Saturday, April 30, 2011

"You must choose!"

The Prime Minister of Israel was quick to respond to the Palestinian reconcilation agreement: "Abu Mazen - You must choose - either us or Hamas!"  Abu Mazen could have replied: " You must choose - either us or Avigdor Lieberman! Us or the settlers' Yesha Council".

That is, actually, what Abu Mazen did  do exactly six months ago. Binyamin Netanyahu had to decide between negotiating with the Palestinians and freezing settlement construction, or making his peace with the Yesha Council and consigning peace negotiations to a deep freeze. Netanyahu's choice is a matter of well known record.

An Anglican state

On the Friday night news of the Israeli State TV, the interviewers and commentators took a moment of rest from the daily preoccupations, and turned with a smile to the biggest media show ever - the Royal Wedding in London. Commentator Ari Shavit took the opportunity for a sarcastic remark: "The whole world complains about our insistance on Israel being a Jewish state. But here we see that this ceremony in London is clearly a religious ceremony which derives from a long religious history. Prince William, if he gets to become King, will also head the Church of England - and no-one complains about that. "

Indeed, there can be no doubt that England never implemented a strict separation between Church and State. Officially and legally, the Church of England is still the official State Church there. Still, no one there takes from that the conclusion that Anglicans should have a privileged position in English society. No government policy measures are dictated by the aim of maintaining at all costs the Anglican majority, nor would anyone dream of arguing that state lands should be the unique domain of Anglicans and theirs only. No Member of the British Parliament would conceive of a law setting up "Admissions Committees" which could exclude non-Anglicans from a community on the grounds that "they don’t fit the social fabric." Ireland's independence, after centuries of British rule, was not made conditional upon recognition of "England as an Anglican state", nor was such a condition imposed for India's independence. And England has no religious laws imposing Anglican observances upon those who do not take them up from their own free will.

True, anyone who reads history books can find that once there did exist such laws and practices in England, imposing the Church of England on unwilling people and making non-Anglicans into second-class citizens.

That was once upon a time, long ago, laws which were abolished and deleted from the law books hundreds of years ago and nobody would dream of renewing them.

What, then, is nowadays the meaning of the Anglican character of England? It's mostly a symbolic thing, various colorful ceremonies held from time to time which have no real impact on daily life. Like the Royal Family which has no political power, and is mainly concerned with performing all kinds of ceremonies such as the current "Grand Wedding Show".

If ever the State of Israel consents to reduce the state's Jewish character to the sphere of symbols and rituals, and let daily life be conducted on the basis of full equality between all citizens, it might be much easier to explain to the world.

To be or not to be like England...

This week an extreme right conference was held in Ramle. The star speaker there was Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, initiator of the famous (notorious) Rabbis' Letter, who was greeted with applause when stating that 'The Rabbis' Letter is working' and that "In Safed nobody is renting apartments to foreigners' (i.e. to Arab citizens of Israel). Thereupon, another guest of honor at the conference – none other than the Minister of Science on the Government of Israeli, Professor Daniel Hershkowitz – rose and presented Rabbi Eliyahu with a Badge of Honor, "in appreciation of his work to preserve the Jewish character of Israel".

Another thing which could not have happened in England. It is doubtful if even one priest in today's Church of England would have taken such positions, not to speak of dozens signing a joint letter. And if there were, it is doubtful if the Minister of Science in the British government would dare to approach this kind of conference. And should a minister dare to do something of the kind, it is doubtful if he were still a minister a day later. And in the unlikely case that he were, he might find it difficult to have British scientists keen to cooperate with a ministry headed by such a minister.

To be or not to be like England. That is the question.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting buried at Joseph's Tomb

Joseph's Tomb. Again, Joseph's Tomb. A cursed place which already caused so much suffering, which already claimed the lives of so many Israelis and Palestinians. A place which, like a magnet, attracts all who dream of establishing an Israeli settlement foothold at the heart of the Palestinian city of Nablus.

One more stupid and unnecessary death. Ben Yosef Livnat, aka "Benyo" - a settler, a Breslov Hasid, a favorite nephew of the Minister of Culture in the government of Israel. A person who, as we heard in recent days, got married and brought four children into the world without having managed to grow up himself. And who now will never grow up.

