Archive for category history of Israel
The Ten Mythologies of Israel by Ilan Pappé
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The Ten Mythologies of Israel
1 Myth 1: Palestine was a land without people, waiting for the people without
a land………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
2 Myth 2: Palestinians resorted to acts of terror against Jewish settlers prior
to the creation of Israel………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2
3 Myth 3: Myths around the creation of Israel………………………………………………….. 2
4 Myth 4: Israel was a benign democratic state prior to 1967 ………………………… 4
5 Myth 5: The Palestinian struggle has no aim other than terror …………………… 4
6 Myth 6: Israel was forced to occupy the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, ad
must hold these territories until others are ready for peace ……………………………… 4
7 Myth 7: Isreal ocupied the West Bank and Gaza with benevolent intentions,
but was forced to respond to Palestinian violence …………………………………………….. 5
8 Myth 8: The Oslo Accords reflected a desire on both sides to reach a
9 Myth 9: The Second Intifada was a mass terror attack orchestrated by
Arafat ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 7
10 Myth 10: A solution in Israel and Palestine is just around the corner …….. 7
Telling Truths about Israel, Palestine
On Oct. 16, the Israeli organization Yazkern hosted dozens of veterans of Israel’s 1948 “War of Independence” for a look at what that struggle really entailed. The veterans testified to what can only be called a conscious effort at ethnic cleansing – the systematic destruction of entire Palestinian villages and numerous massacres.In 1948, some Palestinians, uprooted by Israel’s claims to their lands, relocated to the Jaramana Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria
The aim of Yazkern’s effort at truth-telling was to break through the sanitized “mainstream nationalistic narrative” of 1948 and the accompanying denial of any legitimate Palestinian counter-narrative.
A documentary film by Israeli-Russian journalist Lia Tarachansky, dealing with this same subject, the Palestinian “Nakba” or catastrophe, is nearing completion. It too has the testimony of Israeli soldiers of the 1948 war.
These latest revelations lend credence to the claims of Israel’s “new historians,” such as Ilan Pappe, who have written books based on evidence gleamed from government archives showing that, even before the outbreak of hostilities leading to the creation of the State of Israel, the Zionist authorities planned to ethnically cleanse as much of Palestine as possible of non-Jews.
OK, you might say, the Israelis behaved savagely in 1948 – and only a small minority will admit it – but what about after “the War of Independence”? As it turns out, the ethnic cleansing never stopped. Conveniently, the longstanding denial that it ever started has helped to hide the fact that it’s ongoing.
Just this week, we received the news that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given the order to demolish eight Palestinian villages with some 1,500 residents in the south Hebron hills. The excuse offered by Barak is that the land is needed for military training exercises.
According to the “new historians,” this is a standard Israeli government cover for ethnic cleansing. Sure, for a couple of years the Israeli army will use the land that held the demolished villages. Then, almost inevitably, the area becomes the site of a new Israeli Jewish settlement.
On Oct. 20, Al-Jazeera reported on Israeli documents showing that between 2008 and 2010 the Israeli army allowed food supplies into the Gaza Strip based on a daily calorie count that held the basic diet of a 1.5 million people to a point just short of malnutrition.
According to the Israeli human rights organization Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, “the official goal of the policy was to wage economic warfare which would paralyze Gaza’s economy and, according to the Defense Ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government.” Actually, this bit of savagery predates 2008.
Back in 2006, Dov Weissglass, then an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Of course, precedents for this can be found in the treatment of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. One assumes that Mr. Weissglass was aware of this.
However, just as with the barbarism practiced in the “War of Independence,” in this case too there is a well-practiced capacity for national denial. According to Gideon Levy writing in Haaretz, “the country has plenty of ways … of burying skeletons deep in the closet so that Israelis shouldn’t be overly disturbed.”
The military authors of the document that turned Weissglass’s hideous “idea” into savage practice, operated in a country afflicted with blindness. Just so the present Israeli government does not worry about public unease over the fact that it is slowly but surely destroying the Gaza sewage system and rendering its water supply undrinkable.
Then there are the petty acts of cruelty that can be considered telltale signs of an underlying savagery. For instance, the fact that Israeli customs officials held back the the exam sheets for the October 2012 College Board tests bound for the West Bank graduating high school seniors.
AMIDEAST, the organization that serves as the testing agency for the Palestinian territories, had made sure the Israeli authorities had the tests in their hands weeks in advance. Nonetheless, in an apparent act of vindictiveness, the customs officials held on to them until AMIDEAST had to cancel the exam.
One observer has asked the question, “what has the SAT [tests] have to do with Israeli security?” Well it might be that, in the mind of a cruel customs official, the more college-bound Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, the more articulate witnesses to Israeli oppression.
On the Gaza side of the equation, the U.S. was forced to cancel a small scholarship program for Gaza college students because the Israelis refused to let the students leave their open-air prison, even if only to go to a West Bank school. (For anyone who might want to follow the grim procession of Israeli oppressive acts on a day-to-day basis, I recommend the web site Today In Palestine.)
Challenge and Denial
In the face of this behavior on the part of Israel, that country’s public support in the United States has finally begun to slip.
