The Other Israel _ Issue No. 98-99 July 2001
The Option of Naked Force, an editorial overview
Calming down opposition
The failed invasion
Filling the vacuum
Cracks in the unity?
There can be no security for settlers
Provocations and liquidations
The shadow of the Hague
Three Days of Madness, by Beate Zilversmidt
Bombing of Dolphinarium discotheque
Anti-occupation protest in front of Defense Ministry
Arrest and Release of Palestinian Journalist Imad A.
Funeral of Faisal Husseini
80 Theses for a New Peace Camp
Summary of Gush Shalom's April 13 ad in Ha'aretz
34 Years of Occupation -- Enough!
June 5 -- 34th anniversary little noticed
June 8 -- Women Against the Odds
Women's groups spearhead anti-occupation demonstrations
The Struggle for El-Khader
Some Israeli Soldiers are Disobedient
Conscientious objector Gabi Wolf
Bir Zeit University Students Protest Closing of Road to Ramallah
Expedition to Bring Food to West Bank Villages
by Ta'ayush (Partnership), a joint Jewish-Arab Israeli group
Israel Shahak 1933-2001
Reports on Various Peace Actions and Demonstrations
Once I Was an Obedient Pilot
by Colonel (Res.) Yigal Shohat
The Terrible Arafat, by Uri Avnery
The Other Israel
Issue 98-99 July 2001
THE OPTION OF NAKED FORCE
Ever since the early 1950's, when he headed a special commando unit carrying out daring and brutal cross-border
raids, Ariel Sharon had very clear-cut ideas about how to deal with the problems of Israeli-Arab, Israeli-Palestinian
relations. His favorite strategy was the constant creation of "facts on the ground", and the use of brute
force to protect them.
In 1982, as an all-powerful Defence Minister under the ailing Menachem Begin, Sharon had a chance to try a real
large scale "solution" -- namely, an ambitious attempt to reshape the entire Middle East by use of military
might -- but within months it ended in a fiasco. Faced with the unanimous censure of the entire international community
and the most massive anti-war movement in Israeli history, Sharon had to depart the Defence Ministry under a cloud,
with responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila massacre as a big stain on his name -- a stain which is still there
after the passage of two decades.
Meanwhile, Sharon had a long long time to reflect on his mistakes, during weary years in which few believed he
would ever get a second chance at reaching the top. His conduct since being elected Prime Minister gives a clear
indication of his main conclusion: to gain and retain the support of the two forces which were his undoing in 1982
-- the Labour Party in internal Israeli politics and the United States on the international arena.
In both regards the situation of February 2001, following his elections victory, was highly auspicious for Sharon:
a Labour Party demoralized and discredited by the disastrous Barak interlude, eager to grasp at Sharon's offer
of ministerial portfolios as a last lifeline, and a brand-new US president highly disinclined to take up the heavy
and thankless burden of Middle Eastern mediation.
As a result, Sharon had started out with a far more smooth sailing than he or anybody else could have expected:
very high ratings in Israeli opinion polls, and a considerable diplomatic and military freedom of action as far
as the United States was concerned. But the pesky Palestinians refused to disappear, or be intimidated, or cease
their uprising. The problem which had broken his predecessors landed squarely on Sharon's desk, forcing him into
ever more complicated maneuvering, ever more delicate and unstable balancing acts.
To keep Labourites and Americans happy, Sharon was willing to disappoint and occasionally confront his natural
allies, the settlers and extreme-right parties. Hearing their complaints and accusations, one might almost believe
that there is indeed "a new Sharon." But there is no real evidence -- either in Sharon's statements in
private and public, or more importantly in his concrete actions -- to show any fundamental change in his basic,
life-long way of looking at things.
In fact, Sharon has been quite forthright in declaring his ultimate plan: maintenance in place, under full Israeli
rule, of all of the 150 settlements scattered throughout the Palestinian territories (many of them created by Sharon
himself) and the creation of a Palestinian "state" consisting of several truncated enclaves, the 42%
already ceded by his predecessors and perhaps some additional crumbs which a generous Sharon may grant "as
a reward for good behaviour."
Obviously, such a policy is incompatible with any serious wish to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, and
may lead to an eventual all-out military confrontation, a possibility more and more seriously discussed. The endless
maneuvers, twistings and turnings which characterized the first four months of the Sharon Government seem to have
been aimed primarily at manipulating the Israeli and international public opinion, so as to gain support for a
military assault upon the Palestinians.
Calming down opposition
As we wrote in the previous issue, on his very first day as Prime Minister, back in March, Sharon was faced with
protests at the Israeli military imposing a "strangling closure" around the major Palestinian town of
Ramallah. At that time, Sharon discarded the measure which had been initiated under Barak; being hailed for "unexpected
moderation" was exactly what he needed, well worth the price of some angry muttering on the extreme-right.
It established a pattern which Sharon was to successfully repeat several times in the following months.
All this was certainly helpful into making Sharon's
first official visit to the White House -- the indispensable initiation ceremony which every new Israeli PM must
pass -- into a success.
The newly-installed George W. Bush -- like most US presidents at the beginning of their term -- had little knowledge
of foreign policy issues. His one clear idea, about the Middle East as about Russia, North Korea and other parts
of the world, was a determination "to do the opposite of what Clinton did."
The implications were certainly pleasing to Sharon. Where Clinton was involved in constant mediating and presented
a comprehensive detailed plan, Bush would only take the most loose interest in the Middle East and "leave
the parties to sort things out"; and where Clinton often invited Arafat to the White House, Bush would keep
the door closed to the Palestinian leader.
In effect, the advent of Sharon and Bush swept bare the Middle East diplomatic arena. Already Ehud Barak, in his
last week as Prime Minister, left to his successor Sharon the priceless gift of repudiating the "Clinton Plan",
which had previously served as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; and Bush, eager to get rid of anything
reminiscent of his predecessor, was happy to follow through. Ironically, it was the Palestinians only -- so stridently
accused of "intransigence" and "rejectionism" -- who were left clinging to these former terms
of reference and calling for resumption of the negotiations on the previous basis.
In fact, Sharon made quite sure that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would not be resumed at all, from this or
any other starting point, by getting Bush to agree that "negotiations could not be conducted under fire"
and that their resumption required "a total end to violence." This seemingly fair demand (who can oppose
"an end to violence") in practice amounted to a demand that the Palestinian stop resisting an Israeli
occupation which Sharon has no intention of dismantling.
Of course, Sharon's definition of "violence", referred only to specific kinds of violence -- the kind
of visible violence which can be easily defined and quantified into concrete incidents: stone-throwing, the hurling
of molotov cocktails, shooting, the planting of explosive charges, suicide bombing -- all of them the sort of measures
which disenfranchised subjects undertake when rebelling against their oppressors.
Not included or acknowledged in this concept of violence was the far more subtle and insidious structural violence
which is only possible for the holder of arbitrary state power such as a long-term military occupation: the subordination
and slow strangulation of the occupied population's economy; a manifestly unequal division of water sources, awarding
swimming pools to settlers and condemning their Palestinian neighbours to almost perpetually dry taps; and, of
course, a legal system tailor-made to facilitate the alienation of Palestinian land and its transfer to settlers.
In short, a bureaucrat's signature on an oppressive new decree can ultimately wreak more lives than the most powerful
explosive charge without being counted as violence.
The following is taken from a Gush Shalom press release published on March 14 and quoted in several European papers.
"(...) The linkage between cessation of violence and cessation of settlement is an obvious and indispensable
one. Settlement creation and extension is itself an extremely violent process, involving military bureaucrats arbitrarily
declaring a certain parcel of Palestinian land to be 'state land'; large military forces enforcing the decree,
fencing off the land and excluding the former owners; and finally a group of settlers, composed of Jews only, coming
to take up possession and set up an armed community in the enclave behind the barbed wires. There can be no 'end
to violence' while such settlement practices continue."
For the Palestinians, a cease-fire ending the one kind of violence without touching the other would amount to unconditional
surrender, a meek acceptance of the occupation which has oppressed them for the past thirty-four years and against
which they rose up on September 2000. But Sharon's cease-fire move did put them on the wrong leg. They found it
difficult to convey their point convincingly -- most difficult where the Israeli public opinion was concerned,
even its supposedly dovish part.
So, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were put off for
the duration, with no unequivocal blame put on the Sharon government. Sharon -- who couldn't care less -- felt
himself licensed to steadily escalate military measures against the Palestinians.
It started with reintroducing the Barak method of bombardments by helicopter gun ships, tanks and naval vessels
against targets in the Palestinian cities. Then came the systematic assassination of Palestinians deemed to be
terrorists ("pinpoint preemptive measures" in the official military parlance, "liquidation"
in fiery news reports of the Israeli mass media, "extra-judicial executions" in the reports of human
This was followed by "search-and-destroy" military incursions into "Area A", the enclaves handed
over to full Palestinian control in the course of the Oslo process. The largest such incursion, into the Khan Yunes
Refugee Camp, lasted several hours -- in the course of which the Israeli forces destroyed dozens of houses, leaving
some 500 people homeless.
The failed invasion
For several weeks, there was virtually no reaction from the White House or the State Department to Sharon's increasingly
oppressive measure. The new administration's passivity and what seemed a carte-blanche to Sharon caused an increasing
anxiety on the Arab side.
While Bush cared little for Palestinians in general or Arafat in particular, he could not avoid frantic calls from
the leaders of Jordan and Egypt -- America's faithful allies in the region. Both were apprehensive that an Israeli
crack-down on the Palestinians would arouse the masses all over the Arab World, setting off the simmering oppositional
groups in Egypt and the Palestinian Jordanians who constitute more than half of that kingdom's population.
Even more significant from Bush's point of view were alarms from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates, embodying
the very oil interests over which the elder Bush had gone to war exactly ten years ago.
It came to a head over what may have seemed to Sharon and the generals of the IDF High Command the logical next
step in their campaign -- capturing and holding for an indefinite period a piece of Palestinian territory, as an
The lobbing of a few Palestinian mortar shells at the Israeli town of Sderot -- located a few kilometres east of
Gaza but hitherto untouched by the fighting seemed a suitable pretext. The media in Israel waxed hysterical over
"the vicious attack on a quiet town", though in fact -- unlike the Israeli bombing of Palestinian towns
-- the mortar shells had landed on an empty stretch of road and left no casualties and little damage.
Swiftly, Israeli forces moved to occupy the area of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, declaring it a "security
zone" (eerily reminiscent of the one Sharon had created at South Lebanon in 1982 and whose creation led to
nearly two decades of guerrilla war) and making thinly veiled threats of occupying further territory "if needed
for operational reasons."
If Sharon expected a tacit US compliance in this move, too, he was quickly proven wrong. Bush may wink at an hours-long
Israeli incursion into Palestinian territory, already over before the State Department daily press briefing, but
a forcible change of the territorial status quo turned out to be something else altogether.
A terse public reprimand of Israel by the State Department spokesperson and a single phone call from Washington
to the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem were sufficient to get the invading force immediately withdrawn,
with the Sharon cabinet denying that there had ever been any intention to keep them there for more than a few hours.
Public blame for "the misunderstanding" was placed on the army, to the generals' great displeasure.
In the immediate aftermath of the Gaza invasion fiasco, the Labourite Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh angrily
remarked 'Sharon can go to The Hague without me.' A few days later, however, Sneh retracted that remark, apologized
to the Prime Minister, and was graciously allowed to retain his portfolio.
In general, this first crisis seems to have caused no lasting damage to Sharon's political position -- actually,
rather the opposite. Precisely the predictable extreme right expressions of anger at the "caving in to American
pressure" were helpful in refurbishing the image of The New Sharon. Opinion polls gave Sharon extremely high
popularity ratings, sometimes above the 70% mark, including many who didn't vote for him in the recent elections.
The pernicious legacy of Barak, who convinced the Israeli public in general -- and also many in the peace movement's
grassroots -- that "peace is impossible" and that "violence is due to Palestinian intransigence"
has worked enormously in Sharon's favour. So did the willingness (indeed, eagerness) of Shimon Peres, that internationally-renowned
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, to place his prestige and diplomatic skills entirely at Sharon's disposal. At this
point the Labor Party is entirely unsuited to serve as any kind of alternative, having no clear leadership nor
a coherent political program, and by all polls facing an electoral disaster should new elections take place.
The net result -- to the chagrin of those still remembering the PM's past record and having no trust whatsoever
in his future intentions -- was a widespread public credit to the "tough but reasonable" Sharon.
As under Barak, opposition from the left remained confined to radical groups. The increasing militancy of such
activists, ready to undertake acts of civil disobedience in company with Palestinians and risk detentions and the
violence of army and police, was far from providing a complete replacement to the mass peace rallies which characterized
the time of Sharon's earlier tenure at the helm of state.
Filling the vacuum
In the first months of his presidency, George. W. Bush's attempt to abdicate from the traditional US role of Middle
East mediator left a vacuum which other forces were soon trying to enter. The European
Union, which had long aspired for this role, increased the frequency of its emissaries' visits to the region --
as did the Russia of Putin, striving to regain its position as a major player in the international arena.
Meanwhile, inside Israel the former Labour Party minister Yossi Beilin -- once Shimon Peres' disciple and protege,
now his sharpest critic -- maintained his own extensive network of "parallel diplomacy" with the Palestinians,
the Arab states, the Europeans and the Americans.
Undaunted by having no official status or authorization of any kind, Beilin undertook the ambitious task of continuing
talks with the Palestinian interlocutors with whom he had dealt officially under Barak, with the aim of achieving
a draft agreement which might be presented to a future Israeli government. Considering the major impact of previous
diplomatic documents shaped by Beilin, such an enterprise could not be dismissed out of hand.
Soon, all these initiatives came to focus on The Egypto-Jordanian Initiative -- a paper formulated with the tacit
consent of Arafat by the only two Arab states to have peace treaties with Israel, both of which have a very great
deal to lose from any spreading of the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration. At its core was the idea of creating
a linkage between "an end to violence" by the Palestinians and "an end to settlement extension"
This would offer the Palestinians a real incentive -- an end to one of the most painful grievances which bedeviled
the whole Oslo Process and led directly to the outbreak of the present uprising, namely the constant unilateral
creation of "facts on the ground" during the negotiations, in the very territories which are the main
subject of these negotiations.