By chance. journalist Akiva Novick just a few days ago accompanied Ben Yosef Livnat and his friends on a very adventurous trip to the Tomb of Joseph, in what turned out to be the last week in the life of this young man. Today Novick published on the pages of "Yediot Ahronot" a vivid description and full details of this event: "In the video film I took, he sings and dances inside the cave with a shining and a preternatural burst of enthusiasm and a broad smile on his face", "He and his friends encircled the tombstone in a fast dance of ecstasy " , "Traveling the night streets of Nablus we reached the speed of 140 kilomtres per hour. When Rabbi Berland comes along, they sometimes reach as high as 180 km / h", "Occupants of the car began to sing 'Though you walk in the heart of the flame, you would not burn, the flame would not touch you'" When I asked: 'Do you know that the IDF goes here only in armoured convoys?' they answered with full confidence 'The army has flak jackets, we have our prayers and the grace of our ancestors'." Did the Rabbis not teach them that very important rule of Judaism: Never to rely on a miracle happening?

Soldiers and checkpoint. and martyrs

"They behaved suspiciously. They tried to break through the checkpoint by force. We shouted at them to stop and they did not stop, we fired in the air and they did not stop. We had no choice but shoot at the car which was charging at us."

These arguments and excuses sound a bit familiar. When have we heard them before? More than once, in fact.

When the soldiers at the checkpoint were Israeli and the car passenger which they shot to death had been a Palestinian, no one in the government or the military high command thought of casting doubt about the soldiers' version of what happened. Certainly not Limor Livnat , Minister of Culture, loving aunt of Benyo who danced at Joseph's Tomb. She never doubted the word of the soldiers who were placed by the state of Israel in roadblocks on all roads, from Hebron in the south to Jenin in the north. When they had shot, certainly it was necessary, and when somebody was killed it is a pity and there was apparently no other choice.

With a Palestinian checkpoint, our Minister of Culture takes a bit different tack: "My nephew was murdered by a terrorist in the guise of a Palestinian policeman, just because he went to pray on the eve of Passover" Minister Livnat said this morning. "Benyo was a completely innocent father of four, he wanted only to do good. He was named after Shlomo Ben Yosef, the martyr who gave his life for the Land of Israel. Now Benyo gave his own life in the same cause."

For the sake of historical accuracy, it is worth mentioning that the martyr Shlomo Ben Yosef - who gave his life for the Land of Israel and for whom Ben Yoseph Livnat was named - is the man who on April 21, 1938, shot and hurled a grenade at a civilian bus near Safad with the explicit intention of destroying its engine, so that it would fall into the abyss of the road and its passengers get killed. An Arab bus, of course.

Yes, this young man with the shiny eyes, who was killed in a shooting on a car, was named for Shlomo Ben Yosef, who had shot on a bus. And not only him. Also in many Israeli towns and cities, streets are called for Shlomo Ben Yosef. And his picture appeared on a postage stamp, too. In this country you should know which vehicle to shoot at, in order to become a hero and a martyr.

Whose grave?

"The Tomb of Joseph is ours, it belongs to the Jewish people. It is the tomb of our Joseph. We bought it for the full price, 3000 years ago. It is written down in the Bible. Every Jew should be able to come and pray there at any time". This also was stated today by Limor Livnat. In this case, not so much in her role as a bereaved aunt grieving for the loss of a beloved nephew. More in her regular position of the Minister of Culture, committed to instilling in Israeli Jews the values of historical-Biblical territorial rights.
But who is truly buried there?

Joseph - the boy who confronted his brothers and made them angry, who got sold into slavery in Egypt and rose there to great prominence - is one of the most fascinating characters in the the Bible, and his story is told with a considerable literary talent. But has there ever been such a person in reality? And did he really do the things which are told about him? And if so, is he truly buried under that specific structure at the Palestinian city of Nablus? (The place was identified for the first time as the tomb of the Biblical Joseph during the Middle Ages, i.e. at least three thousand years after the fact).

And even if Joseph actually lived in those days, and really did all the things told about him, and is really truly buried exactly at this point - would he truly want his burial place to become. after thousands of years, a flashpoint of permanent tension and friction between Israelis and Palestinians, producing ever new incidents and ever new fresh graves?

And perhaps, it can still be different

After all. Perhaps, the day after the occupation might take away the curse, the day after the city of Nablus is part of the State of Palestine. A day when any who truly wants to come to Joseph's Tomb in order to pray could do so without risk and without complications and without any special security coordination.

