Israel: "Good fences make good neighbors" ... or do they?
by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry
High-ranking Israelis, including former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, have
misinterpreted Robert Frost's famous poem "Mending Wall" in attempts
to defend Israel's
apartheid barriers, which are twice as high as the Berlin Wall in spots.
Another Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, misquoted Frost, saying:
"High fences make good neighbors!"
But here's what Frost actually said about the creation of artificial walls that
only serve to divide neighbors from each other:
Before I built a wall I’d ask
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down ...
There are no armed walls between the United States and Canada. Even France and
Germany, once fierce and militant rivals, have abandoned armed borders, visas
and customs. So today Germans and French people can travel freely between the
the two nations, as can millions of other Europeans. No one in his/her right
mind would suggest that Europe was "better" or "safer"
when the Berlin Wall and other fortified, armed barriers created artificial
divisions between Europeans.
Israel has spent billions of dollars on its apartheid walls, but can apartheid
walls lead to a lasting peace?
Why does Israel insist that "Good fences make good neighbors" when Robert Frost
was clearly saying exactly the opposite in his famous poem "Mending Wall"?
Reece Jones, a professor at the University of Hawaii and the author of Border
Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India and Israel,
questions the assumption that artificial barriers result in better human
relationships. He suggests that we consider what Frost really said about
There where it is, we do not need the wall.
A number of nations, conspicuously Israel and he United States, have been
increasingly attracted to the use of strategic barriers to promote national
defense. In Do Fences Make Good Neighbors?, defense analyst Brent Sterling
examines the historical use of strategic defenses such as walls or
fortifications to evaluate their effectiveness and consider their implications
for modern security.
Sterling studies six famous defenses spanning 2,500 years, representing both
democratic and authoritarian regimes: the Long Walls of Athens, Hadrian's Wall
in Roman Britain, the Ming Great Wall of China, Louis XIV's Pré Carré, France's
Maginot Line, and Israel's Bar Lev Line. Although many of these barriers were
effective in the short term, they also affected the states that created them in
terms of cost, strategic outlook, military readiness, and relations with
neighbors. Sterling assesses how modern barriers against ground and air threats
could influence threat perceptions, alter the military balance, and influence
the builder's subsequent policy choices.
Advocates and critics of strategic defenses often bolster their arguments by
selectively distorting history. Sterling emphasizes the need for an impartial
examination of what past experience can teach us. His study yields nuanced
lessons about strategic barriers and international security and yields findings
that are relevant for security scholars and compelling to general readers.
"Sterling's analysis is consistently thorough and thought provoking. He devotes
ample time to each case study, providing a balanced review of the political,
economic, diplomatic, military, cultural, and other factors that influenced the
decision to build strategic defenses."—Journal of Homeland Security
William Pitt and the Pips
by Michael R. Burch
On November 18, 1777 one of the wisest men in England, William Pitt, stood
before the House of Lords and predicted that England could never defeat the
Americans, despite the virtues and valor of Britain's soldiers. I think what he
said to England about the Americans can also be said to Israel about the
"You may swell every expense, and every effort, still more extravagantly;
pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow ... your efforts are
forever vain and impotent ... for it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the
minds of your enemies—to overrun them with the sordid sons of rapine and
plunder! ... If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop
was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms, never! never! never!"
I think the only hope of victory for Israel is the victory of equality and
justice. As long as white Americans tried to dominate Native Americans and
African Americans, there was widespread racial violence. It was only after the
reforms of the American Civil Rights Movement that racial tensions began to
ease. The path to peace lies in equality and justice, not in one group of people
robbing other people of their land, rights, freedom and justice, just because
they have superior firepower. That is fascism, the downfall of the Confederacy
and the Axis powers.
In order for peace to emerge, Israeli Jews cannot be seen as foreign
invaders. That means they need to stop acting like foreign invaders intent on
pillage, conquest and control, and start acting like people who want to be good
neighbors. A good neighbor does not say, "My rights are superior to your rights,
and I have the right to take your land, house and property because of things
that happened in the past that you had nothing to do with." Nowhere on earth
would anyone want to live with neighbors who think their rights supersede other
The great failure of Israel has been to win every battle except the one that
really matters: the struggle to establish true democracy, true equality and true
justice for EVERYONE.
How to Win (or Lose) the War on Terror
by Michael R. Burch
Denis Kucinich is one of the few members of that den of corrupted democracy
called Congress who tell it like it is. Discussing the counter-productive nature of American foreign policy
recently, he said: “After more
than 10 years of war against al Qaeda and the accompanying global ‘war on
terrorism,’ we have failed to learn that our actions create reactions. Our
presence creates destabilization, then radicalization. Occupations create
insurgencies. In Afghanistan, we have fuelled the very insurgency we struggle to
fight ... Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria—al Qaeda surfs instability created or
supported by U.S. interventions. Al Qaeda is ready to exploit resentment toward
the U.S. while capitalizing on the openings created by U.S. interventionism. As
a result our U.S. tax dollars are being used to fuel the rise of extremism.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Carter’s National Security Adviser,
said: “Eventually, if neo-con policies continue to be pursued, the United States
will be expelled from the region and that will be the beginning of the end for
Israel as well.”
Statement on H.R.4133—United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act
Rep. Ron Paul, M.D.
May 9, 2012
Mr. Speaker: I rise in opposition to HR 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced
Security Cooperation Act, which unfortunately is another piece of one-sided and
counter-productive foreign policy legislation. This bill's real intent seems to
be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria, and it undermines US diplomatic
efforts by making clear that the US is not an honest broker seeking peace for
the Middle East.
The bill calls for the United States to significantly increase our provision of
sophisticated weaponry to Israel, and states that it is to be US policy to "help
Israel preserve its qualitative military edge" in the region.
While I absolutely believe that Israel—and any other nation—should be free
to determine for itself what is necessary for its national security, I do not
believe that those decisions should be underwritten by US taxpayers and backed
up by the US military.
This bill states that it is the policy of the United States to "reaffirm the
enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel
as a Jewish state." However, according to our Constitution the policy of the
United States government should be to protect the security of the United States,
not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign
country. In fact, our own Constitution prohibits the establishment of any
particular religion in the US.
More than 20 years after the reason for NATO's existence—the Warsaw Pact—has
disappeared, this legislation seeks to find a new mission for that anachronistic
alliance: the defense of Israel. Calling for "an expanded role for Israel within
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at
NATO headquarters and exercises," it reads like a dream for interventionists and
the military industrial complex. As I have said many times, NATO should be
disbanded not expanded.
This bill will not help the United States, it will not help Israel, and it will
not help the Middle East. It will implicitly authorize much more US
interventionism in the region at a time when we cannot afford the foreign
commitments we already have. It more likely will lead to war against Syria,
Iran, or both. I urge my colleagues to vote against this bill.
A Cornered Animal
by Rami Younis
May 23, 2012
Middle East Post
On May 3rd I got arrested for the 2nd time in my Life. Having gone through this
last experience, the first seems like a pleasant, distant memory; Some kind of a
tiring vacation. Don’t take this the wrong way—A year ago I got beaten and
taken brutally with two other Apartheid fighting comrades, but you know how they
say everything in life is relative. Even terrible experiences.
The spoken event took place outside of Ramleh prison (20 K south of Tel Aviv) In
occupied Palestine, during a demonstration in support of our Palestinian
prisoners who were in the midst of a long hunger strike battle. Huge police
forces took away 8 protestors; Israeli Justice activists, foreigners and
Palestinians. Teachers, students, people with careers. We then went to the local
police station to wait outside for our friends. We started singing and chanting,
but apparently that’s a little too much democracy and too much freedom of speech
in this dark unequal regime, so Israel’s finest decided to teach us a lesson, in
the spirit of Rabin’s memorable saying "break their arms and legs". Next thing
we knew they were pouring out from the station in masses. Moving ahead like
locust consuming everything in its path. Pushing, cursing, hitting and of
course—tasering with riot control Tasers. I got taken away with 9 more
protestors, and by taken away I mean got kicked, stood at, jumped at and dragged
to the station. From here on, there was no way in hell any of us could’ve
imagined what was about to happen.
First thing I remember is police officers throwing me on a pile of people, like
a sack of potatoes. I glimpsed at my friend’s Jihad’s face, his eyes were all
red, filled with blood. They stuck their fingers into his eye sockets. They
opened Aiman’s mouth and spat in, twice. Once we were all gathered in a pile,
their real fun started. Kicking, punching and spitting their way into
satisfaction. And then came the tasering. One officer, called "Shimon", held the
Taser in one hand and yelled: "who’s been a bad boy?" while the others were
cheering him on, chanting "dirty Arabs" and "fuck them" all the while. Being on
top of the group, I got to taste the electric side of Zionist justice quite
intensively. Jihad and Dorit also took it pretty hard. Dorit picked up my
glasses from the ground and hid them so the group of baboons all around us won’t
harm them. Needless to say we all took it quite submissively, never using any of
the "fuck you" conjugations that naturally pop up to mind. Fighting the urge to
throw one back. We got lynched by Zionist law officers for protesting and
ultimately, for being present in a given situation at a certain time. Imagine
the horror that would have taken place, had we tried to get back at them. We’d
probably be facing "terrorism" charges in a day or two. The only time I got
nervous and worried we were about to lose it, was when our dearest friend,
Shimon, sexually harassed the girls, who were held in the room next to us after
they had separated us. I’ll spare the disgusting details, let’s just say it
involved a frequent and loose use of the word "sucking". Yup. Real quality man.
I didn’t use the word "baboons" accidentally. During all this fun loving
activity, I didn’t feel any humiliation. No matter how hard they tried, and God
knows they tried so badly. I felt we were in the hands of animals. Primitive,
frustrated animals. Instead of humiliation, I couldn’t help not feeling sad for
them. I kept imagining every one of them after work, leading their violent,
miserable lives. Later that night, looking around me at the wonderful justice
fighters put behind bars, I felt proud. They’ve all accomplished so much in
their lives—they were all educated and had ideals. They were role models, brave
people who can set examples to others. And the cops? to tell the truth, I’m
grateful for this experience. It taught me this ...
Mainly, that in the eyes of Zionist law men, there’s no difference between
"Israeli Arabs" (using their terminology) and other Palestinians (67′ers). Does
it matter we all had Israeli Ids? of course not. We faced the same violence
67′ers face on a daily basis, on every arrest they see. To the only democracy in
the Middle East, a Palestinian, even one with Israeli citizenship, is a constant
threat. And it’s well known how Israel deals with so called "threats", in its
unique humane way. Even if they just chant "freedom". Even if they’re a teacher
or a student.
Dealing with Shimon and his dear, dear friends, we also learned they’re afraid.
Deep down inside they know we’re everything but an actual threat to anyone. But
when you build your whole existence on lies you’ve convinced yourself they’re
true, every little wake up call could be devastating. Every attempt to reach the
bare naked truth is frightening. Every group of young, peaceful, non-violent
people landing reality on them is dangerous. And what does an animal do when
it’s cornered? When it’s that insecure?
It yells, punches, kicks, spits and tasers.
The Blatancy of Apartheid
by Philip Weiss
July 28, 2012
I’m no stranger to Israel and Palestine, still what shocks me about coming here
is how blatant the system of unfairness is. Why is this not utterly familiar to
me? I wonder. Why don’t Americans see this every day in the news? What kind of
fairyland image are we getting of this place, and why? Or as the Canadian
Christian pilgrim said to me last night leaving Qalandiya checkpoint, "What
endless humiliation. And why is it such an open secret back home?" So everything
here brings me back to the American denial, our blindered media, and to American
Jewish identity and the lies that American Jews have told one another for
A few impressions of the blatancy. I flew into Ben Guiron from Newark and my
flight was mostly Jewish. There were no Palestinians or Arabs on the flight, as
far as I could see. The sense was reinforced at Ben-Gurion. I saw no women
wearing hijab, the customary form of dress in this part of the world. The
shuttle I rode into Jerusalem had ten passengers, mostly American Jews, two
binational Israeli American girls, a Christian tourist and an international aid
type. This last passenger was dropped at Qalandiya checkpoint to go on to
Ramallah. "Is this a hospital?" the orthodox girl in the front row asked. A
reminder that the Palestinian reality is sealed off from Israelis, and also that
Qalandiya is a vast bureaucratic complex in benign disguise, a border crossing
that keeps the subject population Over There. "A lot of the Arabs throw rocks,
that is why they put this up," an older Jew who fought in the 48 war explained
to his wife as we passed along the wall.
