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The Other Israel _ November-December 1994, Issue No. 64

Contents

Ceremonies & Explosions, Editorial Overview
by Adam Keller
To Save or Not to Save (the Nachshon Waxman case)

"As if There is no Peace Process," by Beate Zilversmidt
(the missed chance to end the kidnapping safely,
and responses to the Tel Aviv bus bombing)
A Hard Life, interview with Tosca Lebrecht

Free Vanunu -- Now!

Golan Spectacle - a Meretz Peace Campaign

The Orient House Struggle

Za'im A-Tur Inhabitants Committee (Israeli discrimination
against Palestinians in East Jerusalem)
Deserters

Gush Shalom Organizes Debate with Israeli
Islamic Leaders

Time to Wake Up, by Matti Peled

Main Obstacles Still Ahead, by Israel Loeff

----------

THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P. O. Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Assistant Editor: Beate Zilversmidt

For subscription information and a free copy of this issue, please send your name and address to AICIPP via Peacenet e-mail.

THE OTHER ISRAEL
November-December 1994, Issue No. 64

Newsletter of the Israeli Council
for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

November-December 1994 No 64

P.O.B.2542 Holon, Israel 58125
Phone/fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Assistant editor: Beate Zilversmidt
Editorial Board: Uri Avnery, Matti Peled, Yaakov
Arnon, Haim Bar'am, Yael Lotan, Yossi Amitay
-- ISSN 0792-4615 --


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****



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CEREMONIES & EXPLOSIONS
Throughout its nearly five decades of history, the State of Israel lived under siege, surrounded by a hostile Arab World. Even in periods not officially defined as "war," the frontiers of Israel were in fact impassable war fronts, with enemies lurking behind. The entire far flung Arab World -- including distant states sharing no frontier with Israel -- was unanimously hostile, admitting no visits by Israelis, or intercourse of any kind with them.

Even much further afield, all around the globe, numerous Muslim or pro-Arab states established a firm policy of automatically turning away all holders of an Israeli passport. For Israelis, "going abroad" essentially meant going to Europe or America -- greatly reinforcing the state's official pro-Western orientation. Israel's peace treaty with Egypt in 1978 made some difference -- but not much. Though Israeli tourists for a time flocked to Cairo, the Egyptian peace never really warmed up, and remained the exception which proved the rule.

In 1994, this wall of siege is at last crumbling. Peace with Jordan was signed and celebrated in no less than five consecutive ceremonies, the last one featuring President Clinton as the guest of honour. For the first time, busloads of Israeli tourists went to the ancient, rock-hewn city of Petra in South Jordan -- for two generations the "forbidden fruit" seducing Israeli youths to cross the border at the peril of their lives.

One by one, the Gulf Emirates are openly receiving official Israeli delegations. Together with the more cautious Saudi Arabia, they also declared a partial lifting of the economic boycott -- giving Israeli businessmen the hope of entering this very lucrative market. The Arab boycott was effectively buried at the Casablanca Economic Conference -- another glittering media event, with thousands of Israeli and Arab delegates.

The conference coincided with the official inauguration of diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco, followed closely by Tunisia. King Hassan of Morocco gave a half-hour interview on prime-time Israeli TV -- evoking an emotional response from the Moroccan-Israeli community, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein made semi-official overtures to Israel, less than four years after the Scud attacks upon Tel-Aviv. Israeli politicians -- especially those of Iraqi origin -- were enthusiastic. However, under strong U.S. pressure the government rejected the Iraqi proposals until and unless Washington sees fit to remove the sanctions imposed upon Bagdad. Lybian overtures -- sponsored by Jews of Lybian origin -- received a similar reply.

Possibly the biggest prize is still to come: Syria, Israel's neighbor to the north, whose army constitutes the major remaining military threat to Israel. Israeli-Syrian negotiations, conducted under American auspices, move at a slow pace. President Assad is a very cautious and suspicious leader -- not a man of flamboyant gestures. And for Rabin, the prospect of having to withdraw army and settlers from the Golan Heights poses grave political problems.

For all that, negotiations do go on, and are accompanied by confidence-building events: a first-ever interview to Israeli TV by Syrian Foreign Minister A-Sha'ra; a peace speech by President Assad in the Syrian Parliament, followed by the erection of enormous peace posters in the streets of Damascus; the official disclosure that many Syrian Jews, including the community's Chief Rabbi, have been allowed out and came to live in Israel.

More and more Israeli ministers now speak confidently about a forthcoming peace with Syria. Such a peace could also, at last, terminate Israel's occupation of South Lebanon and end the painful guerilla war conducted there. For the very first time the prospect of friendly neighborliness on all of Israel's international borders seems to open up.

****



None of this "Peace Celebration" -- as Israeli journalists dubbed it -- would have been possible without a fundamental change in Israeli-Palestinian relations. It was on behalf of the Palestinians that the Arab World declared war on Israel in 1948. Though some Arab monarchs had long maintained clandestine contacts, only the Oslo Agreement could provide legitimacy for bringing them out into the open and codifying them into formal treaties with the State of Israel.

Increasingly, the Palestinians feel themselves excluded from the unfolding process; "Arafat is suddenly the odd man out" remarked the New York Times. In order to speed up the Jordanian treaty, Rabin made enormous personal efforts, spending several sleepless nights. At the same time, Israeli negotiators with the PLO got instructions to use all possible procedural excuses in order to hold up the talks. The schedule for implementation, set out in the text of Oslo, has long since been pushed aside. The Palestinian elections and simultaneous redeployment of the Israeli army -- events due to have taken place by mid-July -- are still relegated to a misty, undetermined future, leaving the West Bank Palestinians still to suffer the full vigour of the occupation.

In the economic sphere, too, the Palestinians derive little profit from the "Spirit of Casablanca". Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, whose brainchild the Casablanca Conference was, places great emphasis upon open borders and the free flow of capital, goods and persons -- quite in tune with Israel's major industrialists who aspire to break into the markets of the Arab World.

Indeed, these ideas were also written into the Israel-PLO Agreements, providing for exports, not only of labor but also of agricultural and industrial goods, from the Gaza Strip to Israel. (Exports in the other direction have already been going on for 27 years.) In practice, however, a quite contrary policy is being implemented; it is guided by Rabin's ideal of separation between the two peoples, supported by the farming lobby and by smaller business people, fearing Palestinian competition.

At the very time when Arab borders start opening to Israeli travelers, the boundaries of Israel are increasingly closed against the entry of Palestinians. Successive terrorist attacks were the occasion for imposing total or partial closures upon the Palestinian Territories; more and more Palestinians are driven out of the Israeli labor market -- to be replaced by East European and Third World contract laborers, now imported by the tens of thousands. The outbreak of a cholera epidemic, in the unsanitary conditions of the Gazan Refugee Camps, provided an opportunity to the Israeli authorities to block the entry of all farm imports, as well.

The closures cause an immediate disruption of the fragile Gazan economy. They also create new obstacles for the handful of foreign investors whom the Palestinian Authority so far succeeded in convincing of the Gaza Strip's promising economic future. With still little to be seen of the promised international aid, the economic situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate -- and with it, the prestige and standing of the Arafat Leadership.

