The Other Israel _ July-August 1997, Issue No.79-80
War of Nerves
Out of Simple Distaste, by Uri Avnery
A call for a boycott of products of Israeli West Bank Settlements
David Against Bibi
An interview with peace activist David Ovadya and his family
Diary of the Struggle for Peace
New cracks in the wall of the so-called "Jerusalem Consensus"
Anniversary of the June 1967 conquest of the West Bank and
Mass anti-war rally
Committee Against House Demolitions
Revocation of Residency -- "The Quiet Deportation"
Vanunu Message Seeps Through
Kafka in Megiddo
Palestinian Administrative Detainees
Mothers for Peace
The Real War
Maps, decisions and decrees, by Uri Avnery
Gates of Hope?
The story of two West Bank villages, by Haim Hanegbi
THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for
Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: Beate Zilversmidt
For subscription information and a free copy of this issue, please
send your name and postal address to AICIPP@igc.apc.org
THE OTHER ISRAEL
July-August 1997, Issue No.79-80
WAR OF NERVES
In the days before Israeli bulldozers went up the then-wooded slopes of Jebl Abu-Ghneim/Har Homa, there were widespread
expectations that this would ignite an all-out military confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, similar
to or worse than "The Tunnel War" of September 1996. The Israeli army certainly seemed to prepare for
something of the kind. Tanks were deployed at the entrances of Palestinian cities, apparently poised for immediate
invasion -- but the Palestinians did not provide a sufficient pretext.
Indeed, ever since "Bulldozer Day" there have been violent clashes in plenty between Palestinian youths
and Israeli soldiers -- but they never quite crossed the subtle line dividing "disturbances" or "riots"
The confrontations mostly broke out at the "half-liberated" Palestinian areas, places where Israeli military
and settler enclaves were left intact after the much-publicized withdrawal -- greatly resented not only as a visible
symbol of continuing occupation, but also because they interfere in countless concrete and galling ways with daily
Palestinian life. At the same time, in such areas the young Palestinian protesters enjoy the advantage of a nearby
zone under complete Palestinian control, into which Israeli soldiers can't pursue them without getting in the wrong
under international law. Israeli government speakers insisted that "the riots" were all organised and
orchestrated by Arafat's men; the Palestinians were adamant in insisting that the outbreaks were completely spontaneous.
According to Israeli and foreign journalists who visited the area, the atmosphere of anger and frustration among
the Palestinians did not leave much need to organise the protests -- all that was needed was for the Palestinian
Police not to make too much of an effort to stop them...
Thus, one after another, the problematic sites became familiar to TV viewers: the tangle of Israeli settlements
in the Gaza Strip, with some 5,000 affluent settlers monopolising nearly a third of the land area, about half of
the water sources and nearly half the length of the sea shore of a small piece of land where over a million Palestinians
live in overcrowded misery; the Tomb of Rachel, retained (because of pressures from rabbis and religious lobbys)
as an armed, fortified Israeli enclave in the midst of Palestinian Bethlehem; the Tomb of Joseph, a similar enclave
in the heart of Nablus, which was already the scene of a fierce battle last September and which is certain to repeat
the role should Israeli-Palestinian relations again reach the boiling point...
The hottest Hot Spot of all was, undoubtedly, the unhappy city of Hebron, left by the long-negotiated Hebron Agreement
of January with a jagged partition line running through the alleys at its midst, and with 20,000 Palestinian inhabitants
remaining under harsh occupation so that 450 settlers, notorious for their extremism even among other settlers,
could continue to enjoy the great benefits they derive from Israeli rule. For such a situation to remain stable
even for a short time, a lot of good will would have been needed -- and in the aftermath of Har Homa, good will
was in short supply at Hebron, even more than elsewhere.
Confrontations in Hebron started with stone-throwing, occurring daily in the same alleys and attracting increasing
crowds of Palestinian youths. Then the army caused resentment by sending soldiers of its notorious "Special
Units", dressed as Arabs, to mingle with the crowds and suddenly pull guns and arrest several of them. This
was followed by an Israeli extremist entering at night the Palestinian-controlled sector of Hebron and spreading
copies of a cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad as a pig -- about the worst insult anybody could offer to Muslims,
causing angry reactions not only in Hebron itself but in numerous Muslim communities as far afield as India.
In the following days, the Palestinian protesters went over from stones to molotov cocktails, and on to "homemade
bombs" made of plumbing pipes filled with explosives and thrown at the Israeli soldiers, first one at a time,
then by the dozen. One of these bombs exploded on target, severely wounding two soldiers -- an event captured by
one of the many TV crews present on the spot and shown with all the gory details all over the world.
The army retaliated by blocking several streets with concrete blocks, setting roadblocks on the entrances to Hebron,
and severely restricting commercial life in the city; at the same time, copies
of the Koran were desecrated at a Hebron school, further inflaming Muslim feelings.
During the night of July 4, classrooms in Hebron's Ya'akoubiya Girl's School were vandalised, with furniture and
equipment smashed and copies of the Koran torn up and daubed with paint. At the time the school, located near the
"Confrontation Line", was used as an outpost by the Israeli military -- but the government nevertheless
denied all responsibility to the incident.
Rabbis for Human Rights published a statement (quoted in Ha'aretz and Ma'ariv, 10/7) calling upon the military
authorities to investigate the incident, and welcoming the Chief Rabbinate's condemnation of anti-Muslim provocations
-- which RHR hopes would be the beginning awareness of "failure to inoculate among Jews a respect for all
Rabbis Arik Asherman and Jeremy Milgrom of RHR also arrived at the school itself -- to present to the principal
and gathered pupils a new copy of the Koran.
Contact: RHR, 22 Agnon St. J'lem 93589; fx 02-6799006
The barrages of molotovs and pipe-bombs increased daily; violent incidents were reported from a dozen other spots
on the West Bank; the Army made dire threats; the situation seemed to get, at last, out of control. And then, overnight,
a truce was called in Hebron, strictly enforced (for the moment) by the Palestinian Police; the Israeli side reportedly
made some concessions with regard to the Palestinian Airport in the Gaza Strip, a long-lasting sticking point;
and the Palestinians turned their energy to the diplomatic arena in the U.N. Assembly General, striving to get
a big majority for an international boycott on goods produced in the settlements...
Even in the best scenario imaginable, an all-out military confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians would
still cause untold suffering to the Palestinian population. Rather than running into that hazardous last option,
the Palestinian leadership sought to try all other avenues at its disposal, political and diplomatic.
Palestinian leaders appealed directly to the Israeli public opinion and gave a considerable number of interviews
to the Israeli press and electronic media, trying to convey a sense of the mounting Palestinian anger and frustration.
They repeatedly met with all kinds of Israelis: not only with peace activists but also with business people, with
opposition Knesset Members, and even with a few relatively moderate members of Netanyahu's ruling coalition. There
was also a series of Palestinian meetings with Israeli President Weitzman, whose office has only a titular function
but who managed to build up a considerable personal moral authority. These intensive Palestinian activities may
have helped drive home to Netanyahu that in case of a head-on armed confrontation he would not have a united Israeli
society behind him -- but this was not enough to force a change in Netanyahu basic policies.
Arafat and his team also made the most of their advantage in various international forums -- notably the U.N. Assembly
General, where there is no U.S. veto. True, its resolutions are not binding, and in order to gain the adherence
of the Europeans the Palestinians always needed to somewhat water down their positions. Still, it was a repeated
humiliation for Netanyahu to be again and again thrust into diplomatic isolation, having at his side -- except
for the United States -- only the small pacific island nation of Micronesia. Overnight a sticker was produced which
was soon seen on walls all over the country: Bibi, off to Micronesia! Yet as long as he had the world's sole remaining
superpower solidly on his side, Netanyahu could afford to brush all this aside as no more than an inconvenience.
At the beginning of the Har Homa Crisis, U.S. Envoy Denis Ross did make a short and ineffective effort at mediation.
President Clinton seemed unable or unwilling to provide Ross with real clout, or to send a more senior representative
to the Middle East. While continuing to express verbal opposition to Har Homa, the president not only failed to
put any pressure on Netanyahu, but even tried to prevent the Europeans and the Arab states from doing so*.
* According to Akiva Eldar of Ha'aretz, known for his expertise in Washington affairs, Secretary of State Albright
did support a more assertive policy towards Netanyahu, but her position was counter-balanced by Vice President
Gore -- who reportedly hopes to get for the 2000 Presidential Race the support of some of the same rich Americans
who supported the Netanyahu campaign in 1996.
The Palestinians felt angry at what they regarded as a biased US attitude, but still went along with the American
mediation initiative -- which, however, soon petered out without achieving anything. Later, they cooperated with
the European and Egyptian initiatives, which met with no better success. Arafat and his aides held countless and
fruitless meetings with the successive Special Envoys, and occasionally agreed to hold under these envoys' auspices
talks about the resumption of talks with the representatives of Netanyahu.
Each initiative invariably broke up against the immovable rock of Har Homa. At one point, the Egyptians suggested
a six month "pause" at Har Homa, during which period intensive "definite solution" negotiations
would be held. The maximum Netanyahu would agree to was a "pause" of five days, which included a weekend
and a Jewish holiday when work would have been halted anyway...
Facts on the ground
In closed meetings with foreign diplomats, Netanyahu would claim that he had been forced to start Har Homa only
by pressure from the right wing in his coalition, and ask the listener's indulgence for continuing with the project,
since its stoppage would lose his government its parliamentary majority. In speaking to his own followers the Prime
Minister would, on the contrary, use the most crude nationalist rhetoric to boast that Har Homa was his own idea
to start with, and that he was determined to follow it through. Whatever the truth, it soon became clear that Har
Homa/Jebl Abu Ghneim was but a symbol representing a far more widespread issue -- the extension of settlements,
and its use as an instrument of policy.
In the beginning of June, Netanyahu semi-officially announced his plans for the definite solution: several Palestinian
enclaves, cut off from each other and from the outside world, and altogether comprising not more than forty percent
of the West Bank. This was dubbed "The Alon Plus Plan", in reference to the plan formulated in the late
sixties by then Labor Minister Yigal Alon and serving for many years as part of the Labor Party program. The publication
was apparently timed to appeal to Labor hawks and clip the wings of newly-elected Labor Leader Ehud Barak. Actually,
the original Alon Plan -- which King Hussein, rejected as "totally unacceptable" -- offered to the Arabs
more than the Netanyahu version. Alon did want to annex big parts of the West Bank to Israel, but the remainder
was at least to stay one continuous whole, not cut up into small pieces as Netanyahu would have it.
In preparation for his "Alon Plus," it made sense for Netanyahu to authorize and encourage the settlers
to grab as much land as they could. For their part, the settlers did not need much encouragement and were quite
willing to grab even beyond the lines drawn on Netanyahu's map.
From nearly every Palestinian town or village, a settlement is visible -- sometimes more than one. Roughly concurrently
with Har Homa, bulldozers appeared at the edges of many of these, starting new construction on land which Palestinian
peasants have considered theirs from time immemorial -- but which, they discovered in many cases, have been declared
by the government to be "state lands" and assigned to be part of "the municipal area" of the
nearest settlement. (In one case, at the settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus, a settler incursion into Palestinian
land was shown to be illegal even under the military government's weighted legal system, and the army used force
to evict the settlers -- but heavy pressure by the hardline ministers soon forced a reversal, with the settlers
being allowed back to the contested spot and the army ordered to grant them military protection.)
The Palestinian population was not entirely helpless in face of this onslaught. In numerous places they banded
together to defend their land and stake a clear claim to threatened plots, by every means in which ownership to
land could be made manifest: erecting fences, planting trees, building houses... in one case, the municipality
of Han Yuneis in the Gaza Strip sent municipal workers to erect bathing installations on a length of sea shore
claimed by settlers.
For their part, the settlers also staked a claim to the same pieces of land, leading to numerous clashes and confrontations
of which only a minor part got any serious media attention. (When settlers in the Gaza Strip erected a "Monument
to a Fallen Soldier" on land acknowledged by the Oslo Agreement to be Palestinian, serious week-long riots
and confrontations broke out. At the end, the military authorities for once admitted that the Palestinians had
been in the right and removed the monument, to the settlers' chagrin; this came too late for two Palestinian teenagers
who had already been shot dead by the soldiers.)