The idea was also publicly endorsed by Yossi Sarid -- head of the Meretz Party and official Leader of the Opposition
in the Knesset, who stated on TV: 'Of course an end to violence must include an end to settlement extension. Settlement
extension is a kind of violence, too.' Mainstream doves in general, and Sarid in particular, do not often speak
For his part, Sharon was initially inclined to reject out of hand the entire Egypto-Jordanian Initiative. However,
Foreign Minister Peres prevailed upon him to accept it "creatively" -- i.e., without accepting the principle
of settlement freeze. Sharon and Peres went again through the same process when the same principle was taken aboard
by the Mitchell Commission, whose report constituted the most significant diplomatic development of the past months.
The Mitchell Commission, an international body mandated to investigate the reasons for the outbreak of the Intifada
and suggest a solution, was the only concrete result of the October 2000 Summit held in the Egyptian resort of
Both the composition of the Mitchell Commission and its ultimate conclusions reflected delicate political and diplomatic
compromises. The Palestinians had wanted Nelson Mandela to be a member, or even head it; the Israeli side completely
opposed the idea, and its objection was sustained by the Americans.
Finally, the commission was formed essentially as an American-European partnership: chaired by George Mitchell,
the former US senator known for having brokered North Ireland's "Good Friday Agreement" (presently passing
through a crisis of its own) and having one more former US senator, Warren Rudman -- but also including Javier
Solana of the European Union and Thorbjoern Jagland -- of Norway, both experienced in Middle East diplomacy. The
fifth member was Suleyman Demirel, former President of Turkey, a country maintaining an unofficial military alliance
with Israel against Syria, yet traditionally considered friendly to the Palestinian cause.
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Not content with investigating only the direct and specific incidents which led to the outbreak of the Intifada
in September 2000, the Mitchell Commission went into the deeper causes -- and came to the only reasonable conclusion:
that settlement extension is a major cause of irritation.
Like the Egypto-Jordanian Initiative, which it effectively replaced on the diplomatic arena, the Mitchell Report
spoke of a complete end to building in Israeli settlements at the Occupied Territories, a halt also including "natural
growth" -- as Senator Mitchell specifically and explicitly stated. (Under the euphemism "natural growth",
the settlements virtually doubled in size during the seven years of the Oslo process).
While in mandating a complete settlement freeze the Mitchell Report went a long way towards correcting a basic
defect of the Oslo Agreements, it exactly replicated another defect: the absence of a clear timetable and modalities
for implementation. This had the predictable result: two months after both Palestinians and Israelis formally declared
their acceptance of the Mitchell Report, implementation has not yet started -- and there are increasing doubts
whether it ever will.
In the Palestinian view, the Mitchell Report should have constituted one integral whole -- meaning that cease-fire
and settlement freeze would be simultaneous. Only in this way could the Palestinian leadership point out to the
militants of the various factions at least one concrete achievement, after so many losses and so much suffering.
Some of the initial public statements by Senator Mitchell himself seemed to be inclined to this interpretation.
But Sharon's interpretation was quite different. The cease-fire should come first, and should be seen to be complete
and absolute, with "not a single shot fired", after which should follow a prolonged "cooling-off
Only then would be the time for "confidence-building measures"; and under that heading, Sharon would
not offer a complete settlement freeze, but just the new formulation thought up by Peres -- "new
construction only within the built-up area of the settlements." Under this, as under earlier euphemisms, a
considerable amount of construction could take place.
All in all, the time when the Mitchell Report was presented and formally accepted by both sides was far from quiet.
A particular flash point were the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip -- inhabited by some 5,000 people and controlling
nearly a third of the strip's land and water sources -- leaving more than a million overcrowded Palestinians to
make do with the rest.
Successfully emulating the Lebanese Hizbullah, the Palestinian militias in the Strip took to using mortars -- a
difficult challenge to the Israeli military. Light in weight, easily and quickly transported, fired and dismantled,
hard to pin-point and with their shells bypassing even the most massive lines of fortifications, mortars are a
weapon well-suited to guerrilla warfare.
Though in fact most of the shells exploded in settlement fields without doing much harm, the psychological impact
was enormous -- making settlers feel besieged and insecure, and leading the Israeli generals, with the enormous
fire-power at their disposal, into paroxysm of fury and frustration at being unable to stop those damned mortars.
The generals, who have not always been the most hawkish element of Israeli society, probably felt ridiculed by
these modern catapults and started egging on the politicians towards undertaking "one decisive blow."
Hitherto, the dominant school in both the political and the military establishment of Israel regarded Arafat and
the Palestinian Authority as the partners in eventual negotiations. The aim of the fighting was conceived as forcing
Israeli terms upon Arafat.
Still the official line in the first Sharon months, this way of thinking was gradually pushed aside, with generals
and ministers starting to talk about "causing the collapse of the PA" and "expelling Arafat from
the territories." Wild plots circulated of creating some kind of collaborationist, subservient Palestinian
As the direct corollary, the army was authorized -- and indeed encouraged -- to take out almost all stops, everything
but the American-vetoed measure of taking and holding territory. Regional commanders at the rank of colonel were
empowered to undertake on their own authority the kind of raids and attacks which hitherto needed the PM's personal
approval. (Immediately upon receiving that authorization, one colonel embarked the forces under his command on
a brief invasion of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala -- which got world-wide headlines, and was not exactly a
brilliant military success).
Israeli ferocity was reciprocated in a grim series of what the Washington Post called "tit for tat raids"
-- a four-month old Palestinian baby killed in the shelling of a refugee camp by an Israeli tank; two Israeli settler
boys killed by Palestinians and their bodies thrown into a cave; five Palestinian policemen killed in their sleep
by an Israeli commando unit, whose men "confirmed the kill" by shooting again at men writhing in pain
on the ground; a Palestinian suicide bomber killing six Israelis (as well as himself) at a shopping mall in the
Israeli city of Netanyah; the Israeli government immediately having Air Force planes (US-made F-16 fighters) bomb
the Palestinian cities for the first time since 1967, killing twelve people who had nothing to do with the suicide
attack (most of the victims were prison guards at the Nablus central prison, bombed and completely destroyed in
a futile attempt to kill a Hamas leader incarcerated there); Hamas vowing "a dire and painful revenge at Israel's
Cracks in the unity?
The Palestinian relief crews, digging for bodies among the piles of ruins left at Nablus in the wake of the bombing,
were seen on TV screens around the globe and aroused unanimous condemnations -- among them loud protests from the
US, embarrassed at having provided Israel the flying military hardware with which the deed was done. And after
months in which the mass-circulation papers supported every aggressive measure and often cried out for more, both
Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv published editorials questioning the wisdom of the bombing and urging greater caution
in the future.
Shimon Peres, Sharon's loyal Foreign Minister, came under increasing criticism, both in the international diplomatic
milieu which he had so long made his own and in his accustomed constituency of the Israeli peace seekers. Peace
Now activists held vigils in front of the Foreign Minister's residence, with signs "Peres -- the settlers'
Foreign Minister" and "Stop the violence, stop the settlements!" some standing in their underwear
and showing a big fig-leaf. Not a very big action, but reportedly quite significant to Peres himself.
The two Yossis -- Sarid of Meretz and Beilin of the internal Labour party opposition -- held (each one separately)
highly-publicized meetings with Arafat, and were rewarded by the sobriquet "traitors" from the Prime
Undeterred, the two -- together with Peace Now, the Kibbutz Movement and sundry dovish KM's -- announced in a press
conference and a full-page Ha'aretz ad the formation of a new Peace Coalition. The Mitchell Report in its original
unadulterated form was to serve as the main plank in its program, and a "mass rally" for settlement freeze
was announced as its planned first action. (Most of the peace groups which had been militantly active in the past
months were pointedly not invited to join in the grouping.)
Faced with such alarming developments, Sharon undertook -- on his own and without consulting any member of his
cabinet -- a startling gambit: convening a sudden press conference and announcing "a unilateral cease-fire",
to go immediately into effect.
As some commentators did point out, it was far from a complete cease-fire. While the army was
ordered to refrain from spectacular raids and forays and the colonels shorn of their excessive new powers, there
were plenty of incidents in which soldiers shot at Palestinians, sometimes lethally, and the invariably offered
claim of "self defence" would in many cases not bear closer scrutiny.
Still, it served Sharon's purposes magnificently: the torrent of international criticism ceased abruptly, replaced
by expressions of admiration for the PM's newly-minted principle "Restraint is Power", and inside the
country, the new Peace Coalition quietly fizzled away, as the media hailed Sharon as "the new leader of the
Most important from Sharon's point of view was the acceptance, by the Israeli and much of world public opinion,
of the PM's interpretation of Mitchell: "Cease-fire first -- settlement freeze much later." The onus
was put on the Palestinians to reciprocate, and every day a new incident was produced to prove victoriously that
they were not.
The settlement issue was pushed to the side-lines. While the media prominently covered the settlers' protest against
"Sharon the Coward", there was hardly any attention to the same settlers settling up ever new "outposts"
on newly-seized plots of Palestinian land. And whenever the settlers did this, the army was quick to provide the
new settler enclaves with guardian soldiers. In any case of Palestinian land owners protesting, the soldiers were
ordered to shoot -- cease fire or not. (Some such cases were tersely reported in official communiques as "soldiers
shooting in self-defence when threatened by Palestinian rioters").
At this point an unexpected different momentum was created by the tragic sudden death of Feisal Husseini, chief
Palestinian representative in Jerusalem and one of the most eloquent speakers for the Palestinian cause. His passing
while being still so much needed aroused a groundswell of popular feeling among Palestinians of all factions, and
touched quite a few Israelis as well, with even some right-wingers confessing to a grudging admiration for Husseini.
Husseini's funeral at noon on June 2, attended by dozens of Israelis, was both the largest and the most non-violent
manifestation of Palestinian national feeling seen in months.
The funeral was preceded by intricate negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. The Israeli
police and army tacitly removed their road-blocks at the entrance to Jerusalem and made possible the entry of thousands
of West Bank Palestinian mourners, normally excluded from the city; among them were many Palestinian police, without
their uniforms. In return, the Palestinians undertook to keep the mass cortege orderly and disciplined.
Israelis and Palestinians apparently fulfilled their respective parts in this deal -- whose existence was officially
denied by both. Commentators on that evening's TV news speculated at length on far-reaching developments starting
Such speculations were, however, doomed to remain moot. Slightly before midnight that same Friday, Hamas carried
out its threatened revenge for the Nablus bombing. A young suicide bomber joined the queue of Israeli youngsters
waiting for the security check at the entrance to the Dolphinarium Night Club in south Tel-Aviv. When he detonated
the explosives hidden under his clothing, twenty-one Israelis were killed along with him -- by far the largest
number of casualties, on either side, in any single incident since the present intifada broke out.
In the non-stop emergency broadcasts of both Israeli TV channels, blood-and-gore footage from the scene of the
explosion alternated with the fiery jingoistic speeches of politicians. When the cabinet convened for an emergency
meeting at the Defence Ministry, outside the gates a mob was shouting "Death to the Arabs" and "We
want war!" Originally there were not so many of them there -- more had come to join with the TV repeating
the scene every few minutes for over three hours.
While the mob moved elsewhere -- to attack a mosque which happens to located near the suicide bombing site -- the
cabinet's decision was announced.
Predictably, it was decided to launch against the Palestinians a "massive military blow" whose precise
nature was not disclosed, but which everybody assumed would become apparent by its immediate implementation.
But hours passed with no news of the attack being actually launched, and rumours started circulating of some kind
of deal being struck behind the scenes. As later became known, it involved the redoubtable Yossi Beilin with his
network of private diplomacy, and crucially German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who by pure coincidence happened
to be visiting Israel at this precise time.
Fischer managed to get the attack on the Palestinians put off, but exacted a heavy price in return: Arafat's public
pledge for an immediate cease-fire on Sharon's terms, with no mention of the linkage to a settlement freeze. It
was made clear to Arafat that without an immediate and impressive gesture from his side there was not much what
the Europeans would be able to do for the Palestinians. The Palestinians are indebted to Europe which gives considerable
monetary support to the Palestinian Authority and also for providing in this single-superpower world the only kind
of alternative to the diplomatic positions of the US.
So, Arafat duly pledged to "do his best to implement a cease-fire", at a press conference in Ramallah,
with the watchful Fischer standing at his side. In the meantime, Israel's still unspecified "big blow"
was put off, but the army did impose the most tight closure ever imposed on the West Bank since it was conquered
in 1967, cutting off nearly all towns and villages from each other and blocking even the rutted, unpaved side-paths
which were left to Palestinian traffic in the course of previous closures.
It was, in fact, tighter than the "strangling closure" which aroused so many protests back in March;
that now it went virtually unnoticed, and Sharon could still bask in his enhanced reputation for "moderation"
While traditionally Israeli Prime Ministers are suspicious of too much European involvement, in the aftermath of
the disco bombing Sharon made an exception. Not only did he welcome it, he even spoke of a diplomatic coup, a substantial
change in the European position. Once invited in, however, the Europeans started to take initiatives which were
less to the PM's liking -- for example, promoting the idea of stationing international observers in the Occupied
Territories, a long-standing Palestinian demand which Sharon (and Barak before him) opposed foot and nail.
Not content with raising the idea in the abstract, the Europeans started its unilateral implementation, at least
on a small scale. Several dozen EU personnel, already in the country, were stationed as observers in the Palestinian
town of Beit Jala, one of the intifada hot spots -- coming at the invitation of the Palestinians and over strong
protests by the Government of Israel. (Apparently the Europeans are supposed to issue condemnations of terrorism
- not do something to prevent violence.)
In fact the European presence proved efficacious: the shooting by Palestinian militiamen from Beit Jala upon the
Israeli settlement/neighbourhood of Gilo -- hitherto a major flash point -- ceased completely. This success of
the experiment did not persuade Sharon to extend it further, but at least Yossi Sarid and his Meretz Party were
at last won for the idea of stationing international observers.