No wonder that the glittering Israel-Jordan peace festival -- broadcast and re-broadcast ad nauseam -- became a source of maddening irritation for the Palestinians, regardless of political faction. A specific insult to them was the article in the peace treaty promising King Hussein "a special status" as Custodian of the Muslim Holy Places in Jerusalem -- quite at variance with Israel's obligation, according to Oslo, to delay for five years all decisions on the status of Jerusalem.

On the day of the Israeli-Jordanian treaty, Palestinians were united in an outburst of anger. Supporters and opponents of Oslo marched together, held a commercial strike, burned the pictures of King Hussein and clashed with Israeli soldiers.

For his part, Yasser Arafat appointed a new Mufti of Jerusalem, in competition with the Jordanian appointee, to head the East Jerusalem Hierarchy -- whose spiritual authority covers all Palestine. With the not-so-subtle backing of Jibril Rajub, Jericho-based head of Arafat's Palestinian Security Service, the Palestinian Mufti took effective possession of the holy sites at Temple Mount, in defiance of the Israeli-Jordanian Agreement. The Israelis could only look on helplessly; a direct intervention by Israeli police may have sparked a major, bloody riot.

Further than such manoeuvres and coups the Arafat leadership -- bound by its signature at Oslo -- could not go. But the Palestinian Islamic opposition was not so bound. The widespread Palestinian anger and frustration were channeled into desperate action by a small cadre of determined activists, oblivious either of their own lives or that of others. Israel's Jordanian peace festival became interspersed with scenes of carnage in the streets of Israeli cities.

****



On the evening of October 10, two Hamas fighters opened fire at random on by-passers in the fashionable center of Jerusalem. Before being killed themselves, their fire accounted for two chance victims -- a girl soldier on leave and a West Bank Palestinian working at a local restaurant.

While security forces concentrated upon Jerusalem, little attention was given to the disappearance of a hitch-hiking soldier in another part of the country -- until Hamas published its ransom note, demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners. The Hamas cassette showing the captured soldier pleading for his life touched raw nerves among the Israeli population, where there is a soldier in practically every household. Yet the screening of the same cassette had an unexpectd effect among the Palestinian population: suddenly, Corporal Nachshon Waxman was transformed from an archetypal "soldier of the occupation" into a human being, an endangered boy, for whom many Palestinians felt instinctive pity. The dignified stance of Waxman's parents, appearing on every TV screen during that fateful week, also struck a chord on the Palestinian side.

It was not enough. Despite many plans and efforts to end it peacefully, the affair ended in an Israeli military raid -- claiming the lives of Waxman and of another soldier, together with those of the three kidnappers. The fatal raid precipitated the most brutal in the series of Hamas assaults: a bus blown up in the heart of Tel-Aviv, leaving the torn bodies of 22 passengers and of the perpetrator -- a young Palestinian, apparently consumed with desire to avenge his brother, killed by soldiers five years ago.

****



Since establishing himself in Gaza, Yasser Arafat had maintained a fragile balance with the Islamic opposition, resisting Israeli demands to initiate an all-out confrontation -- which would inevitably lead to bloody civil war. The series of Hamas raids inside Israel strained this balance close to the breaking point.

Enormous Israeli pressure was brought to bear upon Arafat, through a total blockade of the Gaza Strip and thinly veiled threats of direct military intervention. Also, the Hamas actions did constitute a direct challenge to Arafat's authority. The Palestinian Police made an extensive sweep, detaining some 400 Hamas activists. The Hamas leadership responded by having some 10,000 of its supportrs demonstrate outside the Gaza prison... Yet even throughout this major confrontation, both Arafat and his opponents still kept within clear limits, and there was no bloodshed.

Rabin, watching events from afar, was appalled at the Hamas show of strength -- and apparently realized, for the first time, that in a Palestinian civil war the identity of the winner would be far from certain. He therefore accepted a gradual defusion of the Gaza situation, and did not object too strongly to Arafat's release of the Hamas prisoners.

At the same time, however, Rabin instructed the Israeli Security Services to start undercover operations of their own in the Gaza Strip. These were initially directed at the Islamic Jihad, a more radical and far smaller organization than Hamas. The death of a Jihad leader -- whose car was booby-trapped in a manner characteristic of past Mosad operations -- precipitated a retaliatory attack: three Israeli officers were killed by a suicide bicyclist, while guarding one of the Israeli settlements left as undigestable enclaves in the heart of the Gaza Strip.

Once again, the Palestinian Authority was obliged to carry out massive arrests. And this time, the tensions unleashed proved quite uncontrollable, leading to a clash where Palestinian policemen opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators, killing two and wounding dozens of others. At the time of writing, Arafat and the opposition leaders are desperately trying to effect a reconciliation and prevent a general conflagration. Yet the basic problems which produced the tension remain, and cannot be resolved without a major step by Israel.

****



Increasingly, members of the Israeli establishment -- even confirmed hawks such as Deputy Defence Minister Mordechai Gur -- are calling for direct negotiations with the Hamas as the only way to stop the cycle of violence. Having already once seen a demonized terrorist orgaization transformed into an acceptable negotiating partner, Israelis are no longer too shocked at the prospect that it may happen a second time.

For the time being, at least, Rabin rejects the idea. He did, however, abandon his original objection to Hamas participation in the projected Palestinian elections. The Rabin-Arafat summit, held at Erez Checkpoint in early November, seemed unusually cordial; the following day, Yediot Aharonot had a banner headline: Rabin to Arafat: Oslo was a strategic decision. Rabin agreed at last to start "negotiating seriously" on the Palestinian elections and the military redeployment. (Yet within a few days, Israeli and Palestinian leaders were once again trading accusations and threats through the media.)

The upcoming negotiations make necessary a serious consideration of the 140 settlements scattered throughout the West Bank, many of them intermixed with Arab towns and villages. Keeping all of them in place, under military guard, would be horribly expensive -- not only in money, but also in human lives. Dismantling even a few settlements, on the other hand, would involve a major confrontation with the right-wing -- an eventuality which Rabin so far strove to avoid.

The Prime Minister will probably grapple with the dilemma for some considerable time. Redeployment and Palestinian elections are unlikely to occur before mid-1995 -- a year behind schedule. Until then, a lot of upheavals are certain to occur.

****


The Oslo Agreements provided the State of Israel with a huge gain in international standing and with unprecedented economic opportunities. The price which Israel undertook to pay seemed a light one -- leaving the Palestinians, for years to come, with less than the bare minimum -- and so far Israel failed to pay even that price to the full. Yet the insincere and artificial peace celebrations -- set up by the government and reluctantly applauded also by the right-wing -- exact an additional price which in the long run could prove to be a very substantial one.

Every meeting with an Arab leader made into a media event, every opening of borders, every well-publicized token of advance towards peaceful coexistence in the region, is step by step diminishing a traditional asset of Israeli society: its capacity to be mobilized for war.

In a country where war seems as eternal and unchangeable as the wheather, and where the citizens the winner would be far from certain. News of the killings in Gaza City immediately caused outbreaks of violence at other Gaza Strip towns, directed both at Palestinian Police and at Israeli settlers and the soldiers guarding them. It quickly spread also to East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, with several young Palestinians killed by Israeli fire.

A protracted conflagration may well touch Jordan, where more than half of the population is Palestinian, of whom a considerable part support the Islamic opposition and dislike the peace with Israel. The effect on Egypt, with its own internal Islamic ciris, would also be unpredictable.



