The Other Israel _ August 1998, Issue No. 85
Waiting for Godot
"It is No Longer My Country," by Elisheva
(Interviewed in Yediot Ahronot, 24 July 1998)
The Split Battalion
No More Naqba!
Painting the Green Line
Gush Shalom Marks the Green Line
Race Against the Bulldozer
The Jerusalem Struggle
Getting Out of Lebanon
Vanunu Conference in September
Theatre of the Absurd
Dialogue in Denmark, by Naftali Raz
The War of 1999, by Uri Avnery
(Translated from Ma'ariv, 19 June 1998)
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THE OTHER ISRAEL
August 1998, Issue No. 85
WAITING FOR GODOT
Nearly a year has passed since September 7, 1997 -- the date set out in
The Hebron Agreement, bearing Binyamin Netanyahu's solemn signature, as
the time for "The Second Redeployment" of Israeli military forces on
the West Bank. Already then it was obvious that the Prime Minister was
in no hurry to honour his obligation. Still, the peace activists who on
that day held a modest vigil outside the Prime Minister's office could
hardly imagine just how many such weary and forlorn pickets would
follow, in the weeks and months to come.
As originally set down in Oslo, the "Second Redeployment" was intended
to be no more than a technical measure, a single step among many in the
implementation of a temporary ('interim') agreement. "Peacemaker
Netanyahu" succeeded in transforming it into a hot issue in its own
right, endlessly discussed and debated to the exclusion of everything
else with the same arguments repeated ad nauseam. With the passage of
time it nearly assumed the aspect of an ideal dreamland forever
receding beyond the horizon -- only to end up as the subject of irony
and sad jokes, for those not yet weary of it altogether.
In the beginning everything seemed sharp and clear. Ministers carefully
prepared and polished speeches for the expected "crucial and decisive
cabinet meeting," and ministerial aides took care to immediately leak
the text to an eagerly-waiting press. Settlers organised frantic
rallies, declaring themselves "betrayed by the nationalist government
which we ourselves brought to power" -- hotly debating whether or not
the time had come for toppling Netanyahu. Peace Now called
counter-rallies with the slogan "Netanyahu, take a brave step forward!"
and the movement's veterans recalled how, after Camp David, they had
found themselves supporting Begin against the hardliners of Begin's own
party. The opposition Labor Party was torn up in fierce debate on the
possibility of offering to a peacemaker Netanyahu a "parliamentary
safety net" or even joining his cabinet.
It turned out to be a pattern rehearsed again and again. After a week
or two the realisation would sink in that Netanyahu was still sticking
to the same meagre scope of redeployment, only attaching new draconian
conditions in order to make sure that the Palestinians wouldn't accept.
Then would follow another few weeks of lacklustre negotiations --
suddenly punctuated by media reports of a soon-approaching
breakthrough. Whereupon, all the reactions from all sides of the
political spectrum would repeat themselves, but with diminishing
enthusiasm and fading conviction -- and even more so when the cycle was
repeated for a third and a fourth and a tenth time.
It is always difficult to mobilise people over stalled negotiations;
they tend to get stuck over intricate fine points which only
professional diplomats can appreciate, and reading about it in the
paper makes the reader yawn rather than angry. By the middle of the
year, no more than a few dozen peace activists at a time could be found
to hold still another "Netanyahu, Implement the Redeployment!" vigil.
True, "progressive" Israelis did still gather in their tens of
thousands for an angry, militant rally in the center of Tel-Aviv -- but
the anger was sparked by the ultra-Orthodox interfering in an artistic
performance and trying to dictate the length of the dancers' underwear;
Netanyahu and his negotiating antics got scarcely a peripheral
reference by the speakers.
As a matter of fact, the same situation was matched on the opposite
side of the spectrum. The nationalist-religious rhetoric of the extreme
right leaders seemed to elicit hardly any response from their own
followers. Mostly free of the need to confront extra-parliamentary
opposition, Netanyahu dealt deftly with the cabinet and parliament --
constantly pitting minister against minister, faction against faction
and party against party in a swirling web of contradicting promises and
threats, of which few could keep track. The PM's freedom of action was
increased by his excluding the cabinet from any real share in the
decision-making: conduct of the negotiations (if "negotiations" the
whole process could still be called) was first relegated to the select
"Inner Cabinet"; thence to a still smaller cabinet, nicknamed "the
kitchenette"; and finally to informal meetings consisting of just
Netanyahu and some loyal, subservient advisers...
During the memorable "Washington Middle East Week" in January
-- the week which began with the (separate) visits of Netanyahu and
Arafat and ended
with the Lewinski Sex Scandal bursting out -- a U.S. plan for "The
Second Redeployment" was already in existence.
The plan provided for a redeployment from 13.1 % of the West Bank. This
is far less than the Palestinians could have expected, at this stage,
on the basis of the plain text of the Oslo Accords. Nevertheless, it
would give them something concrete: at least, many small Palestinian
enclaves would be linked into a few bigger ones; at least, some tens of
thousands of Palestinians would be released from the direct threat of
their houses being demolished or their land being confiscated. The US
proposal also sought to square the circle of Israeli intransigence and
Palestinian hurt pride by a set of intricate and pragmatic ways by
which to implement some of the demands which Netanyahu put under the
code name "reciprocity." An acrobatic masterpiece was the way in which
the "Palestinian National Covenant," effectively rejected by the
Palestinians already in the 1980's and officially repealed in 1996,
would at last be laid to final and irrevocable rest.
The decision by Arafat to give up his original demand for a 30%
redeployment and officially accept the U.S. proposals created a new
reality: a first-ever U.S.-Palestinian diplomatic front. It had,
however, the obvious danger of making "The 13%" a starting position
from which the Palestinians would be expected to go further down. To
avert this threat, the Palestinians asked and got from Secretary of
State Albright a "cast-iron promise" that they would not be asked to
make any more concessions. For his part, Netanyahu steadfastly refused
to accept the American proposals; and there, essentially, the situation
remained for at least half a year.
In those months, direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations ceased
altogether. Having accepted the US proposal in its entirety, the
Palestinians saw nothing more to negotiate about. Netanyahu's
negotiations -- in which he refused to budge -- were carried out with
his American allies.
Secretary of State Albright is reported to have a speech ready written,
ready since March at least -- a speech setting out the above situation
in clear and unambiguous words, and placing squarely upon Netanyahu the
blame for the impasse. But the speech was never delivered, despite
several "deadlines" and "ultimatums" served upon Netanyahu with a
visibly weakening resolve.
Netanyahu had delivered ultimatums of his own. At his disposal is the
so-called "Jewish Lobby" -- a lobby which, to judge from recent polls
among U.S. Jews, represents only a hard-line conservative minority
among them, but which nevertheless seems to have stranglehold over
Capitol Hill. It also appears to have a special leverage over the Vice
President. Al Gore's putative presidential race in 2000 seems to be a
serious consideration in defining the policies of the present holder of
the office. To all this should be added Netanyahu's intimate relations
with the U.S. Conservative Christian Right and its representatives in
Congress, which seem to stem at least in part from a real ideological
affinity. Altogether, there was some substance to Netanyahu's threat to
"set Washington on fire around Clinton" -- and the President backed
Intimidated by Netanyahu's clout in internal American politics, and
bound by its promise not to demand further concessions from the
Palestinians, the world's sole remaining superpower found itself with
no real leverage in its Middle East mediating role. Ambassador Dennis
Ross, in his repeated shuttle tours to the region, was being repeatedly
humiliated -- until finally the "shuttle diplomacy," which had "created
too many expectations" was shelved. It was replaced by "telephone
diplomacy," with the press occasionally given reports of "firm phone
calls to Netanyahu" which Albright was said to have made even from
There were some others who tried to fill the gap; in particular,
British PM Tony Blair, fresh from his success in Northern Ireland --
which, however, he had no real means of repeating in the Middle East.