Most recently, 15 prominent church leaders, representing major Christian denominations, wrote an open letter to Congress calling for “an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations. … We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”
So far, Congress has turned a deaf-ear to this request, but the Zionist reaction was loud and clear. Leading the way in this effort was the head of the misnamed Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Abraham Foxman. Charging the Christian leaders with a “blatant lack of sensitivity” (one might ask just how sensitive one is suppose to be to an oppressor?) Foxman decided to punish the offending clergy by refusing to engage in ongoing “interfaith dialogue.”
Having “big brains” is a two-edge sword for human beings. It means we can think all manner of creative thoughts and even exercise some self-control over our own inappropriate impulses if we care to try. However, it also means that we can be manipulated into thinking that we need not try – that we are the victims even as we are oppressing others and that any criticism of our actions is just another example of our victimization.
Israeli culture – and indeed the culture of Zionism generally – is one ongoing project of self-manipulation to achieve just such a state of mind. And, to a great extent, it has succeeded. A recent poll taken in Israel shows that “a majority of the [Israeli Jewish] public wants the state to discriminate against Palestinians … revealing a deeply rooted racism in Israeli society.”
The Zionists are not the only experts in denial. The United States, Israel’s chief ally, has always been good at this gambit as well. After the 9/11 attacks, any consideration of the possibility that United States foreign policy in the Middle East might have helped motivate the terrorism was anathema – and it still is over a decade later.
Instead of taking a hard look at our own behavior, we are simply expanding our capacity to kill outright anyone who would challenge our policies in a violent fashion. Our answer is targeted killings by drone or otherwise, a bit of savagery we copied from the Israelis.
Machiavelli, who can always be relied upon to see the darker side of things, once said, “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.”
But is it really inevitable?
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.
Israeli occupier describes how he had dug a hole in the wall of a Mosque, where more than 150 Palestinians had taken shelter, and shot an anti-tank shell through it. Asked what had happened to the Palestinians, he said they were all crushed against the walls by the pressure from the blast.
The Nakba, Then and NowBy RAJA SHEHADEH http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/the-nakba-then-and-now/
LYDDA, Israel — Last Friday, some 40 Israeli Jews and Arabs gathered in Lydda, a small mixed Arab-Israeli city less than 10 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, for “a study tour” featuring “Zionist testimonies from 1948.” It was part of the project Towards a Common Archive, sponsored by Zochrot (Hebrew for remembering), an Israeli organization that hopes to bring “awareness and recognition of the Nakba” to Jewish Israelis so that they can take “responsibility for this tragedy.”
The Nakba refers to the expulsion of the Palestinians from the newly minted state of Israel. On no issue do Israelis and Palestinians differ more. Israelis celebrate May 15, 1948, as their day of independence; for Palestinians, it marks the “catastrophe.” That an Israeli group like Zochrot should organize a trip to a city where some of the Nakba’s worst atrocities occurred is an important and necessary attempt to bridge this nagging gap in perceptions.
During three and a half hours we got a description — in both Arabic and Hebrew — of the Arab city as it existed before 1948. We visited the old town, the church and the mosque where some Arab inhabitants hid in July 1948 to avoid expulsion. We also visited the site of the ghetto where 5,000 of the town’s 50,000 residents (including refugees from neighboring villages) were confined for one year after the Nakba, surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by Israeli soldiers. (They eventually became Israeli citizens and were allowed to stay in Israel.)
The group listened in respectful silence as the Palestinian guide, Ziad Abu Hamad, a descendant of Lydda’s few remaining original residents, described what his parents had told him about their hardships. A woman in her late 60s and other Arab residents approached us, pointing to the buildings that had been their family homes and which they have had to rent or buy back from those who took them away.
Wherever we stopped, members of Zochrot put up commemorative signs describing in Arabic and Hebrew what had happened at the sites. When I asked how long the posts would remain, I was told: until nightfall at best, or until some Israeli right-winger destroys them.
Present-day Lydda (which Israelis call Lod) is known for being one of the most violent cities in Israel and a center of drug addiction, and I expected our group to be stopped or heckled. But we made it through the dark history of the city in the clear midday sun without a hitch.
At the end we wound up in the hall of an old stone building where we were shown videos of two Israeli fighters from the elite Jewish force, the Palmach, testifying about their role in the Nakba.
|“Pour Out Your Wrath!”|
by Uri Avnery
I AM writing this on Friday night, the eve of Passover. At this moment, all over the world, millions of Jews are gathered around the family table, observing the Seder, reading aloud from the same book: the Haggadah, which tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
The impact of this book on Jewish life is immense. Every Jew takes part in this ceremony from earliest childhood and plays an active part in the ritual. Wherever a Jewish man or woman goes in later life, they will take with them a memory of the warmth and togetherness of the family, the magical atmosphere – and the overt and subliminal message conveyed by the text.
Whoever invented the Seder (“order”) ritual, many centuries ago, was a genius. All human senses are involved: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting. It includes eating a ritualized meal, drinking four glasses of wine, touching various symbolic objects, playing a game with the children (searching for a hidden piece of Matzo). It ends with singing several religious songs together. The accumulated effect is magical.