[insertion]
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At the time of writing, the afternoon of October 19, intense mediation efforts are being made at Gaza by various non-aligned Palestinian leaders -- especially those from inside Israel. A cease-fire has been established, stopping the killings at least for the moment. Yet the basic problems which produced this terrible carnage remain, and cannot be resolved without a major step by Israel.

****



Yitzchak Rabin is often displaying anti-Palestinian prejudice. He and his politico-military associates find it difficult to give up power over the Palestinians which they exercised for so long. Yet Rabin was elected Prime Minister on the basis of a promise to bring peace to his people. To this promise he committed the political fate of himself and his party. And for Rabin's voters, "peace" means first and foremost security from terrorist attacks.

A former general, advised by generals, Rabin continued to see the problem of terrorism in military terms, even after making an agreement with the PLO. Riding roughshod over the articles of the Oslo Agreement, he again and again dictated harsh terms to the Palestinians, demanding from them ever new measures and guarantees for the security of Israelis -- without recognizing that Palestinians may also have needs of their own. Thus, Rabin's effort had the opposite effect: by driving Palestinians to anger, bitterness and violence, he engendered a climate of uncertainty, of half-peace and half-war.

Israelis, for their part, are becoming confused and disoriented by the sudden alternations between glorious peace ceremonies on the evening news, and the photos of gory, torn bodies in the morning papers. Israel is rapidly losing the ethos of the besieged camp, ever ready to mobilize for war -- yet the dream of peace starts becoming hollow, before truly materializing.

In the realm of practical politics, Rabin has already received several warning signs, of which the most straightforward is his declining popularity in the polls. The only real way forward for him is to resolve the ambiguity, give the people of Israel a stable situation and deliver on the promise of peace.

The first requirement is for Rabin and his government to give up the dream of destroying the Hamas. The Islamic Movement is strong and well-rooted, having the allegiance of a considerable part of the Palestinian people. A stable peace can only be one which includes them. And to have any hope of achieving such a peace, the State of Israel must at last give the Palestinian people -- with all their factions -- a good reason to believe that negotiations provide a real chance to win liberty and independence. A better future.

The editor

****


+++ At noon on November 18, some thirty Arab and Jewish activists gathered in central Haifa for a previously-scheduled demonstration, called by the Communists. At the fresh news of the bloody events in Gaza, it was decided to push aside the original issue of the demonstration (the underworld activities of Palestinian collaborators installed by the government at Nazareth). Sitting on the sidewalk, the activists improvised new signs which they then held aloft: Stop the murder in Gaza! Enough bloodshed!

****




To save or not to save


At 5.00 P.M. on the afternoon of October 14, with the drama of the Nachshon Waxman kidnapping drawing close to its tragic end, the following appeal of Gush Shalom was sent by fax to the Prime Minister's Bureau at the Tel-Aviv Defence Ministry -- where Yitzchak Rabin was closeted with his advisers.

To Mr. Yitzchak Rabin, Prime Minister and Defence Minister, greetings. We approach you at this last moment, a few hours before the expiry of the Hamas ultimatum.

We appeal and plead: please, open negotiations to save the life, and secure the release, of captured soldier Nachshon Waxman. You must do all in your power to ensure that this abominable and barbarous kidnapping ends without bloodshed. Supreme priority should be given to saving the life of Nachshon Waxman.

Mr. Prime Minister, do not yield to considerations of prestige, which may lead to disaster. The State of Israel can afford to release prisoners -- whose release is in any case an inevitable concomitant of the Oslo Accords -- for the sake of saving the life of this young man, for whose safety people pray all over the country, all over the world.

Mr. Prime Minister, the positive reaction of by-passers, at this morning's vigil on the streets of Tel-Aviv, has convinced us that such a magnanimous act on your part will get an enthusiastic public response. It would be an act worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize laurate -- which you have become this very day.

Mr Prime Minister, save the life of Nachshon Waxman -- before it is too late!

As became known later, Gush Shalom was not alone; essentially similar appeals have been flowing into Rabin's bureau all that afternoon, some of them from persons and groups far from the organised peace movement.

The maverick settler Rabbi Menachem Froman established direct contact with Hamas leaders in Gaza, and worked out a detailed plan involving the release from Israeli prison of the venerated Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin and a public appeal by him from the movement's headquarters in Gaza -- which the kidnappers could not have ignored.

The charismatic Rabbi Ovadya Yosef, spiritual mentor of the Oriental Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party and Rabin's own key political associate, was willing to place his prestige behind a decision to release Sheikh Yassin -- for which many justifications, based on the supreme sanctity of human life, could have been found in the Scriptures and Jewish tradition.

As he admitted himself, Rabin did seriously consider this option. But in consultation with his close advisers -- all of them serving or retired generals -- such appeals were rejected. Rabin decided upon a military option which, as he must have known all along, had very slim chances of saving lives.

****


"As if there is no peace process"

by Beate Zilversmidt


Following the kidnapping of soldier Nachshon Waxman, channels of communications were created with the Hamas captors -- opening a real chance of saving the life of the 19-year old soldier. A conspicuous mediating role was played by the Islamic leadership inside Israel.

After four days, however -- on Friday October 14 -- an abortive and foredoomed raid by the Israeli army put to an end such options. Rabin gave the order without consulting his cabinet ministers who heard about the decision only after it had been carried out (especially embarassing for Minister Yossi Sarid who during the raid participated in a live TV program).

Why did Rabin do it? Why could he not just wait, when signals started indicating that a safer approach might be successful?

Perhaps Rabin had an interest in forcing the kidnapping to an early end. After all, only two days later he and Foreign Minister Peres were scheduled to meet with King Hussein in Amman, to finalize the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.

Another possible explanation is Rabin's tendency to pose as "the tough leader" who does not give in to pressures and doesn't care about what others think of him. The opposite tendency, which Rabin also shows on some occasions, may have worked for once in the same direction: his fear of becoming unpopular among "the men in the street" by losing his hawkish image.

There is also Rabin's precious doctrine of "fighting terrorism as if there is no peace process, while at the same time conducting the peace process as if there is no terrorism."

It remains guesswork exactly what defined Rabin's decision on October the 14th. The fact is that he missed the opportunity, not only to save the live of Nachshon Waxman but also to engage in a new kind of peacemaking, something which goes deeper than television shows of smiling heads of state. A successful resolution of this crisis could have had a tremendous psychological effect -- and the people were ready for it.

During three days everyone had been spell-bound by the fate of Nachshon Waxman. From conversations among all sorts of people it could be overheard that Israelis were gradually realizing that they no longer live on a totally isolated island surrounded by unanimous Arab enemies. There were Arab friends and allies, willing and able to mediate at a time like this. The appeal of Waxman's mother to the captors of her son, "after all, we share the same God" was a reflection of this new confidence.

On that Friday morning, several government ministers spoke on the radio in a spirit of hope. The whole nation was misled into the belief that on such a day -- which happened to be also the day of the announcement of the triple Nobel Peace Prize -- the government would feel strong enough to bend a little. This time, the worst would be avoided and Nachshon Waxman would live.

At the weekly Women in Black vigil, improvised signs were raised Save the soldier -- release the Sheikh! and another with the Talmudic quotation He who saves one life saves the whole world. Never before did this vigil receive such an overwhelming positive response. These words seemed to give expression to what the majority of the passing car passengers felt.

