Friday, June 20, 2014

The Arab Knesset Member you love to hate

On the front page of "Israel Today", commonly known as "The Bibinews", there appeared yesterday a big red headline: "The Disgraceful MK Zoabi." On the second page there was a black headline proclaiming: "Zoabi’s place is in prison." And below the title there was very extensive a collection of quotations from Knesset Members and ministers and army officers and many more: "There is no limit to her cruelty and cynicism" / "She does not deserve to be an MK" / "Not only the kidnappers are terrorists, Zoabi is a terrorist too" / "Her harsh words are wild incitement and encouragement to terrorism" / "She is not worthy to be in the Knesset, put her on trial"/ "Remove her immunity and expel her to Gaza". And so and on, a page and a half in small crowded characters.

Tucked in a corner among all the outpouring of abuse were the words which MK Haneen Zoabi  said in a morning radio program, and which raised such a fuss: "I'm not surprised at the abduction. People are living under occupation, that is not  normal living. They are forced to use such measures until Israel would  understand the suffering of people living under occupation”. 

This had happened before, and more than once or twice. Ever since the State of Israel was established, it has been happening at regular intervals. Repeatedly the surprising discovery is made that the State of Israel has Arab citizens, that those citizens have the right to vote in Knesset  elections, and they do elect parliamentarians to represent them in the Knesset.  And what a surprise, the Arab Knesset Members who represent the Arab citizens are not  Zionists, no do their cars bear the bumper sticker "Long Live the IDF”.

Every few years, usually at a moment of one national crisis or another, still another storm of controversy bursts out when a statement by an Arab Knesset Member evokes an emotional outburst, and loud demands are made to expel the offending Member from the Knesset, or from the country, or altogether from the land of the living. Each generation in the history of Israel there was the one specific Arab MK which you loved to hate. Haneen Zoabi is the first woman to be placed into this slot, and the outburst of hatred against her includes a significant element of male chauvinism. 

The first such case was in 1949, the first year of Israel's existence and of the Knesset parliamentary activity. The Arab Communist Knesset Member Tawfik Toubi  dared to voice in the Knesset a criticism of the destruction caused by Israeli soldiers during house searches at Arab villages in the Galilee. He was met by an outburst of angry shouts, some calling out: "You should say thank you that you are allowed to sit in the Knesset give”. His demand for an investigation was rejected by an overwhelming Knesset majority. 

Following this incident, the poet Nathan Alterman published on Novemeber 18,1949  a poem entitled "The Rebuke to Tawfik Toubi ", included in his regular  column in the Davar newspaper.  The poet and thinker Alterman was an influential public figure life during the British Mandate and the early years of Israel. He was not a left-winger as the term is nowadays understood in Israel. In fact, in his last years of his life he was a founding member of the Greater Israel movement. But he was a decent person. 

"The Rebuke to Tawfik Toubi "

By Nathan Alterman (1949)

So, who is Tawfik Toubi ? 
He is a Knesset Member
He is an Arab Communist. 
By right and not as a favor  
Does he sit in Parliament 

Like all other members, 
He too sits there
By virtue of the law
It is time 
We remember that, fellows
He owes no great debt
Of gratitude for special favor 
He is there by law  
By right
By fundamental principle  

No! There is no call
For Parliament
To wave at him
Time and again
The threat of divorce 

By no means should Parliament
Say: You may speak
Because of my generosity…
Out of my goodness…
Because I give you leave…
This should never be said
Even in private 

The time has come to decide:
Like all other delegates
Toubi is here by right!
And if we mean it seriously
There is no need
To present to him 
Every two days
The bill of what he owes 

Such is the nature 
Of Democracy:
Her servants 
Owe gratitude to no person

And to the main issue:
The army is conducting searches 
Not a week passes 
Without a new sweep

Any reasonable person knows
Such an affair 
Is not a polite ceremony
Consisting solely
Of bows and scrapes 

Of course our reporters
Are not called to be there
As to a photo opportunity –
Though I imagine
Had they been invited
They would not have returned
Empty handed 

One thing is clear:
When a member gets up
With a bit different view 
Of these searches
It is no less important
Then the glowing communiqués
Published in our press

In his mouth were facts
Not yet disproven
An investigation he demanded
So what is the way out?
No!... A very unhealthy forest 
Was the forest of hands
Springing to block investigation 
And rule all he said
A mere defamation…

 Without debate was it struck    
Right off the agenda 
Could that possibly mean  
There had been no substance?
We conduct intensive searches  
Yet find no time 
For soul-searching 

So, it was an Arab Communist
Who took it up. 
That is not a reason
To tear it all down
In derision
No! Especially when 
There is reason to suppose
This time he had done
A bit of the government’s 
Own job of investigation.