In places where the settlers and their supporters in the government are unable to either confiscate land outright
or to declare it "government land", they need to purchase Palestinian land -- a method used especially
by the settler associations penetrating into the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Since in the Palestinian society
selling land to settlers is considered treason, such sales are conducted in great secrecy, through middlemen and
brokers, in the twilight zone of fraud and forgery.
Immediately after work at Har Homa began, a settler group established themselves at five houses in East Jerusalem's
Silwan Village, in one blow doubling their foothold in this strategic area just outside the Old City walls. With
regard to a sixth Silwan house, the Palestinian owners were able to produce documents proving to an an Israeli
court that the "sale" of their house to the settlers had been fraudulent. Shortly afterwards, a senior
Armenian clergyman who had resided many years in East Jerusalem sold to another group of settlers his extensive
house at Jerusalem's Mount Scopus -- and immediately left the country.
Both at Silwan and at Mount Scopus, the new settler acquisitions were immediately surrounded with barbed wire;
guards from a private security company
(reportedly paid for by government money) were permanently posted around the perimeter; and the entry of Palestinians
into the newly-made enclaves prohibited. In the case of Mount Scopus, this process was documented in detail by
TV cameras, with a jubilant settler pointing to neighboring Palestinian houses and exclaiming "God is with
us, everything will soon be ours!"
This challenge, broadcast in the prime-time TV news and repeated on the Israeli TV Arabic-language program, sent
shockwaves through the Palestinian society. On the following week, the Palestinian Legislative Council convened
in Ramallah, having at the top of its agenda a bill setting the death penalty for any Palestinian selling real
estate to non-Palestinians.
Even before the bill was voted on, three Palestinian real estate brokers, known to have worked with the settler
associations, were kidnapped from their homes and assassinated. Netanyahu accused the Palestinian police in Ramallah
of being behind the killings; the Palestinian Authority hotly denied the allegations.
Among the Palestinians, there appeared a clear support for these killings, right across the political spectrum,
with even known moderates stating that the sale of Palestinian land to settlers was an act of the utmost treason.
The Palestinian Minister of Justice, Freih Abu Medein, put it simply: "These are not ordinary real estate
deals. Israel regards any piece of land which was bought by a private Israeli as passing forever into Israeli political
sovereignty. We have the right to protect ourselves against this."
This Palestinian position was unpalatable to large parts of the Israeli and Western public opinion, putting the
peace camp on the defense. The Labor-Meretz affiliated Peace Now Movement felt obliged to publicly condemn the
killing of the land brokers, as did several opposition Knesset Members. Moreover, the case happened to coincide
with a corruption scandal, involving large sums of money, being revealed by the Palestinian Authority's comptroller;
and to top it all, the Palestinian Police created another scandal by arresting for several days the independent,
outspoken journalist Daud Kutab -- a man with an impeccable record in the struggle against the Israeli occupation,
well known in the international media, and an American citizen to boot.
Pulling the purse strings
The coincidence of the three issues enabled Netanyahu to start a propaganda campaign in the Western media, in an
effort to regain some of the ground lost to the Palestinians since CNN broadcast live the entry of the bulldozers
to Har Homa. This was aimed especially at one of the few forums congenial to Netanyahu -- the United States Congress,
mirror image of the UN General Assembly as far as Middle East issues are concerned. While the Clinton Administration's
support of Netanyahu had been reluctant and full of reservations, many of the leading figures on Capitol Hill seemed
to fully share Netanyahu's own attitudes.
The House passed by an overwhelming majority a resolution supporting Israeli rule over "United Jerusalem",
in a session replete with anti-Palestinian speeches -- a nice propaganda victory which Netanyahu needed very much,
and more than that. For unlike the U.N. Assembly General with its non-binding resolutions, the U.S. Congress possesses
a quite binding control over the purse strings of foreign aid.
Following the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in which an overwhelming majority supported exclusive Israeli
rule over all of Jerusalem, the Gush Shalom movement wrote a letter of appreciation to the seventeen Representatives
who had cast a dissenting vote: David E. Bonior, Eva M. Clayton, John Conyers Jr., Ronald V. Dellums, John D. Dingell,
Lee H. Hamilton, Dennis J. Kucinich, Jim McDermott, David Minge, James P. Moran, David R. Obey, Ron Paul, Thomas
E. Petri, Nick J. Rahall II, John E. Sununu, James A. Traficant Jr. and Melvin L. Watt.
[...] As it happened, on the very same day that this bill supporting the so-called "Unification of Jerusalem"
gained the unfortunate support of an enormous majority at Washington D.C., the Old City of Jerusalem itself witnessed
a veritable pogrom, with a mob of Jewish religious fanatics violently and undiscriminatingly assaulting Arab inhabitants
as well as Jewish worshipers belonging to other religious currents. That is the reality of "United Jerusalem,"
which is in practice nothing but an occupation regime, imposed and maintained by brute force over 200,000 Palestinian
inhabitants of East Jerusalem.
As Israeli citizens, many of us being ourselves inhabitants of Jerusalem, we deplore the vote taken at this very
critical moment by the U.S. House of representatives, a vote which dealt one more blow to an already dangerously
weakened peace process. Therefore, we feel it all the more incumbent upon us to express our thanks to those in
the House who did speak out and vote against that misbegotten bill [...]
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033; fx: 03-5271108
This power Netanyahu proceeded to use, with his friends in Congress threatening to cut off aid to both Egypt and
the Palestinian Authority, unless the two showed themselves more "accommodating." Under the shadow of
that threat, Netanyahu agreed to accept the mediation of Egypt -- whose traditional support of the Palestinian
cause was expected to be offset by the apprehension of losing the annual two billion Dollars which had been the
mainstay of the Egyptian economy in the past two decades.
But Netanyahu's blackmail tactics so far gained him only meager results. Under the pressure of Congress -- applied
both directly and via Egypt -- the Palestinians once again consented to hold meetings between their Heads of Security
and the Israeli counterparts. But when Netanyahu aides announced triumphantly that "the Palestinians had resumed
security cooperation, in spite of Har Homa" they were soon confronted with new outbreaks of violence at Hebron,
highly visible on the Israeli and international TV screens.
In any case, the ability of Congress to maintain its pressure is limited by the consideration that, should either
Mubarak or Arafat fall, they are likely to be
replaced by their respective Muslim oppositions -- an outcome far from serving U.S. interests.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu himself did not emerge unscathed from his tampering with the U.S. foreign aid. When the idea
came up in the State Department to grant U.S. economic aid to Jordan, a country which so far derived little economic
benefit from its peace treaty with Israel, Netanyahu was reminded of the rash pledge he had made in 1996 to "gradually
phase out American aid to Israel" and asked to "donate" to Jordan fifty million Dollars out of Israel's
share of the foreign aid budget.
In itself, fifty million Dollars is a minute sum out of three billion -- and giving them to Jordan at this particular
juncture seemed a good way of dissuading Amman from being too outspoken in support of the Palestinians* -- but
the precedent of a cut in U.S. aid to Israel, for the first time in decades, might haunt Netanyahu and his successors
in years to come.
* For the same reason, Netanyahu consented to give Jordan considerable quantities of water from the Israeli Sea
of Galilee, under a clause in the Israeli-Jordanian Peace treaty which was hitherto not fulfilled -- thus nipping
in the bud a crisis in Israeli-Jordanian relations which might have ranged Jordan solidly on the side of the Palestinians.}
Alliance and counter-alliance
Aside from the United States Congress, the foreign institute most friendly to Netanyahu seems to be the Turkish
Army. The Turkish generals, long accustomed to conducting their own foreign policy with little or no regard to
civil authority, decided upon and implemented a strategic alliance with Israel, and forced it upon Prime Minister
Erbakan -- himself far from friendly to Netanyahu or to Israel in general -- by what amounted to an open threat
of coup d'etat.
Officially, it was denied that the Israeli-Turkish alliance was directed against any third state -- but a brief
glance at the map would show that Syria, sandwiched between the two new allies and on bad terms with both of them,
had a reason to worry. Syrian apprehensions increased with the Turkish Army's invasion in force of north Iraq,
chasing Kurdish guerrillas -- which was seen as reflecting a new Turkish confidence and aggressiveness.
But if Netanyahu expected the Turkish alliance to intimidate Damascus and bring it back to the negotiating table
on his terms, he should by now be disappointed. Feeling threatened, the Syrians increased support both for the
Kurdish guerrillas operating against Turkey and the Lebanese ones opposing Israel. In a move showing a toughening
of their position the Syrians tightened the alliance with Iran, and even sought a rapprochement with Iraq -- stepping
over the bitter rivalry which has divided Damascus from Baghdad for decades. Simultaneously, Syria started mending
fences with Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
Scenarios published in the Israeli press included more and more often the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian
flareup drawing in the Syrians, and possibly the Egyptians and Jordanians as well, into a total conflict. The army
resumed the distribution of Gas masks to the entire Israeli population, and there was growing concern about reported
Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear arms and missiles capable of delivering them to targets in Israel.
Scandals and crises
Ever since the bulldozers started at Har Homa, apprehension of war had not been far away. Predictions and scenarios
of the approaching conflict appeared practically daily -- written by respected commentators, by opposition politicians
or even members of Netanyahu's own coalition, in confidential reports of the army command and the security agencies
which, to Netanyahu's chagrin, kept finding their way into the press.
Yet paradoxically, this ever-present threat is far from being always at the forefront. For weeks on end, sometimes
for months, it is obscured and relegated to the backpages, with the headlines focusing on more mundane issues --
and in particular, on the Netanyahu Government's innumerable scandals and crises, with the Prime Minister seen
as a juggler and acrobat, struggling with an unwieldy coalition of eight separate political parties themselves
containing innumerable bickering factions, and jumping (so far successfully) over one pitfall after another; "stopping
fire by lighting another fire" was how one commentator put it.
For months on end, the country (and the whole world) watched Netanyahu grapple with the accusation of having engineered
the appointment of a hand-picked Attorney-General, with the deliberate intention of carrying out a miscarriage
of justice -- namely, the acquittal of Aryeh Der'i, leader of the Religious-Oriental Shas party, who is a vital
coalition partner of Netanyahu and who faces a serious corruption trial.
The police interrogated Netanyahu -- the first time such a thing happened to an Israeli Prime Minister -- and recommended
that he be put on trial. But the public prosecution, though severely criticising Netanyahu's conduct, decided that
"there was not sufficient evidence" to bring charges against the Prime Minister -- and its decision was
upheld by the Supreme Court.
In the immediate wake of this affair, Netanyahu precipitated a government crisis by sacking his Finance Minister,
Dan Meridor -- a long-standing rival who, unlike Netanyahu, enjoys a reputation for honesty and integrity and who,
also unlike Netanyahu, had the confidence of the business community. The deposed Meridor set up "an opposition
faction within the coalition" which absented itself from a parliamentary confidence vote -- shaking the government
but not bringing it down.
To the vacant Finance Ministry, Netanyahu intended to appoint none other than Ariel Sharon of Lebanon War notoriety
-- who was also going to get a place in the innermost cabinet. This precipitated a new crisis: Defence Minister
Mordechai and Foreign Minister Levy, the leading cabinet moderates, firmly opposed the elevation of hardline Sharon
-- who, in the Finance Ministry, would have been in a position to funnel practically unlimited funds to his settler
In an effort to change his hawkish image, Sharon held a highly-publicised meeting with Mahmud Abbas, Arafat's deputy.
(It was not enough for the purpose, especially since at the meeting Sharon took an intransigent line and tried
to "explain" to his interlocutor why Israel "must" keep most of the West Bank.) In the end,
Netanyahu caved in to Levy's threat to resign and bring down the government, and Sharon's way up was blocked; in
turn, Netanyahu had to face the enraged spurned Sharon, who reportedly bides his time for a revenge.
And in the midst of struggling with his own ministers, Netanyahu had to contend with the religious parties' demand
to enact a law giving Orthodox rabbis a monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel. Failure to enact the law
might anger Netanyahu's Orthodox coalition partners and lose him his majority in the Knesset -- yet its passage
would mean a break with the Conservative and Reform Jews who are the great majority of U.S. Jewry, which could
among other things lose Netanyahu the support of the U.S. Congress...