On that day, "the street" was with the peace process and with whatever concessions Rabin would have wanted to implement in order to end the kidnapping case safely. But Rabin preferred to "fight terrorism" as if nothing had changed, and as if there is no peace process.

Inside Israel, the atmosphere after the fatal news was shock. Only after two days did one political leader dare to say loudly what many thought. It was, of all people, Likud's former Foreign Minister David Levy -- interviewed on TV: "Why did Rabin not want to negotiate? Sheikh Yassin should have been released anyhow long ago! Why could Rabin not release the Sheikh when tens of thousands of people all over the country were lighting candles and praying for the safe return of the soldier? Why had he been able to release thousands of other prisoners, but not this old spiritual leader who is not even in good health? Why did Rabin have to decide all alone and to give the army such a blunt, grotesque order, lacking all sophistication?"

On Wednesday October 19 -- only half a week later -- Rabin had to interrupt his trip to London; it was the day of the Tel-Aviv bus attack. In a videotaped interview released posthumously and shown on Israel TV, Salah Abdel Soowi, a 27-year old Hamas activist gave his reasons for the bloody deed: "By killing the Hamas commandos who kept the prisoner soldier Nachshon Waxman alive until the last minute, and by ignoring all requests to release our prisoners, Rabin left us no choice but to turn the whole Jewish people into hostages of fear and dread."

Soowy entered a number five bus, running from the Tel-Aviv Central Bus Station through the centre of town northwards. When the bus passed the famous Dizengof Square he set off his twenty kilos of explosives, which totally demolished the bus, killing most of the passengers -- including himself.

In the following days, the square attracted a lot of visitors who came to mourn and light candles. The right-wing leadership -- quick in capturing the mood -- turned the square more or less into its headquarters.

On the following Friday, October 21, a group of hundred peace activists who came to the square to mourn the victims were treated very violently by a furious anti-Rabin mob, which for days had been hearing that "it was all the fault of the so-called peace process."

+++ The day following the Dizengof bus blast, an ad appeared in the papers, signed by The International Center for Peace in the Middle-East, and inviting peace groups and individuals, Jews and Arabs, to participate in a mourning ceremony, to be held on Friday noon at Dizengof Square. It was a remarkable initiative, breaking the peace camp's habit of keeping a low profile in the days immediately following a terrorist attack.

The staff of the Center, not having much practical experience in organizing street events, became quite nervous after receiving threatening phone calls. It found itself in a specially difficult position since Peace Now had officially decided not to mobilize its cadre. The initiative in the name of ICPME in effect represented a dissident faction within Peace Now. Especially the Holon slum dwellers participating in the ICPME Project for Social Justice and Peace (see previous issue, p.19) did not want to keep silent while the street remained, day after day, the scene of right-wing agitation and Death to the Arabs mobs.

On Thursday afternoon hasty efforts were undertaken to get help from the more radical groups. On Friday, when Ofer Bronstein of the ICPME arrived at Dizengof Square with his slum group, most of the activists present were the ones mobilized by Gush Shalom. The Communists, and Women in Black were also represented, and there were some individual Peace Now members, among them Meretz KM Anat Maor.

The square was full of right-wingers, awaiting the peace activists and carrying well-designed printed signs - prepared by different right-wing parties for a rally scheduled to take place on the following day: Rabin, traitor! and Your peace is killing us! The Likud, Tzomet and Moledet members were not just waiting quietly, but began to threaten and shout as soon as they saw the peace activists coming. There were calls beginning with "Death to..." directed at Uri Avnery and Adam Keller (who were present) as well as against the Prime Minister (who was not). But there were among the right-wingers some "veteran hooligans" for whom verbal abuse was not enough. What started as a shouting-match soon deteriorated into outright violence. Without the presence of bypassers who acted as a buffer between the groups until the very belated arrival of the police, things could have gone very wrong. As it was, only one person was wounded: 76-year old Tosca Lebrecht, whose glasses were broken, wounding her near the eye.

Later Gush Shalom held a long and heated meeting to discuss what should have been the best reaction. The actual spontaneous reaction, of those who were under attack and surrounded, was to start themselves chanting slogans -- which were then joined by more and more others standing metres away: Peace Yes! Violence No!, Fascism will not pass! and even Rabin, the people are with you! Giora Shavit, peace activist and karate-expert, was caught by the TV cameras streaking through the hostile crowd which then scattered in confusion.

On that evening, the "clash between Right and Left" replaced the days-long monopoly of right-wing demonstrators on the TV news. In Ha'aretz of October 23, it was front page news -- overshadowing the much bigger Saturday-night rally of the combined right-wing parties, which was relegated to an inner page.

The Arab television news - watched by the 17% Arab Israelis - was interested not only in the clash, but also in the motives of the peace activists. Latif Dori, born in Irak, said to the camera in Arabic: We came to mourn the victims of this random terrorist attack. We also want to testify that peace and peace alone can put an end to terrorism.
Contact: ICPME, POB 29335, Tel-Aviv 61292.

+++ At the memorial service held a week after the death of his soldier son, Yehuda Waxman sais: "I have always supported the peace process, and what happened to my son did not change that. I am willing to meet and talk with the parents of the Hamas terrorist who kidnapped Nachshon. Also the people who at present make use of terrorism are part of this region. Spiritual leaders should strive to change their attitude. I think that this is possible -- not through aggressive acts but through dialogue" (Davar, 24.10).

s On October 23, dozens of Jewish and Arab youths, organized by Re'ut/Sadaka, held a memorial rally in central Haifa for the victims of the bus explosion. Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna made a short speech, calling for continuation of the peace process, in spite of -- and precisely because of -- the terrorist attacks. While candles were lit one of the Arab youngsters, Rami Atamne of Kafr Kara, read the 22 names of the victims.
Contact: Re'ut/Sadaka, POB 36686, Tel-Aviv.

s In Nazareth and several other Arab towns and villages in the north, demonstrations condemning the bus attack took place, mostly organized by the Communists. In the past, Israeli Palestinian leaders issued statements condemning terrorist attacks, but never before were there Arab demonstrations on such an issue.


A hard life


Tosca Lebrecht -- the 76-year old woman injured by right-wing violence during the Dizengof Square clash. Hans and Tosca Lebrecht -- the good-humoured greyhaired couple with a special preference for militant action. As Communists -- unbroken by the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the painful confrontation with the right-wing -- not very impressed. Reason enough for an interview -- by Beate Zilversmidt.

They met and started liking each other 58 years ago when still in Germany. A few months later, in May


Free Vanunu -- Now!


On Saturday, October 1, some thirty-five supporters of the Vanunu Solidarity Commitee arrived at the side of Prime Minister Rabin's private home in north Tel-Aviv. They unfolded signs calling for a Middle East free of nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons and for the release of Mordechai Vanunu -- the former nuclear technician imprisoned eight years ago, and held in almost total isolation.

Initially, policemen and Prime Ministerial bodyguards attempted to forbid the demonstration on grounds of "security". The organisers argued that many demonstrations -- on all shades of the political spectrum -- have already taken place on the site, but did agree to move to the other side of the road. The largest banner, Free Vanunu -- Now!, was facing right into Mr. Rabin's living room. Several demonstrators wore Vanunu masks, to express their identification.

