Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gideon Levy / Black on white (wash)

The story of Moshe (Chico) Tamir has been quite prominent in the Israeli press recently: he let his 14 year old son drive his army-issue all terrain vehicle (ATV) and lied about the fact that his son had been driving it after the vehicle was involved in a minor accident. Tamir is now appealing the decision to reduce his rank. "What's the big deal?", you might think. Gideon Levy has a theory: lying is essential to the flow of IDF propaganda concerning Palestinian casualties of IDF violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and criticizing and exposing the lies in this case raises the possibility of destabilizing public acceptance of IDF violence. Citing figures from Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem (http://www.btselem.org/), for instance, Levy says 4,800 Palestinians have been killed in the current Intifada, but that only one soldier has been convicted and sentenced to a significant prison term. At then end of the article, however, Levy suggests a second theory: in a
kind of propaganda plea bargain, the IDF can reassure the Israeli public of its probity by coming down hard on Tamir the better precisely to assure acceptance of the daily lies about the occupation.

Alistair Welchman
Twilight Zone / Black on white (wash)
By Gideon Levy
Thursday, June 25, 20009

To judge by the public outcry following the conviction of Brig. Gen. Moshe (Chico) Tamir, the injustice done to the acclaimed officer is no less than the wrong inflicted on Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French army.

It might be useful to recall who this Tamir is. From his stint as commander of the Golani infantry brigade - when his troops twice shelled the Jenin market (2002), killing several children, including two small brothers - to Operation Autumn Clouds in Gaza (2006) which he commanded, he has been responsible for wanton bloodshed, with at least half the 80 Palestinians killed on his watch being civilians. Nor should we forget the notorious shelling of the Gaza town of Beit Hanun under his command and responsibility (also in 2006), in which a volley of 11 unnecessary shells were fired at a residential neighborhood, in the wake of which the Israel Defense Forces of course blamed the cannon's computer chip instead of the division commander, Chico Tamir. We would do well to pause and wonder why an officer like this, with the blood of innocents on his hands, earns such praise from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But let that pass.

We would also do well to recall that Tamir's cardinal sin is in the lies he filled in on a form filed after an accident involving an army all-terrain vehicle that he allowed his underage son to drive - an innocent gesture, it must be said, by a loving father. Instantly, the affair brought to the surface the army's culture of lying. And the uprising against the punishment of an officer who lied proved that the only thing that really happened was that "the bastards changed the rules" without informing an officer who was destined for greatness. Tamir did what everyone does, and now he is being punished "gravely" by being demoted one rank. Imagine. Well, let's be truthful: the IDF lies. The accident form Tamir filled out is not the first lie, not the last and not the worst.

We can go back all the way to 1948 and dredge up no few episodes in which the truth was not exactly our guiding light. It all began then. With lies, concealment, obfuscation, forgetting, repression. With massacres covered up by fairy tales and forests planted by the Jewish National Fund covering the ruins of villages. But why go back that far, if recent examples are readily at hand, even from the period following the Tamir case?

A few days earlier, soldiers abused six Palestinian youngsters from the village of Wadi al-Shajneh for 14 hours nonstop, imprisoning and beating them until finally dumping them onto the road from a jeep at first light. One of the victims reported that his money had been taken, too. These young people were also innocent of any wrongdoing. The fact is that they were not officially arrested, and were not even interrogated. What did the IDF spokesman say in response? "Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at an IDF force ... Six Palestinians who were identified in the vicinity were arrested by the force." Say that again: "identified in the vicinity." Again the question arises: If they threw Molotov cocktails, why were they released after their "Clockwork Orange" night? And if they did not throw anything, why were they detained, and above all, what is the spokesman protecting, and why?

Let's go back another few weeks. In March, an IDF sniper fired a bullet into the head of Mahdi Abu Ayash, a 16-year-old boy, in front of his father. The marksman used a Ruger 0.22 caliber rifle, which the military advocate general has banned for use in crowd dispersal events. What were we told by the IDF spokesman? "During activity by an IDF force in the village of Beit Omar, a violent disturbance developed ... The force retaliated with crowd dispersal measures." Bingo.

In January 2008 Kifah Sider, then 23, was in labor at her home in Hebron's Tel Rumeida neighborhood, which is dominated by Jewish settlers and barred to Palestinian vehicles, including ambulances. According to her husband, when she set out for the hospital, soldiers at the checkpoint held her up for 20 minutes, until she eventually had to lie down on the road in the freezing January weather to give birth.

What did the IDF spokesman say about this? "The Palestinian woman passed through the checkpoint with no delay whatsoever ... The IDF employed all means possible in order to assist the mother in labor." It's one account versus another, but why should we think that the husband and the eyewitnesses would lie? In another case, Fauziyah al-Darek, a 66-year-old woman who had a serious heart attack, was being rushed to the hospital in Tul Karm in March 2008. That's Tul Karm, not Kfar Sava. Unfortunately for her, she had to go through a checkpoint. The soldiers would not allow her to pass and told her husband - now a widower - "We don't care if your wife dies." Yes, Darek died at the checkpoint.

The IDF spokesman offered the following response: "The IDF does not prevent the passage of ambulances even if there is an encirclement operation, subject to a security check."

Week after week, the stories published here about the Israeli occupation are accompanied by a response from the IDF spokesman, and almost every week, the response is a lie. Nor are these white lies: they are blacker than black, even though they whitewash the wrongs and the injustices. Hundreds of cold-blooded assassinations have been carried out under the lying cover of the "rules of engagement," including shooting at innocent and unarmed demonstrators under the false pretext of "mortal danger" to soldiers. Hundreds of other cases are buried under the category of "Military Police investigations" and never reach the indictment stage.

In January 2009, soldiers forced Yasser Temeizi to get off his mule in front of his young son and abducted him from their small olive grove. Temeizi was a devoted employee of the Harash company in Ashdod, but during January's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza his employers asked him not to come to work. So he started to work the family's olive grove. At the end of the day he was found shot to death from point-blank range, with signs of binding on his hands. This time, the IDF made do with a laconic statement: "The matter is under investigation by the criminal investigations division [of the Military Police]." This is the same Military Police whose appalling methods were exposed and severely criticized this week by the court that sentenced Brig. Gen. Tamir. The court termed its findings about the Military Police investigation "an earthquake," although this aspect of the affair was of course concealed from the public by Tamir-Dreyfus, our victim. If this is how the Military Police
investigations unit behaved with regard to a brigadier general, it's not hard to imagine how it deals with the killing of a bound Palestinian. How do we know? It is an incontrovertible fact that some 4,800 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF in the past nine years, about 950 of them children (according to B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories). How many indictments have been handed down in the IDF? Thirty, no more. That's less than one percent of the number of killings. How many soldiers have been convicted? Five. How many have been sentenced to a significant prison term? One. One soldier out of 4,800 cases of killing. No more need be said.

Nor is there any need to elaborate on the lie about "the most moral army in the world," certainly not after Operation Cast Lead. The soldiers in the Rabin Pre-Army Preparatory Course lied, the foreign correspondents who visited Gaza lied, Amira Hass lied in her reports, the international human-rights organizations lied, the United Nations relief agency lied. Only the IDF, which buried all those reports and protests, told the truth and nothing but the truth.

Israel has just prevented another official UN commission of inquiry, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew and a Zionist, from entering the country in order to investigate the Gaza war - as though we were North Korea or Myanmar. If all the accounts were truthful, what is there to hide? All the lies of daddy Tamir pale into insignificance in the face of the lies of that war, with its horrific flechette shells that scatter their lethal steel projectiles every which way; the white phosphorus, which burns living flesh; the shelling of schools; the bombing of residential neighborhoods;0 and the annihilation of whole families who did nothing wrong. The IDF covered up all these actions with its lies, multiple versions and half-truths. Even calling such a brutal attack on a helpless, besieged population, almost without any manifestations of combat and resistance, a "war," is a lie.

But the IDF is strict about both inconsequential and serious cases. Chico lied, Chico will pay.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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

Israel Attacks Justice Boat & What You Can Do

Dear readers,
The following release and urgent call for help, received from the Free Gaza group via email communication, needs no introduction.
Rela Mazali


----- Original Message -----
From: Ramzi Kysia
To: gazafriends@lists.riseup.net
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 4:24 PM

30 June 2009


For more information contact:
Greta Berlin (English)
tel: +357 99 081 767 / friends@freegaza.org

Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish):
tel: +357 99 077 820 / sahara78@hotmail.co.uk

[23 miles off the coast of Gaza, 15:30pm] -

Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

"This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip," said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. "President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey."

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies.

"The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead". Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: "No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children's toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters."

Arraf continued, "Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release."


CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Justice
tel: +972 2646 6666 or +972 2646 6340
fax: +972 2646 6357

CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
tel: +972 2530 3111
fax: +972 2530 3367

CONTACT Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:
tel: +972 5 0620 3264 or +972 2670 5354

CONTACT the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask for their assistance in establishing the wellbeing of the kidnapped human rights workers and help in securing their immediate release!

Red Cross Israel
tel: +972 3524 5286
fax: +972 3527 0370

Red Cross Switzerland:
tel: +41 22 730 3443
fax: +41 22 734 8280

Red Cross USA:
tel: +1 212 599 6021
fax: +1 212 599 6009

Kidnapped Passengers from the Spirit of Humanity include:

Khalad Abdelkader, Bahrain
Khalad is an engineer representing the Islamic Charitable Association of Bahrain.

Othman Abufalah, Jordan
Othman is a world-renowned journalist with al-Jazeera TV.

Khaled Al-Shenoo, Bahrain
Khaled is a lecturer with the University of Bahrain.

Mansour Al-Abi, Yemen
Mansour is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera TV.

Fatima Al-Attawi, Bahrain
Fatima is a relief worker and community activist from Bahrain.

Juhaina Alqaed, Bahrain
Juhaina is a journalist & human rights activist.

Huwaida Arraf, US
Huwaida is the Chair of the Free Gaza Movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Ishmahil Blagrove, UK
Ishmahil is a Jamaican-born journalist, documentary film maker and founder of the Rice & Peas film production company. His documentaries focus on international struggles for social justice.

Kaltham Ghloom, Bahrain
Kaltham is a community activist.

Derek Graham, Ireland
Derek Graham is an electrician, Free Gaza organizer, and first mate aboard the Spirit of Humanity.

Alex Harrison, UK
Alex is a solidarity worker from Britain. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Denis Healey, UK
Denis is Captain of the Spirit of Humanity. This will be his fifth voyage to Gaza.

Fathi Jaouadi, UK
Fathi is a British journalist, Free Gaza organizer, and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Mairead Maguire, Ireland
Mairead is a Nobel laureate and renowned peace activist.

Lubna Masarwa, Palestine/Israel
Lubna is a Palestinian human rights activist and Free Gaza organizer.

Theresa McDermott, Scotland
Theresa is a solidarity worker from Scotland. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Cynthia McKinney, US
Cynthia McKinney is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice issues, as well as a former U.S. congressperson and presidential candidate.

Adnan Mormesh, UK
Adnan is a solidarity worker from Britain. He is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Adam Qvist, Denmark
Adam is a solidarity worker from Denmark. He is traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Adam Shapiro, US
Adam is an American documentary film maker and human rights activist.

Kathy Sheetz, US
Kathy is a nurse and film maker, traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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, June 28, 2009

Ilan Pappe: The necessity of cultural boycott / The Electronic Intifada

In this moving essay Pappe charts the progression of the Palestinian cause in the UK, from a time when very few on the left recognized and supported
it, to now - when the magnitude of the crimes against the Palestinian people are becoming common knowledge, and people in growing numbers are
ready to take action.

As the boycott movement is taking root, citizens have both the moral right and the obligation to refuse to sit on the sidelines. Pappe write:
..."So while governments hesitate for cynical reasons, out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or maybe due to Islamophobic inhibitions, citizens and activists do their utmost, symbolically and physically, to inform, protest and demand. They have a more organized campaign, that of the cultural boycott, or they can join their unions in the coordinated policy of pressure. They can also use their name or fame for indicating to us all, that decent people in this world cannot support what Israel does and what it stands for. They do not know whether their action will make an immediate change or they would be so lucky as to see change in their lifetime. But in their own personal book of who they are and what they did in life and in the harsh eye of historical assessment they would be counted in with all those who did not remain indifferent when inhumanity raged under the guise of democracy in their own countries or elsewhere."

Racheli Gai.

The necessity of cultural boycott
Ilan Pappe, The Electronic Intifada, 23 June 2009


If there is anything new in the never-ending sad story of Palestine it is the clear shift in public opinion in the UK. I remember coming to these isles in 1980 when supporting the Palestinian cause was confined to the left and in it to a very particular section and ideological stream. The post-Holocaust trauma and guilt complex, military and economic interests and the charade of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East all played a role in providing immunity for the State of Israel. Very few were moved, so it seems, by a state that had dispossessed half of Palestine's native population, demolished half of their villages and towns, discriminated against the minority among them who lived within its borders through an apartheid system and divided into enclaves two million and a half of them in a harsh and oppressive military occupation.

Almost 30 years later it seems that all these filters and cataracts have been removed. The magnitude of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is well known, the suffering of the people in the occupied territories recorded and described even by the US president as unbearable and inhuman. In a similar way, the destruction and depopulation of the greater Jerusalem area is noted daily and the racist nature of the policies towards the Palestinians in Israel are frequently rebuked and condemned.

The reality today in 2009 is described by the UN as "a human catastrophe." The conscious and conscientious sections of British society know very well who caused and who produced this catastrophe. This is not related any more to elusive circumstances, or to the "conflict" -- it is seen clearly as the outcome of Israeli policies throughout the years. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu was asked for his reaction to what he saw in the occupied territories, he noted sadly that it was worse than apartheid. He should know.

As in the case of South Africa, these decent people, either as individuals or as members of organizations, voice their outrage against the continued oppression, colonization, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Palestine. They are looking for ways of showing their protest and some even hope convince their government to change its old policy of indifference and inaction in the face of the continued destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. Many among them are Jews, as these atrocities are done in their name according to the logic of the Zionist ideology, and quite a few among them are veterans of previous civil struggles in this country for similar causes all over the world. They are not confined any more to one political party and they come from all walks of life.

So far the British government is not moved. It was also passive when the anti-apartheid movement in this country demanded of it to impose sanctions on South Africa. It took several decades for that activism from below to reach the political top. It takes longer in the case of Palestine: guilt about the Holocaust, distorted historical narratives and contemporary misrepresentation of Israel as a democracy seeking peace and the Palestinians as eternal Islamic terrorists blocked the flow of the popular impulse. But it is beginning to find its way and presence, despite the continued accusation of any such demand as being anti-Semitic and the demonization of Islam and Arabs. The third sector, that important link between civilians and government agencies, has shown us the way. One trade union after the other, one professional group after the other, have all sent recently a clear message: enough is enough. It is done in the name of decency, human morality and basic civil commitment not to
remain idle in the face of atrocities of the kind Israel has and still is committing against the Palestinian people.

In the last eight years the Israeli criminal policy escalated, and the Palestinian activists were seeking new means to confront it. They have tried it all, armed struggle, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and diplomacy: nothing worked. And yet they are not giving up and now they are proposing a nonviolent strategy -- that of boycott, sanctions and divestment. With these means they wish to persuade Western governments to save not only them, but ironically also the Jews in Israel from an imminent catastrophe and bloodshed. This strategy bred the call for cultural boycott of Israel. This demand is voiced by every part of the Palestinian existence: by the civil society under occupation and by Palestinians in Israel. It is supported by the Palestinian refugees and is led by members of the Palestinian exile communities. It came in the right moment and gave individuals and organizations in the UK a way to express their disgust at the Israeli policies and at the same time an avenue for
participating in the overall pressure on the government to change its policy of providing immunity for the impunity on the ground.

It is bewildering that this shift of public opinion has had no impact so far on policy; but again we are reminded of the tortuous way the campaign against apartheid had to go before it became a policy. It is also worth remembering that two brave women in Dublin, toiling on the cashiers in a local supermarket, were the ones who began a huge movement of change by refusing to sell South African goods. Twenty-nine years later, Britain joined others in imposing sanctions on apartheid. So while governments hesitate for cynical reasons, out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or maybe due to Islamophobic inhibitions, citizens and activists do their utmost, symbolically and physically, to inform, protest and demand. They have a more organized campaign, that of the cultural boycott, or they can join their unions in the coordinated policy of pressure. They can also use their name or fame for indicating to us all, that decent people in this world cannot support what Israel does and what
it stands for. They do not know whether their action will make an immediate change or they would be so lucky as to see change in their lifetime. But in their own personal book of who they are and what they did in life and in the harsh eye of historical assessment they would be counted in with all those who did not remain indifferent when inhumanity raged under the guise of democracy in their own countries or elsewhere.

On the other hand, citizens in this country, especially famous ones, who continue to broadcast, quite often out of ignorance or out of more sinister reasons, the fable of Israel as a cultured Western society or as the "only democracy in the Middle East" are not only wrong factually. They provide immunity for one of the greatest atrocities in our time. Some of them demand we should leave culture out of our political actions. This approach to Israeli culture and academia as separate entities from the army, the occupation and the destruction is morally corrupt and logically defunct. Eventually, one day the outrage from below, including in Israel itself, will produce a new policy -- the present US administration is already showing early signs of it. History did not look kindly at those filmmakers who collaborated with US Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s or endorsed apartheid. It would adopt a similar attitude to those who are silent about Palestine now.

