Saturday, May 31, 2008

Action alert: Stop the Closing of Orphanages and Schools in Hebron

The following is an action alert concerning the orphanages and schools run by a charity (the Islamic Charitable Society -- ICS) in Hebron that have been under attack by the Israeli military. The military has already destroyed goods and seized equipment and supplies belonging to the ICS, and is moving to close the facility altogether. JPN posted information about the charities last month (see http://www.mecaforpeace.org/article.php?id=327, which has an update on the developing situation).

The Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron asks the international community get involved in pressuring governments to get Israel to stop. The contact information (for people in the US, UK and Canada) is below. You might want to use something like the following language in your emails or in leaving a message with your Senator, Representative, embassy, etc.:

"The Israeli army is taking steps to close down a charity in the Palestinian city of Hebron that serves orphans and children in need. There can be no security justification for this act of collective punishment which targets some of the most vulnerable children in the West Bank. I urge you to use your influence to persuade the Israeli government to stop this action and also to pay restitution for the losses suffered by the Islamic Charitable Society."

Judith Norman
-----------------------------------

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED NOW!!!

Press Release: Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron
For Immediate Release, 29 May 2008
CPT Contacts: office 011-972-(0)2 222 8485
Email:cptheb@palnet.com,
For more information visit http://www.hebronorphans.blogspot.com

Act Now! Stop the Closing of Orphanages and Schools in Hebron by the Israeli Military

Breaking News:

In his meeting on May 21st with members of the Steering Committee for Supporting the Orphans, Mr. Jawad Bulos, lawyer for the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS), gave a briefing on the legal side of closing and confiscating the ICS facilities.

"The very first moment the Charity received the closure orders I appealed to the Military Legal Advisor and asked him to arrange a meeting with me. The advisor refused to meet me and later he rejected our appeal. I was forced, then, to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court," said Bulos.'' Five days after my appeal to the court, the court unexpectedly refused to issue a stop order (prohibition order). I was informed later that the court will not discuss our appeal before October,'' added Mr. Bulos.

Although it appears that the military is working towards closure on the ground, Bulos does not think that the military will take further actions that might embarrass the court. Yet, '' I can not trust the Israeli Military,'' he said. These events leave the future of the orphanages and schools in a confused state.

Bulos further stated, "We discussed all details and ways of getting out of this tunnel. The military officers seemed not interested". He concluded his briefing by saying that he believes that the work of both local and international groups is equally important.

Act Now!

It is therefore of utmost importance that all NGOs and internationals who have been involved in this campaign continue to pressure their governments to insist that Israel not only stop this action but also pay restitution for the losses suffered by the institutions involved. Please contact your Congress Representatives or Members of Parliament as soon as possible.

The Steering Committee also encourages all NGOs or visitor to the West Bank to spend a night or more in the Orphanages to discourage the Israeli Army from further actions.
Contact CPT Hebron for these arrangements: cptheb@palnet.com (subject line should contain Hebron Orphanage)

You can find the Israeli embassy in your country at

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/About+the+Ministry/Diplomatic+missions

USA:

Embassy in Tel Aviv:
US Embassy
71 Hayarkon Street,
Tel Aviv 63903,
Israel.

Email: Mary Glantz, Human Rights, glantzme@state.Gov; Michelle Schohn, schohnjm@state.gov, or ac5@bezeqint.net

President George W Bush,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20500

Register your message with the White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
e-mail:comments@whitehouse.gov.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
2201 C Street NW,
Washington, DC 20520

To find and contact your Senator go to
http://www.senate.gov

To find and contact either your Senator or your Representative go to: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

Or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202)-224-3132
and ask for the appropriate Congressional office.

CANADA:

Embassy in Tel Aviv:
The Canadian Embassy, PO Box 9442, Tel Aviv
67060, Israel.

Fax: (011 972 3) 636-3380.
Email: taviv@dfait-maeci.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
Office of the Prime Minister,
80 Wellington Street
Canada, K1A 0A2.
Fax: 613-941-6900
Email: pm@pm.gc.ca

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Maxime Bernier,
House of Commons
Ottawa ON, K1A 0A6.

Fax: (613) 995-0687
Email: BerniM@parl.gc.ca

You can locate and mail your MP at the House of Commons address, or find their email address at: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC


UNITED KINGDOM

Embassy in Tel Aviv:
British Embassy,
192 Hayarkon Street
Tel Aviv 63405, Israel.

Tel: (+972 3) 725;
Fax: (+ 972 3) 527 8574.
Email: webmaster.telaviv@ fco.gov.uk

Prime Minister Gordon Brown,
10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA

To email the Prime Minister go to http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/page821.asp

Foreign Secretary David Miliband,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH.

Tel: 020 7008-1500

To email MP, MEP's, MSPs, or Northern Ireland, Welsh and London AMs, go to http://www.writetothem.com/


Contact details for UK Members of Parliament and House of Lords:
http://www.parliament.uk/directories/directories.cfm


Contact details for the Members of the Scottish Parliaments:http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msp/membersPages/index.htm

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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Expanding the settlements at Bil'in

The West Bank village of Bil'in has become famous for several years now as the site of weekly protests against the construction of the wall. The route of the wall separates the village itself from 60% of its farmland (mostly olive groves). The weekly protests are themselves non-violent, they but have often met with violent responses on the part of the Israeli military, which is adopting an increasingly belligerent attitude towards the protests.

Last September, the Israeli Supreme Court decided in favor of the protesters, ruling that the route of the wall needs to be moved further west. This would restore 250 acres of farmland to the village. It was an unexpected legal victory. However, as is reported in the piece below, not only has the Israeli military failed to comply with this ruling, Israeli settlers (under the protection of the Israeli army) have started construction on the farmlands legally belonging to Bil'in (expanding the nearby settlement).

The Supreme Court ruling changing the route of the wall was celebrated as a victory for tactics of non-violent resistance. The failure of the Israeli army to enforce this ruling will be (at best) a discouragement for such tactics, and more likely an incitement to future violence.

For more information see: http://www.bilin-village.org/english/


Judith Norman

http://www.imemc.org/article/55064

Israeli settlers and army started to expand illegal settlement on Bil'in land
Monday May 26, 2008

Israeli settlers under the protection of the Israeli army started on Monday morning to install homes on lands that belong to villagers from Bil'in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Iyad Burnat, of the local committee against the wall and settlement construction, said that villagers noticed the construction since early morning on Monday. Villagers tried to reach their land in order to stop the settlers but Israeli troops prevented them from crossing the wall.

A group of men from the village were staying over night in there land managed to come close to the trucks installing the mobile homes of the settlers and stopped them by standing infornt of them, Burnat stated. He added that the men will continue to block the trucks way in an attempt to stop the destruction of the villagers lands.

In 2007 the villagers of Bil'in won an Israeli high court of Justice decision to remove the Israeli wall that separates the village from its land and move it away. The Israeli army refused to comply with the order for "security reasons."

The court ruling also forbids the settlers from expanding the settlement of Mitetyaho Mizrah which is built on the village land. Today settlers came and installed six mobile homes on the villagers' land in a clear sign that they are going to expand their settlement, Burnat said.

Burnat demanded more involvement form the Palestinian Authority and he asked for the freeze of negotiations with Israel since Israel refuses to respect any agreements with the Palestinians.

Last November the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks were revived by the U.S on the basis of the Road Map peace plan. According to the Road Map plan Israel must stop all settlement activity in the West Bank.

The villagers of Bil'in have been conducting weekly nonviolent protests against the Israeli wall and settlements for a little over three years. Burnat told IMEMC that the villagers of Bil'in will continue their resistance and the legal work in the Israeli court system.


For more information:
The Bilin Friends of freedom and Justice -society
Email: majdarmajdar@yahoo.com
Tel: 972 547 847 942
Ffj.bilin@yahoo.com
www.Bilin-ffj.org


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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Monday, May 26, 2008

Non-Governmental Organizations May Be Aiding the Occupation

This lecture, given by Naomi Mark of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel), discusses the difficult position human rights organizations often face when attempting to assist Palestinians under occupation. Mark argues that effective humanitarian organizations not only try to help individual Palestinians who are victims of the occupation, they also struggle against the occupation itself. But these two goals are often at odds: sometimes helping an individual would basically require the organization to collaborate with the occupiers. She gives a heart-breaking example of this dilemma, where PHR-Israel would have only been able to help secure medical help for Palestinian patients by turning them over to the Israeli security service to act as informers and collaborators.

