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|Topic: Uri Avnery|
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Joined: 17 March 2005
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 29 September 2007 at 4:47pm|
Somebody has to start shouting
September 27. Evening. Here we are again standing outside the Defence
Ministry and protesting the army's deadly actions in Gaza.
In fact, we could have demonstrated nearly every other day, because
every day brings its own ration of nasty news from Gaza. And it had
become markedly worse since Ehud Barak became Israeli Labour Party
leader, and Defence Minister, and with considerable energy is establishing
his credentials as the toughest of hawks.
Hardly a week passes without Barak making yet another threat of "a major
military operation into the Gaza Strip". Meanwhile, he is authorizing daily
"minor incursions" into the Strip, with an increasing death toll. And also
meanwhile, the economic siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip becomes
ever more tight.
The brilliant idea of cutting off the supply of water and electricity to the
Gaza Strip's 1,500,000 poverty-stricken inhabitants brought on a sharp
protest from UN Secretary General Ban, and a more muted one from the
US-led diplomatic "Quartet".
So, the government (so far?) did not cut off the water and electricity. But
they did make a legally binding legal declaration that "Gaza is a Hostile
Zone". This had the practical effect of making Bank Hapoalim, Israel's
largest, cut off all contacts with the Palestinian banks in Gaza, with
devastating results (among other things, making it impossible to transfer
money to those Gazans who still get some support from their former
bosses). Sherri Arison, multi-millionaire owner of the bank and an eager
devotee of "New Age" mysticism, has just a short time ago spent a lot of
money on an advertising campaign on the theme that "Peace Begins
For those who want to, it is not difficult to know what is happening in
Gaza. Plenty of detailed of reports are available online. But very little gets
to the Israeli public by the commonly used media outlets. (With a few
honourable exceptions, such as the Channel 10 TV News, which featured
items on critically ill patients desperately waiting for permission to get
treatment in Israel, and on the new wing of Gaza's Shifa Hospital whose
construction was stopped since building materials are not allowed in
through the border passes).
Anyway, most Israelis have little sympathy for Gazans, even if and when
happening to hear of their plight. Since Sharon's "Disengagement", official
Israel has taken a pose of injured innocence, massively disseminated by
politicians and columnists and editorial writers and taken up implicitly by
most of the public: Israel has withdrawn from the strip and dismantled its
settlements, and the perfidious Palestinians responded with the shooting
of Qassam missiles. Therefore, "they brought it upon themselves". Full
Complicating factors are hardly ever mentioned, such as the direct casual
relations between the killing of Palestinians (some 700 in the past year,
according to the recent proud boasting of PM Olmert) and the retaliatory
shooting of missiles (which cause destruction and panic but only rarely
Everybody who listens to Israeli news broadcasts would unavoidably know
of the anguish of the inhabitants of Sderot, especially the town's children
- who never know a moment of true rest, ever ready to rush to shelter
when the dreaded alarm sounds.
This never-ending anxiety in Sderot is all too real, even if there are very
few actual casualties. Yet the same media which covers it in heart-
rending full-page articles makes hardly any mention of Palestinian
children, who live in at least as much fear and who stand a far greater risk
of being blown to bits. The 16-year old boy crushed last week under the
threads of an Israeli bulldozer, which was engaged in "removing" orchards
which "may give cover to Quassam-shooting squads", got a bare laconic
remark from the army - "unfortunate collateral damage, he should not
have been there".
On the eve of the Jewish New Year, two weeks ago, there was a surprise
from Ismail Haniyeh - Gaza-based Hamas leader and Prime Minister of
one of the two rival Palestinian governments. Through international
mediators, Haniyeh proposed to discuss with the Olmert Government the
instituting of an immediate and bilateral ceasefire, and offered to impose
such a ceasefire on the smaller groups such as the Islamic Jihad (which do
most of the shooting).
Haniyeh's offer was not so much rejected as brushed aside. Indeed, there
was an immediate, noticeable notching up of both the military offensive
on the ground and the economic offensive through the banking
boardrooms (simultaneously with the continuing talks with Abu Mazen
and his team).
At least, the group of mainstream dovish writers headed by Amos Oz and
A.B. Yehoshua was aroused to action, prominently publishing a call for an
immediate ceasefire with Hamas.
And so we come to this day, Thursday, September 27, at noon, in the lazy
midst of the Sukkot Holiday, when some of us were tempted to put off
the radio and cut ourselves off from the world for a bit. But the urgent
phones broke in: "Did you hear? Eleven dead in Gaza! Eleven! We must do
And the sickeningly familiar routine was on once again: hasty
consultations between peace groups, to determine place and time, and
then hours of phone calls, composing and sending of email action alerts
and press releases, placing of announcements on relevant websites and
online forums, drawing of signs and placards, and then off to downtown
Tel-Aviv. (At some moment during these hours the number of dead
Gazans rose to twelve.) And there we are - the activists of Gush Shalom
which initiated the action, and Anarchists Against Fences, and Women's
Coalition for Peace, and Hadash Young Communists, and the veteran Latif
Dori of Meretz, and quite a few people with no specific organizational
allegiance. Altogether, some 120 people turned up.