A good case in point unfolded last month in Edinburgh. Filmmaker Ken Loach led a campaign against the official and financial connections the city's film festival had with the Israeli embassy. Such a stance was meant to send a message that this embassy represents not only the filmmakers of Israel but also its generals who massacred the people of Gaza, its tormentors who torture Palestinians in jails, its judges who sent 10,000 Palestinians -- half of them children -- without trial to prison, its racist mayors who want to expel Arabs from their cities, its architects who built walls and fences to enclave people and prevent them from reaching their fields, schools, cinemas and offices and its politicians who strategize yet again how to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine they began in 1948. Ken Loach felt that only a call for boycotting the festival as whole would bring its directors into a moral sense and perspective. He was right; it did, because the case is so clear-cut and
the action so simple and pure.

It is not surprising that a counter voice was heard. This is an ongoing struggle and would not be won easily. As I write these words, we commemorate the 42nd year of the Israeli occupation -- the longest, and one of the cruelest in modern times. But time has also produced the lucidity needed for such decisions. This is why Ken's action was immediately effective; next time even this would not be necessary. One of his critics tried to point to the fact that people in Israel like Ken's films, so this was a kind of ingratitude. I can assure this critic that those of us in Israel who watch Ken's movies are also those who salute him for his bravery and unlike this critic we do not think of this an act similar to a call for Israel's destruction, but rather the only way of saving Jews and Arabs living there. But it is difficult anyway to take such criticism seriously when it is accompanied by description of the Palestinians as a terrorist entity and Israel as a democracy like Britain. Most
of us in the UK have moved far away from this propagandist silliness and are ready for change. We are now waiting for the government of these isles to follow suit.

Ilan Pappe is chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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, June 25, 2009

Reality Check

Mitchell Plitnick, an early editor of Jewish Peace News and now Director of the US Office of B'Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, identifies a showdown in-the-making between President Obama's demand for a complete halt to settlement construction and the defiant construction of more housing in the settlements by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (read the article in Mitchell's blog, "The Third Way"). Whether or not there will be a confrontation and how it is resolved will provide the first concrete way to assess how serious President Obama is about pursuing Palestinian-Israeli peace in a different mode than his predecessors.

--Joel Beinin

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama's Approach: Incremental or Detrimental?

The Obama administration's insistence that Israel halt further settlement construction in the occupied West Bank has sparked predictable outrage from the Israeli and Jewish right, but it has also provoked some sharp criticism from those on the left who feel that the President's first overture was not nearly sufficient. The shrewdest voices in the US and the Middle East have praised Obama's move, however, as an important first step in reversing the abysmal failure of successive US administrations to confront Israel's intransigence regarding the settlements and to formulate a coherent American foreign policy in the Middle East. One such perceptive voice is that of pseudonymous commentator Moshe Yaroni, who has written an informative article in Zeek magazine outlining the reasons why the Obama administration can and should demand a full freeze in Israeli settlement construction. Yaroni goes further than does the recent Peace Now "layman's guide" I cited last week in explaining why supposedly natural population growth in the settlements is at once an artificial concept and a pernicious excuse that allows settlers, with the connivance of Israeli authorities, to expropriate ever more Palestinian land.

In a follow-up blog post, Yaroni supplements his views on "unnatural" settlement growth with a critical response to British historian Tony Judt's acerbic op-ed essay in the New York Times on Monday, June 22. Judt's claim is that the illegal settlement enterprise has long been cloaked in nationalistic mythology and bad faith on Israel's part, but that there is little to do about it today except to frankly acknowledge the hypocrisy with which successive Israeli administrations (and their American "enablers") have sanctioned the continued building. Judt accuses the Obama administration of focusing on the settlement freeze issue while ignoring the harsher reality that the settlement blocs themselves will likely remain an irreversible obstacle to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and regional peace.

Yaroni's view is that Judt is succombing to a common failing of left in which the perfect is the enemy of the good. There is ample evidence, Yaroni argues, that Obama's strategy of insisting on incremental change and recriprocity could succeed where other efforts by American administrations to halt or even reverse the destructive Israeli settlement campaign have floundered. The outlines of a productive American strategy are clear, but what is most needed now is for the left to throw support behind the Obama Administration's initiative and to press hard for its enlargement. This is no time, in other words, for Judt's practical pessimism. Yaroni is right: with a progressive leader in the White House, a window of opportunity may be open very briefly for the left to help generate the vast political momentum that will be needed to achieve a sustainable peace that Israelis and Palestinians can live with.

--Lincoln Z. Shlensky

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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, June 22, 2009

Rachel Giora writes in support of boycott of Israel

From: racheli@sonoracohousing.com
Subject: Suggested entry: Rachel Giora calls for boycott
Date: June 20, 2009 9:58:12 AM MST
To: editorship@jewishpeacenews.net
Cc: racheli@sonoracohousing.com

Rachel Giora, a prominent Israeli feminist and a Professor of Linguistics at
Tel Aviv University, calls for boycott against Israel
Her message includes recounting of some of the successes of the boycott
movement to date, after which she proceeds to explain why an academic
boycott is justified.

Racheli Gai.

A message to BRICUP's pre UCU Congress 2009 meeting from Rachel Giora,
Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv

Dear Colleagues,
I am writing to express my support of your actions toward helping the boycott
movement become engulfing and effective. By responding to the Palestinian call
to boycott Israel, you emerged as the pioneers of the boycott movement against
Israel and I hope you will be able to witness its impact on redressing injustices
and on changing the face of the world.

Thanks to you, the boycott movement against Israel is now gaining force.
Examples abound: Dock workers in South Africa refused to offload a ship
carrying Israeli goods; Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of
Australia have also called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels
bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel ; a Turkish company refused to do
business with Israelis "with blood on their hands"; young individuals in France
cleared Israeli goods off a store's shelve. The boycott movement is indeed biting.
Israeli goods are losing foreign markets: 21% of Israeli exporters report that
they are facing problems in selling Israeli goods because of an anti-Israel
boycott, mainly from the UK and Scandinavian countries.

That business is not as usual as can be gleaned from the EU decision to
freeze a planned upgrade of ties with Israel in order to pressure its government
to abide by the international commitments made towards the welfare of the
Palestinian people. "We expect a stop of all activities undermining our objective
of a two-state solution… citing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the
Palestinian territories … which is continuing on a daily basis.".

Israel is also facing cultural isolation: Israel's sports teams have met with
hostile protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Israeli money donated to help
fund the 2009 film festival in Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) was
returned to the Israeli Embassy.

The Academic boycott started in Britain by you and people like you is
perhaps the most solid form of cultural boycott to-date, resonating in universities
and academic institutions all over the world: Cardiff University divested from
Israel; CUPE-Ontario's University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC)
encouraged members "to hold public forums to discuss an academic boycott of
Israeli academic institutions"; Quebec College Federation joined the BDS
campaign; Australian scholars called for a boycott of Israeli academic and
cultural institutions; US academics agitated for academic boycott of Israel..

But shouldn't Israeli academic institutions be exempted, some wonder?
After all such institutions focus on academic research with no recourse to the
military or state politics. But in fact Israeli academia is no different from any
other Israeli institution, and in many cases it plays an active if not a vital role in
supporting Israeli apartheid practices against the Palestinians. For example, "the
R&D [Research & Development] Directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defense is
currently funding 55 projects at TAU [Tel Aviv University]"; "Military R&D in
Israel would not exist without the universities. They carry out all the basic
scientific investigation, which is then developed either by defense industries or
the army"; "People are just not aware of how important university research is in
general and how much TAU contributes to Israel's security in particular"; "In the
rough and tumble reality of the Middle East, Tel Aviv University is at the front
line of the critical work to maintain Israel's military and technological edge."
Israeli universities run special programs for the military. Just recently, the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem won the Defense Ministry Bidding to establish
the Military Medical Program. Tel Aviv University runs an Executive Master's
Program in Diplomacy and Security at the social sciences faculty, to cite just a
few examples.

And in spite of the growing plight of their Palestinians colleagues,
universities' senates and heads have never spoken up against the Israeli
occupation of the Palestinian territory or against the oppression of the
Palestinians; nor have they protested the destructive damage inflicted on
Palestinian academic institutions by the Israeli military; nor have they shown any
concern for or solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues. And when given the
chance to protest "the policy of the Israeli government which is causing
restrictions of freedom of movement, study and instruction, and […] call upon
the government to allow students and lecturers free access to all the campuses
in the Territories, and to allow lecturers and students who hold foreign passports
to teach and study without being threatened with withdrawal of residence visas",
only very few (407 out of over 5000) faculty have chosen to sign this petition. Is
"academic freedom" only the prerogative of the powerful?

