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Red Rag Weekly Column: Naftali Bennett, Haneen Zoabi, Moshe Feiglin
By: Gideon Spiro
6 January 2013 (English translation posted 15 January 2013)


On refusal

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, is the star of the moment on the Israeli political scene. According to public-opinion polls, he will more than double that faction in the Knesset. It is a party of the extreme Right, a party of the settlers, which has managed to in marketing itself in a way that appeals to religious voters, who had tended to vote for the Likud. According to the pollsters, the Jewish Home has grown at the expense of the Likud; and indeed the latest polls show the merger between the Netanyahu’s Likud and Lieberman’s Israel Our Home getting fewer votes than they had in the outgoing Knesset when they ran separately. All this puts the Likud under pressure that is being expressed in campaign ads that attack the Jewish Home Party.

The Jewish Home Party is the one of the natural partners of the Likud government that is likely to emerge after the elections, assuming that the right-wing camp keeps its majority in the Knesset. Netanyahu wants to conserve at least the margins that exist today between him and his partners (42 MKs for Netanyahu + Lieberman, with 11 for runner-up Shas), which will leave little leverage to demand senior portfolios. Nine mandates for Bennett and 42 for Likud/Israel Our Home will constrain Bennett’s capacity to bargain over portfolios; but if Bennett gets 15 mandates and “Likud Our Home” gets 35 mandates, as recent surveys are projecting, Bennett will be in a position to demand senior portfolios that Netanyahu intends to keep for his party. This is the political background to the internal brawl in the right-wing camp.

There is also the additional dimension of personal animus. Bennett served as the director of Netanyahu’s office and they parted on bitter terms. But that does not change the fact that the trend towards right-wing extremism in the Likud and the right-wing extremism that exists in the Jewish Home Party make the two of them natural allies.

Not long ago Bennett was interviewed on Nissim Mishal’s talk-show on Channel 2, the most-watched channel in Israel. Every week Mishal interviews figures from different parties in the run-up to the elections to the Knesset. Nissim Mishal is an aggressive interviewer and he sometimes manages to elicit from his guests statements they had not intended to make at the outset. When Mishal asked Bennett, who served as an officer in the army, if he would obey an order to evacuate settlements, he replied that he would go to his commander and inform him that he could not carry out the order. In other words, he would refuse. That reply precipitated a kind of sword-dance. The entire Zionist camp from the Likud to the parts of the Zionist Left condemned Bennett’s words. “There is no place for refusal in the army!” – they all said. Netanyahu said that whoever justifies refusal from the Right gives legitimacy to refusal from the Left. Thus Netanyahu set the tone, and in his wake the whole Zionst camp repeated the mantra: “the army must not get involved in politics!” (As if there were such a thing as an apolitical army) and “there is no place for refusal, either from the Right or the Left!” – thereby creating symmetry between the two kinds of refusal.

But for my part, my friends, I reject that symmetry. To me, Mandela is not like al-Qaeda, Martin Luther King is not like the Ku Klux Klan, and, to take things to sufficient extremes that they can be clearly understood even in today’s Israel: a German soldier who was imprisoned because he refused to participate in the murder of Jews is not like a German soldier who was jailed because he complained that Jews weren’t being murdered fast enough.

From the outside world back to our stagnant swamp. The refuser from the Left refuses for the sake of democracy, whereas the refuser from the Right refuses for the sake of dictatorship. The refuser from the Left refuses to participate in violations of human rights and control over another people; the refuser from the Right supports the continuation of the Occupation and oppression. The refuser from the Left believes that human rights are universal; the refuser from the Right supports rights for Jews only and the continuation of the apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories. The refuser from the Left refuses to participate in the killing of women and children and old people and other civilians; the refuser from the Right is indifferent to their fate as long as they are just Arabs. In other words, the refuser from the Left is following in the footsteps of the Righteous Gentiles, and the refuser from the Right is tramping in the ancient rut that has always been tramped in by the Ku Klux Klan and other racists of the world, including the Israeli KKK chapter that operates on both sides of the Green Line under the slogan “Kahane was right”. In the Jewish tradition, the refuser from the Left is acting according to the rule of Hillel the Elder: “Do not do to others that which is hateful to you”. The refuser from the Right is following the Kahanist rule: “That which is hateful to you – do unto others.”


Haneen Zoabi

I never met Haneen Zoabi. I know her only as a political figure, and as such I like her very much. Her participation in the Mavi Marmara expedition ignited flames of incitement against her and she became a target for white-hot hatred. The full spectrum of the Right excoriated her, reviled her and tried to shame her. Sometimes it was taken to the verge of violence, in the Knesset and outside it. It was not only the Right, but also what is called the Centre, which has the pretension to be more balanced, participated in the flaming hate-fest, including presenting bills in the Knesset to withdraw her rights as a Member of the Knesset. Part of the social democratic sector, like the Labour Party, the leader of which insists on not being Left, but which very ironically is a member of the Socialist International, participated in the wicked cacophony and another part stood aside silently and did not come to Haneen Zoabi’s defence.

