commando, approached Abu Jihad’s home in the capital, Tunis, with another soldier, a man dressed as a woman. The two pretended to be a vacationing couple, with Lev carrying what appeared to be a large box of chocolates. Inside the box, however, was a gun fitted with a silencer.

According to Israel Defense, the fighter dressed as a woman carried a map and distracted the bodyguard by asking for directions, which allowed Lev to shoot him dead. Israel had tested the disguise earlier at an Israeli mall, and after the “women” received random cat calls the outfit was deemed sufficient, it said.

Another team killed a separate bodyguard and a gardener before entering the expansive villa. Lev’s partner was the first to fire at the Palestinian leader. When Lev noticed al-Wazir reaching for a weapon, he shot and killed him.

Other participants then “verified the kill” by shooting the body several more times before the forces retreated to sea and back to Israel, the Yediot report said.

“I felt bad about the gardener,” Lev told Yediot. “But in an operation such as this you have to make sure that any potential resistance is neutralized.”

The Palestinians have long accused Israel of being behind the assassination.

Abbas Zaki, a top official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, said the Palestinians and Tunisia should now “work to bring Israel to justice.”

Zaki said the Palestinians hope their bid to gain upgraded observer status at the United Nations next month will enable them to join the International Criminal Court where they can “pursue Israel for its crimes against our people.”

Al-Wazir’s son, Jihad al-Wazir, who currently heads the Palestinian central bank, said the family had no comment.

On the surface, Wazir was a quiet, soft spoken figure in an organization replete with flamboyant characters. He eschewed the high-living that tainted some PLO figures during the organization’s years in Beirut, with its night clubs and cafes. That enabled him to maintain the respect of all the factions within the often deeply divided PLO.

But behind the mild, non-threatening facade was a man capable of using brutality and bloodshed to advance the cause of Palestinian independence. He was largely responsible for organizing PLO underground cells within the West Bank and Gaza. He maintained close ties to Soviet Bloc countries that were a source of weapons and political support, even as Arafat himself was reaching out to the West.

Al-Wazir had long been wanted in a series of deadly attacks against Israeli civilians. Among them, he masterminded a 1975 hostage taking at a Tel Aviv hotel in which 11 Israelis were killed, and a 1978 attack on an Israeli bus that killed 38 Israelis.

At the time of his death, he was a main organizer of the first Palestinian uprising against Israel, which began in December 1987, four months before he was killed.

Israel has carried out similar assassination operations in the past, including the killing of top leaders of Black September, the Palestinian group that carried out the massacre of 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics.

It is also suspected of a series of other plots it has never confirmed or denied.

Among the most prominent:

— In 1995, the founder of the Islamic Jihad group Fathi Shikaki was gunned down in Malta by a man on a motorcycle in an attack widely attributed to Israel.

— In 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, a top commander in the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, was killed by a bomb that ripped through his car in Damascus, Syria. Hezbollah and its primary patron, Iran, have blamed Israel for the killing.

— In 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top Hamas operative, was killed in a Dubai hotel room in an operation attributed to Israel’s Mossad.

Iran also blames Israel for covert plots against its nuclear program and the killing of top scientists. In turn, Iran and Hezbollah have been blamed for various attacks on Israelis abroad.
___

Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Robert H. Reid in Berlin contributed to this report.

Facebook in Gaza

Facebook in Gaza

Karma Nabulsi 10 January 2011
http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/01/10/karma-nabulsi/facebook-in-gaza/ 

Last weekend the Observer carried a dramatic account of ‘The Gaza Youth Manifesto’, written in English by a handful of young people in Gaza and posted on Facebook. Given the thousands of people in the West who have said they ‘like’ it on Facebook or posted positive comments, the manifesto is said to herald a new movement for change in occupied Palestine.