More than any other Jewish text, the Haggadah forms the Jewish conscious – or, rather, unconscious – mind today, as in the past, influencing our collective behavior and Israeli national policy.
There are many different ways to view this book.
LITERATURE: As a literary work, the Haggadah is rather inferior. The text is devoid of beauty, full of repetitions, platitudes and banalities.
This may cause wonderment. The Hebrew Bible – the Bible in Hebrew – is a work of unique beauty. In many places, its beauty is intoxicating. The peaks of Western culture – Homer, Shakespeare, Goethe, Tolstoy – are not its equal. Even the later Jewish religious texts – Mishnah, Talmud and so forth – while not so uplifting, contain passages of literary merit. The Haggadah has none. It is a text devised purely for indoctrination.
HISTORY: It’s not. Though it claims to tell history, the Haggadah has nothing to do with real history.
There can no longer be the slightest doubt that the Exodus never happened. Neither the Exodus, nor the wandering in the desert, nor the conquest of Canaan.
The Egyptians were obsessive chroniclers. Many tens of thousands of tablets have already been deciphered. It would have been impossible for an event like the exodus to pass without being reported at length. Not if 600,000 people left, as the Bible tells it, or 60,000, or even 6000. Especially if during the flight a whole Egyptian army contingent, including war chariots, was drowned.
The same goes for the Conquest. Because of acute security concerns, after being invaded once from there, the Egyptians employed a host of spies, – travelers, merchants and others – to follow closely the events in neighboring Canaan, in every single one of its towns and at all times. An invasion of Canaan, even a minor one, would have been reported. Except for the periodic incursions of Bedouin tribes, nothing was recorded.
Moreover, the Egyptian towns mentioned in the Bible did not exist at the time the event is supposed to have happened. They did exist, however, when the Bible was written, in the first or second century BC.
There is no need to point out that after a hundred years of frantic archaeological searching by devout Christians and Zionist zealots, not a shred of concrete evidence for the conquest of Canaan has been found (nor that the Kingdoms of Saul, David or Salomon ever existed).
But is this really important? Not a bit of it!
The Passover story does not derive its immense power from any claim to be history. It is a myth that grips the human imagination, a myth that is the basis of a great religion, a myth that directs the behavior of people to this very day. Without the Exodus story, there would probably be no State of Israel today – and certainly not in Palestine.
THE GLORY: One can read the Exodus story as a shining example of all that is good and inspiring in the annals of humanity.
Here is the story of a small and powerless people that rises up against a brutal tyranny, throws off its chains and gains a new homeland, creating a revolutionary new moral code on the way.
Seen in this way, the Exodus is a victory of the human spirit, an inspiration for all downtrodden peoples. And indeed, it has served this purpose many times in the past. The Pilgrim Fathers, the founders of the American nation, were inspired by it, and so were many rebels throughout history.
THE OTHER SIDE: When one reads the Biblical text attentively , without religious blinkers, some aspects gives us food for other thoughts.
Let’s take the Ten Plagues. Why were the entire Egyptian people punished for the misdeeds of one tyrant, Pharaoh? Why did God, like a divine Security Council, levy on them cruel sanctions, polluting their water with blood, destroying their livelihood with hail and locusts? And, even more gruesome, how could a merciful God send his angels to murder every single Egyptian firstborn child?
On leaving Egypt, the Israelites were encouraged to steal their neighbors’ property. It is rather curious that the Biblical story-teller, who was certainly deeply religious, did not omit this detail. And this just a few weeks before the Ten Commandments were handed down to the Israelites by God personally, including “Thou Shalt Not Steal”.
No one seems ever to have given much thought to the ethical side of the conquest of Canaan. God promised the Children of Israel a land which was the home of other peoples. He told them to kill these peoples, expressly commanding them to commit genocide. For some reason, He singled out the people of Amalek, ordering the Israelites to eradicate them altogether. Later, the glorious King Saul was dethroned by His prophet because he showed mercy and did not murder his Amalekite prisoners-of-war, men, women and children.
Of course, these texts were written by people living in times long past, when the ethics of individuals and nations were different, as were the rules of war. But the Haggadah is recited – today as before – uncritically, without any reflection on these horrible aspects. Especially in religious schools in Israel today , the commandment to commit genocide against the non-Jewish population of Palestine is taken by many teachers and pupils quite literally.
INDOCTRINATION: This is the real point of these reflections.
There are two sentences in the Haggadah that always had – and still have – a profound impact on the present.
One is the central idea on which almost all Jews base their historical outlook: “In every generation they rise against us to destroy us”.
This does not apply to a specific time or to a specific place. It is regarded as an eternal truth that applies to all places, all times. ”They” is the entire outside world, all non-Jews everywhere. Children hear this on Seder evening on their father’s knee, long before they are able to read and write, and from then on they hear or recite it every year for decades. It expresses the total conscious or unconscious conviction of almost all Jews, whether in Los Angeles, California, or in Lod, Israel. It certainly directs the policy of the State of Israel.
