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The Other Israel _ October/November 1998, Issue No. 86

Contents

The Miserable But Crucial Wye
Editorial Overview

Clinton's Peace
Gush Shalom Ad in Ha'aretz, October 30, 1998

Peace Vs. Ice Cream
Ben & Jerry interaction with Golan Heights settler-owned water company

The Fakia House Stands

Building Against Hatred
A participant's report on the rebuilding of the Fakia house

Other House Demolition News

Sons And Mothers
Conscientious Objectors in Israel

"We Are All Umm El Fahm!"
Protests against land confiscation in an Arab village within Israel
Peace Now Inspection of Settlements
Gaza Students' Campaign
Protests Against Apartheid Regime in Hebron
Israeli Teachers Respond to Severe Water Shortage in Palestinian Areas
Peace Now Commemorates Oslo Agreements
Settlers vs. Peace Activists in East Jerusalem

Fawzi Mujahed: Prisoner of Zion

Vanunu: 12 Years Behind Bars

Letter From a Burnt Olive Tree, by Michael Eilan

Rabin's Victory
----------

[THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council
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Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: Beate Zilversmidt

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The Other Israel
October/November 1998, Issue No. 86

The Miserable But Crucial Wye

So it was signed, after all. Just two months ago, many of us doubted whether we would ever get even to this point.

At the end of August, the fifth anniversary of the Oslo Agreement - conceived as a celebration by the Norwegian government - took on the air of a funeral. Television coverage of a Shimon Peres chatting nostalgically with his former Palestinian negotiating partners, and wistfully raising "creative ideas" whereby he would have overcome the negotiations impasse. Prime Minister Netanyahu, the man whom the ballot box put in charge of Israel's policies, had pointedly rejected an offer to participate in the ceremony. To viewers back in Israel, the whole scene confirmed the already strong feeling that the process began in Oslo was dead; a placard in the Peace Now rally, held at Tel-Aviv a few days later, read 'Peace Laid to Rest, Murdered by Netanyahu.'

In 1993 the Norwegians - a small European nation lacking a strong leverage in world affairs - had provided discreet facilities and some advice, enabling an Israeli and a Palestinian delegation to establish a degree of mutual understanding and trust which finally made the signing of an agreement possible. In 1998, that kind of discreet mediation was plainly inadequate.

Between Netanyahu and Arafat, not the slightest hint of trust or confidence could be detected. This was not so much due to incompatible personal characteristics, as to completely incompatible plans for the future of the Occupied Territories - especially since Netanyahu's plan, far from an abstract concept, was being daily implemented by the unilateral creation of "facts on the ground" throughout the West Bank.

Under such conditions even a small step forward, such as the overdue implementation of the Second Redeployment of Israeli forces on the West Bank which should already have taken place September 1987, evidently necessitated the intensive involvement by a powerful outside mediator - in other words, given the prevailing international situation, by the United States of America.

But how could a crippled US President, threatened with imminent impeachment, possibly deliver such a forceful intervention? Watching like the rest of the world the sensational unfolding of the Lewinski Affair, Israelis felt that they were at the same time witnessing the coup de grace to Oslo, the beginning of an irreversible slide into the abyss.

The general feeling of imminent disaster was captured in a Gush Shalom ad in the weekend edition of Ha'aretz, on Aug. 7:

'While Netanyahu is playing his game of deception, he busily creates facts on the ground: extension of settlements, grabbing of Palestinian land and demolition of homes. As the Palestinians see it, all hope is gone. America is paralysed. Europe does nothing. The Arab states pay lip service. The Israeli opposition is powerless, and the media are becoming instruments of official brainwashing. What's left? Without hope, the Palestinians can only turn to violence!'

On the same week, the Security Services made a quite similar warning to Netanyahu.

Deus ex machina

As events were soon to prove, all of us were underestimating the determination and energy of Bill Clinton. In 1993, the Oslo Agreement had fallen more or less ready-made into Clinton's lap, enabling him with no great effort on his part to become the sponsor of the historic handshake on the White House lawn. To obtain something like a repeat performance in 1998, and exhibit to the American public a conspicuous foreign policy success, the President was willing to work hard indeed, risk what was left of his personal prestige in an enterprise whose success was far from guaranteed.

To be fair, at stake were not only Clinton's domestic concerns but also United States vital interests. In the past years, US inaction in face of Netanyahu's ongoing oppression of the Palestinians and his open flouting of Israel's obligations under the Oslo Agreement was unfavorably compared throughout the Arab World with the tough stance towards "rouge" Arab states.

With discontent growing among the masses, the pro-American Arab regimes were wary of appearing the accomplices to Washington's double standard - with the result that the anti-Iraq coalition of 1991 evaporated, and that the US had to back down in

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repeated confrontations with Saddam Hussein. And the US bombing of Sudan was strongly and unanimously condemned by the Arab League - with even staunchly pro-American regimes having no choice but to express at least verbal solidarity with the Sudanese Islamist regime which they detest.

In the estimates of State Department experts, all this was a mere pretaste of what might follow upon an armed confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians. The shock waves could well effect the Hashemite regime in Jordan, just across a narrow river from the turbulent West Bank, with the kingdom already in a delicate position due to King Hussein's severe illness. Egypt, with its government able to contain but not to destroy the armed Islamic opinion, could also be effected - as could be Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, weakened by economic problems.

Thus, the United States had good reasons to be apprehensive of the consequences of a unilateral Palestinian Declaration of Independence - which, barring a substantial change in the situation, seemed the most likely development to occur at the end of Oslo interim period on May 4, 1999.

For his part, Yasser Arafat had a solid popular basis for preparing for such a Declaration of Independence and for the military confrontation likely to ensue. For all the grumbling of many Palestinians at Arafat's authoritarian style of governing and the corruption of many Palestinian Authority officials, the Palestinians could be expected to rally and unite in case of an Israeli attack. Even the harrowing price which the Palestinian population would have to pay, should the Israeli Army implement some of the scenarios it reportedly evolved for "May 4," might seem an acceptable price for at last throwing off the shackles of occupation.



[Insertion]
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Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.



Binyamin Netanyahu could not hope for any comparable unanimity in the Israeli society in the event of war with the Palestinians. On the contrary, practically all articles and commentaries on the subject recently published in the Israeli press - a whole lot - predicted large-scale anti-war demonstrations and protests and a strong disaffection in the Israeli society in general and among soldiers in particular. Moreover, such a conflagration would put a definite end to Netanyahu's declared aim of drawing foreign investors and making Israel "an island of stability in the global economic storm."

Coopting the fire brands

It is now clear that at some point during the summer Binyamin Netanyahu must have taken a decision to accept the American proposal - the very same proposal which he had depicted as "a dictat" during the failed London Summit of May: withdrawal from thirteen percent of West Bank. (As a curious face-saving formula, Netanyahu insisted that three percent out of the thirteen be declared "nature preserves"). Having taken this decision, the Prime Minister set about skillfully cajoling, fragmenting and eroding the hardliner opposition within his own party and governing coalition, as well as the nationalist settler movement. To the chagrin of his friends, Uri Elitzur - a long-time settler leader who had taken a central role in the violent opposition to Oslo in the Rabin period - went over to Netanyahu's side, accepting the key position of Prime Minister's "Chef de Bureau" and declaring the Second Redeployment to be "inevitable."