For the time being Netanyahu got out this crisis, too -- or at least bought time by the appointment of a committee
which is supposed to find a compromise. As yet, Netanyahu's ability to get out of trouble seems to match his patent
inability to avoid falling into it in the first place. He seems to enjoy the in some senses enviable position of
heading a government which is too weak to take any meaningful step forward, yet too strong to be toppled.
A fractured society
Israeli peace activists watched with frustration Netanyahu's ability to survive crisis after crisis. All of us
would have heaved a sigh of relief at Netanyahu's downfall, even for the most silly or irrelevant reason -- and
even though many doubts remain concerning the personality and political intentions of Ehud Barak, the new leader
of the Labor Party opposition.
So far, however, not enough of Netanyahu's coalition partners have come to the point of confronting him directly
-- and the "internal Likud opposition" is extremely heterogeneous on anything but its opposition to Netanyahu,
comprising moderates and hardliners, neo-liberals and social populists.
Moreover, the new Israeli electoral system makes it quite difficult to get rid of a prime minister: a simple majority
of the members present is no longer sufficient; 61 of the 120-member Knesset must actually vote against the government,
with the knowledge that they themselves would also face reelection -- rather intimidating for many. But perhaps
most important: though Netanyahu in many ways alienated his voters and grassroots supporters, their feeling of
confusion and depression did not yet crystallize into clear opposition.
The months of government crisis have brought out in sharp relief the essential nature of the Israeli society and
politics -- a society divided into distinct socio-ethnic-cultural groups, which often correspond to economic class
as well, and which tend to vote as a block for parties and leaders to which they feel a kind of "tribal loyalty."
There are the Ashkenazis, descendants of the early pioneers who built and shaped Israel, who mostly vote for Labor
and the parties to its left; the Arab citizens of Israel who -- despite many reservations -- also support the Labor
block; the Orientals, Jews who came from the Arab countries and who traditionally support the Likud; the religious
community, which tends sharply to the right and which supported Netanyahu almost unanimously; and the immigrants
from the former Soviet Union, the only "shifting block," who supported Rabin in 1992 out of being disappointed
with the Likud Government, and who supported Netanyahu in 1996 out of disappointment with Labor.
The repeated crises of the Netanyahu Government so far failed to break this deadlock. On the contrary: one of Netanyahu's
best strokes has been to present himself as an underdog, unjustly persecuted by "the elites" which dominate
the media and judicial system -- an emotional appeal which caught on among his voters (even though Netanyahu himself
is quite a typical member of the affluent Ashkenazi elite).
Netanyahu's first year in power had seen a sharp increase in the tensions between the component "tribes"
of Israeli society: between Ashkenazis and Orientals, between secularists and religious, between immigrants and
veteran Israelis. The Prime Minister benefited from this phenomenon, to retain power and overcome his internal
problems -- but at a price: a sharply divided society is less capable of standing the war into which Netanyahu
seems to lead it.
True, throughout history there were leaders who started wars for the very purpose of uniting behind themselves
a divided people -- but for that panacea to work, the war needs to be quick and visibly successful, which does
not seem a likely option in the Netanyahu case. In the Army General Staff's opinion, leaked to Israeli TV, reconquest
of the Palestinian cities would cost the lives of hundreds of soldiers -- a price which many among Netanyahu's
own voters would consider prohibitive, and which would only bring Israel back into the intolerable situation of
three years ago...
The Har Homa crisis has been going on for four months now, and there is no sign of its ending any time soon. Netanyahu
has not been able to force the Palestinians "back to normal" while the bulldozers continue the work at
Har Homa, nor did Arafat make much headway in stopping those bulldozers -- and in the meantime anger and despair
mount among the Palestinians, Hamas is again growing stronger and among the Palestinian policemen themselves underground
cells have reportedly been formed to resume the armed struggle against the settlers.
And still, the all-out clash which everybody has been discussing in detail did not yet come about. It could happen
in September, the time when Netanyahu is supposed to announce the second "redeployment" of military forces.
By offering to withdraw from a significant part of the West Bank, Netanyahu would
still be able to reverse the drift to war -- but such a concession is out of the question with the kind of government
he heads. It is far more likely that he will try once more to offer the Palestinians only an insulting pittance,
as he did in March, and that may well prove the last straw.
If and when that war does break out, it might well get the name "The Har Homa War." But in fact, at stake
is far more than a single hill south-east of Jerusalem, a once green hill whose beauty has already been irrevocably
damaged by the industrious bulldozers. Political circumstances have made that hill into the symbol and focus of
all the fundamental issues: a Jewish-only Jerusalem, or a city shared between two peoples; unrestricted land grabbing
and settlement construction, or a respect for the land and its inhabitants; a series of truncated enclaves, or
a viable Palestinian state with a continuous territory; Israeli domination and oppression stretching on into the
next decade, together with the inevitably sharpening conflict -- or an arrangement at least resembling parity between
two states and two peoples.
"Out of Simple Distaste"
The following letter by Gush Shalom representative and publicist Uri Avnery to the foreign representatives accredited
to Israel was sent on July 8 -- a week before the U.N. Assembly General Har Homa debate.
Dear Sir or Madam
The continuing expansion of settlements in the Palestinian territories, with its concomitant confiscation of Palestinian
land and confrontations with the Palestinian population, are perceived by the international community -- as well
as by a growing part of Israel's own population -- to be the single most serious factor blocking the road to peace
in our region. This is exemplified by the present crisis in the Middle East peace process -- precipitated by the
Netanyahu Government's decision to start settlement construction on Jebl Abu-Ghneim ("Har Homa") and
exacerbated by intensive land confiscation and settlement extension elsewhere in the Territories.
I personally, as well as many other Israelis whom I know, take care in daily life not to purchase goods produced
at Israeli settlements in occupied territory -- out of a simple distaste, as well as a reasoned unwillingness to
support an institution which we consider insidious, immoral and endangering our future and our hopes for peace.
More than once did Israeli peace groups, such as the one I represent -- Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc --
call upon the general public to refrain from purchasing such goods. During my tenure as Member of Knesset, I have
made the same call from the podium of our Parliament.
In the media there was recently some mention that the idea of international boycott over goods produced in the
settlements or companies investing in them is due to come up in the United Nations General Assembly and other international
forums. It was also reported that the Netanyahu Government has started a diplomatic campaign to present such measures
as "anti-Israeli" and call upon friends of Israel to oppose them.
In our view, it is the settlement extension drive which is anti-Israeli, an irresponsible adventure risking our
most basic interests. Any action taken by the international community to halt this drive -- making a clear distinction
between Israel's own internationally recognised territory and the settlements established illegally in occupied
territory -- would be in the best interests of us Israelis as well as of all the other Middle Eastern peoples.
We would be grateful to you for communicating this letter to your government, so that it may be taken into consideration.
for the Gush Shalom Movement
David against Bibi
It all began on May 9 at a routine Friday afternoon vigil of the Peace Guards held behind the Tel-Aviv Town Hall,
the spot where Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated. A sudden commotion: police converged on one of the demonstrators,
a short exchange followed and the man was ordered to enter the patrol car. More than a dozen activists immediately
surrounded the car, starting a heated debate with the police. The problem, it turned out, was the text of the sign:
Bibi, the National Inciter -- responsible for murder! This, the police felt, was itself incitement.
The activists furiously disagreed; the police offered a compromise: the man could go but his sign would be confiscated.
The man: "This sign is not incitement, it is the truth. If the sign stays, I stay." At that moment, the
fray was joined by none other than Leah Rabin, the Martyr's Widow in person: "So now you are looking for inciters
to arrest! Where have you been when the fascists were coming to our house with these horrible signs against Yitzhak?"
Completely outclassed, the three intimidated police allowed their quarry to emerge, sign in hand. Quickly, more
signs with the same text were produced and the vigil continued.
(In fact, we had known David Ovadya for quite a long time. He and his wife Carmela are among the not so numerous
local peace activists in Holon, the Tel-Aviv suburb where TOI is published. But he was never so conspicuous as
in these last few months, coming everywhere with his handmade sign, being arrested once again during a Jerusalem
demonstration, having his photo in the papers and on TV, sending letters to the editors of papers all over the
"My parents came from Iran in 1951. I was born in the Hatikvah neighborhood of South Tel-Aviv, the third child,
the first born here. There were three more after me. The slums of Hatikvah have always been a stronghold of the
Likud Party, Herut as it was called then. We all went to cheer Menachem Begin when he held his rallies in the center.
Everybody, my family, all our neighbors, everybody I knew.
I finished eight years of elementary school, and then
I had three years vocational school to become an electrician. This made me the best-educated member of the family.
My brothers just started working at fourteen.
I was drafted in 1969, did three years as a colonel's driver. Not a bad job. Carmela and me got married soon after
my discharge in 1972. My first reserve service was in the [October '73] Yom Kippur War. They made me an ambulance
driver. We followed just behind Sharon's troops as they crossed Suez Canal, ambulances for the wounded and trucks
for the dead.
At that time I was myself right-wing. I was angry when the ceasefire was announced, I felt we should have gone
on and destroyed the Egyptian Army.
In the years later, I started to think about it in a different way. I remembered the screams of the wounded, and
the way they put the dead bodies in the truck. They always tried to put them side by side, not one on top of the
other, but sometimes there were too many... I started wondering why all this was necessary. Like fools we killed
each other for sand, for a piece of desert, for high words. Like in a game, but those who fell could never get
Then came the Lebanon War. I did not intend to refuse. I just went on the army bus with the other reservists, but
I was feeling more and more uncomfortable when the bus went to the north. When we stopped in Tzfat for half an
hour I saw the mountains around and thought: that's it, I will go into the mountains, not to Lebanon. I did not
get far. The Major sent some soldiers after me. He asked me: What is this? I just said: I am not going to Lebanon.
If you want to become a hero, go there yourself, go alone without me. He was confused, he just sent me back to
the base camp in Ramleh.
I did not go to prison that time. I did later, when they wanted me to go to Gaza. I knew that this time I would
go to prison. I did not worry about prison itself, only that in prison you don't get paid, and that the family
would be in a bad position. But Carmela helped me. She said there was an organization to help you if you refuse.
Until then I didn't know about Yesh Gvul. Carmela phoned them and they said there was a fund, they will give the
family money instead of the military salary.
-- Yamit (David's daughter): That was the time when we, the children, went in a demonstration to the top of the
hill near the prison, when we called on the loudspeaker: Father, father, we are here!
-- David: Yes, I remember, that gave me a very good feeling. I was then in the prison tent, talking with another
refuser, Amit Levinhoff, a conscript who had been five times in prison before.
After I finished this term, they again ordered me to Gaza. The officer said: How come you are a leftist, you --
an Oriental from Hatikva? How come you speak like these people with the round glasses. I talked with him for hours,
in the end he said -- go home for ten days, I will think what to do. He even gave me his private address and I
sent him Yesh Gvul brochures.
After I came back he offered me to serve at Dimona. That was before Vanunu. I didn't think there was anything wrong
with Dimona, it is inside the Green Line. So I went there, did a week of patrols in the desert around the Pile.
Then suddenly when I was on patrol an officer came running and he shouted to me with a red face: Give me your gun
and get the hell out of here! You don't have the security clearance for this place!
I became a member in Yesh Gvul and also started to go to other demonstrations. The whole family became involved.
-- Yamit: Do you remember the demonstration at the Old City of Jerusalem, the Flower Gate, when the police suddenly
came with the horses and the tear gas? Mother and me were very frightened.
-- David: In the 1992 elections I was already in Meretz. When Rabin became Prime Minister, I was not crazy about
him. In fact, I used to say then what my own brothers, who are Likud supporters, now say about Netanyahu: The alternative
Exactly when I started to feel that Rabin was after all doing something -- changing the way that we lived with
war always on the background -- that was when the incitement started. This was half a year before the murder. I
could feel the violence in the air, in the shouting on TV, in the graffiti, in the stickers. I was having every
day debates in my workplace, and I heard people say "if Rabin will go on like this, somebody will in the end
shoot him." It was in the air. There was such an incitement: in those days, Bibi headed a demonstration with
a coffin which had the name of Rabin on it! Bibi was sending this message to the people, this message of incitement,
of hate. He sent it to many people, and one of the people got it and took the gun. "The National Inciter."