The second sentence, which complements the first, is a cry to God: “Pour out your wrath upon the nations that do not know you…for they have devoured Jacob and desolated his home…Pour out your wrath on them! May your blazing anger overtake them! Pursue them from under the heavens of the Lord!…”
The word “nations” in this text has a double meaning. The Hebrew word is “goyim”, an ancient Hebrew term for “peoples”. Even the ancient Children of Israel were called a “Holy Goy”. But over the centuries, the word has taken on another meaning, and is understood to refer to all non-Jews, in a very derogatory way. (As in the Yiddish song “Oy, Oy, Oy, / Drunk is the Goy.”)
To understand this text properly, one has to remember that it was written as a cry from the heart of a defenseless, persecuted people who had no means to take revenge on their torturers. To raise their spirits on the joyful Seder evening, they had to put their trust in God, crying out to Him that he should take revenge in their stead.
(During the Seder ritual, the door is always left open. Officially, that is to allow the Prophet Elias to enter, if he should miraculously rise from the dead. In reality it was to allow the Goyim to look in, so as to disprove the anti-Semitic libel that Jews baked their unleavened Pesach bread with the blood of kidnapped Christian children.)
THE LESSON: In the Diaspora, this craving for revenge was both understandable and ineffective. But the founding of the State of Israel has changed the situation completely. In Israel, Jews are far from being defenseless. We don’t have to rely on God to take revenge for the evils done unto us, past or present, real or imagined. We can pour out our wrath ourselves, on our neighbors, the Palestinians and other Arabs, on our minorities, on our victims.
That is the real danger of the Haggadah, as I see it. It was written by and for helpless Jews living in perpetual danger. It raised their spirits once a year, when they felt safe for a moment, protected by their God, surrounded by their families.
Taken out of this context and applied to a new, completely different situation, it can set us on an evil course. Telling ourselves that everybody is out to destroy us, yesterday and most certainly tomorrow, we consider the grandiloquent bombast of an Iranian bigmouth as a living proof of the validity of the old maxim. They are out to kill us, so we must – according to another ancient Jewish injunction – kill them first.
So, on this Seder evening, let our feelings be guided by the noble, inspiring part of the Haggadah , the part about the slaves who rose up against tyranny and took their fate in their own hands – and not the part about pouring out our wrath.
March 24, 2012
The Ghetto Within
RACIST HATE crimes are particularly ugly.
If the victims are children, they are even more so.
If they are committed by an Arab against Jewish children, they are also incredibly stupid.
This was demonstrated this week again.
IF INDEED an Arab al-Qaeda sympathizer is guilty of shooting three Jewish children and an adult in Toulouse, after killing three non-white French soldiers nearby, he caused not only extreme grief to their families, but also extreme harm to the Palestinian people, whose cause he claims to support.
The world-wide shock found its expression in a demonstration of solidarity with the French Jewish community, and indirectly with the State of Israel.
The French foreign minister flew to Jerusalem, where the Jewish victims were buried. President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the middle of the fight for his political life, appeared everywhere where an ounce of political capital could be extracted from the tragedy. So, even more shamelessly, did Binyamin Netanyahu.
Just when calls for boycotting Israel were heard in many places, this act reminded the world of the ravages of anti-Semitism. One had to be very brave to demand the boycott of the “Jewish State” at such a time. It is easy for advocates of Israel to recall the Nazi battle-cry “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” (“Don’t buy from Jews”).
Lately, Netanyahu has been mentioning the Holocaust in every speech he makes in which he calls for an attack on Iran. He prophesies a Second Holocaust if Iran’s nuclear installations are not bombed to smithereens. This has been criticized inside Israel as cynical exploitation of the Holocaust, but in the atmosphere created by the Toulouse outrage this criticism has been muted.
SOME MAY think that these responses are overreactions. After all, the outrage was committed by a single 24-year old deranged individual. The victims were not only Jews, but also Muslims. Has this act not been blown out of proportion?
Those who say so do not understand the background of the Jewish reaction.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago, and that the only thing that unites all Jews now is the Holocaust. There is much truth in this, but the Holocaust must be understood in this context as the culmination of centuries of persecution.
Almost every Jewish child around the world is brought up on the narrative of Jewish victimhood. “In every generation, they stand up to annihilate us,” says the sacred text that will be read in every Jewish home around the world in two weeks on Passover eve, “They”, as is well understood, are the “goyim”, all goyim.
Jews, according to our generally accepted narrative, have been persecuted everywhere, all the time, with few exceptions. Jews had to be ready to be attacked in every place at any moment. It is a continuous story of massacres, mass expulsions, the butchery of the Crusaders, the Spanish inquisition, the Russian and Ukrainian pogroms. The Holocaust was only one link in that chain, and probably not the last one.
In Jewish historiography, the story of victimhood doesn’t even start with European Christian Jew-hatred, but goes back to the (mythical) story of Israelite slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and again by the Romans. A few weeks ago the jolly feast of Purim was celebrated, in memory of the Biblical (and mythical) story of the plan to annihilate all Jews in Persia, today’s Iran, which was foiled by a pretty and unscrupulous young woman named Esther. (In the end, it was the Jews who killed all their enemies, women and children included.)