Because of Palestinians’ lengthy predicament of expulsion, dispossession and military occupation, there is a rich tradition of Palestinian manifestos and declarations: hundreds of them have been written since 1948. ‘Bayan Harakatina’ (‘Our Movement’s Statement’, 1959) played an important role in recruiting the first wave of young people to the Palestinian National Liberation Movement-Fateh, and in unifying their political consciousness. It was distributed clandestinely, ‘entrusting’ its readers with the key ideas of the new movement. Later documents, such as the founding manifesto of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (1967), were distributed more openly. These manifestos were written by organised Palestinian youth as mobilising documents, exclusively for young Palestinians.

Manifestos have been written by everyone: ‘Workers of Palestine Unite’ was issued by the General Provisional Committee of the Workers of Palestine in 1962; the Unified National Command of the Intifada released 46 communiqués between 1988 and 1990; ‘The Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel’ was published on 9 July 2005; ‘The Palestine Manifesto’ was published last year by the National Committee for the Defence of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; dozens of statements have been issued by right of return committees in the refugee camps since 1998; Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, from all parties, released the now famous ‘National Reconciliation Document’ in 2006.

Palestinian manifestos and declarations tend to do four things: 1. engage critically with the current situation and its historical context; 2. outline a response, clearly stating the principles that should underpin it; 3. announce the emergence of an organised group to carry out that response; and 4. call on Palestinian youth to join the  movement. The wording is careful and has usually been negotiated at length between a variety of people and organisations. In short, the manifestos are purposive and geared towards some form of collective action.

The ‘Gaza Youth Breaks Out’ manifesto does not belong to this tradition: it does not put forth any clear analysis of the current historical situation, or outline a response to it. It does not declare the existence of an organised group, or invite anyone to join anything. Its tone is denunciatory rather than analytical. Its language is apolitical: the terminology of resistance common to Palestinian manifestos is replaced here by use of the f-word. And it lacks any mobilisational dimension. It’s unsurprising, then, that it has received little attention in the Arab world. The most extensive report on it appeared in Al Akhbar in Lebanon, which more or less reprinted the piece from the Observer.

If this manifesto does not belong to the Palestinian tradition of declarations, then what tradition does it belong to? Clearly it captures the despair and horror of life in Gaza today, and the young people behind it have every right to post their appeals and complaints on Facebook or wherever they like. But without being rooted in any particular or collective vision of change, the three demands articulated in the manifesto – ‘We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace’ – are meaningless. Perhaps this is why it is so attractive to those who have read it on Facebook, and the European and American media who have taken it up. It caters to western tastes and desires, especially to the fantasy of a digitally connected youth emerging from cyberspace as agents of transformative change in the real world. In the case of Palestine, this fantasy does a number of things besides soothing guilty consciences. It reframes the issue of justice for Palestine in vacuous and unthreatening terms, casts the method by which change may occur into virtual space, and empties the Palestinian body politic of the thoughtfully articulated demands of its millions of citizens.

Insurgent Syria, 1925

INSURGENT SYRIA, 1925

Occupied Iraq’s Not-So-Distant Mirror

by Bill Weinberg, Middle East Policy

The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism
by Michael Provence
University of Texas, Austin, 2005

Book Review:

The comparison is nowhere made explicitly, but the subtext for most readers of Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt will inevitably be the current situation in Iraq—even if it was not the author’s intention. The irony is that Provence poses the 1925 revolt against French Mandate rule in Syria as the watershed event in the emergence of Arab nationalism. In Iraq, where Ba’athism is rapidly being superceded by Islamism in the vanguard of resistance to the occupation, we may be witnessing its death throes.

The revolt also represented a watershed in counter-insurgency and clinical mass killing. It culminated in French aerial bombardment of Damascus—predating by 12 years the Luftwaffe’s destruction of Guernica, which claimed an equal number of lives but is far better remembered.

The revolt began in July 1925, when Druze farmers in the Jabal Hawran, a rugged frontier zone some 50 miles southeast of Damascus, shot down a French surveillance plane. Provence chronicles how the revolt quickly evolved from a local Druze rebellion to a Syrian revolution with a nascent Arab nationalist consciousness.