The Breslov Chassidim are in the habit of making a pilgrimage to the tomb of their Rebbe in the city of Uman, Ukraine. Once, this had been a difficult, complicated, clandestine and rather dangerous undertaking. Nowadays they fly in dozens of specially chartered planes and conduct ceremonies on the tomb, night and day, as ling as they please. After all, they contribute quite a bit to the flourishing tourism industry in that town...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oded Pilavsky - 1932-2011

In June 1967, the occupation regime in the Palestinian territories was only a few weeks old. Most citizens of Israel were still in the grip of nationalist euphoria at the military victory and admiration for the victorious army (including, it must be noted, also the author of these lines). But even in those days there were people - a small group, and at the time very isolated - who came out in protest at the newborn occupation and condemned it in graffiti written at night on the walls of Tel Aviv.

"The Socialist Organization in Israel" was the official name by which they called themselves, those pioneers of the anti- occupation struggle, but the media – which often attacked and condemned them - usually called them "Matzpen" ("Compass"), the name of the paper which they published with considerable effort and sold on the streets (an act often involving a very real risk). .

One of the most prominent among this group was Oded Pilavsky, whom I always saw in demonstrations against the occupation during all the years in which I participated in them - and who had participated in a wide variety of demonstrations and struggles, long before there was an occupation, long before I was born. Last week, his brave and generous.heart stopped beating

From the article which he wrote about his life and his long and complicated political path, I chose to bring two excerpts, which are still highly relevant today.

Taking possession of "the abandoned harvest"

Kibbutz Mashavim (now "Mashavey Sadeh") of which I was a member belonged to Hakibutz HaMeuhad (United Kibbutz Movement), and there was a strong Left Zionist atmosphere. At the celebration marking two years of the Kibbutz's foundation we placed, at the corner of the hall where the celebration took place, a large wooden box inscribed with "Donations to support the Sailors' Strike". Representatives of two Bedouin tribes who lived nearby, Abu-Rgayyek and A-Sana, were also invited to take part in the celebration. They were given seat at the front of the hall, near the stage. (...)

Soon after that, at the end of the planting season in 1950, the Israeli Army expelled several Bedouin tribes from the Tel-Arad region across the Jordanian border. And that was not an isolated case. At the Negev Heights, other Bedouin tribes were deported across the border with Egypt. I was called upon to take part in what was termed "Harvesting the abandoned fields" near Tel – Arad. My participation in that act affected me deeply and sharpened my perception of the Zionist practice of ethnic cleansing.

That is how it was: The winter of 1950-1951 was exceptionally blessed with rain. The barley which the Bedouins had sown before their expulsion yielded a magnificent crop whose like is seen in this part of our country only once in a decade. It was the kibbutzniks, led by the army's Negev command, who immediately took possession and started harvesting the flourishing high corn, fruit of the labor of the Bedouin Arabs who had been expelled from the country after sowing. A tent camp was established there, for several weeks, to provide housing and meals to those who industriously carried out this task." Each Kibbutz was assigned a plot to be harvested. The barley grain was taken by trucks to the market. The proceeds distributed among the participating kibbutzim in proportion to their contribution to the common effort of the stolen ("abandoned"). harvest.

 I was among the porters, taking up with great effort the full sacks of barley and transporting them from the fields to the camp and then onto the trucks to the market. Suddenly, in the middle of loading, the scales fell from my eyes and I finally started to comprehend what was happening there. A collectivist bunch imbued with Socialist ideals, equipped with the best of agricultural machinery purchased on credit from the Jewish Agency, was reaping- robbing the fruit of the labor of poor Arabs who had been expelled from their land and their country.(...)


Who am I?
Toward any anti-Semite, I am a Jew

To adherents of Greater Israel, a Palestinian

To white supremacists, I am black

In face of rampant Israeli nationalism, I am a diaspora Jew

To Jewish megalomania, a gentile

For European Neo-Nazis, let me be an Arab, a Turk and a Kurd

To Xenophobes, a migrant worker

To women haters, a feminist

In the presence of aristocrats, I am a commoner

And with smug generals, a conscientious objector

Oded Pilavsky, 2002

Oded Pilavsky had no funeral. He chose to donate his body to science. Instead, his family and friends will hold a memorial evening on Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 pm, at Beit Sokolov, 4 Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv.

The long-awaited speech

Ladies and gentlemen, I can hardly express how excited and pleased I am to appear today before you. Here on Capitol Hill in Washington I feel more at home than anywhere else in the world. Much more at home than on the Knesset floor in Jerusalem. There, I would never have delivered this speech, ladies and gentlemen, no way! No way, am I crazy? To make important political speeches in the Knesset? Of course it is true, thank God, that we have a solid right-wing majority in the Knesset. But still, we have there some black sheep, a few impertinent leftists, nasty people. They might have started heckling me or make some cynical remarks about my peace plans. Here with you, in Washington, such things cannot happen. I can be sure that, whatever I say, all of you will burst out clapping. And anyone who will not applaud loudly enough will be taken care of by AIPAC.

