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Daniel Dworsky
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Quote Daniel Dworsky Replybullet Posted: 16 December 2006 at 2:58pm
Uri Avnery

                Back to the Scene of the Crime

WHEN THE Israeli government decided, in the space of a few hours, to
start the Second Lebanon War, it did not have any plan.

When the Chief-of-Staff urged the cabinet to start the war, he did not
submit any plan.

This was disclosed this week by a military investigation committee.

That is shocking.

A plan is not an optional extra, something nice you can do without. A war
without a plan is like a human body without a spinal column. Would
anyone think of building a house without a plan? To put up a bridge? To
produce a car? To hold a conference? After all, unlike a house, a bridge, a
car or a conference, a war is supposed to kill people. Its very essence is
killing and destroying.

Almost in every case, to initiate a war is a crime. To start such a war
without a plan and proper preparation is totally irresponsible - heaping
crime upon crime.

WHEN A STATE starts a war, the sequence is - in simplistic terms - as

(1) The government adopts a clear political aim.

(2) The government deliberates whether this aim can be achieved by war
- after it comes to the conclusion that it cannot be achieved by other

From this point on, the emphasis moves from the political to the military
leadership. Its duty is:

(3) To draw up a strategic plan for attaining the aim decided upon by the

(4) To translate the strategic plan into a tactical plan. Among others: to
decide what forces are needed, which forces will be employed, what is the
target of each force and within which time it must achieve it, as well as to
foresee possible moves by the other side.

(5) To prepare the forces for their tasks, in accordance with their training
and equipment.

A wise government will also think about the situation it would like to
have after the war, and will instruct the military to take this into
consideration while planning their operations.

Now it appears that nothing of this sort happened. There was no clearly
defined war aim, there was no political or military plan, there were no
clear objectives for the troops and they were not prepared for the tasks
they were given. Without a central plan, nothing of these was even

A war without a plan is no war at all, but an adventure. A government that
starts a war without a plan is no government at all, but a bunch of
politicians. A General Staff that goes to war without a plan is no General
Staff at all, but a group of generals.

THE WAY events developed, according to the inquiry committees, was like
this: the government decided on the war in a hurry, within a few hours,
without defining any aim.

In the following days, several war aims were thrown around. They
followed each other in quick succession and contradicted each other in
many ways. That by itself is a recipe for disaster: every aim demands its
own methods and means, which may be quite different from those
demanded by another.

Among the aims that were announced: the release of the two captured
soldiers, the destruction of Hizbullah, the elimination of the arsenal of
missiles in South Lebanon, the pushing of Hizbullah away from the
border, and more. Beyond that there was a general desire to have a
Lebanese government that was completely subservient to American and
Israeli interests.

If competent army officers had been instructed to draw up a plan for each
of these aims, they would soon have arrived at the conclusion that all of
them were unattainable by military means, certainly not under the

The idea that the two prisoners could be liberated by war is manifestly
ridiculous. Like going after a mosquito with a sledgehammer. The proper
means is diplomacy. Perhaps somebody would have suggested capturing
some Hizbullah commanders in order to facilitate an exchange of
prisoners. Anything - except a war.

The destruction of Hizbullah by a necessarily limited war was impossible,
as should have been clear from the beginning. This is a guerilla force that
is part of a political movement which is deeply rooted in Lebanese reality
(as can be seen these days on any television screen). No guerilla
movement can be destroyed by a regular army, and certainly not in one
single stroke and within days or weeks.

The elimination of the missile arsenal? If the army command had sat
down to elaborate a military plan, they would have realized that aerial
bombardment can achieve this only in part. A complete destruction would
have demanded the occupation of all of South Lebanon, well beyond the
Litani River. During that time, a large part of Israel would have been
exposed to the missiles, without the population being prepared for it. If
that conclusion had been presented to the government, would it have
taken the decision it took?

The pushing of Hizbullah from the border by a few kilometers north is
not a proper war aim. Starting a war for that purpose, leading to the
killing of masses of people and destroying whole neighborhoods and
villages, would have meant frivolity where serious deliberation was
required .