There can be no security for settlers
The intensifying European presence and mediating role alarmed the State Department, seeing the hard-won US monopoly
on Middle East mediation eroding away. The Bush Administration was at last moved to take a more active role, sending
out an unlikely peace emissary -- CIA Head George Tenet. He was chosen because the purpose of the talks was to
"stabilize the cease-fire" via "a security agreement" rather than a political one. More important,
Tenet was nearly the only senior official in the present US administration with practical experience in coordinating
meetings between Israelis and Palestinians -- specifically, between the heads of their respective security services.
The plan which Tenet cobbled together in several days of intense, crisis-filled talks called upon the Israeli side
to remove all closures, withdraw its forces to where they had been previous to the Intifada outbreak and desist
from any further attack on Palestinian Authority buildings and personnel. The Palestinians were required to enforce
the cease-fire and "combat terrorism."
As was predicted in advance, the document was only partially implemented. The Israeli forces removed some of their
tanks, so placed as to constantly threaten Palestinian towns; but in other places, tanks were ceremoniously withdrawn,
to the glare of TV international TV cameras -- only to have other tanks replace them a few hours later.
The closure was somewhat lightened -- just enough to make an intolerable situation barely livable. At least Palestinians
could now travel via difficult and roundabout routes, three or four time the length of the main highways. Most
of these remain blocked to Palestinian traffic and reserved for Israeli settlers alone -- and far from preparing
to change that situation, the generals talk seriously of making it official and permanent, so as "to give
more security to the settlers."
Israeli human rights organizations prevailed upon the authorities to let at least Palestinians in need of medical
treatment use the main highways. Such appeals are uniformly accepted positively and courteously by the army's High
Command, especially its Legal Department -- and just as uniformly, the appropriate orders fail to percolate down
to the soldiers actually manning the road-blocks and checkpoints.
Israeli observance of the Tenet Plan terms, or lack thereof, got only marginal media attention as compared to the
Palestinian equivalent. Quite evidently, the number of shooting incidents dropped drastically; just as evidently,
it did not stop altogether, and some of ongoing shooting incidents had fatal results.
Interpretation of these data was more controversial, having much to do with the perennial question which bedeviled
the Israeli political and military elites since the Intifada outbreak -- "Is Arafat in control, or isn't he?"
The only sensible answer would be: something in between. Only a leader of Arafat's stature and prestige could have
at all suggested to the various Palestinian organizations the idea of a cease-fire, under the conditions it came,
and not only avoid being denounced as a traitor but also have most of them obey him. And not even such a leader
could expect complete obedience by everybody.
In a memorable interview given to six of the Israeli media's senior commentators, Arafat stated that the cease-fire
should apply to Palestinians everywhere, who should desist from shooting on any and all Israelis. But such sweeping
terms seem too much to stomach for many militants, even of the Fatah militia under Arafat's own direct command.
Arafat was able to achieve a halt to suicide bombing and other attacks inside pre-'67 Israel -- mostly by talking
to leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, rather then arresting them as Sharon had demanded. And he achieved a
near-complete stop to shootings emanating directly from the A areas which are under full control by the Palestinian
Authority and its armed forces.
The B and C areas, constituting a third of the Gaza Strip and nearly two-thirds of the West Bank, were a different
category: the areas where the occupation forces have complete or near-complete freedom of action, and even more
significantly -- the places where the settlers are.
Forcing Palestinians living there to stop their
rebellion and leave the settlers alone, while nobody stops these same settlers from continuing to take over ever-new
Palestinian lands, would be at best an extremely difficult task.
Indeed, while Israelis living within the Green Line (Pre-'67 borders) enjoyed a respite in the weeks following
George Tenet's visit to the region, the armed settler enclaves scattered over the West Bank and Gaza Strip continued
to live from funeral to funeral.
Some 150 settlements had been established in the past two decades. Despite the "security" patter which
accompanied their creation, the true logic was geographic-ethnic rather than military -- to insert a Jewish presence
into each and every region, in between the Arab villages and towns, so as to break down the Palestinian territorial
continuity and thus prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
Ironically, for precisely the same reason the settlements and their inhabitants are inherently vulnerable to guerrilla
activity, putting an enormous strain on the army's resources.
Already guarding 150 perimeter fences requires considerable manpower. There is no way to also patrol effectively
some 1200 kilometres of access roads, much of it in mountainous area with many ideal spots for an ambush, which
are traversed daily by some 150,000 settlers in civilian cars.
The army's pulling into the West Bank an increasing proportion of its available manpower -- including many troops
which never trained for this kind of warfare -- did not provide a solution. Nor did the systematic recourse to
ruthless defoliation and destruction of olive groves and tress in general all along the settler roads; nor the
less systematic equipping of settlers with body armour and their cars with bullet-proof glass.
Save the settlers!
(Paid ad in Ha'aretz, July 6)
The latest authoritative public opinion polls says:
* 54% of Israelis support the evacuation of settlements in the framework of unilateral separation.
* 40% support the evacuation of ALL settlements in order to achieve a peace agreement. In the present situation
of violent confrontation and brainwashing, this is amazing.
* The humane attitude towards the settlers, who are caught now in the middle of the battle, demands that all the
settlers, who wish to leave the settlements now, should be helped to do so.
We demand that the government:
* Announce its willingness to pay generous compensations to all settlers who are ready to return voluntarily to
Israel now, so as to enable them to start a new life with dignity.
* Take immediate steps to evacuate all children from the areas of confrontation to Israel.
Gush Shalom, pb 3322, Tel-Aviv; email@example.com
Despite all precautions, again and again Palestinian guerrillas manage to be where the army isn't and shoot on
a settler car which is not protected. Each settler casualty gets enormous attention. It is headline news in Israeli
papers, and a significant news item all over the world. On such days the Israeli media is full of expressions of
sympathy for the settlers. Politicians of left and right are voicing some words of condolences and condemnation
of the killing; the B'tselem human rights organization did issue a press release condemning the killing of settlers.
Still, the settlers have a good reason to feel alone and deserted: technicians and the suppliers of various necessities
refuse to traverse the dangerous roads to the settlements, employers prefer not to have employees who need to commute
daily to work on the same roads, and the death of settlers just don't send shock waves.
'Many in Israel, perhaps even the majority, do not doubt the legitimacy of the [Palestinian] armed resistance in
the territories themselves. The Palestinians would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements,
avoid harming women and children and strictly refrain from firing on Gilo, Nahal Oz or Sderot; it would also be
smart to stop planting bombs to the west of the Green Line' (Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell, Ha'aretz, May 11).
After the above was published Sternhell got many anonymous death threats, but the Attorney General rejected the
plea of settler leaders to have him prosecuted for 'incitement to murder.'
Under strain of the daily danger, a polarization became evident among the settler community: Some expressing their
disappointment with Sharon, the Prime Minister they helped elect, making shrill demands for the government to wage
total war upon the Palestinians, and themselves engaging in vigilante activities, with almost open connivance by
the army: invading Arab villages, assaulting their inhabitants, and systematically burning Palestinian fields and
olive tree groves, and on some occasions also shooting on Palestinian cars.
Meanwhile, other settlers -- often in the same settlement, sometimes the same person at a different moment -- express
a desperate desire to get away from the Territories and start a new life; for most of them, that is impossible
without government help, since they invested their savings in buying a house which nobody will now want to buy.
"The government must decide. If they want us to stay here, they must find ways to protect us. If they can't
do that, they must evacuate us in an orderly way and help us get settled elsewhere. But it can't go on like this"
was how Zehava Bar-Shshet of Kadim settlement in the northern West Bank put it, in a TV interview on the day a
fellow settler was shot dead in a Palestinian ambush.
And an opinion poll conducted among settler youth found 87% believing that a Palestinian state will be eventually
created, 82% -- that settlements will be evacuated, of which 31% expressed their wish to
leave right away (Ha'aretz, June 10). Life is harsh for these youngsters, who did not themselves choose to live
in these places.
Provocations and liquidations
Ariel Sharon's second visit to the White House at the end of June was very different from the first visit, three
months earlier. No sign left of what was called, during the March visit, "a honeymoon." Bush and Sharon
did not even hide their differences behind closed doors, but burst into hot debate right in front of the TV cameras.
The bone of contention: should Arafat be asked for "100% results" (thus Sharon) or only for "100%
efforts" (as Bush preferred to have it).
The respected columnist Nahum Barne'a, who was there, gave a concise elucidation: "100% effort means you accept
Arafat as a partner and try to work out a deal with him. 100% results means you don't want to work with Arafat,
you just look for an excuse to settle accounts with him. What Sharon feels is that he left an unfinished job at
Beirut in 1982, when Arafat escaped from the besieged city, and now Sharon wants to finish him off" (Yediot
Bush, obviously, had no wish to have Sharon's long-standing account-keeping interfere with vital US interests in
the Middle East, specifically the oil interests for whose sake George Bush Senior went to war ten years ago.
The Saudis reportedly made a considerable effort in recent weeks to remind both Bushes, father and son, of these
interests and the way they might be threatened by Sharon feeling too confident of US support -- including a public
snub when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia visited Ottawa and pointedly failed to cross the border into Canada's
neighbour to the south.
The ostentatious Bush-Sharon confrontation was presumably designed to calm down the nervous US allies in the Arab
World. But in what followed immediately afterwards -- the visit of Secretary of State Powell to the region -- none
of the new-found firmness was evident. Rather then nail things down, establish a definite timetable for implementation
of the Mitchell Report and force it down Sharon's throat, Powell made a few powerless gestures and left the region
with the cease-fire in an even more shaky condition than it was upon his arrival.
In the words of Dr. Gershon Baskin of the Jerusalem-based IPCRI think tank, a long-time keen observer of the situation:
"The failure of the cease-fire should not be a surprise to any thinking person. Why should it have worked
anyway? Did any of the players come out with any political gains that would encourage them to implement a cease-fire
The cease-fire agreement left the situation on the ground as it was, no monitors-verifiers, no judges, no buffers.
Well, this is not completely true. The US agreed that Israel would be the monitor, the verifier, the judge and
the decision maker regarding implementation and further steps."
With Powell effectively leaving it to Sharon to determine when the cease-fire should truly begin to take hold,
the PM was emboldened to give the army free rein once again. Following the killing of a settler in the Jenin area,
at the northern end of the West Bank, the army was encouraged to enter into a series of confrontations with local
Palestinians. There was an hours-long night clash, of which the details published were quite hazy -- except that
in the end two dead Palestinians lay on the ground.
On the following night an Israeli combat helicopter, a US-made Apache, fired a missile at a Palestinian car, instantly
killing its three passengers. The official communique claimed that they had been prominent members of the Islamic
Jihad movement -- which was apparently true, at least about one of them; and that they had been on their way to
carry out a large scale terrorist attack -- which was far more dubious, especially since they had been travelling
deep inside Palestinian-held territory, in a direction away from Israel.
The killing of five Palestinians in a small geographical region within twenty- four hours led to flaring up of
passions. The funerals were held with angry militants of different factions declaring the cease-fire dead, and
threatening to resume attacks on Israeli civilians inside the pre-'67 borders -- which would nullify the one clear
achievement of the cease-fire.
The day after, two Israelis were killed in different parts of the West Bank. An Israeli shopper was killed in the
market-place of Baqu'a a-Sharkiya -- in response to which the army destroyed all the stalls and closed down the
market. Later in the day, a settler shepherd was killed near the settlement of Susia on the southern edge of the
West Bank -- to which the army responded by a savage three-day attack on the Palestinian cave-dwellers living nearby,
destroying their caves, sheep-pens and cisterns.
Several hundred Palestinians were left homeless after three days of military rampage, as a wide area including
the towns of Yatta and Samoa was surrounded by the army and cut off from the outside world. Neither human rights
activists nor members of the Red Cross could get in.
The Israeli media -- with the single exception of Ha'aretz -- kept silent about it, though considerable efforts
were made to get them interested.
Prof. Jeff Halper and Rabbi Arik Asherman of ICAHD (Committee Against House Demolitions) who finally managed to
slip into the area obtained photographic proof that the army was violating a Supreme Court verdict issued in March
2000, ordering the return of Palestinians expelled in a previous military rampage.
After Adv. Shlomo Leker threatened an appeal on grounds of contempt of court, the authorities agreed to stop the
demolitions and give three days' notice before resuming them. It is not clear, however, how well this is implemented
on the ground -- in a remote region where army and settlers regard the Palestinian cave dwellers, who had lived
there for hundreds of years, as a "nuisance" to be gotten rid of.
ICAHD, 37 Tiveria St, J'lem; firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, the cabinet passed a resolution upholding "Israel's right and duty to intercept dangerous
terrorists" -- "interception" being the new official euphemism for what the Israeli press continues
to call "liquidation." The measure drew a sharp protest from the Americans; and while there was no change
in the cabinet decision, there were also no more "interceptions."
'We want war!'
Published in Ha'aretz as paid ad, June 8.
For the first time, the settlers express their truth:
'We want war!'
That was the main slogan at their demonstration, Wednesday evening, at Jerusalem's Zion square. We have all seen
and heard them on TV.
Everyone knows what war means: death, bereavement, invalidity, destruction. No other group in the country proclaims
'we want war.'
But the settlers believe that there is no other way to save the settlements. Therefore they try to drag us all
in. One has to be mad to support these people.
Let them fight their war alone!
End the Occupation!
Call for an International Peace Force!
Gush Shalom, pb 3322, Tel-Aviv; www.gush-shalom.org
Amid an increasingly warmongering atmosphere, in which even some of his Labour Party colleagues became enmeshed,
Foreign Minister Peres suddenly struck a more highly dovish position than at any time since he entered Sharon's
cabinet: Holding a highly-publicized meeting with Arafat at Lisbon, firmly opposing the idea of a military strike
against the Palestinians, asking fellow-ministers to be patient and take into consideration Arafat's internal problems,
lashing out at the settlements as a major obstacle for peace, threatening to resign if not allowed to conduct a
foreign policy consistent with his ideas...