On the one side, the new Defence Ministry Tower with the distinctive
helicopter landing "saucer" on its roof - built at considerable expanse and
inaugurated in a festive ceremony last year. On the other side, the Azrielli
Twin Towers with their giant shopping mall, Tel Aviv's pride, the very
symbol and acme of the rich, uncaring, corporate Israel which emerged
in the past two decades. In between, the Begin Road, a major artery
through which thousands of cars speed at all hours, and us waving signs
and flags and banners and chanting in unison at the top of our voices and
some making wild hand gestures at the passing cars and pedestrians:
"Blockade - NO! Ceasefire - YES!" - "No Tanks and No Qassams -
Ceasefire Now!" - "End the Bloodshed - Ceasefire Now!" - "The Blockade
on Gaza is a War Crime!" - "End the Economic Strangulation of Gaza!" -
"There is No Military Solution in Gaza!" - "Ceasefire in Gaza and Sderot!" -
"Hamass Is a Partner for a Ceasefire!" - "I Am a Gazan, Too!" - "In Gaza
and Sderot, Children Want to Live!" - "Barak, Barak, hey hey hey, How
Many Kids Did You Kill Today?" - "Israel and Palestine, Two States for Two
Peoples!" - "Israel and Palestine, a Brotherhood of Peoples!" - "All the
Ministers are War Criminals" - "Ehud, Ehud, You Are Expected at the
Hague!" - "Ehud, Ehud, Both of You Are Expected at the Hague!" - "The
Occupation is a Disaster, Peace is the Solution!"
Two motorcycle riders who passed at great speed tried to grab a Gush
Shalom Two-States flag from a demonstrator. A few minutes later, a
young woman was rather dangerously leaning out of an open car window
to call "Good luck, I am with you!".
The police which appeared soon afterwards - one patrol car, followed by
another two - held short negotiations, and were satisfied with the
promise that we would go away after an hour. The parked patrol cars
actually created a traffic-free zone beside the pavement, in which press
and activist photographers could stand and take photos of the straggling
line of protesters. And the police did politely lead away the middle aged
man who shouted, his face contorted "Why are you allowing these
Towards the end, a short dialogue with a bypassing older couple:
The man: What are you demonstrating about?
Activist: Did you not hear? Eleven people killed today in Gaza.
The woman: Eleven? Of ours?
Activist: We are the ones to blame.
[A short silence.]
The man: Yes, the government, but this will not help.
Activist: Probably not, but somebody has to start shouting.
Joined: 25 July 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 29 September 2007 at 5:17pm|
Uncs, Thank goodness, you have re-appeared.
Joined: 30 May 2006
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 01 October 2007 at 2:06pm|
I second Whisper. I do not post all that often these days, but I do "listen and learn". Your voice has been much missed. Hope all is well with you.
Joined: 17 March 2005
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 09 October 2007 at 5:01pm|
I've been really busy. The summer has been back to back performances.
I'm back to work teaching as well which I find much more fun. Over the
summer I had the pleasure of working with Wisam Asad a brilliant Ud
player from Nazareth. I'm featuring him on an energetic instrumental
piece recorded in front of a live audience. The Cd will be out in Dec or in
Jan - the 2008th year of their lord. : ). Most of the album is recorded
live ( as opposed to what? Dead?) Another treat is the participation of
Garner Thomas If you haven't heard this guy you should. All three of us
were on fire Garner is incredible.
He has the best Tenor Sax sound I've ever heard. We had maybe two
rehearsals I just let him blow... It was unbelievable. Wisam conducts the
Palestine Israel Peace youth orchestra Edward Said of blessed memory
and Daniel Barenboim initiated this project a few years back with some
success. I'll keep You all posted when CD 5 is released The editing is
Uri had some success in Biliin last month The Government actually gave
these people back some of their land. The news coming out of Gaza is
the same - not good. Rather than provoking the powers that be I've been
more concerned about getting chronic care patients in and out for
treatment. The political issues have never captured my imagination as
much as children in the middle of chemotherapy or receiving care for
injuries that have been inflicted on them by my people. Our national
health care is a lumbering bureaucratic nightmare to be sure for everyone
but these kids should not have to wait at check-posts. Its too much after
way too much.
Joined: 17 March 2005
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 13 October 2007 at 11:23am|
The Mother of all Pretexts
WHEN I hear mention of the "Clash of Civilizations" I don't know whether
to laugh or to cry.
To laugh, because it is such a silly notion.
To cry, because it is liable to cause untold disasters.
To cry even more, because our leaders are exploiting this slogan as a
pretext for sabotaging any possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian
reconciliation. It is just one more in a long line of pretexts.
WHY WAS the Zionist movement in need of excuses to justify the way it
treated the Palestinian people?
At its birth, it was an idealistic movement. It laid great weight on its moral
basis. Not just in order to convince the world, but above all in order to set
its own conscience at rest.
From early childhood we learned about the pioneers, many of them sons
and daughters of well-to-do and well-educated families, who left behind
a comfortable life in Europe in order to start a new life in a far-away and
- by the standards of the time - primitive country. Here, in a savage
climate they were not used to, often hungry and sick, they performed
bone-breaking physical labor under a brutal sun.
For that, they needed an absolute belief in the rightness of their cause.
Not only did they believe in the need to save the Jews of Europe from
persecution and pogroms, but also in the creation of a society so just as
never seen before, an egalitarian society that would be a model for the
entire world. Leo Tolstoy was no less important for them than Theodor
Herzl. The kibbutz and the moshav were symbols of the whole enterprise.
But this idealistic movement aimed at settling in a country inhabited by
another people. How to bridge this contradiction between its sublime
ideals and the fact that their realization necessitated the expulsion of the
people of the land?
The easiest way was to repress the problem altogether, ignoring its very
existence: the land, we told ourselves, was empty, there was no people
living here at all. That was the justification that served as a bridge over
the moral abyss.