These are only shreds of evidence testifying to the complicity of Israeli
academic institutions in the state's apartheid policies against the Palestinians.
In light of Israel's widely documented disregard for international laws
exercised in our area for so many years, culminating in two recent wars against
civilians in Lebanon and Gaza, it is left for us citizens of the world to attempt to
hold up a mirror to Israel's real face in the hope that it will give it a chance to
choose justice and peace over occupation.

The growing numbers of Israelis who are now supporting cultural and
academic boycotts will rejoice in your achievements.

I wish you luck with your conference and actions.
In solidarity,
Rachel Giora

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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, June 21, 2009

Work for Justice, Go to Jail?

Work for Justice, Go to Jail?

The article below, from Friday's Haaretz, is by David Shulman, author of Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine, and Ta'ayush activist. In his usual fluid and perceptive style, he recounts why Ezra Nawi—his friend, comrade, beloved activist— may well go to jail on July 1st. The reason: non-violently protecting the homes of Bedouin Palestinians in the South Hebron hills from being demolished. In the mixed up world of Israeli "democracy," this is apparently a jail worthy offense.

The first time I was ever in the West Bank, I drove with Ezra in his truck, known to almost everyone in the South Hebron Hills. I remember so clearly the scene David Shulman describes and how it shocked me: the rickety shacks pieced together from tin and rags where the Palestinians lived, pressed up against the edges of the settlement, with its large houses with red roofs and green lawns (made possible by the water stolen from its Palestinian owners). I tried to imagine someone standing in her kitchen, looking out at these pathetic shelters, and feeling threatened or cruel enough to insist on their destruction.

Most of all, I remember Ezra, who had probably given this terrible tour a hundred times already at least, having the patience to explain to me exactly what was happening, calm but angry. That day we stopped at least five times to help various families with small errands or advice, or just to say hello. His compassion was boundless, equal to his congenital inability to accept the unjust authority of the military regime. Later I learned, like most activists, to smile and wave at the soldiers in order to get through the checkpoints without trouble. But Ezra never took the easy way out, always throwing out a comment, usually very funny, that nevertheless reminded every soldier he passed that he was participating in the occupation machine.

Ezra has committed his life to the non-violent pursuit of justice where there is none. To participate in the campaign to keep him out of jail, check out www.free.Ezra.org where a support letter written by Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and Neve Gordon is being circulated by Jewish Voice for Peace, and www.supportezra.net which has lots of additional information and ways to get involved.

--Rebecca Vilkomerson

Where Peaceful Protest Begets Jail
By David Shulman

Bad times bring out the best in some people. Most of us remain passive, even willfully blind, in the face of great crimes that we see perpetrated on others, whether they are strangers or our next-door neighbors. But there will always be someone, probably just an ordinary decent person, to whom this rule doesn't apply - someone who will try to do the right thing at any cost, risking his or her well-being or even, perhaps, life itself. Ezra Nawi is such a man. He's a plumber by profession, a Jewish Jerusalemite, and he is also the unsung hero of the Israeli peace movement in the south Hebron hills. It's largely thanks to him that the Palestinian farmers in this area are still living on their land. Unless something happens to change the current prognosis, an Israeli court will sentence Nawi to jail on July 1.

Nawi was convicted on March 19 in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court of assaulting a police officer. Since I've known the man for decades and seen him in action in many extreme situations, I'm certain that the charge is untrue; but let's look at the circumstances. On February 14, 2007, the Israeli authorities sent army bulldozers to demolish several Palestinian shacks in a tiny place called Umm al-Kheir, 25 kilometers southeast of Hebron. Umm al-Kheir embodies the everyday reality of the Israeli occupation like no place else: The 100 or so impoverished Bedouin who call it their home, eking out a livelihood by grazing goats and sheep on the dry, stony hills, live in rickety structures of canvas, tin and stone. The land is theirs: Originally refugees from Tel Arad in the Negev in 1948, they bought it for good money from its Palestinian owners in the early 1950s. Israel, however, has put up a large settlement called Carmel right next to Umm al-Kheir, and like all settlements, Carmel
(founded in 1981) is constantly expanding, encroaching on the lands of its Palestinian neighbors. As documented in detail in police records in Kiryat Arba, settlers also regularly attack these neighbors, whom they would like to remove altogether from this area.

House demolitions in the Palestinian territories are routine, and there have been several at Umm al-Kheir, too. The legal justification is always that the houses were built without a permit. But Palestinians living in Area C in the territories have almost no hope of getting a building permit. (To give some idea: on average, in all of Area C, only one building permit is granted to Palestinians each month, whereas some 60 demolitions orders are issued, of which 20 are carried out. Fewer than 5 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C are approved.) Quite apart from the statistics, there is something ludicrous, even shameful, about sending bulldozers to tear down these Bedouin shanties, especially with the settlers of Carmel building modern villas right next door, on the historical grazing grounds of Umm al-Kheir.

So when the bulldozers showed up, Ezra tried to stop them, in the classic mode of non-violent resistance associated with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He lay down in front of the bulldozers, and the soldiers removed him. And when the bulldozers headed for one of the houses, home to a large family, he rushed inside. Two policemen went in after him. All this is documented on film and can be viewed at the Web site www.supportezra.net. The policemen dragged him out. What is not recorded in the video is what happened in the 20 seconds or so inside the hut. The policemen claimed Nawi raised his hand against one of them; Ezra denies this, and anyone who knows him believes him. He is a man committed, in every fiber of his being, to non-violent protest against the inequities of the occupation.

Of course Ezra was arrested, and on the video you can see the soldiers laughing at him, mocking him for his sympathy with the victims. It's not a pretty sight. When the case came to trial, the judge had only the word of the policemen against Ezra's, and naturally she believed the policemen. So, if nothing happens to stop it, Ezra will be going to jail for protesting, peacefully, an act of blatant injustice committed against innocent and helpless civilians. Ezra has been arrested many times for such acts of protest, and he's not about to give up. There's a fine film about him, "Citizen Nawi," made in 2007 by Nissim Mossek; it gives a clear sense of the man, his dedication, his abhorrence of violence of any kind. It also shows what happened at Umm al-Kheir.

You have here the whole misery and cruelty of the occupation in a nutshell. Israel, inside the Green Line, is a modern, more or less (less and less?) democratic state, with a functioning legal system, freedom of the press, and all the other elements we regard as minimal requirements for civilized existence. But inside the occupied Palestinian territories is a shadow state where the only real law is the law of the gun, where land is being taken away from its rightful owners every day, and where the very few who stand up to protest, without violence, like Ezra Nawi, are sent to prison. Bad times generally bring out the worst in most of us.

Prof. David Shulman is an activist in Ta'ayush, an Israeli-Palestinian peace group, and the author of "Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine" (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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, June 19, 2009

Regarding Iran: From Hamid Dabashi's Diary of a Defiance, and a Gideon Levy article.

Dabashi is an Iranian intellectual residing in NYC.
Below are two entries from his diary. The second entry is long, but I chose to copy
it in full, because it fleshes out some issues which seem really important.
I hope these entries will help provide some context and background information to what's happening in Iran.

Levy's article strongly resonates with me: I wonder why populations in countries such as Israel and The US, where the price to be paid for dissent is relatively low, the majority of the populace just sits on its proverbial hands.



Hamid Dabashi: Diary of a Defiance:
Iran un-Interrupted

15 June 2009

With the semi-spontaneous demonstration in Tehran and other major cities (including Shiraz, where we have had eyewitness accounts by members of my family), the civil unrest that began on 13 June with opposition to the announced results of the presidential election of 12 June has entered a new phase. The assumption of the election having been rigged is now a "social fact." It is no longer relevant if the election was or was not rigged. Millions of Iranians believe it was and they are putting their lives on the line to announce and assert it—with at least 12 fatalities, as just reported by The Guardian.

We need to have a careful and accurate summation of what has happened so far. On 12 June upward of 80% of eligible voters, about 40 out of 46 million, have voted. This has been the most magnificent manifestation of the political maturity of Iran as a nation and their collective democratic will. This nation does not need, nor has it ever needed, either a medieval concoction called the Vali Faqih in Qom or Tehran to patronize it or else a Neocon chicanery called "Iran Democracy Project" in Hoover Institution in California to promote it. This nation, as always, can take care of itself. It needs nothing but the active solidarity of ordinary people around the globe to be a witness to their struggles and demand from their media an accurate and comprehensive representation of their movement. So please, hands off Iran! No "democracy project," no sanction, no threat, no military attack, no regime change.

