The Other Israel _ August-September 1995, Issue No. 67-68
The Long Road
Editorial Comment by Adam Keller
The Agony of Hebron
Did We Do Enough?
Ha'ir Interview with Yossi Amitay
Shooting in the Air, by Beate Zilversmidt
Good News, Bad News, by Uri Avnery
No Palestinian State, No Peace, by Rateb Sweiti
Exhausting Maneuvering, by Israel Loeff
War Crimes, by Adam Keller
The Politics of Torture
The Jerusalem Arena
A Taboo Broken: "Our Jerusalem"
THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon,
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Assistant Editor: Beate Zilversmidt
For a free copy of this issue, please send your name and postal address to AICIPP via Peacenet e-mail (AICIPP@igc.apc.org)
or to AICIPP@mcimail.com.
THE OTHER ISRAEL
August-September 1995, Issue No. 67-68
THE LONG ROAD
In the beginning of 1995, observers of the Middle East scene felt doubtful whether the Oslo Agreement would ever
be fully implemented. Generals of the Israeli army openly opposed redeployment on the West Bank -- and Rabin seemed
to side with them. The worst Palestinian nightmare -- that Gaza and Jericho would be not just "first"
but also "last and only" -- seemed to come true.
In this atmosphere, there was wide public support in the Palestinian society for the acts of Hamas suicide bombers,
blowing themselves up inside Israeli buses. And among the Israeli public, panic and anger eroded public support
for the peace process -- which was reflected in the rightward trend of "middle-of-the-road" politicians,
such as President Ezer Weitzmann. And the Rabin Government was driven to take harsh measures, which further increased
suffering and frustration on the Palestinian side.
Yet, somehow this deterioration was blocked at the edge of the precipice. Foreign Minister Peres kept alive the
negotiations with the Palestinians, though for a time they seemed futile. Rabin, Peres' rival and partner, took
longer to become convinced of the utter need to move forward. What may have clinched his decision was the fiasco
of the government's attempt to confiscate Palestinian land in Jerusalem, which not only caused a confrontation
with the Palestinians, but also provoked deep repercussions throughout the Arab World and the international community,
and nearly deprived Rabin of his fragile parliamentary majority. Above all, it became clear that a total break
with the Palestinians would also destroy what Rabin considers his crowning achievement, the peace with Jordan.
There were two clearly visible signs of the shift within the Israeli establishment: the generals considerably reduced
their grumblings in the press and their obstruction of the West Bank disengagement -- and started instead to demand
exorbitant additions to the Defence budget, "in order to finance the redeployment." And in the negotiations
themselves, Peres got Rabin's consent to set up a new target date, July 1, by which the talks were to conclude.
For his part, Arafat made repeated appeals to the Palestinian public in general, and to the Hamas supporters in
particular, to give him a chance to get the Israeli army out of the West Bank cities. Arafat's emissaries conducted
extensive negotiations with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, offering them senior positions in the forming state apparatus;
at the same time, the Palestinian police increased its arrests of the organizations' activists, some of whom got
long prison terms at the completely arbitrary midnight sessions of Arafat's "special military court."
The Arafat-Hamas negotiations never reached a formal agreement, but the Hamas leadership -- ever attentive to its
own grassroots -- informally decided to halt the suicide bombing until July 1, give Arafat the chance he asked
for, and prepare for participation in the Palestinian elections, should an agreement be achieved.
Arafat's position was also strengthened by a slight improvement in the Gaza socio-economic situation. Though tens
of thousands are still unemployed, having lost their workplaces in Israel because of the closure, some jobs have
been created in Gaza itself; a building boom is creating luxury housing to the thin layer of rich Palestinians,
native Gazans and some who came from abroad.
For many months, Israeli-Palestinian talks had snagged over the main issue: the scope and date of Israeli military
In theory, there should not have been much room for dispute: the text of Oslo is quite clear, obliging Israel to
redeploy its forces "not later than the eve of elections for the [Palestinian] Council," such redeployment
to be "guided by the principle that [Israeli] military forces be redeployed outside populated areas"
(Declaration of Principles, Article XIII).
With his habitual cavalier attitude to promises and treaty obligations, Rabin re-interpreted this key article of
the Oslo Agreement as meaning redeployment from some populated areas before the Palestinian elections, from some
other populated areas after the elections, and from still others -- not at all.
The first Israeli proposal was to have military forces leave a single West Bank town and then "monitor Palestinian
performance against terrorism" before proceeding further. This experiment was to be carried out at Jenin,
at the northern tip of the
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West Bank -- which would have become a third isolated enclave, in addition to Gaza and Jericho.
Faced with a complete Palestinian rejection of this option, Rabin was forced to be a bit more generous. First he
offered the four main cities of the northern West Bank -- Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm and Qalqilya -- later adding the
two cities in the center, Ramallah and Bethlehem; altogether, six out of the West Bank's main seven cities. Rabin
left out the seventh, Hebron, in order to avoid tackling the problematic settler entanglement at its center (see
Furthermore, the evacuation of the six cities was made contingent upon the completion of by-pass roads for the
settlers, enabling them to travel back and forth without entering Arab cities. The by-pass roads require extensive
new confiscations of Palestinian agricultural land. Thus, the Palestinians were faced with a dilemma: opposition
to the confiscations might cause a delay in the redeployment.* An even more serious flaw of the "six-city"
proposal was that the proposed redeployment included only the cities' municipal territory; thus, the Israeli army
would remain in control of all villages, where 60% of the West Bank population lives, while the Palestinians would
get only six enclaves, isolated from each other.
For their part, the Israeli generals vehemently opposed giving armed Palestinian forces any access to the village
areas, since "that would leave the settlements and army camps as isolated Israeli islands in a Palestinian
sea." After grueling negotiations, Rabin agreed to some Palestinian police presence in the village areas,
but "only civilian police, and strictly under Israeli army control and supervision" -- terms unacceptable
to the Palestinians.
By this time, negotiations had run well into the second half of June, and it became clear that the July 1 deadline,
like its predecessors, would not be kept. On July 1 itself, an Arafat-Peres marathon session produced nothing more
than a declaration stating the two sides' determination to go on trying.
* On August 22 1995, the East-Jerusalem NGO 'Land and Water' presented a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court
demanding a halt to construction activity on the by-pass roads in the north of the West Bank. The organization
declared its determination to 'continue defending the right of Palestinians to use their land,' in spite of Israel's
position that 'redeployment cannot take place while there are pending court cases concerning by-pass roads.'
Contact: Land & Water: POB 20873, East Jerusalem.
Since June, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were going on against a background of growing turmoil, with militant
groups on the move in both societies -- some with the aim of influencing the outcome of the talks, others in order
to sabotage and altogether derail them. Thus, the summer of 1995, the hottest since temperatures started to be
measured in the Middle East, became an extremely hot time politically as well.
First to erupt was the issue of the Palestinian prisoners, some 6,000 of whom are still held in Israeli prisons.
Determined not to be left out, the prisoners started a hunger strike; it struck a deep chord among the general
Palestinian population, where practically every family numbers prisoners or ex-prisoners among its members. Solidarity
demonstrations and riots broke out all over the West Bank, bringing back to TV screens over the world the kind
of scenes remembered from the Intifada; the peak was reached on June 26, when three Palestinian demonstrators were
shot dead by the army as a procession which tried to approach Jneid Prison at Nablus was brutally dispersed.
Ironically, the most militant were the prisoners belonging to Arafat's own Fatah faction of the PLO. Many of them
are imprisoned for acts committed before Oslo, at the direct orders of Arafat himself or his subordinates. Thus,
the Fatah prisoners had a good reason to feel that their continued imprisonment, by the same Israel which accepted
their superiors as respectable negotiating partners, was a grave injustice.
On July 2, dozens of Israeli women from Bat Shalom and Women for PoliticalPrisoners held a one-day solidarity hunger
strike outside Hasharon Women's Prison.
The Palestinian Authority officially expressed its support for the strike and the prisoners' demands; Arafat even
held a personal one-day hunger strike in solidarity. However, the PA leadership also felt apprehensive that continuation
of the strike, the demonstrations and riots may unravel the whole negotiating process. (Also, continued demonstrations
on behalf of Palestinian prisoners could eventually touch upon the issue of Hamas and other Palestinian opposition
activists held in the Palestinian Authority's own prisons...)
After enormous efforts, Arafat's emissaries succeeded in convincing the prisoners' leadership to terminate the
strike -- too soon, in the opinion of many, since only verbal promises about a release of some 1,500 prisoners
were obtained from the Israelis. The prisoner issue thus remained an open sore, certain to break out again unless
given a satisfactory solution.
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With the expiration of the July 1 deadline, the period of grace given by the Hamas to Arafat also expired. The
Palestinian press extensively quoted statements made by Israeli leaders to calm down their own right wing, such
as Peres' assertion that "the Palestinians will only get 18% of the West Bank"; and the unsatisfactory
end of the prisoners' strike left much bitterness. All these factors helped tip the scales in the struggle between
the political and military wings of the Hamas. The armed militants got -- or took for themselves -- authorization
to renew the campaign of suicide bombing in Israel's main population centers. Two buses were blown up in rapid
succession, at Ramat Gan near Tel-Aviv, and Jerusalem. There was also a host of smaller assaults directed at settlers
and soldiers in the Palestinian territories; two Israeli youngsters were knifed to death while hiking at a canyon
near the Jordan River.
Inside Israel, the bombings were followed by the by-now customary after effects: wild anti-government demonstrations
by the extreme right, gory photographs and inflammatory headlines in the mass-circulation papers... Yet the bombings
seem to have lost much of their power to harm the negotiating process: Likud leader Netanyahu, as always rushing
to the TV studio after each bomb attack, seemed able to do no more than spew routine old slogans; negotiations
with the Palestinians were resumed within days of the bombings; the total closure, habitually imposed on the Palestinian
territories on such occasions, was removed much sooner than in the past.
At the beginning of August a week-long series of intensive talks, held personally by Peres and Arafat at the Egyptian
Red Sea resort of Taba, resolved some -- though by no means all -- of the outstanding issues. The resulting document
seems to define, to a considerable degree, how the West Bank would look -- at least until the definite solution,
due in 1999 if all goes well.
As agreed between Peres and Arafat, the territories of the West Bank will be divided into three categories: "A,"
the towns to be completely evacuated and handed over to Palestinian Police; "B," the long-disputed "village
area"; and "C," the biggest, comprising all that will remain "for the time being" in Israeli
hands: settlements, army bases, main roads, and uninhabited areas.
In area "B" the agreement promises "complete redeployment of Israeli military forces" but retains
for Israel "the overriding responsibility for security, for the purpose of protecting Israelis and confronting
the threat of terrorism," while the Palestinian Police is authorized to establish 25 stations and "assume
responsibility for public order" -- an arrangement fraught with possibilities for misunderstanding and conflict.
(What happens when an Israeli unit wishes to enter a village in order "to confront the threat of terrorism"
and a Palestinian unit bars its way out of a wish "to preserve public order"? And what happens if Hamas
militants and/or settlers, each with their own weaponry, happen to be present at the spot as well?)
In the "C" area, Israel is to carry out a "further redeployment," spread out in three half-year
stages until the middle of 1997 -- but the extent of that further redeployment, and of the territory still in Israeli
hands at its end, has not been specified. Also, in the whole of the "C" area the Palestinian Authority
will exercise "civil powers and responsibilities not relating to territory" (whatever that may mean).
Though far from from satisfying Palestinian aspirations, the Taba agreements threw the already angry Israeli settlers
on the West Bank into a paroxism of rage. Many settler leaders had been reluctantly willing to swallow the creation
of a few isolated Palestinian enclaves -- but grew alarmed at the idea of armed Palestinian Police penetrating
"the village area" and coming close to the settlements themselves. The settler leadership proclaimed
"civil disobedience" and -- cynically citing Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King without laying down
their rifles and submachine-guns -- proceeded on a calculated campaign of provocations: seizing long-coveted Palestinian
lands near their settlements, erecting fences, paving "by-pass roads" with their own bulldozers...
These actions were intended, explicitly, to provoke a major confrontation which would block the negotiations; for
that same reason, Rabin was initially inclined to turn a blind eye and "let the settlers tire themselves out."
The Palestinian landowners, however, soon took a hand in the struggle. When the settlers of Efrat once more encroached
on the lands of El-Khader Village south of Jerusalem, site of last year's major struggle (see TOI-65, p.4-7), the
villagers confronted them, with the involvement of Gush Shalom and Peace Now activists. For ten days and nights,
two rival tent encampments faced each other on the disputed hills of El-Khader, with the tension steadily rising;
finally, Rabin ordered the eviction of the settlers. It took hundreds of soldiers and police a whole day to remove
them, one by one. Similar scenes were repeated for a whole week at other hills near other villages. Gradually,
the clashes between settlers and soldiers developed into violence -- but nothing like what went on between settlers
and Palestinian villagers, where on one occasion a young Palestinian was shot to death. The campaign certainly
earned the settlers enormous media coverage -- for several days, virtually no other news was reported -- but they
failed in their main declared purpose, to draw the general Israeli public into "a rebellion against the government."
The settlers did gain considerable support among the Jewish Orthodox public, drawing together various religious
factions and sects around such potent religious symbols as "Rachel's Tomb" in Bethlehem -- but secular
Israelis, who comprise the overwhelming majority of the population, largely remained aloof. The decision of a radical
settler group to block main roads throughout the country created enormous traffic jams -- but did not appreciably
increase the settlers' popularity in the general public.
Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu expressed strong support for the settler campaign, and half-hearted condemnations
of their violence. Netanyahu failed, however, to bring into the streets any considerable
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number of Likud voters and supporters. The mass of impoverished Oriental Jews, who constituted the Likud's backbone
in the Begin period, feel alienated from the yuppie elitist Netanyahu. Many traditional Likud voters seem likely
to follow the populist Moroccan-born former Foreign Minister David Levy, who broke away from the Likud to form
his own new party.
With the agreement on the disposition of the Palestinian Police, another vital point came to the fore in the Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations: the future of the underground water sources common to the West Bank and Israel -- since underground
water reservoirs recognize no man-made borders. Since 1967, Israel has imposed an extremely unequal division of
these water sources, forbidding the Palestinians to dig new wells, and keeping all provision and distribution of
water in its own hands. Israelis -- in Israel proper and in settlements on the West Bank -- get, per capita, four
times more water than Palestinians. Jewish farmers get plenty of heavily-subsidized water, enabling them to raise
such water-intensive crops as cotton, which are in fact not suitable to a semi-arid region. Palestinian farmers
in the territories have to make do solely with rainfall, and the West Bank cities often lack even drinking water,
with taps running empty in the hot summer months.