Do you know that Bibi himself invented this term, that he used it against Rabin? The man has no shame.
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
I was there, I saw how he was effecting the people with his incitement. And he got away with it. He was not prosecuted.
He is now the Prime Minister, and he is still inciting. Using the media to incite against the media itself, against
the law, against the courts. He is a professional. You can see it on TV. He suddenly stops answering the interviewer,
and he is leans forward and looks directly into the camera and talks about Us and Them. For me, this is much worse
than Har Homa. We had right-wing Prime Ministers before, they implemented policies which I didn't like, but they
showed some respect for other people, they did not incite in all directions.
When Michael Karpin did the film about the murder of Rabin which was shown on TV, I felt that at last somebody
is talking about it. I started to wave signs as a promotion to the film. I wrote: "Bibi is the National Inciter
-- see the film on TV, Tuesday Evening." But now it is already forgotten.
When Bibi was coming to the Likud Headquarters in Tel-Aviv, I came an hour early. I tried to write on the sidewalk:
A Mafia Government. The police did not let me, so I wrote it on a big carton. The Meretz
people who were there let themselves be pushed aside, to where the TV would not see them. The best place was given
to the Likud people, his trained band who came to show how much they love their master. Anyway I didn't like the
Meretz slogans, too soft. Bibi go Home! He should not go home, he should go to prison.
I figured that he was coming from Jerusalem, there could be only one road by which he could arrive. I waited there,
in the part which was not closed by the police. And there they came, four identical black cars, windows closed
with blinds, no way of knowing in which one he was. I waved my sign, Mafia Government. Then one of the cars swerved
in my direction, directly towards me. Only for a moment, then it turned back on course, but it was frightening.
I dropped my sign when I jumped, and they passed. I run after them, shouting "Inciter! Inciter!'
The police asked me to come. They were very polite. Said it was not an interrogation, only a conversation, and
I could come at a convenient time. There was a plainclothes man, he seemed high in the hierarchy or perhaps he
was from the Security Service. He knew a lot about me. We talked about this incident with the cars, and he asked:
Perhaps they thought you had a gun? and I thought -- perhaps this man had been inside the car? He told me: you
know, you are not breaking the law, but you are on the borderline, perhaps it would be better to take a step or
two back? and I said: "No sir, as long as Bibi is not put on trial I will go on exactly the same."
Now, this week I am going to the vigil at the Railway Station with a new sign: Bastard, you have fucked up the
whole country! No, I will not write the name Bibi on it. I think everybody who reads it will understand about whom
I am talking, anyhow.
+++ On April 22, a group of Peace Now youths picketed the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. One of them, a
girl named Michal, told the Israeli radio: "We came here because we must, because we have a corrupt government
which destroys peace and undermines the whole country. We decided to follow Bibi and demonstrate wherever he goes,
last week at the ceremony in the Dead Sea Chemical Works, today here at his office, afterwards at his home and
everywhere he goes, just like he had sent demonstrators to follow Rabin."
Diary of the struggle
A few years ago, it seemed impossible. But since the "Our Jerusalem" petition, on which Gush Shalom managed
to get signatures of a thousand prominent Israelis (see TOI-67/68, p.24), more and more cracks are appearing in
the wall of the so-called "Jerusalem Consensus."
+++ At an emergency meeting on the deteriorating situation, held on May 4 by some two hundred members of the Council
for Peace and Security -- all of them retired Israeli generals -- the keynote speech was made by Danny Rothschild,
former governor of the Occupied Territories: "A strong system is capable of understanding that concessions
must be made. Only a weak leader is totally unbending. We will have no choice to make concessions, also in Jerusalem
[emphasis added. Ed.]. Only when we are willing to make real concessions shall we get concessions from the Palestinian
This was the clearest open call for concessions in Jerusalem ever issued from a source so close to the Israeli
military and political establishment.
CPS, POB 1320, Ramat Hasharon 47112; fx: 03-5498007
+++ On the same week, Peace Now issued its new program, with a formulation on Jerusalem ending many years of equivocation:
"Jerusalem shall remain a united city which shall not be divided. The city limits shall be redefined, recognising
the fact that members of two peoples live and have national and religious rights in it. Within the united city,
agreed municipal bodies will be formed, enabling each community to run its internal affairs. In the municipal area
of Jerusalem, two capitals will exist: the capital of Israel in the Jewish areas and the capital of Palestine in
the Arab ones. The status of the holy places shall be defined in a special agreement, based on preserving the religious
rights and the freedom of worship of all believers."
Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297.
+++ In the Meretz party, a strong grassroots pressure -- especially from the activists in Jerusalem -- is applied
on the party leadership to introduce a similar change in the party program, which at present still regards the
whole of Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of Israel.
Party Leader Yossi Sarid came out strongly against the proposed change, claiming that it may lose the party much
of its public support, and that it would "weaken the struggle to topple the Netanyahu Government." On
the other hand Knesset Member Dedi Zucker, who together with KM Naomi Hazan supports the "Jerusalem Amendment,"
stated: "The public will respect us for saying the truth on Jerusalem, like we said the truth about talks
with the PLO at a time when that was not yet popular." As we go to print, the Jerusalem Debate seems to split
the Meretz leadership down the middle, with no definite decision yet taken.
Meretz, 4 Ithamar Ben Avi St., Tel Aviv.
+++ On May 12, several busloads of writers, professors and other "notables" who had signed the "Stop
the Bulldozers!" petition joined a group of Gush Shalom activists on their way to Jebl Abu Ghneim/Har Homa.
The solidarity visit to the Palestinians holding out in the protest tent camp was disrupted by a medical emergency
-- the sudden collapse of Uri Avnery, a few minutes before he was due to speak to the gathering.
The 74-year old Gush Shalom leader had been working day and night since the Har Homa Crisis began, organising petitions,
protest actions and writing furious articles for Ma'ariv. It turned out that an old internal wound, from the time
he was a soldier in the 1948 war, had reopened.
The collapsing Avnery was caught up by Salah Ta'amri, Member of the Palestinian Parliament and partner in organising
the rally. Avnery was given first
aid by Palestinian doctors present in close cooperation with a medic of the Israeli army unit guarding the bulldozers
-- a fact which was eagerly recorded by the present TV crews and journalists. This created a news item full of
the kind of symbolism to be found in Avnery's own writings.
Avnery was rushed to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, passed an emergency operation and got out of danger. At his
hospital bed he received messages of concern from President Arafat, from former Minister Shulamit Aloni, and from
numerous many other Israelis, Palestinians and friends all over the world; there he was also informed of having
won the peace prize of the German city of Aachen. Within a few weeks he was able -- and quite insisted upon --
going back into action.
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv; fx 03-5271108
During the Lebanon War Meir Gal left Israel, out of a gut-felt disgust at a society which went to senseless war.
In Europe and the U.S. he made a name for himself as an artist and independent curator, having an impressive number
of exhibitions to his credit -- but still found himself drawn to come back and explore in his art what he hates
most, the militarization of Israeli society.
For nearly two years Gal combed Israel systematically, north to south, locating streets with military names --
streets named for wars, for war heroes, battles, military operations, army units and corps. Gal photographed those
road signs and interviewed people living there with the endlessly-repeated question "What does the name of
your street mean to you?"
He did not entirely confine himself to street names: "In Nahariya I found a big sign over a shop, Operation
Peace For Galilee Butcher Shop." The butcher was a nice enough fellow; the idea that the name might have a
double meaning never crossed his mind. He just used the official name of the Lebanon War and was stubborn enough
to leave the name in place even when the war became unpopular.
At the end of his country-wide researches, Meir Gal spent months in his Tel-Aviv studio making reproductions of
these road signs -- painstakingly reproducing the material, the colour and the text (including the spelling mistakes
found in more then one original). These he mounted on stone slabs, resembling tombstones, at Tel-Aviv's Ami Steinitz
Gallery of Contemporary Art.
"Yes, I know, it creates a depressing feeling. That's exactly what I wanted to achieve. Had I just made an
exhibition of my photographs, which include the houses and trees as well as the original road signs, I would have
given the visitor's eye something to rest upon and be distracted. I wanted the visitor to my exhibition to have
no chance to relax, to walk among the signs and see them and read them one after the other, nothing but the signs,
and to see them on tombstones, because they represent a phenomenon which produces tombstones and more tombstones."
June 5, 1997, marked 30 years since Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- 30 years, and the occupation
is still very much alive, except for the narrow areas so far given to Palestinian control, and indirectly even
in them. This year the date nearly coincided with another "Anniversary": on May 29 last year, Netanyahu
came to power. The combination caused a sudden upsurge in peace activities; after many low-key months, there were
three weeks full of demonstrations, rallies, vigils and meetings.
+++ One year of Netanyahu in power was marked by Peace Now with a torchlight march through downtown Jerusalem "to
show Bibi the way home" (from the PM Office to Netanyahu's private residence).
In preparation for the demo, posters were placed around the city, exposing one of Netanyahu's most arrogant postures
as caught by a photographer. To some of them, bypassers in the Rehavya Neighborhood added graffiti with the Biblical
quotation "Shallst thou murder and inherit too?" as well as "May you be buried on Har Homa!"
On the evening of May 30, a crowd estimated at several thousands, many of them youths, gathered for the march.
The atmosphere was more passionate than at other Peace Now events, with the chanting of: "Bibi, Bibi, Bibi
-- Out, Out, Out!" At the final rally, held as near to the Netanyahu home as the police would permit, there
was much cheering and clapping, as well as booing whenever the PM was mentioned. For their part, the police were
out in force, surrounding the peace demonstrators on all directions "to protect them" -- yet this intensive
police presence somehow did not prevent some extreme-right thugs from infiltrating the rally and cutting the loudspeaker
Contact: Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297.
+++ On the Internet, the anniversary of Netanyahu's election was marked with a one-day darkening of web sites;
the initiative started with the sites maintained by peace movements, and quickly spread to those of private persons
and some commercial enterprises. In the flourishing Israeli Internet community, the opponents of Netanyahu seem
to be very well represented.
+++ At the end of each academic year, on June 1, the Prime Minister of Israel is invited to make a speech to the
gathered students and faculty of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This year, the tradition was put in question:
a few days before the event, twenty three senior professors published an open letter, calling for a boycott of
the Netanyahu speech, stating: "During the one year of his tenure, Binyanmin Netanyahu already succeeded in
undermining institutions and principles which are dear to any enlightened and democratic society". The letter,
published on the first page of Israel's biggest mass-circulation paper, Yediot Aharonot, caused several days of
upheaval resulting in the PM canceling his appearance.
The University President convinced Netanyahu to come, after all, claiming that "these twenty three represent
only themselves." Netanyahu, speaking
under heavy guard, devoted most of his speech to an attack on "professorial intolerance and unwillingness
to listen to others" -- while the ministerial bodyguards roughly evicted student hecklers. Nevertheless, the
shouts "Bibi go home", from the large demonstration outside, were audible during the entire speech.
Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, Hebrew University, J'lem.
+++ June 4 -- the government-decreed "Jerusalem Day" mainly marked by nationalist-religious groupings
-- was selected by Gush Shalom as an appropriate time to hold once again a protest demonstration at the Har Homa/Jebl
Abu Ghneim site. The original plan was to march from the vicinity of the Mar Elias Monastery, east of the contested
site, while a parallel march by Palestinians would start simultaneously from the Palestinian protest tent camp
south of the mountain -- with the intention of the two marches meeting at Abu Ghneim itself.
The organisers did not ask for a permit from the police or army -- but the police nevertheless found out about
the plan, apparently from leaflets distributed at the Peace Now demo a few days earlier.
As a result, the hundred demonstrators had to stop far short of the construction site itself and hold their rally
on a hill overlooking it. They then proceeded by bus to meet with the Palestinian protesters. Uri Avnery -- for
whom this was the first public appearance after his collapse on the same spot a month earlier -- got an especially
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv; fx 03-5271108
+++ Also on June 4, several dozen Meretz activists picketed the Interior Ministry in central Jerusalem, protesting
its policies of depriving East Jerusalem Palestinians of their residence rights. After half an hour, they were
ordered away by the police "for their own protection" since the ministry was on the line of march of
the government-sanctioned "United Jerusalem" procession.