For his part, Prime Minister Sharon engaged in increasingly vituperative language towards Arafat ("You can't
believe one word he says, he was and remains a dangerous terrorist, he is our Bin Laden"). Still, he took
care to defend Peres against attacks by the hard-liner ministers ("The Foreign Minister met Arafat under my
authorization, and the meeting was consistent with government policy").
Earlier cases where Sharon and Peres openly displayed divergent positions and attitudes were generally considered
to be a well-calculated good cop/bad cop routine. Was it still so, wondered the pundits, or was a real crack starting
to appear in the National Unity Government, a crack which the two major partners were desperately trying to paper
The shadow of The Hague
Ultimately, having the support of centre-left Israelis and respectability in the international community are incompatible
with keeping the support of the extreme right and the settlers, or with launching an all-out offensive against
In his first four months of being Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon had done a superb job of walking that tight-rope.
Still, sooner or later he is bound to slip in one direction or another: either giving in to his natural inclination
and launching the attack for which the army already made detailed plans; or continuing to dither, staying on Washington's
good side, but eventually alienating his hardcore supporters to the point that they will vote down his government
-- as happened to Shamir in 1991 and to Netanyahu in 1998. (Ironically, Netanyahu is now preparing to stage a come-back
by energetically courting the very same circles and profiling himself as "the expert on how to fight terrorism").
Some columnists and commentators still entertain the notion that Sharon's alliance with Peres could eventually
turn out to be more than a marriage of convenience. That it would become a true strategic alliance, with Sharon
taking up and implementing Peres' agenda -- in fact, that Sharon would turn out to be the Israeli De Gaulle, so
long expected and never showing up.
Such speculations are based on the assumption that Sharon is on his way of becoming a responsible statesman. That
doesn't, however, fit with the reality as daily displayed in the media -- for example, the PM's most recent joke:
"You see this converter? I wish I could stuff Arafat into it and make compost out of him. Recycling of garbage,
you know" (Ben Kaspit, Ma'ariv July 6).
Indeed, at the time of writing it seems that Sharon may have already made his decision -- to judge from the increasingly
shrill media chorus of politicians, generals and columnists all striving to outdo each other in hurling imprecations
and dire threats at Arafat and the Palestinians in general. If somebody were trying to prepare the country for
war, this would certainly be the way to go about it.
All that is missing is a suitable pretext to bring the atmosphere of war hysteria to the requisite high pitch.
Another suicide bombing on the order of the Dolphinarium would certainly do it, and it is not so difficult to provoke
some Palestinian faction or another into such an act. It may have already happened, between the time these lines
are being written and the time you read them.
On the other hand, what exactly can the army do, even if given free rein? What is the nature of the "big strike"
which had been talked about so much in the past month? A really massive series of bombings from the air, aimed
deliberately at destroying the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, could do terrible damage to what was
even at best a rudimentary, makeshift governmental structure. But Israeli generals have underestimated Palestinian
resilience before, and the diplomatic repercussions from such a destructive raid would be severe.
There is also the option of an invasion in force of the Palestinian-held areas, or at least some of them. Militarily,
it is certainly feasible -- but as a senior Palestinian officer grimly remarked "It would be very easy for
them to come in. But how would they get out?"
So far, there has not emerged in Israel a protest movement of soldiers' mothers, as there was with
regard to Lebanon. Heavy casualties, which an invasion of Palestinian cities would likely entail, could change
that situation -- of which Sharon must be well-aware.
Also, an invasion of thickly-inhabited Palestinian areas and intensive fighting in the streets of cities would
almost inevitably entail serious damage to the civilian population. If Sharon entertained any illusions about how
the world would react to such an eventuality, he got several pointed remainders: the BBC program Panorama with
its penetrating look at Sharon's part in the Sabra and Shatila massacre 19 years ago; and the law suit against
Sharon lodged by survivors of that massacre in a Belgian court.
In today's world a head of state cannot lightly dismiss such threats. And it is not only foreign commentators who
send Sharon reminders of the fate of Slobodan Milosevic. 'If he does go to war, then -- after all the mutual killings,
revenges and massacres - the next European city to which Sharon is formally invited will be the Hague' was how
Yigal Sarna put it in Israel's mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot (July 8).
Taking all this into consideration, could the other school of thought be right after all: that Sharon prefers to
avoid escalation, and that he is actually hiding behind Peres and the Americans? Should Bush manage to stir himself
up into forceful action, stabilize a cease-fire and get Mitchell seriously implemented, Sharon might well go along
with it -- even if hoping to wriggle out later.
It is probably far too much to expect that Sharon, while in power, will produce anything positive. The best which
may be hoped for is that his eventual fall will involve less bloodshed than in 1982 -- and that his failure to
provide a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians will at least discredit for good the option of naked force.
Three days of madness
Though it came after a whole series of assaults, the terrorist attack of Friday evening, June 1, was extremely
shocking. So many deaths and wounded among a group of youngsters, high school pupils impatient to get through the
security check which this evening at their discotheque next to the Dolphinarium took more time than usual. And
then suddenly there it happened that another youngster, a Palestinian, blew himself up in order to kill as many
as possible of them.
The intensified checks at every entrance to a public building should guarantee that nothing will happen to those
already inside, but they actually increase the danger for those outside. It was like that also with that other
attack, a week ago at the entrance of the Netanya shopping mall.
When looking for regularities one tries to reassure oneself: 'you just have to understand how it works, and nothing
will happen to you.' But these kind of certainties don't hold long. For example, that other one -- that terrorist
attacks only happen in the early morning hours -- became totally obsolete within just a couple of weeks.
It was, of course, pure madness to hold an anti-occupation protest on the day after, the day that racist thugs
were ruling the street. But can you stay home when called upon by fellow peace activists -- who would definitely
be in greater danger if everybody else just continues staring at the TV screen, at the scenes of furious Jewish
mob stoning the mosque opposite the Dolphinarium. (Inside the mosque, Arab youngsters from nearby Jaffa have barricaded
themselves; they have come especially -- so the commentator tells -- to protect the mosque with their bodies.)
The group of left-wing academics which decided to take the chance and call out the different peace groups was Ta'ayush
(Arabic for "joint [Jewish- Arab] action"). The slogan which they came up with: The Occupation Is Killing
Us All. Under the circumstances the more or less 150 activists -- with a conspicuous presence of young ones --
were not a bad showing at all. It was five in the afternoon in front of the Defence Ministry; earlier in the day
this spot had been the scene of a madding crowd, but the only reminder of it: the abandoned placards lying scattered
on the ground with 'Death to the Arabs' and 'We want War!' At the beginning we stood there having as our sole audience
the confused motorists who didn't grasp immediately that our criticism of the government wasn't similar to what
had been expressed at that same spot earlier on the day.
But after a cavalcade of right-wing cars passed, waving national flags, it didn't take long for a few right-wingers
to come and take position on the opposite side of the street for a counter-protest.
When a television crew also arrived, as well as a few police, the time had come for chanting slogans -- which we
continued to do non stop for one and a half hours: "Down with the Occupation! Down with Settlements! End the
Occupation -- to End Terrorism!" Some youngsters were very creative and added new ones to the repertoire:
Lo Namit veLo Namut beSherut haGizanut! (We won't kill or get killed on behalf of racism.)
The police took it upon itself to keep the sides separated. With our opponents, who were screaming at us and coming
very close, they were very soft-spoken and friendly. But when one of us moved the tip of his toe outside the sidewalk,
he was immediately ordered to the police van. Only with intervention of the organizers was actual arrest avoided.
In the end we dispersed orderly, all together, so as not to leave anybody abandoned.
It was just one day after we, as part of the Gush Shalom delegation, had attended the funeral ceremony for Feisal
Husseini at the Orient House. There our presence was not unproblematic, either. The officials of Orient House took
care to direct us to a wing where we, some forty Israelis together with a similar _ [continuted] _ number
of Palestinians and several foreign journalists, were separated from the very passionate crowd which had gathered
within the fences of the Orient House garden.
From the many militant speeches it was clear that here were all Palestinian factions together, expressing what
was a mixture of mourning and pain for the great loss to the Palestinian cause.
We had known Feisal Husseini long before he became the living symbol of the struggle over Jerusalem, and visited
him at the Orient House before it became the Palestinian headquarters in East Jerusalem and as such a target of
the anti-Palestinian campaign. Several times in the past years we had organized solidarity group visits to the
Orient House; Feisal Husseini succeeded in making the beautiful place a home to dialogue and manifestations of
peace -- and also after he became so prominent, he was always accessible to his old friends of the peace movement.
The last time that we had come there with a big group was in November 2000, two months after the outbreak of the
new Intifada. A few hundred Israelis and Palestinians, we had been sitting crowded, with TV crews most of the time
depriving us of a clear view of the speakers behind the table. But we well remember the words of Husseini on that
occasion: 'We are at the last hundred meters of the climb of Everest. At this point it is so cold, so difficult,
so vague -- but we can see the target. Together we can climb these last hundred metres.'
In a smaller group we had met with him afterwards. Uri Avnery still met Feisal Husseini just a week before his
death, at a joint press conference of Israeli and Palestinian organizations where he seemed as vivid and intensely
active as always.
And now, here we were for his funeral. At this low point in Palestinian-Israeli relations, those Israeli activists
who had been among the first to be in contact with Palestinians were well represented at Feisal Husseini's funeral
-- but most parliamentary representatives whom he had been in contact with later were missing.
KM Tamar Gozanski (Hadash Communists) did attend, as did some of the Arab KMs. But the ten KMs of Meretz were conspicuously
absent, to the great chagrin of Jerusalem City Councillor Meir Margalit of the same party, who did come.
Remarkably, Labor KM Yossi Katz was present; also the writer Eli Amir, never considered very radical; and Moshe
Amirav, once a member of the Likud who had been expelled from that party for his intensive dialogue with Husseini
and other Palestinian leaders in this same Orient House. It was Amirav who was invited to speak, one Israeli among
the great variety of Palestinian mourners: 'Feisal Husseini was a man of peace, a friend and a real gentleman.'
The 80 theses
On April 13, a full-page ad in Ha'aretz bore the title 'Where did we go wrong', and the subtitle '80 Theses for
a New Peace Camp.' The closely-typed document was the result of an intensive month-long work by a Gush Shalom team
headed by Uri Avnery.
During the three months since then, the document got quite a bit of international attention. The British Guardian
published an abstract, and the German Frankfurter Rundschau a complete version, and it was distributed as a brochure
by the British Jewish Socialist Group and the newly-founded Another Jewish Voice in Holland and was translated
into Arabic, English, French, German, Russian, Italian, Dutch and Hungarian.
In Israel itself, there has been hardly any direct and explicit reference to the 80 Theses - but a considerable
lot of oblique references turned up in commentaries and op-ed articles.
The 80 theses signalled the beginning of a changed trend: some decrease in the arrogant and self-righteous tone
which had characterized so many mainstream doves in the first months of the Intifada; a bit more willingness to
try at least to understand the Palestinian point of view; and also increasing scepticism towards Barak's "generous
offers", whose rejection by the Palestinians served as justification for each and every act of brutality in
the past nine months.
The following summary reiterates the main points of the 80 Theses, with the part about the failure of Oslo in more
detail. The complete text, including analysis of all the earlier stages of the conflict, can be obtained from POB
3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, or downloaded from the Gush Shalom website www.gush-shalom.org.
The peace process has collapsed -- and taken down with it a large part of the Israeli peace camp. Transient circumstances,
such as personal or party-political matters, failures of leadership, political self-interest, domestic and global
political developments, cannot adequately explain such a total collapse. The true explanation can only be found
beneath the surface, at the roots of the historical conflict between the two nations.
The Madrid-Oslo process failed because the two sides were seeking to achieve conflicting goals. The goals of each
side emanated from their basic national interests. They were shaped by their historical narratives, by their disparate
views of the conflict over the past 120 years. The Israeli national historical version and the Palestinian national
historical version are entirely contradictory, both in general and in every single detail.
The negotiators and the decision-makers on the Israeli side were completely oblivious to the Palestinian national
narrative. Even when they sincerely wished to reach a solution, their efforts were doomed to fail as they could
not understand the national desires, traumas, fears and hopes of the Palestinian people. While there is no symmetry
between the two sides, the Palestinian attitude was similar.
Resolution of such a long historical conflict is possible only if each side is capable of understanding the other's
spiritual-national world and willing to approach it as an equal. An insensitive, condescending and overbearing
attitude precludes any possibility of an agreed solution.
The Barak government, which had inspired so much hope, was afflicted with all these attitudes, hence the enormous
gap between its initial promise and the disastrous results. A significant part of the old peace camp is similarly
afflicted and collapsed along with the government it supported.
Therefore, the primary role of a new Israeli peace camp is to get rid of the false myths and the one-sided view
of the conflict. This does not mean that the Israeli narrative should automatically be rejected and the Palestinian
narrative unquestionably accepted. But it does require open-minded listening and understanding of the other side's
position in the historical conflict.
Any other way will lead to a perpetuation of the conflict, with periods of ostensible tranquility and conciliation
frequently interrupted by violent hostile actions between the two nations and between Israel and the Arab world.
Considering the pace of development of weapons of mass destruction, further rounds of hostility could lead to the
destruction of all sides to the conflict.
Since the end of the first world war, there has been an ongoing struggle between two nationalist movements, the
Jewish-Zionist and the Palestinian-Arab, both of which aspired to accomplish their goals - which entirely negate
each other - within the same territory. This situation remains essentially unchanged to this day.
As Jewish persecution in Europe intensified, and as the countries of the world closed their gates to the Jews attempting
to flee the inferno, so the Zionist movement gained strength. The Holocaust, which took the lives of six million
Jews, gave moral and political force to the Zionist claim that led to the establishment of the state of Israel.
The Palestinian people, witnessing the growth of the Jewish population in their land, could not comprehend why
they were required to pay the price for crimes committed against the Jews by Europeans. They violently objected
to further Jewish immigration and to the acquisition of lands by the Jews.