This was followed by a strategic move: the appointment of Ariel Sharon as Foreign Minister. At this point some of the sceptics started considering the possibility that Netanyahu was on the verge of making a deal, a deal for which he expected hard line opposition. Ariel Sharon - a man whose military and political career epitomises the most brutal Israeli attitude to Arabs - would have been the natural leader around whom all Netanyahu's opponents to the right, religious and non-religious, could unite. Getting him on the team, and in no less capacity than that of chief negotiator with the Palestinians, secured Netanyahu's right flank - but at the price of promoting a clever, ambitious and unscrupulous man far closer to ultimate power.

To Israeli peace activists - particularly those who had been politicized by the Lebanon War and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila - the idea of Sharon as peacemaker took much getting used to. True, his part in the 1982 evacuation of Sinai had shown "Bulldozer" Sharon capable of destroying settlements as ruthlessly as he had build them. Still, at best Sharon could be an ally with whom you would need a very long spoon to sup...

On the evening before his departure for the Wye Conference, Sharon attended at the Latrun Armoured

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Corps Memorial a large gathering of his former soldiers in the 1973 Suez Canal Crossing. "As the Foreign Minister walked among the veterans, the calls Bring us peace! Bring us peace! were heard from all directions" Yediot Aharonot reported on the following day (Oct.16). "One of the veterans rose and shouted: Arik, we don't want to fight anymore! We have followed you in war -- if you bring peace, we will follow you also today! greeted by prolonged cheering."

Low hopes, high tensions

After more than two years of Netanyahu, the Wye Conference was greeted with scepticism and low expectations in the Israeli peace movement (as in the Israeli society in general). There was no mass peace rally on the evening before Netanyahu's departure, nothing like what preceded Begin's departure for Camp David, almost exactly twenty years earlier. The grassroots supporters of the peace movement would probably not have shown up for something in which the only possible message could have been 'Netanyahu, we pin our hopes on you.'

Peace actions before and during the conference were limited to what can be mobilised by the dedicated and persistent hardcore: The spreading of a few big banners at street corners, with the good old slogan Peace is Greater than Greater Israel; a large net placed at the porch of the Prime Minister's residence by Young Labourites, to remind Netanyahu of the opposition's offer of a "parliamentary safety net"; a hastily-mobilised demonstration to confront a group of fanatic settlers, who - just as the Prime Minister's plane took off - established yet another armed enclave in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem; a small vigil by the American Friends of Peace Now outside the sealed conference site itself, facing a more vocal (and better-financed) group of Israeli right-wing nationalists; a desperate campaign of faxes sent to the Prime Minister at his temporary office in Wye, on the night when the talks seemed about to collapse (the Israeli delegation's fax number was obtained from an intercepted e-mail message issued by an extreme right group...); the Gush Shalom ad in Ha'aretz, on the very last day, criticizing the Israeli delegation for "playing childish games."

We could not delude ourselves; at best, such actions had only a marginal effect on the outcome of the conference. (But the long and weary years of trying to influence the terms of political discourse in Israel might have had their part in creating the massive majority in supporting of reaching an agreement at Wye - a majority evident not only in the opinion polls published in the papers, but also in the confidential polls which Netanyahu's aides reportedly conduct weekly and which seem to have a major influence on the Prime Minister's decisions.)

Mostly, during the nine tense day of the Wye Conference, we were onlookers - spectators who strove to pierce the veil of secrecy around the sealed site and collect contradicting fragments of information from newspapers, radio, television and internet; who followed, day by day and hour by hour, the spectacular alternating ups and downs of the negotiations; who got passionately involved from a distance and almost completely lost the initial reservations and became almost as tired and sleepless as the negotiators themselves and who finally - after watching to its end the White House signing ceremony - sunk into a long, exhausted sleep.

Among thieves

Nine intensive days and nights of negotiation at Wye Plantation, clinched by 39 consecutive hours of personal aggressive mediation by President Clinton, resulted in a complicated twenty pages document - to which should be added numerous annexes and unofficial "deals" and "understandings", some of which have not yet come to light at the time of writing, and some of which apparently contradict each other (in particular the US "letters of guarantee" given separately to Israelis and to Palestinians).

The territorial aspect appears straightforward - but as yet, only a select few have seen the maps in which the numerical percentages are translated into actual geographical locations. This undoubtedly helped Netanyahu get the concession accepted in the Israeli society; it was difficult for the hardliners to whip up outrage over the giving up of these abstract percentages. By the same token, there was no up swelling of enthusiasm among Palestinians at the prospect of receiving this vague bequest - especially since many were sure that Netanyahu would not really deliver it.

The most vivid issue for ordinary Palestinians, in the weeks before the Wye negotiations began, were the 3,000 Palestinian prisoners still held in Israeli jails. They are an issue of direct concern to tens of thousands of family members, and the Palestinian society in general regards them as heroes and fighters for the national cause (while Israeli society in general, with only few exceptions, regards them, not as prisoners of war, but as devilish terrorists). Netanyahu (like his Labour predecessors) was very niggardly on this issue - agreeing reluctantly and after much haggling to the release of 750 prisoners, with the identity of the 750 left open - a potentially explosive issue. Also like his predecessors, Netanyahu refused to release prisoners "with blood on their hands", even when they had already spent twenty-five years behind bars - a rather outrageous position for a government having as Foreign Minister a man who throughout his career was connected with killings of civilians and prisoners of war...

****


The most conspicuous feature of the Wye River Memorandum (to give it its official name) is the utter lack of trust between the signatories. A long and complicated time-table is set out; the Israeli redeployment, itself envisaged in the original Oslo Agreement as a single stage in a long process, is cut into sub-divisions spread over three months, each minute Israeli move on the ground being made conditional on Palestinian compliance with various "security" demands.

To many in Israel, the arrangement seems tailor-made to provide Netanyahu with opportunities and

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pretexts to avoid carrying out the agreement. On the other hand, the arrangement has deprived the government of Israel of the power it hitherto arrogated to itself, to rule unilaterally on Palestinian performance in "the struggle against terrorism." Instead, the Wye Agreement sets up the United States as arbiter and umpire and whose word is supposedly final, with CIA teams carrying out detailed inspections on the ground, and with the all-important "technical details" being left to bilateral Palestinian-American agreements.

Clinton's peace

Gush Shalom ad in Ha'aretz, October 30, 1998

This is not an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. These are an Israeli-American agreement and a Palestinian-American one. Binyamin Netanyahu was pressured into signing an agreement which he did not want, for no other reason than that the President of the United States did not leave him any other choice. Netanyahu did indeed undertake to give up occupied territory - but he did it in such a way that the historic reconciliation between the two peoples was not advanced.

The Palestinians know well that whatever they achieved in this agreement, they got thanks to American pressure alone, and that it was contrary to the intentions of Netanyahu. If there are any thanks due on the Palestinian side, they go to America - not to Israel.