A final note

Also this week, 65 years after that session where the call for investigation was rejected out of hand, soldiers of the IDF left a great mess in Palestinian homes which were searched. The Israeli public through its media got only sanitized footage courtesy of the IDF Spokesman’s bureau, and no one even raised the issue on the Knesset floor.

Nirit Haviv, Israeli peace and human rights activist, this week visited several villages in the north-west of the West Bank, and her report included: "(...) Three nights ago, a midnight raid was held in the village of Jinsafut and a resident arrested. The father of detainee said that his son, 34, married with three small children, is making a living from a family business of porcelains and marble ware. The soldiers herded the entire family into one room, beat up the detainee in front of his small children, searched the house, poured the contents of the cupboards on the floor, broke marble tiles, poured grain sacks, and caused extensive damage. The detainee’s father worked for many years in Israel, and currently works in the settlement of Tzofim. Since the detention of his son he did not go to work and is very worried about him. An officer called the family to tell that is at Hawara. It is not yet clear id this good news or bad. The blockading of villages, arbitrary arrests, violence, damage to property – all that does not bring back the abducted boys, but certainly it increases the hostility, frustration and despair of the population. The use of such practices as has lasted for half a century, unfortunately we have learned nothing from experience". 

A Palestinian house visited by soldiers this week

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Every child has a name

Last Wednesday, June 11, 2014, was an ordinary weekday in Israel. In the morning, the Israeli Air Force sent out an aircraft to carry out an assassination in the Gaza Strip, and the task was carried our successfully. The 33-year old Mahmud al-Awoor, from Beit Lahiya in the northern part of the Strip, was located as he rode a motorcycle. He was shot from the air and killed instantly.

The Army told the Israeli media that Awoor had been involved in firing rockets at Israel. The media took up the Army’s version without question, and published news items headed "Terror activist liquidated in the Strip”. Prime Minister Netanyahu congratulated the Air Force for this successful operation, quoting for the occasion a maxim of the old Jewish sages: "He who gets up early in order to kill you, get you up even earlier and kill him first!".

It was noted in passing that during the assassination, two other people were injured. Several media outlets mentioned briefly that one of these wounded was a child. Did anyone bother to inform the Prime Minister that there was a child involved, before he spoke of "He who gets up early..."? Perhaps nobody told him. Quite possibly, Netanyahu really did not know.

Three days later, this child died at the hospital in Gaza. Too many fragments of shrapnel had penetrated his body, and the doctors' efforts to save him failed. On the day that the child died, Saturday June14, there was already another issue, a very hot and urgent issue which absorbed the full attention of the Israeli media. Everything else was shoved aside. Though it is not sure that even without the distraction of such an urgent issue they would have truly taken an interest.

Most of the Israeli media did not bother to make any mention whatsoever of the fact that a child of seven had died in Gaza as a result of wounds caused by Israel’s Air Force. Even Ha'aretz, considered the flagship of Israeli liberalism, mentioned the child’s death only in single line, buried deeply in a long article. The child's name was not mentioned.

As far as I know, in the entire Israeli communications media, the news website Y-net was the only one to publish a complete news item on the child's death. It was also the only one to publish the child’s name. His name was Ali Abdel-Latif al-Awoor, and he was seven years old at his death. He was a nephew of the assassinated Mahmud al-Awoor. Family members told that when the uncle had gone to buy food for the family, he had taken his little nephew with him on his motorcycle at the request of the child’s father.

In much of the Israeli media, indignation was voiced at the coldness and lack of compassion exhibited by their European counterparts. The European media did not report, or made only a brief report, of the issue which already for four days occupies the Israeli media to the exclusion of everything else – i.e, the abduction of three Israeli youths on the West Bank and the apprehension about their fate. How could the Europeans be so heartless?