The day after the results were announced, on 13 June, there was a spontaneous demonstration in Tehran by supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi demanding recount and charging vote rigging. The following day, on 14 June, the government staged a major pro-Ahmadinejad rally in which his supporters were bussed in from surrounding villages. It is important to keep in mind that Ahmadinejad's supporters come from the poorest and most disenfranchised segments of Iranian society, subject to his and his campaign's populism and demagoguery. From this fact one should not conclude that all the impoverished segments of Iranian society, suffering from double digit inflation and endemic unemployment, are on his side or fooled by his charlatanism. The supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and the Reformist movement come from a vast trajectory of Iranian society.

Today, on 15 June 2009, the uprising has assumed an entirely different dimension and may have already transmuted into a full-fledged civil disobedience movement, with hundreds of thousands (according to BBC, which is usually quite conservative in its estimations), demonstrating peacefully and joyously between Meydan-e Enqelab and Meydan-e Azadi. Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami have led the demonstration and made speeches, as has Zahra Rahnavard, now an inspiration and role model for millions of Iranian women. Please take a good look at her and keep a print of her picture and the picture of other women participating in these demonstrations in your files before some other charlatan comes and crops it for the cover of the next edition of Reading Lolita in Tehran, or else puts together a collage of it for yet another book on "Sexual Revolution" or "Sexual Politics" in Iran. Whoever has won this particular presidential election, lipstick jihadis, career opportunist memoirists,
obscene and fraudulent anthropologists on a summer "field work" in Iran, useless expatriate "opposition," and comprador intellectuals in general are among its main losers.

What we are witnessing today may indeed be the commencement of a full-fledged civil disobedience, led by an aging revolutionary, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, battle-tested, literally, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), a war hero to his followers, and then gone into seclusion for almost 20 years (reading, writing, teaching, and painting), and has now come back with a vengeance against the opportunist populism of Ahmadinejad. The movement that he has led has been fortunately peaceful so far, except for at least 12 reported fatalities, perhaps more. Demonstrators have been savagely beaten up both in streets and in student dormitories. But by and large this civil disobedience has been relatively peaceful.

Tomorrow we need to see how the dialectic among three forces will unfold: (1) a mass cross-section of society supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi and demanding at the very least a recount of the rigged votes; (2) the leadership of this movement by Mousavi, Karrubi, and Khatami, and the Reformists in general; and (3) opposing them are the brutal and vicious charlatanism of Ahmadinejad, the autumn of the Vali Faqih's patriarchy initially supporting him, and the platoon of conservative clergy like Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi in Qom.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi has the make up of an Iranian Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr. in him. We have to wait and see.

Hamid Dabashi
New York
15 June 2009

Diary of a Defiance: Iran un-Interrupted
16th June, 2009

It seems to me that the only way that this amorphous movement that is now unfolding in Iran can have a snowball chance in hell to succeed is to become a systematic and comprehensive non-violent collective act of civil disobedience. To become a more determined and directed social action, this movement will have to assume multiple dimensions beyond a succession of demonstrations in the streets, which must accompany a simultaneous act of discrediting the counter-demonstrations that the regime organizes.

The Majlis might emerge as one crucial site of contestation—though it is too early to tell. Today in the Majlis, the courageous Qazvin Deputy, Qodratollah Alikhani denounced the way the presidential election has been conducted. This was by no means the sentiment of the Majlis in general, for as Alikhani spoke, Ahmadinejad's supporters were interrupting him, and some 220 of them had in fact written a public letter and congratulated him on his victory. But nevertheless some 52 deputies have summoned the Interior Minister Mr. Mahsouli to come to the Majlis and explain what happened yesterday during the demonstration and why demonstrators were shot at, injured, and even killed. These 52 deputies have also been joined by Speaker of the House Mr. Larijani, who today condemned the attacks on the student dormitories as well as another attack on Sobhan apartment complex at 2:30 AM on 14th June—presumably because defiant chants of Allahu Akbar was coming from there. This may all be
parliamentary maneuvering to no particular public avail, but something more might be brewing there. It remains to be seen.

Perhaps more important than the Majlis in the snowballing of civil unrest is the demonstration of a group of doctors and nurses at Rasul Akram Hospital in Tehran. I saw an eyewitness video made by a mobile phone and dispatched globally. What we see here is the medical staff of this hospital, while wearing their uniform, coming out of the hospital, forming an impromptu rally, chanting Allahu Akbar and then talking to people in the street about the casualties they had treated last night. One of them, a woman physician or nurse, came forward with a sign in her hand on which had been written in Persian (obviously not for foreign correspondents but for immediate public benefit) that the Emergency ward of Rasul Akram Hospital had treated 28 people with gunshot wounds, of which 8 have been martyred—and then concluded by asking "Tonight and tomorrow night??" Meaning how many will be murdered? Ordinary people soon gathered around and began applauding the medical staff. Then a male nurse or
physician came forward and said to the public that this is only the statistics in this particular hospital, meaning there must be more in others. My point here is not to play the number game about casualties. But to point to the planned or spontaneous act of the staff of this hospital to walk out and engage with the public.

If such quiet and dignified civil unrest were to continue to unfold, things might assume different proportions. The BBC reported today that the chancellor of Shiraz University had resigned, and that the president of Tehran university has also expressed his concerns publicly. Meanwhile the prominent Iranian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian had issued a statement and asked the national television NOT to broadcast his patriotic songs. They were composed and sung in entirely different circumstances, he said in his open letter, inappropriate for what is now happening in Iran. This is in obvious defiance of a national television that is universally perceived as the main propaganda machinery of the regime and its choice president. Shajarian is an exceedingly popular and deeply loved public figure, and his admonition of the national television carries weight. In the same vein, I saw pictures of famous Iranian footballers sporting the color of green as their wrist band and also included in
jersey they were wearing.

These are the signs we should be looking for in days and weeks ahead. The Open expression of solidarity with the movement in multiple public domains will put it outside official control. They are rounding up the usual suspects of the reformist movement. But the movement must now become more universal. The arrest and at times immediate release of prominent reformists like Abtahi, now an advisor to Karrubi, and Said Hajjarian, a prominent theorist and tactician of the reformist movement and the target of an assassination attempt in March 2000, testifies to a certain degree of panic on part of the regime, or else the commencement of a systematic crackdown. In either case, it is the initially amorphous disposition of the movement beyond the reformist figures that will have a wider effect.

Counter-demonstrations on behalf of Ahmadinejad are of course well on the agenda. Today Sepah-e Mohammad Rasul Allah/The Army of Muhammad the Messenger of God called for a pro-Ahmadinejad rally at 4 PM Tehran time at Vali Asr Square in order to respond to yesterday's anti-Ahmadinejad demonstration. Anti-Ahmadinejad demonstrators also had a rally that moved towards the Jam-e Jam where the Iranian national television headquarters is located. Mousavi issued a statement to this rally, asked them to be vigilant, law-abiding, and peaceful, held the officials responsible for their wellbeing, and reiterated his request for a nationwide peaceful demonstration. The green color and Allahu Akbar remain the sign and the principal slogan of the movement.

The international pressure of course remains quite crucial. I called Paris to talk to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who is now actively campaigning on behalf of Musavi's cause, but learned from his wife Marziyeh Meshkini that he has gone to Brussels (along with Marjane Satrapi) to speak to the European Parliament asking them not to recognize Ahmadinejad's election. Later I also watched a video of Makhmalbaf giving a speech at a rally in Paris urging Iranians abroad to contact the governments of their respective countries and urge them not to recognize the validity of this election. Ahmadinejad is currently in Russia attending a meeting as the Iranian president. I also saw a circulated email asking for demonstration in front of Russian embassies condemning their reception of Ahmadinejad as president. According to Financial Times, Russia and China have recognized the validity of the election, while France has expressed strong reservation, and the US is threading a very thin line. Afghanistan,
Turkey, Syria, and Venezuela, according to official outlets in Iran have congratulated Ahmadinejad. Here is the crucial task of Iranians in places like Australia, India, Japan, the US, European capitals, Canada, and above all Arab and Muslim countries to pressure their governments if possible, or alert the public opinion at the very least, that this election was rigged from the get go, from its very commencement, from the moment that the Guardian Council gets to decide who can run and who cannot. The rest is now an academic exercise in futility. I have a forthcoming opinion piece that CNN.com asked me to write in which I talk in detail about what is now a "social fact" in Iran, that the election was rigged.