The complete blindness of each of the two peoples to the national existence of the other inevitably led to false
and distorted perceptions that took root deep in the collective consciousness of both. These perceptions affect
their attitude towards each other to this day.
The Arabs believed that the Jews had been implanted in the country by western imperialism, in order to subjugate
the Arab world and take control of its treasures. This conviction was strengthened by the fact that the Zionist
movement, from the outset, strove for an alliance with at least one western power (Germany, Great Britain, France,
the United States) to overcome the Arab resistance. The results were a practical cooperation and a community of
interests between the Zionist enterprise and imperialist and
colonialist forces, directed against the Arab national movement.
The Jews, on the other hand, were convinced that the Arab resistance to the Zionist enterprise -- intended to save
the Jews from the flames of Europe -- was the consequence of the murderous nature of the Arabs and of Islam.
The most substantive flaw in the Oslo Agreement was that both sides hoped to achieve through it entirely different
objectives. The Palestinians saw it as a temporary agreement paving the way to the end of the occupation, the establishment
of a Palestinian State in all the occupied territories. On the other hand, the respective Israeli governments regarded
it as a way to maintain the occupation in large sections of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the Palestinian
self-government filling the role of an auxiliary security agency protecting Israel and the settlements. Therefore,
Oslo did not represent the beginning of the process to end the conflict but rather another, new phase of the conflict.
Throughout the period of the "Oslo Process" Israel continued its vigorous expansion of the settlements,
primarily by creating new ones under various guises, expanding existing ones, building an elaborate network of
"bypass" roads, expropriating land, demolishing houses and uprooting plantations.
The Palestinians, on their part, used the time to build their strength, both within the framework of the agreement
and outside it.
The Camp David Summit, which was imposed on Arafat, was premature and brought things to a climax. Barak's demands,
presented at the summit as Clinton's, were that the Palestinians agree to end the conflict by giving up the Right
of Return and the Return itself; accept complicated arrangements for East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, falling
far short of Palestinian sovereignty; agree to large Israeli annexations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and
to a long-term Israeli military presence in other large areas -- altogether amounting, according to Palestinian
calculations, to de jure or de facto annexation of 20% of the territories occupied in 1967; and that they agree
to Israeli control over the borders separating the Palestinian State from the rest of the world.
No Palestinian leader would ever sign such an agreement, and thus the summit ended in deadlock and the termination
of the careers of Clinton and Barak. The breakdown of the summit, the elimination of any hope for an agreement
between the two sides and the unconditional pro-Israeli stance of the Americans, inevitably led to another round
of violent confrontations, which earned the title of 'al-Aqsa Intifada.'
A great part of the Israeli "Peace Camp" collapsed during the al-Aqsa Intifada and it turns out that
many of its convictions had feet of clay. Especially after Barak had "turned every stone" and made "more
generous offers than any previous Prime Minister", the Palestinian behavior was incomprehensible to this part
of the "Peace Camp", which had never performed a thorough revision of the Zionist "narrative"
and did not internalize the fact that there is a Palestinian "narrative" too.
The only remaining explanation for them was that the Palestinians had deceived the Israeli Peace Camp, that they
had never intended to make peace and that their true purpose is to throw the Jews into the sea, as the Zionist
right has always claimed.
The breakdown of the old peace camp necessitates the creation of a new Israeli peace camp that will be real, up-to-date,
effective and strong, that can influence the Israeli public and bring about a complete reevaluation of the old
axioms in order to effect a change in the Israeli political system.
To do so, the new peace camp must lead public opinion towards a brave reassessment of the national "narrative"
and rid it of false myths. It must strive to unite the historical versions of both peoples into a single "narrative",
free from historical deceptions, which will be acceptable to both sides.
While doing this it must also make the Israeli public aware that along with all the beautiful and positive aspects
of the Zionist enterprise, a terrible injustice was done to the Palestinian people. This injustice obliges us to
assume responsibility and correct as much of it as is possible.
With a new understanding of the past and the present, the new peace camp must formulate a peace plan based on the
(a) An independent and free Palestinian state will be established alongside Israel.
(b) The Green Line (pre-'67 border) will be the border between the two states. If agreed between the two sides,
limited territorial exchanges may be possible.
(c) The Israeli settlements will be evacuated from the territory of the Palestinian state.
(d) The border between the two states will be open to the movement of people and goods, subject to arrangements
made by mutual agreement.
(e) Jerusalem will be the capital of both states - West Jerusalem the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem capital
of Palestine. The state of Palestine will have complete sovereignty in East Jerusalem, including the Haram al-Sharif
(the Temple Mount). The state of Israel will have complete sovereignty in West Jerusalem, including the Western
Wall and the Jewish Quarter. Both states will reach agreement on the unity of the city on the physical, municipal
(f) Israel will recognise, in principle, the Palestinian right of return as an inalienable human right. The practical
solution to the problem will come about by agreement based on just, fair and practical considerations and will
include return to the territory of the state of Palestine, return to the state of Israel and compensation.
(g) The water resources will be controlled jointly and allocated by agreement, equally and fairly.
(h) A security agreement between the two states will ensure the security of both and take into consideration the
specific security needs of Israel as well as of Palestine.
(i) Israel and Palestine will cooperate with other states in the region, to establish a Middle Eastern community,
modelled on the European Union.
The signing of a peace agreement and its honest implementation in good faith will lead to a historical reconciliation
between the two nations, based on equality, cooperation and mutual respect.
At Sunday morning, June 3, we got a phone call from a Palestinian free-lance journalist whom we vaguely knew, Imad
A. He had been arrested in Tel-Aviv during the hunt for Palestinians after the bomb explosion. As a well-dressed
intellectual he had been rather conspicuous in the dock among a crowd mostly composed of Palestinian workers, and
even had a press-card to show -- though its date of validity was past. The Palestinian workers -- legal or illegal
did not make any difference after the assault -- were all going to be expelled to the other side of the unrecognized
'67 border. But in the case of Imad the woman judge proposed to set him free, on condition that an Israeli would
vouch for him.
That had made him think of us, and the court official who let him make the call also assured us it would be a simple
procedure. Adam went immediately -- and would spend a long day learning a bit about the bureaucratic misery to
which Palestinians are regularly exposed.
To begin with, the court building at Weitzman Street is quite a labyrinth. When he had found at last the right
window, it was closed until after lunch break. When at three o'clock the lunch break was over, it turned out that
Imad should have given his identity card number -- which he didn't. With no other data then an Arabic name, one
among so many, the clerk declared herself unable to locate the file so as to get the bail posted.
Imad himself was meanwhile unreachable, back behind bars at the Abu-Kabir Detention Center. After a lot of haggling,
and with the help of a surprisingly friendly lawyer from the state prosecutor's office who made use of her computer's
search function, that problem was overcome and the Imad file duly located.
A new obstacle, however: the Israeli's signature would only be valid together with a copy of a salary slip proving
a fixed monthly income of at least 4000 NIS. Adam, himself a free lancer in his legal status, couldn't produce
such a document. (If he had a fixed job with fixed hours, he probably would not have been able to spend a whole
working day at the court on such short notice.)
In the end, Youval Tamari -- an activist employed at the Peace Now office -- was found to be the solution; he came
running so as to be at the court just before closing time, and the bail procedure was followed through.
Imad's own story we got got only late in the evening. By mistake he had been put in one cell with the Jewish hooligans
of the day before -- those who had not only been shouting "Death to the Arabs" but had actually behaved
violently. When after two hours the police discovered their mistake, they were in shock. But Imad reassured them.
He had found himself on very good terms with the former rioters.
Once cooled down they proved actually greedy to talk to a real Arab from the Territories. With some he had even
exchanged phone numbers. And before he was again released to the streets of Tel-Aviv he had still been able to
explain at length to the Yemenite-Jewish guard the Palestinian position about how to solve the 100-year old conflict...
34 Years Occupation -- Enough!
June 5, 2001. On the thirty-fourth anniversary of Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinian
inhabitants were under tight siege. The Israeli military had cut off virtually all movement between Palestinian
towns and villages -- a collective punishment imposed on millions for the act, three days earlier, of the youthful
suicide bomber who took with him 21 Israeli youths.
The media took little notice of the date, nor did the general public. The voice of opponents of the occupation
was hardly heard, with politicians and commentators taking at face value the governmental claims of acting "in
restraint", some praising it and others calling for unrestrained aggression against the Palestinians.
+++ Several dozen indefatigable Hadash Communists marked June 5 with a vigil outside the Defence Ministry, as they
had done each year since 1967. At the ministry wall across the street, a soldier in full battle gear could be seen
stationed where there had been none in previous years -- alertly eyeing the protesters and their weathered signs:
'No to Occupation -- Yes to Peace!' / 'Israel and Palestine -- Two States for Two People.'
Shortly before they were due to disperse, two police arrived -- imperiously singling out the Arab participants
for a snap identity card check. Assailed by outraged shouts of "Racists!" and "Is this a police
state?", the obnoxious representatives of Law and Order soon departed.
Hadash, pb 26205, Tel-Aviv 61261
+++ At the same afternoon hour, some 60 Haifa inhabitants, with militant slogans on their placards, stood for over
an hour at the four corners of the Carmel Centre, an important crossroad in the heart of the Haifa upper middle
class residential area. Among the participants were Haifa supporters of various groups -- Gush Shalom, Women in
Black, Hadash, Peace Now. For its part, Meretz-Haifa which originally sponsored the action withdrew its support
after the gruesome suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, arguing that "under the prevailing conditions, a peace demonstration
might be counter-productive." However, the Meretz Youths dissented, not only arriving at the vigil but staying
on at the junction with their signs after the grown-ups already departed.
June 8 -- Women against the odds
The hostile public atmosphere in the wake of the discotheque bombing clearly effected preparations for a bigger
anti-occupation action, scheduled for June 8 by women's peace groups.
At the end of May the Women in Black, who had been holding vigils every Friday for the past fourteen years, resolved
to turn the weekly vigil on the date closest to occupation anniversary into a major event, and invite the members
of other groups -- women and men alike.
Joined first by the nine organizations of the Women's Coalition for a Just Peace, then by various other components
of the Israeli peace camp, the initiative seemed to gather momentum, and the organizers hoped to surpass the turnout
of the Women's Peace March of last December (see TOI-97, p.7), as well as having a considerable number of solidarity
actions in cities around the world.
The Tel-Aviv bombing had a greatly adverse effect on these expectations. Reflecting the opinion of some women grassroots
(especially among kibbutz members) Meretz KM Anat Ma'or, who had taken part in earlier women's peace actions, sent
a letter dissociating herself from the present one, since "the demonstration manifesto was not critical enough
of the Palestinians."
During that week, with the media sounding high alarm against more indiscriminate suicide bombings, many Israelis
of all political shades tended to avoid public gatherings of any kind. And for this particular gathering -- a widely
announced peace action with radical slogans -- there was an additional reason for apprehension: the right-wing
At 6.00 PM on Thursday evening, a group of women started an all-night vigil at Jerusalem's France Square, with
one Israeli and one Palestinian woman together holding a torch alight through the night and a group of volunteers
holding signs around them.
The silent vigil became the target of a violent assault by members of the racist Kach movement; the police present
seemed ineffective and unable to prevent Prof. Eric Jacobson of the Free University of Berlin from being hit and
having his glasses smashed by the thugs. Still, the vigilers managed to rally and block the attackers from putting
out the torch, whereupon the police did manage to push the intruders back.
The 18-hours vigil ended at noon on the following day, with the arrival of women from all over the country, as
well as a bus load of men and women of Gush Shalom. While attendance fell short of the original expectations, still
demonstrators filled to overflowing the central part of the square, where every Friday some hundred Women in Black
have their vigil, and also took up the corners and side-streets on all directions. (One corner only was reserved
by the police for a handful from the extreme right, now looking rather cowed and sheepish behind the barriers.).
The motorists passing in the busy thoroughfares around could not ignore it -- some cursing angrily, others cheering
and waving. Nor could Israeli TV avoid giving the event a fair coverage on its evening news -- something which
in the present situation can by no means be taken for granted.
In addition to Jews and Arabs from all over Israel, there were in the crowd quite a few West Bank Palestinians
-- some distinguished by traditional headdress, women in scarves, men in kafeeyas -- whose arrival past the recently
multiplied and tightened roadblocks and checkpoints involved much ingenuity and effort, and more than a little
The rally was opened with a poignant minute of
silence for all victims of the occupation, Israeli and Palestinian. At its end a thousand black, helium-filled
balloons scattered throughout the crowd were simultaneously released into the brilliant blue summer sky, each bearing
the inscription 'End the Occupation / End the Closure.'
In between, the speakers (Israeli and Palestinian alternatingly) made many variations -- some with plain harsh
words, others with poetry and literary allusions -- on a common theme: The need to end the brutal horror of the
occupation; the need to have two states side by side, Israel and Palestine, not in order to separate the two peoples
but on the contrary so as to manifest a shared destiny.
Shulamit Aloni was there, Grand Old Lady of the Israeli peace movement; and Zahira Kamal, a leading speaker for
Palestinian women in the Occupied Territories; and Ruth Gur, veteran activist on behalf of the Israeli slum neighborhoods;
and Luisa Morgantini, Member of the European Parliament from Italy and long-time ally of the Palestinian-Israeli
women's peace movement, who had brought a considerable Italian delegation to the event.
An original poem written for the occasion by the Israeli poet Dalia Rabikovitz was read out. Hanan Ashrawi, the
internationally-known Palestinian activist, was prevented by the military closure from attending, but her words
were read out: 'The June 4, 1967 boundaries should mark the boundaries of our two states, to enable us to disengage
from this fatal proximity of occupier/occupied, and to reengage as good neighbors.' And Hulud Badawi, Chair of
the Association of Arab University Students of Israel, noted that 'This event is living proof that Palestinians
and Israelis can live and flourish together.'
Then spoke Nurit Peled-Elhanan, daughter of the late ICIPP president Matti Peled, whose own daughter was killed
in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem three years ago: 'Last week we saw many pictures of dead children. Children who
went out to have a good time, who barely had a chance to figure out the complexity of living in this country, and
one child who killed all of them and himself as well... Save the children; don't let the merchants of blood continue
to trade in them, because they will never be sated.'