The narrative of unending victimhood is so deeply embedded in the conscious and unconscious mind of every Jew, that the smallest incident triggers an orgy of self-pity that may seem quite out of proportion. Every Jew knows that we have to stand together against an antagonistic world, that the attack on one Jew is an attack against all, that a pogrom in far-away Kishinev must arouse the Jews of England, that an attack on Jews in Toulouse must arouse the Jews in Israel.
What the assassin of Toulouse has succeeded in doing by his disgusting act is to bind French – and world – Jewry even tighter to the State of Israel. Already these ties have become very close in the last few years. A large proportion of French Jews are immigrants from North Africa who chose to go to France instead of Israel, and are therefore fiercer Israeli nationalists then most Israelis. They invest money and buy houses in Israel. In the month of August, one hears more French than Hebrew on Tel Aviv’s sea shore. Now many of them may decide to come to Israel for good.
Like every anti-Semitic act, this one in Toulouse contributes to the strength of Israel, and especially to the strength of the Israeli anti-Arab right.
I BELIEVE that the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayad, was quite sincere when he condemned the outrage, and especially the declaration attributed to the assassin, that he wanted to avenge the death of children in Gaza. No one should utter the name of Palestine when carrying out such a dastardly act, he said.
I was reminded of my late friend, Issam Sartawi, the Palestinian “terrorist” who became an outstanding peace activist and was murdered for it. He once told me that a French anti-Semitic leader came to his office in Paris and offered an alliance. “I threw him out,” he told me, “I know that the anti-Semites are the greatest enemies of the Palestinian people”
As has been pointed out many times, modern Zionism is the step-daughter of modern European anti-Semitism. Indeed, the name “Zionism” was invented only a few years after the term “anti-Semitism” was coined by a German ideologue.
Without anti-Semitism, which engulfed Europe from the “Black Hundreds” in Czarist Russia to the Dreyfus affair in republican France, Jews would have yearned for Zion comfortably for another 2000 years. It was anti-Semitism, with the threat of dreadful things to come, that drove them out and lent credibility to the idea that Jews must have a state of their own, where they would be masters of their own fate.
The original Zionists did not intend to build a state that would be a kind of General Staff for World Jewry. Indeed, they thought that there would be no World Jewry. In their vision, all the Jews would congregate in Palestine, and the Jewish Diaspora would disappear. That’s what Theodor Herzl wrote, and that’s what David Ben-Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky believed.
If they had had their way, there would have been no anti-Semitic murders in Toulouse, because there would have been no Jews in Toulouse.
Ben Gurion was narrowly restrained from telling American Jewish Zionists what he thought of them. He held them in utter contempt. A Zionist, he believed, had no business to be anywhere but in Zion. If he had listened to Binyamin Netanyahu sucking up to the thousands of Jewish “leaders” in the AIPAC conference, he would have thrown up. And understandably, because these Jews, who were clapping and jumping up and down like mad, egging Netanyahu on to start a disastrous war against Iran, then went back to their comfortable homes and lucrative occupations in America.
Their English-speaking children attend colleges and dream about future riches while their contemporaries in Israel go to the army and worry about what would happen to their defenseless families if the promised war with Iran really comes about. How not to vomit?
BY THE way, the symbiosis between American politicians and the Zionist lobby produced another weird curiosity this week. The US Congress unanimously adopted a law that makes it easy for Israelis to immigrate to the US for good. All we have to do now is to buy a small business in America – say a little delicatessen shop in a corner of Brooklyn, for half the price of an apartment in Jerusalem – to automatically become American residents, and eventually citizens.
Can one imagine a more anti-Zionist act than this plot to empty Israel? All out of love for Israel and Jewish votes?
The Israeli media applauded, of course, this astounding new evidence of American friendship for Israel.
So here we have a murderous anti-Semite in Toulouse driving the Jews towards Israel, and a cravenly Zionist US Congress enticing the Israelis back into “exile”.
WHEN ISRAEL was founded, we thought that that was the end of Jewish victimhood, and especially of the mentality of Jewish victimhood.
Here we were, Hebrews of a new kind, able to defend ourselves, with all the strength of a sovereign state.
Cry-baby victimhood belonged to the despised and detested Diaspora, to the dispersed and defenseless Jewish communities.
But victimhood has come back with a vengeance, both as an all-purpose political ploy and as a mental attitude. The Iranian nukes, real or imagined, give it a big boost. As long as Israel is in a state of fear, the Second Holocaust mentality will not loosen its grip.
From day to day, Israel becomes more Jewish and less Israeli. As has been said, it is easier to get the Jews out of the ghetto than to get the ghetto out of the Jews. Especially in a permanent war.
So in the end we come to the same conclusion as in all other matters: Peace is the Answer.
Weimar Revisited by Uri Avnery
19 Nov 2011 http://www.avnery-news.co.il/english/index.html
“YOU AND your Weimar!” a friend of mine once exclaimed in exasperation, ”just because you experienced the collapse of the Weimar Republic as a child, you see Weimar behind every corner.”
The accusation was not unjustified. In 1960, during the Eichmann trial, I wrote a book about the fall of the German Republic. Its last chapter was called: “It can happen here” Since then I have come back to this warning time and again.