The removal of Israeli forces, even from limited parts of the West Bank, would make it possible for the Palestinians
to dig new wells and start redressing the balance. The Israeli negotiators, however, made military redeployment
dependant upon an explicit Palestinian undertaking "to preserve the existing status quo in water distribution";
the point was vehemently raised inside the cabinet by Agriculture Minister Ya'akov Tzur, closely linked with the
farming lobby -- one of Israel's most powerfull special interest groups. For their part, the Palestinians insisted
upon their right to dispose as they wish of the water located under their land.
On August 18, a prime-time Israeli TV item by reporter Eytan Oren dramatized the discriminatory water distribution,
counterposing the empty taps of Hebron with the settlers of nearby Kiryat Arba, merrily splashing in the settlement's
swimming pool. There was a public outcry, and information on the unequal division of water -- hitherto available
only in obscure radical publications -- suddenly flooded the front pages of the mainstream press.
Eventually, a compromise of sorts was worked out on the water issue. Israel recognized in principle the Palestinian
water rights, but their implementation in practice was put off until the "definite solution" phase; for
the time being a new division would be negotiated, giving the Palestinians a bit more water but retaining basic
control in Israeli hands. "We will give them enough water for domestic consumption, but not for irrigation
farming" Agriculture Minister Tzur said on the television news.
At the end of August, the negotiations hit a new snag, due to Israeli high-handedness in imposing a week-long blockade
of Jericho, cutting the enclave off from the rest of the West Bank and causing hardships and riots. The purpose
of this: forcing the Palestinian Authority to extradite Hamas activists who have supposedly fled to Jericho. The
show of force was also clearly designed to show the Palestinians what the Israeli army could do to the other West
Bank cities, also after redeploying outside their boundaries -- a reminder which would hardly help the new agreement's
popularity among Palestinians.
The Palestinians first made verbal protests -- to no avail. However, after a Palestinian crowd stormed the Israeli
control posts and burned Israeli flags, Rabin started "a gradual lift of the blockade." This, too, may
give a hint to the shape of the near future.
Despite all crises, observers confidently expect that the last disputed points will eventually be resolved, and
that what became known informally as "Oslo-2" will indeed be signed, though it now sems unlikely that
it will be ready by September 13 -- second anniversary of agreement number one. President Clinton insists upon
hosting this ceremony, too, on the White House lawn -- but for both sides, it will hardly be as radiant and full
of hope as was the event of two years ago.
The agreement would leave intact many elements of Israeli control and domination over the West Bank. The best which
any Palestinian could say about it is that it might prove a stepping stone towards better things to come, and it
would probably not yet give enough to convince those who dream of revenge to change their minds. Oslo-2 will bring
an end neither to the occupation, nor to Palestian suicide attacks; neither Palestinians nor Israelis will feel
that peace has at last arrived.
To an outward glance, the power relations between Israel and the Palestinians seem hopelessly lopsided, considering
Israel's enormous military and economic superiority -- and since the demise of the Soviet Union, its decisive advantage
in the field of international diplomacy as well. Yet their very misery and oppression gives the Palestinians the
advantage in one field -- the field of human motivation and determination.
The Israelis have national independence, the Palestinians have not. For the Palestinians, gaining independence
is an issue of life and death, worth enormous sacrifices. For most Israelis, keeping "Judea and Samaria"
is a luxury they could do without, not worth too much of an effort. The Palestinian advantage may prove a key one
-- but it could tell only at the end of a long agonizing struggle, always gaining yet again only partial, inconclusive
Mainstream Israelis -- both at the heart of the military and political establishment and "on the street"
-- feel that the Palestinians are too weak to be given full consideration and could make do with crumbs; only slowly
do Israelis realize that this piecemeal approach -- through the Intifada, Madrid,
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Oslo and beyond -- is far more expensive in lives, dashed hopes, hatred twisting new generations...
Oslo-2 will be one more stage on this long road, paved with the blood of both peoples. It will not give the Palestinians
a state, but will provide a few more ingredients: the removal of direct occupation inside the Palestinian towns,
a considerable increase of territory controlled by Palestinian armed forces, a Palestinian Legislative Council
issuing out of internationally-supervised elections and thus having increased legitimacy for the outside world,
possibly some sorely-needed democratization of the Palestinian political structures...
There will be more areas from which the Israeli army is excluded -- a privilege rarely, if ever, enjoyed by "autonomous
areas" elsewhere in the world -- which is the one thing making the whole exercise worthwhile to those Palestinians
who support it. But the Self-Governing areas will be surrounded and hemmed in on all sides, subject to constant
Israeli military and economic pressures, constantly straining at their bonds -- as Gaza and Jericho already do.
Oslo-2 will also create an extremely unstable situation everywhere where settlements exist or settlers move on
the roads -- which means, in nearly all parts of the West Bank.
There will be hundreds of powder kegs and some, at least, will explode. The Israeli government, whoever that will
be after the 1996 elections, will find itself increasingly under pressure. It would be extremely difficult to turn
the wheel back and re-conquer the West Bank towns; quite feasible militarily, the political price of such an act
-- internal, regional and international -- would be prohibitive even to a Likud government. And when the West Bank
situation becomes untenable, there will be only one direction for any Israeli government to go -- Out.
The agony of Hebron
Through the years the situation in Hebron has been more tense than that of any other place in the Occupied Territories,
confrontations between settlers and Palestinians often taking place in the center of town.
The settler presence in the heart of Hebron was never very popular among Israelis, and following the massacre of
February 1994, Israel public opinion was ready to accept the removal of the 415 religious-nationalist settlers,
from among whom came the killer Goldstein. However, Prime Minister Rabin refused to contemplate such a possibility;
he decided to let the Hebron settlers -- fanatic and extremist even by settler standards -- stay in place, though
their presence makes life of the city's 120.000 Palestinians virtually unbearable.
In order to guard them, the army was authorized to establish a "defensive perimeter," uniting the previous
four settler enclaves inside Hebron into a continuous area, surrounded with barbed wire. Between 2,000 and 2,500
soldiers, policemen and border guards were permanently stationed in this area, with their sole mission the protection
of the 415 settlers (Yediot Aharonot, 25.8.'95).
Palestinians having their residence inside this new enclave are greatly harassed, while the entry of other Palestiniabns
is altogether denied. In effect, Palestinian Hebron was cut in two, with its center made inaccessible. Many Palestinian-owned
shops in the settler area were closed down, as was the town's main vegetable market; the army decreed that the
Palestinian trucks loading and unloading there constituted "a severe security risk" to the nearby settler-held
In the year and half since Goldstein's massacre, twenty-five Hebronites were killed in violent confrontations of
different kinds: demonstrations forcibly dispersed; riots bursting out when armed settlers conduct one of their
periodical "trips" or "patrols" in the city streets; furious youths attempting to stab soldiers.
Based in Hebron are well-organized militants of the Hamas' armed wing, who carry out daring ambushes of soldiers
and settlers -- and are being relentlessly hunted down by the Israeli army's "Special Units." When found,
no attempt is made to capture them alive, and indeed the term "liquidation" is used by army officers
telling the media of such successes. The army invariably razes to the ground the houses where such "wanted
terrorists" are found hiding -- and as invariably, the houses are completely reconstructed within weeks, by
numerous Palestinian volunteers from the entire Hebron District.
.blank line 1
On April 16, one of these periodical army raids, resulting in the death of three "wanted" Palestinians,
was followed by the imposition of a curfew over the entire city. The settlers, to whom curfews do not apply, used
the opportunity to invite thousands of their political friends "to celebrate the Passover" in the streets
emptied of Arabs. The scene, broadcast on Israel TV, aroused many critical reactions, columnists pointing out the
stark contrast between the settler Passover provocation and the traditional meaning of Passover -- as the feast
of Liberation from Enslavement.
+++ The day and night Hebron curfew was replaced after a week by a night curfew -- from 6 in the afternoon until
5.30 the following morning, still seriously interfering with the inhabitants' daily life, as pointed out in a memorandum
of the Physicians for Human Rights which was published in Davar (20.4.'95).
+++ On April 29, a group of twenty Peace Now activists visited Hebron, as guests of Mayor Natshe. In the course
of a guided tour, they arrived at the edge of the setler enclave and got piles of garbage thrown at them -- a regular
occurrence in this area, as their Palestinian hosts explained. Later, they issued a statement, warning the government
that the Hebron situation was seriously eroding Palestinian support for the peace process (Ha'aretz, 30.4.'95).
+++ On the following week, another group of Israelis -- members of the Jerusalem-based Hebron Solidarity Committee
-- came to join hundreds of Hebronites at a demonstration in front of the municipality building,
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calling for a lifting of the night curfew. The protest was initiated by an alliance of all political factions in
the city. Protesters gathered at 5 P.M. and stood, holding signs and banners, for over two hours. At 7, IDF soldiers
were seen approaching the area, prompting protesters to block the road and face the army. The fact that there were
Israelis among the demonstrators may have helped avert a violent clash.
+++ HSC also took the initiative to picket the private residence of Meretz Minister Shulamit Aloni, arguing that
-- exactly as being a well-known champion of human rights -- Aloni is more responsible than any other minister
for the wrongs perpetrated by the government. Hearing of this plan, Aloni contacted HSC and asked its activists
to meet her, rather than demonstrate outside her home. In the meeting, Minister Aloni promised to take up the curfew
issue. (At the next cabinet meeting, she reportedly burst out: "Why is Hebron under curfew for weeks, without
me even knowing about it?")
+++ A joint HSC-Meretz demonstration in Hebron was decided upon among Jerusalem activists and scheduled for May
19. But before that date Yossi Sarid, Aloni's rival for the Meretz leadership, hastened to visit Hebron -- the
first Israeli cabinet minister to do so as guest of the Palestinians, rather than of the army and settlers.
Sarid was warmly received by Mayor Natshe and the coucillors, though outside the Town Hall there was a demonstration
by relatives of Abd-El-Samed Harizat, who died as a result of Shabak torture. Sarid told his hosts and the assembled
press that "the introduction of settlers into Hebron was a regrettable mistake" which would have to be
eventually corrected, but for the time being there was no majority in the cabinet for such a step.
+++ Just before the date of the planned HSC-Meretz demonstration the Hebron night curfew was lifted. The organizers
decided not to cancel their action, and a busload of Israelis arrived at Hebron on Saturday May 19. After meeting
with local political organizations, the Israelis and some Palestinians marched into the forbidden settler enclave,
for some ten minutes confronting the settlers who congregated on the spot from all directions. Only the soldiers,
interposing themselves in the middle, prevented the wild shouting from becoming a physical clash. On the demonstrators'
way out, the army suddenly detained one of the HSC organizers; he was held for five hours, and released after an
intervention by Meretz Knesset Member Ran Cohen.
A few days later, Minister Sarid visited Hebron a second time, offering the town 200,000 Dollars in compensation
for the closure of the vegetable market, as well as a few other goodwill gestures authorized by Rabin. But less
than a week after Sarid's visit, the army's "Special Units" once again carried out a raid, "liquidating"
Hamas activist Hamed Yarmour, destroying two houses, and once again imposing a curfew...
+++ On June 24, a group of 17 HSC activists arrived in Hebron, to join a demonstration calling for the release
of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, of whom more than 750 are Hebronites. With some of the Israelis
in the front row, the demonstrators marched from the Town Hall to the Red Cross office, in front of which a rally
took place. Military forces followed the march without interfering, but when the demonstrators attempted to march
back to the Town Hall, the soldiers suddenly dispersed them, shooting in the air and spreading tear gas. A participant
told TOI it was, as Hebron demonstrations go, rather mild -- with no serious injuries and no detentions.
+++ On July 22, a crowd numbering some 50 people -- mostly Palestinian students, with a few Israelis as well as
Americans from the Christian Peace Makers Team, gathered outside the front gate of Hebron's Islamic University
-- a gate blocked by the army six years ago "to prevent disturbances," causing great inconvenience to
the students. In an act of civil disobedience of a kind hitherto not practiced in Hebron, several volunteers wielded
hammers, and after half an hour's work opened the gate. Immediately afterwards the army arrived, driving away the
crowd and arresting four activists -- an Israeli and three Americans. They were kept in detention for several days.
+++ On August 8, a group of armed settlers established themselves in a deserted structure located among orange
groves and vineyards at the outskirts of Hebron -- as part of a settler squatting campaign all over the West Bank.
While fortifying the building, they destroyed several terraces with their bulldozers, and further provoked the
Palestinian farmers by not just picking some of their fruits but systematically harvesting. The affair came to
light through a B'tzelem researcher which arrived on the spot and compiled a detailed report on the settler campaign
of harassment, which was sent to Knesset Members.
A Peace Now delegation later came as well, meeting with the Arab landowners and having a heated confrontation with
the settlers who claimed to have 'bought' the house. A television crew arrived and caught several of the settlers
engaged in shouting: "Arab dogs, we will soon throw you out of here!" In response, the military government
declared that the settlers were "in illegal occupation of real estate," and would be evicted "at
such time as the commander sees fit." Meanwhile, soldiers have been stationed to protect the settlers from
terrorist (sic!) attacks...
At the time of writing, the issue of Hebron seems one of the main stumbling blocks still preventing the achievement
of the long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Originally, the Israeli side proposed that the army stay in
all of Hebron, also during and after the proposed Palestinian elections. This the Palestinians rejected out of
hand; indeed, such a procedure -- totally contradicting the Oslo Agreement -- would cause a boycott of the elections
by the whole town and undermine the entire Oslo process. On the other hand, Rabin remains adamant that the settlers
stay in Hebron with Israeli soldiers and police to protect them. The compromise likely to emerge would be a
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virtual partition of Hebron -- with the existing settler enclave in the center remaining intact, while Palestinian
forces move into other parts of Hebron; the barbed wire already running through Hebron would become officially
a frontier, or rather a front line -- a "solution" certain to exacerbate hatred and bloodshed until some
future government emerges, resolute enough to remove the cause of the problem: the settlers.
Contact: HSC, POB 954, Jerusalem.
or: Meretz, 21 Tshernichovski St., Tel-Aviv 63291.
Did we do enough?
On July 24, Laviv Anuar Asem -- a 22-year old Hamas member -- boarded an Israeli bus at Ramat Gan, a Tel-Aviv suburb,
and blew himself up. One of the six random victims of this attack was 61-year old Nehama Lubovitch -- a retired
teacher, a loving wife and mother, who was on her way to a lecture at Tel-Aviv university. As we found out a few
hours before the funeral, which took place on the next day, she happened to be the elder sister of Yossi Amitay,
member of The Other Israel's editorial board, and a long-standing pioneer of Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian
The following is excerpted from Zohara Ron's interview with Yossi Amitay, in Ha'ir, August 4.