Of course there is a deeper level of moral ambiguity in all humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territories, namely that it relieves the Israeli government of the responsibility (that it has under international law) to provide for the medical, nutritional, educational needs of the population under occupation. In a sense, the Israeli government is outsourcing its responsibility to humanitarian organizations. Groups such as PHR-Israel respond to this challenge with great integrity and even heroism, but it is an abhorrent effect of the Israeli government's abhorrent policies that they create situations in which there is no right thing to do.

Judith Norman and Alistair Welchman

Rebecca Vilkomerson adds:

Even the activist groups and non-governmental organizations dedicated exclusively to working against the occupation struggle with the question of whether we are simply making the occupation more palatable (and thus serving Israel's needs). Whether by monitoring the checkpoints, getting road blocks removed, "illegal" outposts removed (as if there were any other kind), food convoys through the siege etc, etc: all of these actions do serve individuals suffering under the occupation, but also can promote Israel's image as democratic, tolerant, and responsive to its own citizens, at least. Even what is perhaps the biggest recent "victory"--moving the route of the Wall in Bil'in (not yet implemented) through a combination of grassroots activism and courtroom struggle -- brings up this issue. I don't think anyone is arguing against these kinds of actions, but it is important to keep struggling with the larger strategic and moral goals of our work.

PHR-Israel: NGOs May Be Aiding the Occupation
http://www.phr.org.il/phr/article.asp?articleid=552&catid=75&pcat=75&lang=ENG


1 Mar 2008

Naomi Mark, Intervention Coordinator in PHR-Israel's Occupied Territories Department, gave a lecture in a UN conference in Amman about civil society in Israel and PHR-Israel's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "There is always a risk", she stresses, "that our help can be used to serve the government policy against which we struggle":

I was asked to talk about civil society in Israel and about our place in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli society in my opinion is very militaristic. I see it in our educational system and certainly in our politics, so that sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between civil society and the military. Still, I will try to define how I see our role as individuals, and as a human rights organization, in regards to the continuing occupation of the territories. And I will discuss some of the dilemmas that we face in our work. The main dilemma stems from the tension that exists between political and humanitarian work. We want to struggle for change in government policy and we want to help individuals. But in order to help individuals we must gain a degree of cooperation from an oppressive government bureaucracy. There is always a risk that our help can be used to serve the government policy against which we struggle.

On a personal level I could say that my first civil act was a few years ago, when I turned 18, and I was called upon to enlist in the army. In Israel military service is obligatory for Jewish boys and girls. I chose to refuse it. My idea of serving society did not fit the definition of the state. The State has done a good job in erasing the separation between military and civilian life, making it hard for any civil movement to wage an effective struggle. I chose to be a civilian who opposes Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and who opposes the militaristic atmosphere in my society. For the past two and a half years I have been trying to contribute something towards change by working for Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel was established in 1988 and has over 1,500 members. This is a non-governmental organization, which works to obtain human rights in general, and health rights in particular, for those whose rights are violated in Israel and in the occupied territories. The organization represents and assists prisoners and detainees, migrant workers, undocumented persons and refugees, Bedouins from unrecognized villages, citizens who have medical insurance and Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In the occupied territories we work to establish solidarity with the Palestinians on two levels: One level is by providing direct medical assistance that is severely lacking. Every Saturday we operate a mobile clinic in different villages in the West Bank.

On another level we advance health rights through political human rights work. Raising awareness through publications, in the courts, and through lobbying and legislation we attempt to pressure the Israeli government to acknowledge its responsibility and to respect the health rights of the Palestinians under occupation. This includes a struggle for access to health for Palestinian patients whose treatments are not available in hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza.

All of the people in Gaza who ask for our help reach us after undergoing a long and unsuccessful bureaucratic process. Let me walk you through the steps of that process:

• In order to receive a permit to leave Gaza, a patient has to be referred for treatment, by a Palestinian doctor in Gaza. This has to be approved by the Palestinian ministry of health in Ramallah.

• She then has to get a referral to a hospital in Jordan, Israel or the West Bank.

• With the referral she has to obtain a promise for financial coverage (financial undertaking) from the ministry of health in Ramallah.

• With all of the above documents the patient approaches the Palestinian committee in Gaza that works in cooperation with the Israeli military at the Erez crossing. Now our patient waits and hopes that the Palestinian committee sent her documents to the Israeli side. I will not go into the Kafka-esque relations between the Palestinian committee and the Israeli Army, all I will say is that many requests fall "between the cracks" and never reach the army.

The patient can be waiting from one week to a couple of months for an answer from the Israeli side, or to be more exact, from the "Shabak," the Israeli General security Services. And even then, there is no guarantee that he will be granted a permit.

So you can imagine that when a patient calls Physicians for Human Rights it means that her medical condition has become even more critical, and she has probably missed her appointment, two or three times.

In September 2007 Yasser Abu Hiyya, a 37 year old resident of Gaza contacted me. He suffers from a heart disease and he was referred to Al Tachasusi hospital in Nablus for a life-saving operation. This operation is not available in Gaza. Yasser asked us to help him leave Gaza and travel to Nablus in the West Bank after he was denied a permit by the Shabak. I approached the Israeli authority at the Erez crossing (the office there is ironically called the "humanitarian center") on Yasser's behalf. After two weeks one of the soldiers, a young women my age, called to tell me that the request was granted and that Yasser can cross through the Erez crossing accompanied by his mother and travel to Nablus. Unfortunately our story does not end here.

On October 9 2007 Yasser and his mother came to the crossing, as planned. After the full body security check he was taken to a room in a basement for "security investigation" by the Shabak. In this investigation Yasser was told that if he cooperates with the secret police and if he gives them information about his brother and his friends, he will be allowed to travel to Nablus for his operation. "help us and we will help you…" is what the investigator said. Yasser said that he has no information, and at that point he was sent back to Gaza - not before the investigator "promised" him that he will never be allowed to go through the crossing, and that, I quote: "he can go back to Gaza and die." We submitted a petition to the Israeli high court of justice on Nov. 7 and Yasser was finally granted a permit to leave Gaza, through a different crossing, into Egypt, where he was treated.

This is a story of one heart patient who managed to leave for a life saving operation, after the intervention of an Israeli human rights organization, after exposing the story in the international and the local media and after appealing to the high court. It took us three months to deal with his case. I don't have any data about the hundreds who don't reach us or other Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, but we can not forget that a million and a half people are subjected to this inhumane treatment on a daily basis.

I do know that in 2007 alone we had a 400% increase in the number of people who contacted us from Gaza – if in early 2007 we were handling 20 to 40 cases per month, we are now handling between 140 and 160 applications per month from Gaza. At the same time our ability to assist them has dropped dramatically. As time passes there are more sick people in life threatening situations that stay in Gaza with no treatment.

Although it is hard to help patients leave Gaza, we still see that it is important again and again to demand the right of every patient to reach medical assistance. But this work is almost meaningless if our efforts are not tied to a political struggle against the inhumane policy that makes people choose between their life and collaboration with the enemy.
By political struggle we mean appeals, media coverage and public campaigns that expose the situation to the Israeli and international community.

Individual help and humanitarian work must always stem from the understanding that the problems will be solved only when the Israeli occupation will end. We must never forget that as long as Israel controls the crossings, the sea and the air of the Gaza Strip, Israel is also responsible for implementing human and health rights.

Unfortunately the challenges that we face in our work are growing, as can be seen in the graph.

Since June 2007 the Erez crossing is the only exit from Gaza and it is controlled by Israel.

Since June we see that shabak's policy is tougher. It is harder to get permits to leave Gaza for medical treatment.

Since June the state policy has been that only people with "life threatening cases" can leave Gaza, and any other medical condition, even if one is in danger of losing an arm or a leg, does not fit the definition of life threatening. As a result we witnessed a sharp decrease in the distribution of permits and an increase in patients who ask for our help.

Since September Israel refers to Gaza as a "hostile entity" and the already – limited number of permits dropped significantly. Now even "life threatening" cases are rejected.

In January 2008 there was a change in the high court's position: we appealed on behalf of 15 patients, all were in life threatening situations, but the high court, for the first time, refused to intervene on behalf of eight of them, who were prohibited for "security reasons". Two of the patients passed "illegally" into Egypt a few weeks ago, and the rest are still in Gaza waiting either for a miracle or for their death. A second petition submitted on behalf of a leukemia patient was rejected immediately with no discussion.

About three months ago a heart patient from Gaza who we will call Marwan was referred to a hospital in the West Bank. Marwan went through the regular bureaucratic process and was refused passage to the West Bank. He asked for our help. I applied on his behalf and two weeks later a soldier called and told me that Marwan can come to the crossing for a "security investigation." After the investigation the authorities would decide whether he will get a permit.

As you remember in the previous story, Yasser didn't know in advance that he would be investigated. This time, with no shame, I was notified in advance. The soldier continued: "Tell Marwan to come next Monday at 9:00."