As the movement thus unfolds so does our positions in reading it becomes more clear. Richard Seymour has rightly taken issue with me regarding my statement about Mousavi having the makeup of a Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. I am happy he did, for it gives me an opportunity to explain what I mean. I believe, as I have now said on many occasions, that the only chance that this movement has is as a non-violent collective act of civil disobedience. I am well aware of the dead skeletons in Mousavi's past (do please cast a cursory glance at what I teach and what I have written for now almost half a century—yes I wrote my first letter of protest to the governor of Khuzestan when I was eight; though yes, my mother dictated it to me) and have referred to them in the CNN piece I just mentioned, as I in fact also mentioned it briefly yesterday on GRITTV with Laura Flanders and David Barsamian. In my CNN piece I also mentioned that the last major student uprising was in fact during the
presidency of Khatami in 1999, two years afar his landslide victory. Though I voted for Mousavi as the best possible candidate available to us and in solidarity with the nascent movement inside Iran, holding my nose the same way I held it when I voted for Obama, I am no reformer, nor do I shoot from the hip, as it were, when it comes to my careful reading of what is unfolding in front of us. When I see hundreds of thousands of innocent people peacefully marching in the streets against the firearm of a brutal and bruised Islamic Republic, I fear the worse. In my opinion, it is too early to tell how the interplay between Musavi, et al. and the volcano they have unleashed will work out. Again as I said in my CNN piece today, Mousavi is not all that this movement wants, nor is Mousavi totally in control of the movement. There is a dialectic between the two, facing the thuggish brutalities of the regime as they go along. To me the only way that this movement can come to a meaningful
fruition (not just in securing a recount or even a re-election but in fact addressing the wider range of civil liberties) is if it aspires to a non-violent collective act of civil disobedience that from Gandhi to MLK has always needed a visionary leadership. I am not sure if Mousavi or Khatami are those figures. But I do believe that Mousavi in particular has the public demeanor and disposition of becoming one, the "make up" of such a leadership—as has in fact Akbar Ganji if he were in Iran now. Someone of that caliber might be able to rise to the occasion. So for the record, my solidarity is with nothing and nobody other than the those exemplary and courageous young and old men and women in the streets, with the movement itself, as it unfolds—and in what ever way it opts to define itself and its immediate and distant goals.

Beyond this clarification, there is one other crucial issue that I must emphasize here. A key and critical question at this point is the emergence of a new language of revolt that will correspond to the realities of this movement and not reduced to cliché-ridden, tired, and old assumptions. Any act of theorization of this movement, what exactly is it, and to what extend it will go, must be exceedingly cautious, gradual, and in correspondence with the manner in which it is unfolded. But of one thing we can be sure. We cannot allow this movement to be assimilated backward into the existing delusional discourses—whether from the so-called opposition forces outside or the dominant discourses inside Iran. Here I will give two examples. The first example is from the "oppositional" forces outside Iran. Yesterday I saw yet another inane email from Reza Pahlavi expressing his royal solidarity with the demonstrators. Obviously His Royal Idiocy, and the sycophant band of good-for-nothings that
have gathered around him seem to be clinically delusional and under the impression that anyone on this side of sanity cares what he and his criminal dynasty think of anything. As an Iranian citizen, Reza Pahlavi is of course entitled to his opinion about anything. But in matters of politics only after he drops any and all ludicrous claims to that bloody throne that he and his criminal father and even more thuggish grandfather left behind when they brutalized and swindled that nation and fled Iran.

The same is true about the dominant Islamist discourse inside Iran, even when, or perhaps particularly when, it is formulated by the progressive clerics. Yesterday I heard Mohsen Kadivar interviewed on BBC Persian. In conversation with an anchorperson, Kadivar gave an extended explication about how the evident irregularities of this election constitute a breach of the public confidence and is thus a violation of justice and as a result it is incumbent upon juridical authorities to opine on the matter. Now, I know, have met, read, and have a deep affection and even admiration for Mohsen Kadivar for the numerous occasions he has spoken truth to that brutal power called the Islamic Republic. But there is a crucial issue of which he seems to be entirely oblivious and the time to clear and settle it is right now. This movement cannot be branded in any received terms within Iranian political culture, and for one thing it cannot be, yet again, categorically Islamized, juridicalized,
Fiqhified. Let me explain.

Even in the chimerical concoction called an "Islamic Republic," we are the citizens of a republic and NOT mere subjects of a medieval jurisprudence, for it makes no difference if we are the physical subjects of a tyrant monarch or the metaphoric subjects of a medieval jurisprudence—in both we are denied historical agency and the site of our public reason. Unless and until Mohsen Kadivar, as a genuinely progressive jurist, understands this simple fact we will never ever get anywhere. I for one, again, to repeat, as a citizen of a republic, could not care less what he or any other progressive jurist thinks of my rights as a citizen. That juridical opinion is irrelevant to me, with all due respect. As a Muslim I deny him, and with him the best and the worst of them all together, the authority to transform my agential autonomy as a citizen of a republic into a juridical trope in his (however progressive or retrograde) jurisprudence. To me, when it comes to this militant or soft,
aggressive or gentle, brutal or banal over-juridicalization of Iranian political culture, there is no difference between Mohsen Kadivar and Mesbah Yazdi. They both speak the same juridical language, though from two conservative and liberal ends of it. As a citizen, I no longer wish to be at the mercy of either the criminal backwardness of Mesbah Yazdi or the open-minded liberalism of Mohsen Kadivar. What part of that simple point is incomprehensible? We are in the depth of this misery called the "Islamic Republic" that we are precisely because these people, the best of them, namely Mohsen Kadivar, have made a name and a reputation for themselves and formulated their positions in absence of any contrapuntal position by people who do not think like they do. They have degenerated an entire republic, and with it a public domain, and with it a public reason, into the topography of a variegated jurisprudence from which there is no exit.

Kadivar tells the skeptical anchorperson of BBC Persian that Ulama are infinitely more important in Iran than intellectuals, artists, or even athletes. Now, personally I believe he is entirely self-delusional at this point in history to think that way. But the point of the argument is not between his thinking that he and his ilk are more important to Iranian society by virtue of being a Shi'i jurist than say Bahram Beiza'i or Mahmoud Dolatabadi. The point is that within my sense of the republic in which we must ultimately hope to live there is plenty of room for any jurist of any stripe as a citizen. But in the medieval jurisprudence of a Shi'i jurist, however progressive and open-minded he might be, there is absolutely not a niche for me as a citizen—for that jurisprudence I am always already transmuted into a juridical subject, a jurisprudential trope, a mere dialogical trope in his syllogism.

Mohsen Kadivar looks at me and does not see a citizen; he sees a mere subject of his law. In other words, the notion of the public reason as the cornerstone of citizenry has not ever crossed the mind of these jurists. I am a Muslim, Mr. Kadivar, as you well know, a Shi'i Muslim. I have nothing but love and admiration and utter respect for my parental religion. Since 9/11 I walk and proudly proclaim myself a Muslim in a country and context now Islamophobic to the marrow of its bone. But not all Iranians are Muslims, or Shi'i, or believing or practicing. There are Baha'i Iranians, as there are Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and plain old atheists and agonistic Iranians—and God bless them all! But the notion of a republic, Mr. Kadivar, could not care less to what god we may opt to pray or at other times scream out loud upon the dead corpse of a young body just murdered by agents of the "Islamic Republic" and cry our curses. Unless and until you, Mr. Kadivar, the best that our medieval
jurisprudence has produced, come to grips with this very simple fact, even this massive movement that is unfolding in front of our eyes will yet again be creatively, kindly, and quite generously Islamized, once again.

We have all been silenced, forced into exile, and by virtue of the absence of freedom of expression in the Islamic Republic never had a chance openly, politely, and respectfully disagree with this violent or gentle over-juridicalization of our political culture. So Mr. Kadivar, there are perfectly sane (Aqil) and mature (Baliq) Iranians who, with all due respect, could not give a hoot what the most progressive, open-minded, generous-hearted, Shi'i jurists think of the current crisis we face. Over this public space, in which we live as citizens, your jurisprudence has no jurisdiction. You are, of course, as an Iranian (just like Reza Pahlavi) entitled to whatever position you may have on the matter. But please check your medieval jurisprudence at the door and speak in plain language of our common citizenry, with the public reason with which we need to build our future republic.


Gideon Levy: The unrest in Iran makes me green with envy / Ha'aretz
June 18, 2009

It makes one green with envy: The scenes from Iran prove that some nations are trying to take their fate into their own hands. Some nations are not floating on the surface in sickly indifference, some are not looking around in endless complacence. And some are not following their leaders with the blindness of a herd. There are moments in the histories of certain nations when the people say enough. No more.

Czechs and Ukrainians, French and Russians, South Africans and Palestinians, Thais and Chinese, Lebanese and now Iranians have taken to the streets on at least one inspirational occasion and tried to make an impact. Some succeeded, some failed, but at least they tried. They did not surrender to their failed leaders, who dragged them from bad to worse. This is not only about rising up against a tyrannical regime; sometimes it's about a struggle for justice in democracies, too. That struggle is not conducted only in polls and elections; such struggles must spill out onto the streets. Here, too.