Well, in short, with you I don't need go into great detail. You already know what's what. We are a democracy, the only democratic country in the Middle East, and we share democratic values with you here in America (where's the applause and the clapping? Very good, very good.) We are surrounded by enemies and faced with the most dangerous threats. I've already explained to you a lot of times about the grave danger of Ahmadinejad, that nuclear bastard from Tehran. And there is also the threat of the new flotilla which is going to sail in the direction of the Port of Gaza next month. Just imagine, we have intelligence information that also this time they intend to take with them some kitchen knives! Our good boys in the Naval Commandos are preparing to block this threat. Or shall we actually confuse them and not block them after all? We will see, I have a meeting with the security people about that, next week.

Anyway, this is not exactly what I came to talk to you about today. I wanted to warn you specifically about Abu Mazen, yes, this bastard chick who had grown feathers and has by now become a real wolf in sheep's clothing. He has come up with a really nasty conspiracy. To create facts on the ground! Yes, you have heard right, he actually intends to create facts on the ground! He does not want to go on negotiating with us, that bastard. We are already negotiating for twenty years, and there was a very nice progress in the Peace Process. Another forty years, and we would come to some kind of agreement. Yes, definitely. At most, in fifty years. But these bastards don't want to go on negotiating, they want to create facts unilaterally, these insolent rascals. They want to get recognition as a state by the United Nations, come September. But you will not let them, will you! (More clapping, more clapping! Stronger! Stronger!). Excellent, excellent, I knew I could rely on you. The Palestinians have the UN General Assembly, but what is the UN compared to having the United States Congress in your inmost pocket?

Any questions? Of course not. Everything is clear, you know your mission and you will perform well, as always. See you in September, guys. What's this? Is this how you clap for your platoon commander? I can hear nothing. Harder, guys, harder, more clapping, more applause! Don't forget, when AIPAC is around, Senators have a good reason to shake! Guard your back, guys! See you in September!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Aqaba: the crime of existing

Last week the IDF was very busy on the Gaza Strip Border, involved in shooting and shooting back and shelling and bombing and firing missiles and intercepting missiles and carrying on the operational testing under field conditions of the Iron Dome counter-missile system. Yet in the midst of all this the military found the time and resources to open a second front at a small village in northeastern West Bank called Aqabah (the same name as the more well known city in Jordan).

Altogether, about three hundred people live there. No missile had been shot from there. Even stones had never been thrown there, neither now nor at the height of the first Intifada, or the second one. Never were people from this village been charged even with the slightest violent act. Nevertheless, even in the midst of warlike escalation on the Gaza border, the Israeli Defense Forces could spare the resources to send many soldiers on a military mission into this village - almost as many soldiers as it has residents.

The soldiers advanced to three houses which were marked for destruction, ordered the families to leave immediately, threw out their possessions and escorted bulldozers to destroy the houses before the frightened children's eyes. And the two roads connecting the village to the outside world were most thoroughly plowed by the soldiers of the world's most moral army, so as to make them impassable to the Aqaba residents' cars. And the electricity poles were uprooted and smashed, as was the fence at the side of the road, and the soldiers also moved into the fields near the road and plowed them and destroyed a large part of crops.

"The Peace Road" the Aqabah residents had named the one-kilometer road that linked their village to the main Jordan Valley Highway. The soldiers who were sent there by the State of Israel did not care by what name was called the road which they were ordered to destroy.

A bit of history

This is not the first time that the village of Aqabah was singled out for a harsh treatment by the State of Israel. In fact, ever since the territory was conquered in 1967, the authorities in our country did not hide their strong feeling that this village should just not be there (it does not appear on any map printed in Israel) and made many efforts to ensure that it would indeed stop being there. Not only were houses destroyed again and again, but for many years a training base of the Israel Defense Forces was located in the middle of Aqabah, with soldiers holding live ammunition training among the houses. No less than nine villagers were killed and others injured by stray bullets. Yet residents refused to understand the subtle hint and leave. They buried their dead and mourned them and continued to live in this difficult and dangerous location.

Only in 2001 did the Supreme Court accept a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights and ordered the army to remove the base and stop the soldiers from training among the village houses. And still did the authorities hold firmly to their opinion that there should be no building in this location and no building licenses would ever be granted and that therefore the illegal houses built in Aqabah must be demolished,  as should the illegal road made by the illegal residents of the illegal village for their illegal cars....