The crowd dispersed only slowly, as if unwilling to return to the reality of a society being prepared for war.
Some teens of the Hashomer HaTzair youth movement stayed behind and began to sing songs of peace -- the kids who
soon will receive their call-up orders.
Gush Shalom's flyer "Barak's Generous Offers", with the maps showing what Barak offered in reality, was
distributed at the June 8 event, and well received.
The Other Israel readers receive it together with this issue. Text and maps also available on the website: http://www.gush-shalom.org.
Quantities for distribution can be ordered at: PO Box 3322, Tel-Aviv -- please add $25 for up to 100 flyers.
There were solidarity vigils with the Jerusalem rally on this Friday, June 8 at no less than 150 cities throughout
the world. To only mention some of the locations: Cairo (Egypt), Derry (N.Ireland), Ankara (Turkey), Sao Paolo
(Brazil), a "Peace Boat" off the Maldive Islands, 17 cities in Italy, 5 locations in Spain, 5 in Canada,
4 in France, 3 in Australia, 3 in Germany, 3 in Switzerland, 2 each in Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and no less than
45 cities in the US, including Woodstock (NY), outside CNN headquarters in Atlanta, at New York city's Prophet
Isaiah Wall opposite the UN, Abilene (TX), Charlottesville (VA), Lake Janaluska (NC), Honolulu (HA), and many more.
Women's Coalition, pb 8083, J'lem; email@example.com
The Struggle for El-Khader
The Gush Shalom contingent at the women's June 8 event, several dozen in number, left early. Instead of going back
to Tel-Aviv, as was originally planned, the chartered bus turned southwards to the Palestinian village of El-Khader,
near Bethlehem -- not far from Jerusalem in physical distance, but worlds away in nearly all other aspects.
The villagers had contacted Sergio Yahni of the Alternative Information Centre, urgently asking for the help of
Israeli peaceniks to protest a new settler incursion on their land. Since there were activists already mobilized
and a bus available, Gush Shalom was able to make a rapid response.
El-Khader was already a well-known place to many Gush Shalom activists. In 1995 the settlers of constantly-expanding
Efrat took over a hill belonging to El-Khader villagers -- claiming it as part of their "municipal area."
But when Israeli peace activists came again and again, demonstrating together with the villagers and being dispersed
and arrested together with them and coming again and getting media attention, the Rabin Government came to the
very exceptional decision of ordering the settler mobile homes removed from the hill.
And so it remained until May 2001. Under cover of the ongoing fighting, the settlers came again, and placed their
mobile homes in the same place again. On top of Jabbel Baten Al-Mawassi, a steep hill, not particularly good agricultural
land but still many generations of villagers managed to eke out a living from it.
As is the normal procedure, the settlers -- though coming illegally -- were immediately given a military unit to
protect them. Under the standing orders, a wide security perimeter all around the settler encampment was remarked,
into which the entry of Palestinians was considered a "security risk." The fact that in there were olive
groves, on which several families depended for their livelihood, was unknown to the officer in charge and in any
case would have been considered immaterial, as compared with his main task -- i.e. defending the settlers.
All of this background was explained to the Gush Shalom activists, not all of whom had been there in 1995. Meanwhile,
the bus traversed the "Tunnel Road", built at huge expense across Palestinian land especially for settler
use, and which became the scene
of numerous violent incidents in the past months.
In the following account we make use of Uri Avnery's article, published three days later in Ma'ariv.
"It was quite a steep climb, under the hot sun. When we reached the top, panting, there was a line of soldiers.
Fifty metres before us we saw the mobile homes of the new settlement. The settlers were not in evidence; the soldiers
were protecting them even from the need to argue with us. The demonstrators started to argue with the soldiers
instead. A reservist unit, mostly men in their thirties, supposedly less hot-headed than conscripts.
It was rather a restrained debate, certainly more cultured then many debates on the streets of Tel-Aviv. That is,
as long as they were talking with us, with Israelis -- even if leftist Israelis. A young woman engaged a soldier,
35 or so years old, in a friendly conversation. He looked like a nice person.
Suddenly he saw a Palestinian advancing a few yards. In a split second, the nice soldier turned into a brutal robot.
He changed before our eyes, as if by magic. His expression and body language changed. The threatening gesture of
his hand left little doubt of what would have happened if we, the Israelis and the cameras, had not been there.
And then again, as soon as the Palestinian youths turned a little backwards, the polite but completely futile conversation
on the hillside, both sides speaking totally different languages even though the words were all Hebrew. "You
must turn back, you are creating a provocation here." "Not us. It is the settlers who are creating the
provocation." "I have my orders. You must turn back." "Their presence is illegal. You are protecting
land robbers." "I don't care about politics. My orders are to protect Israeli citizens who might be attacked
by Arabs. I leave legality to my superiors." "Settlements are against International Law. Did you hear
of the International Court in the Hague." "I don't care. I am a soldier and I obey orders."
Didn't he know how ominous are these words?
Contact: Gush Shalom, pb 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
Some Israeli soldiers are disobedient.
At the time of the El-Khader confrontation, conscript Gabi Wolf was serving a third consecutive jail sentence
for his refusal to enlist in an army of occupation, which he had expressed in a series of strongly-worded letters
to the military authorities.
On the morning of Saturday, June 9, some sixty sympathizers and activists came at the call of Yesh Gvul to the
gates of the great military complex of Tzrifin. Military Prison 4 is well inside the base, out of sight of the
gateway where a solidarity vigil was held, but the demonstrators managed to contact Gabi by phone, to convey support
and give him an opportunity to speak with his mother Barbara who joined the protest.
All participants joined in writing a dedication in the fly leaf of the book 'Democracy and Obedience', a collection
of still highly-relevant articles published by Yesh Gvul some ten years ago, to be delivered to the prisoner on
the next family visit.
The pedestrian bridge over the old Jaffa-Jerusalem Highway, traversed on weekdays by lots of soldiers on their
way back to camp, proved a convenient vantage point from which to demonstrate. The big signs 'Free Gabi Wolf! --
Don't imprison conscience! -- There is a limit!' were highly visible to the motorists passing below. Further demonstrators
lined both sides of the highway, pleasantly surprised by displays of enthusiastic support from quite a few of the
The following appeared as ad in Ha'aretz, June 1.
Soldier, refuse to take part in war crimes!
'Liquidation'; shooting at or the bombing of unarmed civilians; denial of food or medical treatment; destruction
of homes or livelihoods -- all of these are WAR CRIMES.
Minister Ephraim Sneh said: 'Sharon will have to go without me to the International Court in the Hague' (Yediot
Aharonot, April 20). What about you, soldier?
Yesh Gvul, pb 6953, J'lem 91068; firstname.lastname@example.org
Three weeks later, Gabi Wolf was released from both prison and military service on grounds of "incompatibility."
He immediately threw himself into intensive human rights work, leading to renewed detention -- this time by the
civilian police -- for obstructing bulldozers destroying Palestinian homes at Shuafat Refugee Camp.
[Bir Zeit University Protest]
+++ As it happened, at exactly the same time of the Tzrifin demo there was also taking place a protest of Palestinian
students of the Bir-Zeit University against the blocking by the Israeli army of the road between Bir-Zeit and Ramallah,
the town where many of the students live.
The blocking of the road seriously disrupted academic life in the university (and also daily life in some thirty
Palestinian towns and villages north and north-west of Ramallah, cut off from the region's main commercial centre).
On Saturday morning, over a thousand Bir-Zeit students and lecturers marched right up to the soldiers and handed
them copies of a remarkable document reading:
'This road is OURS. All of us -- students, faculty and staff, visitors and residents of Ramallah and Bir-Zeit and
neighboring villages as well as all Palestinians, should be able to use this road safely and securely, any time,
day or night, walking or by car, without provocation from the Israel military forces.
Our march today is a peaceful march. We are only armed with the tools and the ideals of the international legality
and the Geneva Conventions that prohibit the violation of human rights of the civilian population and their free
movement. These tools are more powerful than the weapons of the Israeli occupation.
You, soldier, should know that your acts of aggression and humiliation against the people using this road are a
violation of Articles 3, 27 and 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time
Your country is both a signatory and an acceding state to this convention and is bound by its articles. You are
therefore ordered to remove this road-block and to terminate your aggression immediately. Failing to do so will
make you a war criminal making
both your government and yourself liable to prosecution.' (This was followed by the complete text of the articles
The soldiers responded by firing tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated steel. Nevertheless, the protesters succeeded
in driving back the Israeli army vehicles and opening the road for almost an hour, allowing numerous cars to pass
the road-block. However, once the march ended, the soldiers re-closed the road, and this time imposed three checkpoints
rather than one. The only Israeli media reference to the event was a terse mention of "Bir Zeit students rioting
Contact: Adam Hanieh, email@example.com;
Birzeit University, Ramallah District, West-Bank.
Struggle for El-Khader continues
+++ Since the settlers invaded the village of El-Khader in the beginning of June, the villagers had maintained
a constant day and night presence at a Protest Tent erected below the hill at whose top the settler mobile homes
had been placed.
For two weeks, the army more or less left them alone; but on the night of June 14, with a demonstration to which
Israeli peace activists were invited scheduled for the following day, soldiers suddenly appeared, pulled down the
tent and confiscated it, on the grounds that it had been "erected without a permit." Somewhat strange,
considering that the far more substantial settler structures had also been erected without a permit, and that rather
than remove them the army was providing them with a close protection.
A temporary shelter was erected to replace the tent. At noon on the following day, some 20 Israelis, mostly from
International Solidarity, joined the Khader villagers there. Originally, a more massive Israeli presence had been
planned, but the killing of an Israeli near the Tunnel Road a day earlier caused the cancellation of the chartered
bus which would have had to pass that road on the way to El-Khader. The ones who did come arrived by East Jerusalem
After the villagers held the Friday Muslim prayer, they together with the Israelis and internationals began to
walk up the hill, toward the settler mobile homes on the top. Before they could get there, their way was blocked
by a formidable cordon -- approximately 30 soldiers and 20 police, all armed with M-16 rifles and wearing bulletproof
Still, initially it seemed the event would end peacefully. As was decided in advance, the demonstrators stopped
right there and made no attempt to move closer to the settler prefabs. The officer in charge told them they were
in "a closed military zone" and must leave, but after short negotiations agreed to grant ten minutes
in which they could "say speeches and sing."
In fact, it took more than twenty minutes. The village headman said that all Israelis who come in peace were 'welcome,
welcome, welcome!' Rabbi Arik Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights reiterated that they were standing on land which
by justice belonged to the Palestinians, and directly addressed the soldiers and police to 'witness this demonstration,
this proof that Palestinians and Israelis can work together in coexistence.'
Then they began dispersing and moving down the hill of their own volition, but it seems they were not moving fast
enough. First to be arrested was Anita Fast, a Canadian pacifist from Vancouver, member of the Hebron-based Christian
Peacemakers (CPT). Protesting when she saw police beating and kicking old Palestinian women, to make them move
faster, Fast was herself beaten and then arrested.
One by one then, the Israelis and internationals who protested the arrest of their fellows and the way it was done
-- baton-swinging and the dragging of women by their hair -- got the same treatment themselves.
Neta Golan, the courageous 29-year old activist who became prominent during the months of the Intifada, was treated
worst of all -- her arm twisted savagely behind her back until a popping noise was heard and she felt sharp pain.
Late at night, the X-ray at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem was to confirm that the arm had been broken at the elbow.
Golan had to endure long and painful hours at the Eftrat Police Station before being allowed to get to the hospital.
Altogether, six Israelis and internationals were arrested, including Rabbi Asherman whose photo -- handcuffed and
being dragged by police over the rocks -- got into the following day's Ma'ariv.
What was not in the paper was that the soldiers, after the Israelis' arrest, charged at the mass of Palestinian
villagers, lobbing tear gas canisters and stun grenades, chasing the villagers not only down the hill, but directly
into their village, far past the original starting point of the demonstration, and on the way tearing down the
temporary structure that the villagers had set up at the foot of the hill.
When the army entered the village, Palestinian youths began to throw stones and the soldiers opened fire, wounding
Int. Sol. c/o Liad, Indymedia, 14 Kordover St., Tel-Aviv;
RHR, 2 Yitzchak Elchanan St., Jerusalem;
CPT, pob 126, Hebron, West Bank.
+++ On a short visit to the country as the guest of the budding Israeli anti-globalization movement, Jose Bove
-- the French farmer who became world-famous after leading a French farmers' action against McDonald's -- felt
an immediate sympathy with the threatened El-Khader farmers.
'In 1971 the French Army took over large part of our village lands, for use as a training area. We farmers struggled
against it for ten years, made many demonstrations, got beaten up, marched all the way to Paris -- 800 kilometres.
People told us it was hopeless, but after ten years the government gave in and we got our lands back. So I know
how the people of El-Khader feel' (Ma'ariv, 6/7/01).
Together with Bove were some twenty French human rights, union and political activists, among them several members
of his own Peasant Confederation of radical farmers as well as judge Evelyne Sire-Marine, known in France for her
On the afternoon of June 21, all of them set out on
the way to El-Khader -- as did a dozen other internationals and some 20 Israelis, among them the undaunted Neta
Golan with her arm in a cast.
The activists had a hard time reaching the village, with the army closing off the access roads. But finally a roundabout
way was found, which involved climbing over fences until getting to the spot where the villagers were waiting.
Halfway, soldiers spotted and started following the demonstrators, but too late to stop their junction with the
Palestinians and the joint march up the settler-occupied hill, carrying signs reading 'Stop the occupation!' and
'Settlers, get out!' Once blocked by the police and army, they attempted to set up a protest tent to replace the
one confiscated by the army a few days earlier.
The security forces were not pleased and decided to arrest those considered "ringleaders", Jose Bove
among them, while the rest of the crowd was treated to a barrage of tear gas and stun grenades. Still, the violence
seemed to be on a lesser scale then on the previous Friday.