But the government did not have to go into such deliberations. Since It
did not define any clear aim, it did not demand nor receive any military

IF THE recklessness of the political leadership was scandalous, the
recklessness of the military leadership was doubly so.

The army command went to war without any clearly defined aim and
without any plan. There were some plans that had been prepared and
exercised beforehand, without any specific political aim in mind, but they
were ignored and abandoned as the war started. After all, who needs a
plan? Since when do Israelis plan? Israelis improvise, and are proud of it.

So they improvised. The Chief-of-Staff, an Air Force general, decided that
it was sufficient to bomb: if enough civilians were killed and enough
houses, roads and bridges destroyed, the Lebanese people would go
down on its knees and do whatever the Israeli government commanded.

When this failed (as should have been foreseen) and most Lebanese of all
communities rallied behind Hizbullah, The C-o-C realized that there was
no avoiding ground operations. Since there was no plan, he did without.
Troops were sent into Lebanon in a haphazard way, without clear
objectives, without time-tables. The same locations were occupied time
and again. The end result: the forces bit off small pieces of land on the
edges of Hizbullah territory, without any real achievement, but with heavy

It cannot be said that the war aims were not attained. Simply, there was
no war aim.

THE WORST part was not the lack of a plan. The worst part was that the
generals did not even notice its absence.

The investigators of the State Comptroller disclosed last week a startling
fact of utmost importance: most members of the General Staff have never
attended any of the high command courses which are the Israeli
equivalent of a military academy.

This means that they never learned military history and the principles of
strategy. They are military technicians, equivalent to engineering
technicians or bookkeepers. I assume that they are well versed in the
technical side of the profession: how to move forces, how to activate
weapon systems, and such. But they have not read books about military
theory and the art of war, have not studied how the leaders of armies
conducted their wars throughout the centuries, have not become
acquainted with the thoughts of the great military thinkers.

A military leader needs intuition. Certainly. But intuition grows from by
experience - his own experience, the experience of his army and the
accumulated experience of centuries of warfare.

For example: if they had read the books of Basil Liddell Hart, perhaps the
most authoritative military commentator of the last century, they would
have learned that the battle of David and Goliath was not a confrontation
between a boy with a primitive sling and a heavily armed and protected
giant, as it is usually presented, but quite on the contrary, a battle
between a sophisticated fighter with a modern weapon that could kill
from a distance and a cumbersome combatant equipped with obsolescent

In the Lebanon war, the role of David was played by Hizbullah, a mobile
and resourceful force, while the Israeli army was Goliath, heavy, routine-
bound, with inappropriate weapons.

ANYBODY WHO reads this column regularly knows that we blew the
whistle well before the war. But our criticism then was suspect because of
our opposition to the war itself, which we considered immoral,
superfluous and senseless.

Now we have several military inquiry committees, appointed by the chief-
of-Staff himself (about 40 of them!), and they, one after another, confirm
our criticism almost word for word. Not only confirm, but add a wealth of
details that paint an even darker picture.

It is a picture of utter confusion: improvised operations, an anarchic
command structure, misunderstanding of orders, orders that were issued,
cancelled and issued again, General Staff officers giving orders directly to
subordinate commanders bypassing the chain of command.

An army that was once one of the best in the world, an object of study for
officers in many countries, has become an inefficient and incompetent

The committees do not answer a basic question: how did this happen?

EXCEPT FOR a few hints here and there, the committees do not say how
we got here. What has happened to the Israeli army?

This, too, we have said many times: the army is the victim of the

Next June, the occupation of the Palestinian territories will "celebrate" its
40th anniversary. There is no precedent for such a long military
occupation regime. A military occupation is by its very nature a short-
term instrument. In the course of a war, the army conquers enemy
territory, administers it until the end of the war, when its fate is decided
by a peace agreement.

No army is happy with the role of an occupying force, knowing that this
destroys it, corrupts it from inside, damages it physically and mentally,
diverts it from its most important function and imposes on it methods
that have nothing to do with its real mission - to defend the state in war.

