Palestine questions

Questions to ask your pro-Israeli friends

Paul Kinzelman formulates a set of questions which people of conscience can ask Israel’s supporters on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general and on Israel’s genocidal war against the people of Gaza. More »

Happiness

Corporate capitalism versus human happiness 

Graham Peebles argues that the prevailing paradigm of market fundamentalism, neo-liberalism, globalisation and corporate politics, rather than promote social cohesion and the pursuit of happiness, engender depression, anxiety, greed and disharmony. More »

Britain-Israel

Ridding Britain of Israel’s stooges

Stuart Littlewood says Britons must get rid of the “enemy within” – the Israel flag wavers – before they could bring Israel to account and peace and prosperity to the Palestinians. More »

Netanyahu's ceasefire trick

Netanyahu’s self-inflicted Gaza conundrum

Uri Avnery says the collapse of the ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas may have been engineered by the Israeli secret service, and also helped Netanyahu out of a tight political corner. More »

Prosecute Israel for Gaza war crimes

Israel faces its own evil

Gilad Atzmon argues that on the eve of the collapse of the Gaza ceasefire, Netanyahu faced a dilemma: to lift the Gaza blockade or to end up at the International Criminal Court. More »

Liberal Zionist dilemma

The liberal Zionist dilemma

Lawrence Davidson highlights the contradiction between universal civil and political rights and support for Zionist state. He says that, faced with the choice, most “liberal” Zionists would ditch the veil of liberalism. More »

David Cameron and the Israeli flag

Freedom to live ordinary lives…

Stuart Littlewood argues that while Israel continues to ride roughshod over international law and the will of the international community, Britain’s Conservative-led government continues to regurgitate the same tired old messages. More »

Zionism corrupting US democracy

Open letter to President Obama: Your legacy

Alan Hart spells out, in an open letter to US President Barack Obama, what it would take for Obama not to go down in history as a Zionist stooge and a joke. More »

Broken promises and broken dreams

Gaza: raw power and the murdering of justice

As the Gaza conflict rages, Stuart Littlewood asks whatever happened to the US-Quartet Agreement, signed by Israel, “to give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives”? More »

Israeli losers

The Gaza conflict: losers and consequences

Uri Avnery looks at who has come out worse from the month-long Gaza conflict, and assesses the consequences for Israel domestically and internationally, and for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. More »

Daily Archives: April 4, 2013

Just another Israeli secret service interrogation

By Awad Abdel Fattah

I was fortunate this week. I had a quick and easy crossing from Jordan back into Israel. No delays, no questions, no invasive body searches and no lengthy rummaging through my luggage.

The border guard sitting next to the computer took my passport, opened it and looked at the screen, presumably to check for any special alert. Unlike previous occasions, she didn’t leave her seat and disappear into another room to take instructions on what to do next. She simply handed back the passport, and I walked outside to my car.

For years, on almost every occasion, I have been routinely delayed and harassed for no apparent reason upon my return to Israel, whether following a speaking engagement or a personal trip, which I do with increasing infrequency given my treatment by these officials.

A month ago I went through the humiliating routine on my return from Amman. I find it impossible to let the procedure pass without responding. Possibly, it was this previous, heated exchange that suspended, if only briefly, my expected round of humiliation this week.

Racism and wanton humiliation

On that earlier occasion, as so often before, I ended up in an argument with two “security” men from the Shin Bet. (Similar confrontations occur when I arrive at or leave from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.) After an hour of unnecessary delays, the two asked me to put my bag on a raised bench. One of them opened it and roughly began searching the contents: some clothes and two books.

I protested angrily: “Why don’t you do that more gently?”

He answered with a feigned calm: “You must accept everything that happens here in a nice way.”

I responded: “How can I deal with racist treatment and humiliation in a nice way?”

The other man, annoyed by the comment, interrupted loudly: “Tell me, why do you hate us?”

Next, the confrontation developed into a back-and-forth of accusations, with a subtext of politics.

I answered: “Who hates whom, me or you?”

He said: “I read your writings and you hate us.”

I replied: “I hate your racism, and the humiliating way you treat me and my people.”

Angrily, he declared: “Go to the Arab countries and you will see what will happen to you there.”

Israelization and Judaization

This statement, regularly uttered by Israeli Jews, irritated me. He wanted to erase the differences between our situation as Palestinians in Israel and that of other “Arabs” in Arab countries as a way to justify his country’s racist polices, and to silence us. The implication of his comparison was that we are not the indigenuous people of Palestine, and that Israel is doing us a favour by “allowing” us to express our opinions and vote.