Had the government really wanted to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, it would have implemented the "Second Redeployment" long ago, at its own initiative and in full partnership with the Palestinians. But the Netanyahu-Sharon government is continuing the conflict, after the agreement as before: the same words, the same expressions, the same style. Netanyahu is now searching for any possible pretext to break his commitment and wriggle out of the implementation of the agreement. From his first minute back in the country, he is deliberately falsifying and misinterpreting practically every paragraph of what he had signed.

At this moment, the Peace Camp has but one duty: to make sure that the agreement will be implemented.

If you agree, help us pay for this ad!
Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033

This arrangement stood its first test within less than a week after the White House signing ceremony, when a Hamas suicide bomber targeted the armoured bus carrying settler children from one of the armed settler enclaves inside the Gaza Strip to a school in another such enclave; the school bus' military escort succeeded in saving the children, at the price of a dead soldier and two severely wounded ones. Arafat reacted to this attack, clearly designed to directly challenge his authority and sabotage the agreement he had signed, with a crackdown: hundreds of senior Hamas activists were arrested, and the movement's charismatic leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, was placed under house arrest. Altogether, Arafat's response was strong and firm - yet avoided a total confrontation which could have led to a Palestinian civil war; the Americans declared themselves totally satisfied, brushing aside the statements of Israeli ministers who demanded of Arafat "to do much more."

For the first time in the history of Israeli-Palestinian agreements, the government of Israel undertook at Wye a binding obligation "to take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against the Palestinian side" - an undertaking which Netanyahu, for all his declared fondness of "reciprocity", had resisted for nearly a year...

The Wye Agreement is far more vague where the explosive issue of settlement expansion is concerned: "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the Interim Agreement." Within a week of the signature, rumors already abounded of secret agreements giving more specific obligations - for example, that settlement expansion be limited to areas "directly adjacent" to the settlement's built up areas, with US spy satellites taking photos of the situation on "Day Zero." For their part the settlers went into a frenzy of creating "last minute facts", placing mobile homes on the furthest outlying hills they could reach and declaring to the media the creation of "new neighborhoods" and "farms"; and, as usual, the military government explained that "whether or not the settlers are there legally, our duty is to station soldiers to protect them."

The settlements, indeed, are the crux of the matter - for they encompass the basic, completely unresolved issue of the West Bank's ultimate fate. The Wye Agreement makes little or no provision for what is to follow its three-month implementation. Netanyahu already announced that, as far as Israel is concerned, the Third Redeployment which is due next will consist of no more than one percent of the West Bank. ("A complete one percent? But how generous, Mr. Netanyahu!" is how Palestinian negotiator Abu-Mazen reportedly reacted in one of the informal moments at the Wye negotiations.)

As for the permanent status talks, the best Foreign Minister Sharon could come up with is a proposal to freeze the post-Wye status quo for a period of twenty years (sic) during which "stability and mutual confidence" will be supposedly built up. It is difficult to know whether Sharon takes his own proposal seriously - for the situation on the ground after implementation of the Wye Agreement will be the very opposite of stable.

Following upon the dictum that no settlement shall be dismantled, Netanyahu apparently designed a map in which dozens of settlements will become enclaves at the end of long and narrow corridors, surrounded on nearly all sides by Palestinian-controlled territory - which itself would consist of a series of enclaves surrounded by an outer ring of Israeli settlements and military camps. The hell through which the city of Hebron is passing in the past months, due to the settler enclave in its midst, amply demonstrates how precarious such a situation will be. Already, the IDF Central Command is reportedly less than sanguine about the nearing prospect of allocating many more soldiers and far greater resources to the defence of these new settlement enclaves...

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In fact, the Wye Accords make sense only as a transitory stage on the way to further redeployment of Israeli forces - and it would be difficult indeed to move further without the dismantling of settlements.

Should Netanyahu and Sharon fail to take such a step (at the moment they show not the slightest intention) and should the Israeli political system fail to produce a more flexible government (and Netanyahu is a superb political survivor, while the Labour Party has shown itself to be a singularly inapt opposition) then the escalation could be still expected to continue towards the Palestinian Declaration of Independence on May 4, 1999 and the dire scenarios to follow.

But on the issue of Palestinian independence, one of the articles of the Wye Agreement - apparently a last minute improvisation, made in order to solve an intractable problem - can prove of decisive importance: in order to get Palestinian acceptance of Netanyahu's demand that the notorious Palestinian Covenant be for the very last and final time abolished and abrogated, President Clinton undertook to be present in person at the scene. Thus, Netanyahu delivered to Arafat on a silver platter one of the Palestinian side's biggest prizes: a highly-publicised state visit to Palestinian territory by the President of the United States - which would constitute, according to most commentators a de facto recognition of Palestinian independence.

When the history books are written, Binyamin Netanyahu may be remembered as the Israeli leader whose best contribution to peace in the Middle East was bringing about, unintentionally but effectively, a rapprochement between the Palestinians and the Americans. Though Netanyahu would be the last to agree, this is in Israel's best interest, too.

The editors

****

Peace vs. ice cream

It all began with a short notice published in the business section of Ha'aretz on June 8: "The Ben & Jerry's ice cream company yesterday concluded an agreement with the Mei Eden mineral water company, to use only Mei Eden in its sorbet products. The mother company in Vermont pushed the deal because it uses only local mineral water to make sorbets."

The news item made no mention of the fact that Mei Eden is based in the settlement of Katzrin, on the occupied Golan Heights - but the fact is well-known in the Israeli peace movement, and Mei Eden's bottles of mineral water figure prominently on the Boycott List disseminated in Israel by Gush Shalom, in the framework of its Campaign Against Settler Products (see TOI-81, p12).

The issue came to the attention of NYJMEP (New Yorkers for a Just Middle East Peace). Inspired by the Gush Shalom campaign, as well as by the recent move against settler products by the European Union (see TOI-85, p.10), Nathan Krystall of NYJMEP initiated an intensive campaign of letters, faxes and especially e-mail messages to the B&J offices. Soon, it was joined by several other organizations, such as the Boston Committee on the Middle East and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The issue was made more emotional since to many progressive Americans, the company founded twenty years ago by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in the State of Vermont was not just another ice cream company. As Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington wrote to the company directors: "Ben & Jerry's has made its name largely on the basis of a widely held belief that it is different from the other corporations, a company supporting workers' and environmental rights, backing wide-ranging peace and justice issues, and generally acting as a model of what corporate responsibility could look like. (...) Your generous and appreciated donations of ice cream 'Peace Pops' to the events of peace and justice organizations now ring sadly hollow. The prospect of having to organize a consumer boycott against a company we believed to be progressive is indeed a sad one."

Initially, B&J responded to this flood of protests with rather lame excuses such as "Mei Eden is a well-respected company that supplies many multi-national organizations" or that "most of their employees live outside Golan" (letter of August 31). All of this failed to still the flood of protests, to B&J's growing embarrassment.

As it happened, this was the time when the exceptionally hot summer in the Middle East and the severe water shortage experienced by Palestinians got some attention in the American media (i.e., New York Times, 15.8). Obviously, the pumping by Mei Eden of Golan spring water for Ben & Jerry's sorbets constituted a very small fraction ("only $750 worth of water" as the company despairingly wrote) of the huge amounts of water pumped in the Occupied Territories and divided in a manifestly unequal way. Still, with the 'coexistence' of thirsty Palestinians and swimming settlers starting to become known in America, the progressive ice cream company could not afford to become a symbol of 'water expropriation.'