With us, the occupation became, almost from the beginning, a political
instrument for the attainment of objectives that are foreign to the
function of "Defense Forces". In theory, it is a military regime, but in
practice it is a colonial subjugation, in which the Israeli army mainly
fulfills the shameful task of an oppressive police force.

In today's army, there is no officer on active service who remembers the
Israel Defense Forces from before the occupation, the army that grew up
in the "small" Israel within the Green Line, that defeated five Arab armies
in six days, commanded by the brilliant General Staff under Yitzhak
Rabin. All the commanders of the Second Lebanon War started their
career when it was already an occupation army. The last military success
of the Israeli army was achieved early in the occupation period, a
generation ago, in the Yom Kippur war,

An army whose job is to uphold the occupation - "targeted
killings" (approved this week by the Supreme Court in a shameful
decision), demolition of homes, mistreating helpless civilians, hunting
stone-throwing children, humiliating people at innumerable roadblocks
and the hundred and one other daily doings of an occupation army - has
shown that it is not fitted for real war, even against a small guerilla force.

THE CORRUPTION of the Israeli army and the rot that has set in, exposed
in all their ugliness by the investigations of the war, are a danger for the
State of Israel.

It is not enough to remove the Chief-of-Staff (whose clinging to his post
is another scandal added to the scandals of the war), nor is it enough to
change the whole high command. There is a need for reform from the top
to the bottom, a change of the army in all sectors and all grades. But as
long as the occupation lasts, there is no point in even starting.

We have always said: the occupation corrupts. Now it has to be said with
a clear voice: the occupation is endangering the security of Israel.
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Quote herjihad Replybullet Posted: 16 December 2006 at 4:24pm
Originally posted by Maryah

Originally posted by Daniel Dworsky

I meant the settlers but now that I think about it Haldol (Antihallucinogenic)
seems more appropriate

Asalaamu alaikum,

Brother Daniel, you are Muslim? It does not matter, but you sound as if your are.

May Allah (swt) keep you and your family safe.

Salaams and Bismillah,

Dear Sister Maryah,

I feel as if Daniel is my brother in spirit knowing full well that he is a sincere Jewish man.  Just as I feel about Angela.  They are both wonderful people and I'm glad to have the honor to know them.

Al-Hamdulillah (From a Married Muslimah) La Howla Wa La Quwata Illa BiLLah - There is no Effort or Power except with Allah's Will.
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Quote Daniel Dworsky Replybullet Posted: 17 December 2006 at 10:10am
Write a letter to keep The Hope Flowers School accessible


I am kindly asking you and the Civil Administration NOT to continue with
your plans to demolish the cafeteria building of the first, and only, school
for peace and coexistence in the Palestinian Territories.

We are also concerned that the wall/fence that the Israelis authorities
started to build near the school will prevent Israelis from reaching the
school. We are asking you to create a Gate or Entrance in that wall near
the school to allow Israelis to reach the Hope Flowers School.

Attention: C/O: Subject: The Hope Flowers School in Al Khader, Case
Number related to demolition: 107/02


Dear Sir,

We kindly request your attention to the following matter. For several years
we have supported a Palestinian school on the West Bank in Al Khader
village near Bethlehem. The name of the school is Al Amal, The Hope
Flowers School. We support this school because of its approach to peace
and democracy education. The Hope Flowers School was established in
1984 when the late founder of the school, Mr. Hussein Issa (may he rest
in peace), was confident that the Palestinian and Israeli conflict could not
be solved by violence. He believed that the only way to solve the conflict
was to create a new generation of Palestinians and Israelis that believed in
peace, coexistence and respecting the rights of each other. Mr. Issa
thought that by bringing Palestinian and Israeli children together and
teaching them to look beyond the fear that years of conflict and
stereotyping has created, then these children would grow and bond in
friendship. He also hoped that they would then create a peaceful solution
to the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. Therefore, the school has many
contacts and partnerships with Israeli schools, teachers and students.
Israeli volunteers and teachers worked in the school before the
Palestinian uprising started in 2000.