France, too, tried its hand at Middle East mediating -- but its best
effort, a well-reasoned plan to revive Israeli-Syrian negotiations
which may have influenced the Palestinian track as well, was foiled by
Netanyahu even more roughly than the US efforts.
It would not be quite true to say that Netanyahu's position never
changed in all these months; not quite. In the beginning, he openly
shared the position of hardliner Ariel Sharon that "9% is the absolute
maximum concession." At a certain moment he seemed, according to
unofficial press leaks, to have accepted the "13% proposal." Soon,
however, it turned out that in fact Netanyahu still wanted to maintain
"a special status" for three out of these 13%, a "special status" which
amounted to a nearly
complete continued Israeli control...
While "the speech" remained locked in Madeline Albright's safe, the
Secretary of State met with the Palestinians, asking them to resume
direct talks with Netanyahu: "You have to try yourselves. I tried to
convince Netanyahu to accept the 13%. I tried, but I didn't succeed."
To Albright's real or feigned astonishment, the usually urbane and
correct Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath "broke the rules" and
reported this confidential conversation to the Washington Post...
It is no longer my
(...) 'In 1948 I was nineteen years old, with a five-month old baby,
when a soldier knocked on the door and told me that I had just become a
widow. Since then, Independence Day is for me a day of mourning. I lost
my husband in the war, and for fifty years I have been waiting for
things to get better. I had a moment of hope after Oslo, but my hope
was murdered. Since then the sands have been running out for me, and
now it is over. For me, it is finished. I was born here, I have become
an army widow here, I went through all the wars and crises, always
believing that one day it will become better. For me, this business
called the state of Israel is finished. I am too old to continue
waiting. (...) I can't bear to see it anymore, the injustice that is
done to the Arabs, to the Bedouins. All kinds of scum coming from
America and as soon as they get off the plane taking over lands in the
territories and claiming them for their own. And they do it in full
daylight, with the backing of the government. The army and police do
nothing to stop them. Stop them? The army and police are helping them
in every way. I can't do anything to change it. I can only go away and
let the the whole lot go to hell without me.'
Actress (and household name) Elisheva Michaeli, interviewed in Yediot
The end of July, when the Knesset goes into summer recess, was
trumpeted as the "very last" deadline, the very last possibility of
saving the talks. That was when the supposed moderates inside the
cabinet were expected to show their hand at last and present Netanyahu
with an ultimatum; when the Labor opposition thought to make at last a
show of force; when hard bitten and still dedicated activists of
different peace movements strained themselves for protest actions
around the Knesset. As the reader knows, Netanyahu got through it --
without his government falling; without carrying out the redeployment;
and with the futile negotiations still dragging on, to which Netanyahu
could point out as a slender alibi and "proof" of his continuing "wish
But, and we possibly said it before, this play cannot go on forever.
True. Netanyahu's capacities should not be underestimated -- he is
extremely capable of lying with a straight face, playing his opponents
off against each other and finding ever new ways of buying time to
stave off what had already seemed the terminal crisis. Still, with
communication channels narrowing towards complete blockage, all kind of
long-term pressures are building up -- and the longer it is delayed the
bigger the explosion will be.
For the time being Netanyahu relies on his conservative American
backers -- but they are a somewhat narrow base for an Israeli
government losing all other allies in confrontation with the rest of
the world. American Jews start feeling alienated from Israel, while the
Europeans, including traditional friends such as Holland and Denmark,
are increasingly vocal in their condemnation of Netanyahu's policies.
Meanwhile, the UN voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the Palestinian
representation, and the new International War Crimes Tribunal will be
empowered to try those who establish settlements in occupied
territories. Israel's relations with such Arab countries as Morocco and
Tunisia, established in the wake of Oslo, have cooled to practically
the zero point; the Arab World is hovering on the verge of calling a
Summit meeting in which normalisation with Israel will be definitely
terminated -- and Iran is displaying its new missiles, offering a
challenge to the Israeli regional military superiority...
It is the "disputed" Palestinian territories which are, of course, the
storm center. Not sure how long they will still be in control, Israeli
Occupation Authorities have increased the pace of demolishing "illegal"
Palestinian houses, with this so-called "law enforcement" turning whole
Palestinian families overnight into virtual war victims seeking shelter
on the rubble of their homes. And the settlers add to the atmosphere of
war by creating even more "accomplished facts", as long as it is still
possible: placing mobile homes on outlying hills and surrounding the
new enclaves with barbed wire, in the process depriving Palestinian
families of fields and orchards. Second-generation settlers, teenagers
who had never known any other way of life, take to Wild West ways of
riding horses and terrorizing any Palestinian they encounter.
Among Palestinians, "The Coming Explosion" is more and more taken for
granted, "when" rather than "if". Preparations are reported for the
expected big clash, for repelling an Israeli army invasion of the
Palestinian towns, for an all-out confrontation with the settlers. This
week's call for Palestinians to donate blood and replenish the blood
banks of the various hospitals was interpreted as one more sign. And
though such a confrontation would take a terrible toll upon the
Palestinians, more and more of them -- including moderates, including
the greatest supporters of Oslo -- are found welcoming the prospect:
"Without force, nothing will move."
Had the Second Redeployment taken place as one stage in a process
visibly leading to the end of the occupation and the peaceful
attainment of Palestinian independence, it might have stopped the
escalation. But as things stand, even in the best case of a 13%
Redeployment Agreement being patched up at the very last of last
moments, it will represent Netanyahu's uttermost limit of concessions.
It will leave Palestinians locked up in a very densely-populated 40% of
the West Bank, with no reasonable hope for peacefully changing the
situation of being surrounded from all sides by military roadblocks,
and with all the settlements intact.
And in just nine months comes May 1999 -- the time when the five-year
interim period of Oslo will be over. As has already been officially
proclaimed, on that day the Palestinians -- freed from the limitations
of the interim period -- intend to fulfill at last their aspirations
and declare their independence: unilaterally if need be, and even at
the cost of setting off "The Big Explosion," should Netanyahu try to
The war which we can see coming could be avoided -- since most people
on both sides are ready for ending the 100-year old conflict. This war
isn't inevitable -- because there already exists a reasonable solution,
a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, which most people would
accept if it was seriously presented to them. Yes, even most of the
people in Israel, even most of those who voted for Netanyahu because he
promised "Peace and Security."
Yet, it is a fact that at this moment there is no force in Israel with
the willpower and the strength to bring this solution before the
people. And it is a fact that there were several times like these in
Israel's short history: 1973, before Yom Kippur; 1982, before Lebanon;
1987, before the Intifada. Times when the people in Israel were in
stupor while a narrow-minded government led them to an unnecessary
bloody confrontation which solved nothing. Times when the people were
galvanised into action only when it was too late to prevent the
It can well happen again; those who don't learn from history are all
too often doomed to repeat it. But it can be different this time -- if
only because the Israeli society has never before been so deeply split.