On September 15 there was great jubilation among the group of activists in the US and Israel who had conducted the campaign, as their e-mail network passed on the terse message received from Bram Kleppner, International Product Specialist at Ben & Jerry's: "We are advised that our licensee in Israel has switched water suppliers and is no longer purchasing water from the Golan Heights." That night, some of the activists made a point of going out and buying Ben & Jerry ice cream cones...

A day later, Kleppner quite frankly explained the company's policies to an Israeli radio reporter: "We were getting a lot of e-mails protesting the deal, and so we figured that, all things being equal, we might as well upset less people rather than more..."

Still, at the time of writing the struggle is not yet over. A counter-coalition - including among others the settler pirate radio station Arutz 7, the New York Post, the Zionist Organization of America and the Anti-Defamation League - have been busily defaming

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and pressuring Ben & Jerry's, with its supporters using such imaginative abuse and threats as "may camel droppings find their way into all your products" (in a message which a certain Ricky Greenfield took care to spread widely through cyberspace). In reaction, the original coalition is calling for messages of support, to strengthen Ben & Jerry's resolve:
B & J, 30 Community Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403-6828, USA
fax: +1-802-651-9751; e-mail webmaster@benjerry.com
Copies to: NYJMEP, nathan@interport.net;
ph: +1-718-369-1860

****

The Fakia house stands

A tangible result was at last seen for the campaign in which ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) worked together with numerous Israeli, Palestinian, American and European groups (among them TOI, via its new e-mail network). Hundreds of supporters from all over the world e-mailed Netanyahu, protesting the inhuman policy of denying building permits to Palestinians and then demolishing the houses which they built "illegally" on their own land.

Since the end of August, such protests started getting a new set response from Michael Stoltz of the Prime Minister's Office: "(...) I wish to advise you of the following information from the Ministry of Defense. Approximately 700 houses which were built in the past three years without permits, within contour plans of villages, will not be demolished."

An unofficial leak to Ha'aretz (Aug. 20) spoke of a total of 2,000 "pardons" - 700 to complete houses and 1,300 to "illegal" additions to existing ones," - which would include houses "close to the contour plans", as well as within them. But in several meetings with ICAHD representatives, the occupation officials refused to define what "close to" may mean or to identify the "pardoned" houses - and they made clear that hundreds of other houses were still slated for destruction, also under the new dispensation.

One of the many Palestinian families left in doubt, without knowing whether or not they could still expect a visit from the military bulldozers, were Mohammad and Hoda Fakia of Kattana village with their 13 children. Their house had been built on a plot of land just forty metres away from the boundary of the local "contour plan" - which is certainly close, if the word means anything; the Fakiyas' nearest neighbor did in fact succeed in securing a building permit. Nevertheless, the Fakia home was demolished twice within a year - the second time on August 18, just two days before the new government policy was announced.

In consultation with the Fakia family and its neighbors, and with the Palestinian Land Defence Committee, ICAHD decided to mobilize on Saturday Oct. 10 help for the Fakias in rebuilding their home for the third time. Gush Shalom was asked to bring its activists and alert the Israeli and international media. As with the rebuilding of the Shawamreh home (TOI-85, p.6-8), the action was to be carried out with maximum publicity, openly challenging the authorities. Members of other groups came to help as well: on Friday afternoon appeared Bat Shalom women and some Rabbis for Human Rights taking part in the early stage of the building before the Sabbath, and among the ones who came on Saturday were also members of the Ra'anana Peace Now branch.

Building against hatred

The following was written by a Gush Shalom activist.

The Tel-Aviv bus made it to Kattana at an hour earlier than activists (young and old) were used to. From the moment it entered the West Bank, military jeeps had followed behind. A few kilometres away from Katana, one of them swung ahead and blocked the road, with the junior officer in it announcing: 'For your own safety you may not proceed.' It was decided to try another road. Strangely, the jeeps did not follow, the officer apparently satisfied after reporting to his superiors that the bus had turned back.

During the last minutes of the travelling to Kattana, with no further obstructions, Uri Avnery explained why on this long day everybody's presence was important - and not only of those who would do the heaviest work: The Palestinians expected that Israeli presence would discourage the army from coming in the middle and confiscating the concrete-mixer.

And so it happened that while part of the people toiled and labored, transporting the building elements from hand to hand up the ladder to the roof or tying iron rods together, others had time to make contact with the Palestinian mothers and play with the children who had poured from the neighboring houses.

In one of the breaks, Muhammad Fakia stood up and spoke, with a son of his translating into Hebrew:

'Your leaders speak a lot about security, but as long as there is hatred there is no security. How can I bring up my children not to hate when twice in one year they have seen the family home being destroyed? If there is still hope that the hate will not be transmitted to another generation, then it is thanks to you!'

In the end of the day, after the concrete mixer's immense trunk had spouted the concrete on the roof, an olive branch was put into it as a flag.

On the way back, a Gush Shalom team brought the video film - shot on a rented camera by a half-professional among its activists - to the Channel-One TV studio in Jerusalem. The technical problem of transferring the footage to the TV equipment was solved under great time pressure with the help of a friendly correspondent and a young technician who knew to improvise - just in time for the evening news.

Meanwhile, other activists prepared shifts of witnesses who would stay the night with the Fakia family in their half-finished home. How to tie oneself so effectively to its pillars that it would take a long time for the army to remove you - long enough for others to arrive at the site...

Rebuilding even a single house costs a lot of money. You may want to help by sending your check (earmarked 'campaign against house demolitions') to: Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033; ph: +972-3-5590321; fax: +972-3-5271108; e-mail: info@gush-shalom.org.

For the whole Saturday, a hundred activists worked until the house had a roof (see box). The army didn't show up. During the tense following days a military helicopter once came hovering just meters over the structure, taking photos - but no bulldozers. Maybe

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the stream of letters, faxes and e-mails had an effect, urging Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai to spare the Fakiya house and "altogether abandon the cruel and unnecessary policy of house demolitions." Anyhow, finally human rights advocate Allegra Pacheko obtained from the military a promise that the house would not be harmed, at least not until a hearing on November 16. (On October 28, soldiers did appear to confiscate building tools.)

Also after Wye, the struggle against house demolitions continues. ICAHD coordinator Jeff Halper informed TOI that demolition orders against families like the Fakias are still being carried out, though the intensity has gone down since mid-September. Actually, at the moment a neighbor of the Fakia family is in imminent danger. Moreover, in the wake of the Wye Agreement itself, land expropriation is expected for some eleven new by-pass roads, settler corridors; and each road means, among other things, a "sanitized" area of 150 meters on both sides where Palestinians are not allowed to build...

