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Red Rag weekly column: `One leader, one nation, one kingdom`
By: Gideon Spiro
10 May 2012


“One leader, one nation, one kingdom”

When the Knesset was sitting until a late hour at night and had already passed the first reading of a law to dissolve itself for the elections that were set for 4 September, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition leader and head of the Kadima faction Shaul Mofaz met and concocted an agreement according to which Kadima would join the government and the elections would be cancelled.

The surprise was total. This time the politicians managed prevent any leaks. Journalists who take pride in the inside sources they have at their disposal to repeatedly embarrass the government by publishing news the government does not want published, stood aghast, some of them even insulted. How had they not caught on to this?

The Kadima party proved to be a flaccid opposition to the Netanyahu government. Many of its members are former Likudniks, and some are even to the right of the Likud. Several Kadima MKs have been sponsors of anti-democratic legislation against peace and human rights organizations. It sees itself as a natural ruling party and is used to sucking on governmental teats. It is a party that led the government during the invasion of Gaza (Cast Lead) and its leaders bear the heavy burden of war crimes. In the last elections, in 2009, the party lost to Netanyahu, and since then it has not felt at home in opposition. It has continuously lost support and the latest opinion surveys show it crashing from the 28 MKs it has now to ten, and sometimes even fewer.

The new leader of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, formerly IDF Chief of Staff and Defence Minister and who in those two positions gained a reputation for cruel treatment of the Palestinian people, read the polls and sought any way to avoid elections any time soon. Thus was born the idea of joining the government coalition. Netanyahu bought Kadima at bargain-basement prices. Whereas the faction of Defence Minister Ehud Barack has 4 ministers out of five Knesset members, Kadima has one minister, without portfolio – Mofaz – out of 28 Knesset members. That’s how it is when you have no bargaining chips.

Kadima’s joining the Netanyahu government caused a lot of anger, especially because of Mofaz’ lies. Twenty-four hours before he joined the government he was still declaring that by no means would he join the Netanyahu government, which he characterized as “oblivious and failing”. Then before 24 hours passed he had slithered on his belly to the government, justifying himself, of course, on the grounds of “the good of the State” – certainly not from personal considerations. The poor man had to sacrifice himself due to the “grave situation” and the “dangers” that stalk Israel. Patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel. For all the disgust that politicians like Mofaz arouse, it must be stated honestly that the natural place for Kadima is in the Netanyahu government. The Right rules in Israel, Kadima is a right-wing party, and so that’s where it belongs.

With Kadima’s joining the government, Netanyahu presides over the biggest coalition in the history of Israel. Ninety-four Knesset Members out of 120 are now members of the government coalition. To them we must add the four members of the Knesset from the extreme right-wing party National Union, the Israeli version of the neo-Nazi Greek party New Dawn which has now entered the Greek parliament. The meticulous will also add the eight MKs of the Labour Party, the Chairwoman of which has been careful not to say a single bad word about the Occupation and the settlements and who has expressed her willingness to enter a government headed by Netanhayu. That raises the right-wing majority to over 100 Knesset Members. Such a crushing right-wing majority puts democracy to a severe test. It is a destructive majority that is liable to back an Israeli war against Iran, continue the Occupation and propose additional legislation against left-wing and human rights activists. Israel is approaching a regime of one leader, one people and one kingdom.


Inauspicious signs

In less than a month we will commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Occupation. In “Jewish and Democratic” Israel there are hardly any first-rate singers who have come out against the regime of Occupation, oppression and apartheid. You can count on the fingers of one hand the singers who have incorporated messages against the brutalization of Israeli society, of which the Occupation is one of the characteristics and causes, into their performances over 45 years of Occupation. There is no Israeli version of the American Joan Baez or Pete Seeger or the Argentine Mercedes Sosa, whose performances have always included a message of liberty, equality, human rights and support for those struggling against tyranny.