Should Netanyahu lead Israel into war with the Palestinians, it will be
a divided Israel: a divided society, and also a divided army -- and the
first rumblings are already heard. Under such conditions, the chances
of victory are dim -- despite the enormous Israeli military superiority
-- as are the chances of political survival for the leader who started
it. But long-term thinking has never been among Netanyahu's strong
The split battalion
For much of May and June, a reserve Armoured Corps battalion of the
Israeli Army was called to active duty -- and rather than train with
their accustomed tanks, were ordered to participate in "routine police
activity" at the roadblocks and patrols around the Palestinian cities.
This duty was distasteful to many of them -- nor did the officers like
what they heard of contingency plans prepared for the eventuality of an
armed clash with the Palestinians. Intensive discussions and debate led
to a letter signed by twenty-three officers of the battalion. At the
end of their tour of duty, copies were sent to their immediate
superiors, to the army chief-of-staff and to the Minister of Defence.
Having received no answer of any kind for a month, they decided to make
it public. On July 8, the officers' letter appeared prominently in both
Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv.
"The government policy -- and the military orders aimed at implementing
that policy -- leave out one crucial factor. We, as well as many other
reserve officers, sharply oppose the idea of risking our lives and
those of the men under our command in fighting for purposes which are
totally contradictory to our most basic values, of taking part in the
killing of people in the course of a war which we regard as completely
unjust -- at a time when a real chance for peace still exists. The
government is mistaken in assuming that it can go on with a dangerous
policy, ignore our sharp opposition and protests, and still expect that
at the moment of truth we will ignore the voice of conscience and
Publication of the officers' letter prompted other officers of the same
battalion to publish a counter-letter, stating "We cannot accept a
situation where political debate is expressed in a refusal to carry out
military orders" and which they presented in person to the Minister of
Defence. The Israeli radio's military correspondent commented: "The
Second letter only reinforces the message of the first -- that this
battalion, and perhaps many others, is split up along political lines.
Unofficially, several generals expressed doubts whether this battalion
can still function as an effective fighting unit" (Kol Yisrael morning
news magazine, 16/7/98).
+++ On June 29 Michael Sepharad -- 26-year old, journalist by
profession and a sergeant in his military reserve rank -- was called
upon to do a term of police duty somewhere on the West Bank. He
preferred to do what he regarded as his civic duty -- refusing the
order. After a brief disciplinary proceeding, at which Sepharad got a
chance to speak his mind to the commanding officer and get his words
noted down in the minutes, he was sent off to a month in Military
Prison 4 at Tzrifin.
On July 11, some forty members of Yesh Gvul held a solidarity vigil
along the old Tel-Aviv -- Jerusalem Highway, at the place where it
passes the prison gates. At the end of July, Sepharad was released --
telling the prison guards that they may expect him back, should the
army try again to send him to do occupation duty.
Contact: Yesh Gvul, POB 6953, J'lem 91068; ph: 972-2-5131462;
+++ Another military prisoner of conscience serving time in June and
July was the 19-year old Andy Hare. For Israeli conscripts it is
especially difficult to go against the system. Hare, who comes from a
pacifist home and is in contact with the international non-violent
movement, was brought before the army's Commission on Conscientious
Objectors -- a commission composed of military officers who know
nothing of pacifist ideology. CO's being regarded as "shirkers", the
sincerity of Hare's convictions was doubted, his offer to perform an
alternative civilian service greeted with derision, and he was sent off
The TOI-staff took an active part in the international campaign
launched on behalf of the imprisoned Hare; this was one of the first
uses made of our new e-mail network. Shortly before the time of
got the news that he is, at last, out of both the prison and the army.
Contact: Assoc. of War Resisters c/o Davidov, POB 4090, Haifa 31040;
No more Naqba!
The sumptuous official events called to commemorate the fiftieth
anniversary of Israel failed to create a festive atmosphere, nor could
they prevent a considerable part of the Israeli society from digging
into dark historical corners and starting to comprehend the Palestinian
tragedy which the creation of Israel entailed. The historical
documentary "Tekumah" caused a prolonged controversy -- which only
helped its viewer rating (see TOI-83/84, p.20). It was followed by host
of discussions and articles, particularly in academic circles and on
the pages of Ha'aretz, dealing with specific points. (For example, the
hitherto-unknown story of how several hundred Palestinian inhabitants
of Zakkariya, south-east of Jerusalem, were still living in their
village when fighting ended in late 1948 -- but were made into refugees
a year later.
+++ May 14 was the Day of Mourning declared by the Palestinians to mark
the anniversary of the 1948 "Naqba" (Disaster) -- a word which has in
recent months become familiar to readers of the Israeli press. Numerous
processions took place all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the
refugees -- those who have the most painful memory of 1948, and who are
in many ways the worst off in the present -- taking the lead. Past and
present grievances mingled and led to confrontations with the soldiers
guarding the settlements -- whose red-roofed cottages and opulent green
lawns are often located in completely insensitive proximity to the
misery of the refugee camps.
During the day, the Israeli media carried confused and conflicting
reports on the number of Palestinian casualties; the death of a Gazan
child from a soldier's bullet was reported, denied and then confirmed
again. On the news broadcasts, events were sometimes described as "a
new Intifada", sometimes as "localised riots, already in the process of
calming down due to concerted action of the Israeli army and the
Peace activists, exchanging frantic phone calls, could not agree on a
concrete immediate action. But the ITV News of Eight carried a live
broadcast of severely wounded Palestinians brought into Gaza's Shifa
Hospital (taken by the devoted reporter Shlomi Eldar, the only Israeli
journalist to report life from Gaza on that day). This was clear enough
for the group of Tel-Aviv Peace Now Youths. A few well-targeted phone
calls and in less than an hour (!) they stood opposite the Likud
Headquarters in the center of town, joined by some Young Anarchists,
Gush Shalom veterans as well as old and new Communists, all shouting at
the top of their voices: STOP THE KILLINGS, STOP THE LIES! OCCUPATION
-- NO! PEACE -- YES! ISRAEL, PALESTINE -- TWO STATES FOR TWO PEOPLES!
NETANYAHU LEADS TO WAR! WE DON'T NEED THE TERRITORIES!
Without a single moment of silence, the youngsters marched to the huge
Dizengof Shopping Center, near which the sidewalk is full of bypassers
on the evening hours. They got a lot of reactions, from shy smiles to
open expressions of support and only here and there an isolated
manifestation of displeasure.
Peace Now Youth, pob 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297;
Gush Shalom marks the
Until 1967, the border dividing Israel from the West Bank was marked on
the map in green. After 1967, successive Israeli governments invested
enormous effort and huge sums of money in trying to efface and
obliterate the Green Line, with highways cutting across it and Israeli
settlements mushrooming on the other side.
In one of the weekly meetings at the Gush Shalom office the idea came
up of reminding the public that there is a Green Line; that after
thirty-one years the Green Line remains Israel's
internationally-recognised boundary, the only real possible location
for the future border of peace between Israel and Palestine.
On Saturday, July 18, the Marking the Green Line Campaign was launched.
The location was chosen carefully: on the so-called "Trans-Samaria
Highway" bisecting the northern part of the occupied West Bank and
leading to the large settlement of Ariel and a host of smaller
settlements -- all built with the express intention of taking an
enormous bite out of the meagre territory left to the Palestinians.