The Druze had been deported to the harsh Hawran from Lebanon by a joint French-Ottoman force following a civil war with their Maronite Christian neighbors in the 1860s. There they established their dominance over Bedouin raiders and developed a “frontier warrior ethos.” Provence writes: “They sought to preserve their independence both from the state and from provincial elites and would-be landlords.” The initial leader of the revolt, and its eventual military commander, Sultan al-Atrash, was an heir to this long struggle. In 1910, his father, Dhuqan al-Atrash, had been hanged by the Ottoman authorities on charges of insurrection. Sultan al-Atrash was then serving with the Ottoman military in the Balkans—experience which would serve him well back home.

Al-Atrash was involved in the early resistance to the French when they took over Syria in 1920 under the terms of the secret Sykes-Picot agreement, ousting the recently-installed Hashemite King Faisal with reluctant British connivance. Faisal’s loyalists put up a struggle before the king was enticed by Britain to accept the throne of Iraq as a consolation prize. Druze villagers took up arms for Faisal on a pledge of regional autonomy for the Jabal, and many fought at the battle of Maysalun, the brief war’s most significant engagement.

The 1925 revolt would prove a greater challenge. The French cast their colonial project in anti-feudal terms, and the armed resistance that exploded that year as sectarian, not nationalist: the work of local chiefs whose power was threatened by the Mandate’s reforms. Provence writes: “Sectarian conflict was a theoretical necessity for French colonialism in Syria, since the entire colonial mission was based on the idea of protecting one sectarian community, the Maronite Christians, from the predations of others. Without sectarian conflict, colonial justification evaporates.” The French encouraged such conflicts by imposing territorial divisions based on religious and ethnic lines. The rebels were immediately labeled “bandits,” “extremists” and “feudalists.”

From the start, Provence dismisses France’s self-serving “narrative” of a civilizing anti-feudal mission. He informs us that Druze village sheikhs were not absentee landlords, and in fact served to protect village interests in dealings with Damascus merchants who purchased their grain. But the village political orders they oversaw seem to have been fairly authoritarian, and the Bedouin were made to pay tribute to the sheikhs for access to pasture and water.

Paradoxically, trouble started brewing with the Druze when the old-guard military administrators—who were of a “right-wing, pro-Catholic political bent”—were cycled out under a new high commissioner for Syria, Gen. Maurice Sarrail, “a republican anticlericalist freethinker and a darling of the French Left.” Sarrail appointed as governor of the Jabal Hawran one Capt. Gabriel Carbillet, who zealously sought to break the grip of Druze “feudalism” in the region. Carbillet conscripted the sheikhs for forced labor (officially in lieu of taxes) on modernizing projects such as road-building. Protests were met with repression, villages raised militia, and the regional capital Suwayda was besieged.

As always, the forces of “civilization” quickly resorted to barbarism. France responded to the rebellion with aerial bombardment of villages and “collective punishment” measures: wholesale executions, public hangings, house demolitions, forced removal of the populace from disloyal regions. There were rebel claims of poison gas used against Jabal villages. Meanwhile, leaflets air-dropped on the Jabal read: “Only France can give you wheat, running water, roads, and the national liberty you desire.”

At its inception, the revolt used the “language of Druze honor and Druze particularism,” and French counter-insurgency measures sought to encourage this. The French used Christians—especially Armenian and Circassian refugees from Ottoman rule—as shock troops against the rebel Druze villages. “Irregular troops” were also conscripted from the lumpen, who committed some of the worst atrocities—an echo of the “Salvador Option” apparently now being employed by the Pentagon in Iraq.

Yet the rebellion also exhibited the beginnings of a national consciousness from the start. In defiance of the divide-and-conquer strategy, al-Atrash wrote the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Damascus apologizing for rebel reprisals against Christians, pledging reparations, and calling for mutual solidarity against the French.

The real turning point came when the rebel leadership, following ties already established through trade, made contact with the prominent Arabs of Damascus who supported independence. The Hizb al-Shab (People’s Party), whose leader Shahbandar had already been imprisoned and seems to have been operating in semi-clandestinity, embraced the Jabal revolt and called for a general revolution. At this point, the rhetoric of Druze particularism was decisively abandoned in favor of an Arab nationalism that was at least tentatively secular.