1.     However, the Hope Flowers School received a demolition order for
the school cafeteria from the Israeli army (Case 107/02) on 5th
November, 2003. We are very concerned about this recent threat to
demolish the cafeteria building. I am kindly asking you and the Civil
Administration NOT to continue with your plans to demolish the cafeteria
building of the first, and only, school for peace and coexistence in the
Palestinian Territories.

2.     We are also concerned that the wall/fence that the Israelis
authorities started to build near the school will prevent Israelis from
reaching the school. We are asking you to create a Gate or Entrance in
that wall near the school to allow Israelis to reach the Hope Flowers
School. This will keep dialogue alive and will allow hope to flower for the
next Palestinian and Israeli generation.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely Yours,

Name. Address.

[Send it to:] a) Commander Israeli Civil Administration (Sub Committee for
Supervision of Building Activity in Beth El), Fax: (Israel) 2 997 7326.

b) Mr. Ehud Olmert, Israeli Prime Minister: E-mail: [email protected]
Fax: (Israel) 2 566 4838 or (Israel) 2 267 5475, Tel: (Israel) 2 670 5555.

3.     The Israeli Embassy / Consulate in your home country.

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because it's so short.

d) Dr Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, address: U.S Department of
State, 2210 C Street N.W, Washington D.C 20520, USA. tel: (USA) 202 647
5291(Dr. Rice s office) / 202 647 4000 (State Dept. main number) Email: .
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Quote herjihad Replybullet Posted: 17 December 2006 at 3:12pm

Salaams and Bismillah,

Brother Daniel,

This says:  However, the Hope Flowers School received a demolition order for
the school cafeteria from the Israeli army (Case 107/02) on 5th
November, 2003.

So it is now three years after this order was issued.  What's going on?  Please elucidate.  Thanks.

Al-Hamdulillah (From a Married Muslimah) La Howla Wa La Quwata Illa BiLLah - There is no Effort or Power except with Allah's Will.
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Quote Daniel Dworsky Replybullet Posted: 18 December 2006 at 12:21am
I'd like to say that we've been holding the Caterpillars at bay since then
the army doesn't always do "when" very well it's all about what, where and
how. We have our guys letting us know from the inside about the

Our information is that the Army Engineers are ready to take it down in
the next few days.
Once the deed is done it's done.

I've been at demolitions, Nassalat Issa, where the army took down an
entire shopping center in Palestine. We had a stay of demolition from the
superior court (Israeli Superior Court) In our hands and when we
interfered we were beaten up by border guard. I personally am putting at
least once dental surgeon's child through college. this all depends on
wether I decide on implants or leaving the back teeth out. My wife says it
looks like the place you put a bit for a horse. I digress. The point is that
we need legal help outside of Israeli law. Here the law isn't so much an
ass as it is a little bunny rabbit. Really bad people are running things
here especially in the Israeli army right now.

Those two disasters to hit the US (Bush and 9/11) have coincided with or
caused a total disrespect for justice and even the law. Lately it has gone
as far as in the case of extra judicial executions, to pervert the law it's

Capital punishment is a disgrace any where. To put it in the hands of the
government as a legal tool is banana republic stuff. When they say some
one is going "Bananas" this is what they mean. This isn't about st**id
policeman who are about this far from being criminals themselves or
bored soldiers who fire a round into a Palestinian water heater from half a
mile away after 8 hours of guard duty. No. These are politicians and civil
servants popping off people from behind a desk. Dispatching people like
they were Judy Dent and Pierce Brosnen. This is how they see themselves.
Romantically. I would say that animals behave like this but the insult is
too brutaI to the animals of course.

Edited by Daniel Dworsky
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Quote Daniel Dworsky Replybullet Posted: 18 December 2006 at 1:34am
In Israel. The police departments are sort of like protected workshops for
the mentally challenged. We have improved here on the buddy system.
We have three policeman in each car.
It used to be two like in the states so that one could need only read and the
other write.
Now with all the decent and human rights talk we need a third to keep an
eye on these two budding intellectuals...

That was a Joke... I think.