Of course there are young singers, both Jews and Palestinians, who are not known to the general public and who are committed to the struggle against the Occupation. They perform in modest, quasi-underground venues. They are not played on private or state radio stations, and so they will not emerge from their anonymity. Moreover, there are, here and there, in but with decreasing frequency, singers of renown who are still heard on the music stations despite the left-wing label that adheres to them. When I think about a first-rate singer who is committed to peace, Jewish-Arab coexistence, the struggle against racism and ending the Occupation, I immediately fall upon the name of Ahinoam Nini, a rare diamond in the firmament of Israeli and international music.

A few weeks ago Israel commemorated Remembrance Day for the victims of Israel’s wars. It is a day of ceremonies in cemeteries and speeches by politicians and generals, full of pathos with an admixture of death-cult, spiced with nationalism and militarism. Some bereaved families have gotten fed up with the official ceremonies and the cynical use to which their loss is put by the government and the army.

Thus came into being a wonderful organization of bereaved families, both Israelis and Palestinians, called the Bereaved Families Forum, who channel their pain into cooperation, to seeing the person in pain on the other side of the barricade, dialogue for peace and creating a reality that will remove from us the horror of war and bereavement. Families that are endowed with public courage and psychological, moral and spiritual fortitude.

For seven years the Forum, along with the organization Combatants for Peace, has been holding an alternative event on the eve of Remembrance Day. Ahinoam Nini appeared on that evening and expressed her support for the efforts of bereaved families from both sides to create out of their pain a bridge of understanding and dialogue.

Nini’s appearance at the Israeli-Palestinian memorial evening elicited violent and fiery reactions from right-wing Knesset Members, not to speak of talkbacks that were for the most part mostly curses and calls to boycott her as an enemy of the nation. Considering the intensity of that right-wing hatred, I fear they would hang her in the city square if they could. If that is how they treat Ahinoam Nini, of whom “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”, [1] what is to be expected for the harder core of the Left?

Worrisome signs.

Dr. Meir Margalit, a member of the Jerusalem City Council and an activist in the Committee Against House Demolitions, was arrested in Jerusalem. In Tel Aviv a show by Natali Cohen Vaxberg, “Tzfirmiyahu”, was shut down. The show sharply criticizes the Occupation and racism. The show was put on for and with financing from the Theatre of the Negev that operates in the Eshkol Regional Council. At the request of the Eshkol Regional Council, the theatre withdrew its support for the show.

In Tel Aviv the police violently moved against leftist demonstrators who were protesting against Mofaz’ putrid manoeuvre and arrested several demonstrators, including two journalists who were there to cover the demonstration.
In Tel Aviv a Jew threw a Molotov cocktail at a kindergarten for African children. The noose is tightening. Prepare a backpack.


Letter to the Military Advocate General

8 May 2012
To Brigadier General Danny Efroni
Military Advocate General
IDF

The newspaper Haaretz (2 May 2012), reported that you have closed the file on the investigation of the slaughter of the Samouni family that occurred on 5 January 2009 in the Zeitun neighbourhood when the IDF was invading Gaza (officially called “Operation Cast Lead”).

A hundred members of the Samouni family, all of them civilians, including women, children and old people, were concentrated in one house on the orders of the invading army. Rockets were fired at the house on the orders of Col. Ilan Malka, who was the commander of the Givati Brigade during the operation.

In consequence 21 members of the family were killed, including three babies and six children aged 5-16, and up to 40 were wounded. On the orders of their commanders Givati soldiers prevented medical aid from getting to the wounded, and for three days the wounded were left in the house with the corpses of those who had been killed. Another eight people died in consequence. The extended Samouni family lost 29 of its members at the hands of the invading soldiers. That is a scale of that is reminiscent of the losses suffered by Jewish families during the Holocaust.

It was definitely a war crime, but no one will be put on trial. The black flag of illegality flies over your decision, MAG Efroni, to absolve the soldiers and commanders of responsibility for the slaughter. Your decision is an additional war crime. For decisions like that, German judges were put on trial at the Nuremberg Tribunal.