In an August call “To Arms!” addressed to all Syrians and distributed in Damascus by the People’s Party, al-Atrash (now “Commander of the Syrian Revolutionary Armies”) delineated French crimes, including: “The imperialists have stolen what is yours. They have laid hands on the very sources of your wealth and raised barriers and divided your indivisible homeland. They have separated the nation into religious sects and states. They have strangled freedom of religion, thought, conscience, speech and action. We are no longer even allowed to move about freely in our own country.”

Rebel propaganda emphasized that Druze, Sunnis, Shi’ites, Allawis and Christians alike were “sons of the Syrian Arab nation.” As the Druze rebel army (now swelled with volunteers from Bedouin tribes) advanced on Damascus in October, and urban militants erected street barricades in preparation for the coordinated uprising, brigades were organized to protect the Christian and Jewish quarters of the city from potential mob violence. “These Moslem interventions assured the Christian quarters against pillage. In other words it was Islam and not the ‘Protectrice des Chrétiens en Orient’ which protected the Christians in those critical days,” wrote the British consul in Damascus (arguably not the most objective source).

On the other hand, al-Atrash apparently called for the amputation of the hands of informers (albeit with anesthesia and under a doctor’s supervision, a touching nod to modernity). Captured Circassian fighters were summarily killed and mutilated. Rebel demands that prominent Christians and Jews provide taxes and conscripts for the independence struggle were often made under explicit threat of retaliation—which can be read as either embrace or persecution. And in a grim harbinger of a generations-long ethnic struggle to follow in both Syria and Iraq, there were episodes of internecine violence between Arab and Kurdish rebel bands.

As guerillas besieged the city and the uprising broke out, Sarrail approved the bombardment of Damascus. Nearly 1,500 were killed as the bombs fell for two days. Then, in a gesture of stupendous arrogance, the French demanded a large fine be paid by leaders of the rebellion in the city. It was eventually paid by the Mandate’s own puppet president, Subhi Barakat, in a bid to buy peace.

In the aftermath, when the guerillas had withdrawn, the pro-independence forces once again mobilized brigades to protect the city’s Christians from reprisals. Interestingly, the leader of this effort was Said al-Jazairi, grandson of Amir Abd al-Qadir al-Jazairi, the famous Sufi warrior who was exiled to Ottoman Damascus after a failed 1856 uprising against the French in Algeria.

The post-bombardment peace was illusory. France had regained control of the capital, but guerilla control of the countryside around Damascus was nearly total. Paris realized a change of direction was called for. Sarrail and Barakat were both removed, and the more popular Taj al-Din al-Hasani, son of Damascus’ leading Islamic scholar, was installed as president. Moves towards greater self-government were pledged. These measures weakened the links between the urban movement and guerillas. In the summer of 1926, a French counteroffensive drove al-Atrash first into the mountains and then, the following year, into Transjordan, where the British authorities expelled him and his followers across the border to the new Saudi Kingdom.

Al-Atrash and his comrades spent the next ten years in exile and under sentence of death. They continued to agitate for Syrian independence from their refugee encampment at Wadi al-Sirhan oasis. In Jerusalem, their supporters launched the newspaper Jamiat al-Arabiyya (Arab Federation), which protested Zionist designs on Palestine as well as the continuance of Mandate rule in the Fertile Crescent. In an early example of anti-imperialist solidarity, one issue protested the US intervention in Nicaragua, where Marines dispatched by President Calvin Coolidge were also pioneering the use of the airplane to deliver terror and death to peasant villages.

In Syria, a new party called al-Kutla al-Wataniyya (National Bloc) displaced the pro-independence leadership of 1925, and pursued a course of “honorable cooperation” with the French. They called for establishment of a constituent assembly to draft a constitution, and a timetable for self-rule. Full independence, of course, did not come until a full 20 years after al-Atrash’s revolt had been put down.