The demonstration was prominently featured in the main evening news of the Israeli TV.

Simultaneous demonstrations were held in London and at several North American cities. Two of the U.S. demonstrators were arrested after insisting upon presenting a petition at the gate of the Israeli Embassy in Washington; in Boston, the trial continues of several participants at an earlier pro-Vanunu sit-in at the Israeli Consulate.
Vanunu Solidarity Committees: P.O.B. 7323, Jerusalem 91072, Israel -- 2206 Fox Ave., Madison, WI 53711, U.S.A. -- Endsleigh St., London WC1H 0DX U.K.

'37, Tosca left for Palestine. In the summer of '37 Hans came to visit her and went back to Germany. That visit was actually to provide Hans with a much-needed camouflage. Hans, the son of a Jewish industrialist, took part in smuggling persecuted Communists over the Swiss border (from where many made their way to Spain and fought in the Civil War). Posing as a Zionist was in 1937 considered to be a helpful camouflage by the German anti-Nazi Communist-led underground. In 1938, however, after the Kristall Nacht pogrom, Hans had to flee himself and came to live in Palestine.

Tosca was one of four children of the Cantor in the Ulm Synagogue. Until '35 she was singing in the Socialist Workers Youth Choir -- directed by her own father. In the early Nazi period -- as long as such things seemed still possible -- she was also actively involved in the Ulm graffiti-war between Nazi and Socialist youths. Being or not being a Zionist was "not so important" for Tosca at that time. From her father she learned that "Socialism and Zionism don't go together," but the moment came when her parents did everything to get their children out of Germany. Tosca got to Palestine through WIZO, the Zionist Women's Organization -- as member of the "Women Workers' Council". In the preparatory period -- at the Hachshara -- Tosca had to overcome another contradiction with her Traditional Jewish & Socialist home: the Socialist Zionists did not stick to religious food regulations.

Tosca's parents did not survive the holocaust.

Already soon after arrival in Palestine Tosca felt alieniated from the other Jews in the orange grove where she worked, because of the crude discrimination of Arabs. This was not what she left Germany for. She discovered the Communist Party as the only expression, at that time and still for decades to come, of Jewish-Arab brotherhood. Also Hans, who in Germany worked with the Communists since they were "the only body of organized resistance", became a registered member of a Communist Party only in Palestine. What motivated them was then -- and still is -- the struggle against racism and oppression, for mutual solidarity.

In 1940, they started living together. It was an extremely difficult time, with some 60% unemployment. Even work in cleaning houses, which Tosca did in the beginning, was hard to find. In order to have some money to buy food they decided to become street musicians, the first street musicians of Tel-Aviv. Hans played the accordeon, and Tosca -- in a Bavarian Dirndle dress -- did the singing and dancing part.

Their success was enormous, and soon they were invited to perform in the Semadar Night Club on the seashore. Tosca took singing lessons and soon started concerts as coloratur sopran. In 1945, Tosca's sister Esther came from the camps. Hans and Tosca did whatever they could to help Esther build a life, and in order to let the sister have singing lessons, Tosca gave up her own: "We did not have money to pay for both." Esther left Israel in 1960, disgusted with the discrimination against Oriental Jews -- and is till today a quite well-known singer in Germany with a repertoire of Brecht and Yiddish songs.

Hans and Tosca raised two children, "not an easy thing to do with a permanent lack of money," and were involved in the struggles of the left. In the 1950s Tosca already once got beaten up terribly in a demonstration (a Haifa protest against the rearmament of Germany). On that occasion, the violence came from the police. In more or less the same period Hans was nearly lynched at a Communist meeting where he spoke out against anti-German generalizations: There were hundreds of thousands of Germans in the camps, before the Jews.

They did live a few years -- from 1968 to 1971 -- in Moscow. Hans was then correspondent for the Israeli communist newspapers. Hans: We saw saw many good things, which are still a dream for most of the world of today, but we also saw silly mistakes. Tosca: It wasn't like the Nazis! There were problems over quite trivial things. It angered the people, for example, when sometimes there was no meat. That was not pleasant but they did not suffer. Every child could go to school, and they had a marvellous health care system.

Hans: I never could keep my mouth shut. I asked questions. Not everybody liked that. Once, I had the experience of successfully interfering. Three Jews were condemned to death because they had tried to leave the Soviet Union by hijacking a plane. The Israeli Communist Party asked me to approach the highest level. I was in personal contact with the President of the Supreme Court in Moscow -- and indirectly with Brezhnev himself. In the end, the death penalties were commuted into prison terms. Altogether, we liked those years in Moscow.

Tosca: They were the best years I ever had. (They were probably the only years in Tosca's life when she did not feel the need to go against the stream.)

A few years later, back in Israel and very much involved in the "Two States for Two Peoples" struggle, the Lebrecht family had one of its most frightening experiences. In 1978, Hans was one of two journalists accused of spying on behalf of the PLO -- then considered a terrorist organization. Hans Lebrecht was charged with handing to a PLO member a detailed map of Tel-Aviv which could be used in targeting a terrorist attack.

He got a lot of support from Communists all over the world. Many Israeli embassies were picketed on his behalf. From London came a fellow Communist lawyer -- with a suitcase full of Israeli maps all freely available in London shops -- as witness for the defence. Also helpful was the affidavit on behalf of Hans Lebrecht by a certain Yosef Mendelevitch, a right-winger. Mendelevitch stated that it was the intervention of Hans Lebrecht which had saved his life in Moscow...

During the court session, Hans Lebrecht was confronted with a statement made by himself at a conference in Cuba: The Palestinians have the right to use all means they think proper, in order to rise up against the occupation. Instead of denying ever having said this, as his Communist friends advised him, he answered: Yes, that is what I said, and I still hold the same opinion. This is a right confirmed by the Geneva Conventions, as well as by the United Nation's Charter. It could have been fatal, but the judge decided "to appreciate the accused's straightforwardness."

Probably the enormous media attention and pressures from different sides also influenced the judges' decision. The verdict was that Lebrecht could not be condemned of espionage on behalf of the PLO without implicitly recognizing the PLO as an (enemy) state. Therefore, he was acquitted.

Was it a hard life?: Hans answers with a big smile: "Yes a hard but beautiful life." After a silence, Tosca comments: "I was not born to be a Communist, but life made me into one."

****


Golan spectacle


The following is largely based on information provided by Meretz activist Shmu'el David.

The issue of the Golan, which was captured from Syria in 1967 and whose return President Assad made an indispensable condition for peace, presents a tough challenge for the peace forces. Many psychological barriers exist against the "Peace in Return for the Golan" formula. The Golan is a high area dominating the Israeli communities in the valley below. The Syrian regime has a negative image in Israel, as a cruel, militant dictatorship. The Golan's well-preserved natural landscape is beloved of Israeli vacationers. Among the Golan settlers there are many Laborite kibbutzniks, who enjoy a far more positive image than the religious-messianic ones in the West Bank. There is no large, violently rebellious population in the Golan. Few Israelis know or care about the 120,000 Syrians who used to live in the Golan before 1967, and who never got as much attention as the Palestinian refugees. Altogether, continued rule in the Golan seems to the average Israeli much less problematic than in the West Bank. Under these conditions, the right-wing "Golan-Committee" -- which also enjoys enormous financial resources -- was able to mount an effective public campaign for retention of the Golan.