Edited by Daniel Dworsky
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Quote Daniel Dworsky Replybullet Posted: 18 December 2006 at 1:40am
Uri Avnery

                Sorry, Wrong Continent

A FEW weeks ago, the 15th Asian games, the "Asiad", was held in Qatar.

The Israeli media treated the event with a mixture of derision and pity.
Some kind of picturesque Asian circus. Our television showed an exotic
horseman with a keffiyeh at the opening ceremony, riding his noble Arab
steed up a steep staircase to light the Olympic flame. And that was that.

One question was not asked at all in any of the media: why are we not
there? Does Israel not lie in Asia?

That was not even considered. We? In Asia? How come?

WHEN I followed the event on Aljazeera television, I suddenly
remembered a private anniversary that had slipped my memory.

Exactly 60 years ago a small number of young people founded a group
that called itself in Hebrew "Young Eretz-Israel" and in Arabic "Young
Palestine". With money out of our own pockets (at the time we were all
quite poor) we published occasional issues of a periodical we called
Bamaavak ("In the struggle").

Bamaavak stirred up a lot of stormy waves, because it voiced infuriatingly
heretical opinions. Contrary to the dominant Zionist narrative, it asserted
that we, the young generation growing up in the country, constituted a
new nation, the Hebrew nation. Unlike the somewhat similar group of
"Canaanites", that preceded us, we proclaimed that (a) the new nation is a
part of the Jewish people, much as Australia is a part of the Anglo-Saxon
people, and (b) that we are a sister-nation to the resurgent Arab nation in
the country and throughout the region.

And, no less important: that since the new Hebrew nation was born in the
country, and the country belongs to Asia, we are an Asian nation, a
natural ally to all the Asian and African nations that strive for liberation
from colonialism.

On Wednesday, March 19, 1947, a few months after the first edition of
Bamaavak had appeared, the Hebrew daily Haboker reported: "On the
occasion of the opening of the Pan-Asian Conference (in New Delhi), the
group Young Eretz Israel has sent a cable to Jawaharlal Nehru reading:
'Please receive the congratulations of the Eretz-Israeli youth for your
historic initiative. May the aspirations for freedom of the peoples of New
Asia, inspired by your heroic example, become united. Long live the
united and arising Young Asia, the vanguard of fraternity and progress'."   

A similar news story appeared on the same day on the front page of the
Palestine Post (the predecessor of the Jerusalem Post), with the names of
the signatories: Uri Avnery, Amos Elon and Ben-Ami Gur.

Bamaavak appeared from time to time, whenever we had enough money,
up to the outbreak of the 1948 war. In the Hebrew press, more than a
hundred reactions were published, almost all of them negative, many of
them vituperative. The famous writer Moshe Shamir, then a left-winger,
made a neat play on words, calling us Bamat-Avak ("stage of dust").

When the war broke out, this whole chapter was overshadowed and
forgotten. But almost all we said 60 years ago remains relevant today.
And the most relevant question is: To what continent does the State of
Israel actually belong?

I BELIEVE that one of the most profound causes for the historic conflict
between us and the Arab world in general, and the Palestinian people in
particular, is the fact that the Zionist movement declared, from its very
first day, that it did not belong to the region in which we live. Perhaps
that is one of the reasons for the fact that even after four generations,
this wound has not healed.

In his book "The Jewish State", the founding document of the Zionist
movement, Theodor Herzl famously wrote: "For Europe we shall be (in
Palestine) a part of the wall against Asia…the vanguard of culture against
barbarism…" This attitude is typical for the whole history of Zionism and
the State of Israel up to the present day. Indeed, a few weeks ago the
Israeli ambassador to Australia declared that "Asia belongs to the yellow
race, while we are Whites and have no slit eyes. "

One can perhaps forgive Herzl, a quintessential European, who lived in an
era when imperialism dominated European thought. But today, four
generations later, those forming public opinion in Israel, people born in
the country, continue along the same path. Former Prime Minister Ehud
Barak declared that Israel is "a villa in the middle of the jungle" (the Arab
jungle, of course), and this attitude is shared by practically all our
politicians. Tsipi Livni likes to talk about the "dangerous neighborhood" in
which we are living, and the chief advisor of Ariel Sharon once said that
there will be no peace until "the Palestinians turn into Finns."