I was enraged. I already knew that what actually happens at these "investigations" was a demand for collaboration. I told the soldier that if the Shabak wants Marwan, let them call him by themselves. I will not be the Shabak's secretary. The soldier didn't understand my reaction. "Don't you want Marwan to leave for treatment? If he doesn't come I will have to close the file. Without the investigation there is no permit."

I told her to call him, but she made it clear that the shabak does not call patients. If I don't make the call the file will be closed.

I decided not to take part in their attempt to recruit me to the service of the secret police. For me it was clear that I should not call a Palestinian and tell him to show up for an investigation that, as I see it, involves a form of torture, since he must choose between collaboration and medical treatment.

A week passed and Marwan called to ask where the file stands. I told him what happened and that as of now the file is closed because I refused to cooperate with the Shabak. Marwan was very angry at me. He told me that this is his heart surgery, and that he is willing to collaborate with anyone who will grant him his exit from Gaza.

Marwan's case raises questions about the position of a civil organization in regards to the military. It also puts a focus on the tension between individual assistance - "Marwan's needs" and the political struggle against shabak's policies. While working on Marwan's case I was also confronted for the first time with how cynically we were used by the secret police. They push us into an impossible corner. We had to choose between the well-being of a patient, and our struggle. The cynicism does not stop there. By putting us in the position of cooperating with the shabak, the shabak tries to undermine our credibility with the Palestinians and makes us potential partners in crime.

What we did at PHR-Israel, is collect 9 sworn affidavits from patients who had undergone interrogation and were asked to collaborate in return for medical care. We publicized the case widely in Israeli newspapers (Maariv) and we submitted a High Court petition on the issue, which is still pending. But the general question on this issue still remains.

So what is our role?

Every organization or donor state which decides to help the Palestinian people by contributing to rebuilding their country, must also work to change the situation. There is no rehabilitation without independence, and there is no rehabilitation without seeing Gaza and West Bank as one entity.

There is little value in building hospitals in Gaza if Israel does not let doctors leave for training and specialization and if Israel refuses to allow medical equipment to enter Gaza. There is little value in building hospitals in the West Bank if you don't oppose Israel's checkpoints policy. A policy that denies free access for patients, ambulances and doctors.

I will be even more blunt: If you give humanitarian aid without seeing the political context of your aid, you are actually aiding the occupation. By enabling the occupation to continue more smoothly, by helping individuals to cope better under occupation, you are cooperating with policies that are illegal under international law.

If the contributing countries do not want to support the occupation, they must actively detach themselves from Israel's policy in the West Bank and in Gaza.

In any conflict, as complex as it may be, patients cannot be held hostages.

If we want real long-lasting security, both for Palestinians and for Israelis, you must help us redefine the term "security". The definition should not be left for the secret police. Personal security must be equal and available for every one, only then there is a chance for peace in our region.


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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Yossi Melman: Israel denies entry to high-profile critic Norman Finkelstein

Professor Norman Finkelstein got detained and then deported from Tel-Aviv
airport yesterday (Friday, May 23).

According to Dorothy Naor of New Profile:
The Hebrew title is "The Shabak (the General Security Service) denied entry to a professor who opposes the occupation"

Judith Norman writes:
Israel has long had a policy of denying entry to people who might engage in activism in support of Palestinian rights. One activist with the International Solidarity Movement (a frequent target of these deportations) wrote of her experience:

"This tactic on the part of the Israeli government attempts to criminalize activists that do not agree with their policies in order to eliminate outside witnesses who bring international attention to the daily atrocities created by the violent military occupation of Palestine." (See: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3675.shtml <http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3675.shtml> )

Hopefully, by spreading news of Finkelstein's deportation, this policy can back-fire, and the Israeli government will receive more negative publicity than Finkelstein could have ever generated.

For additional material go to:

Ynet:
http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3547270,00.html
Hebrew: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3547242,00.html ]

Racheli Gai.


Ha'aretz Update Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last update - 21:01 24/05/2008
Israel denies entry to high-profile critic Norman Finkelstein

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/986558.html

Hebrew:

http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/986554.html


By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday.

Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years.

The Shin Bet said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions."

However, in e-mail and phone interviews with Haaretz while in detention at the airport, Finkelstein said, "I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me. I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn't much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organizations. I've always supported a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. I'm not an enemy of Israel."

Finkelstein visited Lebanon a few months ago and met with Hezbollah operatives there, and subsequently published articles.

Finkelstein, 55, has accused Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political ends. He recently left DePaul University following pressure by Jewish organizations and individuals, including Professor Alan Dershowitz.

He also said in the interview that he was "en route to Palestine to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, Musa Abu-Hashhash."

Finkelstein said he was asked whether he had met with Al Qaida operatives, whether he had been sent to Israel by Hezbollah and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.

"I was kept in a holding cell at the airport for approximately 24 hours. It wasn't a Belgian bed-and-breakfast, but it wasn't Auschwitz either. I had several unpleasant moments with the guards at the airport and in the holding cell, but since martyrdom is not my cup of tea, I'll spare you the details," Finkelstein said.

He said he eventually used a cellphone belonging to another detainee and called another friend he was scheduled to see in Israel, the journalist Allan Nairn, who called attorney Michael Sfard. Sfard met with Finkelstein and told him he could appeal the ban; however, Finkelstein said he has been to Israel at least 15 times and declined to appeal.

Sfard on Saturday said banning Finkelstein from entering the country "recalls the behavior of the Soviet bloc countries."


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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Friday, May 23, 2008

I hope you'll follow the link

I have deliberated somewhat over whether or not to post the following announcement from OCHA - the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It occurs to me, however, that my deliberations reflect some of the processes that Israel's government counts on to marginalize and minimize its ongoing subjugation of the Gaza Strip.

I will try to explain: I am aware that I have repeatedly posted items attempting to convey, and arouse interest in, the conditions that Israel is imposing indiscriminately on the Palestinian people living in Gaza, with full support from the US and Europe. I asked myself, with regard to this report, whether I should post yet another list of facts and figures and whether or not readers would tend to skip it automatically in the knowledge that they - you - had already taken time to read several similar pieces and therefore already knew more or less what was going on in Gaza. I also asked myself how I could engage at least some of you - your caring and hopefully your action, if I did finally decide to post the announcement and the link.

I mused over the title of the announcement in the mail from OCHA Media Consultant, Judith Harel, and especially over its ending: "April 2008". It seemed to me to epitomize my difficulty with reporting on, and reinforcing practical opposition to, this prolonged, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly routine of death and disablement by deprivation. "April 2008" clearly denoted one more of a series of regularly issued documents describing a long, drawn out, repetitive practice of - mostly slow - murder and injury; Murder by food shortages, murder by fuel shortages, murder by power cuts, murder by sewage overflow, murder by infection, murder by denial of medical care.

These practices are joined by bombings and military as well as para-military attacks effecting swifter murders and injuries. While asymmetrical in their scope and effects, the latter type of violence is perpetrated by both Israeli and Palestinian forces. This more reportable, immediate, more "dramatic" violence and the semblance of "routine warfare" it creates form a blind behind which mass slow injury and murder can continue. The cumulative deprivation causing daily, indiscriminate death and injury in Gaza - its extended duration, its mundane repetetiveness - succeeds in eluding and diverting public attention through boredom, to put it bluntly. Even the stark, densely factual, three-page UN report doesn't presume to report the numbers of people dead or disabled by extended deprivation. In the procss, then, the murderous regime retains its impunity.

I admit that I have no answers to the questions I'm asking both myself and you. The only answer I can give consists in what is still taking place, repetitively, outrageously, daily Gaza, while we continue to go about our lives. I feel that should be enough, sufficient grounds and reason for caring and for finding ways to act.

I'm posting the OCHA announcement rather than the three-page report because its lists and tables didn't transplant well into email format. You'll find a link to the report right under the announcement. I hope you'll click on it and read it. I hope you'll try to envision the reality beyond the numbers. I hope you'll take whatever action you can to stop it.