After I checked into my hotel in the Old City, I ran into Jeff Halper of the
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He pointed out the flags above on a
dwelling in the Muslim Quarter and said that I was witnessing the process of the
Judaization of the Old City and of East Jeursalem generally, Jews cordoning off
the holy city. My picture is of Muslims going to the Al Aqsa mosque to pray
under these flags. They are reminded of who is boss at every turn.
I have been through Qalandiya twice in the last day and cannot convey what a
dreary oppressive experience this is. Long lines of people made to walk in a
wide muddy circle past the neverending re-arranged concrete walls, one of which
has Fuck You as an eloquent graffiti. The soldiers stand at huge concrete cubes
that the bulldozers have placed just so, a couple-hips'-width apart, and stop us
at three points on our way in. Women and men are separated, in a fashion that
has ghoulish echoes of the worst moments of Jewish history.
Oh but now we have power, now we are in history. This is what thrills American
Jews and neocons, our moment. Powerful people do screwed up things.
But all the while my heart is with the Palestinians around me. The men are all
gleaming and bathed and fresh. It is Ramadan. They wear nice clothes. They meet
your eyes in a welcoming fashion but no one is ingratiating. It is too humbling
for anyone to say anything, where are you from? Welcome, which they say in
ordinary circumstances. While in the Old City, in the Ramadan crowds that inch
packed and dangerous toward the mosque, there are always men at the side
spraying water on as you walk by. Tossing it from bottles, spraying it with
sprayers, to cool you down. A lovely gesture of community, in which I am
I know there is a strong Jewish community a few hundred yards away. It has its
own beauties and fellowship and loving embrace. But pardon me if I can’t find my
way there right now. I was raised as a Jewish outsider in America, and my spirit
gravitates toward the outsiders here.
The largest impression of all: These people have no freedom of movement. It
takes hours to make a 10 mile trip, and none of the thoughtful city planning
that Jews get in West Jerusalem is extended to the Palestinians. No, they must
be constrained at every turn, and choked, so they want to fly away. I would fly
away. I’d move to the Gulf, I’d go to Europe, I’d give up.
And again what I find staggering is that we have so little understanding of this
reality in the west. I am witnessing apartheid. I cannot think of any other term
that so describes the systematic separation of people by race
/ethnicity/religion, and the subjugation of one ethnicity to another. Whatever
the glories of Zionism in Jewish history, a case I’m more than willing to make,
this is where it ground itself out, a boot in the face of a civilized people.
So yes I blame the media. I blame the Times for running Richard Goldstone’s
farcical claim that apartheid is a slander rather than Stephen Roberts’s
cleareyed piece in the Nation that this is apartheid on steroids. I blame the
Israel lobby for enforcing blindness to these conditions, I blame the
politicians for accepting the blinders. I blame the Philadelphia Inquirer for
saying the other day that a one state future is "untenable," when what is
happening before our eyes is atrocity on atrocity. I blame the Jewish community
for lying about what is happening here endlessly, destroying our intellectual
inheritance, in the belief that it is good for the Jews. It is a disaster for
Jews. It is a disgrace that Americans will one day have university courses and
museum exhibits to try to explain to one another when the next generation wakes
up to this madnesss and responds with appropriate fury.
Alan Hart on Zionism
There really is no mystery about how non-state terrorism can be defeated. In my
book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews I give a summary explanation of how in
147 words which, as I noted, are clear enough for understanding by an averagely
intelligent child. I will now read those 147 words to you. (I think I did read
them to a LISA audience two or three years ago but they bear repeating).
Terrorists cannot operate, not for long, without the cover and the practical,
emotional and moral support of the community of which they are a part. When that
community perceives itself to be the victim of a massive injustice, and if that
injustice is not addressed by political means, the community will cover, condone
and even applaud the activities of those of its own who resort to terror as the
only means of drawing attention to the injustice, to cause it to be addressed.
It follows that the way to defeat terrorism—the only successful and actually
proven way—is by addressing the genuine and legitimate grievances of the host
community. The community will then withdraw its cover and support for its
terrorists; and if they continue to try to operate, the community will oppose
them by exposing them—reporting them to the authorities if reasoning fails.
That is precisely what happened in Northern Ireland. -The terrorists called off
their campaign WHEN THEY HAD NO CHOICE—because the Catholic host community
would not cover and support them any longer. And that happened because the
British government summoned up the will, about half a century later than it
should have done, to risk the wrath of militant Protestantism by insisting that
THE LEGITIMATE GRIEVANCES of the Catholics of Northern Ireland be addressed.
I’ll close with a comment on what I call the INEVITABILITY of non-state
terrorism. Generally speaking, and at the risk of over-simplifying to make a
point, I say that much non-state terrorism is a form of public relations to draw
attention to injustice of one kind or another. The Palestinians, for example,
turned to terror because they believed it was the only way they could bring
their cause to the attention of the world and prevent Zionism closing the
Palestine file for ever. And that, sadly, was how it had and still has to be
because of the way our world is managed. What I mean is this. To have a good
chance of getting their claims for justice addressed, non-state groups and
parties need the support of a major power. (In the Cold War days they needed the
support of either the U.S. or the Soviet Union). But the major powers are not
concerned with justice for its own sake. In effect they say to those who want
and need their grievances to be addressed, “Unless you can serve or threaten our
interests, we don’t care about you.” That being so, it ought not to surprise
anybody that non-state groups and parties with legitimate grievances say in
effect to the major powers, “Okay, we’ll play the game by your rules and we’ll
MAKE you care” (by turning to terror). It follows, or so it seems to me, that
non-state terrorism is inevitable and will remain a fact of life on Planet
Earth, probably escalating in the Subcontinent, unless and until the major
powers, the one in Washington DC especially, decide that the best way to protect
their own interests is by supportingmovements for justice-based change
everywhere. Essentially there are two ways to run the world. One is in
accordance with jungle law. The other is in accordance with international law
which respects the human and political rights of all. We’ve had enough of the
former. It’s time for the latter to be applied universally and not selectively
as is the case today.
I want to read to you the warning words of Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest
serving Director of Military Intelligence. In his book Israel’s Fateful Hour,
published in 1986, he wrote this: Israel is the criterion according to which all
Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the
Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it.
Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli
conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed
into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic
irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of
anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis
must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but
also Jews throughout the world. In the world today we are witnessing a rising
tide of anti-Israelism provoked by Israel’s arrogance of power, its contempt for
international law and its appalling self-righteousness. (In Harkabi’s view
self-righteousness is the biggest threat to Israel’s existence). If Israel stays
on its present course, the danger is, as Harkabi warned, that anti-Israelism
will be transformed into anti-Semitism, leading to Holocaust II – shorthand for
another great turning against Jews everywhere and quite possibly starting in
America. In my view the real danger of that happening will be greatly reduced if
those (mainly Westerners) among whom most of the Jews of the world live are made
aware of the difference between Judaism and Zionism.
My visit to Palestine
I just came back from a short trip to Palestine and Israel. It felt good
going home to Ramallah where I grew up and lived the first (and best) 17 years
of my life. I also visited my extended family in Ramleh who stayed after 1948.
The last time I was back was in 2003 in the midst of the 2nd intifada to see my
grandmother for the last time. Things have changed since then. There are now
fewer checkpoints but more security surrounding them. There is of course the
eight meter separation wall built around towns and villages, cutting through
streets, neighbourhoods and olive groves. Settlements surrounding Palestinian
towns and villages are dotted all around the West Bank in full view. There are
roads only used by settlers to reach their settlements and bypass Palestinian
towns and villages. Palestinian homes now get water once or twice a week—I was
very surprised that people run out of water and have to pay money to buy it.
Going back home brought back memories of the occupation while growing up in
the 1970's and 1980's in Ramallah—the army Jeeps streaming through the
streets, announcing curfews through the speakers, bloody demonstrations, smell
of burning tyres, young boys dragged into the army Jeeps and the bizarre
behaviour (that's what I used to think anyway) by the soldiers when they see the
Palestinian flag being raised at demonstrations (The good news that after 25
years the Palestinian flag is now flying on every building, street lights,
inside cars and people's homes. We now have progress. At least the
demonstrations achieved something!)
Despite the insecurity, life with family and friends and living in a close
community was beautiful. I was fortunate to have loyal and loving family,
friends and neighbours. Everyone looked out for each other and despite the
hardship of the surrounding occupation, we were relatively happy despite the
international news that portrayed otherwise. My big family—my parents and 5
children—lived together in a small 2br apartment, five siblings slept in one
small room on a double bed, and we ate and shared from the same plate on a small
table in the kitchen that we also used to study on. We didn't have the comforts
of everything but we were happy and made sure we looked out for each other.
As a young girl I was not aware of why we had demonstrations and curfews all
the time. My family made sure we didn't talk about politics and I grew up
illiterate about the Israel/Palestine conflict (except my grandmothers 1948
stories of course). My parents wanted us to know that Israelis were normal just
like us and made sure that we visited my dad's many Jewish friends in West
Jerusalem and my mum made them Palestinian food (stuffed chicken with rice mince
and pine nuts—very yummy—kobbe, tabouli, stuffed zucchini and eggplant)
every time they came to Ramallah to visit on Saturdays. I knew the soldiers were
the same as my dad's friends but back then could never reconcile how they could
be the same guys beating young boys and taking them away in their Jeeps.
My family packed up and left in 1986 to Australia due to the constant
occupation and lack of future opportunities for five bright and talented
children. It took me some time to adjust to a quiet and at times "boring" life
without the constant curfews and demonstrations. My curiosity to understand what
is happening in Palestine started then and I devoured books that explained the
conflict. The books I read where more political and historical in nature of
But a chance encounter with an Israeli woman in 1996 at a personal
development course in Sydney changed the way I thought about the political
conflict. Batsheva heard me speak and asked me where I came from, I said
"Palestine". She stared at me for a while. I realised that she was Israeli
because of her accent. I was concerned that she was going to scream or swear at
me. But then she came close to me and said "I am sorry for what my people did to
your people". The long hug and cathartic cries followed. I could not let go of
her. She became my second mum and we became good friends. Inviting her over my
place for a taste of Palestinian food was a sign that she became family.
The experience made a difference in how I viewed the conflict. Political and
historical narratives are dwarfed when people see each other as human beings. I
was still young then to understand the importance of this chance encounter.
Batsheva was on my mind last week as I was going through the streets of
Bethlehem surrounded by the separation wall; as I was going through Kalandia
checkpoint waiting my turn to get through the turnstiles to be scanned and asked
why I was going to Jerusalem; as I saw the settlements surrounding Palestinian
towns and wondering whether its inhabitants were just like Batsheva.
Batsheva is not your average person but she is like every other human being.
We all have the capacity to open our hearts to see and hear each other's
narrative and source of suffering. Once we do, the separation wall will surely
fall and the checkpoints will melt and disappear. That's when Israel and
Palestine will deserve to be called the "Holy Land". Maybe then we will let go
of labels, flags, checkpoints and borders. Who needs them when their neighbour
is just like Batsheva?
Show your support for a free Palestine. Sign the petition and give your
opinion to the UN: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41477.html
Why We Don’t Need Another Needless War … In Iran
March 20th, 2012
Two big things about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s beating the war
drum against Iran: First, Netanyahu has been predicting Iran’s imminent
acquisition of nuclear weapons for twenty years. The usual time horizon he’s
cited has been roughly one year.
Evidently, however, the Persians have fallen about nineteen years behind
schedule. According to "senior Israeli government and defense figures" recently
interviewed by the Associated Press, the best available intelligence is that the
Iranians not only don’t have nuclear weapons now, but haven’t decided to build
them. This also squares with the U.S. intelligence community’s view.
"The suspicion in Israel," the AP continues, is, get this, "that the Iranians
have held off on a decision in order to deny Israel—and other countries—the
pretext for an attack."
The cunning devils.
This also agrees with U.N. inspectors conclusions about Iran’s allegedly
peaceful uranium enrichment activities. That while the potential for making
bombs exists and the Iranians haven’t been exactly forthcoming, there’s no
direct evidence the country’s moving toward atomic weapons.
For that matter, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently made a foreign
policy address following parliamentary elections. "The Iranian nation" he said,
"has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that
the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not
after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and
theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and
believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and
The Ayatollah’s been saying these things almost as long as Netanyahu’s been
saying the opposite. "Khamenei has also repeatedly said that Iran has a ‘no
first strike’ policy," notes Middle East expert Juan Cole, "that it will not
fire the first shot in any conflict." It bears emphasizing that the Supreme
Leader, not lame duck President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad controls Iran’s armed
The Ayatollah’s ecclesiastical role in Iran’s Shiite theocracy is very roughly
that of Pope. One needn’t take him at face value to understand that having
brought God into it, Khameni can’t easily turn into Mitt Romney in a turban and
beard: shamelessly championing what he once abhorred. Also that the Supreme
Leader has also given himself a theological pretext for cooperating with the
West—should a face-saving compromise become possible.