Provence writes that the history of resistance to French rule in Syria has been “recolonized” by the Ba’athist regimes that have held power since 1963. As the Allawi minority holds sway in the regime, the new version favors the Allawi revolt in Latakia, led by Salih al-Ali, which Provence downplays as one of a “series of uncoordinated resistance movements” that followed the transition to French rule, lacking the significance of the later 1925 revolt in terms of emerging national consciousness.

Given Provence’s thesis, it is an irony as well as a testament to the continuing efficacy of imperial divide-and-rule strategies that the Druze today have been pitted against Arab nationalists. The relatively favored status of the Druze under Zionist rule, and their widespread use in the security forces against their Palestinian neighbors, dates at least to 1948. In Lebanon, the Druze political patriarch Walid Jumblatt is one of the harshest opponents of Syria—and recently called openly for US military intervention against Damascus. (Druze in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights continue to wage an anti-colonial struggle.)

Provence makes only the most cautious and tentative references to the obvious contemporary analogue to the 1925 Syrian revolt. “Resistance against occupation remains a potent theme in the Middle East,” he states rather obviously. “Few scholars today would use words like ‘bandit’ or ‘extremist’ to describe insurgents against colonial rule, though ‘terrorist’ is perhaps one equivalent.”

The US makes no blatant claims to be protecting one minority in Iraq, as France did with the Maronites in Syria and Lebanon, but does purport to be defending secularism against sectarian fanaticism. Groups such as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia play into the self-serving propaganda of Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to a far greater degree than the petty authoritarianism of the Druze sheikhs ever could have with French auto-justifications for their colonial venture. If the trajectory of the Syrian revolt was from sectarian particularism to secular nationalism, in Iraq since 2003 it has all been in the reverse direction.

Independent Syria would degenerate into the ugly Ba’athist regme of Hafez Assad—due, in no small part, to ongoing US attempts to subvert the more moderate nationalist regimes which preceded it. The world will be lucky if Iraq now manages to avoid a far greater disaster.

——

This piece first appeared in the Spring 2006 edition of Middle East Policy Journal

What Are You Going to Do Now, Israel ?

"When There's No One Left to Blame, What Are You Going to Do Now, Israel ?"

By VIRGINIA TILLEY December 15, 2006 http://www.counterpunch.com/tilley12152006.html
Johannesburg, South Africa

What are you going to do now, Israel ?

Now that three small boys have been killed by assassins' bullets, and a Hamas judge dragged from his car and murdered, perhaps you are pleased. The Palestinians are finally succumbing to your plots, you think. The long-planned bottle has finally been sealed, in which the "drunken cockroaches" can only crawl around, shooting each other.

Maybe you are sitting back in your national chair, rubbing your hands together in triumph, watching the Palestinians finally turn on each other, slowly becoming what you always claimed they were. Maybe you are repelled, secure in your sense of superiority.

But have you thought about what you are you going to do, if Palestinian leadership you despise finally disintegrates?

You have brought them to this pass, of course. You worked for decades to achieve exactly this. You bribed, terrorized, expelled, maimed or killed their leadership, banned or killed their visionaries and philosophers, fanned and funded Hamas against Fatah or Fatah against Hamas, trashed their democracy, stole their money, walled them in, put them on a "diet", derided their claims, and lied about their history to the world and to yourself.

But what are you going to do, Israel , if five million Palestinians are finally living leaderless under your sovereignty? What will you do, when they lose their capacity to negotiate with you? Have you thought that, within the territory you control, they are as many as you? And that now you are destroying their unified voice? Have you thought about what will happen to you if they truly lose that voice?

Maybe you really believe that, if you only feed Fatah money and guns, Fatah will reclaim power from the Hamas and restore the craven puppet Palestinian government of your dreams. Maybe you actually believe that Fatah can revive the wreck of Oslo , step out of the rubble of PA offices, and reclaim the driver's seat of the Palestinian nation as before. Maybe you are telling yourself that, with just a few more inter-factional scuffles and assassinations and little more starvation, the entire Palestinian people will turn on Hamas and eject it from power in favor of grinning Mr. Abbas.