Some people may have had the thought 'Now let's see you, the staunch peacenik, let's see how you behave when this
has happened in your own close circle.' Nobody said it in so many words, but I could see it sometimes in people's
I don't want, in any way, to make political capital for my views out of the disaster which hit me, the killing
of my sister. My sister was not a political person, and I did not often talk with her about politics. But she was
a humanist, who had empathy also for Arabs she encountered, construction workers, restaurant workers. And I know
she was proud of me and my activisties.
Does such a blow make you doubt the way you have walked?
When you get such news, and you feel your blood drawing away, the first question you ask yourself is simply how
to cope with such a blow. Initially, other questions seem an unnecessary luxury. But afterwards, I did think of
political implications. I admit that this situation put me to a test -- but as far as I remember I did not feel
any inclination to start thinking in terms of revenge and hatred.
I absolutely abhor suicide, and all the more -- the taking of others' lives. I am well-aware of the Palestinian
frustrations, but I cannot see how such an attack is furthering in any way the Palestinian cause. It is not only
killing civilians -- it also kills the beginnings of rapprochement and reconciliation on the Israeli side.
Nehama became part of the cycle of bloodshed, a cycle of Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Arab victims. We are all
among the victims and the killers; if we ever tried to do something for peace, we must now ask ourselves: did we
do enough? That is what I said on Nehama's graveside. It was difficult to say these things, but I did say them.
How was it received?
Fortunately, it was a quiet funeral. The right-wing vampires did not show up and Tel-Aviv Mayor Roni Milo made
a very restrained, non-political speech. During the seven days of mourning, some family members did have outbursts
of saying "we should have been more tough with the Arabs." I cannot really blame them, and it did not
+++ Meetings between Israelis and Yasser Arafat have by now become commonplace. On May 1, however, the media gave
much attention to Arafat's meeting with Adv. Sinai Khat of Tel-Aviv, who is member of the Likud. After talking
with Arafat in Gaza for more than two hours Khat, who has been a candidate on the Likud slate in 1992 (though at
a low place) told correspondents: "We have to accept reality. Arafat is the only representative of the Palestinian
people as such, and when we come to power we would have no choice but to continue dealing with him."
Hardliners in the Likud started proceedings to expel Khat from the party. On July 27, the Likud's diciplinary court
ruled the suspension of his membership for one year.
Khat announced he will continue to struggle inside the Likud. "In refusing to accept reality, the present
party leadership is causing the Likud to be marginalized. The only way to regain power is to be a center party.
I am sure that Menachem Begin, had he been alive today, would have agreed with me. He brought us to power and then
surprised the whole world by the concessions he was willing to make for peace."
+++ On May 3, Israeli Independence Day, the prestigious Israel Prize was granted in Jerusalem to fourteen Israelis
judged to have "made special contributions to Israeli science, art and society." The ceremony continued
in its normal solemn way until the speech of award winner Yitzchak Ben-Aharon, former Histadrut Secretary-General.
The "grand old man" of the Israeli trade unions called upon the government to accelerate the peace process:
We must have less procedures and more real steps towards peace, he said. Our Palestinian neighbors must also have
independence and sovereignty. We have taken our share of this land and done wonders, now we must let the Palestinians
develop their part. That's the way to make Israel Greater. He also called upon the government to move ahead in
the talks with Syria: This is the time for peace, not for considerations of real estate.
Ben-Aharon's speech divided the audience: some clapped wildly, others shouted or left the hall. Later asked by
Israeli radio whether it was right to introduce politics into the event, Ben-Aharon answered: "Look, all my
life I have been speaking my mind! I am now too old to change."
+++ In 1993 singer Aviv Gefen -- nephew of the late Moshe Dayan -- told a stadium-full of young admirers: We are
the fucked generation! It caused quite an uproar in occasionally still puritanical Israel.
On May 17 of this year, a new Gefen scandal burst upon the country. Two lawyers, Yoseph Herschkowitz and Erika
Kreisman, initiated a judicial appeal. They
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demanded to ban the song "Nowhere" -- Gefen's latest -- which they claimed "is not fit for broadcasting
on the state radio." The two did not like the song's "explicit sexual references" but were even
more concerned about the political part: The dove holding the olive branch is suffocating/ Who walks drunk? The
Prime Minister!/ They told the mother her son was killed/ But did not find a name for the war.
Remarkably, Gefen got support not only from the peace-minded part of the nation but also from the religious nationalists
who for years had attacked him for "spreading immorality among the young." This time they attempted to
embrace him as "expressing a protest against the false peace process which exposes the people to terrorism."
The singer himself refused to elucidate or comment, stating: "The song says it all, I have nothing to add."
+++ On May 25, Peace Now published a detailed plan, worked out by a team of accountants, to give compensations
to the settlers who evacuate from the occupied territories: four billion Dollars would be needed -- "a huge
sum, but not impossible to meet, spread out over several years."
Prime Minister Rabin, to whom the proposal was sent, declined to answer; but hundreds of settlers phoned Peace
Now, asking the movement's help in getting out. In June, an official association of these settlers was formed,
with its center at the settlement of Karney Shomron -- whose population also includes some of the most violent
among settler extremists. July 21, a sharp confrontation between the two settler factions was reported, when Deputy
Housing Minister Alex Goldfarb arrived at the settlement to meet with the "Compensationists."
+++ In another development a settler moderate, Aryeh Barak who is known to be in favor of "withdrawal and
compensations," got elected to the municipal council of the Ma'aleh Ephraim settlement (Ha'aretz, 21.7.95).
+++ The 'Association of Golan Settlers for Withdrawal in Return for Peace' invited Meretz KM Anat Ma'or to its
founding conference held in Katzrin (the main Golan settlement), June 18.
+++ On August 30, Peace Now published the results of a poll conducted among West Bank settlers, indicating that
32% are already willing to move in return for compensations, while a further 8% are considering the possibility.
Furthermore, 47% of the settlers stated explicitly they had come to the West Bank for economic reasons, only 36%
mentioned ideological considerations. Perhaps the biggest surprise: 25% of the questioned settlers declared themselves
in favor of the peace process.
Contact: Peace Now, POB 8159, Jerusalem 91081.
+++ On June 21, the city of Osnabròck, Germany, honoured Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom with the prestigious
Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize for his life-long struggle for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The occasion was made remarkable by the fact that the ambassadors of both Israel and Palestine sat in the first
row of the festive audience. In a gesture unusual for an Israeli diplomat, ambassador Avi Primor came from Bonn
to take part in the ceremony. Abdallah Frangi, who represents the Palestinians in Bonn for many years, made a moving
laudatory speech -- describing Avnery as 'the courageous pioneer of peace between the two peoples' and calling
for a historic reconciliation. He then embraced Avnery and shook hands with his Israeli colleague.
In his acceptance speech, Avnery recalled that Remarque, whose book "All Quiet on the Western Front"
was burned by the Nazis and whose sister was beheaded by them, was a combat soldier, who, like Avnery himself,
was turned by war into an ardent believer in peace.
+++ On July 11 "the nuclear prisoner" Mordechai Vanunu emerged from his prison for the first time in
nine years, when brought to the court of Be'er-Sheba -- his native town -- which heard his appeal of imprisonment
conditions. Despite the enormous police presence, Vanunu succeeded in stretching up on the police car doorstep,
giving the many photographers a glimpse of his straining face while shouting I am fighting!, before being hustled
inside. The court, sitting in camera, granted Vanunu one phone-call a month and the right to have a computer in
his cell. Further proceedings will be held on the principle demand -- to end his total isolation.
On August 6, fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima, the Vanunu Solidarity Committee picketed the offices of the Israeli
Atomic Energy Commission (also responsible for bombs). The Vanunu issue was also mentioned at anti-nuclear demonstrations
outside the French Embassy.
Contact: Vanunu C'tee, POB 7323, Jerusalem 91072.
s On July 13, fifty Jewish and Arab members of the Re'ut/Sadaka youth movement arrived at the ruins of the Arab
village Ikrit, near the Lebanese border, where they made camp for several days and erected three wooden structures.
Ikrit has a special place in Israeli politics, as a village whose inhabitants suffered manifest injustice when
ordered away in 1948 by the Israeli army, being promised that their evacuation would last "only two weeks."
The young campers had several sharp confrontations, covered by TV, with the (Jewish) farmers who were given the
Ikrit lands. Actually, the original inhabitants ask only for what is left of their houses, and are willing to renounce
the agricultural land.
Contact: Re'ut/Sadaka, 20 Allenby St., Haifa 33265.
+++ On the evening of August 8, concerted urgent meetings were held at the headquarters of both the Labor Party
and the Peace Now movement, with the leaderships of both discussing the then week-old campaign of country-wide
violent provocations by the settlers and their supporters. Labor Secretary-General Nissim Zvily proposed holding
a major rally in Tel-Aviv to let popular support be expressed for the peace process, and revive the swinging mood
of after Oslo.
The idea was supported by several ministers who talk part in the deliberations -- but firmly vetoed by Prime Minister
Rabin, who stated that such a rally may "increase the polarization among the people." Left unstated was
what possibly constituted Rabin's main objection -- a mass peace rally would weaken
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Rabin's negotiating position in the ongoing talks, where the Israeli side makes tough demands upon the Palestinians.
According to Israeli radio, Rabin would prefer a rally to take place "only after a definite agreement had
The Peace Now leadership felt unable to organise a sufficiently impressive rally on its own. Instead, a limited
action was resolved upon, with mobilisation carried out mainly by telephone and no advertisements placed in the
papers. At noon on Friday, August 11, dozens of activists appeared outside the Defence Ministry (where Rabin and
Peres were conferring with the Israeli negotiating team), as well as in Jerusalem and Haifa. Placards were raised
such as The settlers are blocking the peace!; Stop the Settler Terrorism!; and Yes to Peace! -- No to Violence!
The mood was upbeat, with radio news bulletins telling of significant advances made during the previous night's
negotiations between Peres and Arafat. Demonstrators joked with mostly friendly drivers in the passing cars; the
organisers took the utmost care to avoid any semblance of disorderliness, to emphasize the contrast with the settlers
who -- three days earlier -- blocked roads and clashed with police, enraging the motorists.
+++ On August 14, following the news that settlers illegally occupying land at Artis Mountain shot to death a young
Palestinian, members of the Alternative Information Center's team stood at the French Hill junction leading from
Jerusalem northward into the West Bank, with signs reading: Settlers -- Murderers! and Disarm the Settlers!.
+++ On August 20, a dozen Meretz activists waited for the ministers leaving the weekly cabinet meeting; each minister
was given a flower and a letter calling upon them to immediately remove the settlers from Hebron and start talks
about a Palestinian state.
+++ As on several previous occasions when the peace process was under massive attack, on August 30 the retired
generals organized in The Council for Peace and Security came out on the street to demonstrate for peace. They
arrived at the plaza opposite the Prime Minister's Office, carrying neatly printed Peace and Security placards,
and greeting the Prime Minister as an old comrade in arms when he came out of his bureau to meet them.
Retired Colonel Yohanan Lerner told Israeli radio: "We have come because there is so much nonsense heard these
days from self-appointed defence experts, as if the agreement now negotiated will hurt our security. It is the
continuation of conflict, of occupying and ruling another people by force, which causes grave damage to our security.
When less soldiers will have to chase stone-throwers, and more Palestinians will feel that they are free -- that
is when we gain security. Then the terrorist forces will start weakening and crumbling."
Council for Peace and Security, 13 Rosanis St., Tel-Aviv.
+++ The Jahalin Bedouins, threatened by the bulldozers of the expanding Ma'ale Adumim settlement, persist in their
prolonged struggle. .
On May 7, members of the Jahalin Solidarity Committee (ACJT) hastily came from Jerusalem to assist the al-Hirsh
extended family whose tents and shackles had become targeted. By talking with the settlers while alerting the press,
the peace activists succeeded in letting a frightful bulldozer change direction. A week later (15.5), a solidarity
demonstration brought to the site speakers like KMs Naomi Hazan and Taleb A-Sana, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, Rabbi
Tuvyah Ben-Horin (Rabbis for Human Rights) and representatives of different Palestinian organizations. Thereupon,
Meretz Minister Shulamit Aloni presented the Jahalin case in the cabinet meeting and last but not least: the Supreme
Court issued an unprecedented temporary injunction, forbidding all work on and around the Jahalin land pending
The settlers, however, did not give up easily. On June 8, their bulldozers demolished two sheds, used to house
the sheep of the Abu al-Sidi family. Adv. Lynda Brayer was immediately alerted, and a complaint submitted to the
police - which, for once, took prompt action: within hours police confirmed that the demolition had indeed violated
the Supreme Court's order and that the settlement's Supervisor of Planning and the building contractors had been
questioned and warned to stay away.
On October 18, a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court is to rule on the Jahalin case. The outcome may depend
on political as well as judicial considerations. The westward extension of the already huge Ma'ale Adumim settlement
- 20,000 inhabitants - is part of the policy of creating "a Jewish continuity" between it and Jerusalem.
TOI-readers are invited to participate in the Jahalin's struggle.
Letters to: PM and Minister of Defence Yitzchak Rabin, Hakirya, Jerusalem; fax: 972-2-664838
Copies to: ACJT, POB 32213, Jerusalem 91322;
20-page information kit on request
+++ "Mirkam Mekomi" ("Local Pattern") is the name of an exhibition of paintings by Israeli
and Palestinian artists, which has been touring the country since last October. In the works selected by curator
Talya Rapaport landscape is an important theme -- landscape as the source of inspiration which artists of both
sides share. The exhibition went to several galleries in the smaller towns of Israel where the inclusion of works
of Palestinians is rare. Reviews appearing in the local papers referred mainly to its artistic merits.
At the beginning of May the exhibition encountered problems before it could enter Kfar Saba. Armand Nizri, a right-wing
town councillor, complained that the exhibition, due to be presented in Kfar Saba's municipal museum, would arrive
on May 2 -- one day before the Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers.
The municipal council accepted the need of "deference to the feelings of bereaved parents in the town"
and voted to delay the exhibition. But when discussion started on the new opening date, it became clear that the
right-wing wanted to banish the exhibition from Kfar Saba for "at least a generation," as Nizri put it.
There followed a series of inconclusive
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votes, acrimonious debates, dates set up and rejected, demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. The affair soon
got to the attention of the national press, and of the politicians.
The wrangle was finally resolved by Mayor Yitzchak Wald, a laborite and personal friend of Rabin. After several
days of of hesitation, Wald resolved to open the exhibition on May 11, declaring on the radio news: I will not
let mob culture take over this town!