On the other hand there are rumours that Defence Minister Mordechai favors a policy of not destroying houses that are inhabited. A bit of further pressure might strengthen his resolution to introduce this as official policy.
Protests to: Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, Ha-Kirya, Tel Aviv, fax 972-3-6916940; or to: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Kaplan St., Jerusalem, fax 972-2-6527239 E-mail pm@pmo.gov.il; copies to: ICAHD c/o Halper, 37 Tveria St. Jerusalem, ph: 972-2-624-8252; e-mail: halper@iol.co.il.

+++ The house demolition issue is intensively taken up by US organizations. Salim Shawamre, whose home at Anata was the focus of the struggle in July and August, went on a successful lecture tour in seventeen cities around the United States, at the invitation of The Anti-Discrimination Committee and the American Friends Service Committee. Meanwhile, two hundred participants at the Christian Peacemaker Congress symbolically piled rubble on the steps in front of the office of US Senator Lugar - a ranking Republican known for involvement in international human rights issues, who had promised to take up the house demolition issue "if there is clear evidence of support from the public."

+++ On the evening of August 27, a benefit concert was devoted to the al-Atrash family, whose house near Hebron was repeatedly destroyed by the army (see TOI-83, p.8). A group of punk rockers, affiliated to the anarchist IsraHell Collective, succeeded in interesting other groups after they came back from a visit to the Atrash tent, erected on the rubble.

The performance attracted some hundred and fifty youths who overflowed the Left Bank Club, an unpretentious space in downtown Tel-Aviv which the Hadash Communists make available to various alternative activities.

Performances by several punk rock and hardcore bands, some with names "unprintable in polite company," were interspersed with a newly made video clip. It included the scene - well remembered from TV - of the al-Atrash home being demolished and of Mrs. Al-Atrash and her daughter bound up and brutally dragged by soldiers. The artists' only addition: a background of Netanyahu's voice stating over and over again 'The State of Israel is totally opposed to the use of violence and terror.'

When a group named 'Deir Yassin' introduced itself, there were some whisperings and rustlings in the audience - whereupon the lead singer, before starting to sing, proceeded to tell the audience "a few things about the history of this country which you may not have heard in the high school history classes." Later, the stage was taken by an actor in uniform who played a consultant for the Institute of Psychological Defense and who exhorted the young audience to "always remember that, wherever you go and whatever you do, you are the victims - never let young Palestinians steal that from you!" The Israeli Defence Forces were not a particularly popular institute in this crowd. Several of the performers told the teen-age audience - facing conscription soon - of the various tricks to get out of the army...

All in all, the sum of 1,500 Shekels (about $400) was raised for the al-Atrash family, and was delivered to them a few days later by a group of "strange looking guests." (Mid-East Realities, October 11.)

Sons and mothers

"At age seventeen, my son told me he was not going to do military service. He explained that this was the logical consequence of the education I gave him, to try to solve problems by talking and not by force" said Ruthie Hiller in an interview in Yediot Aharonot (Oct.27). "He is willing to perform a social civil service instead, for example to take care of old people, but the military system would not hear of it." Hiller is one of six women who organized on October 30 a Day of Study entitled "The Army: Duty to Serve and Right to Refuse", in which the hitherto sacrosanct principle of conscription was challenged.

During the past year, the six women had collected information and found that a large-scale "hidden movement of refusing military service" already exists among Israeli youths: some thirty percent of those eligible for conscription get discharged, officially on health or psychiatric grounds, but in fact - at least in many of the cases - for reasons of conscience which are not officially recognised.

A full page interview with the organizers in Yediot Aharonot - Israel's biggest mass circulation paper - a few days before the planned event caused the outbreak of controversy in Kibbutz Ha'Ogen, whose club was rented for the occasion. On the day itself the more than a hundred participants found the kibbutz keeping the doors closed - with some old founding members standing with slogans 'The Army is all that stands between us and a new Holocaust.' No real communication with them was possible.

One of the participants offered to relocate the event to the backyard of her nearby home. With the mediation of an embarrassed Ha'Ogen member the kibbutz's plastic chairs arrived in a van and discussions took place as scheduled: on the effect of psychiatric

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discharge ("Military Profile 21") on young people and their parents; on the experiences of Conscientious Objectors in Israel; on education for soldierhood in Israeli schools. The women listened to refusers of service in the occupied territories, as well as to a Druze turned conscientious objector by his difficulty with being a soldier in the Israeli army and having to shoot at other Arabs. The women present shared experiences for which there had never been an outlet, such as the tragic story of a mother whose conscript son suicided.

"Many more women came than we had expected, and discussions were very intense. It seems that there are a lot of women who need an organization which challenges the 'fact of life' of bringing up one's son for fighting unnecessary wars."
Contact: Haggith Gur Ziv, Ben Avi 1, Tel Aviv 64736
haggith@mofet.macam98.ac.il
A more extensive account is available from Bat Shalom: pob 8083, J'lem 91080; batshalo@netvision.net.il

'We are all Umm El Fahm'

On September 27, the Israeli peace movement found its energy suddenly diverted to an unexpected arena: the outbreak of what seemed a new Intifada. Not in the Occupied Territories but at Umm El Fahm, an Arab town within the pre-'67 borders whose inhabitants are full Israeli citizens in law - and are nevertheless all too often treated as enemies by government officials. Like on previous occasions, the conflagration at Umm-El-Fahm was ignited by the confiscation of land, officially with the aim of creating a military training ground. The townspeople had good reason to suspect - based on ample past precedent - that construction of civilian housing, which only Jews would have the right to purchase, was the ultimate aim.

Everything started when overwhelming police forces forcibly removed a protest tent which had been erected weeks before in the threatened lands. The flames of rebellion were fed by the brutal attack of the riot police on the local high school, apparently aimed at "nipping resistance in the bud" and achieving the exact opposite.

For three days the town was a battlefield; several hundred inhabitants were wounded, some of them severely, by the semi-military "Border Guards" using clubs, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and in at least some cases live ammunition - as brutal as they could come without actually killing somebody.

Very soon, members of various peace groups made their way to the area, to bear witness and express solidarity - first from nearby Kibbutzim, followed by delegations from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem organised by the Hadash Communists, Gush Shalom, Peace Now, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Democratic Women and Bat Shalom. All were stunned by the police brutality, some became personally embroiled in the confrontations, getting more than a whiff of tear gas (the already experienced locals offered onions, smelling which seems to be an effective antidote).

Dozens of activists from Peace Now and Gush Shalom, joining local youths in a vigil with banners reading No to Confiscations - No to Racism! were doused to the core by police water cannons turned on them, and chased by the relentless police for more than a kilometre - a large group remaining together throughout the chase, Jews and Arabs chanting in unison 'Today, we are all Umm-El-Fahm!' even while the Border Guards wielded their batons.

Members of the Israeli High school Teachers Union were also caught in one of the riots - subsequently publishing a sharply-worded condemnation of the government, very rare for this usually strictly "non-political union"; and the twelve visiting Labour Knesset Members denounced the police's conduct as "shocking and shameful" and demanded an impartial investigation.

The compromise with which the clashes ended represents at least a partial victory for the townspeople: while the confiscation is not abolished, the army would not take possession for the next three months, and the landowners would be free to complete the olive harvest. With a modicum of common sense, the government should quietly let this status-quo continue indefinitely, rather then risk a repeated outbreak next January.