But why would you believe all this, when the only other test-case, Iraq , is in ruins and the US and UK are desperately trying to flee?

Do you really still live so deeply in your own fantasies that you believe Palestinian resistance is just the product of bad or obdurate leadership? That no collective memory of expulsion and dispossession sustains the spirit of collective resistance that will always and inevitably transcend that leadership? Do you really believe that, if only you can crush or co-opt Hamas and Fatah, five million people will simply disappear forever from your world–trail off across the Jordanian or Egyptian borders into the endless desert, clutching clothes, kids, and tarnished mementos, in some great reprise of 1948?

Do you actually think that, if the international community finally lets you off the hook of negotiating with the people you have dispossessed and discredited, you will somehow walk free at last, your crimes against them forgotten?

We know you are still pursuing the old, fatal, futile fantasy: finally to redeem the Zionist dream by demolishing Palestinian nationalism. To break Palestinian national unity on the rocks of occupation. To reduce the Palestinians to Indians on reservations who decline into despair, alcoholism and emigration. To make them irrelevant to you.

But here is news for you, Israel . The Native Americans haven't given up to this day. Damaged and reduced as they are, they know their history and remember their grievances. They are marginal only because they are one percent of the US population. The Palestinians are five-million strong, equal to you in numbers. And they live within your borders. When their leadership ruins itself, bashing each other like rams fighting to the death, they will finally turn their five million pairs of burning eyes on you, for you will be the only power left over them. And you will be defenseless, because your paper shelter – your Fatah or PA quislings – will be damaged goods, cracked vessels, discredited, gone. And it will then be you and those you have disenfranchised – you and the Palestinians, in one state, with no Oslo or Road Map myth to protect you. And by then, they will truly hate you.

Then perhaps it will dawn on you what you have done, when the disintegration of Palestinian national unity spreads out like a tsunami through the Middle East, meeting up with the tsunami spreading out from Iraq, to lay the region waste and rebound on you.

Watching you create this catastrophe for yourself, we think you are simply suicidal. We could just watch, but your road to ruin promises too much suffering to too many people. Still, to avert your unilateral suicide pact with the Palestinians, to whom can we turn?

We could appeal to Hamas at last to mobilize the rank and file, who alone have the capacity to launch civil disobedience on the mass scale necessary to paralyse Israel's iron fist, but Hamas has no experience with this method, and now its statesmen are cornered by the guns you gave to Fatah thugs.

We could appeal to the leader of the Fatah thugs, Mr. Abbas, shuffling at the feet of Israeli power, to find some spine. Or to the ubiquitous Mr. Erekat, who never had a political vision in his life, to develop one overnight.

We could appeal to the Fatah thugs to reject Mr. Abbas and Mr. Erekat and the fat cement contracts you gave them to build the Wall that imprisons them, and seek a high road they have never glimpsed.

We could appeal to the microscopic PFLP and DFLP, clutching their old programs too stale to chew and consumed by their acrid, decades-old bitterness and rivalry with Fatah, to lift their heads at long last beyond the old and new grievances.

We could appeal to the US , but no one bothers to do that.

We could appeal to the EU, but no one bothers to do that, either.

We could appeal to the world, but it only stands aghast.

We could appeal to the world media, but it is frozen with its ass in the air.

We can only appeal to you, Israel . To think what you are doing, if not to care.

For you are crafting your own destruction.

You have been so effective in this great national project because you work from experience. Even the most courageous, principled, and sensible people, as you learned, cannot withstand a concentration camp indefinitely. At some point, as the Holocaust historians have tracked with such pathos, humanity breaks down. Individual heroism may survive as memoirs, but order, humanity, and finally human feeling decays into factional squabbles and man's inhumanity to man. You learned all too well and bitterly how this cauldron can melt down the very fabric of a society and shatter people. The lesson is burned, literally, into your national memory. And you are bringing those lessons to bear, attempting to purge Zionism's tragedy by bringing Gaza to ruin.