Of course, if you’re like most Americans, you’ve never heard these things. Where
U.S. news media are concerned, Israel is subject and its enemies object—rarely
depicted as having legitimate interests or a sane point of view.
Meanwhile, the second big thing to understand about Netanyahu’s threats is that
all relevant military experts agree that Israeli bombs can’t stop Iran from
building nuclear weapons. That would take a prolonged U.S. bombing campaign and
full scale ground invasion of a country with three times Iraq’s population, five
times its land area and tough terrain. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told CNN that an Israeli raid on Iranian nuclear
research sites "won’t achieve their long-term objectives."
What Israel’s bombing Iran would do is kill a lot of people, inflame the Iranian
people’s nationalist passions and scatter radioactive materials far and wide.
But I digress, as we’ve already established that the Persians have no sane
perspective. Kevin Drum neatly satirizes the pro-Netanyahu point of view:
"Danger! Mullahs! Nukes! Oil Supplies! Let’s blow up the region before something
Now then: Whatever else can be said about Benjamin Netanyahu, he’s definitely
not crazy. As only a crazy person would advocate a futile attack against a
hypothetical threat, it follows that the Prime Minister’s short term motives
aren’t primarily military. Instead, they’re political, and very much in keeping
with what Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf calls Netanyahu’s increasingly open
Specifically, the hypothetical "red line" everybody talks about isn’t in Tehran;
it’s in Washington. The precipitating event isn’t anything Iran has done, but
what the United States might do, specifically, re-elect Barack Obama. The
president came into office talking about Palestinian rights, and hasn’t been
Short of openly endorsing the GOP nominee, Netanyahu’s bellicose stance appears
contrived to put Obama in a corner: damned if he doesn’t, ruined if he does.
Meanwhile, the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf has driven the world price of
oil sky-high, a boon to speculators and GOP candidates.
Recognizing this, Obama neatly outflanked Netanyahu during his recent U.S.
visit, promising that he’s got Israel’s back, won’t hesitate to use military
force to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but also praising diplomacy, economic
sanctions and pointedly warning against "loose talk of war."
In public, the Israeli Prime Minister had little choice but to sit and take it.
Now he’s back home fuming. Does he dare try to force Obama’s hand?
And if he fails? Netanyahu’s well-advised to sit tight.
Americans have no heart for this needless war.
Strike Against Iran is 'Strategic Madness'
A U.S. military strike against Iran to prevent Tehran’s mullahs from getting a
nuclear bomb would be "the height of strategic madness" because it could
escalate rapidly into a regional war, award-winning journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave tells Newsmax. There is a "50-50 proposition" that the escalating
violence in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is waging a bloody crackdown on
anti-regime protesters, could spill into other parts of the Middle East and
beyond, de Borchgrave said.
"When you look at the connections
between Syria and Iran and Syria and Russia — in fact, one of the main
beneficiaries of Russian arms deals today is indeed Syria, so you’ve got a lot
of players with a lot at stake — clearly, that could lead to an unraveling
throughout the region," he said in the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview. De
Borchgrave, a Newsmax contributor who also is editor at large at United Press
International and The Washington Times, is director and senior adviser at the
Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic & International
Studies. He believes the talks scheduled to resume next month between Iran and
six world powers will drag on for a few months but inevitably break down without
progress in the West’s bid to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
Iranians are not about to give up their nuclear capability," de Borchgrave said.
That capability is not a recent ambition, he said, noting that the Shah of Iran,
long before his 1977 ouster, "told me back in 1972 that Iran was going to become
a nuclear power." It’s important to recognize that Iran considers itself
surrounded by nuclear powers — Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan are all
its neighbors, plus there is also the United States, he said. Once negotiations
on Iran’s nuclear program fizzle out, de Borchgrave said, the United States,
Israel, and Western allies probably will consider launching a military strike.
That would be a "grave mistake," he said. "It would be the height of strategic
madness to bomb Iran if you know what is going to trigger, which is an upheaval
throughout the Middle East, and you’ll see oil at $300, $500 [a barrel], the
sky’s the limit," he said.
And Iran doesn’t rely on its nuclear program to
defend what it sees as its interests. "Iran has formidable asymmetrical
retaliatory capabilities up and down the whole Gulf and, of course, with Hamas
and Hezbollah," de Borchgrave said. Regarding Afghanistan, de Borchgrave said he
does not believe that the formal charging of Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales with
17 counts of murder will do anything to reduce Afghan resentment of the United
States. Bales is accused of gunning down 17 civilians, mostly women and
children, in a massacre that followed U.S. troops’ inadvertent burning of copies
of the Koran, Islam’s holy book. "I think tensions will continue running high
for the duration of the war," de Borchgrave said. "After all, you have an
overwhelming majority of Afghans who just want to be left alone right now." He
believes the Taliban are just biding their time, waiting until U.S. and NATO
forces withdraw from Afghanistan. "Everybody knows we’re getting out so at the
end of 2014 it’s curtains for the U.N. and NATO efforts," he said. "When you
know that in advance, obviously you are planning for the post-engagement phase,
as was the case in Vietnam."
Meanwhile, al-Qaida is using the Internet to reboot
its strength since U.S. Navy SEALs killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in
May, de Borchgrave said. He pointed to the case of Mohamed Merah, a
self-proclaimed jihadist French commando killed last week after he killed three
French soldiers and three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school. "These people
are recruited through the Internet," said de Borchgrave, adding that there are
thousands of pro-al-Qaida sites. "These kids watch on the ’Net all the time, and
they see all this propaganda, and it appeals to them," he said. "They are
looking for action."
The Mashal and Jabari Affairs: Deja Vu, All Over Again?
Has Israel attempted murder twice, to deliberately prevent long-term truces
According to an Israeli peace activist, Gershon Baskin, who had mediated
between Israel and Hamas in the past, Ahmed Jabari had just received a draft of
a "permanent truce agreement with Israel" shortly before he was assassinated.
Did Israel incite hostilities with Hamas on purpose, then use those hostilities
as a pretext to murder Jabari expressly to derail the possibility of peace?
I think a very similar past incident suggests that the answer could be “yes.”
In “Man in the Shadows,” the autobiography of Efraim Halevy, a former Director
of the Mossad, Halevy mentioned Jordan’s King Hussein saying of the Mossad’s
attempted assassination of Khaled Mashal that “the entire situation was beyond
comprehension” because just days before the assassination attempt, he (King
Hussein) had met with a Mossad agent and brokered a peace agreement offered by
Hamas for a 30-year truce between Israel, the Palestinians and Hamas.
The full details of the earlier assassination attempt appear below. It seems
to me that there is a very strong parallel, and an equally strong suggestion
that Israel would rather murder people than have peace with Hamas. If this is
true, the Jabari incident is especially troubling because it resulted in the
deaths of civilians, children, and nearly started a war (or, more likely,
another massacre like Operation Cast Lead).
Here is how a leading Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported the Jabari
assassination: “Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he
received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included
mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between
Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip. This, according to Israeli peace
activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate between Israel and Hamas in the deal
to release Gilad Shalit and has since then maintained a relationship with Hamas
Baskin told Haaretz on Thursday that senior officials in Israel knew about his
contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent
truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination. ‘I think that they have made
a strategic mistake,’ Baskin said, an error ‘which will cost the lives of quite
a number of innocent people on both sides.’”
Here are the details of the prior assassination attempt, which it seems to me
may have also been triggered by Israeli government fears of a long-term truce
between Israel and Hamas.
Khaled Mashal has been the main leader of the Palestinian political
organization Hamas since the assassination of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004. In
2010, The British Magazine New Statesman listed Mashal at number 18th in the
list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010."
On September 25, 1997, Mashal was the target of an assassination attempt
carried out by the Israeli Mossad under orders from Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and his security cabinet.
Two Mossad agents carrying fake Canadian passports waited at the entrance of the
Hamas offices in Amman, Jordan, with the intention of assassinating Mashal. As
Mashal walked into his office, one of the agents came up from behind and held a
device to Mashal's left ear that transmitted a fast-acting poison. The two
agents were followed, apprehended and arrested.
Immediately after the incident, Jordan's King Hussein demanded that Benjamin
Netanyahu turn over the antidote for the poison. At first Netanyahu refused, but
as the incident grew in political significance, American President Bill Clinton
intervened and compelled Netanyahu to turn over the antidote. Clinton later
said: “I cannot deal with this man (Netanyahu); he is impossible.”
The Head of the Mossad, Danny Yatom, flew to Jordan with an antidote to treat
Mashal, saving his life.
After the incident Mashal told Third Way Magazine: "Israeli threats have one
of two effects: some people are intimidated, but others become more defiant and
determined. I am one of the latter."
The basic facts above were confirmed in the autobiography of Efraim Halevy, a
former Director of the Mossad. According to Halevy, there were four other Mossad
agents involved, who were not captured and fled to the Israeli embassy in Amman.
Halevy said that King Hussein later told him that he felt betrayed and that “the
entire situation was beyond comprehension” because just days before the
assassination attempt, he had met with a Mossad agent to broker a peace
agreement offered by Hamas for a 30-year truce between Israel, the Palestinians
During Helevy’s meetings with King Hussein and Crown Pince Hassan, the
botched assassination was described as “a highly incompetent piece of work.” Was
this, perhaps, because the assassination was a rush job?
What happened? My educated guess is that the Mossad agent reported that a
long-term truce was on the table, the good news was conveyed to Netanyahu, who
unfortunately did not want peace with Hamas, and so the order was given to
hastily arrange the assassination of Mashal.
How deeply involved was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? According
to Halevy, Netanyahu “had spent the whole night at Mossad headquarters” and “was
personally overseeing the steps and moves of the Mossad as they dealt with the
incident.” Halevy also mentioned that “the whole story had been placed under
heavy censorship.” Was this because Netanyahu was in a panic because he couldn’t
afford to let the world know that he had ordered an assassination expressly to
prevent a long-term truce with Hamas and the Palestinians?
At the time, Halevy was no longer with the Mossad, but because of his former
good relationship with King Hussein, he was asked to intervene. He was rushed,
at considerable expense, from Antwerp to Israel. His every request became like
Moses parting the Red Sea.
In his autobiography, Halevy wrote that, as he was rushed to Mossad
headquarters, “A strange feeling crept over me. It was like returning to the
scene of a crime.” Did he, perhaps, have a foreboding that a terrible crime had
been committed — not just an assassination, but the murder of peace itself? Of
course that is speculation on my part, but nothing seems to be beyond the
madness of King Bibi ...
In any case, Halevy found the Israeli masterminds wondering if they could
bribe Jordan with weapons — infrared night sights for tanks and upgraded
The Madness of King Bibi: “Erratic Unreason”
compiled by Michael R. Burch and gleaned from the press clippings of Reuters,
the Guardian and other major news services
Is King Bibi mad, or incompetent, like mad King George?
Yes, according to former heads of Israel’s famous intelligence services, the
Mossad and the Shin Bet.
According to Juan Cole, writing for Informed Comment, Yuval Diskin joins Meir
Dagan “in blowing the whistle on the erratic unreason of Netanyahu and Barak.”
Diskin accused Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister
Ehud Barak of having “messianic feelings” that cloud their judgement and made
them unqualified to lead the country. According to the Huffington Post, “Dagan's
statements, rare for a man known for discretion and secrecy during a
three-decade career in the intelligence service, have startled many Israelis.”
Diskin had been seen as relatively apolitical, perhaps lending his words even
"I have no faith in the current leadership of Israel to lead us to an event
of this magnitude, of war with Iran," Diskin said at a public meeting, a video
of which was posted on the Internet the next day and quickly became the lead
news item in Israel. "I do not believe in a leadership that makes decisions
based on Messianic feelings," he continued. "I have seen them up close. They are
not messiahs, these two, and they are not the people that I personally trust to
lead Israel into such an event."
Dagan has called the bellicose duo’s threats to bomb Iran “the stupidest idea
I’ve ever heard.” The former Mossad spymaster, who supervised an ambitious
espionage campaign against Tehran’s nuclear program, warned that a military
strike would ignite a regional war that could go on for years. He also pointed
out that “A very large number of experts have been saying for a great many years
that one of the results of an Israeli attack in Iran could be a dramatic
acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program. In other words, that which the
Iranians currently prefer to pursue slowly and quietly these days, they’ll have
legitimacy to pursue quickly and within a far shorter period of time.” And he
also explained that Israel lacks the capability to prevent Iran from creating
nuclear weapons, which makes a military strike nonsensical.