The opening night was prominently featured on the Israeli TV and radio news, with the participation of the artists,
town councillors, and more than ten Knesset members -- right and left. Anonymous telephone threats to disrupt the
event did not materialize. The only incident: Likud KM Michael Eytan desperately exclaiming "Muslim Fundamentalism!
This is Muslim Fundamentalism! Don't you see?" (One of Taysir Barakat's paintings shows Jerusalem with the
Al-Aqsa Mosque at the center.)
Talya Rapaport, Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'akov Meuhad 15150.
+++ In June, the usually quiet Kfar Saba was once more thrust to the forefront of national politics -- due to its
vicinity to the pre-'67 border. The town of Qalqilya, on the Palestinian side, is seperated from Kfar Saba by no
more than a few hundred metres, and in the years since 1967 extensive commercial and social contacts were built
up -- only partially disrupted by the Intifada outbreak in 1987. Since Qalqilya is one of the Palestinian towns
from which the Israeli army is due to evacuate within months, the settlers and right-wing parties chose Kfar Saba
as the focus of a scare campaign: "The Terrorists Are Coming!"
According to a poll carried out by Israeli radio and reported on its News Magazine of June 26, the majority of
Kfar Saba's population -- though apprehensive at the imminent return of the border to their vicinity -- supports
the peace process and is willing to give the government a chance. When the appointed day for the right-wing rally
arrived, Likud leader Netanyahu spoke to a packed plaza, but -- to judge from their characteristic knitted skulcaps
-- most of his listeners were religious-nationalists bused in from the settlements. The population of Kfar Saba
itself did not show up in any perceptible numbers. Mayor Wald commented on television: "Instead of attending
a senseless political performance taking place in my town, I met tonight with the Prime Minister to talk business
about the apprehensions of the townspeople. I got from him the promise that -- once the army pulls out of Qalqilya
-- a proper border fence will be erected."
'Shooting in the air'
by Beate Zilversmidt
The ideology of Nonviolence never was a widespread approach on the Israeli peace scene. Only few of the activists
are principled pacifists: not only is verbal violence practised by most as 'a useful tool in street debates,' also
physical 'self-defence' is widely accepted; and as for serving in the army: even among the radicals the issue is
not so much 'going or not going' as 'which orders to (dis)obey,' for political reasons.
Recently, however, the concept of 'Nonviolence' has been making headlines -- not because of a new impulse in the
peace movement, but because ultra-nationalist settlers have seized upon it. The Yesha Council of "Judean-Samarian
and Gazan" settlers is for some time already worried about "the lack of solidarity" which they noticed
among the general Israeli public. Furthermore, among the settlers are to be found more and more Americans who in
the United States were on the Left, many of them having been activists opposing the Vietnam War. As Jews fighting
for Greater Israel they seem to have found a new destiny, and they try to reconcile their past with their present
by language manipulation: they are against giving up territory of Greater Israel because "they are against
Apartheid"; while living in luxury between dispossessed, impoverished Palestinians as armed settlers they
nevertheless play victim. Apparently in a new effort towards cognitive harmony they decided to borrow the concepts
of non-violence. That is why, nowadays, we hear about The Beauty of Nonviolence with every new occasion of land
The anarchist-pacifist group (around the Tel-Avivian World Citizen Toma Sik) took all possible efforts to get a
counter message through -- that non-violence is incompatible with oppression -- but their fliers were blown by
the wind and their press releases remained unnoticed; none of them was even once invited to take part in the repeated
media debates, which did give the new "followers of Gandhi and Martin Luther King" prime time coverage
for their continued rape of the non-violent vocabulary.
When on July 26 Palestinian leader Feisal Husseini was besieged with his family in his private house in East Jerusalem,
by settlers who were firing shots and violently intimidating him, the Yesha Council did not bother to issue a condemnation;
no word of criticism was heard from them about the behavior of their fellow settlers, the not particularly non-violent
followers of the late ultra-racist Rabbi Meir Kahane.
It was actually a less violent action of the militant group "Zu Artzenu" (It's Our Country) which did
bring about at least a lip service condemnation from the leaders of the nationalist camp, including the Yesha Council.
In their own special effort to promote the settlers' cause Zu Artzenu had decided upon the blocking of roads. Roads
being blocked by settlers was in itself not new. On August 8, however, it wasn't roads in the Territories with
Arab traffic, but highroads within pre-'67 Israel where the drivers were forced to sit hours sweating in kilometres-long
traffic jams. The pictures of religious youths together with some furious professors burning tyres and causing
such inconvenience to ordinary Israelis were not received well...
On August 13, a young Palestinian paid with his life for the "non-violence" of the settlers. Complete
settler families had started digging themselves in on land of the Abd-el-Hafez family of Dura El-Kara, shouting
hysterically that they would never, never
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give up this "new settlement." The villagers organized a protest which turned violent-non-violent as
well -- they tried to put on fire the brick structure, erected on their land and left behind. Suddenly, shots were
heard and 23-year old Khair Kasam was fatally wounded. Before the gunman was arrested by police (with two other
settlers) he had the chance to tell to the TV camera that he had been shooting in the air.
The silence of settler representatives about acts of aggression is no great surprise. The near silence of a whole
country about the armed siege of the home of the respected Feisal Husseini, definitely was.
The Israeli police totally failed to provide proper protection (a week after Palestinian Police had been punished
for operating in East Jerusalem). Some Israeli policemen did arrive after Husseini had alarmed them, but they looked
on and left Feisal Husseini and his family hours and hours at the mercy of the armed racist lunatics who constantly
made physical threats, came very near and accompanied their verbal threats with shooting in the air.
Uri Avnery and his wife Rachel had reacted to the urgent call of Feisal Husseini and after having been smuggled
into the beleaguered house through a back door, joined the Husseini family at this critical hour. When at last
the police decided to arrest some of the settler terrorists it was only to let them go free on the same day. (A
week later, the U.S. Consulate of East-Jerusalem issued questions about the amazing laxity of the Israeli police
during and after this display of manifestly criminal behavior.)
One could have expected that the doves in this most peaceseeking of Israeli government coalitions would hasten
to express their indignation during -- why not? -- a visit to Husseini, with whom especially the Meretz ministers
were very friendly, before they became ministers. Nothing of the sort did happen! Also the reaction of the non-governmental
Peace Now movement was meagre: its leadership produced a statement condemning the settlers, but on the following
Saturday only a Gush Shalom delegation actually went to Feisal Husseini's headquarters, the Orient House, to shake
hands and manifest support. And from the extremely warm reception which the Gush Shalomers received could be concluded
how painful was the invisibility of those others.
+++ On Thursday, July 28, the most active Gush Shalom members had received a hasty phone call to come and join
the Palestinians of El Khader on the following day, and also to participate in a visit to the Orient house scheduled
+++ On 29, at noon (prayer time) the inhabitants of El-Khader were joined by their Gush Shalom partners in a demonstration
against the settlers next to the place where they had re-started their provocative hill-capturing. The government
had actually sent the settlers an eviction order, but as it was ignored the authorities seemed not at all in a
hurry to do something about it.
After the relative success of the joint Israeli-Palestinian action of the previous December, it was very frustrating
to see settlers on the same terrain which they had had to leave.
Most of the demonstration was rather static: an hour and half of standing with banners, a few hundred meters opposite
a settler encampment. The army had positioned soldiers between the two sides. They actually stood with their back
to the settlers, who therefore had more moving space. Several times they could be seen coming close and going back.
Suddenly, one of the settlers circumvented the soldiers and planted an Israeli flag more near the Palestinian side.
The younger Palestinians and Israelis could not be prevented from running to the site. A shouting match developed
until -- how unexpected -- soldiers told the settler to go, and only then asked the demonstrators to move back
a bit. (Some explained this already as a sign that soon the settlers would be forcefully evicted, but they were
accused by others of being incurable optimists.)
When the Israelis prepared for going home, the army suddenly announced the area to be a "closed military zone."
There was some discussion before the bus took off. What to think of this measure? Two student activists decided
to stay with the Palestinians. When the Gush Shalom bus left, soldiers were already blocking all entrances. The
two who stayed behind returned to their homes a few hours later -- after having been arrested and taken to Bethlehem
Police Station. No Palestinians were arrested.
The Peace Now demonstration, planned for the following day, was canceled because of the army blockade. Instead
of holding the demonstration at the roadblock, as was the Peace Now habit on such occasions in its more militant
days, the leadership limited itself to issuing a verbal call upon the government to remove the settlers from the
El-Khader hills. But -- it must be said -- a few days later the unprecedented scenes of Israeli soldiers removing
settlers did take place in reality and for everybody to be seen on his screen...
+++ On Saturday, July 30, some dozens of Gush Shalom activists, partially the same ones who had stood in El Khader
the day before, made their way to East Jerusalem. Headed by the singer Sarah Alexander, with guitar, they set out
by foot from the East Jerusalem 'American Colony Hotel' to the Orient House. Everybody was covered with green Jerusalem-East,
Jerusalem-West, Israel -- Palestine road sign stickers. Near the entrance of the Orient House the group passed
the right-wing anti-Palestinian tent, put up some weeks earlier with the support of some Knesset Members.
Once inside a vivid meeting took place. There were the speaches by Feisal Husseini (We met here already with Israelis
long before there was an official peace process; I guess that some of you were among them), by Hanan Ashrawi (There
are those who ask from us endless patience and flexibility -- to help the Rabin government survive. But what will
become of Palestine?), and by Uri Avnery (Those shouting outside, with their daily provocations are the minority;
most Israelis -- if offered real peace -- are willing to make far-reaching compromises). There also developed a
more informal discussion, first while seated inside, afterwards
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walking around, the building being shown. Then Sara Alexander started singing her peace songs in Hebrew and Arabic.
By now the Gush Shalom guests were outnumbered by the complete Orient House staff all gathered on the lawn and
the enthusiasm became loud enough to be heard also by the right-wing tent dwellers, whose vague booing could be
heard from far but did not get to the attention.
On the evening TV news the visit looked impressive enough, but the twin photographs, published on the following
day in Ma'ariv, hit the point best: on one were shown the settlers rioting and on the other Israelis and Palestinians
clapping and singing.
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
Good news, bad news
by Uri Avnery
The bad news is that two years after Oslo, the greater part of the agreement has not yet been implemented by the
Israeli government. The good news is that a lot is happening in spite of that.
Put differently: seen through the eyes of a turtle, things are moving very, very slowly indeed. But, seen from
some distance, through the eyes of an eagle, things have moved quit a bit. Compared to the situation ten years,
or even five years ago, things have indeed changed dramatically.
It is easy to enumerate negative facts. The "redeployment" of the occupation army and the consequent
general Palestinian elections, which were to have taken place in June 1994, have not yet happened. Many thousands
of Palestinian prisoners, including women and juveniles, have not yet been released. In Jerusalem the situation
is getting worse daily, with a general onslaught of the government and the municipality on the Palestinian presence
in the city. The settlers are "conquering" new sites, and the government forces move against them only
hesitatingly. After Hamas outrages, Gaza and Jericho are periodically subjected to what amount to virtual blockades.
A ministerial committee is publicly discussing the amount of torture admissable in security service interrogations.
The spirit of "historical reconciliation," envisioned in the preamble of the Oslo Agreement, is completely
lacking. Official Israeli attitudes are still exclusively governed by the occupation mentality, making real joint
consultation with the Palestinians on an equal basis quite unthinkable.
All these facts are manifest and reflected in the daily news, especially in the Israeli media, which still report
in the metallic style of the military government. Much less obvious, but nevertheless not less real, are the contrary
Slowly but surely, the state of Palestine is coming into being. Even in the occupied West Bank, the structures
of a state are taking roots. Palestinian security forces, operating in the twilight, are in effective control of
much of the territory. In spite of the blockades and the non-fulfillment of the obligations by the international
"donors," the Palestinian economy starts -- ever so slowly -- to move. But the main facts are the "imponderable"
ones. The Israeli media have unwittingly started to refer to the members of the Palestinian Authority as "ministers,"the
Palestinians themselves have changed their attitude towards the occupation soldiers and policemen, much to their
chagrin. No one could imagine putting this genie back into the bottle.
The picture is blurred, because there is no clear, unequivocal policy. In some respects, the war goes on as if
there had been no Oslo. In others, the peace process is progressing. If Trotzky once coined the phrase "no
war, no peace," the current Israeli line seems to be: "both, peace and war."
Hamas atrocities do play a role in this situation, as do the provocations by Israeli settlers. Never has the cooperation
by these two enemies of compromise been as obvious as it is now. After the Jerusalem bus outrage, in which four
passengers were killed and many dozens wounded, a Hamas spokesman in Damascus announced that their aim is to topple
the Rabin government and make its reelection impossible -- the very aim, of course, that directs the actions of
the settlers and other right-wing radicals in Israel.
However, public opinion polls show that the great majority of Israelis have by now accepted that the creation of
a Palestinian state is inevitable, whether they like it or not. In spite of official denials, Rabin seems to have
unwillingly come to the same conclusion. An encouraging sign is that right-wing leaders of every shade incessantly
accuse Rabin of creating a "PLO state."
Imperceptibly, the emphasis has changed from preventing the creation of a Palestinian state to the limitation of
the territory of the state-to-be. Indeed, many acts of the Rabin government look sensible only if one presupposes
a master plan on the lines of the old Allon Plan. That plan, by the former army idol and kibbutz movement leader
Yigal Allon, never crystallized into a definite map, but was understood to aim at annexing to Israel the Jordan
Valley, Dead Sea Shore, Greater Jerusalem, the Etzion settlement bloc and parts of the Gaza Strip. In its present
form, still not clearly delineated, it would lead to the annexation of the above, plus the Ma'aleh-Edumin area,
the Ariel settlement bloc, most of the area between Bethlehem and Hebron, the Gush Katif settlement bloc and more.
In this context, present settlement activity -- such as it is -- seems logical. So do the government positions
at the ongoing "interim phase" ("Oslo-2"), which are designed to foreshadow such a map.
Around this "solution" a new political center may form itself, led by Rabin and Peres, including Meretz
Minister Yossi Sarid, Likud defector David Levy, the new Third Way movement of mostly right-wing Labor Party veterans
and many others. Even 'Peace Now' has come very close to this by suggesting a map for a "provosional"
army redeployment on similar lines.
There exists now considerable pressure to come to an agreement on "Oslo-2" in the near future, not only
because President Clinton needs another show on the
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White House lawn, but also because the Israeli elections are coming closer (October 1996), and Rabin needs an achievement
to carry him through.