Rela Mazali

------------------------------------------

OCHA: Gaza Strip Inter-Agency Humanitarian Fact Sheet | April 2008 Israeli restrictions on fuel supplies to Gaza peaked in April when Israel halted supplies of diesel, petrol and cooking gas (LPG) to Gaza. UNRWA was forced to suspend its food distribution to 650,000 beneficiaries for four days due to the lack of fuel. Limited supplies of cooking gas and industrial diesel resumed before the end of the month. Market prices increased significantly in the month of April. Gazan militants attacked the Nahal Oz fuel terminal on April 9 and the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on April 18.Israeli military incursions into Gaza occurred almost every day in April, killing 21 children.

http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/Gaza_Interagency_Factsheet_2008_April.pdf


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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Uri Avnery: Go Home and Take Your Money With You! / Gush-shalom.org

Uri Avnery writes: "Lately we are flooded with friends. The Great of the Earth, past and present, come here to flatter us, to fawn on us, to grovel at our feet.
"God, save me from my firends, my enemies I can deal with myself!" says an old prayer. "

In addition to the famous, the not famous or powerful any longer, and some hugely rich Jewish billionaires show up, to get attention or to meddle.
Read to find out the gory details...
Racheli Gai.


http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1211059332/


Go Home and Take Your Money With You!

With Friends Like These ...

By URI AVNERY

Lately we are flooded with friends. The Great of the Earth, past and present, come here to flatter us, to fawn on us, to grovel at our feet.

"God, save me from my friends, my enemies I can deal with myself!" says an old prayer.

They disgust me.

LET'S TAKE for example the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her pandering was free of any criticism and she reached new heights of obsequiousness in her speech to the Knesset. I was invited to attend. I relinquished the privilege.

I shall also pass the pleasure when I am invited to the session with the hyper-active Nicholas Sarkozy, who will try to break the flattery record of his German rival.

Before that we were visited by John McCain's mentor, the evangelical pastor John Hagee, the one who described the Catholic Church as a monster. Oozing sanctimonious flattery from every pore, he forbade us, in the name of (his) God, to give up even one inch of the Holy Land and commanded us to fight to the last drop of (our) blood.

However, not one of them has come close to George Bush. Approaching the end of the most disastrous presidency in the annals of the Republic, he really forced a lighted match into the hand of our government, encouraging it to ignite the barrel of gunpowder between our feet.

* * *

BUT THE list of present-day leaders who participate in the pandering competition pales in comparison with the long parade of Has-Beens who lay siege to our gates.

A world-wide swarm of Has-Beens is flying from place to place like bees, all for one and one for all. This week they alighted in Jerusalem, on the invitation of Has-Been No. 1: Shimon Peres, a politician who in all the 84 years of his life has never won an election, and who was finally handed, out of sheer compassion, the largely meaningless title of President of Israel.

The common denominator of this group is that their prestige at home is close to nil, while their standing abroad is sky-high. Their mutual adoration compensates them for the lack of respect in their own countries.

One of the senior members of this club is Tony Blair, who has been pushed from power in his own country but is not content to enjoy his pension and raise roses. As a consolation prize he has been granted the pleasure of playing around with our conflict. Every few weeks he convenes a press conference to present the good tidings of his phenomenal success in ameliorating the lot of the Palestinians, while the actual situation in the occupied territories goes from bad to worse. Our security establishment treats him like a bore who has to be thrown a crumb from time to time to keep him happy.

In the conference that took place this week there were also some good people, but the scene was stolen by the Has-Beens, from the retired war criminal Henry Kissinger to the dethroned peace hero Mikhail Gorbachev (whom I still consider a hero for preventing bloodshed during the collapse of the Soviet empire.) Pity to see him in this company.

All the participants in this orgy heaped mountains of fawning adulation on Israel. Not one of them had a word of criticism. No occupation. No settlements. No Gaza blockade. No daily killings. Just a wonderful, peace-loving state that the bad, bad terrorists want to throw into the sea.

Not one of the guests stood up to warn us against going on with the present policy. Not one of them stood up to proclaim the truth: that the continuation of this policy may lead our state to disaster.

He who has friends like these has no need for enemies. A person who sees his friend playing Russian roulette and offers him bullets - is he a real friend? One who sees his friend standing on the brink of an abyss and tells him "go ahead" - is he a friend?

* * *

AMONG THE fraternity of flatterers, the ones that attracted the most attention were the Jewish billionaires from America (who also paid for the extravaganza).

Several of them were summoned to police headquarters immediately on arrival to give evidence on the affair that is rocking Israel now - the corruption investigation of Ehud Olmert.

A smell of corruption has accompanied Olmert right from his beginnings in politics, 45 years ago. But this time, the smell is overpowering. The police has made it known that the American-Jewish billionaire Moshe Morris Talansky has been supplying him with cash-filled envelopes for years.

Where have we seen this before? Of course, in American movies and TV-series. Somebody opens a suitcase stuffed with bundles of banknotes. The donor invariably belongs to the Mafia, and the recipient is generally a corrupt politician. Can it be that Olmert has never seen these films - he of all people, who started his career with demagogic speeches denouncing "Organized Crime"?

But it is not Olmert who interests me in this affair so much as Talansky.

He belongs to a species of "Israel-loving" billionaires, most of them resident in the US, but also in Canada and Switzerland, Austria and Australia and other places.

They are all Israeli patriots. They are all philanthropists. All contribute millions to Israeli politicians. And almost all of them support our extreme Right.

What makes them run? What induces these billionaires to do what they are doing?

A research in depth discovers that a great many of them made their money in dark corners. Some are gambling barons, casino-owners with all the inevitable connections with violence, crime and exploitation. One at least made his fortunes from brothels. Another was involved in a scandal involving old people's homes. Yet another is a scion of a family who made their money bootlegging during prohibition days. Some are arms merchants of the most despicable kind, selling weapons to the political gangs which sow death and destruction in Africa.

But money, as is well known, does not smell.

Most of the multi-millionaires of this kind feel that they are not receiving the honor due to them. Their co-billionaires, high society people, treat them with disdain. A person reaching this position is not satisfied with money alone. He craves honor. Such honor can be bought in Israel, on the cheap.

Israel is selling honor of all kinds, no questions asked. For a suitable donation, even a gambling-hell owner will be received by the Prime Minister, dine with the President, put his name on a university building.

(Once I wrote a light-hearted piece about the Third Temple, may God build it soon, Amen: the Rosenstein Holy of Holiest, the Rosenzweig altar, the Rosenberg cherubim, etc.)

Just after the Six-day War, during the great days of our generals, a new fashion spread among the best Jewish billionaires: to keep an Israeli general, in order to present him to friends as a pet. Some generals found no fault in this. It was owed to them, after all.

One billionaire kept Ezer Weizman, the Air Force hero (who had to resign from the presidency when it came out). Two billionaires adopted Ariel Sharon and set him up in the largest farm in the country. Shimon Peres was no general (and not even a soldier), but at least three billionaires took him under their golden wings.

No billionaire ever lost money by keeping an Israeli general, supporting an Israeli politician or making a generous donation to an Israeli cause. Ego is ego, patriotism is patriotism, but business is business.

That's where the corruption set in. A person who donates millions to a politician in Israel (or, for that matter, the US, or Italy or any other place on the globe) knows full well that he will get it back with interest. When the politician becomes a minister, or Prime Minister, or President, the supporter has hit the jackpot.

In politics there is no innocent donation. One way or another, the donor will reap his reward - many times over. That's true in the US, that's true in Italy, that's true in Israel, too. If the donor declares to the police that he has no business interests in Israel, all it means is that they must dig deeper.

* * *

THE OLMERT affair confirms anew what we have known for a long time: the fuel Israeli politics runs on is not just money, but money from abroad. To win primaries and campaign in elections, a candidate needs millions, and these almost always come from foreign donors.

Foreign billionaires financed Olmert in the party primaries, and they financed him in the general elections, in which he was assured of becoming Prime Minister. After being elected, he started Lebanon War II, with all its death and destruction. It can be said: American Jewish billionaires killed the soldiers and civilians, Israeli and Lebanese, who lost their lives in the war.

In his speech to the Jerusalem conference, Shimon Peres lauded Israeli chutzpa. What we need is more chutzpa, he said. That sounded fetching and naughty, but was pure poppycock.

I want to speak about another chutzpa. Not metaphorical, but real. Simple chutzpa. The chutzpa of billionaires in New York and Geneva and all the other places who interfere in our elections and determine the fate of our nation. The chutzpa of donating for a war in which not their sons, but ours, are killed. The chutzpa of sending billions for the establishment of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and especially in Jerusalem, which are put there for the express purpose of preventing peace and imposing on us a permanent war, a war that threatens our future - not theirs.

Let's be clear: I am not criticizing well-meaning donors, who feel a moral need to contribute to a hospital wing or a university building in Israel. I appreciate people who send a few hundred dollars to a political cause close to their heart. I object to foreign billionaires who aspire to dictate the direction of our state.

Perhaps in other countries, too, politicians receive donations from foreign sources. But it is generally a marginal phenomenon. Here it is a major factor.

That is one of the ill effects of the definition of Israel as a "Jewish State". Because of this, these donors do not look like what they are - impertinent foreigners who interfere in our lives and corrupt our state - but like "warmhearted Jews" who support a state that belongs to them as well.