To demonstrate the continuing solidarity, the Olive Harvest was carried out on October 9 as joint Jewish-Arab action. A full Gush Shalom bus arrived, as well as a caravan of more than sixty cars, many of them from the Kibbutz Movement. Conspicuous among the olive-pickers was Giora Forman, veteran combat pilot and former Deputy Commander of the Israeli Air Force, who warmly shook hands with the owners of the land.
For their part, a contingent of Umm El Fahem youths were conspicuously present, together with their contemporaries of the Peace Now Youth, at the anti-government protest march held on the same week in Tel Aviv.

+++ On August 12, Peace Now sent inspection teams simultaneously to twenty settlements in the northern part of the West Bank. The action was aimed at showing that some of the "facts on the ground" which are being created there are in fact quite hollow. 'When there's no name on the door, the shuttered windows are rusted solid and the weeds in the garden come up to your neck, it's pretty clear no one lives in the house', Peace Now leader Mossi Raz told journalists. Altogether, during the day 2,888 empty housing units were located in the settlements inspected. Raz commented: 'The government is financing the construction of no less than 6,000 housing units in these twenty settlements. This is not because of "natural growth", as Netanyahu claims. It is a political provocation, pure and simple.'

At the Itamar settlement near Nablus, a violent confrontation between settlers and inspectors - with threats and fists - was featured conspicuously on the TV evening news. In other places, settlers sullenly tolerated the inspectors' presence, after settler leaders called upon their followers not to help the leftists get more publicity.
Contact: Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297.

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+++ Students from Gaza studying at West Bank universities have started an international campaign. In spite of all promises in the various Oslo Accords, the Israeli authorities make it next to impossible for them to move between West Bank and Gaza Strip. At the moment some 1,200 Gaza students are staying illegally at the West Bank and can any moment be caught - either in passing a checkpoint or in a deliberate raid on student dormitories. In order to pursue their studies they have to live in constant apprehension and totally cut off from their families.

A petition from students at Oxford University, which got thousands of signatures of students and academics from all over the world, was delivered at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. - with a Mr. Baruch Binah answering that "Gaza students meet the profile of terrorists" (sic!).

On August 17, a hundred Gazan students from Bir Zeit University together with Israeli (Campus) students and activists of Gush Shalom, held a protest vigil at the A-Ram Checkpoint north of Jerusalem - in an area under Israeli military control. All Gazan participants could in principle have been arrested as violators of the military restrictions. The army was on the spot - knowing very well what it was all about - but apparently didn't think it worthwhile to arrest the students and provoke a riot in the presence of filmers and peace activists.

At the time of writing, the campaign goes on with a photo exhibition at Bir Zeit University, with some revived hope that the Wye Accords will at last bring about the "Safe Passage" which should have been opened already in 1994.
Contact: Gaza Students' Campaign, Birzeit University, ph +972-2-998-2075, fax +972-2-995-7656,
e-mail gsc@admin.birzeit.edu

+++ During August, with the country experiencing one of the hottest summers of the century, the Israeli media reported on a severe water shortage in Hebron; Palestinian taps ran dry - yet the settlers in their armed enclave continued to bask in their swimming pool, a stone-throw (literally) away from the parched Palestinian homes.

On the morning of September 5, several dozen activists of the Hebron Solidarity Committee set out from Jerusalem - with the aim of holding a protest vigil in the Israeli-occupied sector of Hebron near the houses in the city center where the 450 religious-nationalist settlers have established themselves, and for whose sake the city was partitioned leaving 30,000 Palestinians, a quarter of the population, under occupation conditions.

The authorities, who got wind of the intended action, took it seriously indeed: tens of police vans and military jeeps were deployed along the Jerusalem-Hebron Highway. At the roadblock near the settlement of Neve Daniel, a vigilant officer detected the presence of Israelis in Hebron-bound Palestinian taxis - a far from common phenomenon; a bundle of rolled-up placards confirmed the identity of the "leftist troublemakers" who were roughly ordered out of the taxis, informed that the southern half of the West Bank had been declared "a closed military zone" (that is, closed to them but to nobody else), and taken back to Jerusalem.

But at a "repeat performance" on September 22, the military did not take into account that some of the Israelis would arrive, not from Jerusalem but from Bethlehem - where they had spent the night in a protest tent, set up by Palestinian students and youths to protest the continued imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians in Israel. However, in Hebron less than a minute after the vigil began, police and soldiers surrounded the HSC group, declared the area "closed military zone" - removing, detaining and questioning the vigilers at the Kiryat Arba police station. The demonstrators' placards, denouncing The Apartheid Regime in Hebron, especially infuriated the interrogators. Still, with all the police's swiftness of action, a Ma'ariv photographer had captured the demonstration - and its violent dispersion - on camera, for the following day's edition.
HSC, POB 234, J'lem 91001; freedom@netvision.net.il

+++ For nearly two years, a group of Israeli teachers had been meeting regularly with Palestinian colleagues, trying their hand at the extremely difficult and sensitive task of formulating a proposal for a common curriculum, which may once upon a time be offered to both educational systems. In August the contact made the Israeli participants aware, long before it burst out in the media, of the severe water shortage on the Palestinian side. With intensively-collected contributions, the Israeli teachers organised and financed a caravan of water tankers which on the morning of September 9 arrived at Jenin in the north end of the West Bank. They got an extremely cordial reception from a crowd of townspeople, and the Palestinian governor directed them to a nearby refugee camp, where the water shortage is particularly severe.

"Of course it was a symbolic step. Perhaps enough for one camp for one day" teacher Michal Levin told TOI. "But we mainly wanted to get the attention of the public, to let people know that the Palestinians are deprived - not of some trivial luxury, but of water which is the basis of life. And we did get quite a lot of attention from all the newspapers and radio and television stations. They asked: but you are teachers, what has that got to do with water? And I answered: we are educators, and this was an educative act."
Contact: Miryam Dagan, Kibbutz Givat Haviva, 37850

+++ Peace Now decided to critically mark September 12, the fifth anniversary of the Oslo Agreements, with a big rally in Tel-Aviv. Throughout the preparations organisers remained insecure about the turnout and when the Labor Party opted out, withdrawing its already promised organisational and financial support, it came nearly to a crisis.

But when the evening came, demonstrators poured into the Rabin Square in their tens of thousands (60,000 by the police estimates; 100,000 according to the organisers). Most of them were people in their twenties and thirties, including families with children.

There was none of the atmosphere of hope and jubilation which characterised the event held by the

Page 10
same movement in the same place five years earlier. Instead, the prevalent mood was anger. Crowds of youths, dressed in t-shirts of rivalling youth movements, united in punctuating speakers with Bibi, Go Home! shouts. Dominant on the placards were such slogans as Netanyahu, Destroyer of Peace! Netanyahu - Danger to the State!, and Bibi leads to War! The speakers on the podium, too, vied with each other in their denunciations of the government. 'We despise that man, that Prime Minister who regards everyone as traitors' cried out Meretz Leader Yossi Sarid. 'You, too, everybody who is here tonight, all of us are traitors in his eyes.'
Contact: Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297.