That requires ignoring Israel’s long history of political oppression. I myself was first summoned for interrogation when I was 14 years old, after I wore a T-shirt with black lettering lamenting the death of the then most popular Arab leader, Egypt’s President Jamal Abd-al-Nasser. The persecution continued, both against me and my family, because we, like many others, voiced our opposition to the Israeli regime and identified with the struggle of our Palestinian people against the policy of Israelization (destroying our national identity) and Judaization (confiscating on a mass scale the lands of Palestinians who are citizens of the state).

The 1980s witnessed the harshest campaign against the secular democratic political movement I was by then a senior member of – Abnaa al-Balad, or Sons of the Village – and against me and my family. Once, in 1983, I was marched by three Shin Bet officers out of the newspaper office where I worked and beaten brutally in a police van. Later in the police headquarters, I was issued with an administrative order signed by the public security minister, banning me from entering the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Racist imposters

Back to our exchange. I said: “It is you who should go to wherever you came from. You are a European colonizer, you came here as an invader.”

His face grew red with indignation. “My grandfather was born here and he didn’t come from Europe.”

“Well, if your grandfather was here before the invasion, so he must be a Palestinian like me, and like thousands of Palestinian Jews who were here all the time and lived peacefully with other Palestinians. But if he and his children participated in colonizing my country and killing my people, and continue to carry arms, then as far as I am concerned they are enemies – enemies of me, of justice and of human values.”

…I am not against you as a person, or as a Jew. For me, all peoples of the world are equal. But I am against you because you are racist, and you represent a colonial and racist regime which has deformed you and most of your society.

The other security man intervened: “Wouldn’t you treat me the same way if our roles were reversed?”

I said: “No, I wouldn’t.”

He asked why.

“Because I am a human being.”

Irritated, he asked: “Am I not a human being?”

“No, you are not.”

He became angry: “Are you against me personally?”

I said: “No, I am not against you as a person, or as a Jew. For me, all peoples of the world are equal. But I am against you because you are racist, and you represent a colonial and racist regime which has deformed you and most of your society.”

He looked down at the bag, seemingly unsure what to do next.

I continued: “Do you know what my party is struggling for?”

“No,” he replied, dismissively.

Liberating Palestinians from occupation and Israelis from racism

But I insisted on explaining: “We are struggling not only to liberate the Palestinian people from the occupation and from Israel’s racist apartheid regime, but also to liberate you from the illness of racism, so you can stop inflicting harm on me and on millions of people who are the natives of this country. And then we can live together equally and peacefully.”

He shifted uncomfortably to the left and right, while the other man returned to searching my bag, thrusting his hand deep inside.

He found a booklet, and asked what it was about.

I said: “I wrote this recently to explain how I and others think the Arab Palestinians and the Israeli Jews should live together under one democratic regime in a single state. It is a humanistic and democratic alternative to your occupation, colonization and apartheid. By the way, you can take it as a present.”

He said: “No thanks. I read everything you write, and your opinions are extremist and hostile to us.”

I said: “You are not willing to listen to our viewpoint. You are racist.”

He answered: “I am not racist. I am leftist.”

Contradictions of the Zionist “left”

I asked sceptically: “Can you tell me what you mean by left? You are Zionist left. The left, as I know it, is against racism and is identified with universal values of equality between all human beings and with social justice. The Zionist left doesn’t uphold those values.”

We both fell silent for a moment. But I started up again as he returned to searching my bag. “Look, you talk to me always in Hebrew. You don’t know Arabic. Arabic is not taught in Israeli schools, although 20 per cent of the state’s citizens are Arabs. Not only that, but although you are living in the heart of the Arab world you don’t want to be a part of the region. You insist on remaining a part of the West.”

He said: “I know Arabic. I matriculated in Arabic.”

I said: “This is further evidence that you are racist and a colonizer.”

“How so?”

I answered: “We know that whoever wants to be employed by the Shin Bet must know Arabic well. What motivated you to learn Arabic was the need to oppress me, to know how to keep controlling me. It is not because you and your colleagues desire to know about Arab civilization, or to communicate with it or with the Arab people and to advance real coexistence.”

Finally, he stopped the search. It looked as though he had run out of things to say. I know very well the conflicted feelings of the Zionist left. Unlike the right and the far-right, who are clear in their views about the rights of the Palestinians, the Zionist left are trapped by their desire for democracy and their adherence to a Jewish state and the resulting apartheid regime.

As he allowed me to leave, he gave me a look whose meaning I could not fathom.


*Awad Abdel Fattah is the secretary-general of the National Democratic Assembly party in Israel, also known as Balad, which has three elected Knesset members.