Dagan's stinging criticism of Netanyahu has been noteworthy because he has a
reputation as a hard-liner toward Israel's Arab and Muslim adversaries. Foreign
press reports have attributed a number of bold operations to the Mossad during
Dagan's eight-year term. "He is one of the most right-wing militant people ever
born here, somebody who ate Arabs for breakfast, lunch and dinner," wrote Ben
Caspit, the chief columnist for the Maariv daily. "When this man says that the
leadership has no vision and is irresponsible, we should stop sleeping soundly
at night." Caspit also claimed that two other recently-retired security chiefs
expressed similar reservations in private.
How irrational is Netanyahu? His senior associates accused Dagan of
involvement in a political plot to topple Netanyahu. They accused Dagan of
perpetrating "sabotage against democratic institutions in Israel” and took away
his diplomatic passport!
Dagan has criticized the ruling Likud Party’s intention to pass the “Dagan
Law” which entails imposing restrictions on statements made by the heads of
security apparatuses. In an interview to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, Dagan
asserted that the Israeli regime is more dangerous than the Iranian threat which
he downplayed. He said that the “real threat” to Israel is the ruling regime,
and that Israel is on the brink of the abyss. The former Mossad chief also
accused Netanyahu of using most of his time and effort toward strengthening the
ruling coalition in fear that it would collapse and the premier would lose his
power in a day.
Diskin's speech – in which he also attacked the government for not actively
pursuing peace with the Palestinians – came days after the country's current top
military commander, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, also seemed to disagree with the
country's leadership on the likelihood that Iran will pursue a nuclear weapon.
Gantz told The Associated Press that Iran would ultimately bow to international
pressure and decide against building a nuclear weapon. In an interview with the
Israeli daily Ha’aretz, he described Iran’s leadership as “very rational” who
would not make such a decision.
But according to senior, high-ranking Israeli intelligence experts, generals
and politicians, the leaders of Israel are far from rational.
According to a Matav article, “Diskin’s comments deepened the sense that a
rift is growing between the hawkish Netanyahu government and the security
establishment over the question of a strike [on Iran].”
Lieutenant General Shaul Mofaz, an opposition leader and former Defense
Minister, said that he took Diskin’s criticism of Netanyahu and Barak very
seriously and rejected claims that the comments were made out of personal or
Mofaz addressed Netanyahu directly in the Knesset, saying, “Over the past few
months, Israel has waged an extensive and relentless p.r. campaign with the sole
objective of preparing the ground for a premature military adventure. This p.r.
campaign has deeply penetrated the ‘zone of immunity’ of our national security,
threatens to weaken our deterrence, and our relations with our best friends.”
Former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi also defended Diskin,
saying, “I know Diskin and he spoke what was on his heart out of genuine
Meanwhile, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert joined a chorus of
voices warning against rushing into war with Iran, saying, “There is enough time
to try different avenues of pressure to change the balance of power with Iran
without the need for a direct military confrontation with Iran.”
David Grossman decried Netanyahu's fevered declarations that he might soon
order a unilateral strike on the Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear
facilities, warning of Netanyahu's "megalomaniacal" vision.
The Sunday papers all led with either Diskin’s remarks, or the return fire
from supporters of Netanyahu and Barak, calling Diskin several variations on a
disgruntled former employee. But both Diskin and Dagan left their government
positions with high praise from all quarters, including from Netanyahu, with
whom they met routinely. Along with the army, Shin Bet and Mossad are the
agencies Israelis depend on to prevent crisis and preserve security, dealing
efficiently with the kind of sensitive issues that cannot brook mismanagement.
As analysts loyal to the prime minister scrambled to discredit another critic
once praised as a consummate professional, Israel’s most prominent columnist,
Nahum Barnea of Yedioth Ahronot, insisted the question of character is better
directed at the prime minister himself. “The question… is not why Diskin but,
rather, why Netanyahu? How has it happened that this man, who is currently at
peak popularity, peak public respect, fails to earn even a smidgen of respect
from the people who knew him best of all?”
Diskin’s remarks on peace talks, incidentally, echoed the view he offered a
conference room of foreign reporters in late 2010, when he was still in charge
of Shin Bet. “In order to keep the legitimacy of the Palestinian security forces
we need real progress in the peace process,” Diskin said then. “Everything is
connected to the progress we will have or we will not have in the peace
process.” Ben-Dror Yemini, a conservative columnist for the daily Ma’ariv,
called Diskin’s remarks a windfall for Abbas, especially on the heels of a
statement one day earlier by Israeli president Shimon Peres that “Abu Mazen
really wants peace with Israel.”
Diskin did not limit his criticism of Netanyahu to the Prime Minister’s Iran
policy. He also referred to a world that historically sees Israel through the
prism of its conflict with the Palestinians, blaming Netanyahu for the lack of
progress toward a peace deal by pointing out that the Prime Minister’s
right-wing coalition prevents anything more than rhetorical support for
negotiating a two-state solution with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud
Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen: “The state of Israel needs to aspire to a
long-term arrangement on the basis of a two-state solution ... The fact is that
we’re not talking with the Palestinians ... and guys, forget about all the
stories they’re selling you in the media about how we want to talk, but Abu
Mazen doesn’t and so forth. I’m telling you, we’re not talking with the
Palestinians because this government has no interest in talking with the
Palestinians. I was there up until a year ago. I know from up close what is
going on in that area. This government has no interest in talking with the
Palestinians. It most certainly has no interest in resolving anything with the
Palestinians. The prime minister knows that if he takes even the smallest step
forward on this issue then the well-established rule of the prime minister in
the State of Israel and his strong coalition will fall apart. It’s that simple.
That is why no one here has any interest in resolving anything with the
Palestinians, and that is the source of the Palestinians’ frustration—and
incidentally, I’m not defending the Palestinians in the least. They have made
One of the first criticisms voiced by a security figure came last summer from
Israel's recently retired spy chief, Meir Dagan. He called a strike against
Iran's nuclear program "stupid." Dagan, who headed the Mossad spy agency, said
an effective attack on Iran would be difficult because Iranian nuclear
facilities are scattered and mobile, and warned that it could trigger war.
Shaul Mofaz – a former military chief and defense minister who has since been
elected head of the opposition Kadima Party – recently said that the threats of
an imminent military strike are actually weakening Israel. Mofaz, who was born
in Iran and moved to Israel as a child, said Israel "is not a ghetto" and that
despite its military might must fully coordinate with the U.S. on any plan to
Dan Halutz, who led the Israeli military from 2005 to 2007, also criticized
Netanyahu last month for invoking Holocaust imagery in describing the threat
posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. "We are not kings of the world," Halutz said. "We
should remember who we are."
A recent poll suggested the public agrees. The survey, conducted by the
Israeli Dahaf agency for the University of Maryland, said 81 percent of Israelis
oppose a solo attack on Iran.
Rahm Emanuel, the Jewish-American mayor of Chicago and former White House
chief of staff who once served as a civilian volunteer with the Israeli Defense
Forces during the Gulf War, reportedly slammed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, calling his behavior "unfathomable," according to Israel’s Channel 2
News. Emanuel spoke at a closed-door meeting during the Saban Forum in
Washington, DC, where sources quoted him as saying: "It is unfathomable that a
prime minister would behave the way Netanyahu behaved," an apparent reference to
Israel's recent announcement that it would continue to develop settlements in
the E1 corridor in the West Bank.
Is Emanuel a secret enemy of Israel or a “self-hating Jew”? Not at all.
William Daroff, one of the Jewish leaders active in Washington, explains: “you
don't have to have a Likud view of the world to be considered pro-Israel ... I
know that Rahm Emanuel is very involved in the U.S.-Israel relationship. There
are many Jews in Israel who are left of center ... I think it's misleading to
think that the prime minister of Israel is the final arbiter of what every Jew
must think of the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to be a good Jew. And I think
that would be the case whether Netanyahu or Rabin or Livni or Yossi Beilin was
the prime minister. I would say that Rahm Emanuel supports Israel. I would say
that President Obama supports Israel. Their view of what supporting Israel
should be—and what Israel should be doing regarding peace—might be different
from Uzi Landau's view, but might be the same as Tzipi Livni's view. It doesn't
mean they are enemies of the state of Israel or betraying their Jewishness.
Because Rahm Emanuel never had a right-wing view of the Israel-U.S.
relationship. In Congress he was pretty much a centrist. I know that Rahm
Emanuel feels very close to Israel."
During his time in Congress, Emanuel voted with his party on the subject of
Israel 98 percent of the time. He signed letters and draft bills in support of
Israeli security, on the one hand, and efforts to promote peace efforts, on the
other, beginning with the letter declaring Congressional support for the road
map, which was sent to president George W. Bush. He was in favor of financial
assistance to the Palestinians, but called on them to give up terror. He was one
of the only two Jews in Congress who agreed to support the Geneva Initiative, in
What are other prominent Jews saying about what appears to be the madness of
Israeli Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned that the world was "losing its
patience with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's irresponsible policies."
Ben-Eliezer called the move "a badly timed decision" that "risks the loss of
support from the United States and from European countries." According to
Ben-Eliezer, "The world is telling Israel 'enough,' and the fact that
friend-states like Britain and France are considering recalling their
ambassadors is a long-reaching issue that can lead Israel to international
Tzipi Livni, the former leader of Israel’s largest political party, Kadima,
said that Netanyahu's decision to build in the settlements "isolates Israel,
encourages international pressure and will not happen either way." Livni added
that reports that France and Britain are considering to recall their envoys
proves that Netanyahu's government makes diplomatic moves that are bad for
Israel. According to Livni, "In one month of dangerous military and diplomatic
moves, Netanyahu formed a Hamas state in Gaza, a Palestinian state in the UN and
now, with his response, made Israel guilty in the eyes of the world."
Israel has said it will not backtrack on a settlement expansion plan after
Britain, France and other European governments summoned Israeli ambassadors to
hear protests about Israel’s authorization of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank
and in East Jerusalem. The US government under multiple presidents — Democratic
and Republican — has long opposed the expansion of settlements as a roadblock to
An official speaking for Israeli prime minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu
said: "Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests, even in the face of
international pressure, and there will be no change in the decision that was
made." The Israeli cabinet unanimously rejected the UN vote, describing the West
Bank as "disputed territory" over which the Jewish people had "a natural right."
But this, of course, ignores the right of the Palestinian people to keep their
ever-dwindling land intact. Israel has already taken more than 80% of Palestine
by force, hook and crook. At some point, either Israel will have to act with
reason, or the world will have to step in, if there is going to be any land left
for millions of Palestinians who otherwise face not only ethnic cleansing, but
Approximately 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East
Jerusalem, where they suffer under a brutal and oppressive military occupation
in which Israeli soldiers protect Jewish robber barons rather than their victims
— most of them completely innocent Palestinian children and their mothers.
Most world powers consider Israel's settlements to be illegal. Israel cites
historical and Biblical links to the West Bank and Jerusalem and regards all of
the holy city as its capital, a claim that is not recognised internationally.
Netanyahu told his cabinet that his administration "will carry on building in
Jerusalem and in all the places on the map of Israel's strategic interests".
Israel's Channel 2 reported that Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's former chief of
staff, described the Netanyahu’s behavior, as "unfathomable."
The settlement plan, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, would deal "an
almost fatal blow" to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel announced the construction of the homes after the United Nations
general assembly voted to recognise the Palestinian state. A mere eight
countries out of 193 sided with Israel in opposing the Palestinian state.
The British prime minister's spokesman said Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office
minister, had met the Israeli ambassador in London on Monday morning to complain
about the new building programme, and that the Foreign Office had put out its
own statement about the row.
Australia, Denmark, France, Spain and Sweden also summoned Israeli
ambassadors in protest at the plan. Germany urged Israel to refrain from
expanding settlements and Russia said it viewed plans to put more new homes in
the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem with serious concern. Russia "views
these Israeli intentions with the most serious concern", the Foreign Ministry
said in a statement. "Implementation of the announced plans for large-scale
settlement activity would have a very negative effect on efforts to resume
direct negotiations aimed at a two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict," it said.
France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said Israel's plans were a "new
area of colonisation" and, if confirmed, would "sap the necessary confidence in
a resumption of talks".
Downing Street downplayed reports that Britain might withdraw its ambassador
from Israel, but refused to completely rule it out as an option.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said he hoped Britain and France
were considering the step. He said an E1 building project "destroys the
two-state solution, (establishing) East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine
and practically ends the peace process and any opportunity to talk about
negotiations in the future."
Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for the Hamas Islamist movement that governs the
Gaza Strip, said the settlement plans were "an insult to the international
community, which should bear responsibility for Israeli violations and attacks
According to David Remick, “Since early last year, Israelis have witnessed a
very different kind of dissidence, of a variety almost unknown since the
founding of the state. As Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak,
routinely speak of an imminent “existential threat” from Tehran, comparable to
that of the Nazis in 1939, and warn that the Iranian nuclear program is fast
approaching a “zone of immunity,” a growing number of leading intelligence and
military officials, active and retired, have made plain their opposition to a
unilateral Israeli strike. They include the Army Chief of Staff, the
Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, the heads of the two main intelligence
agencies, the Mossad (Israel’s C.I.A.) and Shin Bet (its F.B.I.), President
Shimon Peres, and members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, including the Intelligence
Minister. Apart from Peres, these men are anything but liberals; most have
impeccable hard-line credentials. The insiders are more muted in their language
than the “exes,” but there is no question that together they present Netanyahu
and Barak with a formidable barrier to an attack.”
Children of Gaza: Scarred, trapped, vengeful
by Rachel Shields
Omsyatte, 12, in pink, and her family at the grave of her brother, Ibrahim, who
was one of the 1,400 Palestinian victims of the 2008 Israeli military offensive
Omsyatte adjusts her green school uniform and climbs gingerly on to a desk at
the front of the classroom. The shy 12-year-old holds up a brightly coloured
picture and begins to explain to her classmates what she has drawn. It is a
scene played out in schools all over the world, but for one striking difference:
Omsyatte's picture does not illustrate a recent family holiday, or jolly school
outing, but the day an Israeli military offensive killed her nine-year-old
brother and destroyed her home.
"Here is where they shot my brother Ibrahim, God bless his soul. And here is the
F16 plane that threw rockets into the house and trees, and here is the tank that
started to shoot," she says, to a round of applause from the other children. The
exercise is designed to help the pupils at the school come to terms with the
warfare that has dominated their short lives; particularly the horrors of the
2008 Israeli military offensive Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,400
Palestinians, and destroyed one in eight homes.
Like hundreds of displaced Gazans, Omsyatte's family have spent more than a year
living in a tent on a site near their home. Little rebuilding work has been done
during this time—with supplies unable to pass into Gaza because of the ongoing
blockade imposed by Israel in 2007—and groups of children now pick their way
through piles of rubble, kicking footballs around the bombsites which used to be
Homelessness is just one of the issues facing the 780,000 Gazan children in the
aftermath of the conflict, problems that are explored in a revealing new
documentary Dispatches: Children of Gaza, to be screened tomorrow at 8pm on
Channel 4. Perhaps the most disturbing of these is the emotional scars borne by
children who have survived the conflict; the Gaza Community Mental Health
Programme reports that the majority of children show signs of anxiety,
depression and behavioural problems.
Small boys build toy rockets out of drinks bottles, and talk about the fake guns
they are going to buy with their pocket money. While boys the world over are
preoccupied with fighting and weapons, this takes on a more sinister
significance when the game isn't Cowboys vs Indians, but Jews vs Arabs, and the
children's make-believe warfare is chillingly realistic.
These games may reflect the children's desire for revenge against their
neighbours, of which many speak openly. "I think we are seeing a growing desire
for violence, and it saddens me," said Jezza Neumann, the Bafta-winning director
of the programme. "If they could get revenge legally, or saw someone saying
sorry, then perhaps they could come to terms with it, but there has been no
recourse. What you're seeing now may only be the tip of the iceberg."
Mahmoud, 12, describes the day Israeli soldiers knocked on the door and shot his
father dead, lying down in the dirt where his father fell in a heartbreaking
reconstruction, and describes the enormous changes it wrought upon him. "Before
the war, I was thinking about education, but after I started thinking about
becoming a fighter," he says, his thickly lashed brown eyes staring straight
into the camera. "God willing, if I can kill one Israeli it will be better than
Desperate to avenge his father's death, Mahmoud is encouraged by his uncle
Ahmed, a member of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad. Sitting Mahmoud down in
front of a martyrdom film, Ahmed says, "Look how he doesn't feel a thing when he
is detonated" as a suicide bomber dies. Just a few hundred yards from the
family's home is a training camp for Gaza's fighters—both Hamas and Islamic
Jihad—where young men carrying rocket launchers are clearly visible.
While Mahmoud is desperate for revenge, his mother weeps when she considers the
possibility that he may become a martyr. "It is an honour to die in the name of
Allah, but I don't want to lose my son," she said.
Some believe that with Israel's tight restrictions on movement blocking
conventional career options for the 1.1 million people who live there, children
may feel they have no choice but to join resistance movements. Last week
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip lit 1,000 candles and held a peaceful protest to
mark 1,000 days of the Israeli blockade. During this time, unemployment has
risen to 45 per cent, with 76 per cent of households now living in poverty.
"The children are struggling with the idea of the future," Mr Neumann said.
"Many graduates in Gaza are unemployed, and they can't see a way forward because
they can't get out."
Families have been fractured by the conflict, with many parents racked by guilt
because they couldn't protect their children from the violence, and now cannot
provide for them in the aftermath. Sitting in the tent which is now their home,
Omsyatte's father weeps as he talks of his regret over the death of his son
"The Israelis killed my son while he was in my arms, and I could do nothing to
protect him," he says, tears streaming down his face. "I couldn't even look at
him when he was taking his last breaths of life, because the soldiers were right
above my head. I was too much of a coward to even hug my son. I was afraid that
they would kill me. These things torment me."
Dr Ahmed Abu Tawanheena, the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health
Programme, says this issue is also affecting children in Gaza. "They have lost
their parents twice: first, during the conflict, when they saw their parents
terrified and unable to protect them from the violence. Now, under the blockade,
they see their parents are still unable to provide for their basic needs, such
as shelter or food," he said. "It's a crisis which is threatening families and
communities across the Gaza Strip."
For some, this crisis has had a devastating impact on family relationships, with
mental health professionals and NGOs linking a rise in domestic violence with
these feelings of guilt and impotence. A study by the Palestinian Women's
Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in March 2009 found that 77 per cent of
women in the Gaza Strip are exposed to domestic violence, while a survey by the
UN Development Fund for Women (Unifem) also indicated that violence against
women increased during periods of heavy conflict.
Many children are suffering the physical effects of the conflict. One of these
is Mahmoud's nine-year-old sister Amal. Trapped under the rubble of her
home—which was destroyed by Israeli shells—for four days before she was rescued,
Amal was left with shrapnel lodged in her brain. Plagued by headaches and
nosebleeds, and unable to get the medical care she needs in Gaza, Amal is lucky
enough to be granted papers which allow her to travel to nearby Tel Aviv to be
examined by a specialist. However, her experiences have left her so scared of
Israelis that she doesn't want to go.
Crouching over a colouring book, her curly brown hair held back with pretty hair
bands, she explained: "I'm scared to go to Israel. From the Jews. I'm frightened
they might kill me."
Many of the children in Gaza's Shefa hospital do not have the option of leaving
the strip, and the prognosis for children in the oncology ward is bleak.
Chemotherapy is not available in Gaza, and many of the children on the ward have
not been granted the papers they need to seek the treatment readily available to
Palestinians just across the Israeli and Egyptian borders. One of these children
is 10-year-old Ribhye, crippled by advanced leukaemia and unable to leave Gaza.
His distraught father, sitting in a hospital room devoid of the equipment and
medicine his son so desperately needs, is devastated not to have been granted
leave to take Ribhye out of Gaza. "How do I get out? This border is closed, that
border is closed. What do I do?" he asked.
"The mortality rate for cancer in Gaza is much higher than elsewhere," said
Steve Sosebee, president of the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund. "You have to
get a permit if you want to cross into Gaza and most of them are not granted. A
lot of kids are dying as a result of the decisions being made by the people in
charge, whether Hamas, the Egyptian government, the Israeli government."
Even the parents who have papers allowing their children to leave don't fare
much better. Eight-year-old leukaemia sufferer Wissam was granted permission to
cross into Egypt for treatment, but has been waiting for weeks for the border
crossing to be opened. After being told that he would finally be allowed through
after sitting at the border for hours, the coach full of hospital patients was
turned away, and had to make the long drive back to the Nasser hospital.
Wissam's father desperately tried to find out from hospital officials why the
coach was turned back. "Every day the child stays here is a danger to his life,"
he said, his words echoing the thoughts of so many Palestinian parents.
Israel and the Abused Child Syndrome
by Eitan Felner
Israeli society suffers from the syndrome of the abused child. That is the only
reasonable answer to the frequently posed question of how a people that suffered
so long, that was victimized for 3,000 years, can be indifferent to the
suffering it inflicts on another people.
The state of Israel was formed against the backdrop of the most chilling act of
genocide in modern history. Israel cannot escape that traumatic past. As in the
case of an adult survivor of childhood abuse, a primal insecurity informs our
perception of reality.
Every danger whether real or imagined, large or small is experienced in terms of
our long history of persecution. Living in Israel, it is not hard to justify our
self-perception as victims. Suicide bombings in Israeli cities have killed and
maimed dozens of civilians in recent years. Israel remains in a state of war
with half its neighbors. This reality is easily read in terms of our collective
memory as victims.
Yet our identity as the eternal victim prevents us from realizing that today we
are not only victims. Just as some victims of child abuse turn into victimizers
as adults, we Israelis, having assumed a position of power over others, have
ourselves become victimizers.
It is the syndrome of the abused child that informs the attitude of the Israeli
public to human rights violations committed by our security forces in the
Occupied Territories. Take, for example, the case of the public debate about
torture in Israel.
The use of torture by the Israeli security service is routine. Thousands of
Palestinian detainees are violently shaken, kept for days in excruciating
positions, denied sleep for prolonged periods or subjected to extremes of noise,
cold and filth. Israeli officials publicly acknowledge such practices.
Torture's stigma prompts most nations to deny any use of force in
interrogations, but the Israeli public, at large, supports the use of torture as
a legitimate means to defend security.
Israel's resort to collective forms of punishment provokes a similar response.
In the past ten years, Israel has demolished more than 400 houses of family
members of Palestinians suspected of violent acts against Israel. No public
outcry has been raised about this policy, which has rendered homeless hundreds
of innocent people, many of them children and the elderly.
Israeli public opinion has also remained indifferent to the blatantly
discriminatory manner in which this policy is applied. Only Palestinians are
subjected to collective punishments.
Four years ago, when 29 Palestinians were killed by an Israeli settler at the
Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Israel took seriously the fundamental legal
principle that every person is responsible for his or her own acts. It did not
take reprisals against innocent people, such as the family or neighbors of the
perpetrator of the massacre.
Israel's repressive policies cannot be compared to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Yet neither can our suffering in the past, however terrible, be used to excuse
The syndrome of the abused child only exacerbates the cycle of violence in the
Middle East. The experience of occupation and dispossession has turned
Palestinians into the new generation of "abused children." As such, Palestinians
often justify the sufferings caused by suicide bombs in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem by
the affliction we cause to them. This in turn re-enforces our self-perception as
This cycle of victimhood has profound effects on the potential for a negotiated
settlement of the conflict. A peace process has begun, yet a peace based on
human rights violations is fragile at its core. Collective punishment, brutality
and needless humiliation diminish the willingness for reconciliation and
Milestones are often an occasion for introspection. This year Israel celebrated
its 50th anniversary and the international community is celebrating the 50th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a timely
opportunity to recognize and begin to address our syndrome.
We must not forget the past, but neither can we let our painful history make us
complacent toward the suffering we cause to others.
The writer is executive director of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for
Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and a former chairperson of the Israel
section of Amnesty International. He contributed this comment to the
International Herald Tribune.
The Israeli Air Force and the Finnish Children's Clinic in Gaza
by Gush Shalom
July 13, 2009
"An attack of this kind violates all international conventions" said
representatives of the Finnish Church. The clinic had supplied primary medical
care to children." As part of the Israeli Air Force bombardments there was
totally destroyed last Saturday in Gaza a children's clinic created some years
ago by Finn Church Aid jointly with other Scandinavian humanitarian
organizations. According to Jouni Hemberg, Chief of Humanitarian Aid for Finn
Church Aid, the clinic was evacuated due to the approach of Israeli troops, with
church personnel marking it conspicuously with Red Cross symbols, visible from
both the ground and the air, in the hope of preserving it from harm and
facilitating its re-opening once the fighting ended. The clinic had an important
role in preserving the health of poor children in the neighbourhood.
The entire clinic was destroyed in a bombing by the Israeli Air Force, and all
the medical equipment, provided through considerable sums collected from
donations collected throughout Scandinavia, was totally destroyed. The church
people strongly reiterate that this was a children's clinic which had no
connection of any kind to Hamas and could not have been considered a military
target by any criteria. Gideon Gitai, an Israeli journalist and peace activist
living in Finland, says that this bombing—which went completely unreported in
Israel—had caused great shock and outrage in Scandinavia .