Gideon Levy has recently written an article in which he begged them to "leave us alone". Being a less refined person than he, I shall say this in a ruder way: Go home and take your money with you. We are not for sale. Stop trying to manage our life (and death)!


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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rashid Khalidi: Palestine: Liberation Deferred / The Nation

Palestinian citizens of Israel meet with violence while attempting
to exercise a right to (non-violent) self-expression in the "only
democracy in the Middle East".

Racheli Gai.


Jonathan Cook: Nakba March
May 17, 2008


Nazareth--It has been a week of adulation from world leaders, ostentatious displays of military prowess, and street parties. Heads of state have rubbed shoulders with celebrities to pay homage to the Jewish state on its 60th birthday, while a million Israelis reportedly headed off to the country's forests to enjoy the national pastime: a barbecue.
 
But this year's Independence Day festivities have concealed as much as they have revealed. The images of joy and celebration seen by the world have failed to acknowledge the reality of a deeply divided Israel, shared by two peoples with conflicting memories and claims to the land.
 
They have also served to shield from view the fact that the Palestinians' dispossession is continuing in both the occupied territories and inside Israel itself. Far from being a historical event, Israel's "independence" -- and the ever greater toll it is inflicting on the Palestinian people -- is very much a live issue.
 
Away from the cameras, a fifth of the Israeli population -- more than one million Palestinian citizens -- remembered al-Nakba, the Catastrophe of 1948 that befell the Palestinian people as the Jewish state was built on the ruins of their society.
 
As it has been doing for the past decade, Israel's Palestinian minority staged an alternative act of commemoration: a procession of families, many of them refugees from the 1948 war, to one of more than 400 Palestinian villages erased by Israel in a monumental act of state vandalism after the fighting. The villages were destroyed to ensure that the 750,000 Palestinians expelled from the state under the cover of war never return.
 
But in a sign of how far Israel still is from coming to terms with the circumstances of its birth, this year's march was forcibly broken up by the Israeli police. They clubbed unarmed demonstrators with batons and fired tear gas and stun grenades into crowds of families that included young children.
 
Although most of the refugees from the 1948 war -- numbering in their millions -- ended up in camps in neighbouring Arab states, a few remained inside Israel. Today one in four Palestinian citizens of Israel is either a refugee or descended from one. Not only have they been denied the right ever to return to their homes, like the other refugees, but many live tantalisingly close to their former communities.
 
The destroyed Palestinian villages have either been reinvented as exclusive Jewish communities or buried under the foliage of national forestation programmes overseen by the Jewish National Fund and paid for with charitable donations from American and European Jews.
 
There have been many Nakba processions held over the past week but the march across fields close by the city of Nazareth was the only one whose destination was a former Palestinian village now occupied by Jews.
 
The village of Saffuriya was bombed from the air for two hours in July 1948, in one of the first uses of air power by the new Jewish state. Most of Saffuriya's 5,000 inhabitants fled northwards towards Lebanon, where they have spent six decades waiting for justice. But a small number went south towards Nazareth, where they sought sanctuary and eventually became Israeli citizens.  
 
Today they live in a neighbourhood of Nazareth called Safafra, after their destroyed village. They look down into the valley where a Jewish farming community known as Zippori has been established on the ruins of their homes.
 
This year's Nakba procession to Saffuriya was a small act of defiance by Palestinian citizens in returning to the village, even if only symbolically and for a few hours. The threat this posed to Israeli Jews' enduring sense of their own exclusive victimhood was revealed in the unprovoked violence unleashed against the defenceless marchers, many of them children.
 
Like many others, I was there with a child -- my five-month-old daughter. Fortunately, for her and my sake, we left after she grew tired from being in the heat for so long, moments before the trouble started.
 
When we left, things were entirely peaceful. Nonetheless, as we drove away, I saw members of a special paramilitary police unit known as the Yassam appearing on their motorbikes. The Yassam are effectively a hit squad, known for striking out first and asking questions later. Trouble invariably follows in their wake.
 
The events that unfolded that afternoon have been captured on mostly home-made videos that can be viewed on the internet, including here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-P4LI1ceGA). The context for understanding these images is provided below in accounts from witnesses to the police attack:
 
 
Several thousand Palestinians, waving flags and chanting Palestinian songs, marched towards a forest planted on Saffuriya's lands. Old people, some of whom remembered fleeing their villages in 1948, were joined by young families and several dozen sympathetic Israeli Jews. As the marchers headed towards Saffuriya's spring, sealed off by the authorities with a metal fence a few years ago to stop the villagers collecting water, they were greeted with a small counter-demonstration by right-wing Israeli Jews.
 
They had taken over the fields on the other side of the main road at the entrance to what is now the Jewish community of Zippori. They waved Israeli flags and sang nationalist Hebrew songs, as armed riot police lined the edge of the road that separated the two demonstrations.
 
Tareq Shehadeh, head of the Nazareth Culture and Tourism Association whose parents were expelled from Saffuriya, said: "There were some 50 Jewish demonstrators who had been allowed to take over the planned destination of our march. Their rights automatically trumped ours, even though there were thousands of us there and only a handful of them."
 
The police had their backs to the Jewish demonstrators while they faced off with the Palestinian procession. "It was as if they were telling us: we are here only for the benefit of Jews, not for you," said Shehadeh. "It was a reminder, if we needed it, that this is a Jewish state and we are even less welcome than usual when we meet as Palestinians."
 
The marchers turned away and headed uphill into the woods, to a clearing where Palestinian refugees recounted their memories.
 
When the event ended in late afternoon, the marchers headed back to the main road and their cars. In the police version, Palestinian youths blocked the road and threw stones at passing cars, forcing the police to use force to restore order.
 
Dozens of marchers were injured, including women and children, and two Arab Knesset members, Mohammed Barakeh and Wassel Taha, were bloodied by police batons. Mounted police charged into the crowds, while stun grenades and tear gas were liberally fired into fields being crossed by families. Eight youths were arrested.
 
Shehadeh, who was close to the police when the trouble began, and many other marchers say they saw the Jewish rightwingers throwing stones at them from behind the police. A handful of Palestinian youngsters responded in kind. Others add that the police were provoked by a young woman waving a Palestinian flag.
 
"None of the police were interested in stopping the Jews throwing stones. And even if a few Palestinian youths were reacting, you chase after them and arrest them, you don't send police on mounted horseback charging into a crowd of families and fire tear gas and stun grenades at them. It was totally indiscriminate and reckless."
 
Clouds of gas enveloped the slowest families as they struggled with their children to take cover in the forest.
 
Therese Zbeidat, a Dutch national who was there with her Palestinian husband Ali and their two teenage daughters, Dina and Awda, called the experiences of her family and others at the hands of the police "horrifying".
 
"Until then it really was a family occasion. When the police fired the tear gas, there were a couple near us pushing a stroller down the stony track towards the road. A thick cloud of gas was coming towards us. I told the man to leave the stroller and run uphill as fast as he could with the baby.
 
"Later I found them with the baby retching, its eyes streaming and choking. It broke my heart. There were so many families with young children, and the police charge was just so unprovoked. It started from nothing."
 
The 17-year-old boyfriend of Therese Zbeidat's daughter, Awda, was among those arrested. "It was his first time at any kind of nationalist event," she said. "He was with his mother, and when we started running up the hill away from the police on horseback, she stumbled and fell.
 
"He went to help her and the next thing a group of about 10 police were firing tear gas cannisters directly at him. Then they grabbed him by the keffiyah [scarf] around his neck and pulled him away. All he was doing was helping his mother!"
 
Later, Therese and her daughters thought they had made it to safety only to find themselves in the midst of another charge from a different direction, this time by police on foot. Awda was knocked to the ground and kicked in her leg, while Dina was threatened by a policeman who told her: "I will break your head."
 
"I've been on several demonstrations before when the police have turned nasty," said Therese, "but this was unlike anything I've seen. Those young children, some barely toddlers, amidst all that chaos crying for their parents - what a way to mark Independence Day!"
 
Jafar Farah, head of the political lobbying group Mossawa, who was there with his two young sons, found them a safe spot in the forest and rushed downhill to help ferry other children to safety.
 
The next day he attended a court hearing at which the police demanded that the eight arrested men be detained for a further seven days. Three, including a local journalist who had been beaten and had his camera stolen by police, were freed after the judge watched video footage of the confrontation taken by marchers.
 
Farah said of the Independence Day events: "For decades our community was banned from remembering publicly what happened to us as a people during the Nakba. Our teachers were sacked for mentioning it. We were not even supposed to know that we are Palestinians.
 