The scenes from oppressive Iran are of light breaking through. Thousands of women and men protesting and demonstrating, holding signs and shouting out loud. They stand with their faces visible, fearless. All of them are at risk because of their protest. Perhaps less than what we imagine here - our learned analysts know that there is only an Iran of darkness - but certainly much more than in free Israel.

But while Iran's women are taking a risk and demanding that their voice be returned to them, Israel's women are wrapping themselves in silence, from the mall to the parking lot. As Tehran's men cry out "Where is our voice?", here they ask "Where will our next vacation be?" Here in the SUV, there in the streets. Here in front of the stupefying television screen, there in front of the forces of evil. Here in darkness, there in the light of popular protest.

We only take to the streets when there is a festival, hardly ever because of a scandal. Tel Aviv's centennial or the book festival, the beer festival or the tomato festival - but never in protest. In Iran they are fighting for liberty, here for vacation time.

It's true, there is liberty in Israel, but only for us, the Jews. We have a regime that is no less tyrannical than the ayatollahs' regime: the regime of the officers and the settlers in the territories. But what do we have to do with any of this? In Iran, police disperse demonstrations with violence, they shoot and kill. And what do we do?

When you get a chance, go on Friday to Na'alin or Bil'in and see what happens there. Demonstrators are killed here with similar brutality, but in Iran the crowd is standing up to a tyrannical regime, while here only a handful of brave people stand up to the Border Police, who are firing weapons. Moreover, we hardly write anything about the protest being silenced with bullets. It interests no one, and this, too, is called democracy.

A democracy is not tested only with elections. A democracy is measured in everyday life. National aims are not achieved only through power hungry politicians; the street must also speak. In the latest polls, 64 percent of Israelis say they support a two-state solution. Great. But when Israel moves steadily away from such a solution, when the prime minister takes a small step forward but then raises more and more impossible obstacles, no one thinks to do anything. Have you heard a single political conversation recently? Nothing.

One can only imagine what would have happened if the day after Benjamin Netanyahu's speech, that same silent and paralyzed majority that allegedly wants two states had taken to the streets to demand an end to the occupation. Or if they demanded that we say yes to the Arab peace initiative. What a boost that would have been, a genuine wind of change on whose strength Barack Obama, Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas and Bashar Assad could move forward together.

But when the street is silent, only the leaders are left, and their survival drives them.

Israel is now at a fateful crossroads, no less than Iran. An opportunity lies before it that will not be seen again, one that affects the future of all its people no less than the election results in Iran affect the Iranians' fate. Missing the opportunity here will be just as decisive as four more years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. But look what is happening in totalitarian Iran and what is happening here, the sole democracy in the Middle East, blah, blah, blah.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Freeze to End the Big Chill

As the Obama administration's Mideast policy takes shape, the White House must contend with doubters' claims that even its minimal first steps are unrealistic. These positive first steps include calling for Israel to live up to its Bush2-era (and earlier) promise to halt settlement construction and for Muslim-led states and Hamas to recognize Israel. The Israeli right, for one, is up in arms in response to the recent initiatives, as a creepy new video by the right-wing Likud politician and settler Moshe Feiglin demonstrates. Feiglin compares Obama's Cairo speech to the appeasement of Neville Chamberlain, and he insists, with supremely unconscious irony, that Muslims are inherently fanatical while Jews only want peace -- within the expansive borders of "Greater Israel." (Feiglin, who earned more than 23% of the vote for Likud leadership in the August 2007 primaries, has called for the outright expulsion of all Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank: they can live more happily in wealthy UAR or Qatar, he insists.)

On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that the White House, facing staunch resistance by the Likud-led Netanyahu administration, had come to a determination that it might not be possible to halt Israeli settlement construction already underway. Hundreds of illegal new homes in the Occupied Territories are in the balance, including those in 100 or so illegal outposts which have been established with the tacit collusion of Israeli authorities; those which recently have been established on "recycled" former Israeli military bases; and supposedly "new neighborhoods" of existing settlements that actually constitute far-flung satellite settlements. If the Obama administration lets the new construction continue, a viable Israeli-Palestinian accord will be less rather than more conceivable, let alone practical. (Peace Now has published a helpful "layman's guide" to freezing all settlement construction).

In view of the positive new proposals coming from the White House, even many Israelis therefore were taken aback by the Obama administration's sudden concession, expressed in the past few days, that it would be more "flexible" in its demand for a total settlement freeze. In response, Peace Now and other liberal Israeli groups immediately forwarded documents to the White House showing that in 1992, when then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had declared a complete halt in Israeli settlement construction, settler organizations and private contractors sued the Israeli government to force completion of existing settlement projects -- and lost. The Israeli government's victorious lawyer in the case, Talia Sasson, proved to the High Court of Justice's satisfaction that the Israeli government had the authority to halt settlement construction as national policy needs changed.

What held true in the Israeli courts in 1992 also holds today. Freezing Israeli settlement construction now rather than later is legal according to established Israeli precedent and it sends the correct message to Israel and the Palestinians. The hands-off diplomatic approach of the Bush years is over. That failed policy merely allowed the Israelis to continue illegally expanding settlements and thereby creating obstructionist "facts on the ground." In President Obama's first foray into the Middle East morass, he appears to be charting a new policy direction that aims to hold both sides to their promises and obligations (here's one good analysis of the new approach). Now is the time for the Administration to stay that course. Those with a vested interest in seeing the Obama policy fail are desperately searching for any sign that the new US administration will blink, but achieving a secure peace in the region requires what may be the simplest yet rarest trait of international diplomacy: consistency.

--Lincoln Shlensky


Last update - 21:12 16/06/2009
Documents suggest total settlement freeze is possible
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
Papers produced in response to report Israel convinced U.S. it would be impossible to halt construction.

The report in Haaretz on Tuesday whereby the U.S. administration has become convinced that it would be impossible to freeze West Bank settlement construction altogether came as a shock to Israeli peace activists.

The activists quickly handed over to the Americans documents proving the legal system's approval of a settlement freeze, containing High Court of Justice rulings in which the justices rejected petitions filed by settler organizations in a bid to prevent the settlement freeze.

Two panels of judges who reviewed the petitions ruled that there was no legal reason to prevent the freezing of the construction and that the policy formulated by the government had only to do with financial considerations, which were up to the sole discretion of the government, and not the legal system.

The petitions, filed against the Yitzhak Rabin administration in 1992, came after the government decided to freeze the construction in the settlements, in accordance with assurances given to the American administration.

The settlers argued in their petition that the freezing of construction work underway in Kiryat Arba, Ariel, Revava and Avney Hefetz would cause irreversible harm to these communities and could even bring about a "degeneration and extermination" of these communities. They argued, furthermore, that "a serious demoralization was taking shape, which was harming the urban and social fabric of life" in the settlements. The settlements in question had been established by private entrepreneurs in accordance with government guidelines formulated in 1984.

In ruling to reject the petition, the court said that "the new [government] policy reflects a shift in the national agenda, after the previous administration encouraged construction in the said areas."

The construction of thousands of apartments in Israel and in the Palestinian territories was halted under a direct order included in the contract struck between the state and every one of the construction companies involved in the building. The contracts signed between the state and the construction companies, in most cases, included an assurance on the part of the government to purchase apartments that weren't sold to buyers, and the government fully compensated the companies.

Attorney Talia Sasson, who represented the state in these hearings, told Haaretz that the government and the military have full authority to issue orders instructing companies to halt construction in the settlements, be it private or public, in accordance with the government policy. She added that anyone who feels that the policy has caused him harm is free to file a compensation claim and the matter will be discussed in the civilian courts.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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, June 15, 2009

New Profile: Investigating the Investigation

In this newest post from New Profile, we see once again the extraordinary creativity and energy of this unique and important organization. They are currently under investigation by the Israeli government (see here for the latest JPN report on the investigation: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/2009/05/update-on-new-profile-investigation-and.html), but have decided to turn the tables and do some investigating and reporting of their own.

To paraphrase Rela Mazali's introduction below, the power that the government bodies are exerting on New Profile in the investigation doesn't just come down from above as a great force to which New Profile is subject. Rather, that power acts onto New Profile but is met by New Profile's own structure and character, meaning that this power that the state wields works through its interaction with the members of New Profile. An active participant in this process, New Profile can reclaim their own authority in this investigation by discussing it,reporting on it and thus adding their definition to what the "investigation" actually is. This project, in which articulated thoughts lay claim to political power, is an act of resistance. Moreover, it identifies other possible sites of resistance. As Rela says, "the routes along which power is exercised always pass, of necessity, through intersections that present potential sites of resistance."

This first report contains Rela's thinking about power, resistance, New Profile and this project, and a narrative from Dana, New Profile member, about her interrogation by the police and her activism.

Many thanks to our friends at New Profile for once again offering us new ways to think and act and for inviting people around the world to be a part of their critical work.