Two other Scandinavian-funded children's clinics, located in other parts of
Gaza, still survive, and the Finn Church Aid directors hope that their strong
protest would at least save these from a similar fate.
"The army's rampage in Gaza passes all boundaries and all logic. The wanton
destruction of a clinic is just a small sample of the insane and criminal policy
also manifested in the widespread use of white phosphorus bombs which cause
severe burns to civilians on whom they fall. The state of Israel, its
government, and the soldiers and officers acting in its name all become
increasingly inhuman with every continuing day of this monstrous war. All of us
will feel the severe direct and indirect consequences for many years to come"
says Gush Shalom, Israeli Peace Bloc.
Article of Finnish media site YLE
Contact: Adam Keller firstname.lastname@example.org
Liebermania in action
by Gush Shalom
October 9, 2010
This week Israel's security forces practiced the putting down of mass
demonstrations and protests among Israel's Arab citizens and their imprisonment
in a large detention camp to be established at Golani Junction in Galilee. The
exercise was based on a scenario of the riots being provoked by implementation
of Avigdor Lieberman's plan for "an exchange of populations", i.e. massively
depriving Arabs of their Israeli citizenship. A week ago Lieberman voiced this
heinous idea on the podium of the UN Assembly General and Prime Minister
Netanyahu murmured some weak reservations. Now it turns out that the security
forces are already preparing to implement it in practice, under the
responsibility of none other than Labor Party leader Ehud Barak—the Minister
It goes without saying that in a country having any pretence to be a democracy
it would be unacceptable and unthinkable for the security forces to practice
waging war against the country's own citizens. Together with the racist "Loyalty
Oath Bill" which gained the support of the government, and with the
demonstrative resumption of settlement construction in the Occupied Territories,
it increasingly seems that Lieberman is the true Prime Minister, and that the
government follows on his path, leading the State of Israel in big and rapid
strides into the abyss.
Obama and Israeli interests
by Gush Shalom
June 4, 2009
Uri Avnery: "Obama offers real hope to Israelis and Palestinians where
Netanyahu's 'Government of Yesterday' has nothing to offer."
"As an Israeli patriot I must say, without the shadow of a doubt, that at this
moment the President of United States understands the interests of Israel much
better than Israel's own Prime Minister and his ministers" says Uri Avnery of
Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc. "In his memorable Cairo speech, as in his
entire career so far, President Obama has opened up a horizon of real hope to
the citizens of Israel as to the Palestinians and to all Arabs and Muslims,
as he brought hope to the citizens to the US, who elected him. Conversely, Netayahu's is 'Yesterday's Government'
and offers no solution of any kind, and whose
policy consists of clinging blindly to continued occupation and settlement
Each year in the beginning of June, Israeli peace seekers demonstrate, in order
to remind their fellow—citizens that our country is maintaining a cruel
occupation rule over millions of Palestinian inhabitants, already for more than
two-thirds of Israel's total history. This year we are also demonstrating in the
concrete hope that the end of the occupation is near, the beginning of peace
between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine to arise, between Israel
and the entire Arab world.
On the short term, the demand for ending settlement expansion, made so
forcefully by President Obama, is a correct and justified demand. Not only
because the President of the United States is demanding and pressuring, but
mainly because that is the true and vital Israeli interest. Construction should
be halted in all settlements without exception: not a house and not hut, not
in isolated settlements and not in settlements blocks, neither natural growth
nor artificial growth.
What has no right to exist naturally has no right for natural growth, either.
The settlements should never have been built in the first place, and should not
continue to exist. Young settlers should be told that they cannot build homes in
an occupied territory which would not remain under Israeli rule, and that they
must find their future within the recognized borders of Israel (i.e., the Green
Line borders). Soon, their parents would join them. "
The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
June 10, 2010
In 2003, several prominent Jewish philanthropists hired Republican pollster
Frank Luntz to explain why American Jewish college students were not more
vigorously rebutting campus criticism of Israel. In response, he unwittingly
produced the most damning indictment of the organized American Jewish community
that I have ever seen.
The philanthropists wanted to know what Jewish students thought about Israel.
Luntz found that they mostly didn't. "Six times we have brought Jewish youth
together as a group to talk about their Jewishness and connection to Israel," he
reported. "Six times the topic of Israel did not come up until it was prompted.
Six times these Jewish youth used the word ‘they‘ rather than ‘us‘ to describe
That Luntz encountered indifference was not surprising. In recent years, several
studies have revealed, in the words of Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and
Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis, that "non-Orthodox younger
Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders," with
many professing "a near-total absence of positive feelings." In 2008, the
student senate at Brandeis, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university in
America, rejected a resolution commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the
Luntz's task was to figure out what had gone wrong. When he probed the students'
views of Israel, he hit up against some firm beliefs. First, "they reserve the
right to question the Israeli position." These young Jews, Luntz explained, "resist anything they see as ‘group think.'" They want an
"open and frank"
discussion of Israel and its flaws. Second, "young Jews desperately want peace."
When Luntz showed them a series of ads, one of the most popular was entitled "Proof that Israel Wants Peace," and listed offers by various Israeli
governments to withdraw from conquered land. Third, "some empathize with the
plight of the Palestinians." When Luntz displayed ads depicting Palestinians as
violent and hateful, several focus group participants criticized them as
stereotypical and unfair, citing their own Muslim friends.
Most of the students, in other words, were liberals, broadly defined. They had
imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a
belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human
rights. And in their innocence, they did not realize that they were supposed to
shed those values when it came to Israel. The only kind of Zionism they found
attractive was a Zionism that recognized Palestinians as deserving of dignity
and capable of peace, and they were quite willing to condemn an Israeli
government that did not share those beliefs. Luntz did not grasp the irony. The
only kind of Zionism they found attractive was the kind that the American Jewish
establishment has been working against for most of their lives.
Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the
Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a
great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply
devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. But the two
groups are increasingly distinct. Particularly in the younger generations, fewer
and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish
Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American
Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that
challenges Israel's behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own
Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American
Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism's door, and now, to their horror, they
are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.
Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like
AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do
not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger,
Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and
Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range
from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that
American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American
Jewish challenge of our age. And it starts where Luntz's students wanted it to
start: by talking frankly about Israel's current government, by no longer
averting our eyes.
Since the 1990s, journalists and scholars have been describing a bifurcation in
Israeli society. In the words of Hebrew University political scientist Yaron
Ezrahi, "After decades of what came to be called a national consensus, the
Zionist narrative of liberation [has] dissolved into openly contesting
versions." One version, "founded on a long memory of persecution, genocide, and
a bitter struggle for survival, is pessimistic, distrustful of non-Jews, and
believing only in Jewish power and solidarity." Another, "nourished by
secularized versions of messianism as well as the Enlightenment idea of
progress," articulates "a deep sense of the limits of military force, and a
commitment to liberal-democratic values." Every country manifests some kind of
ideological divide. But in contemporary Israel, the gulf is among the widest on
As Ezrahi and others have noted, this latter, liberal-democratic Zionism has
grown alongside a new individualism, particularly among secular Israelis, a
greater demand for free expression, and a greater skepticism of coercive
authority. You can see this spirit in "new historians" like Tom Segev who have
fearlessly excavated the darker corners of the Zionist past and in jurists like
former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak who have overturned Knesset laws
that violate the human rights guarantees in Israel's "Basic Laws." You can also
see it in former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's apparent willingness to relinquish
much of the West Bank in 2000 and early 2001.
But in Israel today, this humane, universalistic Zionism does not wield power.
To the contrary, it is gasping for air. To understand how deeply antithetical
its values are to those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, it's
worth considering the case of Effi Eitam. Eitam, a charismatic ex–cabinet
minister and war hero, has proposed ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the
West Bank. "We'll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs
from here and remove Israeli Arabs from [the] political system," he declared in
2006. In 2008, Eitam merged his small Ahi Party into Netanyahu's Likud. And for
the 2009–2010 academic year, he is Netanyahu's special emissary for overseas
"campus engagement." In that capacity, he visited a dozen American high schools
and colleges last fall on the Israeli government's behalf. The group that
organized his tour was called "Caravan for Democracy."
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman once shared Eitam's views. In his
youth, he briefly joined Meir Kahane's now banned Kach Party, which also
advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israeli soil. Now Lieberman's position
might be called "pre-expulsion." He wants to revoke the citizenship of Israeli
Arabs who won't swear a loyalty oath to the Jewish state. He tried to prevent
two Arab parties that opposed Israel's 2008–2009 Gaza war from running
candidates for the Knesset. He said Arab Knesset members who met with
representatives of Hamas should be executed. He wants to jail Arabs who publicly
mourn on Israeli Independence Day, and he hopes to permanently deny citizenship
to Arabs from other countries who marry Arab citizens of Israel.
You don't have to be paranoid to see the connection between Lieberman's current
views and his former ones. The more you strip Israeli Arabs of legal protection,
and the more you accuse them of treason, the more thinkable a policy of
expulsion becomes. Lieberman's American defenders often note that in theory he
supports a Palestinian state. What they usually fail to mention is that for him,
a two-state solution means redrawing Israel's border so that a large chunk of
Israeli Arabs find themselves exiled to another country, without their consent.
Lieberman served as chief of staff during Netanyahu's first term as prime
minister. And when it comes to the West Bank, Netanyahu's own record is in its
way even more extreme than his protégé's. In his 1993 book, A Place among the
Nations, Netanyahu not only rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, he denies
that there is such a thing as a Palestinian. In fact, he repeatedly equates the
Palestinian bid for statehood with Nazism. An Israel that withdraws from the
West Bank, he has declared, would be a "ghetto-state" with "Auschwitz borders."
And the effort "to gouge Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] out of Israel"
resembles Hitler's bid to wrench the German-speaking "Sudeten district" from
Czechoslovakia in 1938. It is unfair, Netanyahu insists, to ask Israel to
concede more territory since it has already made vast, gut-wrenching
concessions. What kind of concessions? It has abandoned its claim to Jordan,
which by rights should be part of the Jewish state.
On the left of Netanyahu's coalition sits Ehud Barak's emasculated Labor Party,
but whatever moderating potential it may have is counterbalanced by what is, in
some ways, the most illiberal coalition partner of all, Shas, the ultra-Orthodox
party representing Jews of North African and Middle Eastern descent. At one
point, Shas—like some of its Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox counterparts—was open to
dismantling settlements. In recent years, however, ultra-Orthodox Israelis,
anxious to find housing for their large families, have increasingly moved to the
West Bank, where thanks to government subsidies it is far cheaper to live. Not
coincidentally, their political parties have swung hard against territorial
compromise. And they have done so with a virulence that reflects ultra-Orthodox
Judaism's profound hostility to liberal values. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas's
immensely powerful spiritual leader, has called Arabs "vipers," "snakes," and "ants." In 2005, after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed dismantling
settlements in the Gaza Strip, Yosef urged that "God strike him down." The
official Shas newspaper recently called President Obama "an Islamic extremist."
Hebrew University Professor Ze'ev Sternhell is an expert on fascism and a winner
of the prestigious Israel Prize. Commenting on Lieberman and the leaders of Shas
in a recent Op-Ed in Haaretz, he wrote, "The last time politicians holding views
similar to theirs were in power in post–World War II Western Europe was in
Franco's Spain." With their blessing, "a crude and multifaceted campaign is
being waged against the foundations of the democratic and liberal order."
Sternhell should know. In September 2008, he was injured when a settler set off
a pipe bomb at his house.
Israeli governments come and go, but the Netanyahu coalition is the product of
frightening, long-term trends in Israeli society: an ultra-Orthodox population
that is increasing dramatically, a settler movement that is growing more radical
and more entrenched in the Israeli bureaucracy and army, and a Russian immigrant
community that is particularly prone to anti-Arab racism. In 2009, a poll by the
Israel Democracy Institute found that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis (and 77
percent of recent immigrants from the former USSR) support encouraging Arabs to
leave the country. Attitudes are worst among Israel's young. When Israeli high
schools held mock elections last year, Lieberman won. This March, a poll found
that 56 percent of Jewish Israeli high school students—and more than 80 percent
of religious Jewish high school students—would deny Israeli Arabs the right to
be elected to the Knesset. An education ministry official called the survey "a
huge warning signal in light of the strengthening trends of extremist views
among the youth."