"And in addition, the police have regularly used violence against us to teach us our place. In October 2000, at the start of the intifada, 13 of our unarmed young men were shot dead for demonstrating. No one has ever been held accountable.
 
"Despite all that we started to believe that Israel was finally mature enough to let us remember our own national tragedy. Families came to show their children the ruins of the villages so they had an idea of where they came from. The procession was becoming a large and prominent event. People felt safe attending.
 
"But we were wrong, it seems. It looked to me very much like this attack by the police was planned. I think the authorities were unhappy about the success of the processions, and wanted them stopped.
 
"They may yet win. What parent will bring their children to the march next year knowing that they will be attacked by armed police?"
 
 
Jonathan Cook is a journalist and writer living in Nazareth, Israel. His most recent book is "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East", published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net


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--------
Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rashid Khalidi: Palestine: Liberation Deferred / The Nation

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, is the author, most recently, of "The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood".

In "Palestine: Liberation Deferred", Khalidi attempts to delineate the huge, in some ways unique, obstacles the Palestinians have faced, and what it is that they'll need to do if they're to have a chance to achieve liberation. He does not spend time on choosing between a "one state" or a "two state" solution: Neither one looks achievable at the moment. Instead, he talks about the need for Palestinian unity - a challenge that the majority of Palestinians strives for. Unfortunately, as he writes:

"Today we are witness to the spectacle of two feeble and clueless Palestinian political movements, both lacking strategic vision and bereft of the selfless patriotism that would lead them to bury their petty differences, fighting like two cocks on a garbage heap, as the Arabic expression has it."

The other challenge, the deeper one, involves the need to recognize that only a non-violent strategy could have the potential to succeed in a world where Jews are seen as the ultimate victims.

The gist of his argument is summed up in the last paragraph of the essay:

"If there is to be a resolution of the Palestine problem, it depends on the Palestinians' understanding the massive disadvantages they labor under in fighting a struggle for liberation against the heirs of the victims of the Holocaust, in the growing shadow of worldwide Islamophobia. It depends on their unity and on their adopting the appropriate strategy and tactics for this difficult task, in mobilizing the powerful moral force of their cause and the remarkable strengths of Palestinians under occupation and in the diaspora who have withstood extreme pressures but have neither submitted nor despaired. These strengths must be deployed not just for a defensive steadfastness but for a positive goal of liberation, peace and justice, one that can change the terms of the conflict and the way it is understood, and win over enough of their opponents and enough of the outside world to change the unfavorable balance of forces that today keeps them scattered, dispersed, confined and imprisoned sixty years after the destruction of Arab Palestine."

Racheli Gai

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080526/khalidi
Palestine: Liberation Deferred

By Rashid Khalidi
This article appeared in the May 26, 2008 edition of The Nation.

The "Palestine Question" has been with us for sixty years. During this time it has become a running sore, its solution appearing ever more distant. Whether the events sixty years ago that created this question solved the previously perennial "Jewish Question" is once again open to debate. This is the case after many years when the apparent triumph of Zionism stilled doubts and drowned out the protests of those who argued that what purported to be the solution to one problem had created an entirely different one.

It is considered by some to be a slur on Israel and Zionism, and indeed even tantamount to anti-Semitism, to suggest that these events sixty years ago should be the subject of anything but unmitigated joy. Commemoration, or even analysis, of what Palestinians call their national catastrophe, al-Nakba--the expulsion, flight and loss of their homes by a majority of their people sixty years ago--is thus considered not in terms of this seminal event's meaning to at least 8 million Palestinians today (some estimates are over 10 million) but only because it is directly related to the founding of Israel. Palestinians presumably do not have the right to recall, much less mourn, their national disaster if this would rain on the parade of celebrating Zionists everywhere. The fact that the 1948 war that created Israel also created the largest refugee problem in the Middle East (until the US occupation of Iraq turned 4 million people into refugees) must therefore be swept under the rug. Also
disregarded is the obvious fact that it would have been impossible to create a Jewish state in a land nearly two-thirds of whose population was Arab without some form of ethnic cleansing.

It is ironic and tragic that the resolution, if indeed it was a resolution, of a Jewish question should have created a Palestine question. It is even more ironic that the former should have been resolved not where it arose in its most acute form, in the West, or at the West's expense, but rather in Palestine, and to the detriment of Palestine's people. This was in large part the result of the efforts of a West stricken by a (fully justified) sense of guilt for centuries of suffering inflicted on European Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, a West that compounded its sins by helping to inflict further suffering, this time on Palestinians. It is also tragic that beyond the harm that was done to the Palestinians by the growth of Zionism and the establishment of Israel, these same developments should have led to the uprooting of the world's oldest and most secure Jewish communities, which had found in the Arab lands a tolerance that, albeit imperfect, was nonexistent in the often
genocidal, Jew-hating Christian West.

A few things seem clear sixty years after 1948. One is that if the Jewish question has lost its saliency, perhaps more as a consequence of the enormity of the atrocities of the Nazis than for any other reason, the creation of Israel has raised different questions and problems for its supporters and others. To the extent that Zionism has succeeded in winning acceptance of its assertion that all Jews are part of a national body whose nation-state is Israel, it has linked the status and circumstances of Jews everywhere not only to the fate of that state but to every facet of that state's policies and actions. Insofar as some of those policies and actions may be unacceptable, their very existence must be denied or elided, and reality bent to suit the tender sensibilities of supporters of Israel: for example, the rank discrimination against the 1.4 million Arab citizens of Israel who are not part of the Jewish ethnicity in whose name and for whose interests the state was created and
exists; or the collective punishment inflicted on the 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip imprisoned for months on end; or the systematic torture and humiliation inflicted on the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have passed through the Israeli prison system. We see the results of this bending of reality in the travesty that passes for news coverage of Israel and Palestine in the American media.

Where reality cannot be bent and such violations of basic human rights and dignity cannot be denied or elided, they are justified as necessary for the "security" of the Jewish state. This argument carries weight after centuries of profound Jewish insecurities, but it masks the fact that these oppressive and unjust policies and actions sow resentment that guarantees Israel's eternal insecurity. Even worse, some of Israel's supporters in the United States and elsewhere apparently feel obliged to become general partisans of discrimination and racial profiling, or collective punishment, or torture, or imprisonment without due process, or all of the above. Thus, if the Jewish question is resolved through the establishment by force of a Jewish state in what was an Arab land, then the maintenance of this state in the face of the natural, understandable resentment of those harmed in the process involves its supporters not only in justifying the unjustifiable in Israel and Palestine but by
logical extension also in justifying it in the United States, in Guant√°namo, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a sad result not only for those who have sought a remedy for an age-old problem but also for those dismayed at the new problems this solution has created and the ripple effect of this solution far from Israel or Palestine.

Another thing has become clearer and clearer over these sixty years: a just resolution of the Palestine question will be far from simple, if it is indeed possible at all; and if it is ever to be resolved, this will depend in large measure on the Palestinians themselves, whose current status is perhaps as desperate as it has been since 1948. Such a resolution will not be simple, because the now universally applauded two-state solution faces the juggernaut of Israel's actions in the occupied territories over more than forty years, actions that have been expressly designed to make its realization in any meaningful form impossible. This is true whether those actions involve the unending process of the meticulously planned and state-supported colonization and effective annexation of slice after slice of the West Bank, the isolation of Arab East Jerusalem from its hinterland in the West Bank, the systematic confinement of more than 2 million Palestinians living there in smaller and
smaller
and ever more hermetically sealed cantons, or the cancerous growth of what might be called an Israeli prison-industrial complex. This military, security, state and private apparatus controls most of the important decisions in the lives of the nearly 4 million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who are about to enter their forty-second year of military occupation, and it has harbored a Palestinian prison population of about 10,000 since 2000.

In principle this juggernaut is, of course, not unstoppable. There is, however, no sign that its momentum has slowed in the past seventeen years (since the Madrid conference) of the cruelly misnamed "peace process," let alone recognition of its vast power, or a willingness to confront and reverse it, on the part of most Israeli, American or other decision-makers. The deceitful, feeble silence of US policy under three administrations about this juggernaut, and the mass media's attitude that the emperor's clothes look just splendid, would be nauseating if one was not already accustomed to this sort of feckless, insouciant irresponsibility on the part of Washington, and of the American media's complicity with it.