+++ Meanwhile, an intensive historico-political debate was going on in the written and electronic media, as well
as in the universities, about the war of 1967, the Six-Day-War.
It had started already in April, when Yediot Aharonot located in its files an interview with Moshe Dayan. Its publication
during his own lifetime the late general and minister had forbidden -- and he had his reasons. In the interview,
Dayan openly admitted that most of the incidents on the Israeli-Syrian border which preceded the outbreak of war
in 1967 resulted from deliberate Israeli provocations; that the attack upon Syria in June 1967 was launched with
the war already won, mainly under pressure from the farmers' lobby; and that even before the army went into the
Golan Heights, the farmers already had plans for establishing settlements in the to-be-conquered territory. Dayan
also berated himself for not removing the fanatic settlers from Hebron, immediately on their first appearance there
in 1968; this he regarded as the worst mistake in his career (Yediot Aharonot, 27.4).
Other papers sought revelations of their own: Ha'aretz (11.7) uncovered hitherto unpublished photos, taken by a
soldier during the destruction of three Palestinian villages in the Latrun Panhandle area and the expulsion of
their inhabitants, in the immediate aftermath of the war.
The tone of the public debate was in general reflective and critical. For the first time, it was openly questioned
whether or not the entire 1967 war had been necessary and justified. Such questions were hitherto raised only by
the most radical groups.
+++ The annual Memorial Rally, held under auspices of the army at East Jerusalem's "Ammunition Hill"
-- site of a fierce battle in 1967 -- was this year marked by intensive political debates breaking out between
the participating veterans. Haim Limor of Kibbutz Bar'am told Israeli Radio: "Looking at what is now happening
in Jerusalem, I more and more doubt whether the price we paratroopers paid here was worthwhile"(Kol Yisrael,
Another veteran of the same battle, the poet and singer Meir Ariel, was more blunt in a TV interview: "I ran
away from that memorial when they started to speak about "The Liberation of Jerusalem". Liberation? What
liberation? I don't feel liberated, I feel depressed, terribly depressed by all this stupid nonsense. Jerusalem
is now divided by much higher walls than thirty years ago" (Channel 1 Friday Night Magazine, 6.6).
+++ The Jerusalem Day session in the Knesset, which the government intended to be a ceremonial exhibition of "National
Consensus on Jerusalem" turned out to be the opposite. Labor KM Ya'el Dayan caused a sensation by referring
to East Jerusalem as "An Occupied Territory". In the following days, she came under a barrage of sharp
attacks from right-wing politicians and journalists, some of whom referred to "the shame of this being said
by the daughter of Moshe Dayan, who liberated Jerusalem" -- though, in fact, it has now become known that
Dayan had been less than eager to order the army into the Old City of Jerusalem, feeling apprehensive that this
would cause Israel endless international problems...
Pressured by the Labour Party leadership, who threatened her with "being to blame for the party's next electoral
defeat", Yael Dayan finally made a partial retraction: "I said that all the Palestinians regard East
Jerusalem as Occupied Territory and that we have to take this into account in formulating our policies, not that
this was my own view".
+++ On the afternoon of June 5, members of Yesh Gvul held a vigil in the former No-Man's-Land under the Old City
walls of Jerusalem, handing to bypassers a leaflet reading: "The border was here thirty years ago. It is still
here, and you know it. Is it not true that you don't cross this street if you don't have to -- and that if you
do, you feel apprehensive? The border is here. Help us make it a peaceful border!"
Contact: Yesh Gvul, POB 6953, J'lem, ph 03-5224118
+++ The Hadash Communists marked the thirtieth occupation anniversary with a three-stage event. First, a vigil
was held at the Defence Ministry, with No to
Occupation placards waved -- at the invisible generals in the tall building across the narrow road, and more concretely
at the thousands of drivers passing this busy Tel-Aviv thoroughfare. Then, at the nearby Cinematique Plaza, demonstrators
stood silently in half a circle while thirty torches were lighted -- a ceremony deliberately modeled on Israel's
official Memorial Day. Finally, there was transportation ready to Tul-Karm on the West Bank border, where a joint
rally with Palestinians took place.
Contact: Hadash, POB 26205, Tel-Aviv 61261
+++ At the "Six Hours Against the Occupation" marathon meeting, on June 6, the Tzavta Hall in Tel-Aviv
was packed with supporters of all currents in the peace movement. The speakers' podium was, however, dominated
by opponents of the Oslo Agreement -- some who had opposed it all along, others who because of the past year's
developments despaired of it ever achieving any positive result.
The main speaker -- Prof. Noam Chomsky, especially flying in from the U.S. -- identified Arafat's Palestinian Authority
as nothing more than a new version of the Apartheid South Africa's Bantustans. However, Jamal Zahalka -- one of
the few Palestinians to speak at the event -- cried out: "We are suffocating, we can't breath! We want to
have something now, not in the next generation or in a hundred years!"
+++ At noon on Friday, June 6, Jerusalem's France Square -- traditional rallying point of the Women in Black- was
thronged with hundreds of demonstrators from all over the country. Conspicuous was a large contingent of Arab women
in traditional clothes -- some from the Galilee, but others coming from East Jerusalem, partnership with the Israeli
women enabling them to overcome reluctance to cross the invisible border between the two Jerusalems, and to expose
themselves to police attention deep in the hostile Jewish environment.
+++ On June 17 -- anniversary of the day Netanyahu presented his new cabinet -- a Dor Shalom vigil in central Jerusalem,
with a giant sign One year of Bibi -- One year too much! led to a strange confrontation with several right wingers
who claimed to be policemen -- and were in the end arrested by real ones.
Dor Shalom, POB 23090, Tel-Aviv 61231
+++ On the following day, Peace Now Youths held a mock "Birthday celebration" outside the PM Office where
at the time a cabinet meeting took place. They brought a huge cake with the words "Bibi"s Budget Cake"
and a youth wearing a Netanyahu mask cut it, announcing: "This to the settlers, and also this, and also this..."
Peace Now Youth, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297.
+++ Reuven Meents -- peace activist and environmental engineer -- contributed information for the following.
While international attention is directed to the Har Homa issue, a potentially even more explosive settlement project
was approved by the government, aimed at creating "territorial continuity" between Israeli Jerusalem
and the large settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim to the east -- which would mean Israeli takeover of a 12,000 Dunams
(3,000 acres), depriving Arab East Jerusalem and its neighboring Arab towns of their last land reserves, and cutting
off the last road by which Palestinians can still freely travel between the West Bank's northern and southern part.
To the long and well reasoned Palestinian objections presented to the Israeli Planning Commission was added the
protest of three prominent Israeli architects: David Resnick and Ya'akov Rechter, laureates of the prestigious
Israel Prize, and Hubert Lo-Yon, Deputy Dean of the Architecture Department in the Haifa Technion.
The three pointed out that a development plan which is aimed only at extending the Jewish population and which
totally ignores the Palestinians -- leaving the Palestinian areas as white patches in the midst of the attached
map -- is, apart from moral and political considerations, contrary to the most basic principles of town planning.
The architects' initiative opened up a widespread debate, with whole-page articles appearing on the pages of Ha'aretz
-- on the particular issue but also on the role of Israeli architects and town-planners in general, to whom settlement
extension constitutes a large part of the available job opportunities.
A meeting was held on June 26 at the Tel-Aviv Engineers' Association House, and was given media attention rarely
devoted to architects and their gatherings. Several Palestinian architects were present, as well as many of their
dissident Israeli colleagues. Shlomo Aronson, the town planner responsible for the Ma'aleh Adumim extension plan
was present and came under fire. A few days later, the establishment architects held a counter-meeting in Jerusalem,
dominated by Mayor Ehud Olmart who claimed that "it is in the nature of Jerusalem to expand eastwards"...
Contact: Dr. Hubert Lo-Yon, Technion, Mt. Karmel, Haifa
+++ In the past years, Palestinians wounded and crippled by the shots of Israeli soldiers during the Intifada have
increasingly sued the Government of Israel in the Israeli courts, using the normal legal procedures -- and in a
surprising number of cases, succeeded in proving the soldiers'negligence and winning damages in the hundreds of
thousands, sometimes millions of Shekels.
Already in the time of the Labor Government, an initiative was made to block the Palestinans' way to the courts
-- but public protests prevented it. Now, Netanyahu's Minister of Justice Tzahi Ha'negbi revived the initiative,
declaring his intention to present a bill which would define all acts of violence during the Intifada to have been
"acts of war" on which normal civil laws do not apply. (Of course, the bill does not include giving Palestinian
prisoners POW status.) In "special humanitarian cases", the bill offers crippled Palestinians the possibility
of applying to a governmental committee...
On June 26, a coalition of seven Israeli Human Rights Organizations against the "Anti-Compensations Bill"
was launched in a well-attended public meeting, held at the Jerusalem Bar Association Headquarters.
On July 22 -- the day when the bill was about to be introduced in the Knesset -- a press conference was
held, in which Prof. Uriel Prokacha -- Dean of The Jerusalem University School of Law -- called the proposed bill
"Evil and Corrupt." Representing the Palestinian victims at the press conference was the 74-year old
Munir Karaja, who was shot and severely wounded while shopping in Hebron Market Place.
Compensations Coalition, POB 8588, J'lem 91083
Mass anti-war rally
+++ The government's repeated scandals, and the PM's shameless way of wriggling out of them, infuriated Yigal Goren
-- former TV reporter turned businessman -- and made him a full-time street campaigner. In April -- while the "Attorney
General Affair" (see p.5) was raging -- Goren, supported by a large group of highly-motivated youngsters,
established himself for two weeks in a tent outside the Prime Minister Office, demanding the formation of a Judicial
Commission of Inquiry. He got considerable media attention -- but did not succeed in generating the "mass
popular movement against Netanyahu" which was his declared aim.
The stubborn Goren tried again, relaunching his group under the name the Early Elections Movement, and issuing
a call for a mass rally in Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square. The slogan chosen was Bibi -- bad for all!, a play on last
year's winning elections slogan "Netanyahu -- good for the Jews", and a good slogan anyhow for uniting
anti-Netanyahu forces of all stripes.
During the week-long preparatory campaign, including enormous newspaper ads, Goren's focus shifted from Netanyahu's
scandals to the danger of war hovering over Israel -- a change partly resulting from his new alliance with the
Mothers for Peace.
It seems to have struck a sensitive chord: on the evening of June 28, the crowds kept streaming in their tens of
thousands into the Rabin Square, in what became the biggest rally since last September ("The Tunnel War").
Estimates of the participants' number were, as always, disputed between organisers, police and the different journalists
present, varying between thirty and fifty thousands.
There was a veritable forest of big and small banners and placards, some printed, others handmade: Netanyahu --
a year of failure!, Bibi -- Corruption, Poverty, War!; Har Homa leads to War! and of course the ubiquitous Bibi
-- bad for all! There were many carrying Rabin photos, accompanied by the slogan Go back to the road of Rabin!
Yigal Goren himself delivered the keynote speech. His outcry: "You were elected on the slogan of Secure Peace.
You have no mandate for war!" was received not only with an enormous spontaneous applause but also by suddenly
raised "No mandate for war" signs.
To veteran observers of the peace scene, there was something different about this rally -- a distinct element among
the participants, about ten percent, which were quite visibly not the kind of people who usually participate in
peace demonstrations, who in the beginning seemed a bit ill at ease but gradually joined the cheering and the clapping.
Their presence lent some credibility to Goren's dramatic declaration: "Bibi, you have succeeded in one thing
nobody did before. In just one year you have united the whole people, left and right, against you!."
Among the speakers were a considerable proportion of disillusioned Bibi supporters, such as Prof. Amiram Karmon,
who had been member of the Likud Campaign Headquarters: "We were offered, a year ago, a certain kind of product:
a young, dynamic, vigourous Prime Minister, who would bring Peace and Plenty. I believed in this product, I helped
sell it to the people. Now it turns out we were wrong, we bought a totally rotten, useless product. We should apply
to the Consumer Protection Society!"