You might think that such trends, and the sympathy for them expressed by some in
Israel's government, would occasion substantial public concern—even
outrage—among the leaders of organized American Jewry. You would be wrong. In
Israel itself, voices from the left, and even center, warn in increasingly
urgent tones about threats to Israeli democracy. (Former Prime Ministers Ehud
Olmert and Ehud Barak have both said that Israel risks becoming an "apartheid
state" if it continues to hold the West Bank. This April, when settlers forced a
large Israeli bookstore to stop selling a book critical of the occupation,
Shulamit Aloni, former head of the dovish Meretz Party, declared that "Israel
has not been democratic for some time now.") But in the United States, groups
like AIPAC and the Presidents' Conference patrol public discourse, scolding
people who contradict their vision of Israel as a state in which all leaders
cherish democracy and yearn for peace.
The result is a terrible irony. In theory, mainstream American Jewish
organizations still hew to a liberal vision of Zionism. On its website, AIPAC
celebrates Israel's commitment to "free speech and minority rights." The
Conference of Presidents declares that "Israel and the United States share
political, moral and intellectual values including democracy, freedom, security
and peace." These groups would never say, as do some in Netanyahu's coalition,
that Israeli Arabs don't deserve full citizenship and West Bank Palestinians
don't deserve human rights. But in practice, by defending virtually anything any
Israeli government does, they make themselves intellectual bodyguards for
Israeli leaders who threaten the very liberal values they profess to admire.
After Israel's elections last February, for instance, Malcolm Hoenlein,
executive vice-chairman of the Presidents' Conference, explained that Avigdor
Lieberman's agenda was "far more moderate than the media has presented it."
Insisting that Lieberman bears no general animus toward Israeli Arabs, Abraham
Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency that "He's not saying expel them. He's not saying punish
them." (Permanently denying citizenship to their Arab spouses or jailing them if
they publicly mourn on Israeli Independence Day evidently does not qualify as
punishment.) The ADL has criticized anti-Arab bigotry in the past, and the
American Jewish Committee, to its credit, warned that Lieberman's proposed
loyalty oath would "chill Israel's democratic political debate." But the Forward
summed up the overall response of America's communal Jewish leadership in its
headline "Jewish Leaders Largely Silent on Lieberman's Role in Government."
Not only does the organized American Jewish community mostly avoid public
criticism of the Israeli government, it tries to prevent others from leveling
such criticism as well. In recent years, American Jewish organizations have
waged a campaign to discredit the world's most respected international human
rights groups. In 2006, Foxman called an Amnesty International report on Israeli
killing of Lebanese civilians "bigoted, biased, and borderline anti-Semitic."
The Conference of Presidents has announced that "biased NGOs include Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid, [and] Save the Children." Last
summer, an AIPAC spokesman declared that Human Rights Watch "has repeatedly
demonstrated its anti-Israel bias." When the Obama administration awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for
human rights, the ADL and AIPAC both protested, citing the fact that she had
presided over the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
(Early drafts of the conference report implicitly accused Israel of racism.
Robinson helped expunge that defamatory charge, angering Syria and Iran.)
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are not infallible. But when groups
like AIPAC and the Presidents' Conference avoid virtually all public criticism
of Israeli actions—directing their outrage solely at Israel's neighbors—they
leave themselves in a poor position to charge bias. Moreover, while American
Jewish groups claim that they are simply defending Israel from its foes, they
are actually taking sides in a struggle within Israel between radically
different Zionist visions. At the very moment the Anti-Defamation League claimed
that Robinson harbored an "animus toward Israel," an alliance of seven Israeli
human rights groups publicly congratulated her on her award. Many of those
groups, like B'Tselem, which monitors Israeli actions in the Occupied
Territories, and the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights, have been at
least as critical of Israel's actions in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank as
have Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
All of which raises an uncomfortable question. If American Jewish groups claim
that Israel's overseas human rights critics are motivated by anti—Israeli, if
not anti-Semitic, bias, what does that say about Israel's domestic human rights
critics? The implication is clear: they must be guilty of self-hatred, if not
treason. American Jewish leaders don't generally say that, of course, but their
allies in the Netanyahu government do. Last summer, Israel's vice prime
minister, Moshe Ya'alon, called the anti-occupation group Peace Now a "virus."
This January, a right-wing group called Im Tirtzu accused Israeli human rights
organizations of having fed information to the Goldstone Commission that
investigated Israel's Gaza war. A Knesset member from Netanyahu's Likud promptly
charged Naomi Chazan, head of the New Israel Fund, which supports some of those
human rights groups, with treason, and a member of Lieberman's party launched an
investigation aimed at curbing foreign funding of Israeli NGOs.
To their credit, Foxman and other American Jewish leaders opposed the move,
which might have impaired their own work. But they are reaping what they sowed.
If you suggest that mainstream human rights criticism of Israel's government is
motivated by animus toward the state, or toward Jews in general, you give aid
and comfort to those in Israel who make the same charges against the human
rights critics in their midst.
In the American Jewish establishment today, the language of liberal Zionism—with
its idioms of human rights, equal citizenship, and territorial compromise—has
been drained of meaning. It remains the lingua franca in part for generational
reasons, because many older American Zionists still see themselves as liberals
of a sort. They vote Democratic; they are unmoved by biblical claims to the West
Bank; they see average Palestinians as decent people betrayed by bad leaders;
and they are secular. They don't want Jewish organizations to criticize Israel
from the left, but neither do they want them to be agents of the Israeli right.
These American Zionists are largely the product of a particular era. Many were
shaped by the terrifying days leading up to the Six-Day War, when it appeared
that Israel might be overrun, and by the bitter aftermath of the Yom Kippur War,
when much of the world seemed to turn against the Jewish state. In that
crucible, Israel became their Jewish identity, often in conjunction with the
Holocaust, which the 1967 and 1973 wars helped make central to American Jewish
life. These Jews embraced Zionism before the settler movement became a major
force in Israeli politics, before the 1982 Lebanon war, before the first
intifada. They fell in love with an Israel that was more secular, less divided,
and less shaped by the culture, politics, and theology of occupation. And by
downplaying the significance of Avigdor Lieberman, the settlers, and Shas,
American Jewish groups allow these older Zionists to continue to identify with
that more internally cohesive, more innocent Israel of their youth, an Israel
that now only exists in their memories.
But these secular Zionists aren't reproducing themselves. Their children have no
memory of Arab armies massed on Israel's border and of Israel surviving in part
thanks to urgent military assistance from the United States. Instead, they have
grown up viewing Israel as a regional hegemon and an occupying power. As a
result, they are more conscious than their parents of the degree to which
Israeli behavior violates liberal ideals, and less willing to grant Israel an
exemption because its survival seems in peril. Because they have inherited their
parents' liberalism, they cannot embrace their uncritical Zionism. Because their
liberalism is real, they can see that the liberalism of the American Jewish
establishment is fake.
To sustain their uncritical brand of Zionism, therefore, America's Jewish
organizations will need to look elsewhere to replenish their ranks. They will
need to find young American Jews who have come of age during the West Bank
occupation but are not troubled by it. And those young American Jews will come
disproportionately from the Orthodox world.
Because they marry earlier, intermarry less, and have more children, Orthodox
Jews are growing rapidly as a share of the American Jewish population. According
to a 2006 American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey, while Orthodox Jews make up
only 12 percent of American Jewry over the age of sixty, they constitute 34
percent between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. For America's Zionist
organizations, these Orthodox youngsters are a potential bonanza. In their
yeshivas they learn devotion to Israel from an early age; they generally spend a
year of religious study there after high school, and often know friends or
relatives who have immigrated to Israel. The same AJC study found that while
only 16 percent of non-Orthodox adult Jews under the age of forty feel "very
close to Israel," among the Orthodox the figure is 79 percent. As secular Jews
drift away from America's Zionist institutions, their Orthodox counterparts will
likely step into the breach. The Orthodox "are still interested in parochial
Jewish concerns," explains Samuel Heilman, a sociologist at the City University
of New York. "They are among the last ones who stayed in the Jewish house, so
they now control the lights."
But it is this very parochialism—a deep commitment to Jewish concerns, which
often outweighs more universal ones—that gives Orthodox Jewish Zionism a
distinctly illiberal cast. The 2006 AJC poll found that while 60 percent of
non-Orthodox American Jews under the age of forty support a Palestinian state,
that figure drops to 25 percent among the Orthodox. In 2009, when Brandeis
University's Theodore Sasson asked American Jewish focus groups about Israel, he
found Orthodox participants much less supportive of dismantling settlements as
part of a peace deal. Even more tellingly, Reform, Conservative, and
unaffiliated Jews tended to believe that average Palestinians wanted peace, but
had been ill-served by their leaders. Orthodox Jews, by contrast, were more
likely to see the Palestinian people as the enemy, and to deny that ordinary
Palestinians shared any common interests or values with ordinary Israelis or
Orthodox Judaism has great virtues, including a communal warmth and a commitment
to Jewish learning unmatched in the American Jewish world. (I'm biased, since my
family attends an Orthodox synagogue.) But if current trends continue, the
growing influence of Orthodox Jews in America's Jewish communal institutions
will erode even the liberal-democratic veneer that today covers American
Zionism. In 2002, America's major Jewish organizations sponsored a large Israel
solidarity rally on the Washington Mall. Up and down the east coast, yeshivas
shut down for the day, swelling the estimated Orthodox share of the crowd to
close to 70 percent. When the then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
told the rally that "innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying as well," he
America's Jewish leaders should think hard about that rally. Unless they change
course, it portends the future: an American Zionist movement that does not even
feign concern for Palestinian dignity and a broader American Jewish population
that does not even feign concern for Israel. My own children, given their
upbringing, could as easily end up among the booers as among Luntz's focus
group. Either prospect fills me with dread.
In 2004, in an effort to prevent weapons smuggling from Egypt, Israeli tanks and
bulldozers demolished hundreds of houses in the Rafah refugee camp in the
southern Gaza Strip. Watching television, a veteran Israeli commentator and
politician named Tommy Lapid saw an elderly Palestinian woman crouched on all
fours looking for her medicines amid the ruins of her home. He said she reminded
him of his grandmother.
In that moment, Lapid captured the spirit that is suffocating within organized
American Jewish life. To begin with, he watched. In my experience, there is an
epidemic of not watching among American Zionists today. A Red Cross study on
malnutrition in the Gaza Strip, a bill in the Knesset to allow Jewish
neighborhoods to bar entry to Israeli Arabs, an Israeli human rights report on
settlers burning Palestinian olive groves, three more Palestinian teenagers
shot—it's unpleasant. Rationalizing and minimizing Palestinian suffering has
become a kind of game. In a more recent report on how to foster Zionism among
America's young, Luntz urges American Jewish groups to use the word "Arabs, not
Palestinians," since "the term ‘Palestinians' evokes images of refugee camps,
victims and oppression," while "‘Arab' says wealth, oil and Islam."
Of course, Israel—like the United States—must sometimes take morally difficult
actions in its own defense. But they are morally difficult only if you allow
yourself some human connection to the other side. Otherwise, security justifies
everything. The heads of AIPAC and the Presidents' Conference should ask
themselves what Israel's leaders would have to do or say to make them scream
"no." After all, Lieberman is foreign minister; Effi Eitam is touring American
universities; settlements are growing at triple the rate of the Israeli
population; half of Israeli Jewish high school students want Arabs barred from
the Knesset. If the line has not yet been crossed, where is the line?
What infuriated critics about Lapid's comment was that his grandmother died at
Auschwitz. How dare he defile the memory of the Holocaust? Of course, the
Holocaust is immeasurably worse than anything Israel has done or ever will do.
But at least Lapid used Jewish suffering to connect to the suffering of others.
In the world of AIPAC, the Holocaust analogies never stop, and their message is
always the same: Jews are licensed by their victimhood to worry only about
themselves. Many of Israel's founders believed that with statehood, Jews would
rightly be judged on the way they treated the non-Jews living under their
dominion. "For the first time we shall be the majority living with a minority,"
Knesset member Pinchas Lavon declared in 1948, "and we shall be called upon to
provide an example and prove how Jews live with a minority."
But the message of the American Jewish establishment and its allies in the
Netanyahu government is exactly the opposite: since Jews are history's permanent
victims, always on the knife-edge of extinction, moral responsibility is a
luxury Israel does not have. Its only responsibility is to survive. As former
Knesset speaker Avraham Burg writes in his remarkable 2008 book, The Holocaust
Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes, "Victimhood sets you free."
This obsession with victimhood lies at the heart of why Zionism is dying among
America's secular Jewish young. It simply bears no relationship to their lived
experience, or what they have seen of Israel's. Yes, Israel faces threats from
Hezbollah and Hamas. Yes, Israelis understandably worry about a nuclear Iran.
But the dilemmas you face when you possess dozens or hundreds of nuclear
weapons, and your adversary, however despicable, may acquire one, are not the
dilemmas of the Warsaw Ghetto. The year 2010 is not, as Benjamin Netanyahu has
claimed, 1938. The drama of Jewish victimhood—a drama that feels natural to many
Jews who lived through 1938, 1948, or even 1967—strikes most of today's young
American Jews as farce.