On the weekend afternoon one full bus and a long caravan of private
cars flying green ribbons, all came to the exact place where this
settler highway bisects the old border. Upon alighting, several young
activists, sporting green arm bands, swiftly climbed the ridges on both
sides of the highway, connecting them with with a strip of green nylon
-- highly visible against the clear blue sky; later, they also poured a
considerable quantity of green paint down the rocky slopes, leaving a
highly visible and hard-to erase mark.
Other activists marked a green strip on the road itself. Many joined in
the effort of gathering the numerous stones found at the roadside into
two big cairns -- one on each side -- which were also painted gleaming
Palestinian officials Sufian Abu Zaida and Farez Kadura attended the
ceremony but another fifty Palestinians were blocked at the military
checkpoint two kilometres to the east.
The passing settlers probably didn't understand what it was all about,
until their eyes were caught by huge green banners reading THE GREEN
LINE: BORDER OF PEACE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE.
When police arrived, they seemed quite bewildered at the intensive
activity going on all around. They contented themselves with from time
to time shouting on the bullhorn: "Stay off the road!" The action made
it into the evening news of both TV channels. The first time for long
that Israelis were confronted with the opinion that 13% is not even
Meanwhile simple Green Line Maps in Hebrew and Arabic have been
prepared in large quantities and VIPs are being mobilised to
participate in future border-marking actions.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322 Tel-Aviv; email@example.com;
+++ Also on that weekend a group of young Israelis who recently
constituted themselves into a Human Rights Watch arrived in Hebron --
with the intention of wiping away the crude anti-Arab graffiti,
including praises for the murderer Goldstein, which settlers are in the
habit of daubing all over the Israeli-held enclave. The youngsters
publicised their plans in advance, informing also the municipality of
Hebron and through it obtaining the consent of the Palestinian shop
owners for the intended cleanup operation on their property. However,
after years that the army had done nothing about the graffiti this week
a platoon of soldiers suddenly moved through the Shuhada Street
ostentatiously whitewashing the walls. The military cleanup did not,
however, extend to the smaller side streets and the winding alleys of
the Kasbah (marketplace).
On the day of the Hebron cleanup, Chad Lenchner -- organiser of the
Watchers -- was invited to the Dizengof Police Station in Tel-Aviv,
where a plainclothes man identifying himself as an operative of the
Shabak Security Service asked him "not to do anything provocative in
Hebron." Lenchner's answer: "Of course not! We only want to remove
The hours-long cleaning -- jointly with Palestinians and Americans of
the Christian Peacemaker Team -- passed quietly and without
interference from either army, settlers or security services. But after
having spent the night in Palestinian homes, the six Israelis were
detained on the charge of illegally entering the Kasbah which -- so it
turned out -- a military edict had declared to be out of bounds for
Chad Lenchner, 66 Mazeh St. Tel-Aviv
Race against the
At a very hot noon hour on June 23, some fifty activists from different
Israeli movements sat in the living room of the Abu-Turki family at the
small village of Hirbat Kilkas, just south of Hebron. The father of the
family had been killed, a few days earlier, by two teenagers from the
nearby settlement of Beit Hagai; the principal of the settler school
had scandalised the country by calling the killing "a schoolboy prank
Suddenly, even while the murdered man's nine-year old daughter was
delivering to the Israeli guests an astonishingly eloquent and grown-up
speech, a Palestinian burst in with the news that at that very moment
the army was demolishing homes near Yatta, twenty kilometres to the
south. After the very emotional parting from the bereaved family, the
members of Gush Shalom present boarded their cars and tore at a
breakneck speed along the southward road -- only to find, at the
outskirts of Yatta, the soldiers already gone and the members of the
Ibrahim family sitting disconsolate on the ruins of what had been, two
hours before, a solid modern farmhouse erected in the midst of their
own fields. There was very little which could be done beyond saying "I
am sorry" and "I am ashamed" and "We will tell it to the world"...
Such things happen more and more often. At visits to Palestinian
villages one sees these pathetic piles of rubble -- or hears the
stories of families living their daily life with a demolition order
hanging over them, with the knowledge that the soldiers and the
bulldozers can arrive with no prior warning, at any time of the day or
the night. The Palestinian papers are full of it -- though the Israeli
ones often carry only the terse military communiques about "illegal
construction" and "law enforcement" (the "law" in question being the
law by which a Palestinian is never getting a permit to build on his
ancestral family land, while a settler readily gets a permit for the
same land after it had been confiscated).
Since June, the pace of house demolitions is madly accelerating --
perhaps because those in charge heard the rumors that "After the
Redeployment" (if such a time ever comes) they will be forbidden to use
their bulldozers any further.
Activists of CAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions,
found themselves overworked to the point of exhaustion. The Rabbis for
Human Rights fully mobilised themselves on this issue, to the exclusion
of all else; several other Israeli peace groups lent a hand, as did
Palestinian NGO's and the American volunteers of CPT (Christian
The work to be done was (and still is) enormous. The ongoing brutality
is documented in all its grisly detail, and the local and international
press informed; a special effort is made to get more attention -- and a
more sympathetic kind of attention -- from the Israeli media (some
success was marked with regard to Ha'aretz, and to a lesser degree on
both TV channels, while with the mass papers the result remains
Action alerts are sent around the globe (which was the part where The
Other Israel's new computer proved very useful), a growing network of
activists are urged to send Netanyahu letters, faxes and e-mail
messages (there are some indications that it makes the PM's bureau a
bit nervous). Demonstrations and vigils are organised, in Israel and
abroad (At the June 31 picket of the Israeli consulate in Toronto,
Canada, the main slogan was 'Palestinians need homes, Israelis need
For two weeks a protest tent -- organised in cooperation with the
Palestinian Land Defense Committee and LAW, the Human Rights Society
based in East Jerusalem -- was moved between various West Bank sites
where a house was demolished: to draw public attention and to offer to
the families the solidarity of Israelis -- and of no less importance,
of Palestinians beyond the families' own village and immediate region.
There was some success also in the attempts to establish a
parliamentary lobby; Labour's Shevach
Weiss, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, was reportedly very moved when he
visited the protest tent -- erected on that day at the garden outside
the parliamentary building -- and viewed the small exhibition of debris
collected from the destroyed houses: plastic pipes, a single shoe,
The most noteworthy part of the campaign, to date, came about almost
purely by chance. On the afternoon of July 9, a bus load of Jerusalem
activists, together with Meretz KM Naomi Hazan, was on the way to the
protest tent; hearing of a house demolition taking place on that very
moment at Anata, a town north-east of Jerusalem, they turned in that
direction -- and for once caught the army in the middle of their act,
in the middle of destroying the house of Salim and Arabiyeh Shawamreh
and their six children.
Gila Svirsky of the Bat Shalom women's organization wrote on that same
evening a vivid eye-witness account which was later quoted in Ha'aretz:
'In the the outskirts of the town, looking below from the edge of a
hill, we saw it: a beautiful home set into the pastoral valley. One of
its walls was already crumpled into rubble by a roaring bulldozer. We
surged down the hill until the soldiers blocked us. There were scuffles
as we tried to get past them, but more soldiers joined the barricade.