The biggest surprise of the evening was undoubtedly Rafi Ben Zikry, a religious settler from the settlement of
Eli, in the heart of the West Bank. While many settlers oppose Netanyahu from their own motives, nobody expected
Ben Zikry to come back to the theme of war and cry out, as he did: Netanyahu is dragging us down to the abyss of
war -- this is the last moment to stop him! Later asked about it on the settlers' own pirate radio station, Ben
Zykry replied: Why are you surprised? We would be the first to be hurt!
EEM, c/o Elbaz, 56 Emek Refa'im St., J'lem 93142
+++ On July 1, Gush Shalom received an urgent phone call from Qalqilia, the Palestinian town closest to Tel-Aviv,
concerning a threat to two villages to its south, Beit Amin and Azun Atmeh. A plan mooted by the Israeli Ministry
of the Interior would create "municipal unity" between the Israeli settlements surrounding the two villages
on all sides, right up to the pre-'67 border itself -- which would result in both the settlements and the Palestinian
villages being effectively annexed to Israel (see p.20 articles).
On July 3, an emergency meeting was held with the Palestinian local leadership at the Qalqilia Chamber of Commerce,
and on Saturday, July 6, two buses with activists arrived at the Beit Amin schoolyard, where they and a contingent
of Peace Now Youths joined the gathered Palestinians in what was a non-violent protest in a by the day more violent
On the following day, Ha'aretz published a photograph of the Israeli-Palestinian protest and Ma'ariv added the
information that representatives of the borderline settlement of Oranit, straddling the Green Line, also oppose
the idea of being integrated with settlements deep inside the West Bank, and would rather integrate westwards...
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv; fx 03-5271108
+++ At the beginning of July, the Ir Shalem association scored one unexpected success in its unceasing struggle
to block the penetration of Israeli settlers into Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods. At point was a plan by Municipality
to transform the only public park in the Arab neighborhood of Shikh Jarah into a building site; a group of Nationalist-Religious
settlers, backed by the notorious millionaire Erwin Moskowitz of Miami Beach, Florida, was set to move into the
structures to be erected on the spot. It had been approved by the Local Planning Committee in 1996, with implementation
held off only through an appeal lodged by Ir Shalem Advocate Danny Seidmann, in the name of local Palestinian inhabitants.
Meanwhile, the political imbroglio caused by Har Homa apparently
convinced the government and Jerusalem Municipality to avoid opening a new front in East Jerusalem, and the Sheikh
Jarah Plan was inconspicuously squashed through acceptance of the Ir Shalem appeal by the Regional Planning Committee
(Kol Ha'ir, 4.7).
Contact: Ir Shalem, POB 4313, Jerusalem 91042.
+++ With daily violent confrontations in Hebron, the Hadash Communists scheduled for July 7 a picket of the Defence
Ministry (Tel-Aviv) with leaflets calling for the removal of the armed settler enclave from the heart of Hebron.
But in the few days it took to organise the event a truce brought momentary quiet to the embattled Hebron, and
media attention shifted to Lebanon -- where the killing of an Israeli paratrooper officer, ambushed by Lebanese
guerrillas, precipitated a long series of air and artillery shellings all along the South Lebanon front.
The organisers made a last-minute shift of emphasis, with the "Settlers our of Hebron" placards originally
prepared being supplemented with "Want security? Get out of Lebanon!", and "Bring the soldiers home
-- from Hebron and Lebanon!". A generally positive bypasser response was noticeable.
Contact: Hadash, 5 Hess St., Tel-Aviv.
+++ To West Bank Palestinans, the Israeli Bulldozer has two functions -- constructing houses for Israeli settlers,
and demolishing the houses which Palestinians build for themselves (illegally perforce -- since the Israelis don't
give them permits). The settlers, for their part, have the same perception -- constantly demanding of the government
to build more Jewish houses and demolish Arab ones, the two demands often appearing side by side in the same fiery
speech. But demolition of Palestinian houses tends to further inflame an already tense situation, and looks very
bad on CNN...
As a result, the government's house demolition policies are going through a constant see-saw. An enormous number
of demolition orders are being issued (860 in the West Bank, as of May 1997; a similar or greater number in the
annexed East Jerusalem). Implementation of these orders is alternately "frozen" and "de-frozen"
according to the shifting external and internal pressures applied on Netanyahu -- forces completely beyond the
control, or even knowledge, of the Palestinian families concerned, who live in utter insecurity. The first to be
hit, at times when the demolition crews get an occasional free rein, seem to be the scattered West Bank Bedouins
who live in out of the way places, and are a marginal element in the Palestinian society itself.
Israeli peace and human rights groups occasionally deal with this issue; now, a special Committee Against House
Demolitions has been formed and started organising solidarity tours of Israelis, including journalists, to the
A little concrete first result was to get Amira Hass of Ha'aretz to visit and write a big article (8.7) about the
hitherto unknown tragic story of Beit Mirsim, a small village West of Hebron. In 1967, immediately following the
war, the whole village -- located very near the old border -- was totally razed; afterwards, as a special act of
grace from the visiting then-Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, they were allowed to rebuild a single-room house per
family; now, after decades of being left comparatively alone, the enormously-extended Beit Mirsin families have
been ordered to themselves demolish all additions to the houses, and restrict themselves to the single room of
Contact: Amos Gvirtz, Kibbutz Shfa'yim 60990
+++ Over the past decade, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior is becoming increasingly zealous in its efforts
to deprive East Jerusalem Palestinians of the right to live in their city -- based on the fact that their legal
status derives from the law governing immigration to Israel, completely disregarding the fact that these Palestinians
did not emigrate to Israel, but rather it was Israel which had come to them.
A Jerusalemite Palestinian who has accepted the citizenship of a foreign country, one who has been absent from
the city for some years (the exact number of years being subject to sudden and arbitrary change by the Israeli
authorities) and one who moved to a Jerusalem suburb located in the non-annexed part of the West Bank -- all these,
which means tens of thousands of people, stand to lose their right to live in Jerusalem, or even to visit it; to
be stopped by soldiers at the approaches to Jerusalem, and to be treated as "illegal aliens" should they
be found within its confines.
The Alternative Information Center, constantly researching and documenting the practices of the occupation, was
the first to notice the phenomenon, already years ago. It was followed by HaMoked, an organization specialising
in helping Palestinian victims of Israeli bureaucracy, and which got an increasing number of desperate pleas for
help from uprooted Jerusalemites. This year B'tzelem joined in, publishing not only a comprehensive report for
journalists and experts but also a brochure intended for mass distribution, entitled "The Silent Transfer"
and presenting the issue in simple-to-understand terms ("Imagine you moved from Tel-Aviv to Holon, and suddenly
the government informed you that you can never go back, even to visit!").
Meanwhile, the issue got international attention, especially since some effected Palestinians hold US citizenship...
In international forums, Netanyahu started promising to change this policy -- but his Interior Minister Eli Suissa
announced that he would "continue to enforce the law towards illegal aliens in Jerusalem".
On July 9, the Knesset voted on a bill presented by Hadash KM Azmi Bishara, which would forbid the Interior Ministry
from annulling the residence rights of a person born in Jerusalem, or of a child or spouse of one.
The Interior Minister was shocked to see a big majority supporting the bill, including two Likud KM's -- Rubi Rivlin
and Gideon Ezra. Shouting "I have been betrayed!", Minister Suissa left the hall in a huff. The Bishara
Bill must, however, pass three further votes before it can become law.
AIC, POB 31417, J'lem 91313
B'tzelem, 43 Emek Refaim St. J'lem 93141
HaMoked, 4 Abu Ubeidah St. East J'lem 97200
Vanunu Message Seeps Through
From his isolated cell in Ashkelon Prison, the "Nuclear Prisoner" Mordechai Vanunu continues to haunt
the country's decision-makers. Vanunu's incoming and outgoing mail is strictly censored, and his latest appeal
against that censorship was rejected by the Supreme Court -- in proceedings of which the publication of any information
was prohibited by censorship.
However, the parliamentary immunity granted to Knesset Members forbids the censoring of letters sent to them. Vanunu's
use of this loophole so alarmed the government as to introduce a bill, immediately dubbed "The Vanunu Law",
which would permit the censoring of letters sent to KM's by prisoners who have been declared to be "Security
The Security Services seemed particularly alarmed by the letter which the famous prisoner had sent to Hadash Knesset
Member Azmi Bishara. They did get it censored; but as a direct result of the public debate, Vanunu's letter got
prominently published in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot, reaching many Israelis who had never before heard
"The Nuclear Spy" speak for himself. The blacked-out strips left by the censor served to arouse curiosity
From: M. Vanunu -- Ashkelon Prison
To: Knesset Member Azmi Bishara
"(...) I have no doubt that you, like all the Arab Knesset members, are opposed to the existence of (single
word censored) nuclear weapons in Israel, and support the way of (two lines censored). But I don't understand why
the Arab Knesset members do not raise this issue in the Knesset, why they refrain from attacking the state of Israel
(half a line censored) the truth and open the Dimona Nuclear Pile to international inspection. I think that you,
the representatives of the Arab Palestinians in Israel, should attack the establishment on every issue where you
have a strong backing, moral and international. If you attack Israel on the issue of (single word censored) nuclear
weapons you will get recognition and love from all over the world, and also from Jewish Israelis. The Jewish Knesset
Members, even those from Meretz and the left, do not dare to speak out. You might encourage some of them, or otherwise
they will have to show openly whether they support or not. I have broken through this barrier and revealed to the
whole world (half a line censored) and in fact I showed all the dangers involved in producing NW's (single word
censored), but I was kidnapped and gagged. You in the Knesset are free to speak out (...)."
(Yediot Aharonot, 22.6)
+++ At a recent visit to the Ashkelon Prison, Mordechai Vanunu's brothers Asher and Meir were taken completely
by surprise to be allowed to meet their brother face to face in the office of the prison governor, for the first
time in the ten years of imprisonment being allowed to touch and talk without a metal screen between them. No explanation
was offered to this sudden "human touch", nor was it explained if it was a one-time favor or a permanent
change of policy.
+++ In early April, the Israeli journalist Gideon Mahanaymi -- himself a former military intelligence officer --
revealed in the London Sunday Times the present whereabouts of "Cindy", the Mossad agent who had lured
Vanunu from England to Italy where he was kidnapped and taken to Israel. Her real name is Cheryl Bentov, and she
resides at Orlando, Florida (or did until she was traced). Mahanaymi was sharply attacked by right-wing journalists,
such as the notorious Yosef Lapid, who accused him of "treason" and of "disturbing the life of a
girl who did her duty to her country". He calmly rebuffed the accusations: "I am a journalist, and this
is a big story. After what this woman did, she can't expect journalists to leave her alone" (Yediot Aharonot,
+++ On April 21, the poet Aharon Shabtai published in the Ha'aretz literary supplement a poem entitled "Free
Mordecahi Vanunu". Referring to Israel's National Hero, Yoseph Trumpeldor, who fell at the outpost of Tel-Chai
and whose last words supposedly were "Never mind, it is good to die for our country." Shabtai wrote:
"Wearing three pairs of glasses/I push my nose near the monument at Tel-Chai/ And read the letters within
the letters:/It is bad to die for our country/Free Mor-de-chai Va-nu-nu."
+++ Playwright Yigal Ezrati has written and directed "Mr. V", a play on the life and imprisonment of
Mordechai Vanunu, with the cooperation of Vanunu's brother Meir, as well as conducting a (heavily censored) correspondence
with Vanunu himself. The resulting one-actor play was awarded a distinction at the Tel-Aviv Teatronetto Festival,
with critics applauding Jonathan Cherchi's "virtuosity in acting Vanunu's character, as well as the many other
characters who shed light on a different aspect of the man" (Shosh Weitz, Yediot Aharonot). Shai Bar Ner,
of the weekly Tel Aviv, remarked on the subject: "This is an attempt to look at ourselves as a nation, through
the story of a technician who decided that he is not willing to risk a Nuclear Holocaust".
("Mr. V" will be presented at the Edinburgh Festival, Scotland, between August 10 and 23 -- Pleasance
+++ In Yediot Aharonot on July 14, columnist Meir Stiglitz wrote: "Israel is the only one of the Western democracies
possessing a "nuclear capacity" in which the moral aspect of the nuclear policy is effectively left out
of the public discourse. Those who are known as the country's leading intellectuals have chosen to abdicate and
leave this issue almost entirely in the hands of the defence and security establishment".