+++ At noon on October 15, members of the extreme-right Moledet Party occupied a building in the East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah -- with the overt intention of sabotaging the just opened Wye Conference. Peace Now called up its activists - joined by Gush Shalom, Meretz and Bat Shalom.

Within three hours of the first news forty of them, mostly youths, were chanting Provocateurs - Out! and scuffling with the police, which barred their way to the occupied building; with nightfall, torches were lit and the chanting continued. In between confrontations, a senior police officer explained the legal situation: "The building was a synagogue before 1948. Elon and his people have a written authorisation from the old congregation, so it's OK." When a demonstrator pointed out that the police deals quite differently with Muslims who try to reclaim what had been mosques before 1948, the officer merely shrugged.

+++ The Prime Minister's return from Wye did not quiet the East Jerusalem front - on the contrary. On November 1, Netanyahu personally authorised the settlers in the Ras-el-Amud neighborhood to erect a fence, enclose a sizable slice of land and thus greatly enlarge their enclave. Several years ago, legal title to the area was acquired by the notorious Miami-based settler patron Erwin Moskowitz, using highly questionable means (see TOI-81, p.1); hitherto, the government prevented him and his settler supporters from taking actual possession.

Since the settlers made their move, the site was the scene of daily confrontations: Three Peace Now activists were detained after chaining themselves to a settler tractor; police violently assaulted a group of Palestinian protesters headed by Feisal Husseini; in a third demonstration, Peace Now activists - five this time - were again arrested for trying to interfere with the settlers. As this goes into print (Nov.3), a Rabin Memorial Vigil in central Jerusalem, numbering several hundred participants, developed into a protest against the settler incursion at Ras el Amud.
Contact: Peace Now, POB 8159, J'lem 91081

Prisoner of Zion

+++ The detention of the 25-year old Fawzi Mujahed, an inhabitant of the Old City of Jerusalem seized by soldiers on Sept. 17 while travelling to visit his family in Hebron, could have passed unnoticed - a very small footnote in the annals of the occupation. But the staff of Kol Ha'Ir weekly, where Mujahed has a job as a maintenance man, were furious at the sudden arrest of their years-long fellow worker. They were even more angry at the news that Fawzi had been placed under Administrative Detention - with no charges presented, beyond the bare assertion of an anonymous security official that "this person is dangerous to state security."

Many of the Kol Ha'Ir journalistic and administrative staff spent the New Jewish Year holiday (Sep. 21-22) outside the Etzion military base - holding signs, loudly calling 'Fawzi, we are here!' and shouting at the bewildered soldier guards Shame on you, stop doing this dirty work!

After Mujahed was taken behind the high walls of Megiddo Prison, up in the north, the paper started running a regular 'Fawzi column' reporting on his prison experiences (Feels well, food OK; complains of having only Hamas members as cell mates; the prison refuses to pass to him the electronics textbook); anecdotes of the struggle ('The phone rang: Meggido Prison. Had I really sent a letter with Love and Kisses to a dangerous security prisoner. Yes, I did - so I answered. He is a good friend, and he is innocent, and if you really want to know, I am happily married with two children'); and also some unexpected advice from Immigrant Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein ('I hope your friend is found innocent and released,' said the minister. 'Administrative detention is really very bad, it should be used very sparingly. From my experience as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union, I can advise him to find something absorbing to do, not to mope. Otherwise you can go mad in prison!').

Vanunu: 12 years behind bars

+++ Between September 18 and 24, an intensive week of protest activities marked the twelfth anniversary of the Nuclear Whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu's kidnapping and incarceration. The action was undertaken by The Israeli Vanunu Committee together with like-minded international activists. Pickets were held daily: outside Vanunu's prison at Ashkelon, the Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv, and the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem (where a petition for Vanunu's release was delivered, on behalf of Norwegian trade unions numbering a million members).

The central action took place at the Rotem Junction - the nearest spot where those without a special Security Clearance may approach the Dimona Nuclear Pile. For an hour, a hundred demonstrators stood in the sun, their signs facing the distantly-visible dome of the reactor. Nuri El Ukbi, Head of the Bedouin Defence Association spoke of those who for generations grazed their flocks where the pile now stands, and who would be the first to suffer from any accident at the pile.

After most participants departed, a small "International Citizen's Weapons Inspection Team" began to walk towards the reactor. Felice Cohen-Joppa, of the American Nuclear Resister, reports: (...) We carried two large banners: Warning - Nuclear Weapons Made Here and U.N. Arms Inspector Butler - Dimona Nuclear Weapons Plant, This Way. We were soon spotted and pursued by police. We pointed to our badges, which read in English and Hebrew 'International Weapons Inspector.' After being stopped we sat down and linked arms, talking quietly and reasonably to the police of the

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grave nuclear dangers. Seven men and three women were taken to the Dimona police station. During the four hours of detention, we were warned of immediate deportation from Israel without being allowed to return, and a long prison term for the Israeli participant. In the end, we were let go without even accepting the demand that we undertake not to come back to the reactor in the next 15 days."

Meanwhile, a sudden flurry of threats and counter-threats between Israel and Iran, with each side proudly displaying bombers and missiles capable of reaching the other's territory, underlined how fragile is the government's long-standing policy of Regional Nuclear Monopoly. Also, the government had to bow to US pressure and enter into negotiations on the new Fissionable Material Limitations Treaty - which nuclear hawks regarded as "the first step down the slippery slope."
Contact: pob 956, Tel-Aviv 61008; or: 185 New Kent Rd, London SE1 4AG; or: 2206 Fox Ave, Madison, WI 53711; or: legalese@netvision.net.il

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Rabin's victory

To many, the Wye Conference and the agreement signed at its end seemed the posthumous victory and vindication of Yitzchak Rabin - with Rabin's bitter foe Netanyahu willy-nilly following in the murdered predecessor's footsteps. And indeed, it was surrealistic to hear Netanyahu refer to a terrorist attack as 'the work of the enemies of peace', while continuing the negotiations - the very conduct for which he had attacked Rabin so vociferously...

Rabin's Way Won was an ubiquitous sign, seen everywhere throughout the huge crowd (estimated by the police at between 150,000 and 200,000) which streamed into the Rabin Square on the evening of Oct. 31 for the annual Rabin Memorial Rally, which this year fell just one week after the Wye Agreement. The Labor Party had prepared thousands of these placards, and the youths eagerly took them up.

The peace movement's support for the Wye Agreement did not make it embrace the Prime Minister who signed it. There had been, indeed, one short moment of grace, three days after Netanyahu's return - when a violent extreme-right demonstration took place outside the Prime Minister's residence, in which Netanyahu was called "traitor" and made the target of the very same inflammatory slogans and posters remembered from the stormy last months of Rabin's life. On the following day, a group of Meretz youths came to demonstrate on the same spot, declaring their willingness "to stand at Netanyahu's side, now that the settlers threaten him". But Netanyahu himself was quite rough in pushing aside solidarity from the left, casting off Rabin's mantle: "I do not follow in Rabin's footsteps. On the contrary, I try my best to minimise the damage which Rabin did to Israel's security with the very bad Oslo Agreement."