But now I am not alone anymore. During the last few weeks, the word Weimar has popped up in the articles of many commentators.
It should be sprayed in huge letters on the walls.
ISRAELI DEMOCRACY is under siege. No one can ignore this anymore. It is the main topic in the Knesset, which is leading the attack, and the media, who are among the victims.
This does not happen in the occupied territories. There, democracy never existed. Occupation is the very opposite of democracy: a denial of all human rights, the right to life, liberty, movement, fair trial and free expression, not to mention national rights.
No, I mean Israel proper, the Israel inside the Green Line, The Only Democracy In The Middle East.
The attackers are members of Binyamin Netanyahu’s government coalition, which includes semi-fascist and openly fascist elements. Netanyahu himself tries to remain discreetly in the background, but there can be no doubt that every single detail has been orchestrated by him.
In the first two years of this coalition, attacks were sporadic. But now they are determined, systematic and coordinated.
At this moment, the anti-democratic forces are attacking on a wide front, The three main pillars of democracy – the courts, the media and the human rights organizations – are under simultaneous, deadly assault. (Remember Weimar?)
THE SUPREME COURT is the bastion of democracy. Israel has no constitution, the Knesset majority is totally unbridled, only the court can (if reluctantly) check the adoption of anti-democratic laws.
I am not a blind admirer of the court. In the occupied territories, it is an arm of the occupation, devoted to “national security”, approving of some of the worst incidents. Only in rare cases has it come out against the worst practices. But in Israel proper, it is a stout defender of civil rights.
The extreme rightists in the Knesset are resolved to put an end to this. Their front man is the Minister of Justice, who was appointed by Avigdor Lieberman. He is pushing a series of scandalous ad hominem bills. One of them is designed to change the composition of the public committee that appoints the judges, with the undisguised intention of bringing about the appointment of a particular right-wing judge to the Supreme Court.
Another bill has the undisguised purpose of changing the existing court rules in order to put a certain “conservative” judge in the chair of Chief Justice. The declared purpose is to abolish the rule of an independent court which dares, though only in rare cases, to block “anti-constitutional” laws enacted by the Knesset majority. They want the court to “represent the will of the people”. (Remember Weimar?)
Until now, since the first day of the state, the justices have been, in practice, chosen by cooptation. This has functioned perfectly for 63 years. Israel’s Supreme Court is the envy of many countries. Now this system is in mortal danger.
Another bill, which would have compelled candidates for the Supreme Court to undergo grilling by a Knesset Committee chaired by another Lieberman appointee, and obtain their approval, was withheld at the last moment by Netanyahu himself, He had already given his approval, but shrank back after the almost universal condemnation – and is now posing as the defender of democracy from his own underlings.
The chairman of the Judicial Committee of the Knesset, another Lieberman appointee, is rushing these laws through his committee, contrary to established procedures. In a stormy session this week, a female member called him “a coarse thug”. He replied: “You are not even a beast”.
A minimal purpose of these bills is to terrorize any judges considering vetoing the other anti-democratic bills that are being enacted. Some say that the effects are already being felt.
In several famous cases, the government openly flouts the Supreme Court’s orders, especially concerning the evacuation of “settlements outposts” built on lands belonging to Palestinian farmers.
Who will defend the court? The former Chief Justice, Aharon Barak, who was hated by the rightists because of his pioneering “judicial activism”, once told me: “The Court has no army divisions. Its power rests solely on the support of the public.”
THE ASSAULT on the media started some time ago when the American casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, a close friend of Netanyahu, started a daily tabloid paper with the express purpose of helping Netanyahu. It is being distributed for free and now has the biggest circulation in the country, threatening the existence of all the others (but also bribing them by giving them huge printing orders.) Money is no object. Huge sums are being spent.
That was only the beginning.
In 1965 the Labor party government enacted a new libel law (called literally “the Law of the Evil Tongue”) which was then clearly designed to muzzle “Haolam Hazeh”, the mass-circulation news magazine I was editing, which had introduced investigative reporting to Israel. I appealed to the public to send me to the Knesset in protest, and 1.5% of the voters were incensed enough to do so.
Now the right-wing gang in the Knesset wants to sharpen this anti-media law even more. The new amendment grants up to $135,000 damages to anyone claiming to be hurt by the media, without their having to prove any damage at all. For newspapers and TV channels, which are already in a precarious financial position, this means that they better give up all investigative reporting and any criticism of influential politicians and tycoons.
The new winds are already being felt. Journalists and TV editors are cowed. This week, a program on Channel 10, considered the most liberal, gave five minutes to a song glorifying the late “Rabbi” Meir Kahane, who was branded by the Supreme Court as a fascist, and whose organization was outlawed for advocating what the court called “Nuremberg laws”. An avowed member of this organization, which is alive and kicking under another name, is now a vocal member of the Knesset. (Remember Weimar?)
A major purge of TV journalists is already underway. One by one, directors of all TV channels are being replaced by confirmed rightists. It was openly admitted that the government would force the closure of Channel 10 by calling in outstanding debts if a certain journalist were not fired. Though generally an establishment type, this reporter had irked Netanyahu by exposing his and his wife’s luxurious traveling style at government expense.