Only one of the Founding Fathers of the Zionist movement was
courageous enough to call a spade a spade. Ze'ev Jabotinsky wrote as
early as 80 years ago that it was impossible to deceive the Palestinian
people (whose existence he recognized) and to buy their consent to the
Zionist aspirations. We are white settlers colonizing the land of the native
people, he said, and there is no chance whatsoever that the natives will
resign themselves to this voluntarily. They will resist violently, like all the
native peoples in the European colonies. Therefore we need an "Iron Wall"
to protect the Zionist enterprise.
When Jabotinsky was told that his approach was immoral, he replied that
the Jews were trying to save themselves from the disaster threatening
them in Europe, and, therefore, their morality trumped the morality of the
Arabs in Palestine.
Most Zionists were not prepared to accept this force-oriented approach.
They searched fervently for a moral justification they could live with.
Thus started the long quest for justifications - with each pretext
supplanting the previous one, according to the changing spiritual
fashions in the world.
THE FIRST justification was precisely the one mocked by Jabotinsky: we
were actually coming to benefit the Arabs. We shall redeem them from
their primitive living conditions, from ignorance and disease. We shall
teach them modern methods of agriculture and bring them advanced
medicine. Everything - except employment, because we needed every job
for the Jews we were bringing here, which we were transforming from
ghetto-Jews into a people of workers and tillers of the soil.
When the ungrateful Arabs went on to resist our grand project, in spite of
all the benefits we were supposedly bringing them, we found a Marxist
justification: It's not the Arabs who oppose us, but only the "effendis".
The rich Arabs, the great landowners, are afraid that the glowing example
of the egalitarian Hebrew community would attract the exploited Arab
proletariat and cause them to rise against their oppressors.
That, too, did not work for long, perhaps because the Arabs saw how the
Zionists bought the land from those very same "effendis" and drove out
the tenants who had been cultivating it for generations.
The rise of the Nazis in Europe brought masses of Jews to the country.
The Arab public saw how the land was being withdrawn from under their
feet, and started a rebellion against the British and the Jews in 1936. Why,
the Arabs asked, should they pay for the persecution of the Jews by the
Europeans? But the Arab Revolt gave us a new justification: the Arabs
support the Nazis. And indeed, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin
al-Husseini, was photographed sitting next to Hitler. Some people
"discovered" that the Mufti was the real instigator of the Holocaust. (Years
later it was revealed that Hitler had detested the Mufti, who had no
influence whatsoever over the Nazis.)
World War II came to an end, to be followed by the 1948 war. Half of the
vanquished Palestinian people became refugees. That did not trouble the
Zionist conscience, because everybody knew: They ran away of their own
free will. Their leaders had called upon them to leave their homes, to
return later with the victorious Arab armies. True, no evidence was ever
found to support this absurd claim, but it has sufficed to soothe our
conscience to this day.
It may be asked: why were the refugees not allowed to come back to their
homes once the war was over? Well, it was they who in 1947 rejected the
UN partition plan and started the war. If because of this they lost 78% of
their country, they have only themselves to blame.
Then came the Cold War. We were, of course, on the side of the "Free
World", while the great Arab leader, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, got his
weapons from the Soviet bloc. (True, in the 1948 war the Soviet arms
flowed to us, but that's not important.) It was quite clear: No use talking
with the Arabs, because they support Communist tyranny.
But the Soviet bloc collapsed. "The terrorist organization called PLO", as
Menachem Begin used to call it, recognized Israel and signed the Oslo
agreement. A new justification had to be found for our unwillingness to
give back the occupied territories to the Palestinian people.
The salvation came from America: a professor named Samuel Huntington
wrote a book about the "Clash of Civilizations". And so we found the
mother of all pretexts.
THE ARCH-ENEMY, according to this theory, is Islam. Western Civilization,
Judeo-Christian, liberal, democratic, tolerant, is under attacked from the
Islamic monster, fanatical, terrorist, murderous.
Islam is murderous by nature. Actually, "Muslim" and "terrorist" are
synonymous. Every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist a Muslim.
A sceptic might ask: How did it happen that the wonderful Western
culture gave birth to the Inquisition, the pogroms, the burning of witches,
the annihilation of the Native Americans, the Holocaust, the ethnic
cleansings and other atrocities without number - but that was in the past.
Now Western culture is the embodiment of freedom and progress.
Professor Huntington was not thinking about us in particular. His task
was to satisfy a peculiar American craving: the American empire always
needs a virtual, world-embracing enemy, a single enemy which includes
all the opponents of the United States around the world. The Communists
delivered the goods - the whole world was divided between Good Guys
(the Americans and their supporters) and Bad Guys (the Commies).
Everybody who opposed American interests was automatically a
Communist - Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Salvador Allende in Chile,
Fidel Castro in Cuba, while the masters of Apartheid, the death squads of
Augusto Pinochet and the secret police of the Shah of Iran belonged, like
us, to the Free World.
When the Communist empire collapsed, America was suddenly left
without a world-wide enemy. This vacuum has now been filled by the
Muslims-Terrorists. Not only Osama bin Laden, but also the Chechnyan
freedom fighters, the angry North-African youth of the Paris banlieus, the
Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the insurgents in the Philippines.
Thus the American world view rearranged itself: a good world (Western
Civilization) and a bad world (Islamic civilization). Diplomats still take
care to make a distinction between "radical Islamists" and "moderate
Muslims", but that is only for appearances' sake. Between ourselves, we
know of course that they are all Osama bin Ladens. They are all the same.
This way, a huge part of the world, composed of manifold and very
different countries, and a great religion, with many different and even
opposing tendencies (like Christianity, like Judaism), which has given the
world unmatched scientific and cultural treasures, is thrown into one and
the same pot.