MK Miri Regev, a strident nationalist and proud fascist from the party of Prime Minister Netanyahu, gave an inflammatory speech in the Knesset in which she characterized Haneen Zoabi as a “terrorist and a traitor” and in stuttered Arabic suggested to her that she go to Gaza. The Establishment media cooperated in the campaign of incitement that of course included innumerable lies and spread the hatred to the general population. The talkbacks packed full of suggestions about how to deal with the “traitor”, from expulsion to life imprisonment to execution. There is no doubt that the campaign of incitement reached its intended audience.

In this state of affairs it is no wonder that the Central Elections Committee, in which there the Right has a majority, decided to disqualify Haneen Zoabi from running in the coming Knesset Elections. The formal pretext was her participation in the Marmara flotilla, which in Israel was represented as an “act of terror” and everyone who was on the ship, including writers and journalists from the four corners of the Earth, was branded as a “collaborator with terror”. Thus through an arbitrary definition with no legal or moral basis, they converted MK Zoabi into a “terrorist”. To this Right, it makes no difference that the Attorney General decided that there are no grounds for putting her on trial or that she was not convicted of any crime whatsoever, or that unlike the Likud, Israel Our Home and Shas, the candidates of whom include convicted criminals, Haneen Zoabi is as pure as the driven snow.

It is more than just a question of formal legality. At the heart of the matter is that Haneen Zoabi has acted legally according to the spirit of the law. By participating in the flotilla she fulfilled her role as a Knesset Member. She opposes the siege of Gaza, and it is her duty, not only her right, to participate in any non-violent activity that expresses her positions. That is why the law gives Knesset Members immunity. It was the Israel “Defence” Force that used terror, when it attacked the unarmed ship and killed 13 of its passengers only because they wanted to go to Gaza in non-violent expression of their opposition to the siege. Who those who are truly collaborating with terror are the Israeli Right, which is using terror not only on Gaza, but also on the West Bank. Haneen Zoabi is the one who is acting against Israeli terror, and on that issue she is my ally.

On the issue of the siege of Gaza Haneen Zoabi is my comrade in the struggle. Unlike her, I succeeded in reaching Gaza, a month before the crimes of Cast Lead, in a humanitarian aid boat that was bringing medicines. Among its passengers were Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, doctors from various countries and opponents of the siege, also from various countries; including, as I have said, the writer of these lines.

I returned to Israel through the Erez Checkpoint, where a police car was waiting for me, which took me to the Sderot police station for police interrogation. At the station the interrogator informed me that I had violated the law by visiting Gaza. “What law?” – I asked, and he listed the orders of the head of the Southern Command which forbade Israelis from visiting Gaza. I replied to the interrogator that I had not known about those orders, but even if I had been aware of them, I still would have participated in the delegation, because I do not recognize the authority of the head of the Southern Command to tell me where I can go and where I cannot go in the world. That is an accepted practice in fascist states. “Are we already at the fascist stage?” – I asked the interrogator. “I have nothing to do with politics”, he replied. I replied with a question: “And the interrogation that you are doing now, is it not political?” This exchange was not recorded in the report of the interrogation.

And the more I think deeply about the Haneen Zoabi affair, the more I incline to the view that her participation in the Marmara flotilla was merely a pretext to nab her, the real roots of the hostility being found elsewhere. Racist and colonial Jewish Israel cannot deal with way Haneen Zoabi shatters the stereotype of the Arab woman and replaces it with a woman who is young, secular, educated, modern, proud, liberal and possessed of a democratic outlook, who stands before the Jewish public without flattery, without affected “niceness”, and who unapologetically demands her rights and the rights of her people, both as individual citizens and as a nation.