Today Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein made a speech in which he emphasized the enormous moral difference between us Israelis and our Palestinian neighbors:”We sanctify life, they sanctify death”.

Without saying any such sanctimonious words, of course I too greatly hope that the 16-year old Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, and the 19-year old Eyal Yifrach, will come back safeand sound to their homes and families. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

Pride and predicament

Many years ago I attended the first Gay Pride Parade held in Tel Aviv. A fellow student  at the History Department, a lesbian who "came out" about a year earlier, asked me to come and take part. The organizers were quite apprehensive. At the time, homosexual relations were still illegal in Israel, under a British law which had been abolished in the UK itself. Though the Attorney General no longer filed charges under this law, the police still often  acted violently towards homosexuals. At that first Pride Parade we were several dozen people, feeling very isolated in the huge square in front of the Town Hall. There was no overt hostility from passers-by, but certainly also no manifestations of sympathy or support.

"Tel Aviv is marching towards equality"

This morning, several decades later, again a Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. As has been the case for quite a few years already, it was held under the very enthusiastic auspices of the Tel Aviv Municipality, which took care a week in advance to decorate the entire city with colorful Pride Flags. At the point of departure, Mayor Huldai made a festive greeting to the crowd, estimated by organizers at one hundred and twenty thousand. Participants then embarked on “a colorful parade, a rainbow carnival, a joyful and positive protest at the still remaining forms of discrimination against the Gay Community." The annual Gay Pride Parade through the streets of Tel Aviv became a prime global showcase of Israel – the democratic liberal and open Israel, stronghold of democracy in the Middle East. No wonder that a special effort was mounted to bring to Tel Aviv a record number of gay tourists, especially for the parade - about twenty-five thousand of them from all over the world.

And just at the time when the parade of joyful and positive protest moved  through the streets of Tel Aviv, a bit less joyful protest took place at the Mosques Compound in East Jerusalem (Temple Mount/Haram a-Sharif), one of the most sensitive points in our region. After the noon prayers, hundreds of worshipers marched in support of the Administrative Detainees on hunger strike in Israel's jails. This quickly developed into mass confrontations with the police. The Special Forces began firing stun grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets as well as beating protesters with batons. Some of the Palestinians barricaded themselves in the mosque, whereupon the police fired in pepper gas grenades, whose effect is particularly severe in enclosed spaces. Journalists and ambulance crews were not immune to the police shooting, either.

Today's confrontations ended with relatively moderate results - twenty-eight Palestinians injured and eight arrested. The settlers and their friends are now preparing the ground for the next outbreak. Tisha B'Av, the traditional Jewish Day of Mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple - which had stood in that location a bit more than one thousand and nine hundred years ago - some religious-nationalist-messianic groups intend to “take strong action in order to to get a Jewish grip over this Holy Place." So,  Tisha B'Av this year will probably also be a hot day in Jerusalem.

Day before the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, a bit less prideful  event took place in the arid area of the Negev northwest of Beersheba. From the morning until noon, large police forces, Israel Land Authority personnel, and bulldozers were engaged in systematically destroying the cemetery compound at the Bedouin village of Araqib.

The Government of Israel does not recognize the existence of the village of Araqib or any property rights whatsoever which the Bedouin residents might have over this land. As far as the authorities are concerned, all of the hundreds of Bedouins who cling tooth and nail to the soil of Araqib are illegal squatters on state lands, who are to be evicted and expelled. The state has many times destroyed the village of Araqib, and each time the residents rebuild it - or at least set up some huts where their houses had stood. But until now, the forces of destruction did not touch the cemetery where residents have been buried over generations, including many who died long before a state called Israel was established.

In accordance with new eviction orders, which were approved in court at the end of a judicial wrangle of appeals on appeals, police and bulldozers destroyed the fence that surrounded the cemetery complex, and opened the way to break in and destroy the huts erected by the residents Araqib among the graves of their ancestors. The residents - along with volunteers who came from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem late on the previous night - were rounded up by police and concentrated in the structure of the mosque adjacent to the cemetery. In the afternoon, after the huts were destroyed along with the sheds for sheep and goats and the water tanks, residents and volunteers were ordered to vacate the enclosure in order to facilitate demolition of the minaret which was erected last year. Some of them refused to leave and police arrested eight of them - six local Bedouins, and two volunteers, Rabbi Arik Asherman and Yuval Halperin. After the detentions and the removal of the people, the  minaret was destroyed. The rest of the mosque structure was spared. At least for the time being.