Our soccer and basketball teams play in the European leagues, the
Eurovision song contest is a national event in Israel, 95% of our political
activity is focused on Europe and North America. But the phenomenon
extends far beyond the political arena - this is a "world view" in the literal
sense. In our world, Israel is a part of Europe.

In the 50s, when I was the editor of the news magazine Haolam Hazeh, I
once published a cartoon that I am still proud of: it showed the map of
the Eastern Mediterranean, with an arm projecting from Greece and
holding scissors that cut Israel off from Asia. It is a pity that I did not add
a second drawing, showing Israel being attached to the shore of France
or, preferably, Miami.

These days it would be hard to find anybody who would assert that Asia -
India, China - is barbarian. But it is easy to find people in Israel, and
throughout the West, who believe that the Arab world, and indeed the
entire Muslim world, is a "jungle". With such an attitude, one cannot make
peace. After all, one does not make peace with poisonous snakes and
ravenous leopards.

In the Bamaavak days, we coined the slogan "Integration in the Semitic
Region". But how can one integrate oneself in a region that is seen as a

A WORLD VIEW is not an academic matter. It has a huge impact on actual
life. It influences people when it is conscious, and even more so when it is
unconscious. It shapes the practical decisions, without the decision-
makers being aware of it. Politicians, too, are only human beings (if that),
and their actions are directed by their hidden beliefs.

In Israel we are used to consider unquestioned "conceptsias" as the
mother of all our mistakes and defeats. But is such an assumption any
different from the expression of an unconscious world-view?

The world-view influences many aspects of the state. It is the core of the
education system, which forms the mind of the next generation. We have
perhaps the only education system in the world that does not teach the
history of its homeland. In our schools, very little is taught about the past
of the country. Instead, what is taught is the history of "the Jewish
people". This starts with the ancient Israelite kingdoms before the sixth
century BC ("the First Temple"), then the Jewish community in the country
before the beginning of the Christian era and for some years after ("the
Second Temple"). Then it leaves the country and dwells on the Jewish
Diaspora for some thousands of years, until the beginning of the Zionist
settlement. For almost 2000 years, the annals of the country disappear
from the school.

I once talked about this in a speech in the Knesset. I said that an Israeli
child born in the country, whether Jewish or Arab, should study the
history of the country, including all its periods and peoples: Canaanites,
Israelites, Hellenists, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks,
British, Palestinians, Israelis and more. In addition they could be taught
the story of the Jews in the diaspora, too. The Minister of Education
responded humorously and insisted on calling me, from then on, "the

LATELY IT has become fashionable for politicians and commentators in
Israel to speak about the danger of annihilation that hovers, or so they
claim, over Israel. It is hardly believable: the State of Israel is a regional
superpower, its economy is robust and developing, its technological level
is one of the most advanced in the world, its army is stronger than all the
Arab armies combined, it has a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. Even if
the Iranians were to obtain a bomb of their own, they would be mad to
use it, for fear of Israeli retaliation.

So where does this fear of annihilation come from in the 59th year of the
state? A part of it surely emanates from the memory of the Holocaust,
which is deeply imprinted in the national mentality. But another part
comes from the feeling of not belonging, of temporariness, of the lack of

That has, of course, domestic implications, too. Consciousness also
affects practical interests. The assertion that we are a European people
automatically reinforces the position of our ruling class, which is still
overwhelmingly Ashkenazi-European, over and against the majority of the
citizens of Israel, who are of Asian-African Jewish and Palestinian-Arab
descent. The profound disdain for their culture, which has accompanied
the state from its first day, facilitates discrimination against them in many

A CHANGE affecting the consciousness of a community is not a short-
term proposition. It cannot be achieved by decree. This is a slow and
gradual process. But at some stage we shall have to start it, and first of all
in the education system.