On the other hand, Defence Minister Yitzchak Mordechai, the well-known cabinet moderate, did mount the podium at the Rabin Rally, and unlike the Prime Minister declared himself to be Rabin's loyal disciple and follower without reservation. The crowd loved it. They cheered the Defence Minister when he spoke of Rabin ("I am humbled and honoured to occupy the office in the Defence Ministry which was Rabin's") and also when he spoke of the Palestinians ("The Wye Agreement signed with our friends, they who had been our enemies"). But any mention of the present Prime Minister earned Mordechai a burst of boos and catcalls...

It was a lively crowd, with a very clear idea of what it wanted. Every dovish declaration from the podium, such as the mention of "Withdrawal from Lebanon" by former Foreign Minister David Levy (another newcomer in the Rabin Memorial scene, warmly welcomed on board in Shimon Peres' speech) got a prolonged applause; so was every trenchant attack on the Prime Minister; and last but not least - speakers got applauded whenever they mentioned the ongoing militant student struggle for lower tuition fees, many of whose participants were present in the crowd.

Singer Aviv Gefen, popular as always, sung the words which he wrote himself: Let's walk into the dream/where there are no nations and races/ let's bury the guns/ not the children...; rather incongruous, so soon after the Defence Minister had emphasized the role of the army as "defender of the country and guarantor of peace."

Towards the end, a remark in Leah Rabin's concluding speech reminded the more radical activists - busily spreading leaflets and stickers among the crowd - of the inherent limitations of the Rabin cult: "How dare he [Netanyahu] say that Yitzchak intended to go back to the 1967 borders? This is a vicious lie, my husband had no such intention!" (True - but for most of his life Rabin had no intention of shaking Arafat's hand, either.)

And still, by far the longest burst of applause was that which greeted Yossi Sarid's programmatic declaration: "In mourning, you usually look backwards. But in mourning Yitzchak Rabin we look forward, we look towards the future which he wanted to give us, to the vision for which he died. We will achieve it yet - an end to the occupation, a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, peace, permanent peace, real peace!"

This prolonged applause, by tens of thousands, was quite encouraging for those who still remember the time when such were the ideas of an outcast minority. And it should give a pause to those who still dream of preventing the State of Palestine from getting born.

****


Letter from a burnt olive tree

by Michael Eilan

Somewhere near the top of a steep mountain south of Nablus, the absurdities of occupation do not seem surrealistic any more, just part of a ritual dance before a big and awful war. There were four Israelis and two Palestinians people from the village of Hawara picking olives on one half burnt tree with about 12 soldiers shouting at them that it was a closed military area and they had to leave the tree immediately. The atmosphere between the Israelis was absurd. The burnt trees under the settlement of Yitzhar were acts of brutal violence. The way things are going now the relations between Israelis will cease to look absurd and start looking more like the burnt trees. Everything that hasn't been scorched will be. I was one of the four Israelis and we did not stop picking. Neither did the Palestinian owners of the tree. At first the soldiers, all kids from combat units, stood very close to us. After a while they relaxed and a few wandered off. The real problem was at the very top of the hill with the settlers at Yitzhar who had burned the trees. They were hanging out on the top of the hill about 100 meters away all wearing black pants
[continued]
and white shirts because it was a Saturday. They have been making life miserable for people from Hawara and Burin for the past few months. They started pestering the villagers a long time ago, and then two settlers from Yitzhar were killed which gave legitimacy to a reign of terror. Gideon Levy of Ha'artez has done a better job of describing the war between Yitzhar and its neighbors then I can since he has been following it with that persistence that has made him one of the very few truly decent people in Israeli journalism. Though I do write for my living I did not come to file copy. Some friends and neighbors of mine who are sort of occasional peace activists read one of Levy's reports and got angry. We live in the Galilee and most of us have olive groves. Something about deliberately fucking up the harvest and burning trees that take so long to grow got us all very angry. The settlers don't grow anything and want to drown us all in the blood of their crazy dreams while we pay their bills and have to apologize for not understanding or supporting them. These friends, Yoram Verete and Alon Porat, resuscitated an organization they had formed during the Intifada called Red Line because one needs an organization to deal with the necessary coordination with the Palestinian Authority. Dedi Zuker, the Knesset Member from Meretz came too, and really did his job. About 10 people from our village Clil, which is Jewish, and a group of people from the neighboring Arab village Sheikh Danun, rented the bus that usually takes our kids to school. About another 20 people came from other places in the Galilee. There was a fair amount of media too, and it even got onto the evening news, though publicity was really not the purpose. Up on that olive tree several things became quite clear. The settlers are our problem. By us I mean that good half of the Israeli population which wants peace. Most of the liberal people I know never talk to settlers. Mainly because they are disgusting and remind us about all sorts of disgusting things in our past. We have to stop them and you can't get tough at a distance. We have to talk to them, persuade them, threaten them, show strength and also some understanding. Bring the crazies in line, not pay their bills. Face up to our own ugly past because we come from a militaristic aggressive society. Until we face who we are, where we came from, the crazies will rule, because the liberal half of the country can't talk to them straight while pretending they actually live in New York or Amsterdam. So there, around the tree there were a few nervous soldier kids and six people who could be their fathers doing something halfway between real work and a statement about land, borders and violence. One of the kids was an officer from Safed. He looked deeply ashamed of the whole scene. There was another kid from one of the more moderate settlements whose parents probably wanted to provide him with a better suburban life. He spouted the stuff he learned in school, but couldn't really take it seriously. Another kid was a Druse from a village where we usually shop near home. He couldn't care less until one of us asked him what his family would do if somebody fucked up their olive trees. He grew red in the face. A few others didn't speak too much, but they listened uncomfortably. We came from the generation that put them in this untenable situation. After a while they asked where we served in the army. When they learned we had all been real soldiers they became much more polite - to us, not to the Palestinians who were studiously avoiding eye contact. They were polite to the Palestinians too - but only because we were there. Against their objections we moved from tree to tree picking olives while the settlers started to drop down from Yitzhar to the neighboring terraces. After a while the settlers got closer and the police, not the army, realized that there was no way the soldiers could or would move us. The police started to use threats and pulled out a pair of plastic handcuffs. Dedi Zuker showed up at the right time, but there were no more olives to pick at this plot so we moved down. Then the police came and said yet again that it was closed military area. To us it seemed, and not to the settlers who were hanging around the terraces like vampires in their Saturday best. It all ended in the well-remembered style of a semi-violent eviction. The policemen tried to restrain the brutality which has become such a hallmark in the past few years and we were only kicked a few times on the ground by a few cops who were immediately restrained by their officers. One guy from Sheikh Danun was injured, but that was because he fell while jumping from a terrace. An army medic looked after him and he was taken to the hospital in Nablus. The rest of us got away with a few scratches and bumps. About 10 sacks of olives were picked by the whole group with the people from Hawara. They and the guy from the Palestinian Authority said thank you. We said no thanks were due because those crazies are our problem and we want peace just as much as they do. All of this took place on the Saturday, just after the Wye Memorandum was signed at the White House. Nobody mentioned it all day.

(Courtesy of 'Ariga': www.ariga.com)

Contact: Red Line, c/o Alon Porat, Klil Village 25233.