Meanwhile, Israel has a new president, after a very stormy – and rather smelly - elections process. The powerful emotions aroused were inversely proportional to the actual power and authority which the President of Israel yields. One by one, candidates were forced out of the race when various skeletons which they had in the cupboard were exposed. In the aftermath we have a new president  named Reuben “Ruvi” Rivlin who has the good reputation of an honest and fair man, who sincerely cares about democratic freedoms in Israel including the rights of the Arab minority. At the same time, he is also known as a staunch supporter of the Greater Israel ideology who wholeheartedly supports the settlers, and that in former position as Knesset Speaker he had lashed out furiously against the actors who had followed the dictates of their conscience and refused to perform at the "Hall of Culture" of the Ariel settlement on the West Bank.

Which of these two sides of the man is going to be the more significant in the career of the new President? Time will tell. Perhaps the most important will be the only moment when the President of Israel wields a significant political authority – the time just after general elections when the president must decide which  Knesset Member form which party is to be entrusted with forming the new cabinet. Will that be a moment when a bitter rivalry will come to light – the rivalry between the new President Rivlin and the veteran Prime Minister Netanyahu, both (at least officially) members of the same party?

Anyway, it is hard to expect that President Rivlin, with all his declared support for democratic freedoms, would raise his voice against the institution of Administrative Detentions without trial, which has been used in Israel since its inception (in fact, Israel inherited also this from the legal system of the British Mandate). Every night, military forces raid villages and cities on the West Bank and take Palestinians to prison according to detention lists prepared by Israeli secret services. Approximately ten percent of these detainees are placed under Administrative Detention, based on an arrest warrant signed by a military officer and authorizing the placing of a person behind bars without trial or charge of any kind, other than the general statement that "the above mentioned person poses a threat to security".

 In the past, some Administrative Detainees held personal hunger strikes, and were invariably set free at the moment when the prisoner was on the verge of death – as the authorities were apprehensive of riots breaking out upon the detainee’s death. But this time it is a collective hunger strike by all Administrative Detainees, and their demand is to be released as a group - and further, that Administrative Detentions be altogether abolished, and that Palestinians be placed in Israeli jails only under the verdict of a judge, for specific offenses which had been proven in court. In the Security Services’ eyes, the Palestinians had this time gone too far. They recommend that it would be better to take a tough stance now and risk also the death of hunger strikers and the riots which would follow; even better, break the hunger strike by force feeding. This week a bill passed its first reading in the Knesset which would permit the forced feeding of hunger strikers - though doctors who would implement that action might be charged by the Medical Association with a serious violation of medical ethics and possibly they could also be liable to prosecution for violating International Law.

"A hunger strike is a weapon of the weak" wrote this morning the Yediot Aharonot columnist Yoaz Handel, who is far from being identified with the Israeli Left. "In 1909, Marion Dunlop was imprisoned after writing graffiti criticizing the King of England on the wall of the Parliament building. Marion was a feminist who wanted women to have the right to vote, and en route she also invented the right to hold a hunger strike. Her example was followed by Irish freedom fighters, by Mahatma Gandhi in India and Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union, and also by terrorists and criminals” Handel adds. “Hunger proved to be effective, regardless of religion and state. The self-imposition of death in prison has become a threat to democratic governments, and sometimes even to those that are not. In Israel, the hunger strikes of Palestinians become part of the struggle for hearts and minds. The controversies are over photos and body counts. Any footage of a shooting starts a debate on the international arena, each dead prisoner becomes a symbol for the organizations that seek to  de-legitimize Israel. (...) The security apparatus is opposed to another agreement with the hunger strikers. It would convey a problematic message. Every prisoner release entails further releases. The choices facing Israel are to force-feed them or to let them die. Both are bad choices, both will be used to condemn Israel. "