AT THE same time, human rights and peace NGOs are under heavy attack. The Knesset gang is producing bill after bill to silence them.
One bill already under way forbids human rights associations to receive donations from foreign governments and “state-like organizations”, such as the UN and the EU. Right-wing organization receive, of course, huge sums of money from Jewish American billionaires, who fund the settlements (which are also indirectly financed by the US treasury, which gives tax-exempt status to the so-called “charitable organizations” that fund the settlements.)
The law which levies huge indemnities on organizations and individuals who advocate a boycott on the products of the settlements is already in force. The hearing of an application submitted by Gush Shalom to the Supreme Court against this suppression of political protest has been postponed by the court again and again and again.
This parliamentary terrorism is accompanied by the accelerating violence of fascist gangs from the settlements. These SA-like gangs call their actions “Price Tag”. Usually, they react to the isolated cases of the army demolishing a few “illegal” buildings in a settlement by attacking a neighboring Palestinian village, setting fire to a mosque or carrying out what can only be described as a pogrom. (Remember Weimar?)
MARTIN NIEMÖLLER, a German U-boat captain and later pacifist pastor, who was thrown into a concentration camp by the Nazis, coined the famous lament: “When the Nazis came to take the Communists, I was silent. After all, I was no Communist. When they took the Jews, I was silent. I am no Jew. When they arrested the Social Democrats, I was silent. I was no Social Democrat. When they came to take me, there was no one left to protest.”
What we are witnessing now are not isolated attacks on one or another human right – what we are seeing is a general attack on democracy as such. Perhaps only people who have experienced life under a fascist dictatorship can fully realize what that means.
Of course, the similarity between the collapse of the German republic and the processes in today’s Israel does not mean that the same events must follow. Nazism was unique in many ways. The end of real democracy may be followed by different systems. There are many models to choose from: Ceausescu, Franco, Putin.
Certainly, there is no similarity between the small German town called Weimar and Tel Aviv. Except perhaps the fact that many houses in Tel Aviv were designed according to the Bauhaus architectural school – which originated in Weimar.
Weimar was once a cultural center, where geniuses like Goethe and Schiller produced their masterpieces. The German republic which was founded in 1919, after World War I, was called by this name after the national assembly which framed its very progressive constitution there.
On these lines, the endangered democratic State of Israel, whose Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948 in Tel Aviv, could rightly be called the Tel Aviv Republic.
We are not yet in 1932. The Storm Troopers are not yet roaming our streets. We still have time to mobilize the public against the looming danger. This week’s demonstration that will take place in Tel Aviv against the de-democratization of Israel may mark a turning point.
|We, the Traitors|
“THERE ARE situations in which a real patriot has no alternative but to be a traitor,” wrote the distinguished German journalist, the late Rudolf Augstein, in a review of one of my books in the late 1980s.
“My Friend, the Enemy,” described, among other things, my meeting with Yasser Arafat. It was the first encounter between an Israeli and the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was held in the heat of the battle for Beirut in 1982, and to get it I had to cross enemy lines.
In the 14 years leading up to that initial meeting, I maintained regular contact with the PLO’s leadership, though it was officially defined, at that time, as a terrorist organization and identified with the arch-terrorist Arafat. I reported those contacts to Yitzhak Rabin, while he was prime minister (1974-77). Needless to say, it was only 11 years later that Israel concluded a treaty with the PLO, our prime minister embraced Arafat and those ministers who wanted to put me on trial as a traitor were themselves making pilgrimages to him.
WHEN AUGSTEIN wrote his comment, he was thinking, especially, of Nazi Germany’s most famous case of treason: the 1944 plot led by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Von Stauffenberg, a war hero who lost an eye and several fingers in WWII, had many qualms before deciding to strike. As a real patriot, he came to the conclusion that only the killing of Hitler could save Germany from the approaching disaster of defeat, and the unnecessary death of hundreds of thousands of people in a lost war. But he had sworn allegiance to the Fuehrer, and as a devout Catholic he considered the breaking of an oath to be a very grave matter. A rebellion in wartime was, of course, treason.
Almost all Germans would agree today that such an act of treason was moral and just. Hence, the street where the German general staff headquarters was then situated, and in whose yard von Stauffenberg was executed, is named for him today. Here, then, treason and patriotism dwell together.
Claus von Stauffenberg was not a leftist. On the contrary. he was a man of the Catholic right, very conservative, a scion of many generations of a noble family. But more often, it is left-wingers who face accusations of treason. That charge may be the curse that rightists – worldwide, but particularly in Israel – most often level at leftists: that they betray their people and their homeland.
According to the right-wing view, the left undermines national resolve and helps an enemy that is scheming to destroy us. The Left almost always opposes increasing the defense budget, preferring to spend the money on social services such as education, health and welfare. It holds the individual at a higher level of importance than the nation and the state. It seeks peace and, to this end, is ready to make concessions to the enemy. In the Israeli-Palestinian arena, it is ready to cede parts of the land that the Almighty himself promised to the Jewish people. In short, despicable traitors.