Sarah Anne Minkin

From New Profile:

The following two items are the first in a new series of reports by New Profile activists titled "Investigating the Investigation". The reports will be posted on the New Profile website in both Hebrew and English, and new ones will be added regularly over the coming days and weeks. (www.newprofile.org/english/)

The series, conceived and initiated by Rela Mazali is coordinated and edited by Ronit Marian Kadishai, with technical support from Aviv Sela, Amir Givol and Sergeiy Sandler.


Investigating the Investigation
Rela Mazali

Thousands have responded to our news of the criminal investigation of New Profile, put into motion on April 26th.
- The Coalition of Women for Peace, of which New Profile is a member, organized a protest at a central Tel-Aviv police station; the police arrested and held overnight eight of the protesters; it was reprimanded in court for the latter the next day.
- The Coalition also initiated a newspaper ad, "We're All New Profile", signed by twenty-six civil society organizations and published in the daily, Haaretz.
- The Students' Forum of the Political Science Department at Tel-Aviv University initiated and produced a public event focusing on freedom of speech in the context of New Profile's persecution by authorities; the meeting was addressed by former High Court Judge, Dalia Dorner, by Talia Sasson, formerly of the State Attorney's office, by Prof. Martin Sherman and by New Profile member, Rela Mazali.
- The U.S.-based organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, called on supporters to write Israel's Attorney General in protest and over 5,000 of you responded.
- A group of women Nobel Prize laureates, including the Iranian woman awarded the prize in recent years, published a letter protesting the harassment of New Profile.
- The American Friends Service Committee, a major Quaker organization in the U.S., itself a Nobel Prize laureate for its worldwide defense of human rights, directed a letter to the U.S. Foreign Secretary, Ms. Hillary Clinton, on the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister's visit in Washington, urging her to broach the subject of this criminal investigation as a facet of Israel's denial of the right to freedom of conscience.

It has been over four weeks since the police knocked, one morning, at the doors of six New Profile activists.

Many of you ask us repeatedly: "What's going on? What about the investigation?"

A first, almost instinctive reaction is, "Nothing so far. We're waiting." In fact, that's not true. A lot is going on.

The automatic reaction refers, of course, to the obscurity of the institutional process, the opaqueness of police activity and official legal actions following the interrogation ceremonies to which a total of twelve New Profile activists have been subjected. However, this instinctive answer mistakenly assumes that defining "the investigation" and its progression is the exclusive prerogative of the authorities – of the police and the courts. It assumes that they alone determine this definition and reduces the reality of "the investigation" to the content assigned it by official authorities. In the process, this response assumes that we, the movement and the people under investigation, are unable and unauthorized to define "the investigation" or to manage it in any way.

There is no doubt that we are indeed subject to investigation. The investigation is imposed and performed upon us by bodies that wield a great deal of power, including that of authorized organized violence. But this power is exerted upon a concrete, body, upon us. The paths and means through which it is exercised depend, in part, upon the structure of the body which we are, which we constitute, and upon its-our modes of action. Clear evidence of this can be discerned in the simple fact that such a relatively large number of activists were summoned for questioning. This fact is a direct result of our feminist-democratic and decentralized organizational practices. In addition, the routes along which power is exercised always pass, of necessity, through intersections that present potential sites of resistance.

In this sense, we most certainly can and do manage various aspects of the investigation.

The philosopher, Michel Foucault, dwelt in his writings on the consciousness developed by the hypothetical inmate of an eight-sided prison – a "panopticon". Within such a structure, every prisoner is exposed to the jailer's gaze in every corner of his or her cell. The jailer, who ostensibly watches the prisoners all day, every day, is unseen by them, hidden within a central tower. The prisoner, who has no way of knowing when or whether she or he is being watched, accordingly develops a sense of incessant surveillance, an invasive feeling that pushes her – pushes all of us – towards continuous self-surveillance and self-censorship.

The series "Investigating the Investigation" hopes to invert the direction of the jailer's gaze. In these updates, those under investigation, we ourselves, will turn our gaze on the investigators – both the institutions and the people – and follow the reality of investigation in detail. We will be documenting some of the personal experiences, affects, implications, insights and thoughts of those being investigated – both of the men and women who were interrogated by police, who physically sat in front of them and answered questions and of other members of New Profile who are all subject, as a movement, to investigation.

We'll answer your question, "What's going on?", meanwhile – through this very act – resisting self-censorship, actively defining and managing "the investigation" to the extent of our capacity. This will provide us with a better blueprint of the ways in which we are being subjected to the use of state force and allow us to identify junctures for resistance.



During my interrogation I chose to invoke my right to remain silent. Now I want to answer.

The first question was: How did I join New Profile?

I grew up in the home of two ex-army people and three children. Feminist consciousness, on the one hand, coexisted with a great deal of classical Zionist ideology on the other. You could say that I was raised between Alice Miller and Hanna Szenes, or between trips meant for us to learn to love our country, and brief references to what had been there, in the past – what sites and which people.

"There'll be no army, by the time you grow up" they told me – but: "Sure, you'll be a teacher-soldier – not a secretary, god forbid!"
At junior high I learned about how the pacifist movement emerged in Europe in the wake of the First World War. Shortly after this, they read us Israel's Declaration of Independence.

I would like this country's state attorney and people like him to take note that there's nothing more dangerous than for a tender young girl, who abhors violence and killing, to learn that she is not the first to feel like this, and in addition to hear that her country, her motherland, wants to support her in this, too, to allow her to feel the way she does.

Let's keep the story short. Let's skip the part when my mother told me that not enlisting is nothing but spitting in the face of your country. Let's skip hours spent on the internet and with books, my first attempts at co-existence, or to study the history of the Palestinian people. Let's move straight to age 18, when our young woman overcame her fear of spitting in the face of her country, and equipped with her usual insufferable naivety, demanded the freedom that country had once, long ago held out to her, way before she was born.

It was a long way to get exempted from regular military service, and the process exhausted me, physically as well as mentally. On my own, I suppose, I would not have gotten there, I suppose I would have given up after six months of a draining struggle, when my father pleaded with me to let go, to just get enlisted and act like everybody else. But I was not alone. There were wonderful women who supported me, even if, at times, it took four telephone conversations a day. They gave me strength and supported me until I did what I believed was the right thing.

This is how I found my ideological home at New Profile. This is how I joined too and became a counselor myself. This is how, one night, I returned a call to a man who had left a voicemail, asking for help from our organization.

This man, on the other side of the line, turned out to be much older than I. He had fought in a number of wars, and a recent traumatic incident had unexpectedly flooded him with memories from those times. He was in a terrible state – he couldn't stop telling me one story after another. I had heard stories about the horrors of war, but hearing them now, from a specific, concrete person crushed something inside me.

Since New Profile does not aim, or indeed know how, to offer advice to people who suffer from post-traumatic disorder, I referred this man to Shovrim Shtika [Breaking the Silence]. Then I sat on my bed and wept for a very long time. I could not stop thinking about my own parents.

My father left the army at a late stage in life. He had made considerable progress in the army hierarchy and participated in several wars. My mother had served as a nurse in a field hospital during the First Lebanon War. They knew about the price militarism exacts. They knew what wars are like and how superfluous they always are. They paid a price for the ongoing Occupation - a price I shall never pay. And yet, in spite of all this, their greatest disappointment of me ever occurred when they understood that I would not be part of this system.

Now, for the first time, I saw what had really troubled me and put me off all this time. I saw, for the first time, to what extent my parents are victims, to what extent me and my siblings are victims too. We are all victims of a society that sends its children to fight, that raises them, from such a very young age, to perpetuate everything that is ugly and abject in nature. This very miserable man who phoned me that night was deeply ashamed of himself. He could not understand why he was telling me all these things. He said: "I always thought that these things somehow didn't really happen. Nobody else said a word. Nobody acted as though something wrong had occurred. I thought it was all in my mind."

Just a few days before I was interrogated about the abovementioned, horrifying organization, it was Independence Day. During the celebrations in central Tel Aviv, I passed by Rabin Square and heard a choir singing the text of the Declaration of Independence. The soloist drew out the part in which the state promises rights to its citizens. To sum up, he sang boldly: "In short: Freedom!" I smiled to myself. I knew that there is real freedom, the freedom from a system that separates into eternity between the peoples who reside in the small strip of land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, that keeps alive men's superiority over women, that strangles education and culture. And I knew that I am fighting for that freedom with my teeth and my nails and that I am in good company.

But what, of all this, could I convey to the police interrogator who asked me whether I brainwashed candidates for military service? What, of all this, could I yell against the indictment on account of involvement in forging documents, incitement to fraud? To whom could I say that I have only one truth, and that, in my eyes, democracy is only one thing?

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and 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