THIS WORLD VIEW is tailored for us. Indeed, the world of the clashing
civilizations is, for us, the best of all possible worlds.
The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is no longer a conflict
between the Zionist movement, which came to settle in this country, and
the Palestinian people, which inhabited it. No, it has been from the very
beginning a part of a world-wide struggle which does not stem from our
aspirations and actions. The assault of terrorist Islam on the Western
world did not start because of us. Our conscience can be entirely clean -
we are among the good guys of this world.
This is now the line of argument of official Israel: the Palestinians elected
Hamas, a murderous Islamic movement. (If it didn't exist, it would have to
be invented - and indeed, some people assert it was created from the
start by our secret service.) Hamas is terroristic, and so is Hizbullah.
Perhaps Mahmoud Abbas is not a terrorist himself, but he is weak and
Hamas is about to take sole control over all Palestinian territories. So we
cannot talk with them. We have no partner. Actually, we cannot possibly
have a partner, because we belong to Western Civilization, which Islam
wants to eradicate.
IN HIS book "Der Judenstaat", Theodor Herzl, the official Israeli "Prophet
of the State", prophesied this development, too.
This is what he wrote in 1896: "For Europe we shall constitute (in
Palestine) a part of the wall against Asia, we shall serve as a vanguard of
culture against barbarism."
Herzl was thinking of a metaphoric wall, but in the meantime we have put
up a very real one. For many, this is not just a Separation Wall between
Israel and Palestine. It is a part of the world-wide wall between the West
and Islam, the front-line of the Clash of Civilizations. Beyond the wall
there are not men, women and children, not a conquered and oppressed
Palestinian population, not choked towns and villages like Abu-Dis, a-
Ram, Bil'in and Qalqilia. No, beyond the wall there are a billion terrorists,
multitudes of blood-thirsty Muslims, who have only one desire in life: to
throw us into the sea, simply because we are Jews, part of Judeo-
With an official position like that - who is there to talk to? What is there to
talk about? What is the point of meeting in Annapolis or anywhere else?
And what is left to us to do - to cry or to laugh?
Joined: 17 March 2005
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 27 October 2007 at 2:49pm|
12 Years Later
THE PRESIDENT of the Knesset invited me to take part in the special
Knesset session to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the
assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
I debated with myself whether to accept the invitation.
On the one hand, I would like to honor the man and the achievements of
his last years. I liked him.
On the other hand, I had no wish to listen to a eulogy delivered by
Shimon Peres, the man who pretended to follow Rabin's path and who
buried the Oslo agreement out of sheer cowardice. And even less to a
eulogy from Ehud Olmert, one of the people who led the incitement
campaign against the Oslo agreement and its authors. And still less to a
eulogy from Binyamin Netanyahu, who stood on the balcony while the
picture of Rabin in SS uniform was paraded below.
IN THE END, I DECIDED to stay away from this orgy of sanctimonious
hypocrisy. I did not go to the Knesset. Instead I sat at home watching the
sea and thinking about the man.
About the young Yitzhak Rabin, who joined the Palmach (the pre-
independence "regular forces"). The commander who drove the Arabs
from their homes in the 1948 war. The Chief of Staff who called, on us,
after the Six-Day War, to honor the enemy dead. The Prime Minister who
did more for education than any of his predecessors or successors. The
Prime Minister who allowed me to continue my secret contacts with the
PLO leaders, when this constituted a serious crime. The Defense Minister
who called on the soldiers to "break their arms and legs", an order that
was meticulously carried out. The man who recognized the PLO and
shook the hand of Yasser Arafat.
He was all of these, and the list goes on.
More than anything, he was the typical representative of my generation,
the "generation of 1948" - and not by accident was this generation
defined by a war. It was the era of innocence. The innocence of the
fighters and of the Yishuv (the Hebrew society in pre-state Palestine). In
retrospect, the events of that time - the actions of the underground
organizations, the operations of the war - take on a different aspect, a
picture with many shadows. But it must be remembered: that is not how
they looked to us when they happened. Not at all.
Rabin personified the innocence of the generation which believed with all
their hearts that they were sacrificing their lives for a cause more just
than any other - the existence of the Yishuv, the salvation of the Jews of
Europe, our fight for national independence. Without this absolute belief,
coupled with total ignorance of the other side, we would not have stood
the test of 1948 - a test in which a significant proportion of our age-
group was killed or wounded.
This generation idealized a certain personality type - the
"Sabra" (literally: prickly pear plant), a mythical figure that had an
immense influence in shaping the generation. (I myself played some part
in nursing this myth). The Sabra was supposed to be upright, both
physically and mentally, free of the complexes of the "exile" Jews (the
term "exilic" was the most insulting appellation in our lexicon). The
"Sabra" was honest, truthful, practical, natural, someone who always
comes straight to the point and despises hollow mannerisms, empty talk
and histrionic phrases, which we referred to colloquially as "Zionism".
Before we knew about the Holocaust, "exile" Jews and everything
connected with them were treated with scorn, even contempt.
As if all by itself, a clear terminological distinction appeared: the "Hebrew"
Yishuv and the "Jewish" religion, the "Hebrew" kibbutz and the "Jewish"
shtetl (in the Diaspora), "Hebrew labor (as in the name of the then
dominant trade union, "the General Organization of the Hebrew Workers
in Eretz-Yisrael") and "Jewish" luft-gesheften (Yiddish for nebulous
transactions), "Hebrew" workers and "Jewish" speculators.