Why are the authorities bothered so much by the existence of a tiny village, of which the majority of Israeli citizens have never heard? Never was an official answer given. One may only speculate that it may have started in some way with Yigal Alon, a senior minister in the government of Israel at the aftermath of 1967, who came up with the idea that Israel should permanently keep the Jordan Valley and settle it with as many Israeli Jews as were willing to go there and discourage in every possible way the presence of Arabs there. The village of Aqabah is unfortunate to be situated on the very edge of the Jordan Valley. If it were gotten rid of, the area earmarked for Israeli annexation plans would become that much wider… Alon is long dead, but the plan that he laid down is still alive and kicking. Very painfully kicking, at times.

In 2003 the army bulldozers visited Aqaba and began to destroy house after house. But peace activists called the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem and  some phone calls were made from there to senior Israeli officials and the destruction stopped. After this event Aqabah had seven  good years, when it was left more or less alone, and the village began to prosper with considerable international assistance.

USAID helped pave the access road to the village, and the British government funded the establishment of a clinic. The kindergarten was financed by an American organization called "The Rebuilding Alliance", and the governments of Japan, Belgium and Norway helped in adding a second floor, so as to enable the kindergarten to take in also the children from other small villages in the area. The Government of Japan also funded the construction of a large water tank for the villagers' use. (There was, of course, no possibility of linking Aqaba to regular water supplies by pipe, as human communities normally are – all water supplies and pipes in this area are controlled by the Government of Israel and its armed forces…)

The village's mayor, Haj Sami Sadek - a man confined to a wheelchair since his youth, after being injured in the shooting of soldiers who carried out live fire training near his home - was invited to lecture tours in the U.S. and Europe and talked to various VIP's and gave press interviews in several countries. For many years it seemed that the authorities decided to leave this village alone. Until last week.

What happened now? Who decided that it was high time to return Israeli bulldozers to the village of Aqaba? Again, one can only guess. Maybe it has something to do with the very highly publicized visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Jordan Valley a month ago, not far from the village of Aqaba, and his firm statements that this Valley must remain under Israeli control. Not that Netanyahu necessarily gave a direct order to the army to demolish homes and plow roads in the village of Aqaba. But sometimes the military administrators and bureaucrats need no more than a hint.

"It was Asher Tzur from the [Army's] Civil Administration. The same man who over many years comes to destroy our homes. It was him again, also this time. What does he want from us? What have we ever done to offend him?" Haj Sami Sadeq, the Mayor, said to me on the phone. "I asked Asher 'Do you have no wife? No children? How would you feel if somebody came to destroy your home?' He did not answer me. After they went away, one of the people left homeless asked me 'You're always talking about peace with Israel. Is this your peace? ' And how can I answer him? "

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gaza Chad Gadya*

I received the following article from Eric Yellin, a resident of Sderot and head of The Other Voice - a group of residents of Sderot and communities near the Gaza Border, maintaining continuous contact with Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, promoting neighborly relations and dialogue in the south. He wrote this article last Wednesday and tried in vain to find a newspaper which would publish it.
At this moment the media reports that a fragile cease-fire is apparently beginning to take effect. We can hope that it will last. The article, written before the current escalation by a Sderot resident who lives there, near the Gaza border, is still very much worth reading. First and foremost, as a warning for the next escalation which might come upon us soon - if we do not take care to prevent it.

Sderot, Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The smell of Gaza War II - Cast Lead 2 "- is already in the air.

Israel calls for calm, but continues to initiate liquidations and disproportionate retaliations upon Gaza.

Hamas calls for calm, but continues to launch missiles, and allow others to launch missiles, at Israeli towns.

For months now, the streets of Gaza are in a condition of ongoing alert. Gazans try to put some food aside and plan where to hide, even though most of the population there have no money for food caches or protected hiding places.

Here in Sderot we are about to complete construction of reinforced protected rooms in every home. We will be the world's most protected city!. Beer Sheva and Ashkelon have gotten the Iron Dome anti-missile- missile system to protect them. Ashdod wants it, too, as does Yavne, and Rishon Lezion, too...

Gaza is again in the headlines, another flotilla is on its way, a Hamas rocket engineer was arrested, and above all - the article by Goldstone, allowing Israel to tell herself once again that we posses the most moral army in the world. What a wonderful timing!

There, everything is ready! What are we waiting for? Are the Emergency Mobilization orders on their way? More than two years have passed without anything interesting happening. Two years already? Really? When are we setting out?

But wait a minute! Stop!