Coincidentally or not, just this week a major international campaign reached its peak, targeting the big British security company G4S, which is involved in providing logistical support to the Security Services and Prison Authority of Israel. An impressive list of public figures called upon the company to sever such ties - and should it refuse they called upon other companies to withdraw their investments from G4S. This morning the campaign reported a success in terms of both propaganda and actual results: the famous Bill Gates of Microsoft and his wife Melissa last week announced their decision to significantly reduce their investments in G4S, and after several more days of deliberation and public pressure they have decided on complete divestment of all they had put into G4S – to wit, 184 million dollars. "The choices facing Israel are to force-feed hunger strikers or to let them die. Both are bad choices, both will be used to condemn Israel" wrote Yoaz Handel. Both options will strengthen and empower public campaigns of this kind, worldwide.

While I was writing this article, a new issue came up, which at least in the Israeli media takes immediate precedence over everything else: Three boys studying at a religious seminary in the settlement of Alon Shvut on the West Bank have disappeared, apparently kidnapped when trying to hitchhike close to midnight on a dark highway. From then on, the army and security services launched a very intensive effort to find the boys, and all the Palestinian towns in the southern West Bank are undergoing a massive military invasion and house to house searches. What did happen to them? Who captured them? Is there an intention to try exchanging them for prisoners and detainees in the Israeli prison?

So far, nothing is known - but Prime Minister Netanyahu has already found the culprit: "Abu Mazen is responsible for the welfare of the boys, all this is the result of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas." President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) noted that the boys appear to have been kidnapped from an area under exclusive Israeli security control, and that the Palestinian security personnel under Abu Mazen’s orders have been instructed to take an active part in searches. Netanyahu did not care for all that. The PR and propaganda line accusing Abbas of anything and everything which might happen on the ground was pre-determined long ago.

Shimon Peres, who will soon end his term as President of Israel, does not share in this tendency to direct an accusing finger at Abbas. Earlier this week, Peres took up the Pope’s invitation to come to the Vatican along with the Palestinian President, and take part in an interfaith prayer for peace in our region

Indeed, after everything else failed, why not pray.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The longest war

 At five minutes to eight on the morning of June 5, 1967 – precisely forty seven years ago - I was around the corner from my school in the Old North of Tel Aviv when the air raid sirens sounded.  Hundreds of pupils were running into the basement of the school building. A kindly teacher comforted us and told us there was nothing to worry about, that our soldiers were going to win. The open radio said that the army was counter-attacking after the Egyptians launched an attack on our southern border. Years later I found this was factually untrue;  but disbelieving military communiqués is not something you learn in school. Anyway, the teacher was evidently right: Tel Aviv was not bombed, there were no further alarms, and soon there came the exhilarating news of the incredibly rapid advance of our soldiers on all fronts.

This is what came to be known as the Six Day War – a rather misleading name, as in a sense that war is still going on after all these years. At the time it seemed the most clear-cut and decisive of military victories. In retrospect, it turned out to provide a very clear proof of the limitations of military power. Like the proverbial hare running with all his force and still unable to pass the plodding turtle, all of Israel’s overwhelming military superiority is not enough  to crush the Palestinians’ fierce aspiration to be a free people in their homeland.
After forty seven years the State of Israel is still striving with all its might to conquer and re-conquer and re-re-conquer that same territory through which its soldiers had swept in seeming swift and total victory – and after forty-seven years that victory still remains elusive.

On the morning of June 5, 2014, the Israel Today newspaper, better known as the Bibinews, carried a big headline: “The answer: construction – and a battle in Congress”. The answer of the Government of Israel to the Palestinians’ temerity in daring to heal their rifts and form a Unity Government; and to the United States Government’s greater temerity in recognizing that government. So, Netanyahu’s friends on Capitol Hill – particularly the Republican ones – are being mobilized to once again engage in a head-on confrontation with the Administration on behalf of Netanyahu’s Israel. The Bibinews report made it sound like a fine, no-holds barred fight of the Good Guys on Capitol Hill against the very nasty Bad Guys in the White House and the State Department. But commentators in other papers, such as Chemi Shalev of Ha’aretz, noted that is fact Netanyahu’s Senatorial friends were tacitly asked to make a big noise but not go to go “too far”. For example, withholding American funds from the Palestinian Authority might lead to its collapse, forcing Israel to assume financial and administrative responsibility for the running of Palestinian daily life, which Netanyahu’s advisers consider among the worst of all nightmare scenarios…