Arafat, on the other hand, has now definitely adopted the policy which is historically associated with Zionist
tactics: to take in any given situation what he can get, as a basis for achieving more next time. This policy is
much-criticized in many Palestinian quarters, but nobody has yet suggested a better viable alternative for the
Palestinians. As has happened so many times before, the future may prove Arafat right.
No analysis can be complete without pointing out the tragic inactivity of the greater part of the Israeli peace
camp, which has more or less absented itself from the political scene. While the extreme right-wing dominates the
media news report and visibly dominates the streets and city squares, Peace Now, Meretz and the Labor Party Doves
have fallen since Oslo into a stupor. The alibi is "now that we are the caravan, let the right-wing dogs bellow."
This is an error: with all its positive points, the Rabin government is very far from conducting a clear-cut peace
policy. It officially rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, a compromise on Jerusalem and the dismantling of
even part of the settlements.
But even if one would be inclined to accept the Rabin policy on tactical grounds, abandoning the streets and the
media to an exclusive right-wing propaganda barrage means that the government is inevitably drawn to the right,
bowing in many instances to what it perceives to be the vox populi. A sad sign is the defection of many Doves to
the right. For example, Justice Minister David Liba'i, a Dove, has publicly demanded the annexation of the growing
settler town of Ma'aleh-Edumim, east of Jerusalem, while the new Minister Yossi Beilin, another Dove, has rejected
any compromise on Jerusalem. President Weitzman, formerly a very outspoken Dove, is quickly becoming the darling
of the settlers.
Against this sad picture of mainstream peace camp inactivity, the actions of the much smaller and under-funded
Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) do stand out. It has succeeded to get public attention for the peace struggle carried
on by the devoted few. It has taken part in confronting settler activities in the West Bank and demonstrated in
Jerusalem and other places. Its regular public announcements are clear and unequivocal. Its major success was the
initiating and organizing of the Manifesto "Our Jerusalem," pleading for a united Jerusalem, as the capital
both of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine -- which has already been signed by more than 700 prominent
Israelis, and aroused much debate.
But lately, some signs of uneasiness are becoming apparent in Peace Now, Labor Party and Meretz circles; persistent
rumors have it that there are among them who consider organizing a mass rally -- in support of Rabin, and in support
In sum, whether the proverbial glass is half full or half empty depends on the inclination of the observer.
No Palestinian state, no peace
by Rateb Sweiti
The root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian problem is that Israel's leaders are still promoting the idea that the
Palestinians do not constitute a people and therefore do not deserve an independent state. Prime Minister Yitzchak
Rabin has repeatedly said that peace does not mean establishing a Palestinian state or the full return of the Palestinian
land occupied in 1967. This is a recipe for continuous conflict and puts a brake on the negotiations with the Palestinian
people. They fear that negotiations with Israel wil not lead to their liberation but is instead another formula
for perennial subjugation.
This Palestinian fear is enhanced by the topographic and military facts on the ground and Israel's insistence on
controlling the Palestinian water resources. Such actions cloud the peace talks.
A majority of Palestinians believe that Israel has a secret agenda for the territories which is concealed by assigning
some local tasks to the Palestinian Authority and throwing in a cosmetic withdrawal from a few towns to make the
process look as if it is working.
Distrust of Israel's intentions is further enhanced by its deliberate refusal, under the pretext of security, to
implement agreements reached with the Palestinian side. It has become the norm for Israel to disregard agreed-upon
dead-lines as "unholy dates" and blame the other side if anything goes wrong.
Israel's procrastination has left PA Chairman Yasser Arafat out on a limb. The Palestinian masses see no end in
sight to the Israeli occupation and no hope of obtaining decent living conditions. Out of despair, some people
have organized against Arafat and challenged his leadership. They have demanded a tough line with Israel as the
only alternative to the situation of no progress on the peace front. Unfortunately, Israel has made Arafat's control
of opposition groups the litmus test of his leadership. If he fails, Israel becomes justified in breaking off negotiations
with him. Thus, the anti-Arafat forces have become the determining factor of the Israel-Arafat relationship, and
have a veto power over the peace process.
The rising power of the anti-Arafat group has also played into the hands of the Israeli opposition. Binyamin Netanyahu
and others have capitalized on the issue in an attempt to discredit Rabin's government as being incapable of protecting
the Israeli public.
They have also described Arafat as being too weak to deter Palestinian elements from attacking Israeli targets.
Netanyahu continues to take advantage of each opportunity to diminish the prospect of peace with the Palestinian
people. He must not be given the chance to veto the process between Israel and Palestinians.
The best guarantee for success, and the foiling of both the Israeli and Palestinian opposition, is a quick implementation
of the Oslo Accords and the taking of some extra steps to expedite the peace process. Arafat must be strengthened
through the spreading of his authority over the West Bank. The presence of
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the Israeli army there represents an enormous obstacle to any progress. The sight of Israeli soldiers all over
the place goes against the sense of security and pride of the Palestinian people. Their freedom and independence
requires the removal of the Israeli military yoke.
The existence of Israeli soldiers on Palestinian land is the antithesis of security for Israelis and Palestinians
alike. Their presence keeps the situation tense and volatile. The stop-gap solution of gradual and limited withdrawal
from a few Palestinian cities only adds oil to the fire. It is a half-hearted measure which creates more security
problems by maintaining the close points of friction between the two sides.
Therefore, this process must be replaced by a large-scale withdrawal as a part of a comprehensive agreement on
the total Israeli pull-out from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Once the area comes under Palestinian
jurisdiction, the same norms of safety and equality will apply to everyone living there.
The larger the Israeli withdrawal, the better the security situation. And the sooner Israel leaves the territories,
the faster the goal of complete security can be reached.
As the occupying power, Israel should show its bona fides to the Palestinian people through confidence-building
measures such as the quick end to occupation and recognition of the Palestinian right to statehood. This is the
condition for reaching a just peace in the area.
The Palestinian leadership has already recognized Israel's right to exist. A Palestinian state has the same right
to exist alongside Israel. Israel is vainly standing against the inevitable, for the Palestinian state is a historical
necessity. It is time for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to swiftly start implementing their agreements for
the sake of a common peace.
Dr. Rateb Sweiti, a lecturer at Hebron University's Department of Finance and Management, has recently become a
prominent contributor to Israeli papers.
by Israel Loeff
After months of negotiations and most intensive discussions at the high level of Peres and Arafat in Taba a broad
understanding on the next interim stage of Palestinian Self-Government has been heralded. But even so, both parties
had to admit that some of the most complicated and disputed problems have still to be solved. Both parties are
under extreme pressure and have to satisfy their nationalsitic extreme oppositions. Being a long way behind the
original timetable, agreed upon in Oslo, does not prevent the exhausting maneuvering of both sides. The list of
the most urgent problems to be solved in the very near future is headed by the question how to distribute the limited
resources of water and the Israeli refusal to withdraw its forces from the city of Hebron.
Just now, most of the Israeli public has been shocked by an extensive reportage on Israeli television, on one of
its most populat political programs, describing the hardships of the 120,000 strong population of Hebron. Most
of the Israeli ministers have announced that, though they did know about the water shortage in that city, they
had no idea how severe it was. One could observe the dry water pipes in the homes of Hebron's citizens while the
population of the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba is enjoying swimming in the local pool and strolling
in its well-watered park. The Palestinian population has, at the same time, to draw their drinking from doubtful
springs or to buy some of it at fantastic prices demanded by some speculants.
The Israeli answer to the disproportionate water distribution, existing throughout the Occupied Territories, is
that this problem is not on the agenda just now and could be discussed only when the final settlement would be
The most difficult problem just now is the continued occupation of Hebron. The other six cities in the West Bank
should be evacuated by the Israel soldiers before the end of this year, but not before new by-pass roads would
be constructed -- at enormous costs and to be used during a period of, at the most, four years by the Jewish settlers.
The Palestinian negotiators claim that no free elections could be held in Hebron in the presence of Israeli soldiers.
As one should recall, several thousands of settlers live now in Kiryat Arba, at walking distance from Hebron. However,
a small group of about 200 extremists together with approximately the same number of Yeshiva students settled down
in the center of the city, constantly terrorizing the Palestinians and clashing again and again with the soldiers
who are stationed there for their security. The government seems helpless and refuses to instruct the asrmy to
evacuate the city at this stage.
As one might recall, holding elections has been the trump card of the Israeli government heralding the implementation
of Palestinian self-rule. However, the Palestinians were, at the beginning, not so much interested in elections
as in the evacuation of their land. However, as the negotiations dragged on with Israeli conditions becoming harsher,
and no economic progress in sight, the opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian deal stiffened -- just as it did in
the Israeli society.
On the whole, one tends to believe that the prolonged negotiations and the dwelling upon the many details by the
Israeli side, often irrelevant indeed, has caused much harm to the initial enthusiasm in both populations. As the
result of the deterioration amidst Palestinians, elections throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Arafat
is supposed to win overwhelmingly, have gained an unpredicted importance.
The present interim solution, which is supposed to last, even if everything proceeds according to plan, at least
for another four years, seems to be fateful, if not fatal. In addition to the terrorist acts of the Islamic extremists,
occurring again and again and undermining the Israeli public's support for the peace process, one should expect
increased violence by Israeli settlers.
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The first sign of such a development was the recent killing of a Palestinian villager by the settlers of Beit-El.
Moreover, they do declare openly that any armed Palestinian (and according to the present understanding 12,000
armed Palestinian policemen will serve throughout the West Bank) would be considered by them a terrorist and be
shot. During the long years of the interim period four different armed forces -- the Israeli army, the Palestinian
police force, Palestinian terrorists, and the armed settlers -- will be closely intertwined and one can only look
forward with horror at what might happen.
Any major problem is consistently being postponed to the last phase of achieving a permanent solution. To the question
how the redeployment of the Israeli forces at the present stage relates to the final borders of the state of Israel
(which according to the official Israeli policy wouldn't coincide with the 1967 cease-fire lines) the government
has found an original solution: the extent of the Israeli withdrawal at the end of the future interim period has
not been specified at all and is completely dependent on the Israeli good will. The Palestinians didn't see any
other possibility but to accept such an unprecedented condition.
However the government of Israel doesn't hide its intentions. It is determined to hold the whole of Jerusalem in
its hands, even expanding it further, and to prevent any Palestinian national presence in the city. Furthermore,
the Jordan valley along the Jordanian border down to the Dead Sea would remain in Israeli hands, perhaps with the
exemption of a narrow corridor leading from Jericho on the way to Amman. This concept of a buffer zone in case
of a major Israeli-Arab war is very doubtful even from a purely strategic point of view. The Ariel block of settlements
as well as the Gush Etzion area are being considered as part of the future Israel. It is difficult to see how any
Palestinian leadership could agree to such extensive annexations. In any case, total renunciation of Palestinian
rights in Jerusalem seems absolutely inconceivable.
However, with regard to the present stage, the Palestinian leadership seems to regard as its best cause to continue
the present give-and-take bargaining, understanding that the struggle is far from over and that joint pressure
by the Palestinian people, the Israeli peace movement, and international lobbying will produce, finally, a viable
peace with full sovereign rights in all parts of their country vital to obtaining their statehood. One example
for the continuation of such a struggle is the boycott, decided upon by the European Union, upon the celebrations
of the so-called "3000 Years of David's City" which start in September 1995 and will go on for many months,
with the clear intention of stressing an exclusive Jewish claim over this disputed city.
Jerusalem, August 20, 1995.
+++ On August 30, a group of the Young Labor Party toured Gaza, as guests of Fatah. Those who had been there before,
as soldiers, said that Gaza City looks cleaner, and a bit more prosperous than they remember it. In the end the
group went to meet with Yasser Arafat, and had a long discussion with him about what to do against terrorism and
how to solve the settler problem. (The group had in the same month conducted dialogue with Hebron settlers.) Head
of Police, General Nasser Yusuf, who participated in the discussions suggested that the settlers become Palestinian
residents. He would even offer them a job in the Palestinian Police, he said (Ma'ariv, 31.1.'95).
Young Labor, attn Lior Horev, 110 Hayarkon St., Tel-Aviv.
+++ On the same day, a group from the New York Board of Rabbis also came to meet Arafat -- after an acrimonous
debate with fellow Rabbis who did not want to include Gaza in their "fact finding mission". The meeting,
which took place with the mediation of the Tel-Aviv Center for Peace, concentrated on the meaning of the word "Jihad"
-- occurring in several recent Arafat speeches. Arafat explained that "Jihad" can, for a Muslim, mean
any worthy struggle, not necessary violent. "For Hamas, Jihad is terrorism. For me, Jihad is the struggle
to create an independent state, in peace with Israel."
Contact: Center for Peace, POB 29335, Tel-Aviv.
by Adam Keller
In the aftermath of Israel's 1956 Sinai Campaign, United Nations observers accused the Israeli army of having shot
to death bound Egyptian prisoners. The Ben Gurion government denied the allegations, no conclusive proof was available
and the affair was soon forgotten.
During the following decades testimonies by Israeli soldiers who claimed to have seen the POW killings occasionally
reached journalists such as Uri Avnery -- then chief editor of Ha'olam Hazeh -- but military censorship repeatedly
However, in the past years a considerable number of documents were declassified by the army's history department
and Dr. Moti Golani of Haifa University was commissioned to publish a research based on them. In July 1995, the
result of his work was duly published by the Defence Ministry's own publishing house. An inconspicuous paragraph
in the 500-page volume gave official confirmation to the fact that during the 1956 war 35 Egyptian prisoners, bound
hand and foot, were massacred by Israeli paratroopers near the Mitleh pass in West Sinai.
Golani's source was a report by the paratrooper battalion commander Raphael Eytan -- submitted to his superior,
regimental commander Ariel Sharon, two weeks after the war. In the report, Eytan openly admitted ordering the killings,
stating "we were behind enemy lines, and I could not spare three soldiers to guard the prisoners." Sharon
fully backed up Eytan towards the higher echelons who learned of the affair. Beyond a mildly-worded verbal rebuke
by then army chief-of-staff Moshe Dayan, no action was taken. The military careers of Eytan and Sharon were in
no way disturbed. Eventually the two reached the very top, conducting the 1982 invasion of Lebanon as
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chief-of-staff and minister of defence respectively, and subsequently becoming prominent leaders of the parliamentary
Initially, Golani's revelations received astonishingly little attention. They were published in Davar, and Dr.
Golani was invited to speak on the Second Channel TV news; and that was all. The First Channell, the radio, the
mass circulation papers published not a word, and there was no comment of any kind from the military and political
leaders, nor from any of the numerous Knesset Members normally eager to engage in loud controversy over trivialities.
The conspiracy of silence seemed quite powerfull still.