Expedition To Bring Food To West Bank
+++ On Saturday, June 23, Ta'ayush set out on its fifth expedition since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, taking
food to besieged villages in the West Bank. 150 Arab and Jewish activists took some 40 cars and two trucks loaded
with staples and clothes. (Donations for this action had been collected jointly by Jews and Arabs in Tel-Aviv,
Kafr Qassem, Ar'ara, Jerusalem, Bar'am and Ara).
The destination: Brouqin and Kufr ed-Dik in the Salfit region of the West Bank -- two of very many villages for
which the Sharon Government's claim to have "eased the closure" is but bitter mockery. A few days before,
Ta'ayush activists had been informed by the inhabitants of the two villages that the Israeli military had blocked
all access by pulling up the asphalt on the road, digging deep trenches, and piling high soil ramparts.
At the junction from which the most direct road leads to the two villages there was a roadblock, and the officer
on the spot directed them to a roundabout route about double as long. The direct route had been declared "a
military zone". The convoy complied, traveling eastward and then doubling back westwards towards the village
of Brouqin -- only to be confronted by a giant soil rampart, several metres in height, length and breadth.
Activists pulled out picks and shovels which had been prepared in advance, and started leveling the barrier. On
previous occasions, such acts led to violent confrontations and arrests; this time, the army apparently sought
to deny dramatic footage to the Reuters and Israeli Second Channel crews present. At length, a precarious and steep
path was fashioned, sufficient for the cars to cautiously edge over the barrier into the village.
It was, however, far too narrow for the trucks, leaving 50,000 NIS (12,500$) worth of food still to be taken in.
Israelis and Palestinians formed a chain, laboriously passing sugar, flour, rice, canned food and clothes from
hand to hand through the corridor. There, villagers waited with their own trucks onto which the goods were loaded.
The lack of violence had the effect of no coverage in the Israeli media. The enthusiastic Channel 2 cameraman met
with reluctant editors, and his footage went straight into archive.
Ta'ayush, pb 59380, Tel-Aviv; firstname.lastname@example.org
[Reports on Various Peace Actions]
+++ Thursday evening, July 28. Some sixty activists answered the call of Peace Now to hold a vigil outside the
Prime Minister's residence during the visit of Colin Powell to Israel at the end of the week. 'Stop the killing
-- Evacuate the territories!' -- 'Stop the Settlements War!' -- 'Yes to Mitchell!' proclaimed the signs held aloft,
facing the afternoon Jerusalem traffic.
On the opposite pavement, a group from the extreme right established themselves, starting up with catcalls and
"Traitors! Traitors!" "Don't respond to them!" said an organizer, and the vigilers kept up
the chant 'Peace Now -- Mitchell Now! Peace Now -- Mitchell Now!'
Meanwhile, there was some discussion of Defence Minister Ben Eliezer's pledge to remove the fifteen illegal settlement
outposts whose existence was exposed three weeks earlier by the Peace Now Settlement Watch. The activists were
unimpressed. "He is just preparing for the primaries in the Labor Party", said a white-haired veteran.
"He knows he is going to lose to Burg, so he is trying to show he is not completely in Sharon's pocket. But
he will not evacuate even one settler. Not him."
Peace Now, pb 8159, J'lem; email@example.com
+++ On the following day, June 29, some of the same activists participated in what could be described as an empirical
test of Ben-Eliezer's intentions: the fourth consecutive protest at El-Khader, where one of these fifteen settlement
outposts had gotten intensive protection from the troops answerable to the Minister of Defence. An effort was made
to have more Israelis than in the previous weeks. At Jerusalem's Liberty Bell Park, customary rendezvous of the
peace movement, the Gush Shalom contingent headed by former Knesset Member Uri Avnery joined with Gila Svirsky
of the Women for a Just Peace and with the fiery young Israelis and Internationals organized by International Solidarity.
Two chartered buses traversed without incident the "Tunnel Road", followed by the car of the Japanese
TV flying that country's flag. But the branching road towards El-Khader, through which protesters had gone on some
previous occasions, was now full of soldiers and police. A police officer, stepping into the leading bus, presented
a piece of paper: El-Khader has been declared "a closed military zone."
"A closed military zone" in occupied territory is a very flexible thing. It is any piece of land, small
or big, which an officer at the rank of colonel or higher deems to be such. It is closed only to those persons
which said officer wants to keep out. In this particular case, the buses loaded with peace-minded Israelis were
directed to the curb, while settler cars were merrily waved on into the "closed" zone.
Activists got off the buses and took position facing the soldiers and police, spreading out signs and banners.
'Down with the occupation!' -- 'Dismantle all
Israel Shahak 1933-2001
On July 3, the news came of the sudden passing of Israel Shahak -- Professor of Chemistry, tireless human rights
activist, a completely honest and fearless man. It is a bit hard to conceive that we will never again see any of
his articles and letters to the editor with their incisive, inimitable style.
Shahak's childhood experience of the Holocaust has made him a seeker after absolute justice, an uncompromising
critic of the Israeli state under whatever government, of the military and security apparatus, of the Jewish religion
itself of which in the distant past he had been a devout believer -- and on more than one occasion, also of people
and groups in the Israeli peace movement (including the present writer) and of Palestinian organizations and the
Political expediency and calculating compromise were, for him, non-existent concepts. Nothing could stop him from
denouncing injustice, whoever its author, and exposing uncomfortable truths to the widest audience he could reach.
We will sorely miss him in these dark times.
settlements!' -- 'There is a solution: Get out of the Territories!'
One activist had the foresight to bring along a stack of Yesh Gvul brochures, pointing out which acts by a soldier
are in contravention of International Law and may lead to prosecution for war crimes, and distributed them to the
soldiers. Meanwhile, the organizers dickered with the officer in command. Mentioning Ben Eliezer's famous promise
led nowhere. None of these officers had been notified of any new policy, and that was that as far as they were
concerned. (Not that the protesters really expected anything else).
The organizers then pointed out that their aim was entirely non-violent: no more than to join with the inhabitants
of El-Khader in erecting a large tent on the villagers' own land, a tent which would serve as "A Peace Outpost"
of Israelis and Palestinians together. After all, if Israeli nationalist-religious settlers could establish their
own completely illegal outpost without interference from the army, surely the same courtesy would be extended to
the legal owners of the land and to the guests officially invited by these owners?
No, it was absolutely out of the question. Again, that was the expected answer. In fact, the main purpose of all
these talks was to win time, while others were in constant contact with the El-Khader villagers.
At the center of the village, it turned out, there were hundreds of Palestinian youths already gathered. They were
determined to demonstrate under all circumstances, but would much prefer if the Israelis could find a way to join
them. Mixed demonstrations are virtually never answered by the army with the shooting of live bullets, while purely
Palestinian actions often are.
Eventually, everybody piled back into the buses, as if intending to go back home -- in fact hoping to get to a
certain back passage into El-Khader which was used by Bove and his group on the previous week. But no such luck
this time: the other passage was also tightly blocked, once again a closed military zone completely porous to settler
There was no hope left of joining with the Palestinians. What was left was to register a protest by sitting down
on the asphalt and closing the road to settler traffic, and this a considerable part of the demonstrators proceeded
to do: Avnery with his white beard, and Gila Svirsky, and Neta Golan with her arm still in a sling, and the historian
Teddy Katz known for his controversial researches on the 1948 war.
The police was quick and efficient -- waving their batons, dragging people along the hot asphalt, filling up the
two police cars which drove off to detention at the Efrat police station. There was much shouting -- 'Peace Yes
-- Occupation No!', 'Settlements are Violence!' Those who led the chanting were picked out of the crowd and hauled
off to custody.
When seven were detained -- which seems the quota the police needs to fill -- the rest of the group got shoved
and pushed into their own chartered buses, with police standing guard to prevent them from either going out or
Then again negotiations, ending with a compromise: one bus with some of the activists would be allowed to move
into Efrat, but only to stand outside the police station in order to pick up the detainees once they are released.
The rest would take the other bus back to Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv.
At some point during this confrontation, the grim news came of Palestinian demonstrators in El Khader being shot
at -- four wounded, one of them severely -- and a wild chase among the houses of El-Khader ending with the imposition
of a curfew over the village.
That night, Second Channel News showed the blocking of the road and the arrests, with the 'Get out of the Territories'
slogan clearly visible. But other news reports, apparently emanating from military sources, were trying -- deliberately,
it seems -- to link the demonstration with an explosive charge which exploded in the Khader area later that evening,
making it seem like a single event.
In the army's own magazine Bamachaneh, an unnamed "senior officer" made explicit accusations against
Gush Shalom of "stirring up the Arabs to violence" -- though it was the army itself which used all its
might to prevent Israelis and Palestinians from joining together in a non-violent action.
A few days later, Ben-Eliezer announced a "compromise" with the settler leaders, i.e.: the settlement
outpost at El-Khader would be maintained, since "It is within the Efrat municipal boundaries"; the other
fourteen outposts will be "gradually dismantled voluntarily by the settlers themselves" (sic!).
So, the struggle in El-Khader goes on. At the time of writing, plans are made to have a large contingent of European
peace activists, due to arrive in the country at the beginning of August, spend much of their time here at El-Khader.
Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv; firstname.lastname@example.org;
International Solidarity; email@example.com;
Women's Coal., pb 8083 J'lem; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Already nearly forgotten...
+++ On the afternoon of Saturday, April 14, an Israeli demonstration (some 300 Gush Shalom and Women's Coalition
activists) and a Palestinian one (a similar number from Rapprochement Centre of Beit Sahour) converged upon the
Gilo Checkpoint in south Jerusalem -- the point beyond which West Bank Palestinians are forbidden by the army to
proceed into the city limits.
Military and police forces were deployed in advance of the widely-publicized action, their mission to halt the
two processions half a kilometre from each other and prevent them from joining. The idea of such a junction seemed
to have the police in real panic, the commander offering as a compromise that two small delegations advance under
police escort and meet each other half-way.
But while organizers were talking to the police, a sizeable group of Israelis, with some visiting Italians and
Norwegians, broke forward in ones and twos. The police noticed and gave chase, but too late to stop them from reaching
the Palestinians and being received with tumultuous handshakes and some embraces.
Then they all, Israelis and Palestinians and Europeans together, started moving forward, and the rest of the Israelis
moved towards them too, and finally they were from both sides able to break through the police cordons -- with
quite a lot of pushing and shoving, but no real confrontation. The police had apparently not be prepared for anything
of the kind.
There was an impromptu rally around the notorious road-block, with Ghassan Andoni, Uri Avnery, Gila Svirsky and
Europarliament Member Louisa Morgantini expressing in individual ways the emotions of the moment. The mood was
great: Next time we go on together to Jerusalem.
+++ Three days late -- Wednesday afternoon, April 17 -- at a different but similar location: the huge earthen barriers
erected by the army across a main highway in the Nablus Region of the West Bank, leaving the villagers of Bidia,
and Mesha and several smaller places virtually cut off from the outside world.
At the call of Rabbi Arik Asherman, some thirty activists had made themselves free on this working day -- of Gush
Shalom, the Women's Coalition and ICAHD. The Norwegians had already left the country, but Morgantini's Italians
were here too, together with some Americans from the Hebron-based CPT, a few French and one Swede.
From the other side of the barrier they were met by a crowd of Palestinian villagers -- several hundreds, respectable
old village notables together with youths brandishing Palestinian flags and digging tools.
In the single army jeep on the spot, a soldier was very busy talking on the radio.
Without many preliminaries, Palestinians and their guests set to work, with tools and bare hands. It was a formidable
barrier: earth piled more than two metres high, with huge rocks on top, weighing tons apiece and looking decidedly
immovable. But where there is a will there is a way; under the pressure of thirty pairs of hands pushing in unison,
the great masses moved and rolled down the slope, to the sound of a ragged cheer. (A metaphor for the occupation?)
Meanwhile, army jeeps kept arriving, as did two police patrol cars. A voice on the loud-speaker: "You are
all in a Closed Military Zone. Anybody failing to leave immediately will be arrested."
The work on dismantling the barrier continued unperturbed.
A line of soldiers came surging, the major waving his rifle like a conductor's baton. Activists, locking arms,
sat down on the partially-demolished barrier, were picked up one by one -- each getting four police to take hands
and feet -- and were carried all the way to a waiting paddy wagon.
They concentrated on arresting internationals and Israelis (among them TOI editors Adam Keller and Beate Zilversmidt);
only two of the detained were Palestinians. Even with the two wagons full to capacity, there were still Israelis
and internationals working with the villagers -- until all were subjected, half an hour later, to a heavy barrage
of shock grenades and tear gas canisters. Shock grenades are supposed to cause great noise but no actual damage
-- that is, if soldiers take care not to shoot them too close to somebody.
In this case, one exploded very near the leg of the 72-year old Hava Keller (yes, Adam's mother -- and director
of Women for Political Prisoners in her own right). Taking her to hospital was anything but easy. The Palestinian
medics (whom the organizers had the foresight to have present on the spot) were helpful, but are not allowed to
enter Israel and their freedom of movement is curtailed even within the West Bank.
The Israeli first aid station for this region is located at a settlement and staffed by settlers, and they were
far from enthusiastic at the request to send an ambulance. In the end, Keller was carried by the Palestinians over
the earthen barriers, and the finally-
arrived Israeli ambulance took her to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva. In spite of considerable bleeding it
turned out to be a superficial wound, and she went home the same day. The sixteen detainees also got home after
a not too arduous interrogation, some giving the police statements on International Law and the Geneva Convention,
others refusing to say anything at all -- which the lawyers said was the better course.
So much else...
Even though this is a double issue, and even though the Israeli peace movement is still in far from good shape,
when sifting the material collected on paper and in computer memory since we last went to print we find that those
who are still active have done quite a lot in these months -- far too much to be accommodated in 24 pages. So,
many fine actions, fully deserving to get at least half a page of detailed description each, will only be mentioned
For example, the April 21 Ta'ayush supply convoy to Yasuf village, which was very brutally assaulted by the army
for no apparent reason; and the convoy of May 12, which was carefully left alone by the army -- only that two days
later soldiers shot and severely wounded Issa Suf, a Palestinian contact person of Ta'ayush and several other Israeli
groups; and the 300 people who came on very short notice to hold a militant protest outside the Defence Ministry,
upon hearing what happened to Suf.