This leaves the other prong of counter-attack hailed in the Israel Today headline: Construction with a capital C, or as Housing Minister Uri Ariel termed it, “an appropriate Zionist response”.  With great fanfare it was announced that the government  would be “accepting bids for construction of new homes in several locations throughout Judea and Samaria” – 1500 housing units in all. The names of specific settlements were then enumerated, with the precise number earmarked for each: 223 new apartments in Efrat; 484 housing units in Beitar Ilit; 38 units in Geva Binyamin; 76 in Ariel; 78 in Alfei Menashe; 155 in Givat Ze’ev, including 55 in the supplementary settlement of Agan Ha’ayalot; and 400 new units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

An American online publication called “Breaking Israeli News”, which is devoted to providing “News from a Biblical perspective”, reported prominently this  appropriate Zionist response - and accompanied it by an appropriate quote: “So the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which He swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein” (Joshua 21:42). This piece of breaking Biblical news landed in my email box just as I was leaving home, to take part in several activities marking the 47th anniversary of the occupation.

On King George Street in Central Tel Aviv the Women In Black were holding their weekly Friday vigil, held uninterruptedly since the time of the first Intifada, and which was later emulated by women in other countries (notably in the former Yugoslavia). At noon today they stood in Tel Aviv as in Jerusalem, Haifa and at the junction Near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. Black clothing and the big plastic palms which are their trade mark, bearing the slogan “Down with the Occupation” in Hebrew, Arabic and English and sometimes other languages as well. To these were added placards calling for the release of the Palestinian Administrative Detainees, now on a widespread hunger strike. Some of the women had just come back from a vigil outside the Ichilov Hospital, where hunger striking Palestinians are held incommunicado, under close police guard.

Several bypassers make jeering calls: “Go to hell, traitor whores! There is no occupation, the terrorist Arabs want to murder us all!”. One of the women manages to get one of them to stay and engage in prolonged debate on the sidewalk. After some time, he seems more calm and less animated and in the end departs saying “Well, it was interesting to talk to you, though I completely disagree”.

From there to the nearby Habima Square where Breaking the Silence has scheduled a special event: the non-stop, ten-hours long reading out of the testimonies collected from soldiers who had served in the Occupied Territories. Many of the soldiers had spoken out on condition of remaining anonymous, and would not have wanted to expose themselves to the public gaze – so academics and public figures had volunteered to read out the  testimonies over the loudspeaker.

 - “We were in the desert in the South Hebron Hills where many Palestinians try to get through to work illegally in Israel, very crowded in cars operated by professional smugglers. Somebody thought up what we thought was a funny way to teach them a lesson – when we caught one we just took off the car’s tyres and left them stranded in the middle of the desert. It took us far too long to realize that they had mobile phones and that as soon as we departed their friends came along with spares. We felt like utter fools”.

- “A boy who was quite distant from us lit the flame in a Molotov cocktail. The soldier near me took aim with a sniper rifle and shot him through the head, he dropped dead on the spot. We were in a reinforced concrete position, the boy was quite far from us and could not possibly have harmed any of us. But regulations say that a Molotov is a deadly weapon and justifies shooting in self defense. The soldier who killed him was not interested in self-defense, he wanted an excuse to kill and he found it.”

- “We were in a lookout position on the mountain over Nablus. The soldiers were politically divided – right-wing, left-wing and in between. We debated politics all day, should we be there or should we not. With no bitterness, at most some bantering, there were in general good friendly relations among us. The commanding officer demanded that we stop this debating, said it was bad for morale. Then Rabbi Ronski, the IDF Chief Rabbi, came by to preach to us. He told us we were engaged in a Holy War for the sake of God and of the Jewish People, that all our Jewish ancestors were looking down at us from Heaven, and so on and so on. If ever something really damaged our morale, that was it.”