Two weeks passed before Ma'ariv published a report by Ron'el Fisher, based on his own research, which had earlier
been rejected for publication. It covered nearly ten pages in the paper's weekly supplement, page after page of
harrowing eye-witness reports -- describing in detail not only the Mitleh massacre but also the virtual manhunt
which followed afterwards, as the Egyptian army disintegrated. Former paratroopers describe how they shot down
straggling and starving Egyptian soldiers who had begged the victors for water. Their bodies were thrown into ravines
at the roadside.
Most of the paratroopers interviewed expressed remorse; not so Aryeh Biro, than Eytan's deputy, who later rose
to the rank of brigadier-general: "It was war and in war you kill the enemy, as many as you can and as fast
as you can. Laws of war? The only law of war I know is to keep your rifle clean and ready, and not to fall into
the enemy's hands. Yes, if I was in the same situation again, I would kill them again. I feel no regret."
On August 6, Uri Avnery presented an official complaint to the police, demanding investigation of Biro and Eytan
on charges of murder and war crimes, and of Sharon -- for being an accessory to the same. (A second complaint was
lodged by anti-nuclear activist Gid'on Spiro who, as a young man, was himself among the paratroopers in the Sinai
However, it turned out that none of these acts was to be considered "war crimes," a concept according
to Israeli law exclusively referring to acts which took place in Nazi-occupied territory between September 1939
and May 1945. And for other than war crimes the "statute of limitations" excludes prosecution after more
than 20 years.
But this was not the end of the story.
For the Egyptians, the Israeli revelations must have come as a total surprise. Israel and Egypt had just patched
a prolonged diplomatic row over the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and President Mubarak had no wish to start
already a new one.
On the other hand, the Egyptian government could hardly ignore the matter, especially after it was taken up, not
only by the Egyptian opposition press but also by the mainstream Al-Ahram. On August 14, the Egyptian government
made an official request to the Israeli government to investigate the affair; a few days later, an Egyptian lawyer
claiming to represent the relatives of the killed Egyptian POWs, initiated civil judicial proceedings against the
government of Israel, asking for $100,000,000 in compensation...
The Egyptian intervention forced the hitherto silent Rabin government to take official cognizance of the affair.
The Meretz ministers called for the formation of a judicial commission of inquiry; Prime Minister Rabin himself
expressed "strong condemnation" for the prisoner killings, which he defined as "an aberration which
occurred in the IDF's first days, before firm moral behavior became rooted among its soldiers."
But it was not yet the end of the story. On the following day new revelations came, of another massacre of POWs
-- perpetrated during the second conquest of Sinai, in 1967, when Rabin himself was chief-of-staff. The revelations
came from Dr. Aryeh Yitzchaki of Bar-Ilan Universtity, who had been in the past employed by the central military
archive and had been engaged in collecting official documents. He stated on Israeli radio that during the 1967
campaign in Sinai, Egyptian soldiers had been killed after their capture at eight different locations, altogether
Dr. Yitzchaki, an active member of Tzomet Party headed by Rafael Eytan, made no secret of what motivated him to
make this disclosure, at this particular time: "I wanted to show that the story of 1956 is in no way unique;
such things happened in all the wars of Israel, and the officers concerned have later entered politics on all sides
of the political spectrum." According to Yitzchaki, about three hundred POWs perished in a 1967 massacre at
El-Arish in North Sinai, perpetrated by the elite unit "Shaked" -- whose commander then, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer,
is at present minister of housing in the Rabin government.
Whatever Yitzchaki's motives, his disclosures also soon found abundant eyewitness confirmation. Veteran journalist
Gabi Bron disclosed what he hitherto had never been allowed to publish: how as a young soldier in El-Arish, he
had seen prisoners being forced to dig their own graves before being shot down (Yediot Aharonot, 17.8.95). According
to Bron, the prisoners killed at El-Arish were actually Palestinians who fought in the ranks of the Egyptian army
and exhibited remarkable resistance amid the general Egyptian collapse. The executioners were told to spare only
the Egyptian officers; Israeli soldiers who protested at the killings were told that the prisoners were terrorists,
who may escape and start a guerilla war in the Gaza Strip...
For a whole week the flood of revelations continued to flow, with more and more veterans and eye-witnesses coming
forward with long-kept secrets. Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni told of seven men who approached her, each
with a story of horror from 1956, 1967, or 1973. "We must revise the school textbooks; we cannot anymore teach
the young that we have always been pure and moral" (Davar, 20.8.95).
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Then came a counter-wave of revelations about the killing of 80 Israeli prisoners of war by Egyptian and Syrian
soldiers in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, with photographs and eye-witness reports appearing on the front pages. The
sad news was received by the nation with a sigh of relief.
For the whole of its forty-seven years of history, Israel lived by the sword -- yet Israelis hid from themselves
some of the dark implications of that way of life.
In the early 1970s, radical Israeli groups obtained scraps of information on war crimes and held long discussions
on whether to take the risk of publishing them, in defiance of censorship, on the pages of small publications which
may have gotten permanently banned as a result. On one occasion, the information was disseminated through unsigned
leaflets, distributed late at night at Tel-Aviv post boxes. At that time it was inconceivable to get mainstream
media to publish such information. But it would have been as inconceivable, to the idealists we were two decades
ago, to realise that a politician may retain his standing also after such revelations about his past.
As a matter of fact, there are few examples, if any, of countries dealing adequately with their own war criminals
-- especially when it comes to the ones in senior positions. The great Twentieth Century war crime trials were
conducted by victors against the vanquished.
But, in spite of our misgivings, the fact that these long-forbidden secrets are now at least talked about is part
of Israel's slow and uncertain move towards a new kind of existence.
The politics of torture
In the 1950s, the State of Israel refused to so much as admit the existence of the Shabak (General Security Service);
and all press mention of the organization was deleted by military censorship. Until the end of the 1970s, the Shabak
was still shrouded in mystery and secrecy; Palestinian prisoners' stories of having been tortured in Shabak interrogations
were dismissed as "hostile propaganda," even by many in the peace camp.
But the 1980s saw many revelations on hitherto taboo subjects. The affair of Lieutenant Izzat Nafsu, the Israeli
army officer tortured by the Shabak into admitting a treason he did not commit, caught the headlines. An even bigger
scandal arose over the two Palestinian bus kidnappers put to death by their Shabak captors. In between, there was
a host of smaller revelations about the Shabak and its inner workings -- some the result of power struggles between
individuals or factions inside the Shabak, which occasionally led to leaks in the Israeli or international press.
Following the Intifada outbreak, Israeli human rights organizations such as B'tzelem, the Physicians for Human
Rights and the Committee Against Torture, with high credibility in the press and the political system, started
to collect systematically and compare the testimonies of Palestinian prisoners. They arrived at a quite comprehensive
picture of Shabak methods. The Shabak seems to specialize in methods which leave no clearly visible physical marks:
letting prisoners sit for days while a stinking sack covers their head; tying prisoners up in extremely uncomfortable
positions; denial of sleep, food, and access to a toilet; exposure to heat, cold, loud noises; prolonged incarceration
in extremely narrow and dirty cells, nicknamed "coffins"... When a defendent wishes to contest in court
the validity of the confession which he signed, he has no scars to show: it is his word against that of his interrogators.
In 1987 the Shabak methods were investigated by a commission of inquiry headed by former Supreme Court judge Moshe
Landau -- a man who, up to that appointment, enjoyed a solid liberal reputation. But Landau will go down in Israeli
history for having made so-called 'moderate physical pressure' the officially permitted method during Shabak interrogations.
In a secret annex to what became known as "The Landau Report" the commission details the ways in which
such "moderate pressure" may be applied. What they write there is secret to this day, though it can be
reconstructed through the testimonies of Palestinian prisoners.
Judge Landau may have genuinely intended to put limitations upon the Shabak -- and, indeed, at various occasions
the Shabak has been complaining about "the Landau restrictions" as "hampering the fight against
terrorism." For his part, Judge Landau -- in one of his rare public appearances -- recently complained of
having been betrayed by the Shabak.
Secret services are predisposed to a dislike of publicity. The continuing political debate concerning Shabak methods,
and their unaccustomed exposure to the public gaze, initially caused an upheaval and crisis inside that organization.
Yet, the Shabak has adapted to the new conditions, and started to realize that the media could prove a useful instrument
for its own purposes.
Each embarassing revelation on Shabak procedures, or a campaign by human rights organizations, is soon answered
by a dramatic announcement that the Shabak has uncovered an extremely dangerous terrorist ring. Such announcements,
often greatly inflating the importance of the captured group, are certain to make headlines in the mass-circulation
papers. And in these sensational articles could always be found the credit to the Shabak's "effective methods
The "public relations style Shabak" came to its full flowering with the directorship of Ya'akov Peri,
between 1988 and 1995. Unlike his predecessors, Peri positively courted public attention, regularly holding parties
at his private residence to which were invited numerous politicians, journalists and jurists -- and especially
those known to be liberals or leftists. The bon vivant Shabak director succeeded in charming his guests, playing
the trumpet -- at which he seems to be not a bad amateur -- and dropping "in confidence" a
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few well-chosen secrets. (Peri did not succeed in getting rid of the prohibition upon publishing the name of an
incumbent head of Shabak, but let everybody understand that he considers it rubbish.)
Peri got along well with the doves, also because he turned out to be rather a political dove himself. In interviews
published after his retirement, he declared himself in favor of the eventual creation of a Palestinian state; similar
views were also heard from Peri's predecessor as director of the Shabak, Avraham Shalom (Yediot Aharonot, 28.4.'95;
While the army leadership has been steadily obstructing the implementation of Oslo, the Shabak heads have been
urging Rabin forward, and themselves soon established cordial relations with their colleagues of the PLO Security
The apparent contradiction between such dovishness and daily supervision of the torture of prisoners was resolved,
after Oslo, in a neat formula: since the Hamas are enemies of peace, any action taken against the Hamas -- including
torture or even extra-judicial executions -- is an action in the cause of peace. The Shabak had considerable success
in getting this formula accepted by many prominent doves in the press and political system.
Knesset Member Ran Cohen of Meretz, who sits on a parliamentary sub-committee which is supposed to monitor the
Shabak, turned up on July 16 at a public meeting on torture, organized in Tel-Aviv by his party. There, he spoke
out vehemently in support of the Shabak as "the defenders of peace" and engaging in a sharp exchange
-- soon degenerating into a shouting match -- with the human rights activists present.
Human rights activists on the whole proved quite resistant to the Shabak argumentation, maintaining their relentless
struggle against torture. Ever new testimonies of ex-detainees are being collected, published, and reported at
public meetings. Articles are published in a continuous stream in such papers as Ha'aretz and Davar, on whose pages
a debate is going on between the human rights lobby and the "liberal" champions of torture. They don't
limit themselves to moral principles and international law, but are often driven to use pragmatic arguments: forcing
an innocent suspect to confess leaves the real culprit free; using torture on suspects not yet involved in terrorist
activity may drive them later to commit such acts, in revenge; the regimes in Algeria and Egypt, where secret services
are less restricted, are not especially successful in fighting terrorism, etc.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyers such as AndrÇ Rosenthal and Leah Tzemel, conduct a kind of judicial guerilla
war, lodging appeals against specific aspects of their Palestinian clients' interrogation. In some cases a Supreme
Court decision resulted in Palestinian prisoners being allowed to go to the toilet, or get some sleep. According
to Adv. Rosenthal, the Shabak interrogators usually comply to the letter with such injunctions -- but have no problem
in finding other ways to harass the prisoner under interrogation.
In the past years human rights organizations gained growing support for the enactment of a Law Against Torture
(which Israel is internationally bound to enact, being a signatory of the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Cruel,
Inhuman and Degrading Treatment). Also proposed was a specific "Shabak Law" defining and delimiting the
authority of the Security Service -- hitherto not mentioned in any law. Till recently, the government rejected
these proposals as being superfluous, since "torture does not exist in Israel."
In 1994, the protests against Shabak torture were suddenly echoed by right-wing Knesset members, incensed at the
use of routine Shabak methods against Lieutenant Oren Edri -- a paratrooper officer suspected of providing explosives
to an extremist settler group. Once Lieutenant Edri was prosecuted on a light charge, leading to his early release,
most -- though not all -- of the right-wingers lost interest in the Shabak issue.
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
The atmosphere of panic, following the Hamas suicide bombing attack at central Tel-Aviv in October 1994, enabled
the Shabak to extend its inquisitorial powers. The Landau Report's notorious secret annex distinguishes between
what is permitted in the "normal" interrogation, and "extreme measures" which may be used in
cases "where the prisoner may know of a ticking bomb." Following the bus blast at Dizengof Center, the
Shabak got authorization to treat all Hamas prisoners as "ticking bomb cases," from whom may be gotten
the identity of a potential suicide bomber. In less than a year, some 8.000 Palestinians underwent the new-style
Shabak interrogation (Prime Minister Rabin, quoted in Davar 30.7.'95). The new Shabak powers were made subject
to the approval of a special ministerial committee, which would review them every three months.
On an early morning hour of April 1995, soldiers and Shabak operatives arrested the 30-year old Abd El-Samed Hazirat,
at his home in a village near Hebron. Hazirat -- suspected of being a senior Hamas member -- was taken, hale and
hearty, into the Shabak wing of the "Russian Compound" Detention Center in Jerusalem. Ten hours later,
he had to be brought to Hadassa Hospital, brain dead and beyond saving. Dr. Derrick Pounder of Dundee University
-- who participated in the autopsy as the Harizat family's representative -- confirmed on Israeli TV: 'In this
case there can be no shadow of doubt -- natural disease played no part in the death. He died as a result of torture,
by a method known to be used by the Shabak.' The method referred to consists of the violent and prolonged shaking
of a detainee's head, in order to produce dizziness and nausea.
The Hazirat Affair got far more attention than usually given in the Israeli media to the fate of Palestinian prisoners.
Students from the Jerusalem Hebrew University and women activists of Bat Shalom held several well-publicised vigils
New Page No. 19
Russian Compound, with signs reading Silence is Complicity!; Ha'aretz published an editorial entitled "The
sanctity of a prisoner's life"; Meretz Secretary Zehava Gal'on sharply criticized the party's minister Yossi
Sarid for his assertion that "the Shabak is under control"; the Likud's Binyamin Begin, son of the late
Menachem Begin, called for a thorough investigation; the Shabak itself put all the blame on the man who carried
out Harizat's interrogation.
Public calls were also made to publish at least part of the State Comptroller's report on the Shabak. (State Comptroller
Miryam Ben-Porat is known as a thorough investigator, whose reports caused great discomfort in the various government
departments which came under her scrutiny.) In a series of tense debates in a parliamentary committee, the Shabak
Director claimed that any such publication would cause "grave harm to state security." It was Likud Knesset
Member David Magen who took a firm stand against the Shabak position.