In late September, during Sukot (Feast of Tabernacles), a group of settlers held a hunger strike at Gamla -- site of a legendary siege during the Jewish uprising against the Romans, and at present a popular tourist site. They received a great number of visitors, among them Likud leaders and Labor hawks. The chief of the latter, KM Avigdor Kahalani, presented a bill to obstruct the government from deciding upon a Golan withdrawal. (According to the Kahalani Bill, withdrawal would require a two-thirds majority of the voters in a referendum.)

****



During the same week of Sukot a Meretz peace campaign was launched, including a string of conspicious events concentrated around three "Peace Tabernacles" at different locations. The one at the Golani Junction, from where the main highway to the Golan branches, became the rallying point for those who support peace with Syria. The media gave much attention to a group of Meretz activists parachuted from a light airplane, who came down carrying a large banner Peace is greater than the Golan. Later, a tractor caravan set out upwards to the Golan, decorated with the same slogan. At the Syrian border a rally was held and copies of an "Open letter to the citizens of Syria" attached to balloons, sent out on the eastward wind.

Minister Yossi Sarid paid a visit to the tabernacle and made a statement which reverberated through the media: "The Golan settlers were given a national mission by past governments, and they performed this mission well. We must let them know, however, that with the approach of peace their mission is nearing its end."

In coordination with the Meretz campaign, a group of 50 Peace Now youths spent three days traveling through the northern area, distributing Peace Now -- with Syria! stickers on their way. The youths also traveled to the Golan itself. They had a stormy confrontation with the nationalists at Gamla -- and a quite cordial meeting, at Kibbutz G'shur, with Golan settlers who do accept the Withdrawal for Peace concept.

After two weeks, both the right-wing and the peace camp's Golan campaigns dissipated. Kibbutz members of the valley under the Golan continued, however, a campaign aimed at collecting thousands of signatures on a petition supporting the moves towards peace with Syria. Since their Kibbutzim suffered heavily before 1967 from bombardments by the Golan-based Syrian artillery, their voice carries a considerable moral authority in the Israeli society.

+++ Another Meretz Peace Tabernacle appeared at the fishing-port of ancient Acre -- attracting youths flocking to the Acre Alternative Theater Festival. Among the many guests was Yaser Abd-Rabo, the Palestinian Authority's Minister of Culture, who was greeted by his Israeli counterpart Meretz Minister Shulamit Aloni, and invited the Israelis to the forthcoming Jericho Cultural Festival

+++ A third Meretz Tabernacle was set up in the south, at the Masmia junction on the Tel-Aviv--Beersheba Highway. Here, passing motorists were offered coffee -- and a chance to meet with members of the Palestinian Peace and Understanding Movement, based at Han Yuneis in the Gaza Strip.
Contact: Meretz, 21 Tshernochovski St., Tel-Aviv; or: Peace Now, POB 8159, Jerusalem 91081.

+++ On September 25, a Women's Peace Tabernacle was erected on the invisible line between East and West Jerusalem. Dozens of Israeli and Palestinian women came at the invitation of Jerusalem Link -- among them Knesset Members, trade unionists and leading activists of several Israeli and Palestinian political parties. They held a profound discussion on the future of Jerusalem. On the nearby Old City walls a huge banner was hung, reading in Hebrew, Arabic and English: A just solution for both peoples in Jerusalem!
J'lem Link, Bat Shalom, 43 Emek Refaim St., Jerusalem.

An International Conference of Women in Black and Women's Peace Movements will take place in Jerusalem, between December 28 and 31.

For information on arrangements and registration fees, contact: Target Tours, POB 29041, Tel Aviv 61290;
phone: 972-3-5175149/50; fax: 5175155.
.end frame

+++ As part of an effort to increase Women in Black activity, which had been declining since Oslo, some 80 women from all over the country converged on November 5, at the middle of the Wadi Ara highway in the north. The new banners read: Complete the peace! and: Full peace with the Palestinians!. Reactions by the passing motorists, in this Jewish-Arab mixed area, were definitely more positive than the women were used to. There was a lot of approving honking -- giving a needed encouragement to tired activists who had just decided to resume the struggle.

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The Orient House struggle


From the Madrid Conference on, the Orient House in East Jerusalem served as a headquarters to the Palestinian Negotiating Team, gradually assuming a de-facto extra-territioral status and becoming the nucleus of Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem. As such, it became very much a thorn in the flesh of all those for whom Israeli rule in East Jerusalem is non-negotiable. Already targeted a year ago by the right-wing (see TOI-60, p.3-4), this stronghold of Feisal Husseini is now under direct attack by the Labor-Meretz Government.

At the occasion of the Turkish Prime Minister's official visit to the Orient House, Palestinians barred Israeli security men from entering the building. This much-publicized incident enabled Rabin to gain a parliamentary majority for the first reading of a bill, designed for the main purpose of curbing the Orient House, and bearing the Orwellian name "The Gaza and Jericho Accord Implementation Act." The bill is part of the government policy aimed at changing -- before the final status of Jerusalem is placed on the agenda -- the political reality of East Jerusalem.

This piece of legislation got past the first hurdle only thanks to the support of the Meretz Knesset members. (The right-wing voted against because it was not anti-Palestinian enough for them.) In a new display of the chronic Meretz two-faced attitude, the KMs Na'omi Hazan and Anat Ma'or, who had voted for the bill, later joined a women's delegation which visited the Orient House and proclaimed their support for its continued operation. The delegation also included Labor KM Yael Dayan, absent during the vote, and Communist KM Tamar Gozanski who had opposed the bill.

Gush Shalom, with a tradition of being there when the Orient House is under siege, is preparing actions under the motto "Hands off the Orient House" -- as well as a campaign of petitions and letter-writing, in Israel and abroad. In particular, pressure should be brought to bear on the Meretz leadership, to prevent it from supporting the Anti-Orient House Bill on its decisive second and third readings.

Protests to: Meretz Headquarters, 21 Tshernichovski St., Tel-Aviv 63291; fax: 972-3-5254847.
Copies to: Gush Shalom, POB 11112, Tel-Aviv 61110.

Za'im A-Tur Inhabitants Committee

+++ During July and August, the authorities started a campaign against the inhabitants of Za'im A-Tur, at the eastern edge of East Jerusalem. Fifteen houses were demolished, and demolition orders were issued against forty more. The Za'im Inhabitants Committee got Gush Shalom involved.

On the morning of September 8, two Gush Shalom buses arrived at Za'im, where hundreds of Palestinians were already waiting. The atmosphere was different from previous joint Israeli-Palestinian demonstrations. There were few Palestinian flags. Most of the Palestinians present were local people consumed with a very concrete, overriding concern; the most common slogan was Don't destroy our homes! in Arabic, English and (slightly misspelt) Hebrew.

A representative of the Inhabitants Committee told the assembled demonstrators: "We have the right to defend ourselves. This area was quiet for most of the Intifada years, but I don't know how long it will stay so." Haim Baram spoke on behalf of Gush Shalom: "I came here to express my shame at a racist policy. Tens of thousands of homes for Jews were erected in East Jerusalem at the government's expense, while Arabs are already for 27 years forbidden to build homes for themselves. And when they nevertheless do, the houses are demolished."