I started my booklet "War or Peace in the Semitic Region", which was
published in October 1947, just a few weeks before the outbreak of the
1948 war, with the words:    

"When our Zionist fathers decided to set up a 'safe home' in Eretz Israel,
they had the choice between two roads: they could appear in West Asia as
a European conqueror, who sees himself as a beachhead of the 'white'
race and a master of the 'natives'…(or) see themselves as an Asian nation
returning to its homeland."

When I wrote these words, the rise of Asia was still a dream. World War II
had ended just two years before, and the United States looked like an
omnipotent superpower. But now a quiet revolution of huge proportions
is taking place. The nations of Asia, with China and India in the lead, are
becoming economic and political powers. Should we not gradually move
toward this camp?

That brochure, 60 years ago, ended with the words of a Hebrew song:

"We stand and face the rising sun / To the East our homeward path…"

Edited by Daniel Dworsky
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Quote Daniel Dworsky Replybullet Posted: 04 January 2007 at 1:58am
Uri Avnery

                      Kiss of Death

SINCE JUDAS ISCARIOT embraced Jesus, Jerusalem has not seen such a

After being boycotted by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert for years,
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was invited to the official residence of the
Prime Minister of Israel two weeks ago. There, in front of the cameras,
Olmert embraced him and kissed him warmly on both cheeks. Abbas
looked stunned, and froze.

Somehow the scene was reminiscent of another incident of politically-
inspired physical contact: the embarassing occurrence at the Camp David
meeting, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak pushed Yasser Arafat forcefully
into the room where Bill Clinton stood waiting.

In both instances it was a gesture that was intended to look like paying
respect to the Palestinian leader, but both were actually acts of violence
that - seemingly - testified to ignorance of the customs of the other
people and of their delicate situation. Actually, the aim was quite

ACCORDING TO the New Testament, Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus in order
to point him out to those who had come to arrest him.

In appearance - an act of love and friendship. In effect - a death

On the face of it, Olmert was out to do Abbas a favor. He paid him
respect, introduced him to his wife and honored him with the title "Mr.

That should not be underestimated. At Oslo, titanic battles were fought
over this title. The Palestinians insisted that the head of the future
Palestinian Authority should be called "President". The Israelis rejected
this out of hand, because this title could indicate something like a state.
In the end, it was agreed that the (binding) English version would carry
the Arabic title "Ra'is", since that language uses the same word for both
President and Chairman. Abbas, who signed the document for the
Palestinian side, probably did not envisage that he himself would be the
first to be addressed by an Israeli Prime Minister as "President".

But enough trivia. More important is the outcome of this event. After the
imposed kiss, Abbas needed a big Israeli gesture to justify the meeting in
the eyes of his people. And indeed, why shouldn't Olmert do something
resounding? For example, to release on the spot a thousand prisoners,
remove all the hundreds of checkpoints scattered across the West Bank,
open the passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?

Nothing of the sort happened. Olmert did not release a single prisoner -
no woman, no child, no old man, no sick person. He did indeed announce
(for the umpteenth time) that the roadblocks would be "eased", but the
Palestinians report that they have not felt any change. Perhaps, here and
there, the endless queue at some of the roadblocks has become a little
shorter. Also, Olmert gave back a fifth of the Palestinian tax money
withheld (or embezzled) by the Israeli government.

To the Palestinians, this looked like another shameful failure for their
President: he went to Canossa and received meaningless promises that
were not kept.

WHY DID Olmert go through all these motions?

The naïve explanation is political. President Bush wanted some movement
in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would look like an American
achievement. Condoleezza Rice transmitted the order to Olmert. Olmert
agreed to meet Abbas at long last. There was a meeting. A kiss was
effected. Promises were made and immediately forgotten. Americans, as
is well known, have short memories. Even shorter (if that is possible)
than ours.