With the solid backing of Prime Minister Rabin, the Shabak soon rallied. While the State Attorney's office deliberated
on whether or not to prosecute Harizat's interrogator, the papers were once more flooded with news of spectacular
Shabak successes in uncovering "extremely dangerous terrorist cells," by way of "the shakings technique,"
-- as was repeatedly emphasized. On June 7, State Attorney Dorit Beynish announced that the interrogator in question
would not be tried before a court of law, but by the Shabak's "internal disciplinary board," whose proceedings
are secret. This was justified by a medical opinion claiming that the circumstances leading to Hazirat's death
were "extremely rare and unforseeable" (Ha'aretz, 8.6.'95). ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel)
produced a contrary medical opinion, asserting that "shakings" do constitute a concrete danger of death,
or permanent severe injury.
On July 2, Prime Minister Rabin convened the special ministerial committee, to extend by a further three months
the Shabak's mandate to use "intensive methods of interrogation." To his chagrin, he encountered an unexpected
opposition from the hitherto docile Attorney-General Michael Ben-Ya'ir -- who claimed that 'the shaking technique'
is an illegal act, and that he would not be able to defend its use to the Supreme Court. The Attorney-General's
objections were supported by Ministers Yossi Sarid and David Liba'i. On the same day, Amnesty International published
in London its yearly report, in which Israel was sharply condemned for continuing torture of prisoners.
Throughout July, the wrangle continued, with the ministerial committee convened again and again without reaching
a decision. Another suicide bombing attack, at July 24 in Ramat Gan, did not tip the scales. In early August, the
debate was conducted through the press. The Ha'aretz headline of August 2 Attorney-General: 'Shaking' manifestly
illegal! was answered on the following day in Yediot Aharonot Rabin: Without 'Shaking' no Security. On August 15,
a compromise was reached: 'shaking' would no longer be a routine method in Shabak interrogations, but be applied
solely in cases where "a critical, clear and present danger of a terrorist attack" exists; for each individual
case, the interrogators would have to get authorization from the Shabak Director in person; and there would be
some kind of medical supervision.
The Shabak was far from happy at these restrictions -- and another new suicide bombing atack, at Jerusalem on August
21, gave it a chance. On August 24, the Shabak pulled its most spectacular public relations stunt to date: at a
press conference, the Shabak Director announced that those responsible for the bombing were already apprehended
-- "thanks solely to the use of 'the shaking technique' which I personally authorized." Prime Minister
Rabin warmly congratulated the Shabak and added: "Had the liberal softies not tied the Shabak's hands, the
Jerusalem blast may have been avoided." This was followed by an enormous barrage from the pens of "the
Shabak lobby" in the press.
On the following day, the papers gave vivid descriptions of a heated debate at the special committee's session,
with Rabin and the Shabak Director demanding indiscriminate application of 'shaking' and of unspecified "even
more severe methods of interrogation" -- while the Attorney-General held his view that this would be illegal,
and that the use of such measures should be kept to "special cases requiring individual authorization,"
refusing to budge even when accused of hampering the fight against terrorism.
It may not be illegal for long, however. In an audacious move, the Shabak and its supporters seized upon the very
bills against torture introduced in the Knesset by the human rights lobby and hitherto obstructed. The bills are
now to be passed as soon as the Knesset returns from summer recess, with full government support, and with a slight
modification: a clause has been added, empowering the government to authorize the use of "exceptional methods
of interrogation by the Shabak." These methods will thus have acquired the legal status of "non-torture."
Contact: Committee Against Torture -- POB 8588, Jerusalem, 91083; or: ACRI -- 12 Bialik St., Tel-Aviv; or: B'tzelem
-- 43 Emek Refaim St., Jerusalem; or: Physicians For Human Rights -- POB 10235, Tel-Aviv 61101.
+++ Two years ago, an International Conference on Torture was held in Tel-Aviv, assembling some 450 participants
from Israel, the Occupied Territories and abroad (see TOI-57, p.11). Out of this conference has now come a book:
Torture -- Human Rights, Medical Ethics and the Case of Israel, edited by Neve Gordon and Ruchama Marton of the
Physicians for Human Rights. Rather than a word-for-word transcription of the proceedings, the editors chose to
make a presentation of the major issues dealt with at the conference. The book is divided into four parts: the
public realm; the participation of health professionals in the practice of torture; the legal struggle; rehabilitation
of torture victims. For each subject there is a theoretical analysis by experts of different disciplines, followed
by action-oriented recommendations taken from the conference's working groups.
Zed Books, 7 Cynthia St., London NI 9JF, U.K.
New Page No. 20
+++ How to relate to human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority is at present the subject of a sharp
debate among Israeli peace and human rights activists. Some argue that as long as the occupation and oppression
of the Palestinians still go on, it is unfitting for members of the oppressor nation to pass judgement on the leadership
of the oppressed, the more so as the Israeli right-wing -- while in favor of Israeli trampling of Palestinian rights
-- seizes upon any excuse to discredit and demonize Arafat. On the other hand, many of the violations, such as
arbitrary arrests and trials of Palestinian opposition activists, are the direct result of (often brutal) Israeli
pressure upon Arafat to "fight against terrorism." Thus, Israeli citizens cannot absolve themselves of
a share in the responsibility.
On several occasions, members of Israeli delegations traveling to meet Arafat engaged in acrimonious debates among
themselves, whether or not to raise such issues. For his part, Arafat has proven occasionally amendable to such
approaches; the first (so far only) death sentence passed by the PA courts was not carried out, following appeals
to clemency by Palestinian, Israeli and international organizations (the ICIPP among them). Also, Arafat suspended
for several months the operation of the notorious "midnight military courts" after these courts were
sharply criticized in a special Amnesty International report.
Soon after Oslo, the Jerusalem-based B'tzelem took the position that, as a specifically Israeli human rights organization
its brief is limited to areas under the direct responsibility of the Israeli government. In August 1995, the organization
did, however, compile a sharply-worded report on the activities of the Palestinian "Preventive Security"
in the parts of the West Bank still controlled by Israel. The Jericho-based Colonel Jibril Rajoub, head of the
Preventive Security, denied all charges and accused B'tzelem field worker Basam Id of being an agent of the Israeli
The testimonies collected by Id indicate considerable use of torture. Rajoub's men carry out their operations throughout
the West Bank with the tacit knowledge of the Israeli authorities (which interfere only when they enter Jerusalem).
Apparently, their operation was agreed to at a secret meeting between the respective heads of the Israeli and Palestinian
security services, held at Rome in early 1994. Though occasionally mentioned in the press, neither the existence
of the Rome Agreement nor the presence of Rajoub's men outside Jericho have ever been officially admitted. Under
these circumstances, they could hardly be expected to be accountable to anybody or feel bound by any code of law.
The Jerusalem arena
The Jerusalem issue -- being considered "too difficult to solve at present" -- was consigned by the Oslo
Agreement to the final status talks. The assumption then was that Israelis and Palestinians should start by solving
easier problems thus creating a better atmosphere in which Jerusalem and other thorny issues (settlements, borders,
refugees...) could be tackled.
Reality proved a bit more complicated. It proved impossible to "freeze" a city so full of life and strife,
in which nothing is neutral and even mundane matters such as the laying of sewers assume political significance.
Rather than discuss Jerusalem at the negotiating table, Israelis and Palestinians were soon drawn into an ever-escalating
wrestling match in the arena of the physical city itself.
It could hardly have been otherwise in the "United Jerusalem" unilaterally created and imposed by force
on the Palestinians. Ever since 1967, the Israeli authorities -- governmental and municipal -- have enacted in
Jerusalem an aggressive policy of Judaisation: constructing new Jewish neigborhoods on an enormous scale upon confiscated
Palestinian land while at the same time forbidding new Palestinian construction at any but narrow and isolated
pockets of land; offering inducements to Jews to come and live in Jerusalem, while instituting bureaucratic procedures
to exclude Palestinians from the city.
In their own native city Palestinians are legally regarded as foreign residents, whose right to live there is revoked
if they stay away for a few years, and whose non-Jerusalemite spouses are not granted this right at all.
The Israeli authorities regard the giving up of this policy as already predetermining the result of the future
negotiations; if anything, the imminence of talks on the definite status gave the impetus to create still more
"facts on the ground."
For their part, the Jerusalem Palestinians never reconciled themselves to the unilateral annexation, boycotting
the municipal elections and ever seeking to build up their own independent structures. Palestinian Jerusalem has
always been the socio-economic center of the West Bank, housing the biggest hospitals, the main newspapers, the
headquarters of trade unions, economic and professional associations, and political parties. From all over the
West Bank Muslim and Christian worshippers used to arrive weekly at the mosques and churches of Jerusalem -- and
at the same time also conduct shopping in what is the economic heart of the region.
The past three years have seen an Israeli effort to cut off East Jerusalem by making entry of West Bank inhabitants
dependent on special, hard to get permits. This closure only served to increase the Palestinians' determination
to assert their national and cultural identity and establish in Jerusalem institutions embodying that identity.
On April 23, an official notice was published in the papers, informing the public of the government's intention
to "acquire" (i.e. confiscate) two plots of land, amounting together to 535 dunams (about 130 hectares)
at two locations in Jerusalem. The notice -- whose publication is legally required -- was printed in small characters,
and couched in the jargon of land surveyors, incomprehensible to laymen. But Ir Shalem ("Whole City")
activists Mossi Raz and Adv.
New Page No. 21
Danny Zeidman are Israeli veterans of the anti-confiscation struggle and read such material carefully. They found
that the lands in question belong to inhabitants of Beit Hanina in north Jerusalem and Beit Safafa in its south,
two of the Palestinian villages incorporated into Jerusalem in 1967 -- both of which already lost many lands in
previous waves of confiscation.
Whoever initiated the latest confiscations probably considered them a routine matter; after all, during Israel's
rule in East Jerusalem no less than 23,378 Dunams, a third of all East Jerusalem lands, have been confiscated.
The present act was merely intended to "round out" two of the already-existent new Jewish neighborhoods,
and to build a new police station.
Initially, the Israeli press also regarded it as a routine matter; most papers did not even bother to publish Ir
Shalem's protest communiquÇ. However, times have changed; Israel never confiscated Jerusalem lands while
being in the midst of peace negotiations. The ripples spread with a rapidity suprising everybody: the Palestinian
Authority lodged a sharp protest at the U.N.; Hamas called for "a Jiad against the confiscations, and against
any Arab who does not stand up to defend Jerusalem," protests started coming also from the Arab and Muslim
countries with whom Israel is, since Oslo, on speaking terms.
At the cabinet meeting of May 1, the Meretz ministers took up the issue -- and encountered a firm Rabin, who announced
"I personally approved the confiscations, and I take full responsibility." The best Meretz could get
out of him was a vague promise "to build housing for Arabs in Jerusalem, as well."
The Meretz ministers, to the dismay of many in their party, seemed willing to settle for that -- but the Arabs
were not.The international turmoil increased with the initiative taken by Bob Dole, Republican leader in the U.S.
Congress, to pass a bill compelling the administration to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem -- apparently
instigated by the Likud's extremely active lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
Rabin has no principle objections to such a move (it is, indeed, a long-standing goal of all Israeli governments).
But Rabin realized that the two moves together, creating the impression of a concerted American-Israeli attack
on the Jerusalem status-quo, may increase the pressure upon Arafat to the point of compelling him to stop talks
with Israel. At Rabin's behest, President Clinton announced his firm opposition to the Dole bill.
But though the negotiations were not officially stopped, it soon became clear that no progress could be made while
the confiscation issue remained outstanding. A meeting between Peres and Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaat in
Cairo broke up in anger. (Peres had argued that part of the lands had belonged to Jews before 1948 -- but the same
argument would give Palestinians a claim over large parts of Israel...)
Suddenly, Italian newspapers exposed Israeli plans to also confiscate lands from the Carmisan Monastery, south
of Jerusalem. Panicking at the danger of having a confrontation with the Vatican on top of everything, Israeli
officials stated that such an idea had been considered but rejected. But this intermezzo did not help to lay down
the storm over the whole issue of the land confiscations.
By now, most Israeli commentators had come out in opposition to the confiscation policy, some attacking them in
principle, others for the "bad timing." On May 9, B'tzelem published a comprehensive report on the discrimination
of East Jerusalem Palestinians. On the same day, two hundred Israelis and Palestinians held a protest rally on
the lands to-be-confiscated in Beit Safafa, with Hadash KM Hashem Mahameed declaring "we are seriously re-considering
our support for the Rabin government." Two days later, hundreds of Gush Shalom demonstrators stood near the
Old City walls in the center of Jerusalem. High above their anti-confiscation slogans they erected a three-meter
long graphic road sign indicating East Jerusalem -- Palestine to the right, West Jerusalem -- Israel to the left.
On May 15, all Israeli papers bore on their front pages photographs of the three well-known writers David Grossman,
Shulamit Har'even and Meir Shalev -- picketing the cabinet meeting with a hand-made sign: Don't confiscate peace!
Inside the cabinet, an acrimonous debate endedn with a compromise solution: the confiscations would stand, but
the government officially renounced any more confiscation of Arab land in Jerusalem.
This announcement caused angry outbursts from the right -- but failed to impress the members of the U.N. Security
Council to whom Ambassador Gad Ya'acobi distributed the hastily translated words. Meanwhile, a Yediot Aharonot
poll showed 51% of the Israeli public opposed to the confiscations, and at the Council of the Meretz Party, convened
at Tel-Aviv, a resolution calling for "putting an ultimatum to Rabin" was narrowly defeated. The final
text, reflecting the party ministers' position, condemned the confiscations without offering concrete steps.
However, the Hadash Communists and the Arab Democratic Party -- two parties with a largely Arab electorate -- decided
to place motions of no confidence in the government, and deprive Rabin of their five crucial votes, a decision
which was not taken lightly since none of them was especially interested in seeing Rabin replaced by Likud leader
Netanyahu. For his part, Netanyahu made an unprecedented announcement: "We will vote together with the Arabs
against the government, not because of being against the confiscations, which we are not, but because the Rabin
government must be toppled at any price."
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council wound up its deliberations, with the United States vetoing a mildly-worded
resolution supported by all other 14 members. The American veto greatly increased anger in the Arab World; an Arab
summit conference was called; its agenda included stoppage of normalization with Israel. In the Jordanian parliament,
60 out of 80 Members called for suspending the year-old Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty; in an urgent letter, King
Hussein warned Rabin that the whole Hashemite Regime was in danger.