Terror and the Israeli occupation

Is terror an option for the occupied and oppressed Palestinians?

By Alan Hart

My answer is “No” but I think the question needs to be asked. It was provoked in my mind by a recent article published in the Israeli news website Ynet by Ziv Lenchner, described as a left-leaning, Jewish Israeli artist.

Lenchner’s article, published on 28 March and entitled “Israelis to Obama – we don’t care, don’t bother us”, took the discussion about what most Israeli Jews really want – disengagement from the occupied West Bank or annexation – beyond the answer given by Noam Sheizaf in the Israeli newspaper Maariv on 4 December 2012. The headline over his piece was “We have become addicted to the status quo

What Israelis want

Sheizaf wrote:

A well-known cliché in Israeli political discourse refers to a high rate of support among the Jewish public for a two-state solution. As the claim goes, despite the second Intifada and the rounds of fighting against Hamas in Gaza, most Jews still prefer this solution to the annexation of the Palestinian territories. Political scientists and journalists are thus consistently surprised as to why Israelis turn their backs on parties that espouse dividing the land and evacuating settlements, and choose to vote for those whose actions push a peace agreement further and further away. In a conference held at Tel Aviv University, a well-known researcher announced, “The Israeli public is simply not rational”.

In the few cases in which this option [the status quo] is offered to respondents, it turns out that a growing number of Israelis prefer it to disengagement or annexation. Sometimes it even gets a majority. (Noam Sheizaf, Maariv newspaper)

Sheizaf challenged that researcher’s judgement. His main point was that there is a third option which pollsters rarely ask about but which the Israeli public understands very well: the option of maintaining the current situation. He went on: “In the few cases in which this option is offered to respondents, it turns out that a growing number of Israelis prefer it to disengagement or annexation. Sometimes it even gets a majority.”

That fact, Sheizaf noted, discomforts many commentators and causes them to wonder if what most Israeli Jews really want is occupation and an apartheid state.

Sheizaf doesn’t believe that to be the case. In his analysis most Israelis simply believe that maintaining the status quo is better than the other options. He put it this way:

Annexation of the territories will significantly alter the demographic balance and the character of the country while evacuating settlements and establishing a Palestinian state entails security risks and disputes that could lead to civil war. It’s not that the Jewish public is happy with the present situation or particularly wants to rule over the Palestinians – it just prefers this situation to the alternatives.

There is, Sheizaf added, no one who understands the Israeli preference for maintaining the status quo better than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “and therein lies his attraction.”

On the prospects for change in Israel, Sheizaf concluded with these thoughts:

They say that global climate change takes place at a pace slow enough for politicians to ignore it. The same can be said today for the occupation, and for the destructive processes it has brought upon the state of Israel. The deepening racism, rising corruption, militarism and loss of international legitimacy – all of these are happening slowly. At any given moment, the alternatives look worse and the desire for change lessens. Thus there is a growing sense that the state of Israel won’t be able to bring about the end of the occupation on its own, and will require serious pressure from outside in order to wean the public and the political establishment from its addiction to the status quo.

Lenchner took the discussion forward with these words:

We, as opposed to the distinguished guest [President Obama], know our people – ourselves – very well. And the bitter truth is that for years – perhaps since the days of the protest against the first Lebanon War – we have neither been leading political moves nor forcing our leaders to carry them out… Scolding from our good uncle in America is not the thing that will convince us to change our outlook, our way, our reality. This is not what may move us towards the end of the occupation, the evacuation of settlements and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement… Let’s admit it: until things go up in flames and we bleed and hurt – we won’t budge. That’s the way we are.

The terror question

Given that since Sheizaf offered his thoughts we have learned that there is not going to be any serious pressure from outside on Israel while Obama is president (because he is not going to confront the Zionist lobby in America and Netanyahu’s government), Lenchner’s contribution suggests to me that the following question should be asked. And answered.

Let’s admit it: until things go up in flames and we bleed and hurt – we won’t budge. That’s the way we are. (Ziv Lenchner, Ynet)

What could cause Israeli Jews to “bleed and hurt” to the point where they would budge and insist that their government abandon the annexation option and go for disengagement, to end the occupation of the West Bank?

Things would go up in flames, and Israeli Jews would bleed and hurt, if the frontline Arab leaders did a Sadat and launched a limited war for peace. But we can be absolutely certain that will never, ever, happen. (It can also be taken as read that Iran will never, ever, start a war with Israel. And nor will Hezbollah. These two parties will only respond if attacked by Israel or by Israel-and-America in the case of Iran.)