So there we stood on the hillside and watched with an unbearable sense
of helplessness as the "civil" administration's bulldozer took the
house apart wall by wall. He drove through the front garden with its
profusion of flowers and the lemon tree, and slammed the front door as
if he were God Almighty. Backing away, he slammed again until the
entire front was shattered and dangling from metal rods. Then he came
from every side, slamming and crashing his shovel against the walls.
Finally he lifted off the roof, barely suspended, and sent it crashing
below. When that was done, he went around the back of the house and
crashed through all the fruit trees, including a small olive stand. He
saw a water tank on a platform and knocked that over, the tank tumbling
down and a cascade of water drenching the trees now uprooted and
broken. He saw two more tanks nearby and knocked those over as well. I
have never seen anyone in the Middle East deliberately waste so much
water.(...) From our Israeli group, many engaged the soldiers in
challenges: "How can you sleep at night?' 'Is this what is meant by
defending Israel?' 'Don't you understand the immorality of this
action?' and the like. Every single soldier, from the high commander to
the lowest private responded the same way: 'This is legal; we're only
following orders.' (Svirsky's full text can be obtained from Bat Shalom
at the address below).
As it turned out, it was this confrontation between soldiers and peace
activists which caught the attention of the country's mainstream media
-- much more than the destruction of the house and the Shawamreh
Family's plight; much more also than the soldiers' use of live
ammunition against the Anata villagers, from which eleven were wounded
-- one of them, a fifteen-year old kid, losing a kidney. In fact, it
was the extreme right which unexpectedly took a hand and undertook to
publicise the event -- in their own way. 'Channel-7', the settlers'
pirate radio station, stridently proclaimed it over the airwaves:
"Left-Wing Calls Upon Soldiers to Disobey Orders... MK Naomi Hazan, of
the left-wing Meretz Party, called upon IDF soldiers not to comply with
orders to demolish illegal Arab homes... Left-wing demonstrators
shouted at soldiers that they were like Nazis... Morale of entire
company severely damaged... Commanding officer expresses hurt feelings"
(all quotes taken from the settler internet site). The commander's hurt
feeling were also expressed on the mainstream media. In a special
interview to the First Channel news (12/7/98), he repeated it --
apparently with complete sincerity and a honest rage: "How can they
call us Nazis? We are only carrying out orders! Without sentiments!"
Uri Avnery commented in Ma'ariv: I have given much thought to these
words. Obviously this officer knows only that the Nazis killed Jews. He
does not know that for an entire generation, the words 'We only carried
out orders!' have been imprinted on the Jewish consciousness as the
slogan of the German war criminals. And adding 'without sentiments'
makes it even worse. But there is a real question here: these
demonstrators were respectable folks, professors among them, also the
erstwhile Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg. What then caused such an extreme
and objectionable expression to burst out from the midst of such
people? Every day we hear of the demolition of 'illegally built'
Palestinian homes. At most, there are merely a few words in a
newspaper. Words. But when seen with one's own eyes, it is horrifying.
A bulldozer moving towards a wall and taking the first bite, then the
second and the third, like an evil prehistoric monster, until the wall
collapses and the roof comes crashing down in a cloud of dust. And that
is not the worst. To hear the wailing of the men and women being
dragged out of their home in front of the children, to see their broken
belongings scattered on the ground. Are the soldiers' hearts truly so
hardened that they can 'do the job without sentiments?' (Ma'ariv,
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The
Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
An unfortunate result of the "Nazi Soldier" controversy was a decision
by Peace Now to distance itself officially from the Anata Affair, which
its leadership judged "had become too hot to touch" -- though, in fact,
the movement's grassroot members had been part of the crowd at that
confrontation with the army. But, thanks to the efforts of several
other groups, the affair remained on the public agenda.
With the publication of an extensive article by Gidon Levy in Ha'aretz
(July 24), attention at last focused where it belonged, on Salim and
Arabiyeh Shawamreh and their life: the loss of their original home in
the Old City of Jerusalem, which was among those razed in the immediate
aftermath of the war in 1967, to make way for the gigantic Wailing Wall
Plaza; years of overcrowded life at the Shuafat Refugee Camp;
purchasing a plot of land on a rocky slope near the outskirts of Anata,
all they could
afford on Salim's salary as a driver; the four requests for a building
permit, all turned down by the occupation authorities (with a different
excuse each time); the decision to go ahead and build "illegally" on
their land, taken in 1994 when the signing of Oslo mislead them to
expect a change in the official attitudes; the last evening before the
demolition, when Salim and his friends sat in the living room and
watched a Football World Cup match on TV...
There was, in fact, only one concrete thing to be done: rebuild the
house. Salim Shawamreh decided that he wanted it -- and he wanted to do
it in an open and defiant way, though knowing full well that in such a
way he might attract the unwelcome attention of the military
authorities. There was no attempt to hide either the time or the place
of the intended act of defiance -- from Thursday to Saturday, July 30
to August 1. It was publicised openly, in numerous press releases, in
newspaper ads. Israelis and Palestinians and international volunteers
were called upon to come to Anata and make a stand, to rebuild the
house in defiance of the demolition order.
And quite a few came, answering the call of CAHD and the Land Defence
Committee and many others. On Saturday, there came the overcrowded Gush
Shalom bus, and the activists poured out of it and from the many
private cars, and immediately formed a chain to pass the building
blocks from hand to hand -- a scene which was that night seen on the
screens of the Israeli TV and of CNN and the BBC. And later, the
Palestinians realised that these clumsy-looking Israelis, unaccustomed
to manual labor though they were, could be taught the slightly more
difficult task of tying iron rods with iron threads and making the
frameworks around which concrete would be poured. And finally the
concrete mixer arrived well into the evening, and the concrete was
poured, and there was a real house standing, walls and a roof, where a
pile of rubble had been three days before. And there was a mood of
celebration and shared happiness and success, and Israelis and
Palestinians cried, danced and sang together with Salim Shawamreh.
And while all this was going on, the army stood aside, did not block
the roads, did nothing to interfere. There was just one jeep observing
on the opposite ridge. And three days later, they came in the early
morning, in a well-planned military raid by hundreds of soldiers
according to the best of military tactics, and overpowered the few
Israeli and Palestinian and American activists who had remained on the
site, and brought up a bulldozer and within twenty minutes destroyed
everything all over again. And this time, they even confiscated the
tent which after the previous demolition the family had been living in.
It did not come as a surprise. It was assumed in advance that the
occupation authorities would not tolerate and could not tolerate such a
direct open challenge. And that does not diminish the feeling of hurt
and anger with which this goes into print, nor does it diminish the
determination to rebuild yet again this particular house which has
become a symbol, and to help all Palestinian rid themselves of the
occupation which destroys their lives.
CAHD, 37 Tveria St.,J'lem; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv; email@example.com.
Bat Shalom, pob 8083, J'lem, firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Demolitions site: www.net-a.org/hdemol/update
The Committee Against Demolitions is collecting funds to help Salim and
Aravia pay for the costs of rebuilding -- including the costs of
re-rebuilding and re-re-rebuilding and so on, until they have a house
where they could live in safely. Checks can be sent to: Rabbis for
Human Rights (Rabanin Lema'an Zkhuyot Ha'adam), Rehov Elhanan 2,
Jerusalem. Please write on the check that it is intended for the
rebuilding in Anata.
Meanwhile, the campaign goes on of writing to Netanyahu by mail (Prime
Minister's Office, Hakirya, Jerusalem); by fax (972-2-5664838); or by
e-mail (email@example.com). You can use the following text or make your own.