New Page No. 22
The Knesset vote was fixed for May 23. In the preceeding days, several demonstrations took place -- by Gush Shalom
at the Beit Safafa lands, by Hadash in front of the Defence Ministry, at Tel-Aviv. The participants, long used
to being a marginalized minority, felt bewildered at the possibility that their parliamentary representatives could
really decide the issue -- but also frightened of overthrowing the "lesser evil" government.
Such hesitations, pressures and counter-pressures persisted until the moment before the crucial vote. In the very
last minute, Rabin gave in and suspended the confiscations. In the recriminations which followed, Rabin blamed
the Likud, for joining forces with "the enemies of United Jerusalem." Inside the Likud, frustrations
over the affair helped precipitate the splitting off of the David Levy faction.
The confiscation crisis was over. The manner in which it ended had implications far beyond the concrete issue,
affecting the course of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Israel's international standing. Also, it created an
important precedent for Israeli democracy: the very first time in Israel's 47 years of existence when the Knesset
members representing its Arab citizens were allowed to directly influence a significant policy decision.
The fiasco seems likely to have closed off the option of new land confiscations in Jerusalem; even a Likud government
would think twice before trying it again. However, considerable tracts are still available to the government, already
confiscated but not yet used. In one such area -- Abu-Ghoneim Mountain at the south-east corner of Jerusalem --
detailed plans already exist for creating a large new Jewish neighborhood to be named "Har Homa;" appeals
by the Palestinian landowners, together with Ir Shalem and the Jerusalem town councillors of Meretz, were rejected
by the Supreme Court (see TOI-64, p.10).
On May 26, dozens of Israelis joined the rally organized in Um-Tuba village; the Um-Tuba football playground, located
at the slope of Abu-Ghoneim Mountain is also slated to disappear beneath government bulldozers. Housing Minister
Ben Eliezer announced that, in spite of the confiscations plan's demise, the Har Homa Project would go ahead as
planned; other ministers are known to have advised to quietly drop the project.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem municipality officially presented the Har Homa plans to the public, and -- as it is legally
bound -- asked "all who have objections" to present them. Following a Peace Now advertisements, several
hundred people arrived at the movement's Jerusalem office and signed affidavits stating their objection to the
Har Homa plan. The municipality is certainly going to reject these objections, but they may hold up the project
by several months.
At the same time, the Jerusalem municipality brought the issue of the so-called "illegal" Arab houses
to the boiling point. Since the municipality forbids most Palestinians to build anything on their lands, they perforce
live in "illegal" houses. Under the direction of nationalist-religious Deputy Mayor Shmu'el Me'ir, the
municipality embarked on an accelerated campaign of locating and destroying such houses. In Yediot Aharonot (2.6.'95)
Me'ir boasted: "In the past five months we already demolished more Arab houses than in the whole of 1994."
In May alone, Jerusalem's Likud Mayor Ehud Olmert signed 39 demolition orders. Increasingly, newspaper columnists
took up the issue, warning that the confiscation crisis might repeat itself. Ir Shalem organized visits to threatened
homes at the Issawiya neighborhood on the slopes of Mount Olive. It also brought the house owners to the Knesset,
to talk with Deputy Minister Walid Sadek.
The issuing of simultaneous demolition orders against six houses at the Jabel Mukhber Neighborhood, on June 11,
brought hundreds of local residents on a protest demonstration with the participation of Israeli activists of the
Alternative Information Center. Tents were set up to keep a regular presence on the spot. However, the municipal
demolition crews chose to strike elsewhere. Their arrival at an "illegal" house in Issawiya provoked
spontaneous riots, with hundreds of youths clashing with the police; only after they were dispersed by tear gas
was the house demolished. The scene was shown that evening on TV screens throughout the world; on the following
day, acting Interior minister David Liba'i ordered a freeze of all house demolitions in Jerusalem, pending a thorough
re-examination. He declared on television that "the law must be upheld, but we must also think of international
implications." Issawiya residents meanwhile had started to rebuild the demolished house.
Much to the anger of the Israeli right wing, the demolition freeze has up to now brought to a halt actual demolitions
(though there was at least one reported case where an "illegal extension" to an existing Arab house was
demolished), but on August 10, St. Yves Legal Aid Society reported a new demolition order, issued against the three-room
home of the eight member Rajbi family of Beit Hanina (whose previous home was demolished in 1993). The freeze rests
on shaky grounds. The Palestinian houses, as the law presently stands, are indeed illegal, which enables the right
to pose as the great champions of "the rule of law."
Another constant tug-of-war is going on over the Palestinian institutions located in the Arab part of Jerusalem
of which the most well-known is the Orient House, with its de-facto extraterritorial status, which has become the
symbol of Palestinian defiance of Israeli rule. Where the Orient House is concerned the right-wing has considerable
support within the government -- for example from the Minister of Police, Shahal who is a long-time proponent of
a "tough" policy in East Jerusalem. In the past months, the Orient House had been deligitimized by the
Israeli authorities in all possible ways. Not only that the right-wing-dominated Jerusalem municipality is constantly
finding new ways to attack Orient House (the latest is an effort to prove that Orient House -- which once served
as a hotel, therefore has no office
New Page No. 23
licence). Also Foreign Minister Peres -- the much-praised architect of Oslo -- imposes all kinds of pressures on
visiting foreign dignitaries to exclude Orient House from their itinerary.
In the case of Dick Spring, Ireland's Foreign Minister, the official expressions of Israel's displeasure did not
work. The guest stuck to the official European Community policy (PMs no, FMs yes) and visited Feisal Husseini's
headquarters on June 23. But when in mid-August the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Muna Salin, announced her
intention to do the same... it offered exactly the opportunity for which the right-wing fanatics had been waiting.
Led by Jerusalem's Deputy Mayor Shmu'el Me'ir they threatened to stage enormous riots and "put the city on
fire," should the guest arrive at the Orient House gates. It suited Minister of Police Shahal to announce
that "the police may not be able to ensure her safety, should she try to go there."
+++ The initiative came from Sarah Alexander, an Israeli singer living in France. Why not organize a joint Palestinian-Israeli
song concert? And what better place than Orient House, the beleaguered center of the Palestinian presence in East
Jerusalem? (See also page 11-12.)
On Saturday, August 19, a festive audience of some 200 Palestinians and Israelis were seated in the open-air auditorium
of the beautiful building and listened to Alexander, Palestinian singer Mustafa al-Kurd and others. It was a concert
under siege. Police had been alerted in advance and closed the whole area; only invitation-holders were admitted
to the vicinity. The militant settlers, who generally congregate outside and terrorise the staff of the Palestinian
office inside, tried to disturb the concert by powerful loudspeakers, but the police cur their generator off.
Inside, some hundred Palestinians were joined by groups of Gush Shalom and Peace Now supporters. The atmosphere
was both festive and tense. Faisal Husseini and Ziyad Abu-Zayad greeted the guests in Hebrew, Arabic and English,
and the audience rose to the tunes of the Palestinian national anthem. Altogether, a memorable event.
+++ Two days after the Orient House peace concert, a suicide bomber blew up an Israeli bus in north Jerusalem.
On the following day, Mayor Olmart attended the ministerial committee on Jerusalem, asking for immediate closure
of Orient House as "an appropriate answer to terrorism" (sic!). Banner headlines proclaimed Ministers
decide in principle to close Orient House!.
This news made urgent an action already decided upon by Gush Shalom: to get as many Israelis as possible to join
in a demonstrative visit to the threatened house of peace dialogue.
The original arrangement was for about a hundred Israelis to come; actually, no less then two hundred and fifty
arrived, past the numerous police barriers, completely filling the Orient House garden. Most of them were normally-passive
sympathizers of the peace camp, who felt impelled to come forward on this occasion. The atmosphere was very cordial,
with Feisal Husseini talking of the many illustrious guests who visited this house (beginning with German Emperor
Wilhelm II in 1900) and of the many meetings with Israelis held in that same garden since 1983 -- including the
secret meetings in 1987 with the Likud's Moshe Amirav, later expelled from the party for these meetings (see TOI
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
P.S. As this issue goes into print, the cabinet seems after all to back off from dirct confrontation with Orient
House and other Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem.
+++ The government's "3,000 Years of Jerusalem" ceremonies, designed to assert exclusive Israeli control
of Jerusalem, are due to open on September 4, with a Gala performance at East Jerusalem's Silwan Village -- where
settlers established themselves three and a half years ago, in houses from which Palestinians were evicted. As
this issue goes into print, Peace Now announced its intention to organize a visit to the Palestinian inhabitants
of Silwan on the morning before the celebration. Meanwhile, Ir Shalem lawyer Danny Zeidman lodged a Supreme Court
appeal, demanding that the Rabin government implement the recommendation of a commission appointed by itself, which
ruled the settler presence in Silwan to be illegal.
Contact: Peace Now, POB 8159, Jerusalem 91081.
Page . 24
A taboo broken
More and more cracks are apearing in what has since 1967 been considered the most firm concensus in Israeli politics
-- that Jerusalem is all "ours" and ours alone.
It seems that the general public is abandoning dogmas quicker than its political representatives. According to
a poll conducted by Gallup for IPCRI, (Israel/Palestine Research Center), published on May 31, 28% of the Israeli
Jewish public accept the solution of divided sovereignty, whereby Israel will have sovereignty over all of West
Jerusalem and the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, while Palestinians will have sovereignty over the Arab
part of East Jerusalem.
Similar results were obtained in a poll conducted by Kol Ha'ir a Jerusalem weekly, among a sample of Jewish Jerusalemites
Complete details from: IPCRI, POB 51358, East Jerusalem 91513; fax: 972-2-274983.
This considerable section of the population is, as yet, very under-represented on the political scene -- parliamentary
as well as extra-parliamentary. To start giving them a voice, the idea arose of collecting signatures on a clear
and strong manifesto.
There was also a feeling of irritation at the bombastic ceremonies, planned by the government and Jerusalem municipality
under the title "Jerusalem -- 3,000 Years" -- supposedly marking the anniversary of King David's conquest
of Jerusalem, though the exact date is much disputed by historians. In any case, Jerusalem was already an ancient
city before King David was born; the wiping away of its earlier history is part of a quite blatant attempt to assert
an exlusive Jewish right to and presence in Jerusalem, to the exclusion of all others.
The final impetus came from the memorable speech delivered by Palestinian leader Feisal Husseini, at the Gush Shalom
anti-confiscations demonstration of May 13. Standing under the Old City Wall, in what was no-man's-land before
1967, Husseini said: I dream of the day when a Palestinian will say 'Our Jerusalem' and will mean Palestinians
and Israelis, and an Israeli will say 'Our Jerusalem' and will mean Israelis and Palestinians.
Husseini's words served as the inspiration for a manifesto, entitled "Our Jerusalem." Drafted by Uri
Avnery of Gush Shalom, the text was enthusiastically accepted by some fifteen artists and academics. With a few
changes suggested by these a definite text was agreed upon.
A campaign was launched: for weeks, volunteers sat in the cramped Gush Shalom office and made endless calls to
university professors, poets, painters, journalists, actors, jurists, psychiatrists, architects, rabbis... The
positive response was far beyond expectation. Many of those phoned said: "At last somebody is doing this!"
Only a few referred to the fact that this was, after all, a text breaking what had been the biggest taboo in Israeli
Up to the present, five lists have been published with altogether more than 700 signatures of prominent Israelis.
Among them were seven laureates of the prestigious Israel Prize (authors A.B. Yehoshua and Emil Habibi, educator
Aryeh (Lova) Eliav, poet Nathan Zach, movie director Ram Levy, literary critic Dan Meron, and sculptor Danny Karavan)
as well as the internationally-celebrated musician Lord Yehudi Menuhin and the playwright Yehoshua Sobol. The signatories
also include a former cabinet minister (Victor Shem-Tov), and several (ex) Knesset Members, together with the former
ambassador, orientalist Prof. Ya'akov Shimoni. It would be impossible to reproduce here the full list, including
so many names well-known in all walks of Israeli life.
Jerusalem is ours, Israelis and Palestinians -- Muslims, Christian and Jews.
Our Jerusalem is a mosaic of all the cultures, all the religions and all the periods that enriched the city, from
the earliest antiquity to this very day -- Canaanites and Jebusites and Israelites, Jews and Hellenes, Romans and
Byzantines, Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Mamelukes, Othmanlis and Britons, Palestinians and Israelis. They
and all the others who made their contribution to the city have a place in the spiritual and physical landscape
Our Jerusalem must be united, open to all and belonging to all its inhabitants, without borders and barbed-wire
in its midst.
Our Jerusalem must be the capital of the two states that will live side by side in this country -- West Jerusalem
the capital of the State of Israel and East Jerusalem the capital of the State of Palestine.
Our Jerusalem must be the Capital of Peace.
Signatures and contributions to:
Our Jerusalem, c/o POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
The intiative of the petition, giving a powerful impetus to the Jerusalem debate in Israel, was warmly received
among Palestinians of different backgrounds. Feisal Husseini personally signed the manifesto in front of TV cameras,
when the initiative was officially launched at a press conference in Jerusalem's Beit Agron (Journalists' House).
he was followed by a considerable number of prominent Palestinians, among them Ziyad Abu-Zayad, PNA Deputy Minister
Anis al-Qaq, and movie director Daoud Kuttab. Later, the initiative was publicly endorsed by Yasser Arafat himself,
who met with several of the signatories.
The "Our Jerusalem" campaign had a considerable impact, with dozens of pro and con articles appearing
in the opinion pages, and the debate reaching even the letters to the editor pages of obscure provincial papers.
Prominent signatories were invited to public debates and TV talk-shows, and several cabinet ministers indirectly
referred to this initiative in their public appearances. Also, a group of right-wing American Jews, which appears
to have ample funds, spent a considerable part of them at publishing huge, furious counter-advertisements in the
Unlike them, the Our Jerusalem Manifesto and its supporters suffer from a severe lack of funds. Because of this,
each list is published only in Ha'aretz, a well-respected but limited-circulation newspaper, at the price of $2,000
each. The first list was also published in the (right-wing) Jerusalem Post, Israel's only English-language daily,
but there were no funds to continue publishing in English, much less to place ads in the mass-circulation Yediot
Aharonot or Ma'ariv, which could have brought the message to the attention of hundreds of thousands who have never
heard anything but the official mantra about Jerusalem.
Each signatory is requested to pay his or her share in the publication expenses (50 NIS, about $17). Nevertheless
there is already a deficit of $5,500.
All the immense paperwork for this campaign is being done by volunteers of Gush Shalom which has no paid staff
Your support would be most highly appreciated!
Signatures and contributions to:
Our Jerusalem, c/o POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033. Checks should be made out to 'Our Jerusalem.'
List of signatories on request.