- “A middle aged Palestinian speaking very precise English told me that his home had been taken over as a temporary military position for three days, and that the soldiers had urinated everywhere and wantonly smashed the TV. I told him what the procedure was for lodging a complaint with the military authorities. But I felt I had to also tell him that it was no use and that after some months he would just be told that the specific soldiers who had been in his family home could not be identified. I felt very embarrassed to tell him this.”

Suddenly, a small group of people with their bodies draped with Israeli National Flags approaches, shouting quite hysterically: “Lies! Defamations! You are all a bunch of liars, traitors to your country, in the pay of our enemies! Long live the Army, three cheers for the IDF!”

- “I would suggest that you listen for a moment. These are all genuine testimonies of soldiers who had been there, in the Territories.” “Me listen to malicious lies invented by a bunch of traitors in the pay of international Antisemitism? Not on your life! Lies! Lies! Lies! You are all dirty traitors to your country!” The hecklers are finally dragged away by police, crying out “What a rotten country, police in the pay of the leftist traitors!”.

Actually, the Tel Aviv police had put considerable obstacles when the Hadash  activists asked a permit for the protest march due tomorrow night. Citing “traffic problems” the police sought to shunt the intended route of the march away from main streets and where hardly anybody would have seen it. The activists stood their ground and several hours’ prolonged negotiations ended with the police after all approving the original route.

Meanwhile, today Labor Party Leader Yitzchak Herzog unveiled his plan for an agreement with the Palestinians, which he termed “The Plan to Save Zionism”: 
As enumerated by Nahum Barne’a in Yediot Aharonot, the main provisions include: The final borders will be determined on the basis of the 1967 lines, with land swaps; the Palestinian state will be demilitarized; The IDF will remain for a time in the Jordan Valley and will then be replaced by a joint Israeli- Jordanian-Palestinian force; the Right of Return will be implemented in the  Palestinian state; Israel would absorb a limited number of Palestinian refugees, at its discretion; in Jerusalem the Clinton Parameters will be implemented - Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, Palestinian ones to the Palestinians; East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine, but the municipal government will be united; in the Holy Basin [Old City and some holy sites in its vicinity]  there will be a special regime; the Arab countries will be invited to sign peace agreements with Israel.

Substantial reservations could be made to some of these provisions. Still, they represent a significant improvement over much of the past records of the Israeli Labor Party. Over Golda Meir who said there was no Palestinian People and laid much of the foundations for the settlement project, and also over Shelly Yehimovitz, Herzog’s direct predecessor in the Labor leadership, who tried to minimize any reference to the Palestinians and concentrate solely on social issues. Also a significant approval over his own father Chaim Herzog, whose own way of defending Zionism was a dramatic tearing up of the UN resolution asserting that Zionism was racist.

But would Yitzchak Herzog ever get to the position of being able to implement his plan? And if he were, would he actually implement it? Time will tell.

To Build (Settlements) Or To Be
a demonstration marking 47 years of occupation
 Saturday, June 7, 2014

We meet at 7:00 pm at the entrance to Gan Me’ir Park on King George Street, Tel Aviv, and march together to the gates of the Defense Ministry on Kaplan Street

The Netanyahu Government makes places a paramount value on the settlements, giving them a complete priority over the chance of achieving a stable peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The Government is fattening the settlements to the tune of billions, at the expense of the budgets of health and education, welfare and culture.

The oppression of Palestinians in escalating into racism, "Price Tag” hate crimes and the crushing of democracy in Israel.

Rule over the Territories and the expansion of settlements have become the be-all and end-all. No one gives a damn about us and our future

On the 47th anniversary of the June 1967 War, we will demonstrate together in Tel – Aviv. Jews and Arabs we will call for an end to the occupation, evacuation of the settlements, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, with two capitals in Jerusalem, as well as for dismantling of  the Separation Wall, the release of the Palestinian prisoners, and a just solution to the Palestinian refugees’ problem according to the UN resolutions.

In face of the Netanyahu's refusal of peace and his fellows, we will demonstrate and call out: there is a Palestinian partner for negotiations – it is the time that  there wiIl be an Israeli partner as well.

The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash)
Down with Occupation /  Release Administrative Detainees

A shadowy place facing the busy King George Street

Breaking The Silence  audience at Habima Square 

Podium from which soldier testimonies were read