To Prime Minister Netanyahu
I call upon you to cease immediately the inhuman policy of demolishing
Palestinian homes. I do not accept your government's claim that these
houses are 'illegal.' It is your policy of forbidding Palestinians to
build on their own land while providing Israeli settlers with
government-subsidised housing which is manifestly illegal and immoral.
+++ At an early morning hour on June 8, a Jerusalem Peace Now organiser
was woken up by an urgent phone call. On the other side was a
breathless member of the Kara'in family from Silwan: "The settlers are
here! They broke into my neighbor's house and now they throw his
furniture into the street!"
By 7.30 A.M., a hasty mobilization brought several dozen mostly
youthful Peace Now members to the spot -- Silwan village, which is in
fact part of East Jerusalem (just south of the Old City walls).
Together with them came Feisal Husseini, Palestinian Authority Minister
for Jerusalem, and other prominent East Jerusalem Palestinians.
Already for years, Silwan is the special target of the Elad Association
-- a group of nationalist-religious settlers who claim Silwan "because
King David had lived there" (historians and archaeologists are rather
doubtful about that). By the time the Israeli and Palestinian
protesters arrived, the settlers had already finished flying the
Israeli flag and surrounding their latest four "acquisitions" with
barbed wire. Like eight Silwan houses taken over on earlier occasions,
the four new settler enclaves (one of them including a large olive
grove as well as a house) were patrolled by armed guards from the
private security company Modi'in Ezrahi, whose services are paid by the
Ministry of Housing.
Confrontation with the settlers began as soon as Husseini removed the
barbed wire with his bare hands and entered one of the newly-created
enclaves -- followed by many of the protesters. In the ensuing scuffle,
the settlers started to throw stones, hitting
Husseini and several other demonstrators on the head. The 62-year old
Fatima Karaeen was roughly kicked and thrown down by the settler
guards, as she waved the papers proving her family's ownership of one
After more than two hours, large police forces arrived and tipped the
struggle in the settlers' favor. Twenty Peace Now youths were roughly
dragged away, shouting 'Peace-Yes! Settlers-No!' at the top of their
The police remained on the spot. In the afternoon they blocked a fresh
group of demonstrators, organised by Meretz and carrying a 'Stop the
Provocation!' banner, from approaching the houses. "I am sorry. These
people [the settlers] are the owners and they don't want you to come
in. That is the law" said the officer in command to KM Yossi Sarid, the
The law referred to was the so-called "Absentee Property Law." As it
turned out, the registered owners of the four houses are Palestinians
who became refugees in 1967. This fact gave legal ownership over the
houses to the Israeli Government's "Custodian of Absentee Property,"
who for his part "sold" the houses to the settlers for a nominal sum.
Peace Now, pob 8159, J'lem 91081;
+++ The Silwan confrontation coincided with the opening, a few
kilometres to the north, of a large international conference entitled
"50 Years of Human Rights Violations -- Palestinians Dispossessed,"
organised by LAW (The Palestinian Human Rights Society). On the morning
of June 10, a large part of the delegates left the meeting hall of the
plush Ambassador Hotel and headed for Silwan, to express their outrage
on the spot. Apart from Palestinians and Israelis, the protesters
included activists from the United States, Canada, Britain, Sweden,
Holland, Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Switzerland, Norway, France
At first the demonstrators -- mostly students and academics from
various universities -- were not molested as they stood in front of one
of the settler-occupied houses, holding signs reminding the Israeli
government that it is still a signatory to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and bound by that signature.
Leaving this compound and walking down the road to another seized
house, they were met by armed settlers and police; settlers threw
stones and were heard urging the border police to open fire. After they
refused an order to depart, the police beat and dragged away the
demonstrators -- who were sitting down in an act of non-violent
protest, singing "We shall overcome" and other protest songs from the
U.S. civil rights movement. The foreigners were singled out for
especially rough treatment. Several demonstrators were injured, and one
hospitalized; three Americans, a French national, and two Canadians
LAW, pob 20873, East Jerusalem; www.lawsociety.org
Vivid eye-witness account from firstname.lastname@example.org
+++ The hero of the June 29 protest demonstration was not actually
present: President Weitzman who had on the morning of the same day
lashed out against the Prime Minister for not handling the peace
process as it should. Enthusiastic youths chanted 'President is right
-- Bibi get out!' It was heart-warming to see all these dedicated and
militant youngsters (and quite a few oldsters, too) at a time when so
many in Israel seem sunk into dejection and despair and apathy: a
veritable forest of banners and torches and flags moving through the
streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City walls, to the drumbeat of the
Drummers for Peace.
A wide spectrum of moderates and radicals -- some holding aloft Israeli
national flags, others preferring peace banners with the entwined flags
of Israel and Palestine; Peace Now who initiated it, and Meretz and
Labor Students, a Gush Shalom contingent with their signs 'Stop Ethnic
Cleansing of Jerusalem' as well as the group looking like stereotypical
American Tourists holding aloft the sign: 'US tax payers say: East
Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine!'
Just in front of the demonstrators, beyond the heavy police cordon, the
Ateret Cohanim Settler Association was holding a celebration, complete
with singing and fireworks and a welcoming speech by the Prime
Minister. The same Ateret Cohanim that is busily taking over one house
after another in the Old City of Jerusalem, evicting the Palestinian
tenants, and turning the houses into ever-new armed enclaves. And all
perfectly legal under the laws of the enlightened state of Israel. Yes,
all perfectly legal, upheld in case after case by the country's honest
and well-praised judges. Until this week. Just three days after the
militant Jerusalem demonstration, a Jerusalem court suddenly ruled
against the Ateret Cohanim thugs and ordered them to immediately vacate
one of the Old City houses they had occupied. A sheer coincidence?
+++ June 6, 1982 was the day on which the Begin Government ordered the
army to invade Lebanon -- on what was supposed to a be "a short, swift
anti-terrorist sweep." Exactly sixteen years later -- on the evening of
June 6, 1998 -- a rally was held at the plaza in front of the Tel-Aviv
Municipal Museum, called jointly by Four Mothers and KM Yossi Beilin's
cumbersomely named Movement for Getting Out of Lebanon in Peace. Some
1500 people, by police estimates, answered the call -- a disappointment
for the organisers, who had been preparing for several weeks and hoped
for a bigger turnout; it seems that many of the potential participants
were still expecting something to come of the government's solemn
"decision to leave Lebanon" taken in February.
Nevertheless, on the television evening news the demonstration looked
quite impressive, with the banners reading 'Sixteen years in the
Lebanese swamp' and the highly-audible chanting 'Bring Back the
Soldiers.' A conspicuous presence were the many Druze in their
traditional clothing. The Druze community is getting tired of "being
conscripted like the Jews, and being discriminated against like the
The action certainly impressed Brigadier General Erez Gerstein, "Chief
Lebanon Liaison Officer" (as the Israeli military governor of South
euphemistically designated). Two days after the Tel-Aviv rally, he made
an angry outburst in front of the Channel One cameras: "The
organizations that are pushing for a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon
have a very negative effect on the field here. It increases the local
population's cooperation with the terrorists because they recognize
that we are on our way out, and it also encourages the terrorists
Rachel Ben-Dor of Four Mothers responded: "What encourages the
Hizbullah is when our soldiers die -- not when we hold mourning vigils
in front of the Defense Ministry. And if anything lowers the soldiers'
morale, it is not the fact that we -- their own mothers -- demonstrate
and demand that they be brought back safe and sound. What hurts them is
the fact that Israel, which sent them over there, seems to have
forgotten them. Only when a soldier is killed we read about it -- for a
day or two." (Radio News, 9/6/98).