+++ At the initiative of the Alternative Information Center and Gush Shalom, some fifty Israelis participated on October 8 in a consciousness-raising tour through East Jerusalem, getting first-hand acquaintance with the various trouble spots where Palestinian lands are confiscated, Palestinian houses destroyed or threatened, clusters of Israeli settlement expanded and new ones planned.
Contact: AIC, POB 31417, Jerusalem.

+++ The "illegal" houses of East Jerusalem were the subject of the October 13 public Gush Shalom meeting in Tel-Aviv. The two speakers were the Israeli Sara Kaminker, who had resigned from the Jerusalem municipal administration after it rejected all her East Jerusalem development plans -- and the Palestinian Dr. Halil Tufakji, who made a detailed study of Israeli settlement activity in and around East Jerusalem.

The two described and illustrated a horrifying situation. Arabs in East Jerusalem are permitted to build only in very limited -- by now extremely overcrowded -- pockets of land. Years of struggle did not help them any further. Promises by the municipality are not kept; new bureaucratic obstacles are always encountered. The purpose of this policy is not even kept secret: to make as many Arabs as possible leave.

+++ On the same week, a Supreme Court appeal was lodged by the Palestinians owners of lands at Abu-Ghoneim Mountain in South East Jerusalem, which were confiscated in 1992 for the express purpose of establishing a large "new Jewish neighborhood" (see TOI-61, p.8, 62, p.7). The lawyer was provided by Ir Shalem, an association set up by Peace Now.

The appeal pointed out that the confiscations were carried out "for public purposes;" yet the act deprived Palestinians of their property in order to provide housing for Jews. That, it was argued, is an unreasonable interpretation of the term "public." Therefore, the appellants asked that the confiscation be declared null and void; alternatively, should the government persist in constructing public housing on the Palestinian land, this housing should be made available to Palestinian tenants.
Contact: Ir Shalem, POB 4313, Jerusalem 91042.

+++ At a press conference held in East Jerusalem on September 21, a joint report on Oslo -- one year later was presented by Uri Avnery and Amir Avramson of Gush Shalom, together with Dr. Mamouh Al-Aker and Ziad Abu Zayad of Jissr, the Palestinian Peace Information Center. Their analysis had reached the alarming conclusion that of the 16 articles of the Declaraion of Principles (DOP), fully eight had not been implemented, completely or partly, by the government of Israel.

Most of the press conference dealt with unkept dates. July 13, 1994, is the date set for holding elections for the Palestinian Self-Governing Authority. On the eve of these elections the redeployment of the Israeli outside the populated Palestinian areas should already have been completed. Not only these, but even some elements of the "Gaza-Jericho First" stage were not yet fulfilled: for example, there should have been instituted free passage for Palestinians between Gaza and Jericho.

Furthermore, the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian-Egyptian committee, which according to Oslo should have been set up to deal with the sensitive refugee problem, has not yet been established. (All these remain still unfulfilled as this issue goes into print.)

The report traced the violations to a single source: Mr. Rabin's unilateral assertion that "no dates are sacred" and that his government is free to ignore the time tables specifically set out in the DOP and delay indefinitely the fulfillment of Israeli obligations -- an attitude which would never be tolerated in any business deal.

Some of the U.S. journalists present accused the authors of bias, for their assertion that violations of the agreement by the Palestinian side were, in comparison, few and minor. "This is an unescapable conclusion when you read the DOP and compare it with the actual situation" was the dry reply of Uri Avnery.

What is the use of explaining, to those who don't want to understand, that the fundamental inequality between two parties is inevitably reflected in the assymmetric division of responsibility for the implementation of an agreement between them.
The complete English-language report is obtainable from: Gush Shalom, POB 11112, POB 61110, Tel-Aviv (please include $15).

****


Deserters


On the morning of October 31, the duty officer at an Israeli army camp in Hebron discovered several unmanned guard posts. During the night, seven young soldiers deserted, hitchhiking their way to their parents' homes. Within a few days, the affair got into the press via letters sent by parents -- such as the following, published in Ha'aretz on November 7. (The writer's full name was not released, and he was identified only by the initials M.I.).

"My son, an infantry soldier, has left Hebron following eight consecutive months of unbearable hardship. Military service in Hebron is an almost intolerable experience. On the one hand the soldiers are required to preserve the security of the Jewish settlers, and on the other hand -- also to protect the Arab inhabitants. As is well known, the settlers constantly provoke the soldiers, and the Arabs do not relent, either. The soldiers spend between 12 and 16 hours a day on patrol and sentry duty. Leave is granted very niggardly. Instead of arranging some kind of rotation, the army keeps the same units there for unendurably long periods. Their motivation and morale are steadily eroded.

Recently, things reached their nadir with the soldiers deciding to collectively go Absent Without Leave. I call upon the military authorities not to be hasty in punishing these soldiers, and to make a thorough investigation of the circumstances. The officers in charge were totally deaf to the soldiers' pleas for an amelioration of their situation..."

The seven soldiers' parents undertook to mediate between their sons and the military authorities. An officer from the Hebron unit came to Tel-Aviv and met with the soldiers at the home of one of them. After some sharp exchanges, the soldiers went back to Hebron. For its part, the army refrained from court-martialling them, which could have entailed years-long terms of imprisonment; at disciplinary proceedings inside the unit, the seven got prison terms ranging from 18 to 38 days.

+++ At a late night hour on October 23, heavy footsteps were heard outside the door to a small Be'er Sheba apartment, inhabited by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The notorious "deserter catchers" have come for the young pacifist Sergey Sandler. Over the preceding six months, Sandler conducted an extensive correspondence with the military authorities, but his firmly held convictions did not win him an exemption, nor did his heavy asthma and his being of marginal usefulness (according to the military doctors).

Before being taken off to prison, Sandler was able to make a brief phone call to Toma Shik of the War Resisters International: "I am being arrested. I intend to start a hunger strike." In his cell at Military Prison 4, Sergey Sandler subsisted solely on water for two and a half weeks. His struggle was constantly followed on the pages of Davar, though ignored by the larger-circulation papers. On the eighteenth day he softened somewhat, consenting to eat once every three days. Meanwhile, an officer who visited his cell said his case would soon be brought up before an "Incompatibility Committee," a possible way out.

Sandler is but the latest in a string of young immigrant objectors whose cases are dealt with by WRI. Stanislav Mishenko, member of an outspoken pacifist family is presently serving a seven-month term for desertion. (His father had been imprisoned for refusal to serve in the Soviet Army.)

Another refuser, Artyom Kalimulin, had already spent 45 days in the military prison, during which he was beaten up by a guard who discovered that Kalimulin was not circumcised. At the end of his term he was ordered to report to his unit; instead, he is hiding out, determined never to fall again into the military authorities' hands. The deserter-catchers regularly conduct late-night raids on his family's home at Netanya, so far without success.

Veteran WRI councelor Shik is swamped with appeals for help from young immigrants. "Most of them have no clear pacifist convictions, though. They just don't want to go to the army."
Contact: WRI-Israel, POB 28058, Tel-Aviv-Jaffa 61280.