Yitzhak Rabin was the ultimate Sabra: a handsome youngster who
sacrificed his private ambition (to study hydraulic engineering) in order to
serve the nation, to become a fighter and to command fighters, to act and
leave the discussion of ideology to the old people.
He was reputed to possess an "analytical mind", because of his ability to
examine a given situation and find practical solutions. The other side of
the coin was his lack of imagination. He dealt with reality, and could not
imagine a different reality. (Abba Eban, who hated his guts, told me in his
malicious way: "Analysis means dissecting. Rabin can take things apart,
but he cannot put them together again.")
He was withdrawn, perhaps shy, and drew back from bodily contact, slaps
on the back and public embraces. Some called him an "autist'. But he was
not overbearing, certainly not arrogant. After a few glasses (always
Scotch) he opened up a little, and at parties he could smile his somewhat
crooked smile and become quite friendly.
IF HE HAD died in 1970, we would remember him only as a soldier, a
successful brigade commander in the 1948 war, the best Chief-of-Staff
the Israeli army ever had, the architect of the incredible victory of the Six-
day War. But that was only one chapter in his eventful life. A rare thing
happened: at the age of 70 he did something that even 30-year olds are
generally unable to do: he completely changed his world view and
abandoned the certainties that had hitherto governed his life.
To this amazing change I was a witness. In 1969, when he was serving as
Israeli ambassador in Washington, we talked for the first time about the
Palestinian issue. He completely rejected the idea of peace with the
Palestinians. I still remember a sentence of his from this conversation: "I
don't care for secure borders, I want open borders." (In Hebrew, a play on
words: batuach means secure, patuach means open.) "Secure borders"
was at the time the slogan of annexationists. Rabin meant an open border
with Jordan, and once said: "I don't care if I need a visa to go to Hebron."
After that we met from time to time - in his office, in the Prime Minister's
residence, at his private home and at parties - and the conversation
always came back to the Palestinian issue. His attitude remained negative.
So I know how extreme a change it was. I don’t believe that it was I who
influenced him - at most I planted, perhaps, a few seeds. He himself
explained the change to me later as a series of logical deductions: when
he was Defense Minister, he met with local Palestinian personalities. In
one-to-one conversations they were amenable, but when they were in a
group, they were tough and told him that they took their directions from
the PLO. After that came the Madrid conference. Israel gave in to pressure
and agreed to negotiate with a Jordanian delegation that included
Palestinian members. Once there, the Jordanians refused to deal with
Palestinian issues, and so the Palestinians became in practice an
independent Palestinian delegation. Feisal Husseini, their real leader, was
not allowed into the conference room because he was a Jerusalemite. The
delegation members went to the other room from time to time to consult
with him, and at the end of every day, they told the Israelis that they had
to call Tunis to get instructions from Yasser Arafat.
"This became too ridiculous for me," Rabin told me in his straightforward
way, "If everything depends on Arafat anyhow, why not talk with him
That was the background of Oslo.
HOW DID Rabin's Oslo ship get stuck on a sandbank?
I believe that much of the fault lies with Rabin himself. He really wanted
to achieve peace with the Palestinians. But before his eyes he had no
route to the objective, and no clear picture of the objective itself. The
change was too sharp. Like Israeli society in general, he was unable to
free himself overnight from the fears, mistrust, superstitions and
prejudices accumulated over 120 years of conflict.
That is why he did not do the one thing that could have led the ship of
Oslo to a safe haven: to use the momentum and achieve peace in a bold
and rapid move. He did not know the famous dictum of David Lloyd-
George concerning peace with Ireland: "You cannot cross an abyss with
The makeup of his personality had a negative impact on the process. He
was by nature cautious, slow, averse to dramatic gestures (unlike
Menachem Begin, for example). This resulted in the fatal weakness of the
Oslo agreement: the final aim was not spelled out. The two decisive
words - "Palestinian State" - do not appear at all. This omission led to its
While the two sides wasted months and years haggling over every single
detail of the endless "interim" steps, the anti-peace forces in Israel had
time to recover and unite. Led by the settlers and the ultra-right, they
were sustained by the hatreds and anxieties bred by the long war.
In military terms: Rabin was like a general who succeeds in breaking
through the front - and, instead of pouring his forces into the breach and
forcing a decision, hesitates and stays put, allowing the opposing forces
to regroup and form a new front. In other words, he routed the forces of
war, but allowed them to reunite and mount a counter-attack.
For this he paid with his life.
THE MURDER of Rabin changed the history of Israel, much as the murder
of the Austrian crown-prince in Sarajevo in 1914 changed the history of
Nobody is irreplaceable, they say, but no second Rabin has been found -
no one with his honesty, with his courage, with his logical mind.
This week, Ehud Olmert declared that he was continuing on the path of
Rabin, but he represents the very opposite: the opposite of honesty, the
opposite of courage, the opposite of logic (not to mention his propensity
for embracing people and slapping them on the back.)
Rabin really wanted to move forward towards peace. Slowly-slowly, with
stubborn haggling, but also with consistency and persistence. Olmert's
aims are quite different. He wants a "peace process" that has no end -
babbling, meetings, conferences, without any movement, while in the
meantime the occupation is continuing, annexation is creeping forward,
settlements are enlarging and the hopes and chances for the two peoples
The Annapolis conference fits perfectly into this scheme: hollow
declarations, another conference without results, a meaningless
Some say that the most important thing is to talk, because "when you are
talking you are not shooting." That is a dangerous illusion. In our case,
the opposite is true: when you talk for the sake of talking while the
occupation deepens, despair is gaining ground and the shooting has
never really stopped. The failure of Annapolis may well trigger the
outbreak of the Third Intifada.