And there were the Jerusalem activists going out at night to wipe away the crude racist graffiti daubed on the
streets of their city, and the more bold group of girl students who confronted the racists in broad daylight at
the Mahane Yehuda marketplace and got taken (the girls, not the racists) to the police station "for their
own protection"; and the far more dangerous racists in the Knesset and Cabinet, and their regular baiting
of Arab Knesset Members, and the ugly campaign against KM Azmi Bishara and the petition of solidarity with him,
signed by more than five hundred Jewish and Arab citizens; and the new governmental measures of persecution against
the "unrecognized" Bedouin villages in the Negev, and the organizing of a protest campaign and solidarity
visit; and the Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by judge Orr unearthing ever-new evidence on the killing of
13 Arab citizens of Israel by police last October.
There was also the demonstration of Peace Now, with quite a few Knesset Members and TV cameras against the Yakir
settlers who took over a piece of Dir Istiya land; and the other demo on the same site, of the Re'ut/Sadaka youngsters
together with the Palestinian villagers, which ended in a violent confrontation with the army; And the Peace Now
Settlement Watch, whose intensive research into settlement extension -- including by helicopter -- and their widely-distributed
reports have "greatly damaged the government's international propaganda campaign" as an irate Foreign
Ministry official put it; and the volunteer women of MachsomWatch, who regularly station themselves for hours at
the road- blocks which Palestinian must cross and whose monitoring has a proven moderating effect on settlers and
soldiers; and the Supreme Court appeal by KM Mossi Raz and a group of archaeologists which blocked settlers from
constructing their homes on top of an archaeological site in Hebron; and the major row with the settlers which
broke out when the appellants came to check whether the Hebron settlers were complying with the injunction; and
the human rights organizations successfully mobilizing to get out of prison Hashem Abu Haasan, field worker for
B'tselem, and then starting again for Abed Rahman al-Ahmar who does the same kind of work for the Palestinian Human
Rights Monitoring Group, and of whom the military authorities seem very keen to keep hold though they are unwilling
to give a reason.
And of course: the demonstration with blocks of ice to remind the government of the need to freeze settlement construction
(Peace Now); and the group of radical gays in Tel-Aviv, who attended this year's Gay Pride March dressed in black
and holding the placard 'No pride in occupation'; and the demolition of 14 Palestinian homes at Shuafat Refugee
Camp in East Jerusalem just as we were going into print and the three ICAHD activists detained as they twice lay
down in front of the bulldozers and the widespread protests at this blatant barbarity of house demolitions, even
from deep inside the establishment and the Gush Shalom ad declaring that 'The demolition of homes is an act of
terrorism'; and the beating up of minor Palestinian prisoners by guards at Hasharon Prison and of the women prisoners
at Neve Tirtza and the hunger strikes of both groups of prisoners and the detention of three Israeli activists
while protesting outside.
And the Beilin-Meretz-Peace Now coalition holding a widely-publicized meeting with prominent Palestinians, with
an evident wish to mend fences though still stuck on the deep problem of the Right of Return; and the Israeli youths
of Hashomer Hatzair meeting with the Palestinian Independent Youth movement and issuing an official declaration
about peace with a Palestinian state in the '67 borders and its capital in East Jerusalem & evacuation of the
settlements; and professors from the mostly right-wing Orthodox religious community mobilizing in support of Yishai
Rozen-Tzvi, the first member of that community to be imprisoned for refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories;
and Captain (Res.) Edan Landau jailed for refusing to escort operatives of the Shabak in the Occupied Territories,
declaring 'I will take no part in these war crimes, nor will I serve as a fig leaf for them'; and the reservists
guarding the Shavey Shomron settlement on the West Bank, who told TV they felt like suckers and that only 70% of
the unit have answered the call-up order at all; and the protest movements of reservists which flared into prominence
back in April and May, and which -- though they declare themselves "strictly non-political' -- may prove our
best hope and recourse.
The Terrible Arafat
July 7. 2001
All the existential problems of the State of Israel are now merging into one question: What to do with Yasser Arafat?
Who doesn't deal with this? Ministers and taxi-drivers, professors and fruit vendors, reserve generals and flight
attendants, members of the Knesset and top models, settlers and TV entertainers, columnists and owners of market
stands. Everybody who thinks that he is somebody contributes his bit to the national debate about the right way
to get rid of this obstacle.
Ma'ariv newspaper, for example, published yesterday in its weekly supplement a cover-story containing a real scoop.
A document titled "State of Israel / General Security Service / Top Secret" begins with the words: "Following
the events in the 'territories', the question arises anew: Is Arafat a factor that helps in the solution of the
historic conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people or is he a leader who constitutes an obstacle to this
solution, and his policy and actions create a serious threat (their emphasis) to the security of Israel."
And the answer: "The person (emphasis again theirs) Arafat is a severe threat to the security of the state.
The damage caused by his disappearing will be small compared to the damage caused by his being there."
Up to now, four ways of solving the problem have been publicly announced by ministers and journalists: 1. To kill
Arafat. 2. To put him in prison. 3. To confine to where he is, either Ramallah or Gaza. 4. To prevent him from
landing after one of his trips abroad.
And what will happen after that? To this, too, several answer are given: 1. We shall wait for a new Palestinian
leader, who will be more moderate and pragmatic (meaning: ready to capitulate to Israel.) 2. We shall ourselves
appoint a new Palestinian leadership. (Somebody said on TV: We shall appoint an administrative committee, as the
Ministry of the Interior does when a local council fails.)
Indeed, one is astonished by such an outpouring of wisdom and pure reason. There is a mental illness called "paranoia
vera." A person victim to it takes a totally unreal assumption ("The world is a cube" or "Everybody
is out to kill me") and builds on it a perfectly logical system. The very perfection of the logic is a symptom
of the disease. The more encompassing the system, the more severe the disease.
The crazy assumption that lies at the base of our special paranoia is the denial of the occupation. If there is
no occupation, there is no war of liberation of the occupied. If there is no war of liberation, there is no national
uprising. And if there is no national uprising, then it must be terrorism. Clearly somebody must be directing this
terrorism. Who can that be? Arafat, of course.
If a person is stricken with paranoia, he has to be helped to fight it. After all, he is not to blame. But if this
particular patient has a mighty army, and if he infects it with his illness, he is dangerous to himself and to
others. A responsible psychiatrist would commit him to an institution.
But here, the whole political establishment (including the opposition), the General Staff of the army, the Mossad
and the Security Service have all been infected with this illness. It affects their reasoning processes and creates
a perfect -- oh, how perfect! -- system of conclusions.
It is enough to look at the annals of liberation struggles in the last hundred years in order to see that all the
means used against them were useless, and that many of them were counterproductive.
In the Congo, Belgian agents killed Lumumba, and in Palestine the British killed Abraham Stern. The French in Algeria
imprisoned Ben Bella; the British in India did the same to Ghandi, in Palestine to Moshe Sharett and his colleagues,
in Kenya to Kenyatta; the whites in South Africa imprisoned Mandela. The British in Palestine exiled the Arab leadership
to the Seychelles and Yitzchak Shamir to Kenya; the French in Morocco exiled Muhammad V. The list is long. Well,
did it help?
The government and the army need a lot of arrogance, stupidity and ignorance in order to believe that an occupied
people will change its leadership by orders of the occupier. The natural inclination of a people fighting for their
liberty is to unite behind the attacked leader. The more the occupier vilifies and persecutes the leader, the more
popular he becomes with his own people. See: Arafat.
If Israel murders Arafat, directly or through agents, he will become a romantic legend, rather like Che Gevara.
The Palestinians will react, of course, by electing a more extreme fighter. It will not be soft-spoken westernized
Palestinian who take over; it's far more likely to be tough fighters from the ranks. In the name of the murdered
leader, who will become a symbol for generations to come, they will do things compared to which everything that
has been done until now will pale.
(Obviously, some of the inventors of this idea do not ignore this possibility, but, on the contrary, hope that
it will be the outcome. They believe that the hostilities will reach such atrocious levels that it will finally
make the mass-expulsion of the Palestinians from the whole country possible. The result will be Armageddon.)
Experience shows that an imprisoned leader does not lose his influence, rather, the opposite is true. He becomes
the center of all his people's aspirations. He directs the struggle from prison. This is even truer for an exiled
leader. Not to mention the Arab, Muslim and international reaction. Throughout the world, the popularity of the
exiled leader will rise.
Like every secret political police, our Security Service adapts it assessments to the presumed wishes of the political
boss. Probably it bases them on reports of collaborators and the stories of tortured prisoners. Not a good basis
for political assessments.
But why go far? Our own experience is enough. It was Ariel Sharon (yes, the same) who once found a patent medicine
for all our ills in the occupied territories: he appointed a new Palestinian leadership, called "village leagues."
They were so ridiculous that the Palestinians did not even bother to kill them. They were laughed out of court
After that, Sharon (yes, yes, the very same) appointed a leadership for Lebanon. He took a local ruffian, Bashir
Jumayel, and made him President of Lebanon. When he was killed, Sharon elected his brother instead and made an
official peace treaty with him, with a lot of articles and sub-articles, that established an official peace between
Israel and Lebanon for generations. You don't remember? Don't be upset, nobody does.
I don't know how to cure this paranoia. To do so, our patient has to recognize basic facts: That there is a historic
conflict between two peoples, that there is an occupation and a war of liberation. The Palestinian people are led,
now more than ever, by Yasser Arafat. He is there, and one might say: fortunately for us.
One can respect or hate Arafat -- it does not change the fact that he is the only person -- now and in the foreseeable
future -- capable of both making a decision and convincing his people to accept it. For that, one has to be a leader
with moral and political authority in the eyes of his people. Arafat has it, and nobody else has.
In today's Israel, hating Arafat has become a fad, common to both right and left. It's easier to hate Arafat than
to come to grips with the basic facts of the conflict. Everything is dragged down to the personal level. If so,
let's have a look at the man.
Arafat decided at the end of 1973 that the Palestinian national interest demands a peace agreement with Israel.
I know this, because at the time I maintained, together with others, the first contacts with the PLO leadership.
At that time, Shimon Peres was still busy with establishing settlements in the middle of the West Bank (Kedumim),
and Yitzchak Rabin in deepening the occupation. Arafat prepared his people, step by step, cautiously and resolutely,
for the change that led to Oslo. He was several steps in advance of his people, and was always compelled (like
Ben Gurion with us) to take the courageous decisions alone. But he never wished (or could) impose them on his people.
His way of doing it was by the old Arab method of Idjmah -- the discussion goes on until the last person in the
tent is convinced.
Of course, he used all the means in the arsenal of a weak and oppressed people: diplomacy, violence, ruses, propaganda,
plots. Much like us. That was his duty, as a leader of a people on the way to liberation.
A leading Egyptian thinker once told me: "If there were no Arafat, it would have been necessary to invent
him." Fortunately, he is there. We shall find no other.
Uri Avnery's weekly articles, many of which appear in Ma'ariv can also be read, in Hebrew and English, on the internet
Once I was an obedient pilot
Colonel (Res.) Yigal Shohat
In 1970 I was a combat pilot. I fought, and was wounded, and was a POW in Egypt. Had I been a combat pilot on active
duty this year, I would have refused to take part in bombing thickly inhabited Palestinian cities like Nablus or
Had I been serving nowadays as a military bulldozer driver, I would have refused an order to "shave"
the homes of Palestinian refugees. The operational need of improved visibility for infantry units moving in this
landscape is no justification for systematic destruction of the homes of penniless people.
And if, like Yishai Rozen-Tzvi, I had been at this time an infantry soldier, then like him I would have gone to
prison rather than do reserve duty in the Territories.
Rozen-Tzvi told his commanding officer: 'I am not willing to take part in imposing a siege on hundreds of thousands
of men, women and children. I am not willing to deny people access to their daily work or to medical treatment
which they need, and make them hostages to the decisions of politicians.'
When I was his age, I was still unaware of the immorality of certain orders, which is why I was an obedient pilot.
Now it is clear to me that the occupation has lasted so long only because of the blind obedience of people like
The settlements have created Apartheid conditions in the Territories. In order to maintain this anomaly, which
adds neither honour nor security to Israel, and in order to break down the resistance of the discriminated population,
the soldiers of the Israeli Defence Forces are year after year required to undertake highly immoral acts, some
of them manifestly illegal. In the Israel of today the occupation may seem a norm, out of long-ingrained habit.
But it will not be too many years before everybody who collaborated will be ashamed to look in the mirror or tell
his children about what he did in the army.
Yishai Rozen-Tzvi is incarcerated at Ktziot Prison because, as he says, he refused to take part in injustice. The
right of refusal is available to every soldier who is not a robot. It is more than a right -- it is a duty, whenever
the soldier feels that his superiors are forcing him to implement orders which he considers to be manifestly immoral.
Yishai Rozen-Tzvi did not seek a psychiatric discharge from the army, did not leave the country, did not pretend
to be crazy, did not seek some kind of back door favor. He did the only brave and legitimate thing possible under
the present conditions.
The war which is now taking place is a war for continued maintenance of the settlements. In such a war, any attempt
to preserve the moral strength of the Israeli Defence Forces is foredoomed to failure.
After thirty years of coveting hilltops in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the time has come to recognize that
this entire settlement project was a sick adventure. You need to be very stupid, very naive or very evil in order
to think that you can build yourself a charming home with a red tile roof at the expense of disenfranchised Palestinians,
and that this situation could go on for years.
We must at long last realize the depth of the disaster which we have brought upon ourselves. We must move the settlers
into the Green Line (which continues to be our border, whether or not we like it). We must atone for the occupation
by passing on to the Palestinian refugees these pretty houses and nice gardens which now constitute settlements,
as a modest contribution for letting the Palestinian state get on its feet. Until we do all that, we will neither
feel nor be secure, nor will we really have democracy.
(Translated from Ha'aretz, July 1.)