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Gush Shalom Organizes Debate with Israeli
Islamic Leaders



+++ On November 8, the Tel-Aviv Journalists' House was the scene of a public debate with Israeli Islamic leaders, organized by Gush Shalom. The well-known, charismatic Sheikh Nimer Darwish set out his views, in good Hebrew, to a packed hall: "People who are turned into slaves have the right to rise up and fight their oppressors, but they should carefully choose their means. The Word of God forbids murder, in the Koran as in the Bible." This sentence was singled out by the television crew, which on the same news also broadcast an interview with Amir Avramson -- the Gush Shalom activist crippled by a terrorist attack.

The evening had a follow-up: a few days later Sheikh Nimer appeared in a popular phone-in radio program, answering questions and engaging in discussion with listeners.
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 11112, Tel-Aviv 61110.

Time to wake up

by Matti Peled


More than a year has passed since the Declaration of Principles, formulated in Oslo, was officially signed at the White House. Throughout this year the Rabin government has done almost everything to deprive the Declaration of its meaning; by means of diverse interpretations Rabin aimed at relieving himself of the obligations he had undertaken. Wherever such interpretation could not be of use, the Israeli side simply violated the terms of the agreement, invoking the old "security" argument to justify its acts.

In most cases, the PLO was left with no alternative but succumb, under protest, to Israel's whims. Such violations of the terms of the Oslo Agreement were too glaring for the pro-peace forces in Israel to ignore. But these, whether inside the government or outside, mostly preferred to connive at such violations -- arguing that keeping silent about Rabin's conduct was the best way of maintaining the momentum of the peace process. Thus, fidelity to the peace process became the common argument for allowing the government to gradually destroy the process itself.

As seen by Rabin, the Oslo Agreement -- which he disliked from the moment of its inception -- was merely a means to draw Jordan into signing a peace treaty with Israel. Once this has been achieved, the agreement itself became redundant and could openly be discarded. Thus, the commitment to redeploy the Israeli forces outside areas populated with Palestinians and hold elections for a Palestinian representative body -- two measures of the greatest importance for continuing the peace process -- were not put into effect, though the date for both has long passed.

The reluctance to redeploy the troops stems from the Army Chief-of-Staff's claims that such redeployment would expose the settlers in the West Bank to dangers. The reluctance to allow elections to take place stems from Rabin's fear that elements opposed to the Oslo Agreement may emerge as too strong to deal with, and that the creation of a de-facto Palestinian parliament would be too big a step towards Palestinian statehood. Both fears clearly show a basic distrust of the Palestinian leadership with which Israel has been dealing since the summer of 1993.

But clearly, the capability of the Palestinian leaders to take care, both of security in their territory and of the opponents of the Oslo Agreement, depends to a large extent on the degree of trust shown them by Rabin. After more than a year of demonstrative contempt shown by the Israelis to the Palestinian Self-Governing Authorities, it's no wonder that the latter's prestige is so tarnished. But one should not overlook the fact that the treatment of the PLO by Rabin has aimed all along at diminishing the organization's prestige, in order to justify putting off the measures agreed upon in Oslo.

To all those who really want to see the peace process moving forward, time has come to realize that this would require pressuring the Israeli government to adhere to its commitments and denouncing it whenever it fails to do so.

The argument that one should overlook the obstructions to the process in order to allow it to proceed is certainly not a way of supporting it. It is time to give up hoping that the process would proceed of itself as long as we keep quiet and close our eyes.

Reality shows that there is only one way for the peace camp to maintain and increase the momentum of the peace process: to call a spade a spade.


Main obstacles still ahead

by Israel Loeff


During the past weeks Israel has been celebrating nearly permanenty. At least four festive gatherings took place, always with the same smiling faces of PM Rabin and King Hussein, advertising the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty -- sometimes accompanied by a not less smiling US President. Several Arab countries have established some kind of diplomatic relations with Israel and the Economic Conference in Casablanca was heralded as opening "unprecedented possibilities for economic development and cooperation with the Arab World."

But at the same time, negotiations with Syria have reached a stalemate and the implementation of the agreement with the PLO lags far behind schedule, still without having reached its critical phase.

Certainly, many details with regard to peace between Syria and Israel are difficult to solve, but there seem to be no serious obstacles for starting the relevant negotiations.

Both on the governmental level and among the general public it has become an accepted fact that achieving peace is now a strategic goal of the Syrian government, that Syria is ready for full normalization of its relations with Israel, that security arrangements have to be be agreed upon and that the elaboration of peaceful relations will be proportional to the measure of withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights.

Instead of dealing directly with these problems, the scholastic debate on which of those items should be tackled first is being raised again and again, as is the question of how many years the Israeli withdrawal should take.

Israel wants to stretch this withdrawal over a period five years, with a very limited first stage in which only the Druze villages around Majdal Shams would be returned to the Syrians. The reason for this is simple: Rabin excludes the possibility of any Jewish settlement -- be it on the Golan heights, the West Bank or Gaza Strip -- being evacuated before the 1996 elections. The same attitude also dictated the Israel-PLO (Oslo) Agreement, with its interim period, and its timetable for the permanent solution.

As to the Oslo Agreement, the
[continued]
only part so far implemented is the preliminary one regarding the Gaza Strip and Jericho -- and already it has caused innumerable difficulties and clashes. In the West Bank such a solution -- partial withdrawal of the army and transfer of responsibility to the Palestinian Authority without removing even one settlement -- seems entirely impossible. The Palestinian population and the new Jewish settlers are so closely intertwined that daily clashes are practically inevitable.

Among the Palestinians, the high hopes of a year ago have made place for widespread disappointment. Palestinians -- especially on the West Bank -- feel that Oslo brought them nothing but the formal recognition of the PLO, without changing the practical situation of the Palestinian population. Thus, Palestinian extremists gain ground daily; their opposition to Arafat grows, as do their acts of violence. This last factor of course strengthens the Israeli opponents of peace, and thus extremism is growing on both sides.

Rabin tries to stop Palestinian violence by harsher methods, using collective punishment and closing the crossing points from the Occupied Territories into Israel. This deprives people of access to work in Israel, making them suffer even more. Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are still waiting to be released, which of course also adds up to the bitterness of all their family members.

The solution of the problems about Jerusalem is another hot item, postponed to the last stage. It was the specific demand of the Israeli side that Jerusalem would not yet be placed on the agenda. But again and again the Israeli government does issue statements that the whole of Jerusalem is, and will remain ("forever") Israeli, regardless of the future negotiations. Also, the construction of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem goes on at an accelerated pace, while any Arab building works are being made impossible. Meanwhile, Israel promised the Jordanians a role in keeping the Muslim Holy Places in Jerusalem. No wonder that the Palestinians doubt Israel's sincerety. In Jerusalem, new accomplished facts are being created for everybody to see.

At the time of writing a law is being prepared, forbidding Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem. By attempting to prevent visits of foreign diplomats and even heads of state to the Orient House (the official status of which is that of a private house), the Israeli authorities already made fools of themselves.

If Israel sincerely wants to solve its problems and achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace, it is no use to go on ignoring the importance of Jerusalem for the Palestinians. Jerusalem has been mystified by all sides. The best solution is granting the Palestinians sovereignty in a part of Jerusalem. There is no contradiction between the municipal unity of the city, and its serving at the same time as a capital of two independent states. It is also advisable to speed up the final status negotiations. The stage of two armed forces, struggling for supremacy on the West Bank, is by all counts better avoided.

Should Israel fail to solve its problems with the Palestinians, the much hailed agreement with Jordan may ultimately turn out null and void.