Joined: 17 March 2005
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 24 November 2007 at 2:08pm|
Omelettes into Eggs &n bsp;
I WAS awakened from deep sleep by the noise. There was a commotion
outside, which was getting louder by the minute. The shout of excited
people. An eruption of joy.
I stuck my nose outside the door of my Haifa hotel room. I was told
enthusiastically that the United Nations General Assembly had just
decided to partition the country.
I went back into my room and closed the door behind me. I had no desire
to join the celebrations.
November 29, 1947 - a day that changed our lives forever.
At this historic moment, how could I feel lonely, alienated and most of all
I was sad because I love all of this country - Nablus and Hebron no less
than Tel-Aviv and Rosh-Pina.
I was sad because I knew that blood, much blood, would be shed.
But it was mainly a question of my political outlook.
I was 24 years old. Two years before, I and a group of friends had set up
a political-ideological group that aroused intense anger in the Yishuv (the
Hebrew population in Palestine). Our ideas, which provoked a very strong
reaction, were regarded as a dangerous heresy.
The "Young Palestine Circle" ("Eretz-Yisrael Hatz'ira" in Hebrew) published
occasional issues of a magazine called "ba-Ma'avak" ("In the Struggle"),
and was therefore generally known as "the ba-Ma'avak Group")
advocating a revolutionary new ideology, whose main points were:
- We, the young generation that had grown up in this country, were a
- Our language and culture meant we should be called the Hebrew
- Zionism gave birth to this nation, and had thereby fulfilled its mission.
- From here on, Zionism has no further role to play. It is a hindrance to
the free development of the new nation, and should be dismantled, like
the scaffolding after a house is built.
- The new Hebrew nation is indeed a part of the Jewish people - as the
new Australian nation, for example, is a part of the Anglo-Saxon people
- but has a separate identity, its own interests and a new culture.
- The Hebrew nation belongs to the country, and is a natural ally of the
Arab national movement. Both national movements are rooted in the
country and its history, from the ancient Semitic civilization to the
- The new Hebrew nation does not belong to Europe and the "West", but
to awakening Asia and the Semitic Region - a term we invented in order
to distance ourselves from the European-colonial term "Middle East".
- The new Hebrew nation must integrate itself in the region, as a full and
equal partner. Together with all the nations of the Semitic Region, it
strives for the liberation of the region from the colonial empires.
WITH THIS world view, we naturally opposed the partition of the country.
Two months before the UN partition resolution, in September 1947, I
published a pamphlet called "War or Peace in the Semitic Region", in
which I proposed a completely different plan: that the Hebrew national
movement and the Palestinian-Arab national movement combine into
one single national movement and establish a joint state in the whole of
Palestine, based on the love of the country (patriotism, in the real sense).
This was far from the "bi-national" idea, which had important adherents
in those days. I never believed in this. Two different nations, each of
which clings to its own national vision, cannot live together in one state.
Our vision was based on the creation of a new, joint nation, with a
Hebrew and an Arab component.
We hastily translated the essence of the pamphlet into English and Arabic,
and I went to distribute it to the editorial offices of the Arab newspapers
in Jaffa. It was no longer the town I had known from earlier days, when
my work (clerk in a law office) frequently took me to the government
offices there. The atmosphere felt dark and ominous.
WITH THE expected UN resolution looming, we decided to publish a
special issue of ba-Ma'avak devoted completely to it. A student of the
Haifa Technical University volunteered to supply a drawing for the front
page, and that's why I found myself at that fateful moment in that small
I couldn't go back to sleep again. I got up and, in the excitement of the
moment, wrote a poem that was published in that special issue. The first
verse went like this:
"I swear to you, motherland, / On this bitter day of your humiliation, /
Great and united / You will rise from the dust. / The cruel wound / Will
burn in the hearts of your sons / Until your flags / Will wave from the sea
to the desert."
One of our group composed a melody, and we sang it in the following
days, as we bade farewell to our dreams.
THE MOMENT the UN resolution was adopted, it was clear that our world
had changed completely, that an era had come to an end and a new epoch
had begun, both in the life of the country and also in the life of every one
We hurriedly pasted on the walls a large poster warning of a "Semitic
Fraticidal War"' but the war was already on. When the first bullet was
fired, the possibility of creating the joint, united single country was
I am proud of my ability to adapt rapidly to extreme changes. The first
time I had to do this was when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany
and my life changed abruptly and completely. I was then nine years old,
and everything that had happened before was dead for me. I started a
new life in Palestine. On November 29, 1947, it was happening again - to
me and to all of us.
As the well-known saying has it, one can make an omelette from eggs,
but not eggs from an omelette. Banal, perhaps, but how very true.
The moment the Hebrew-Arab war started, the possibility that the two
nations would live together in one state expired. Wars change reality.
I joined the "Haganah Battalions", the forerunner of the IDF. As a soldier
in the special commando unit that was later called "Samson's Foxes", I
saw the war as it was - bitter, cruel, inhuman. First we faced the
Palestinian fighters, later the fighters of the wider Arab world. I passed
through dozens of Arab villages, many abandoned in the storm of battle,
many others whose inhabitants were driven out after being occupied.
It was an ethnic war. In the first months, no Arabs were left behind our
lines, no Jews were left behind the Arab lines. Both sides committed many
atrocities. In the beginning of the war, we saw the pictures of the heads
of our comrades paraded on stakes through the Old City of Jerusalem. We
saw the massacre committed by the Irgun and the Stern Group in Deir
Yassin. We knew that if we were captured, we would be slaughtered, and
the Arab fighters knew they could expect the same.