Remember the sounds of war, the salvos from helicopters, the aircraft and bombs, the tanks and the artillery shelling. Remember the buzzing of drones, the air raid alarms the sound of rockets falling and hitting. "Did this one fall on us or on them? On them, how lucky!".

Remember the horror, the confusion and helplessness. The mothers, the fathers, the children, the blood, the dead, the wounded, the families left homeless, the outcry of the father who lost his daughters, the outcry of the children who lost their parents, the non-deliberate attack, the deliberate attack.

Remember the excuses and the detailed explanations. Remember the mumbled apology and the moral explantions. "The goal was to restore our deterrence, not to reach a decisive victory."

Remember the day after, when everyone gathers up the pieces. What has changed by this war? Is everything OK now? What have we gained? Why did we start it? Who is responsible for the fiasco? Nothing has changed really, but we did teach them a lesson, didn’t we?

It is our duty to challenge the supposedly preordained cycle of violence. Our leaders must do some courageous re-thinking, come up with a different solution for the endless Chad Gadya* in which we live.

We must talk to the enemy over there, behind the fence. Yes, talk to the enemy! And not through the gun sights and the targeted killings. The demagoguery of "this is the only language they understand" does not work anymore. It leads us again and again to dead ends, to relative and temporary calm which but sets the scene for the next violent outburst which is followed by another relative and temporary calm and another violent outburst…

Must talk courageously about a long-term truce, and then talk about a real and permanent solution which would give a life of dignity and hope to all residents of the region.

But first, we must stop the next war.

*Chad Gadya is a Passover song about a chain of violence - for the English translation click

Eric Yellin is a resident of Sderot, and represents "Other Voice

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Until the blood quota is filled.

There was a cease-fire along the Gaza border. We have somehow wriggled out of the previous escalation, and residents on both sides of the border got a few days of quiet. And then somebody decided to send planes to liquidate three senior Hamas members traveling in a car in the southern Gaza Strip.

It was just after a new head was appointed for the Shabak, Israel's Security Service - Yoram Cohen, a.k.a. "The Afghan". A senior Prime Ministerial aide proudly told Yediot Aharonot reporter Nehama Duek that Cohen is the Father of the Targeted Killings Doctrine, and that the Palestinians are afraid of him but also respect him, and that he is indeed the right man to head the Shabak in time of a drastic change in the Middle East because he is "a broad minded person who is able to see beyond the horizons" (Yediot Aharonot, April 2, 2011).

So why was it so urgent to target and kill three senior Hamas members in the southern Gaza Strip? Well, they had been on their way to the Sinai Peninsula, where they intended to kidnap Israelis, and the state of Israel was determined to prevent it. So it was told by the Army and the Shabak to the media, and the media passed it on the public, whose majority accepts this kind of announcement - no questions asked. Also, most Israelis living in the border area, who on hearing the news immediately went on high alert, in the expectation of retaliation.

Several days passed and nothing happened. Then something happened far away, in Sudan, where a mysterious plane emerged from the sea and fired into another car in which senior Hamas members were driving. And exactly who sent that plane? Prime Minister Netanyahu smiled mysteriously at the reporters and declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Police Minister Aharonovitch, of Foreign Minister Lieberman party, visited the border town of Sderot and announced that the ceasefire will not and should not last and that a total war should be launched into Gaza. At least some residents of Sderot, already in a state of high alert, did not like to hear this message and intended to hold a protest vigil at the Yad Mordechai Junction and call for ceasefire and dialogue and oppose escalation.

And then suddenly the blow fell. A Cornet anti-tank missile, a sophisticated missile whose existence in the Gaza Strip was hitherto only rumored, was shot - not at a tank but at a yellow school bus. 16 year-old boy was critically wounded and taken to hospital, struggling for his life. The despicable act of deliberately firing at the bus was condemned througout the world, as it deserves to be.

Israel Defense Forces immediately embarked on a rapid, continuous, open-ended series of retaliations. The immediate first strike killed five Palestinians, including a fifty-five year old civilian (which happens to be exactly my own age). This was an unfortunate, regrettable mistake. In no way was it deliberate.