While you are closing the files on destroyers of families, military courts are throwing into prison 13-year-old children who expressed their revulsion at the Occupation by throwing stones at armoured military vehicles without causing any harm done to persons or property. In Israel you are protected but outside it there are courts that pass judgment on war criminals, and I hope that you will be called to account before one of them.

Gideon Spiro


Nakba Day

During the celebrations on the eve of Independence Day (25 April 2012), the Tel Aviv police imposed a siege on the office of the Zochrot association. No one went out and no one went in. One of the objectives of the association is to strengthen Jewish awareness of the tragedy of the Palestinians in 1948.

Members of the association had intended to distribute booklets to the public listing all the Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed. The police decided to prevent that by means of a siege. The police had no justification for imposing the siege; it was an abuse of freedom of expression. That is how the political police behave in totalitarian regimes. Two members of the association were arrested, which I consider the thuggish act of police out of control. The siege joins a list of warning signs of the ongoing erosion of democratic norms.

On 15 May Palestinians within and outside commemorate Nakba Day. There can be no doubt that the creation of the State of Israel was a catastrophe for the Palestinians. In the 1948 war (the War of Independence) 750 to 800 thousand Palestinians out of a population of a little more than a million were expelled and/or fled.

In 1948 I was a 13 year old boy and I lived in the nearest Jewish neighbourhood to the Arab neighbourhood of Katamon in Jerusalem. After Katamon was conquered it was a ghost-neighbourhood. As a boy I entered the neighbourhood, where I saw a sight that has stayed with me ever since: families had fled for their lives in the middle of meals. Plates were still arranged on tables with remains of food on them. You could tell the size of the family by the number of plates. I took a fork as a souvenir from one of the houses where a table was set. When I returned home I showed it to my father. He asked me, “is that yours?” “No,” I said, and understood that I had done something wrong. “Go and put it back,” said my father, and I did. I returned to the Palestinian house and put the fork back in its place. I learned a lifelong lesson from that: do not participate in plunder, do not take what is not yours. I remember very well the Jewish looting of Katamon. Our house was near the road that led to Katamon and I saw the tumultuous (by the standards of the time) traffic of pickup trucks loaded with loot, especially refrigerators and furniture, because affluent Palestinians had lived in Katamon.

The Palestinians are in many ways victims of the Holocaust, for it is clear to every educated person that without the Holocaust, and without the thousands of Jewish refugees who were left in camps in Germany and barred from emigrating to Western countries, the member-states of the UN would not have voted in 1947 to partition Israel/Palestine into two states (Somebody should tell Ahmadinejad that denying the Holocaust also means denying the Nakba). The birth of the State of Israel converted the Palestinians into a nation of refugees. We, as a nation of refugees who have caused the Palestinians to become refugees, should be civilized enough after the passage of 60 years to exhibit some empathy for the suffering of the neighbouring nation.

There are things that cannot be undone. Tel Aviv University will not go back to being the village of Sheikh Muwannis, nor do I support a general return of refugees in the context of a two-state solution (it would be a different story in a one-state situation). But it is important that Israel recognize the injustice that it caused, and exhibit genuine will to translate that recognition into action. For example, the government of Germany returned to my family a house that belonged to my mother. Why not return houses to their Palestinian owners, and also pay them back-rent for the years their property has been occupied?

As you can see, I support the Jewish and Arab students who decided to hold an event at Tel Aviv University on Nakba Day in mourning for the 18 thousand Palestinians who died in the 1948 war. The fascist organizations Im Tirztu and Israel Sheli have already raised a hue and cry and demanded that the university cancel the event. [2] I hope that the University does not submit to the bullies of those organizations.


Translator’s notes

1. Proverbs 3:17. The Hebrew word for “pleasantness” here is “no’am”, which is a component of Ahinoam Nini’s first name (literally, “brother of pleasantness”).

2. In the end the event was held, but with disruptions: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4228989,00.html

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