The longer the war dragged on, the more I became convinced of the
reality of the Palestinian nation, with which we must make peace at the
end of the war, a peace based on partnership between the two peoples.
While the war was still going on, I expressed this view in a number of
articles that were published at the time in Haaretz. Immediately after the
fighting was over, when I was still in uniform convalescing from my
wounds, I started meeting with two young Arabs (both of whom were
later elected to the Knesset) in order to plan a common path. I could not
have imagined that 60 years later this effort would still not be over.
NOWADAYS, THE IDEA appears here and there of turning the omelette
back into the egg, of dismantling the State of Israel and the State-of-
Palestine-to-be, and establishing a single state, as we sang at that time:
"from the sea to the desert".
This is presented as a fresh new idea, but it is actually an attempt to turn
the wheel back and to bring back to life an idea that is irrevocably
obsolete. In human history, that just does not happen. What has been
forged in blood and fire in wars and intifadas, - the State of Israel and the
Palestinian national movement - will not just disappear. After a war,
states can achieve peace and partnership, like Germany and France, but
they do not merge into one state.
I am not a nostalgic type. I look back at the ideas of my younger days,
and try to analyze what has been superseded and what is left.
The ideas of the "Ba-Ma'avak group" were indeed revolutionary and bold
- but could they have been put into practice? Looking back, it is clear to
me that the "Joint State" idea was already unrealistic when we brought it
up. Perhaps it would have been possible one or two generations earlier.
But by the middle of the 40s, the situation of the two peoples had
changed decisively. There was no escaping from the partition of the
I believe that we were right in our historical approach: that we must
identify with the region we are living in, cooperate with the Arab national
movement and enter into a partnership with the Palestinian nation. As
long as we see ourselves as a part of Europe and/or the USA, we are not
able to achieve peace. And certainly not if we consider ourselves soldiers
in a crusade against the Islamic civilization and the Arab peoples.
As we said then, before the partition resolution: the Palestinian people
exists. Even after 60 years, in which they have suffered catastrophes
which few other peoples have ever experienced, the Palestinian people
clings to its country with unparalleled fortitude. True, the dream of living
together in one state is dead, and will not come to life again. But I have
no doubt that after the Palestinian state comes into being, the two states
will find ways to live together in close partnership. The walls will be
thrown down, the fences will be dismantled, the border will be opened,
and the reality of the common country will overcome all obstacles. The
flags of the country - the two flags of the two states - will indeed wave
side by side.
The UN resolution of November 29, 1947, was one of the most intelligent
in the annals of that organization. As one who strenuously opposed it, I
recognize its wisdom.
Joined: 17 March 2005
Online Status: Offline
|Posted: 22 December 2007 at 4:46pm|
Help! A Cease Fire!
FORGET THE Qassams. Forget the mortar shells. They are nothing
compared with what Hamas launched at us this week:
The chief of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, has
approached an Israeli newspaper and proposed a cease-fire. No more
Qassams, no more mortars, no suicide bombings, no Israeli military
incursions into the Strip, no "targeted liquidations" of leaders. A total
cease-fire. And not only in the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank, too.
The military leadership exploded in anger. Who does he think he is, that
bastard? That he can stop us with such dirty tricks?
THIS IS the second time within a few days that an attempt has been made
to thwart our war plans.
Two weeks ago, the American intelligence community declared, in an
authoritative report, that Iran had stopped its attempt to produce a
nuclear bomb as early as four years ago.
Instead of heaving a sigh of relief, Israeli officials reacted with
undisguised anger. Since then, all the commentators in Israel, as well as
our huge network of hired pens around the world, have tried to
undermine this document. It is mendacious, without foundation,
motivated by a hidden, sinister agenda.
But miraculously, the report survived unscathed. It has not even been
The report, so it seems, has swept from the table any possibility of an
American and/or Israeli military attack on Iran. Now comes the peace
initiative of Haniyeh and endangers the strategy of our military
establishment towards the Gaza Strip.
Again, the army choir gets going. Generals in uniform and out of uniform,
military correspondents, political correspondents, commentators of all
stripes and genders, politicians from left and right - all are attacking the
The message is: it must not be accepted under any circumstances! It
should not even be considered! On the contrary: the offer shows that
Hamas is about to break, and therefore the war against it must be
intensified, the blockade on Gaza must be tightened, more leaders must
be killed - indeed, why not kill Haniyeh himself? What are we waiting for?
A paradox inherent in the conflict since its beginning is at work here: if
the Palestinians are strong, it is dangerous to make peace with them. If
they are weak, there is no need to make peace with them. Either way, they
must be broken.
"There is nothing to talk about!" Ehud Olmert declared at once. So
everything is alright, the bloodletting can go on.
AND IT IS indeed going on. In the Gaza Strip and around it, a cruel little
war is being waged. As usual, each side claims that it is only reacting to
the atrocities of the other side.
The Israeli side claims that it is responding to the Qassams and mortars.
What sovereign state could tolerate being bombarded by deadly missiles
from the other side of the border?
True, thousands of missiles have killed only a tiny number of people.
More than 100 times as many are killed and injured on the roads. But the
Qassams are sowing terror, the inhabitants of Sderot and the surrounding
area demand revenge and reinforcement for their houses, which would
cost a fortune.
If the Qassams were really bothering our political and military leaders,
they would have jumped at the cease-fire offer. But the leaders don't
really care about what's happening to the Sderot population, out on the
geographical and political "periphery", far from the center of the country.
It carries no political or economic weight. In the eyes of the leadership, its
suffering is, all in all, tolerable. It also has an important positive side: it
provides an ideal pretext for the actions of the army.