But there is a different Zionist calling, which has never been more desperately
relevant. It has its roots in Israel's Independence Proclamation, which promised
that the Jewish state "will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and
peace taught by the Hebrew prophets," and in the December 1948 letter from
Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and others to The New York Times, protesting
right-wing Zionist leader Menachem Begin's visit to the United States after his
party's militias massacred Arab civilians in the village of Deir Yassin. It is a
call to recognize that in a world in which Jewish fortunes have radically
changed, the best way to memorialize the history of Jewish suffering is through
the ethical use of Jewish power.
For several months now, a group of Israeli students has been traveling every
Friday to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where a Palestinian
family named the Ghawis lives on the street outside their home of fifty-three
years, from which they were evicted to make room for Jewish settlers. Although
repeatedly arrested for protesting without a permit, and called traitors and
self-haters by the Israeli right, the students keep coming, their numbers now
swelling into the thousands. What if American Jewish organizations brought these
young people to speak at Hillel? What if this was the face of Zionism shown to
America's Jewish young? What if the students in Luntz's focus group had been
told that their generation faces a challenge as momentous as any in Jewish
history: to save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth?
"Too many years I lived in the warm embrace of institutionalized elusiveness and
was a part of it," writes Avraham Burg. "I was very comfortable there." I know;
I was comfortable there too. But comfortable Zionism has become a moral
abdication. Let's hope that Luntz's students, in solidarity with their
counterparts at Sheikh Jarrah, can foster an uncomfortable Zionism, a Zionism
angry at what Israel risks becoming, and in love with what it still could be.
Let's hope they care enough to try.
Peter Beinart is Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the
City University of New York, a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and
Senior Political Writer for The Daily Beast. His new book, The Icarus Syndrome:
A History of American Hubris, will be published in June.
Israel Arrests 700 Child Annually, 90% of them Subjected to Torture
Published on Wednesday, 18 July 2012
On Wednesday, July 18th, the Minister of Prisoners' Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said
that Israel arrests 700 Palestinian minors annually. These minors are all under
the age of 18, and include children as young as 12 or 13. 90% of the children
are also subjected to torture, ill-treatment, pressure, and bargaining.
Qaraqe also said that Israel treats the children as constant threats or "ticking
bombs" as the Israeli law puts it. Classifying a child as a "ticking bomb"
grants the Israeli prison system the ability to apply certain forms of torture
and bypasses International law, effectively stripping the children of their
immunity. He also said that since Israel does not respect International law in
relation to detained children, the institutions of the international community
form a campaign to protect the children of Palestine.
Qaraqe statements came during his speech at the celebration of the completion of
summer camps for the children of prisoners and martyrs, organized by the Center
for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.
More than 200 children, along with the families of prisoners and martyrs and the
head of the Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, Dr.
Mahmoud Sahwil, participated in the celebration.
Sahwil welcomed the attendees and announced that this celebration, titled "A
Step Toward the Future," is a challenge to the occupation; an occupation which
works towards the destruction of Palestinians through arrests and repressive
measures against the Palestinian people and by depriving children of the natural
right to live in dignity.
Gifts were distributed to the participating children after they performed
several plays, popular songs, and al-Dabkeh (a traditional dance).
There are currently 280 children detained in Israeli prisons, and a number of
these children, especially from the Jerusalem areas, are sentenced with house
arrests or deportation.
Rudd seeks action on torture allegations involving Palestinian children
by JOHN LYONS, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT
AUSTRALIA will raise concerns with Israel about its juvenile military court
system, which has been accused of jailing and torturing Palestinian children as
young as 12.
Following a report in The Weekend Australian Magazine three weeks ago, Foreign
Minister Kevin Rudd has instructed Australian diplomats to visit the juvenile
The diplomats have been told to report to Mr Rudd on the conditions they find at
the Ofer military prison, near Jerusalem.
According to a statement from Mr Rudd’s office, he has also instructed
Australian officials to initiate a meeting with Israeli authorities to raise
concerns about the system under which Palestinian children are tried.
Sixty of Israel's leading psychologists, academics and child experts have
written to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that "offensive
arrests and investigations that ignore the law do not serve to maintain public
order and safety".
The Weekend Australian Magazine reported that allegations included: a boy
kept in solitary confinement for 65 days; other boys in solitary confinement
with the lights on 24 hours a day; a seven-year-old boy in Jerusalem taken for
interrogation who says he was hit during questioning; three children being given
electric shocks by hand-held devices to force them to confess; dog’s food being
put on the head and near the genitals of a blindfolded boy and a dog being
brought in to eat it while his interrogators laughed.
The magazine reported that, since January, 2007, Defence of Children
International has collected and translated into English 385 sworn affidavits
from Palestinian children held in Israeli detention who claim to have suffered
serious abuse: electric shocks, beatings, threats of rape, being stripped naked,
solitary confinement, threats that their families' work permits will be revoked
and "position abuse"—which involves a child being placed in a chair with their
feet shackled and hands tied behind their back, sometimes for hours.
A 10-year-old boy testified: "A soldier pointed his rifle at me. The rifle
barrel was a few centimetres from my face. I was so terrified that I started to
shiver. He made fun of me and said, 'Shivering? Tell me where the pistol is
before I shoot you'."
A 15-year-old boy testified that he was tied to a metal pipe and beaten by a
soldier and that an interrogator placed a device against his body and gave him
an electric shock, saying: "If you don't confess I'll keep shocking you." He
said the interrogator gave him another electric shock, at which point he could
no longer feel his arms or legs, felt pain in his head and confessed.
Gerard Horton, an Australian lawyer dealing with many of the cases in his role
at DCI, said one Israeli interrogator working in the settlement, Gush Etzion, "specialises
in threatening children with rape" to get confessions.
One woman involved in the YMCA's rehabilitation program for children who have
been under Israeli detention, Fadia Saleh, told The Australian as part of its
investigation: "Last week, one boy described to me how dogs were present in the
army jeep. In those jeeps, you have chairs on each side and an empty space in
the middle—the children are put there, on the floor. Sometimes soldiers step
"Every time the child moved, one of the dogs would bite him. When he arrived at
the interrogation centre, his arm was bleeding. It was a short trip but he felt
like (it was) a year."
The Weekend Australian Magazine reported that, while diplomatic and
parliamentary missions from many countries had visited the juvenile court,
Australian diplomats had appeared to show no obvious interest in the court.
Mr Horton said Australia had been "conspicuously silent" about possible human
rights abuses against Palestinian children.
He told the magazine: "It is disappointing that, of all the diplomatic missions
in the region, Australia has been conspicuously silent on the issue of the
Australia’s Ambassador to Israel, Andrea Faulkner, was told of the treatment of
children more than a year ago.
Although informed of the issue, neither Ms Faulkner nor any other Australian
representative has visited the court.
The Weekend Australian Magazine was given rare access for the media to the court
—it was allowed to visit on three separate occasions over the last year, with
the Israeli Defence Forces, as part of this investigation.
This week, an Australian official has begun meetings on the issue in preparation
for a visit to the juvenile court by Australian diplomats.
Most of the children before the military court are charged with stone-throwing
and sentenced to prison terms ranging from two weeks to 10 months.
The Israeli Defence Forces reported at least 2766 incidents of rock-throwing
against them or passing cars this year.
Israeli police say a crash in September in which a man and his infant son were
killed may have been caused by a rock hitting their car.
Authorities in Israel did not want to discuss individual cases of children but
the country's international spokesman Yigal Palmor said there were "many things"
that needed to improve and that Israel was working with human rights groups and
making "slow reform and improvement".
The treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank, which is under Israeli
military occupation, is in contrast to the treatment of children in Israel.
In Israel, a child cannot be sent to jail until the age of 14, while Palestinian
children are being jailed from the age of 12; in Israel a child cannot be
interrogated without a parent present; in Israel a child cannot be interrogated
at night, while most of the Palestinian children being taken from their homes
are detained between midnight and 5am; in Israel the maximum period of detention
without access to a lawyer is 48 hours, while in the West Bank it is 90 days.
In recent times, the military court has been visited by diplomats or
parliamentary delegations from the UK, the US, the European Union, the
Netherlands, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Cyprus and the
Mr Horton says that before most cases are taken up, DCI requires a sworn
He told the magazine of the common treatment for many children: "Once bound and
blindfolded, the child will be led to a waiting military vehicle and in about
one-third of cases will be thrown on the metal floor for transfer to an
interrogation centre. Sometimes the children are kept on the floor face down with the soldiers
putting their boots on the back of their necks, and the children are handcuffed,
sometimes with plastic handcuffs, which cut into their wrists. Many children
arrive at the interrogation centres bruised and battered, sleep-deprived and
Mr Horton said the whole point of this treatment was to get the children to
confess as quickly as possible.
In one case, even though a child insisted that a confession he had signed was
not true, as he had signed it only after pressure, he was convicted on the basis
of the confession.
A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said that, during Israel’s last appearance before the
UN Universal Periodic Review Working Group, Australia questioned Israel about
reported mistreatment of detainees.
She said the government universally opposes the detention of minors.
"The Australian government’s long held view is that all children, regardless of
ethnicity, religion, gender or other differences, should enjoy the same legal
and human rights protections," she said.
UK report finds IDF tortures Palestinian children
Published: 28 June, 2012, 20:42
British lawyers have lodged a complaint at the UN against Israel for allegedly
torturing Palestinian children. Their report showed youngsters held in solitary
confinement and shackled while in the custody of the Israeli military.
This is considered torture and in breach of the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child. A report funded by the UK Foreign Office claims
Palestinian youths are routinely abused by Israeli authorities. A delegation of
nine British lawyers revealed how Palestinians as young as 12 are treated when
arrested and in Israeli custody. They spoke to UN agencies, former Israeli
soldiers, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and Palestinian children.
The report—Children in Military Custody—found that children are arrested by
a number of soldiers normally in a night raid on their homes; they are then
blindfolded with their wrists bound and transported to an interrogation centre
face down on the floor of military vehicles.
"The majority are verbally and physically abused, without being informed of
their right to see a lawyer or of their right to silence. They are sometimes
held in solitary confinement and made to sign statements they can’t read because
they are written in Hebrew," the report says.
If Children are held for long periods in solitary confinement it is regarded as
torture by the UN and is in breach of the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child.
Greg Davies, a children’s rights barrister, who compiled and wrote the report
told RT, "the weight of evidence in favour of these allegations is considerable
and complaints have been lodged at the UN".
Once in custody children have limited access to education and extremely
restricted access to their family. "Every year Palestinian children are
traumatised, sometimes irreversibly" the report states.
But Davies was told by Israeli military judges that Palestinian children are
actually committing crimes so they end up in prison and get lessons, whereas the
Palestinians, the UN and Israeli and Palestinian NGO’s claim that in most
prisons the Israelis don't provide children with any education. "Palestinian
children receive such a high standard of education that they have been known to
offend just to access it," the judges said.
"We didn’t look at evidence of social and psychiatric harm to children, but I
know there is a raft of evidence in relation to that," Davies explained to RT.
A recent report by Save the Children found that Palestinian kids were suffering
serious trauma as a result of the Israeli military occupation.
"When you look at the trauma that would be caused by arrest in the middle of the
night or being dumped at the prison gates [after interrogation] with no one
knowing you were there then it would be very difficult as a child not to suffer
psychological damage," Davies said.
The report also highlights a discrepancy in the law. There is one law for
Israelis and another for Palestinians. Under the Israeli civil legal
system an Israeli child cannot be imprisoned under the age of 14 and can get
legal representation within 48 hours. Under Israeli military law, Palestinian
youths are jailed as young as 12, and can be held for up to three months without
access to a lawyer.
Davies believes this amounts to racial discrimination, "we found them in breach
of Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was evident
there was discrimination," he said.
Davies explained that although they were only in court for a few hours on one
day of their week-long visit they saw a child in leg irons. "What was surprising
was that they [the Israeli authorities] knew we were there that day."
An Israeli military prosecutor told the team of lawyers, "Every Palestinian
child is a potential terrorist." This stance, Davies says, leads to a
spiral of injustice, which only Israel as the occupying power in the West Bank
A spokesman from the Israeli Embassy in London told the UK newspaper the
Independent that Israel appreciated the efforts of the delegation but blamed
Palestinians for "glorifying terrorism". He added that as the Palestinian
Authority will not investigate and prosecute alleged offences the Israeli
military has no choice but to do so itself.
The UK government, which funded the report, said in statement, "We share many of
the reports concerns and will continue to lobby for further improvements."