The Palestinian organizations in Gaza called for an immediate ceasefire and promised to immediately stop shooting. This offer was contemptuously rejected by the Israeli side and the bombings in the Gaza Strip continued and intensified. Alex Fishman, the unofficial IDF spokesman. yesterday wrote in Yediot Aharonot: "Hamas must pay dearly. This time, officials will not accept a Hamas request for a lull via secret channels of UN officials in the area, as happened in the past. In the coming days, the cannons, missiles, tanks, jets and rockets will do the talking. Until the blood quota is filled. "

Until the blood quota is filled. As of this moment in which I write, the blood quota filled by the Israeli Defense Forces has reached the number of seventeen dead Palestinians. Including Hamas fighters and launchers of missiles and rockets. Including also a mother and her daughter killed in a direct hit on their home, which was undoubtedly not intentional. Indeed, it was an unfortunate, regrettable mistake which the IDF recognized as such and expressed sincere regrets. And a bit further on, a farmer was killed by a bomb while working his land, and this too was recognized as a mistake and sincere regrets expressed.

Apparently, the blood quota is not yet filled. General Tal Russo of the IDF Southern Command spoke last night on TV and explained that many of the tools in the army's toolbox have not yet been used. And if all these tools are taken out and made use of, more civilians might get killed. But of course, if this happens it will all be an unfortunate and unintended mistake, and no doubt the appropriate words of regret to will be duly uttered afterwards.

A bit more than two years ago, at the Cast Lead time, the number of Palestinian civilians killed through the unintentional and regetable mistakes of the most moral army in the world was about a hundred times the number of Israeli civilians killed through deliberate targeting by nasty terrorists But there is no doubt that this was an unfortunate mistake, or rather an accumulation of several hundred unfortunate mistakes. Even Goldstone this week admitted that it was not intentional.

Incidentally, the police strictly prohibited residents of Sderot and the Gaza border area to hold the planned vigil at the Yad Mordechai Junction, and the area was declared a closed military zone. Now is not the time to demonstrate and wave signs calling for a ceasefire and dialogue with the Palestinians. Let these characters stay in their protected rooms and not interfere with the world's most moral army filling the quota of blood until the very last drop.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Among the old photographs which I kept from all sorts of demonstrations I saw on the wall opposite the computer where I am now writing one which is a bit faded but still very noticeable. It shows Juliano Mer-Khamish and his late mother Arna at a demonstration held in the Lower Town of Haifa. The photographer captured both of them at a moment of a very intense crying out. Juliano is quite young on this photograph, no yet having grown the beard which characterized him in later years. I think I remember this particular demonstration, the chanting and protest and anger, but I can't remember which was the particular act of grave injustice against which we were protesting on that day, and which impelled Giuliano to wear a Yellow Star on his breast and engage in angry shouting confrontations with passers-by.

There were years when a demonstration against the Occupation was incomplete without having Juliano Mer among its participants and organizers.

In recent years he was hardly seen in demonstrations any more. He gave himself totally to the Freedom Theatre which he founded and directed at the Jenin Refugee Camp, the idea that Palestinians can fight against the occupation from the stage of the theater. Not a few Palestinians were drawn in, including some who before only believed in the gun.

Did he come there as an Israeli Jew from his mother's side, who came to express solidarity with the oppressed and occupied? (In fact,.it was Arna who first started going to the Jenin Refugee Camp, starting there a kindergarten in the midst of the First Intifada, for which she later got the Alternative Nobel Prize? Or did he come as a Palestinian from his father's side, a Palestinian with relatively comfortable circumstances who came to help the more blatantly oppressed members of his people? "Both and neither, first and foremost he was a human being," an activist from Haifa who knew him well told me.

Someone, somewhere found the activity of Juliano Mer-Khamish at the Jenin Refugee Camp to be very disturbing. Disturbing enough to send masked assassins to shoot him down. Juliano's marked personality and outspoken message certainly created for him enemies left and right. His co-workers, the young Palestinian actors , the friends of the Freedom Theater of Jenin Refugee Camp will have to carry on without him, strenghtened by the enormous outrage at the terrible news. Also among the Israeli actors Juliano was respected and beloved.

Beware of trains

It is now finally revealed why the State of Israel decided to undertake a dangerous espionage mission at the Ukraine and send agents to abduct a Palestinian electrical engineer from the Gaza Strip and take him off a passenger train and bring him to an Israeli prison. The severe charge sheet submitted to the court indicates that this is not just an ordinary engineer, but a e senior official of the Palestinian military industry, who for years took care to improve and enhance the Palestinian rockets and increase their range. As experts write in today's papers, for committing such crimes the Gaza Engineer will have to spend years behind bars.

In the military industries of the State of Israel there are is a considerable a number of engineers who worked for years to improve and enhance the IDF missile system and increase their range (not to mention those who helped develop entirely new missiles).

In the coming years, these Israeli engineers better stay out of The Ukraine, and avoid entering trains.