THE ISRAELI strategic aim in Gaza is not to put an end to the Qassams. It
would still be the same if not a single Qassam fell on Israel.
The real aim is to break the Palestinians, which means breaking Hamas.
The method is simple, even primitive: to tighten the blockade on land, on
sea and in the air, until the situation in the Strip becomes absolutely
The total stoppage of supplies, except the very minimum necessary to
prevent starvation, has reduced life to an inhuman level. There are
effectively no imports or exports, economic life has ground to a
standstill, the cost of living has risen sky-high. The supply of fuel has
already been reduced by half, and is planned to sink even lower. The
water supply can be cut at will.
Military activity is gradually increasing. The Israeli army conducts daily
incursions, employing tanks and armored bulldozers, in order to nibble at
the margins of the inhabited areas and draw the Palestinian fighters into
a face to face confrontation. Every day, from five to ten Palestinian
fighters are being killed, together with some civilians. Every day,
inhabitants are being abducted in order to extract information from them.
The declared purpose is attrition, to harry and wear down, and perhaps
also to prepare for the re-conquest of the Strip - even if the army chiefs
want to avoid this at almost any price.
One after another, the Palestinian leaders and commanders are being
killed from the air. Every point in the Strip is exposed to Israeli airplanes,
helicopter gunships and drones. Up-to-date technology makes it
possible to track the "children of death", those marked for killing, and a
wide net of informers and agents, some of them under duress, which has
been built up well in advance, completes the picture.
The army chiefs hope that by tightening all these screws they can push
the local population to rise up against Hamas and the other fighting
organizations. All Palestinian opposition to the occupation will collapse.
The entire Palestinian people will raise their hands in surrender and
submit to the mercies of the occupation, which will be able to do as it
pleases - expropriate lands, enlarge settlements, set up walls and
roadblocks, slice up the West Bank into a series of semi-autonomous
In this Israeli plan, the job reserved for the Palestinian Authority is to act
as subcontractors for Israeli security, in return for a stream of money that
will safeguard its control of the enclaves.
At the end of this phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian
people are supposed to be cut to pieces and helpless in face of the Israeli
expansion. The historic clash between the unstoppable force (the Zionist
enterprise) and the immovable object (the Palestinian population) will end
with the crushing of Palestinian opposition.
IN ORDER to succeed in this, a sophisticated diplomatic game must be
played. Under no circumstances may the support of the international
community be lost. On the contrary, the entire world, led by the US and
EU, must support Israel and look upon its actions as a just struggle
against Palestinian terrorism, itself an integral part of "international
The Annapolis conference, and afterwards the Paris meeting, were
important steps in this direction. Almost the whole world, including most
of the Arab world, has fallen into step with the Israeli plan - perhaps
innocently, perhaps cynically.
Events after Annapolis developed as expected: no negotiations have
started, both side are just playing with images. The very first day after
Annapolis, the Israeli government announced huge building projects
beyond the Green Line. When Condoleezza Rice mumbled some words of
opposition, it was announced that the plans had been shelved. In fact
they continue at full speed.
How do Olmert and his colleagues fool the whole world? Benjamin Disraeli
once said about a certain British politician: "The Right Honourable
Gentleman surprised his opponents bathing in the sea and took away
their clothes." We, the pioneers of the Two-State Solution, can say this
about our government. It has stolen our flag and wrapped it around itself
in order to hide its intentions.
At long last, there now exists a world-wide consensus that peace in our
region must be based on the co-existence of the State of Israel and the
State of Palestine. Our government has slipped into it and is exploiting
this agreement with another aim altogether: the rule of Israel in the
whole country and the turning of the Palestinian population centers into a
series of Bantustans. This is, in fact, a One-State-Solution (Greater Israel)
in the guise of the Two-State Solution.
CAN THIS plan succeed?
The battle of Gaza is in full swing. In spite of the huge military superiority
of the Israeli army, it is not one-sided. Even the Israeli commanders point
out that the Hamas forces are getting stronger. They train hard, their
weapons are getting more effective and they show a lot of courage and
determination. It seems that the falling of their commanders and fighters
in a steady bloodletting is not affecting their morale. That is one of the
reasons why the Israeli army is shrinking back from re-conquering the
Inside the Strip, both the main organizations enjoy wide public support -
the demonstration to commemorate Yassir Arafat organized by Fatah and
the counter-demonstration of Hamas each drew hundreds of thousands
of participants. But it seems that the great majority of the Palestinian
public wants national unity in order to fight together against the
occupation. They do not want religious compulsion, but neither will they
tolerate a leadership that cooperates with the occupation.
The government may be very mistaken in counting on the obedience of
Fatah. Competing with Hamas, Fatah may surprise us by becoming a
fighting organization once again. The stream of money flowing into the
Authority may not prevent this. Ze'ev Jabotinsky was wiser than Tony Blair
when he said 85 years ago that you cannot buy a whole people.
If the Israeli army invades Gaza in order to re-conquer it, the population
will stand behind the fighters. Nobody can know how it will react if the
economic misery gets worse. The results may be unexpected. Experience
with other liberation movements indicates that misery can break a
population, but it can also strengthen it.
This is, simply put, an existential test for the Palestinian people - perhaps
the most severe since 1948. It is also a test for the shrewd policy of Ehud
Olmert, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and the army chiefs.
So a cease-fire is not likely to come into effect. At first Olmert rejected
one out of hand. Then this was denied. Then the denial was denied.
The inhabitants of Sderot would probably have been glad to accept a
cease-fire. But then, who bothers to ask them.
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