In theory, it is only the occupied and oppressed Palestinians who could cause Israel to bleed and hurt by resorting to a well planned and sustained campaign of terror.

Given that Zionist terrorists forced the withdrawal of the occupying British as a prelude to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, it has to be said that Israel’s existence is proof of what can be achieved by terrorism.

But more to the point is what Israeli Jews would have done after the 1967 war if the boot had been on the other foot – if they had been the Palestinian Arabs. As it was put to me in 1980 by the best and the brightest of Israel’s directors of military intelligence, then retired Major-General Shlomo Gazit: “If we had been the Palestinians, we would have had our mini state a long time ago.” He meant that they would have mounted a sustained campaign of terror against the Israel of the pre-1967 borders, in the knowledge that there are limits to the amount of death and destruction the soft underbelly of any public opinion will tolerate before saying to government: “Enough. Do a deal with the terrorists.”

Also to be noted in passing is that Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister and defence minister, once said in an American television interview: “If I were a Palestinian at the right age I would have joined one of the terrorist organizations at a certain stage.”

…the occupied and oppressed Palestinians no longer have the freedom necessary to plan, organize and execute a sustained campaign of terror. And that is a large part of the reason why most Israeli Jews are content with the status quo.

In my analysis, which is, of course, informed by the benefit of hindsight, a well planned and sustained campaign of terror against the Israel of the pre-1967 borders is the option the Palestine Liberation Organization ought to have taken in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But in answer to my headline question, I say it’s too late for that today. Israel’s security apparatus in all its manifestations is in more or less complete control.

I think it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip cannot have an electronic conversation or communication of any kind without being monitored. That’s in addition to the fact that the Palestinian communities of both territories are riddled with informers, Palestinians who have been turned into assets or spies for Israel’s security services, usually by threats of one kind or another. One threat often made to Palestinians wanted as informers by Israel’s security services is that their sisters or daughters or wives or mothers will be raped if they don’t do Zionism’s bidding.

Simply stated, the occupied and oppressed Palestinians no longer have the freedom necessary to plan, organize and execute a sustained campaign of terror. And that is a large part of the reason why most Israeli Jews are content with the status quo.

The steadfastness solution

In my view the occupied and oppressed Palestinians have only one option – to continue with their incredible, almost super-human steadfastness, staying put and refusing to be de-humanized by their Israeli oppressors while not surrendering to Zionism’s will.

The only reason for hope that I can see is that a day will come when, because of the policies and actions of its self-righteous and deluded leaders, Israel will be a pariah state loathed, despised and perhaps even hated by just about the whole world.

But to continue their sticks-and-stones struggle with nuclear-armed Greater Israel, the occupied and oppressed Palestinians need a reason to hope that they will one day obtain an acceptable amount of justice.

The only reason for hope that I can see is that a day will come when, because of the policies and actions of its self-righteous and deluded leaders, Israel will be a pariah state loathed, despised and perhaps even hated by just about the whole world.

If that day comes, it’s reasonable to assume that whoever is occupying the White House would have to say to Zionism’s in-Israel leaders and their lobby in America, “Enough is enough”, and then back his (or her) words with action, globally coordinated, to cause Israel, in exchange for real peace, to end its occupation of the West Bank, lift its siege of the Gaza Strip and complete its withdrawal from all Arab territory grabbed in 1967.

Is that too much for the Palestinians to hope for?

There is, of course, a case for saying that a viable two-state solution (even if it could be achieved) is not enough for the Palestinians to hope for because it would require them to accept that their right of return would be severely limited in terms of numbers. Behind closed doors Yasser Arafat and his senior leadership colleagues calculated that probably not more than 100,000 refugees would be able to return to the limited land space of a Palestinian mini state. The rest would have to settle for compensation. But that would not necessarily close the door to a greater measure of justice for the Palestinians.

The hope of Arafat the pragmatist was that a generation or two of peace based on a two-state solution would lead to the creation of one state by mutual consent, in which case the right of return, still on the agenda, would be more manageable.

Is that too much for all of us who want complete and full justice for the Palestinians to hope for?

Note

In an article posted on Redress Information and Analysis, Blake Alcott has argued that the two-state solution is a “Zionist solution” and is to be rejected because it leaves Zionism in being in one of them. To Blake and all those who think like him I say this. While I agree that peace based on one state with equal rights and security for all of its citizens is the only outcome that can provide the Palestinians with full justice, insistence on it for starters will most likely mean that the Palestinians get nothing, and that those of them who are occupied and oppressed will be the victims of a final Zionist ethnic cleansing.