Suddenly, in the middle of May -- banner headlines in all papers:
Europeans Boycott Settlement Products; emergency meetings deep into the
night at the Foreign Ministry; a stream of angry and confused reactions
from the right. Through it all, one repeated name -- Gush Shalom, the
movement which had set the settlement boycott rolling less than a year
ago. At the stormy Knesset debate on May 20, the name of Gush Shalom
was in every speech, with the Nationalist-Religious Hanan Porat
thundering about "those who shamefully boycott their own Jewish Settler
brothers, and conspire with antisemitic officials in Europe." He was
forcefully answered by Naomi Hazan of Meretz: The initiative of Gush
Shalom is a brave step, taken in the cause of peace. As for the
Europeans -- you know that we have been cheating them, by not declaring
the true origin of the goods we send to them. They send us a signal
that they will not stand idly by while the peace process is dying.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv; www.gush-shalom.org
Available on the Gush Shalom site: full list of settler products and
full text of the European Commission's recommendations.
Vanunu conference in
At the beginning of the year, the supporters of Mordechai Vanunu
worldwide were elated. After twelve years, it was no longer considered
a security risk to let Vanunu associate freely with other inmates of
the Ashkelon Prison. The Tel-Aviv based Vanunu Solidarity Committee,
holding repeated vigils at the prison gate, speculated already about an
impending release. But even now the Security Services seem very afraid
of Vanunu getting a third of his eighteen-year term deducted -- and the
Parole Board accepted their recommendations without demur... Vanunu's
next chance at a parole will come in September, which will also be the
anniversary of his kidnapping from Italy; there is already a tradition
of intense international activity around this date. Plans for the
Vanunu International Solidarity Week in Israel -- between September 14
and 22 -- include lectures and seminars, vigils at the Ashkelon Prison
and the Dimona Nuclear Pile, and visits to Bedouin tribes who live in
the vicinity of the pile and are exposed to grave environmental hazards.
Israeli Vanunu Committee: POB 956, Tel-Aviv 61008, fax 972-2-6254530,
Theatre of the absurd
On June 30, the Open Doors association -- in cooperation with Local
Theatre -- reenacted at Tzavta the procedures by which Palestinians are
sent to prolonged Administrative Detention without trial. No need of a
playwright -- the actual minutes were good enough, with the actor
playing the Security Service representative answering any question on
the charges against the detainee with 'Yeforat Ba'hassuy' ('details in
the closed session' -- i.e. in the session from which the detainee and
his lawyer are excluded).
As Open Doors activist Anat Biletzki told the overflowing audience, the
campaign had a notable success, with the number of administrative
detainees going down from more than 600 when the group started a year
ago, to about ninety at present. The group succeeded in giving the
detainees a face -- especially with publication of detainees' writings
in the literary supplement of Ha'aretz. But the activists do not rest
on their laurels: the institution of Administrative Detention in itself
is far from abolished -- and ninety detainees without trial are by
ninety too many.
A similar method was undertaken by another human rights organization,
PCATI (Public Committee Against Torture) in its more uphill struggle to
get the use of "moderate physical pressure" in interrogations outlawed
On July 18, PCATI members addressed the visitors of the Jerusalem Film
Festival. Outside the Cinemateque five student actors -- two
'interrogators' and three 'prisoners' -- reenacted some of the methods
routinely used in the interrogation of Palestinians: the covering of
the head with a filthy sack, the shackling of hands and legs to a small
chair angled to slant forward, so that the interrogee cannot sit in a
stable position.... Everything used in the reenactment was as close as
possible to the reality -- real handcuffs, chairs of exactly the same
kind used in the interrogation rooms -- except for the sacks. In the
actual interrogation, they are often soaked with urine...
Reactions in this milieu -- the visitors had come to see films on the
theme of human rights -- were quite positive. A tougher test came on
the afternoon of July 28, when the same street theatre was reenacted on
the sidewalk of Jerusalem's bustling Jaffa Street -- just around the
corner from the Russian Compound Detention Center, where the show is
presented for real. Some bypassers did not take kindly to the
'leftists', and there were several attempts at violence. But veteran
activist Hava Cohen also told TOI of a middle aged women, who started
by commenting "Why are you for the Arabs?" and ended with "Oh, this is
terrible. Nobody should have to endure this, nobody."
Open Doors c/o Dr. Anat Biletzki, Tel-Aviv University,
by Naftali Raz
Itaf and Sarah were very reserved in the first two days. Most of the
participants were polite, pleasant and curious, as befits educators who
arrived in Denmark for a two week seminar. Fifteen Israelis -- half of
them peace activists and half Ministry of Education delegates, thirteen
Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, two Egyptians, two Jordanians
and a Tunisian.
At first there was small talk; where are you from, what do you do etc.
David's Kippa (a religious Jew's headgear) immediately aroused
suspicion: is there a Jewish settler in our midst? The Arab
participants were calmed when David and Naomi explained that they are
representing Netivot Shalom -- a group of religious Israelis for peace.
Khamis, from Ramallah, very quickly proves himself to be the comedian
of the group. Riki, from West Jerusalem, impresses everybody with her
eloquent Arabic. Yochanan and Vardit, from Givat Haviva, and Ephraim,
from Ulpan Akiva, prove that this is not unique. Hania, from East
Jerusalem, and Reja'a, from Ramallah, both display a beautiful command
of the English language. Only Itaf, from El-Azarieh, and Sarah, from
Kiryat-Haim, remain within the bounds of silence.
The hosts -- an international college in Helsinor and the Danish
Foreign Ministry -- explain that Denmark wishes to contribute to the
Middle East peace process. The Israelis and the Palestinians joke that
the Danes must envy the Norwegians, hosts to the Oslo Accords.
And Itaf, breaking her silence, asks the floor: "It is very difficult
for me to attend this meeting," she shares with us,"my son went out to
celebrate his sixteenth birthday in West Jerusalem just two days ago,
and he was severely beaten by Israeli youths. I am still waiting to
hear the results of his CAT scan."
Silence. Itaf returns us to the bitter reality of our own region, so
easy to forget in the pleasant environment we have created. Some
Israelis voice their sympathy on a personal level and their upset
concerning the incident. The conversations center on the human aspects,
and Sarah too opens up and demonstrates with her personal story the
Israeli obsession with "security"; after wandering throughout half of
Europe her family found shelter in Israel and since has had to live
through five wars. Sarah stresses that this is the first time in her
life that she is meeting with Palestinians.
Sami, the academic from Ramallah, tells of his five years of
administrative detention in Ketziot (an Israeli prison in the desert).
From there he found his way to the Palestinian delegation at the Madrid
Conference and has been elected into parliament. I tell of my
frustration as an Israeli paratrooper in the reserves who is also a
peace activist, and of the hope which pushes me on. Ephraim emphasizes
that the process of reconciliation takes time and Freida retorts that
for her "time is more humiliation at the checkpoints, yet more stolen
land and the further expansion of Israeli settlements."