The leftists in Israel and around the world counter that they are the real patriots, for it is they who seek a healthy society, which is the real foundation for national security. After all, only citizens who feel part of the homeland and the state will support it wholeheartedly.
Moreover, no state can wage endless wars. The state and the individual need peace, for only in peace can a state develop all its spiritual and material resources. According to the left, those on the right cultivate feelings of hatred, fear and prejudice against aliens, both those in other lands and among the minorities within the state.
In order to win the support of the masses, the right seeks constant security tension and war adventures, an atmosphere to justify their own distorted worldview. That is why the right wing is a threat to the state and its citizens, and will ultimately bring about national disaster, which in our case would be the destruction of the “Third Temple” that is the renewed Jewish commonwealth. In short, despicable racists.
OUR OWN history includes instances of betrayal that long preceded that of the German von Stauffenberg.
Many years ago I had lunch with someone who was then a key figure in the Israeli economy. During the conversation I suggested that Shimon Bar Kochba, who led the failed Jewish uprising against Rome, in 132-135 C.E., was a crazy adventurer, that the Zealots of the Great Revolt who had preceded him were criminals and that the Maccabees too, before them, had fought a murderous civil war.
The banker stared at me with a look of endless astonishment in his clear blue eyes. He had never heard such strange views. On the spot, I decided to write a series of articles on the subject. They were published serially in Haolam Hazeh, and did not cause an uproar.
Some time later, however, Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former head of Military Intelligence and at the time a historian at the Hebrew University, wrote a book in the same vein, and the dam burst.
The Zealots’ rebellion against Rome, he wrote, was an act of madness. In present-day terms, they could be called extreme right-wingers. Sensible people such as King Herod Agrippa II warned about the futility of the adventure against the huge military might of the Roman superpower. But the Zealots silenced those voices, murdered whoever spoke against the revolt and seized control over the Jewish community. When the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem, in 70 C.E., Zealot groups burned one another’s stores of grain, certain that they were not needed because the Almighty himself would redeem his holy city.
One of the sensible people who remained in the city-gone-mad was Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai; he rightly predicted what would happen. Ben Zakkai pretended to be dead, had himself smuggled out of town in a coffin, approached the Roman commander and requested permission to settle in Yavneh and open a spiritual center there.
This was out-and-out treason: deserting the front, cowardice, maintaining contact with the enemy, collaboration. When I was an adolescent, I was a member of the Irgun pre-state underground, and we organized a mock trial for him. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. The Zealots were our heroes.
But the Jewish people’s collective wisdom in fact hailed Ben-Zakkai’s treason. His move is widely seen as enabling the survival of Judaism during the 2,000 years of Diaspora. In other words: His treason saved the people. His act was the patriotic one. The Jewish community was able to remain on its land and flourish until the appearance of the next madman, Bar Kochba, another member of the extreme right, to use today’s terminology.
The historical verdict on the Maccabees is more positive. They are favorably etched in the Jewish consciousness, whereas the Zealots’ activities are recalled in the mourning of Tisha B’Av. The Maccabees’ activities, on the other hand, are celebrated during the holiday of Hanukkah, and the Zionist movement has hailed them as freedom fighters who liberated the Jews from oppressive alien rulers.
And indeed, in contrast with the Zealots and Bar Kochba, the Maccabees had a realistic view of the political situation of their day. They made alliances and managed the rebellion wisely. But the Maccabees’ war, in the second century B.C.E., was first and foremost a civil war. We say the Maccabees conducted a murderous campaign against the Hellenists – but who were the Hellenists? They were the people who adopted the most enlightened and advanced culture of their day, approximately equivalent to American or general Western culture today.
The “national religious” camp of those days and the counterparts of today’s “hilltop youth” regarded the Hellenists as traitors, precisely the way today’s leftists are branded. (This, however, did not stop the Hasmonaean kings, who succeeded the Maccabees, from adopting Greek culture themselves, as some of their names show ).
MANY CENTURIES later, the baton of crazy messianism passed to Shabbetai Zvi.
His teachings captivated, with the speed of wildfire, the Jewish masses around the world. Only a small number of Jews dared oppose this madness, and they were the “traitors” of those days. When the bubble burst, and the so-called messiah converted to Islam, it became clear that his opponents had been right. But this did not move the masses to embrace them. On the contrary, as Gershom Scholem tells us, after Shabbetai Zvi’s disgrace, the hatred for his opponents became still more bitter.
And we still haven’t mentioned the arch-traitor, the prophet Jeremiah, who preached surrender. He was a real defeatist, and for this, the right-wing rulers of sixth and seventh century B.C.E. Judah tossed him into a pit of mud. Yet, his words were incorporated into the Bible while those of his adversaries were forgotten.
ONE CAN draw countless examples from the histories of other peoples too. At times of crisis, the real patriots, those who call for peace and compromise, – in short the “lefties,” – are considered traitors, whereas the nationalists of all types, the warmongers, the inciters of hatred, are perceived as patriots.
It is of them that the British man of letters Samuel Johnson said that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Published in Haaretz, Oct.7, 2011 as The acts of perfidious traitors throughout Jewish history