But there is also a more cynical explanation. If one humiliates Abbas, one
strengthens Hamas. Palestinian support for Abbas depends on one single
factor: his ability to get from the US and Israel things Hamas cannot. The
Americans and the Israelis love him, so - the argument goes - they will
give him what is needed: the mass release of prisoners, an end to the
targeted killings, the removal of the monstrous roadblocks, the opening
of the passage between the West Bank and Gaza, the start of serious
negotiations for peace. But if Abbas cannot deliver any of these - what
remains but the methods of Hamas?

The business of the prisoners provides a good example. Nothing troubles
the Palestinians more than this: almost every Palestinian clan has people
in prison. Every family is affected: a father, a brother, a son, sometimes a
daughter. Every night, the Israeli army "arrests" another dozen or so. How
to get them free?

Hamas has a proven remedy: to capture Israelis (in the Israeli and
international media, Israelis are "kidnapped" while Palestinians are
"arrested"). For the return of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Olmert will
release many prisoners. Israelis, according to Palestinian experience,
understand only the language of force.

Some of Olmert's advisors had a brilliant idea: to give Abbas hundreds of
prisoners as a gift, just for nothing. That would reinforce the position of
the Palestinian president and prove to the Palestinians that they can get
more from us this way than by violence. It would deal a sharp blow to the
Hamas government, whose overthrow is a prime aim of the governments
both of Israel and the USA.

Out of the question, cried another group of Olmert's spin doctors. How
will the Israeli media react if prisoners are released before Shalit comes

The trouble is that Shalit is held by Hamas and its allies, and not by
Abbas. If it is forbidden to release prisoners before the return of Shalit,
then all the cards are in the hands of Hamas. In that case, perhaps it
makes sense to speak with Hamas? Unthinkable!

The result: no strengthening of Abbas, no dialogue with Hamas, no

THAT IS an old Israeli tradition: when there are two alternatives, we
choose the third: not to do anything.

For me, the classic example is the Jericho affair. In the middle 70s, King
Hussein made an offer to Henry Kissinger: Israel should withdraw from
Jericho and turn the town over to the king. The Jordanian army would
hoist the Jordanian flag there, announcing symbolically that Jordan is the
decisive Arab presence in the West Bank.

Kissinger liked the idea and called Yigal Allon, the Israeli foreign minister.
Allon informed the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. All the top political
echelon - Rabin, Allon, the Defense Minister Shimon Peres - were already
enthusiastic supporters of the "Jordanian Option", as were their
predecessors, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and Abba Eban. My friends and I,
who, on the contrary, advocated the "Palestinian Option", were a marginal

But Rabin rejected the offer categorically. Golda had publicly promised to
hold a referendum or elections before giving back even one square inch
of occupied territory. "I will not call an election because of Jericho!" Rabin

No Jordanian Option. No Palestinian Option. No nothing.

NOW THE same is happening vis-à-vis Syria.

Again there are two alternatives. The first: to start negotiations with
Bashar al-Assad, who is making public overtures. That means being ready
to give back the Golan Heights and allow the 60 thousand Syrian refugees
to return home. In return, Sunni Syria could well cut itself loose from Iran
and Hizbullah and join the front of Sunni states. Since Syria is both Sunni
and secular-nationalist, that may also have a positive effect on the

Olmert has demanded that Assad cut himself off from Iran and stop
helping Hizbullah before any negotiations. That is a ridiculous demand,
obviously intended to serve as an alibi for refusing to start talking. After
all, Assad uses Hizbullah in order to put pressure on Israel to return the
Golan. His alliance with Iran also serves the same purpose. How can he
give up in advance the few cards he holds and still hope to achieve
anything in the negotiations?

The opposite alternative suggested by some senior army commanders: to
invade Syria and do the same there as the Americans have done in Iraq.
That would create anarchy throughout the Arab world, a situation that
would be good for Israel. That would also renovate the image of the
Israeli army that was damaged in Lebanon and restore its "deterrence

So what will Olmert do? Give the Golan back? God forbid! Does he need
trouble with the 16 thousand vociferous settlers there? What then, will he
start a war with Syria? No! Hasn't he had enough military setbacks? So he
will go for the third alternative: to do nothing.

Bashar Assad has at least one consolation: He does not run the risk of
being kissed by Olmert.
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