While the two-state solution is thus deeply flawed--if it has not become unrealizable--there are also flaws in the alternatives, grouped under the rubric of the one-state solution. How can most Israelis and Palestinians be persuaded to forgo their aspirations for a state of their own, and to overcome their dislike of each other such that they can contemplate living together in one state, whether binational, federal, cantonal or unitary? How would it be possible to reverse the ideological triumph of Zionism, which convinced Israelis and others that the main lesson of the Holocaust is that there must be a Jewish state (while in the same breath they are told that this state will have to fight for its existence against an environment rendered permanently hostile by the conditions of its establishment and maintenance)? How would it be possible to reverse the process whereby all Palestinian political formations of any consequence have gradually become wedded to the idea that the
establishment of a Palestinian state in 22 percent of historic Palestine--via the reversal of forty-one years of Israeli occupation practices carried out with the acquiescence of the United States and that render the creation of such a state virtually impossible--would be an acceptable solution to the question of Palestine? This was true first of Fatah, and then of more radical Palestinian groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and is now true even of Hamas.

Moving toward a two-state, or a one-state, solution or toward any other resolution of the Palestine question--that is, getting the Palestinians out of the parlous state they are currently in--is dependent on a reversal in the dynamic of the Palestinian polity. For several years, this has been spiraling downward, and it now seems to be nearly in free-fall. Only when the Palestinians were united, when they had some sense of what their national strategy was, and when they chose tactics appropriate to that strategy, did they have any success at all, minimal though it has been, over the past forty-one years, the past sixty years--indeed, over the past ninety years. The Palestinians were most emphatically not united around a clear strategy and appropriate tactics during the British Mandate until 1948 or during the two decades afterward, nor have they been for the past decade or so, both periods that have been disastrous for them. Even during the era from the heyday of the PLO in the late
1960s through the first intifada of 1987-91, when the Palestinians gained broad international legitimacy and sympathy, and grudging recognition from Israel, this unity and strategic clarity were flawed in many ways.

In particular, Palestinians lacked clarity about the moral, legal and political disadvantages in the use of violence against an Israeli polity able to mobilize in defense of its actions, however unspeakable, the most powerful tropes of victimhood in modern Western culture. This confusion among some Palestinians exists although farsighted thinkers like Edward Said and Eqbal Ahmad understood decades ago that nonviolent resistance was integral to Palestinian success; although the greatest successes of the Palestinians were won by the unarmed popular protests of the first intifada; and despite widespread (but underreported) peaceful joint Palestinian-Israeli protest movements against Israel's illegal wall inside the West Bank. Many Palestinians understandably cling to the legitimate right of any people under occupation to resist their oppressors. They see only the extensive, continuous violence directed by Israel against the Palestinians, much of it structural and integral to the
maintenance of the occupation. They cannot understand that because of Israel's cloak of permanent victimhood, its massive violence remains either invisible or justified in the West, while every Israeli casualty seems to be mourned there with infinite sadness and is taken as another sign of the inherent barbarity of the Palestinians.

Today we are witness to the spectacle of two feeble and clueless Palestinian political movements, both lacking strategic vision and bereft of the selfless patriotism that would lead them to bury their petty differences, fighting like two cocks on a garbage heap, as the Arabic expression has it. They do so although overwhelming majorities of Palestinians have consistently demanded that they compromise with each other in the interest of national unity. The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has abandoned any idea of popular mobilization, any last shred of an ethos of service to the people, any sense of the vital importance of national unity if even minimal Palestinian objectives are to be achieved, any respect for the democratic process that brought its rivals in Hamas into power in January 2006, and any sense of the danger of hitching the Palestinians to the bankrupt policies of a lame-duck American President who heads the most pro-Israeli Administration in US history.

The blindness of Hamas is as bad: neither able to fight nor to negotiate effectively, neither able to compromise with Fatah nor to govern on its own, and no more able to break free of the clutches of its external backers than is Fatah vis-à-vis its own foreign backers, Hamas has lurched from disaster to disaster since its unexpected victory in the 2006 elections. Undermined by the refusal of the United States and Israel even to attempt to negotiate with a Hamas-dominated government, last summer it made the fatal mistake of taking over the Gaza Strip in response to preparations for a US-supported coup by Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan. Hamas reached a low point in April, when a poll showed that it enjoyed the support of less than 18 percent of Palestinians (versus 32 percent for Fatah, whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, however, is even more unpopular than Ismail Haniya of Hamas: 11.7 percent to 13.3 percent). The ideological bankruptcy and the degree of popular rejection of both of the
formations that dominate Palestinian politics are illustrated by the fact that together they enjoy the support of barely 50 percent of Palestinians.

If there is to be a resolution of the Palestine problem, it depends on the Palestinians' understanding the massive disadvantages they labor under in fighting a struggle for liberation against the heirs of the victims of the Holocaust, in the growing shadow of worldwide Islamophobia. It depends on their unity and on their adopting the appropriate strategy and tactics for this difficult task, in mobilizing the powerful moral force of their cause and the remarkable strengths of Palestinians under occupation and in the diaspora who have withstood extreme pressures but have neither submitted nor despaired. These strengths must be deployed not just for a defensive steadfastness but for a positive goal of liberation, peace and justice, one that can change the terms of the conflict and the way it is understood, and win over enough of their opponents and enough of the outside world to change the unfavorable balance of forces that today keeps them scattered, dispersed, confined and imprisoned
sixty years after the destruction of Arab Palestine.


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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Siegman: Tough Love for Israel

We at Jewish Peace News are pleased to welcome Rebecca Vilkomerson as a new editor. Her considerable insight and experience will make her a valuable addition to our news service. Welcome, Rebecca!

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Henry Siegman served as executive director of the American Jewish Congress and the Synagogue Council of America, as well as senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He does not pull any punches in his analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which he calls "one of the longest and cruelest deceptions in the annals of international diplomacy." The peace process, in Siegman's analysis, is a smoke screen that enables Israel to maintain the pretence that it is interested in peace while it proceeds to confiscate as much Palestinian territory as it can.

Siegman is not frugal in distributing blame: he deplores Palestinian incompetence, corruption and terrorism, as well as the vicious rejectionism and mendacity of Israel's expansionist polities. But he reserves the largest share of the blame for the international community for collaborating in the "peace process scam" by accepting Israel's self-serving narrative of its own victimhood and the myth Palestinian intransigence. Unfortunately (in this article, at least), Siegman attributes this stance to "impotence" and "gutlessness" and does not really question whether the US and EU are in fact taking positions that respond to their own (perceived) interests. While it is plausible to argue that German policy on Israel is motivated by reticence emerging from (a very justifiable sense of) war guilt, the same thing certainly cannot be said of the US.

Siegman is an interesting character. When he was young, he and his family had quite an ordeal fleeing from the Nazis before finally making their way to America. He claims that this experience allows him to empathize with Palestinians under occupation, and that his interest in social justice comes from his Jewish identity. The New York Times did a brief biographical sketch of him which can be found here.

In addition to the article below, Siegman gives a lengthier review of the history of the peace process in "The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam." It is well worth reading.


Judith Norman and Alistair Welchman

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The Nation
posted April 17, 2008 (May 5, 2008 issue)

Tough Love for Israel
Henry Siegman
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080505/siegman

We now have word that Tony Blair, envoy of the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the EU, Russia and the United States), and German Chancellor Angela Merkel intend to organize yet another peace conference, this time in Berlin in June. It is hard to believe that after the long string of failed peace initiatives, stretching back at least to the Madrid conference of 1991, diplomats are recycling these failures without seemingly having a clue as to why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is even more hopeless today than before these peace exercises first got under way.

The scandal of the international community's impotence in resolving one of history's longest bloodlettings is that it knows what the problem is but does not have the courage to speak the truth, much less deal with it. The peace conference in Germany will suffer from the same gutlessness that has marked all previous efforts. It will deal with everything except the problem primarily responsible for the impasse. That problem is that for all the sins attributable to the Palestinians--and they are legion, including inept and corrupt leadership, failed institution-building and the murderous violence of rejectionist groups--there is no prospect for a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, primarily because Israel's various governments, from 1967 until today, have never had the intention of allowing such a state to come into being.

It would be one thing if Israeli governments had insisted on delaying a Palestinian state until certain security concerns had been dealt with. But no government serious about a two-state solution to the conflict would have pursued, without letup, the theft and fragmentation of Palestinian lands, which even a child understands makes Palestinian statehood impossible.

Given the overwhelming disproportion of power between the occupier and the occupied, it is hardly surprising that Israeli governments and their military and security establishments found it difficult to resist the acquisition of Palestinian land. What is astounding is that the international community, pretending to believe Israel's claim that it is the victim and its occupied subjects the aggressors, has allowed this devastating dispossession to continue and the law of the jungle to prevail.

As long as Israel knows that by delaying the peace process it buys time to create facts on the ground, and that the international community will continue to indulge Israel's pretense that its desire for a two-state solution is being frustrated by the Palestinians, no new peace initiative can succeed, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people will indeed become irreversible.