But if you actually reap the chaos you are crafting for the Palestinians, you will find that no one else is responsible for these five million civilians except you.

So what will you do, Israel , with five million people living under your rule, when you can no longer pretend to the world that you intend to negotiate with them? What will you do with people you detest, and who finally utterly detest you, when visions of coexistence have finally failed? You will be the only sovereign power over them. You will be able neither to digest them nor to vomit them out. And they will stare at you.

And we will stare at you, too.

Because there will be no one left to blame, and no one to take care of them, except you.

* Virginia Tilley is a professor of political science, a US citizen working in South Africa, and author of The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock (University of Michigan Press and Manchester University Press, 2005). She can be reached at tilley @ hws.edu

Critique of a Report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Rejoinder to the CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 19,

Critique of a Report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights issued on August 6, 1997

By Elias Davidsson, ICELAND

As a Palestinian – of Jewish descent – I wish to emphasize an aspect of the closures imposed by the Israeli government, which the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights did not refer to. The implications of this shortcoming are much more profound that appear at first sight. Although seldom openly stated, both Zionist Israel and many Palestinian organisations assume that Israelis are Jews and Palestinians are non-Jews (Muslims and Christians). Such assumptions are in accordance with Zionist thinking and are clearly racist. Palestinian is a person defining himself as Palestinian, period. Neither the PLO nor the World Zionist Organisation can decide for me whether I define myself as Israeli or Palestinian. This decision is mine. Palestine is the name of the land where I was born. It is not synonim of Arab nor of non-Jew.

According to Zionist/Israeli policies only non-Jewish natives are the targets of represssion in the Zionist-controlled areas. Jews – such as me – regardless whether they define themselves as Palestinians or as Americans – are treated with respect, civility and in accordance with the rule of law. Thus it is not accurate that Palestinians per se are subjected to closures: Those subjected to closures are non-Jewish natives. It might appear to some of the readers that I am overly and unnecessarily pedantic in this matter. Not so. The issue is of fundamental importance for a true understanding and solotion of the century-old conflict in my homeland. For the conflict is not between Israelis and Palestinians but between Zionism and humanism, not between national or ethnical entities but between two conceptions of human beings: One based on blood and descent and one based on inherent human rights and equality of human beings.

Thus it is not accurate to say that Israel closed the Palestinian territories. More accurate would be to say that Israel closed off the non-Jews living in the territories occupied in 1967, as the closures don’t affect Jews.

I also object to the use of the term ‘borders’ appearing in the report in the context of "The closure of Karni and Erez Border Crossings Between Gaza and Israel". The term border does not apply to ghettoes, detention camps or bantustans, such as the Gaza Strip. The term ‘borders’ implies that we are dealing with two sovereign entities and is therefore grossly misleading. A more appropriate term would be ‘fence’. Whether the Gaza strip is considered similar to a ghetto, concentration camp or Indian reservation, is secondary to this remark.

I wish to remind readers of this note that more than half of the inhabitants of the Gaza strip are either refugees from areas within Israel or their descendants. Their right of return to their former homes and localities has been affirmed yearly by the General Assembly of the United Nations and is enshrined in the Human Rights Charter and in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Thus, when inhabitants of Gaza work in Israeli towns they are not foreigners ‘allowed’ to enter Israel, they are in fact working in their own native country. Thus, any talk of Israel ‘not allowing Palestinians to enter Israel to work’ implies that they are ‘foreigners’ to the land, which is sheer nonsense and a wilful historical falsification. The State of Israel is not in a position to ‘accord’ Palestinians what is their inalienable right, namely to work and live in their own country. Israel’s use of institutionaled violence to prevent Palestinians from enjoying these inalienable rights is a gross and racist violation of international conventions, the Human Right Charter and UN resolutions and should be exposed as such. It is to be regretted that even some Palestinians are now using Zionist-inspired terms to describe the conflict and are thus contributing unwillingly to erode their own human rights.