The seminar moves on to deep debates about misperceptions and
stereotypes. It is interesting that both the Palestinians and the
Israelis are convinced that the world press is against them: "we are
always portrayed as terrorists" and "we are always portrayed as
The serious discussions are interspersed with cultural activities:
learning each other's folk dances (Khamis: "Israeli folk dances are a
new form of torture..."), delight at discovering similarities in the
languages during language classes and excursions. When we take the
ferry to Sweden the Israelis help the Palestinians blend into the group
so as to avoid the problem of not having a visa.
The Danish summer, grey and rainy, and the frequent workshops led by
Danish lecturers and coordinated by Garba and Christina, pressure the
whole group. Palestinians and Israelis immediately compare the weather
to the Danish temperament. Somebody's suggestion to enrich the program
with a bicycle ride develops into a true event when we decide to carry
with us the flags of Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. Jon
the Swede promises to muster the Viking power in his blood to make sure
we have clear skies -- and a few faxes do the rest.
Dozens of local correspondents as well as Jordanian and Israeli
reporters move with us along the coastal road. The accompanying cars,
leading and following the procession, are decorated with the huge
flags. The elated cries of the riders mix pleasure from excursion,
pride from the national flags and bitter jokes about the meagre
contribution to the peace process ("for every extra kilometre another
withdrawal by Netanyahu?"..). The puzzled looks of the Danes in the
passing cars remind us that here they are not used to demonstrations.
Only veteran Israeli peace activists value the irony of the bilingual
symbols on our shirts: The Gush Shalom pins with the crossed Israeli
and Palestinian flags and rival Peace Now stickers alongside.
We return tired yet satisfied to the workshops. Everyone is fed up with
discussions and therefore goes out to illustrate the real co-existence
with the multicultural sport of the Middle East: shopping. Danish
scarves and jackets blur the national differences.
We formulate plans for the future. It is clear to all that the value of
such a seminar, beyond the enormous personal contribution, is in the
fruits which it will yield upon our return to the region. We try to
reach practical programs with no illusions: mutual teachers courses,
journalists meetings, a network of student correspondence from all
sides ("if it will not promote peace it will at least promote the
students' level of English..."), cooperation in leading youth trips etc.
Forty educators, fourteen days, five nations, one hope.
Raz initiated the Israeli Peace Movements' Coordinating Committee, pob
3509, Mevasseret Tzion 90805.
The war of 1999
by Uri Avnery
Translated from Ma'ariv 19/6/98
The event that entered history as the "May War," and that the
Palestinians refer to as "Harb El Istiklal" (War of Independence) began
on May 14, 1999 -- fifty-one years to the day after Ben-Gurion declared
the founding of the State of Israel.
At the A-Shawah Hall in Gaza, Yasser Arafat declared the establishment
of the State of Palestine. The declaration, very similar to Israel's
Declaration of Independence, was based on history as well as on U.N.
Resolutions, and included the promise of democracy, equal rights for
all "without regard to race, religion or language". Further, the new
state was "extending its hand in peace to Israel." Arafat also
announced that the Palestinian police forces have become the "National
Palestinian Army" and declared a general mobilization of Fatah members.
Within 24 hours, 121 countries granted the Palestinian state "de jure"
recognition. Another 61 countries, among them the majority of European
states, decided upon "de facto" recognition. Only Micronesia, the U.S.
and Israel refrained from recognizing the new state.
Twenty-four hours later, the Netanyahu government announced the
annexation to Israel of 51% of the West Bank and 31% of the Gaza Strip,
as well as of all of settlements currently existing as enclaves within
All of the Palestinian opposition factions declared their unequivocal
support for Arafat, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad forces submitting to
the Palestinian Armed Forces Command.
Opinions regarding the causes of the war are contradictory. The
Palestinian version claims that residents of Kiryat Arba settlement
opened fire on the Palestinian army near the Baruch Goldstein Tomb.
According to Netanyahu's version, it was the Palestinians who opened
fire on the Hebron settlers.
Predictably, fighting broke out in short order across the entire West
Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian army conquered the isolated
settlements of Kfar Darom and Netzarim settlements, while heavy
fighting raged around Kedumim and Efrat. Casualties on both sides
mounted, reaching the hundreds.
At an emergency meeting, hastily convened by Netanyahu, Minister Ariel
Sharon pushed for the immediate recapture of the entire Palestinian
territory. The heads of the IDF and of all Intelligence branches warned
against such a move, but Netanyahu had no alternative but to give the
The capture of Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus was executed with relative
ease. The organized opposition of the Palestinian army was crushed by
IDF tanks and artillery operating on a massive scale, demolishing
entire neighborhoods. But then the direst predictions of the
Intelligence agencies proved true.
Vicious guerrilla warfare broke out throughout Palestinian towns. IDF
soldiers were shot down on the streets and in alleys. Dozens of tanks
deployed in the cities were destroyed by anti-tank weapons, secretly
hoarded in advance in massive quantities. Some tanks were set on fire
by Moslem suicide fighters with Molotov cocktails.
On the third day of the war, when IDF casualties approached a thousand,
ten Israeli peace groups, under the initiative of Gush Shalom,
conducted a protest rally in the Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. 15,000 people
came. A spokesperson for "Yesh Gvul" declared that already more than a
hundred army officers and soldiers had refused orders to serve in the
territories and that a brigade commander had been dismissed as a direct
result. Peace Now, initially hesitant, hastily convened a mass rally
three days later with 120,000 participants, many of whom showed up in
On the fourth day of the war, Yasser Arafat was killed. In spite of the
urging of all of his advisers on the day of the Declaration to move to
"an emergency headquarters" in Tunisia, he had chosen to remain at his
command post in Gaza. According to one story he was killed by an
Israeli undercover commando unit; in another version, he perished in an
air raid. Two Fatah leaders, Jibril Rajub in the West Bank and Mohammed
Dakhlan in the Gaza Strip, took over joint military command, while the
political leadership was turned over to the trio of Abu-Mazen, Abu-Ala
and Abu-Lutuf (Farouk Kadoumi).
The call for an Arab Summit was not heeded in the first days -- but as
soon as word of Arafat's martyrdom came, bloody riots broke out by
outraged crowds in Amman, Cairo and Riyad. The leaders hastily convened
in Alexandria and declared general mobilization of all Arab armed
forces. They secretly sent an S.O.S. to President Clinton, informing
him that in the absence of immediate intervention their regimes were in
Our new e-mail network
In the last hot months, the TOI-staff has gone through learning to work
with new equipment. The experimental sending of e-mail briefings and
action alerts turned out positive. Sometime in September we will start
with regular TOI-briefings to readers who send us their e-mail address
(please e-mail it to: email@example.com). Until Sept.12, you may
contact us in Holland, ph: +31-74-2774162.
On the seventh day of the war, the U.N. Security Council convened,
agreeing unanimously to (a) call on both sides to stop all hostilities
immediately; (b) call on Israeli forces to pull back from all of the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip territories (with the exception of three
settlement blocks); (c) immediately accept the State of Palestine as a
U.N. member; (d) open immediate negotiations for a permanent solution
of the dispute, under the auspices of the
U.N. Secretary General; and (e) dispatch U.N. forces to ensure
compliance with the resolution.
President Clinton decided not to veto the resolution when a secret poll
confirmed that the vast majority of American Jews also supported it.
Hours later, Binyamin Netanyahu declared the establishment of a
"National Unity" government, which, after much agonizing, decided to
abide by the U.N. Resolution. The war was over.