+++ Since the international conference on Vanunu, held at Tel-Aviv in 1996 (see TOI-74, p.20) activities on behalf
of Vanunu in different countries have been on the rise: picketing of Israeli embassies and of
visiting Israeli VIP's; letters of protest sent to the Israeli authorities (mostly answered with stiff, formal,
identical letters -- but sometimes with an angry and scathing letter from embassy staff); adoption of Vanunu by
various peace and human rights groups (including ten different Amnesty International groups) and proliferation
of support committees devoted specifically to him, which now exist in no less than eighteen countries; lobbying
of various governments and parliaments to take up the issue with the government of Israel.
Of the last, the most notable achievement was the creation of "a Toe-Hold on Capitol Hill", as the US
Campaign for Vanunu put it -- with Senators Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota taking
up the issue, and Representative Ronald V. Dellums getting twelve of his colleagues to do the same. (The rather
cold reply from Secretary of State Albright declared the Vanunu case to be "an Israeli domestic legal matter").
For September this year, which will be the eleventh anniversary of Vanunu's kidnapping and imprisonment, a week-long
international vigil is planned, daily moving from one spot to another in Israel: The Dimona Pile, Ashkelon Prison,
Vanunu Committees: Israel -- POB 7323, J'lem 91072; USA -- 2206 Fox Ave., Madison, WI 53711; UK -- 89 Borough High
St., London SE1 INl; Contact addresses available for Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland,
Italy, New Zealand, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.
+++ Early this year a group of youths in the north of Israel, independent of older anti-nuclear initiatives, formed
a group under the name No More Hiroshima, held a seminar in Haifa in early June, and started collecting signatures
on a petition calling upon the government to declare officially whether it possesses nuclear weapons and, last
but not least, to open the Dimona Nuclear Pile to inspection by public committees which would publish their reports.
On the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in early August, they intend to hold demonstrations outside the
Dimona Pile and the Knesset, respectively.
Contact: No More Hiroshima, POB 296, Ma'alot 21011, IL
Kafka in Megiddo
Megiddo: a desolate place in northern Israel. A passing traveler could hardly miss the military prison. The few
able to get a glimpse behind its grim walls and barbed wire would notice, except for a conventional prison building,
a quite large area divided into enclosures, each holding several dozen prisoners -- with shelter from sun and rain
provided by tents.
Megiddo is the place of incarceration for about 280 Palestinian "Administrative Detainees" held without
trial, under half-year detention orders issued by the Israeli Army which are capable of indefinite renewal and
which contain no charges beyond the assertion that "this person constitutes a danger to security". No
evidence to prove the assertion is needed under the "Emergency Regulations" which Israel inherited from
the British colonial regime. Some of the detainees already served three or four years behind bars, with no idea
how long their imprisonment would still continue.
In 1988 the Supreme Court in Jerusalem ruled that such detainees, held without trial, should receive prison conditions
far better than those of ordinary prisoners and "comparable to the conditions of Prisoners of War" --
as then Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar put it. But these stipulations are often ignored or infringed upon
by prison administrations.
Good prison conditions were, indeed, guaranteed to the single Israeli extreme nationalist imprisoned in 1996 under
the same set of "Emergency Regulations". At the time, an impressive lobby of right-wing Knesset Members
came out with the demand that the authorities must either bring charges against the man or release him. (The second
possibility was what eventually took place). None of these KM's could be persuaded to apply the same logic to the
hundreds of Palestinian detainees...
The Oslo-2 Agreement explicitly mandated the release of all Palestinian women prisoners. With obvious reluctance,
Netanyahu had carried out this obligation in February, a year and half after the date originally stipulated; he
seems in no hurry to carry out the clauses relating to male prisoners in general and to administrative detainees
Meanwhile, a long-felt feeling of frustration at Megiddo boiled over. Whether or not by design, the fateful day
of March 18 when Israeli bulldozers started work at Jebl Abu Ghneim/Har Homa was also the day when several of the
longest-serving administrative detainees at Megiddo were informed that their incarceration was being extended by
still another half a year.
On the night of March 19, the Palestinian detainees staged what were initially extensive non-violent protests.
Their representatives met with prison officials, emphasizing that their protest was not about prison conditions
(Warden Elbaz of Megiddo is acknowledged by the detainees to be more liberal then most of his colleagues, as far
as daily prison routine is concerned) but about the institution of administrative detention in itself. Accordingly,
they demanded an immediate meeting with a senior government representative, empowered to talk on this basic issue.
Short fruitless negotiations were followed with the invasion of the prisoner enclosures by a company of soldiers.
The prisoners reacted by throwing any object which came to hand, from soap lumps to tin cans; the soldiers shot
dozens of tear gas canisters, many of which were thrown back by the prisoners; the prisoners then set seven of
the tents on fire... An enterprising Israeli TV reporter was able to climb and direct his camera over the prison
wall, getting the Israeli public some dramatic footage of "Megiddo Prison on Fire".
Dozens of prisoners were wounded during the suppression of the mutiny, some being severely beaten up by the soldiers
who took them to the prison clinic.
Shortly afterwards, however, prisoner representatives were invited to talk with Brigadier General Herzl Goetz,
the army's Chief Security Liaison Officer with the Palestinian Authority, who agreed to convey their grievances
to his superiors. A deal was made (or so it seemed) on one concrete issue: the authorities were henceforth to give
some advance warning to the prisoners whose terms of detention would be extended, and stop their habit of giving
such bad news at the very last moment -- which has the effect of letting the prisoner and his family entertain
As often in Israeli-Palestinian relations, all this quite soon proved worthless. For two months, the prisoners
heard nothing from the authorities except for dire threats of what would happen if "disturbances" occurred
again in the prison; in May, Goetz came again empty handed, telling the detainees that "the problem was very
complicated" and that they would have to "wait patiently"; and notices of detention extension continued
to arrive, as usual, on the very last day of prisoner's previous term.
For good measure, a new kind of prisoner started arriving at Megiddo. Palestinian prisoners who had once been sentenced
by a military court for offenses against Israeli rule and who, at the end of their prison term, were presented
with administrative detention orders instead of being released.
On the evening of May 15, the detainees held protest processions in their enclosures, carrying benches made to
resemble coffins; then they stood for ten minutes with bandages covering their mouths, to signify that the detention
was intended to prevent them from freely expressing their political opinions; finally, prisoner representatives
informed the prison administration that the detainees would not comply with prison regulations during the evening
One of the representatives was hauled off to solitary confinement; the warden, professing a personal sympathy for
the detainees' grievances, told the other representatives that he had been ordered to take "tough steps."
Shortly afterwards, soldiers began a heavy tear gas barrage, turning the prisoners' enclosures into virtual "white
lakes;" prisoners who tried to climb up for fresh air were beaten up. Dozens of detainees were subsequently
in need of medical treatment, as well as two soldiers on whom gas was blown by the wind.
A few days later, television was invited to make a carefully-supervised tour of the Megiddo Prison "to see
that everything is calm again." But immediately afterwards, more than half of the administrative detainees,
said to be "ringleaders," were transferred from Megiddo to the Sharon and Damun Prisons, where they were
housed in basement cells devoid of fresh air and sunlight, and subjected to a considerable worsening of their conditions
regarding food, exercise, reading material and, last but not least, toilet paper.
Some of these deprivations were ameliorated after detainee protests, including in some cases hunger strikes; but
as detainees told their lawyers, the strategy was clearly designed to force them to divert from their principled
struggle against administrative detentions back to particular issues of daily prison conditions.
Meanwhile, however, the repeated unrest and mutinies helped gain more attention for the issue from journalists
and human rights activists.
On the pages of Ha'aretz, Gideon Levy published a whole series of articles (see TOI-76, p.12) -- concluding with
the publication, over two pages, of photos, names and antecedents of some sixty detainees -- in an effort to counter
the Israeli media's tendency to treat Palestinians as a nameless, faceless horde.
In the literary supplement of the same paper, Ilana Hammerman published some "prison writings from Megiddo"
by the detainee Imad Sabi," which were found to have considerable artistic merit aside from their political
significance -- together with Latin American works by and about political prisoners and hostages, such as excerpts
from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book recently translated by Hammerman into Hebrew (Ha'aretz, 6.6).
On July 18, the news came of several administrative detainees starting a hunger strike -- emphasizing that it was
"not about prison conditions but about administrative detention as such." Hadash activists picketed the
Prime Minister's Office, calling for the immediate release of all administrative detainees. On the same evening,
the Israeli TV's prestigious Friday Night Magazine gave a ten minutes' coverage to the hitherto ignored cause --
several administrative detainees being interviewed (in Hebrew!) through the barbed wire fences, and with TV crews
visiting the detainees' families. The Israeli public, long accustomed to think of all imprisoned Palestinians as
"terrorists" was confronted with such scenes as a little girl kissing her imprisoned father's photograph,
and a woman crying bitterly in front of Hasharon Prison, after being informed that because of a bureaucratic mistake
she would not be allowed to visit her imprisoned brother.
Suha Bargouti of Ramallah -- wife of Ahmed Katamsheh, already under administrative detention for five years --
pulled out on camera a copy of an old document: the statement made from prison by five members of the Irgun (Jewish
Underground headed by Menachem Begin) -- when they had been themselves placed under administrative detention by
the Ben-Gurion Government, in the first days of the state. The letter, setting out their reasons for starting a
hunger strike, bore a strong resemblance to that issued by the present-day detainees.
The television located one of the five signatories on that 1948 letter, Betzal'el Amitzur. Asked for his opinion
about the Palestinian detainees, the Irgun veteran said after some consideration: "Well, if they have no blood
on their hands and nothing could be proven against them. then I really suppose they should be let go."
Contact: Adv. Tamar Peleg, 12 Hatana'im St., Tel-Aviv
Bet'selem: 43 Emek Refa'im St, J'lem; fx 02-5617271
LAW -- Pal. Human Rights Soc., POB 20873, East J'lem
+++ At the beginning of July, Yuval Lotem -- a 40-year Israeli film director from Kfar Shmaryahu, father of a
five-year old girl and a reserve lieutenant in the Israeli Defence Forces -- received a call-up order for a month's
military reserve duty on the West Bank. Lotem told his commanding officer that he would not go into occupied territory.
Rather than imprison him, the military authorities offered Lotem an alternative place of service, within "The
Green Line" (which in recent years became standard procedure). In the case of Lieutenant Lotem, the alternative
place was... Megiddo Prison.
Lotem turned down this generous offer, and was subsequently tried for disobedience. At the short proceeding, Lotem
stated for the record "I refuse to be an instrument of the occupation, and in particular I refuse to stand
guard over political prisoners. I prefer to be a prisoner myself." This wish was promptly granted, though
not at Megiddo -- which is reserved for Palestinian prisoners, but at No. 6 Prison at Atlit.
Yesh Gvul, POB 6953, Jerusalem, ph 03-5224118
+++" The following was published in the readers' letters column of Yediot Aharonot on June 17.
Sir, -- Since 1962 I have served in the IDF, consecutively as a conscript, reservist and career officer. Several
years ago, I was discharged from active service on medical grounds. However, I felt that my military service had
been of use to the country, and in particular -- that in that job I would be in a position to help the civilian
population in case of an emergency situation developing. Therefore, I asked for a special permission to continue
my military service as a volunteer officer. This was granted after some effort on my part. In the past year, I
am no longer able to identify with what the authorities are doing. I am horrified and apprehensive at the breaking
of the peace process. I cannot in any way support a government which regards maintaining possession of ancestral
graves as justifying the digging of fresh ones, graves for our sons.
Therefore, the only way left me, to express my desperate protest is to turn in the officer's commission which is
still dear to me and declare that I am no longer able to serve as a volunteer officer in the IDF.
Major Dr. Ilan Biran, Tel-Aviv
Mothers for peace
Since the helicopter crash of February 4, in which 73 soldiers en route to Lebanon were killed, the Galilee Women
in Black started holding regular vigils at the north border, calling for the return of the soldiers from Lebanon.
Perhaps they inspired that other group of Galilee women who got country-wide attention for their vigils -- with
much the same slogans -- all of them being mothers whose own sons are soldiers right now serving in Lebanon...