Friday, April 1, 2011

And God hardened the heart of Netanyahu

It happened thousands of years ago, and is still remembered and still celebrated every year on Passover, to which we will come in a few weeks. When the oppressed demanded to be set free, and their leader cried out "Let my People go!", God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and he refused and refused and refused and would not hear of letting the oppressed ones go free, and he and his people were hit with terrible plagues, and in the end the oppressed were released anyway.

Today the roles are reversed a little, and it is the Prime Minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu who is faced with requests and demands and entreaties to let go the Palestinians after forty-three years of oppressive occupation, and God hardens the heart of Netanyahu. No, definitely not! We will not freeze the settlements, ten months of freeze were quite enough and now they kill and we will build and build and build, and you ladies and gentlemen in Russia and Germany please take care not to vote for a Palestinian state in the United Nations, and you Mr. Secretary-General of the United Nations please do not let ships sail to the coasts of Gaza, this is no more than a provocation, our experts in the IDF have determined how many calories every resident of Gaza needs to consume and we do provide them with exactly that many calories, and no' we will not publish this data because it is a military secret, and you leftists with all your allegations of human rights violations had better shut up or we will pass a few more laws in the Knesset to gag you, and you ambassadors stop making trouble and warning of an impending disaster in September when the whole world will support a Palestinian state, no it will not happen, we will find a solution, God is great, I will deliver the Bar Ilan Speech II and also the Bar Ilan Speech III and what will I say? I will think of something, don't worry, it will sound impressive. And what about all these stories about luxurious traveling abroad? Come on, leave all that crap, these are just cheap sensationalist defamations of nasty people who try to hurt me by targeting my dear wife, and it is all nonsense and anyway everybody is doing it, and come on, don’t you see what a flourishing and prosperous economy we have, and in the end everybody will really feel that prosperity, yes once upon a time you will also share in it; and I can't say exactly when that will be but it will, for sure, everything will be perfectly all right, I tell you, everything will be perfectly all right.

Who is not on Facebook

The social network called Facebook has played a crucial role in the revolutionary processes throughout the Arab World. The young Egyptian protesters communicate via Facebook, and the Tunisians, and the Yemenis, and now the Syrians, too. . The Facebook company in the United States is quite modest, they say they never meant to bring about such revolutions. Still, they do not really regret the publicity.

But what about the Palestinians? A group of Palestinian youths started to communicate through Facebook and call for a Third Intifada on May Fifteen. This, Facebook did not really like. Well enough to organize against Arab dictators, but against the Israeli occupation? The Government of Israel lodged a complaint and the Palestinian Intifada swiftly disappeared from the Facebook spaces.

Hosni Mubarak is gnashing his teeth in envy...

First summer saving time day in Bil'in

Roy Wagner sent me the following report which I gladly share.

Over 30 Israelis and some 50 internationals joined the people of Bil'in to celebrate the first day of summer saving time while protesting against the wall, resisting the occupation, and expressing solidarity with the people of Syria. Mustafa Bargouthi dropped in surrounded by Mubadra flags, but Fatah and Marwan Bargouthi flags were not absent either.
On the northern fence front the gas and stone exchange started pretty much immediately, but at the main gate the soldiers preferred skunk and stun grenades, forcing a couple of demonstrators who got sprayed while trying to cross the fence to continue the demonstration with their shirts off. The soldiers held the gas back for a while, either because of the unfavorable wind, or because they liked the popular Arab music played from a car-borne loud speaker, or because they have discovered the power of de-escalation and gone hippie on us (scat squirting and sound bombing hippie, that is).

But the gas did eventually come, maybe because the sound bombs scared a flock of storks into circling in the air above the demo, upsetting the fine balance of mother nature, which is surely a definite no-no for our armed friends of the Zionist earth.

During one of the pauses between the relatively thin showers of gas, a red ice-cream car came a-gingling and offered radioactive-colored lumps of sweet frozen vegetable fat which, given the heat, duped some of the demonstrators into buying and eating it.

Eventually, when the shabab was almost done expressing its protest by stoning the skunk truck, the soldiers corssed the fence to scare the few remaining demonstrators away. But while some demonstrators did retreat, others took the opportunity to give the soldiers a 30 minute lecture about the evils of the occupation, describe the soldiers' personal faults, comment on their mothers, and rub skunk-soaked bodies in their noses. This tactic led the army to retreat, repent and promise to end the occupation.

Well, maybe the repenting and ending the occupation thing was a heat induced delusion or an April fool's hoax. A couple of demonstrators required first aid for exposure to gas and a rubber bullet bruise.