There can be no greater delusion on the part of Western countries weighed down by guilt about the Holocaust than the belief that accommodating such an outcome would be an act of friendship to the Jewish people. The abandonment of the Palestinians now is surely not an atonement for the abandonment of European Jews seventy years ago, nor will it serve the security of the State of Israel and its people.

John Vinocur of the New York Times recently suggested that the virtually unqualified declarations of support for Israel by Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are "at a minimum an attempt to seek Israeli moderation by means of public assurances with this tacit subtext: these days, the European Union is not, or is no longer, its reflexive antagonist." But the expectation that uncritical Western support of Israel would lead to greater Israeli moderation and greater willingness to take risks for peace is blatantly contradicted by the conflict's history.

Time and again, this history has shown that the less opposition Israel encounters from its friends in the West for its dispossession of the Palestinians, the more uncompromising its behavior. Indeed, soon after Sarkozy's and Merkel's expressions of eternal solidarity, Israel's Ehud Olmert approved massive new construction in East Jerusalem--authorizing housing projects that had been frozen for years by previous governments because of their destructive impact on the possibility of a peace agreement--as well as continued expansion of Israel's settlements. And Olmert's defense minister, Ehud Barak, declared shortly after Merkel's departure that he will remove only a token number of the more than 500 checkpoints and roadblocks that Israel has repeatedly promised, and just as repeatedly failed, to dismantle. That announcement shattered whatever hope Palestinians may have had for recovery of their economy, as a consequence of $7 billion in new aid promised by international donors in
December. In these circumstances, the international donor community will not pour good money after bad, as they so often have in the past.

What is required of statesmen is not more peace conferences or clever adjustments to previous peace formulations but the moral and political courage to end their collaboration with the massive hoax the peace process has been turned into. Of course, Palestinian violence must be condemned and stopped, particularly when it targets civilians. But is it not utterly disingenuous to pretend that Israel's occupation--maintained by IDF-manned checkpoints and barricades, helicopter gunships, jet fighters, targeted assassinations and military incursions, not to speak of the massive theft of Palestinian lands--is not an exercise in continuous and unrelenting violence against more than 3 million Palestinian civilians? If Israel were to renounce violence, could the occupation last even one day?

Israel's designs on the West Bank are not much different from the designs of the Arab forces that attacked the Jewish state in 1948--the nullification of the international community's partition resolution of 1947. Short of addressing the problem by its right name--something that is of an entirely different order than hollow statements that "settlements do not advance peace"--and taking effective collective action to end a colonial enterprise that disgraces what began as a noble Jewish national liberation struggle, further peace conferences, no matter how well intentioned, make their participants accessories to one of the longest and cruelest deceptions in the annals of international diplomacy.

Henry Siegman, director of the US/Middle East Project in New York, is a research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.


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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Musing on memorializing

Growing up and living mostly in Israel, I have long been aware of children's complex reactions to the state sirens used in Israel to commemorate both the victims of the Nazis and the soldiers and para-military personnel killed while serving terms of duty (on the day dedicated to each). Many children find it hard not to giggle, others openly and subversively enjoy giggling, grimacing to make others laugh or squirming, still others are terrified or angry and defiant. Usually, as they grow up, they learn to contain these responses and comply with the national 60 second freeze. I note this because I think that children's "borderline", pre-socialization conduct can serve as a forceful illustration of how this ritual functions.

I won't unpack the full complexity of what I believe the sirens are and do. This introduction to the following piece by Tamar Rotem is just a partial sketch in which I'd like to highlight the surveillance that I see as a central component of their function. Though moderately critical of the sirens' use, Rotem's opinion piece, from Haaretz, clearly illustrates of the power of this surveillance mechanism.

The sirens are sounded at arbitrary, pre-announced times on the eve or day of commemoration, while the majority of people in Israel are going about their usual affairs. They catch tens if not hundreds of thousands of people on the roads, in supermarkets, in clinics, etc. and in short in public space. Under these conditions, everyone is subject to the surveillance of everyone else around her or him. People are compelled to comply with the "appropriate etiquette" and freeze. This simple but ingenious mechanism enforces compliance with the act of physically paying tribute to the Israeli military dead or the Nazis' Jewish victims. Unless she happens to be at home (and sometimes even there) or totally on her own, anyone who fails to comply is visibly, publicly excluding herself from the collective, which delineates itself in terms of the dead to which it pays tribute. Most probably, given the practices prevalent in Israeli society, such an act of self exclusion would be immediately and loudly criticized and possibly punished by coincidental passers-by. Regardless of that, however, it is a very frightening step to take as a lone individual. The sirens operate like the proverbial panopticon, inducing self-surveillance due to the awareness that others' surveillance is an unpredictable yet constant possibility, with the difference that this one-minute imprisonment is achieved by means of sound throughout an entire country.

The mutual and self-surveillance, though, are not merely physical. The sirens are reinforced by messages transmitted through all the media channels, taught at schools, recited at memorial ceremonies held by townships, youth movements, cities, and a long list of state and social institutions. Beyond the appropriate posture, these teach the appropriate emotions and thoughts that every member of society should be experiencing "in memorian". Tamar Rotem, who objects below to the state's regimenting of commemoration, focusing particularly on Memorial Day and the commemoration of military dead, does not question the basic assumption that such commemoration is important and desirable.

To me, as I wrote many years ago, the commemoration of military dead is a vital blind obscuring and romanticizing the fact that the young people who have been conscripted for sixty years now into military service for the state are exploited as a form of currency used for the attainment of political and economic profits. As I wrote in a 1995 opinion piece published in the British Medical Journal, "Recruiting practices indicate that societies (not individual families) hold people of enlistment age to be the most dispensable. The loss of young men is less costly than that of more experienced workers or of people supporting and raising families. This is obviously inadmissible and the opposite view is standardly intoned by officials mourning dead soldiers as the loss of 'our very best.'"

Rela Mazali

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http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/981400.html

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

Last update - 21:57 07/05/2008

Faking it when the siren sounds
By Tamar Rotem

When I saw my 5-year-old son standing at attention, his hands ramrod straight at his sides and his head slightly bowed, I was shocked. It was two years ago, and only then did I understand for the first time how to stand when the memorial day siren sounds. I also understood that much as he is my child, the fruit of my education, he is also a product of the Israeli education industry. At his tender age he has already absorbed the deeper rules and orders of Israeliness that I will never know.

Perhaps because I was educated in the ultra-Orthodox Beit Ya'akov system, and have lived for years now in secular Zionist society, I am not at peace, to put it mildly, with the siren as a sign of mourning. Similarly, I have not gotten used to the Memorial Day and Independence Day ceremonies. Neither to the flowers, nor to the gun-volley salutes, nor to the fly-overs, nor to "the audience will stand at attention for the singing of 'Hatikva.'" The torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl does not speak to me, either.

During Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen, I drown in tears at the stories of the survivors and the television programs about the bereaved. But only my household knows how I fake it when the siren sounds. I am revolted by the scream that rolls from one end of the country to the other. For years I have tried not to be caught outside when the sirens roar. But when I do, I find myself, instead of concentrating on looking inward, looking around, wondering how in a society where individualism reigns, not to mention an impatient society, this works. How does everyone stand at attention as one person? Something in me rebels against the collective commandment to remember at one given moment, and the next moment the world goes back to normal.

For years the media has photographed the ultra-Orthodox who do not stand at attention during the siren, and used those photographs to goad them. They are accused of contempt for the fallen and disrespect for the memory of those thanks to whom we live here in Israel. Defiance with regard to a matter as sensitive as the memory of the fallen is problematic. But perhaps the roots of this behavior should be explained. In the ultra-Orthodox school where I went, they taught that the siren is a "non-Jewish custom." There is no value to short-term commemoration, we were told. We should remember all year, all our lives. In other words, the objection is mainly to this particular mourning custom, not to the memory of the fallen.

Nevertheless, the objection to the signal of collective mourning has caused the ultra-Orthodox to become foreign and psychologically distant, and has created the differentiation in which the ultra-Orthodox leaders strived to prevent assimilation into Israeliness and secularness. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is less politically and societally charged, the argument that "we must remember all year" is logical. If we stood, heads bowed, would we have fulfilled our obligation? If Holocaust survivors suffer poverty year-round, the siren on Holocaust Remembrance Day is a mockery.

In an age of alternative ceremonies on Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day for the Fallen, when bereaved parents are fighting with the army over the way their children are commemorated, when the naqba is a concept that is coming up and being discussed, and there is debate over ways of commemoration - it may be understood that standing at attention during the siren is not a value in itself, and one should not be shocked that there are those who do not do so.

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Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
-------
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
-------
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net