The group, officially known as Mothers and Women for Peace, is often referred to as The Four Mothers -- a name
reminiscent of the Four Matriarchs of Jewish tradition. The four founders, who have known each other for a long
time and have sons of the same age group, came together in shared anxiety after the helicopter crash. As they later
told, the message spread like brushfire, with dozens of other women joining "relieved that at last there was
something to do."
The general public became aware of the group on May 25, with a huge photo spread over the front page of Yediot
Aharonot, followed by Amalya Dayan's TV interview: "We have had enough of sacrifice. What is the use? So that
on Memorial Day we will hear that They Were Heroes and that Their Death Gave Us Life? I don't accept this! I don't
want to live at the price of my son's death! There must be another way, and I expect of my government to find it!"
(First Channel News, 23.5).
The Mothers' came soon under attack, not only from government supporters but also from some of the more militaristic
in the Labor Party camp. They were accused of "demoralising their own sons"; another approach was of
not taking them serious ("the anxiety of mothers about their sons is understandable").
It was, however, difficult for the Israeli establishment to disregard this growing phenomenon. On June 6 -- anniversary
of the 1982 Lebanon War outbreak, as well as of 1967 -- similar women's vigils were held at no less than 30 crossroads
around the country. On June 23 they organized a march in Tel-Aviv under the giant banner: For war we have no sons
to spare! On the evening of June 28, their representative was cheered when she repeated the same words to the crowd
at Rabin Square (see p. 13). Moreover, they have become a phenomenon, mentioned in practically all of the many
articles published on the issue of Lebanon, becoming a factor in the internal ongoing debate cutting through both
Labor and Likud, strengthening the hand of mainstream politicians supporting withdrawal from Lebanon, being regarded
as a pressure group representing many times more than their active membership...
When Defence Minister Morderchai launched his (apparently futile) initiative to have French troops replace the
Israelis in South Lebanon, the Ma'ariv commentator wrote in all seriousness: "Mordechai has no choice. He
must show The Mothers that he is at least trying..."
"The Mothers" -- Miri Sela, Kibbutz Mahana'yim 12315
+++ Meanwhile the military authorities make intensive efforts to increase soldier motivation, including material
and moral inducements to soldiers -- to combat soldiers in particular -- and tough steps against "shirkers".
The first victims, it turns out, are the Conscientious Objectors in Israel -- many of them immigrants from the
former Soviet Union. During 1995 and 1996 -- for the first time in the Israeli Army's history -- an official Military
Committee on Conscientious Objection was formed and actually granted CO status to several conscripts, such as the
21-year old Michail Krasnovski. In 1997, this committee -- which never had an official legal status -- was effectively
terminated. Yakov Krasnovski -- who is Michail's twin brother and shares his Tolstoyan-Pacifist world view, but
who for some bureaucratic reason was drafted a year later -- was refused the CO status granted to his brother.
Instead, he is at the time of writing undergoing his third consecutive prison term. Another refuser, Sergey Ashin,
was severely beaten up by prison guards for his
refusal to wear a uniform; later, he was sent for ten days to a psychiatric hospital, where the doctors determined
that the only thing wrong with him was acute apprehension of prison -- upon which he got a psychiatric discharge
from the army.
A conference on Conscientious Objection in Israel is due at Jerusalem's Notre Dame Center on Wednesday, August
27, at 2.00 P.M.
Contact: Yevgeny Davidov, POB 15125 Be'er Sheba, phone 04-8261047
+++ The entry of journalists into South Lebanon is strictly controlled by the military authorities; soldiers on
TV usually show themselves highly motivated and without doubts about being on Lebanese soil. With the crew whose
footage was shown on June 6 the "Press Liaison Officer" slipped a bit. Viewers saw soldiers in an outpost,
sitting in circle and singing: "What a dirty mess / What a dirty mess / Whores get fucked for money / To us
it's done for free..."
+++ The following testimony was given by an unnamed military prison officer, during an officers meeting on the
issue of soldier motivation. Ha'aretz published it (10.6) under the banner headline: "Soldiers prefer desertion
"Many soldiers who are sent to Lebanon prefer to desert. They tell it openly: "When you desert, you have
a few months at home which is fine, and then you get caught and sent to prison. So what? At least in prison nobody
is going to shoot at you." For these soldiers, many of them trained combat soldiers, desertion has become
a positive idea."
General Gideon Shefer, head of the Army's Manpower Department, reportedly said that the officer has a "one-sided
view," since in prison he came in contact mainly with "the worst elements," and that morale and
motivation in the elite units are high and rising; the prison officer replied, however, that many of the deserters
are from the same elite units.
Adam Keller in Amsterdam and Berlin
TOI's editor has been invited to speak:
at Amsterdam on August 24 (>SIVMO, 020-6641687);
at Berlin on October 25 (>SFAB, 030-9814891).
The Real War
The haunting images are broadcast on television. Thousands of Israeli mothers watch in horror as explosives blow
up under the legs of one of their sons. Hundreds of millions around the globe watch an Arab youth get shot to death
near the settlement of Morag. They watch as undercover agents in Hebron drag an unconscious Arab youth on the ground
like a sack of flour.
But the real war is not waged on Shuhada Street in Hebron, and its weapons are not Molotov cocktails or rubber
bullets. The real war is being waged on dozens of battlefields across the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem,
and its weapons are made of paper: maps, decisions and decrees. It is a war which will determine the fate of millions
of Israelis and Palestinians.
The war dates back 115 years, when the first Zionist pioneers set foot in the land. In this ongoing war, the Jewish
side seeks to take control of as much land as possible for its settlements, while the Palestinians struggle to
hold onto their land and to repel the assaults.
While the Israeli media preoccupies itself with Minister David Levy's most recent temper tantrum, and Israelis
gossip about "what exactly did Sara (Netanyahu) say" in the censored TV interview, some of the best minds
in Israel are busy creating ways to take control of more lands. An entire army of clerks, legislators, politicians,
officers, settlers, and architects works tirelessly to devise ever more subterfuges.
The most recent one: Oranit, a settlement which runs through the Green Line, was unified with a few other settlements
as an "administrative step." The entire territory now automatically falls under Israeli jurisdiction.
This territory happens to include two complete Palestinian villages, Beit Amin and Azun Atmah, as well as portions
of half a dozen other Palestinian villages. A piece of paper, an administrative decision, and presto - a large
block of the West Bank is annexed to Israel.
The war is waged across the length and breadth of the Occupied Territories, from Morag in the south to Jenin in
the north. New settlements are built under the guise of "expanding" existing ones. Settlements are built
on "Har Homa", in Ras el Amud, in any open space still left in annexed East Jerusalem.
The Bedouins are expelled, in stages, from all the area between Jerusalem and the Jordan River. Fences are erected
"to protect the settlements", and in the process, another chunk of Palestinian land is swallowed. More
and more "state lands" are discovered (common village land which, at the time, was registered in the
name of the Turkish Sultan, in order to preserve it for future use - as a land reserve). There is no limit to the
conniving. No acre of Palestinian land is safe from the next Israeli pretext for annexation.
The laughable "peace maps" which are published from time to time - Allon-Plus, Sharon-Plus, Netanyahu-Plus,
etc. - are nothing more than schemes for the annexation of much of the West Bank land. There is not a chance in
the world that the Palestinian people and the entire Arab World would ever accept such ethnic cleansing, which
would leave the Palestinians with 10% of their original homeland between the Mediterranean and the Jordan.
Yitzchak Rabin, who had dedicated his life to the conquest of the land, came to understand this fact late in his
life. He comprehended that the conflict must end; otherwise Jew and Palestinian alike will be consumed in a cataclysm
of Biblical proportions.
In the Oslo Accords, Rabin left open the possibility of territorial additions. However, the further he progressed
in the peace process, the better he understood the inherent danger of continued annexation. In his last Knesset
speech, Rabin acknowledged this for the first time. "We did not come to an empty land!" It was for this
realization that he was assassinated.
Is it possible to end this war of annexation? A pessimist would argue that the lust for taking over and occupying
the land is too deeply rooted in the soul of the Israeli society - a society which was born and came of age throughout
this war. An optimist would counter that if Rabin could succeed in weaning himself, then anyone can.
As an optimist one has just to hope that it will not take too long.
Gates of Hope?
Everybody is talking of the dying peace process. Nearly nobody is doing something to save it. Last Saturday afternoon,
with the sun still high on the western sky, I went to see the patient in his deathbed.
You travel half an hour from Tel-Aviv, cross the Green Line into the West Bank near Qafr Quasem, and then travel
a few more minutes by a winding road in the foothills until you reach the twin villages of Azun Atmeh and Beit
Amin, a bit east of the settlement of Oranit. On the Oslo Agreement maps, these are marked as an irregular yellow
blotch -- which means that the Palestinians have civil authority but the Israeli Army can (and does) still interfere
When the interim agreement was signed on September 25, 1995, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were in an
optimistic mood, shaking hands and embracing in front of the world's TV cameras. They have painted the whole map
of the Occupied Territories into a quilt of innumerable
coloured areas, with crazily meandering demarcation lines -- brown for "A" areas, handed over completely
to the Palestinians with their civil and military institutions; white for "C," which remained fully Israeli-controlled
for the time being; and the hybrid "B," marked yellow. There was no intention that this arrangement would
have more than a fleeting existence; the same agreement specified the timetable for the three "further redeployments,"
which were going to change this map totally. Thus, the peace process was supposed to roll along its preordained
path and reach its maturity in a definite peace agreement, the long-awaited "definite solution." It was
not to be.
Azun Atmeh and Beit Amin -- twin villages, far from the noisy mainstream of politics, names which rarely if
ever appear in the news-hungry media. Only one hill separates the two villages, which share a single school, and
more importantly -- a single family origin, with all inhabitants being descended of the same many-branched clan.
For many decades, this was a forgotten backwater which had no desire to be discovered, tucked away between the
mountains and the coastal plain -- a nearly self-contained peasants' republic with some 11,000 industrious inhabitants
jealously preserving their independence, selling the produce of their small fields in the marketplace of nearby
Qalqilya without showing much interest in city life.
In 1967, the tide of war and Israeli conquest passed quickly over them, without making much of an initial change.
But in the early 1980's the true invasion began -- the invasion of the settlers. Israeli settlers broke the immemorial
quiet, with bulldozers busily cutting new roads through their hills and Israeli houses with their mock-European
red tile roofs springing up in enormous clusters all around the old twin villages -- east and west, north and south.
Familiar pieces of land suddenly assumed alien identities with unfamiliar Hebrew names, Elkana and Etz Ephraim
and Alfey Menashe and Oranit, some names taken from the Bible and other thought up by the bureaucrats of the governmental
To make things worse, some of the settlers arrived at the villagers' very doorstep. In the whole of the Territories
you will hardly find such a place as this, where the settlers' houses virtually touch the Palestinian school at
the bottom of the hill -- a high barbed-wire fence clearly marking the demarcation line. "Sha'arey Tikva,"
that is how the new masters of the land dubbed their new acquisition, "The Gates of Hope," with the sign
at the gate in the high fence proclaiming that here you may find "Quality of Life..."
And now, the Ministry of the Interior is planning a thorough reform of this region: in the interest of efficiency,
a municipal unification is to be effected between the local councils in the area -- the Jewish councils, that is.
The plan makes no explicit mention of the twin Palestinian villages, which would find themselves hopelessly trapped
in the midst of the new settlement block, whose remaining lands would be confiscated under one legal pretext or
another, whose inhabitants would have no alternative but to eke out a meager existence as daily labourers on the
land which was theirs...
Last Saturday, the villagers called a protest rally. It was held in the front yard of the school -- the last Palestinian
outpost facing the encroaching "Gates of Hope." The villagers made considerable efforts to invite peace-seeking
Israelis, in the hope that a joint struggle of the two peoples would foil the threat hanging over them. We came,
members of Gush Shalom and Peace Now, several dozens out of the indifferent hundreds of thousands living in metropolitan,
cosmopolitan Tel-Aviv -- half an hour's drive, and a whole universe, away.
Will it be enough? Will the Gates of Hope ever yield?
(Translated from Ma'ariv, 9.7)