To the Jews of Israel, she says: “My comrades and I supported the two-state solution when the Green Line was the border. But you wanted to have it all; your territorial appetite obstructed your thought-processes and distorted your judgement. You transferred half a million Jews to the Occupied Territories, thereby thwarting the opportunity, and now there is no escaping the South African solution – that is: one state for two nations, a democratic and egalitarian state, a state of all its citizens. The Law of Return will apply to the Palestinians as well, and just as you absorbed a million immigrants from the Soviet Union, so will the new state absorb a million Palestinian refugees. No Jew will be expelled, because in the new democratic state new settlements will be built alongside the ruins of the deserted villages in the Galilee, and just as you built Upper Afula and Upper Nazareth, we will build Lower Safed and Upper Safed; we will add neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and Jaffa, and we will add an eighth, ninth and tenth neighbourhood in Ashdod. We will enlarge Ashkelon,[1] expand Haifa and rebuild Gaza; we will eliminate apartheid in Ariel and the other settlements that were built for Jews only in the West Bank and develop them for all the citizens of the democratic state. Jews if they want can live in Nablus and Jenin and Jericho, and Palestinians in Tel Aviv, Raanana, Kfar Vitkin and Savyon. The Custodian of Absentee Property will return all the properties to their owners, and compensation will be paid to those whose property cannot be returned, just as the Germans did with Jewish property. The democratic state will have a parliament with two chambers, an upper chamber and a lower one, and a democratic constitution, and there will be separation between religion and state and there will be civil marriage. In short: it will be a beautiful country, which will finally be worthy of the appellation ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ ”. And thus most ironically will the vision of Ze’ev Jabotinsky – who was one of the heralds of the state of all its citizens when he wrote that when the Prime Minister is a Jew, the Deputy Prime Minister will be an Arab and vice-versa – be realized. Let whomever doubts that ask Professor Ze’ev Tzahor, a member of the Labour Movement and formerly David Ben-Gurion’s secretary, who conducted a comprehensive study of the writings of Jabotinsky for his book When Jabotinsky Met Trotsky [Heb: Kshe-Jabotinsky ve-Trotsky nifgeshu] (Published by Yedioth Sefarim 2012). Tzahor claims that members of the Likud, whose homes are adorned with portraits of their leader Jabotinsky, almost certainly have not read his writings, and if they have, they did not understand them.

And until the vision of the new state takes form, Haneen Zoabi reminds Jewish Israelis that she is a daughter of the indigenous nation and so she has rights in this country. She looks them in the whites of their eyes and says: “Look at what came of the Zionist project of creating a ‘new Jew’ – an arrogant pretension brought about a brutal, aggressive, haughty, racist, nationalist and religious-fundamentalist Jew. A Jewish variant of al-Qaeda.” (All the words that I have attributed to Haneen Zoabi here are my own choice that reflect my own interpretation of her views, and do not commit her by any means – G.S.). The heads of the Zionist Establishment and their various parties, from the fascist Right all the way through to the Left, are tearing their hair out in frustration; they cannot stand her courage and so find an outlet in by going on a McCarthyite-Putinist rampage. True, she is not being very nice to Israel. Why should she? What has Israel done for her people besides kill them, expel them, abuse them, tyrannize them, discriminate against them and rob their property?

Nine judges of the Supreme Court decided to reverse the disqualification of Haneen Zoabi, and so she will run for election in the elections that will be held on 22 January of this year. That is good news and also surprising in that the decision was unanimous. In the 45 years of the Occupation the Supreme Court has undergone a process of moral corruption and submission to the Occupation. But apparently some faint embers of democracy remain that have not yet been extinguished, and once every few years a a flicker appears, for which we can rejoice until the next disappointment.


The new Benefactor

Baron Edmond James de Rothschild won the title “The Known Benefactor” (Heb: “ha-Nadiv ha-Yadua’”) for his Zionist activities that mainly took the form of financial donations for the establishment of the first Jewish colonies in late 19th-century Palestine, such as Rishon LeZion and Zichron Yaakov. Now a new Benefactor has been born, the settler Moshe Faiglin, a man of the extreme Right who heads the Jewish Leadership Movement. He set himself the objective of conquering the Likud from within, and so far his achievements have been impressive. He succeeded in being chosen for a realistic position [2] in the Likud Beiteinu list for the Knesset that will be elected this month. He has praised Hitler and has honestly earned his status as a fascist. This week he suggested that Palestinians should be encouraged to emigrate from the West Bank overseas by giving a half million dollars to every family that agrees to leave. It is not clear where that money will come from, but let us assume that he has managed to raise the billions and will go from door to door offer to generously offer the his wares, and let us assume that Palestinians refuse to forsake their homeland for a fistful of dollars. He does not want to see Arabs, so he is drawing up plans for Transfer. He will begin nicely. Half a million dollars is nothing to be sneezed at, and there will certainly be some Palestinian families that will be unable to withstand the financial temptation. In my estimation the vast majority will refuse the offer. So what will he do then? Proceed to the use of trucks? And if that too runs into trouble, will he set up crematoria? We’re not talking here about some political clown from a marginal party that will not reach the threshold for Knesset representation, but a serious and frightening man from the ruling party. And let us not forget that they laughed at Hitler at first too, and in the end they got Auschwitz.

A question that should trouble all every believer in democracy and human rights who is not included in the Transfer plan: what will their fate be in a regime run by Feiglin and his friends? Jews like me are labelled on right-wing websites as “traitors” and “Arab-lovers”. I am not authorized to speak in the name of all the traitors, but only in my own. My request to Feiglin: could you please include me in the proposed deal? Why distinguish between Arabs and those who love them? Why such discrimination? For half a million dollars I will be happy to fly out of here, because I do not want to live in a state without Arabs and I do not want to live in a state ruled by Feiglin and his friends.


The fiction of Area A

In my last column I reported on my visit to Ramallah and I pointed out among other things that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Ramallah is found located in Area A, where the Palestinian Authority is supposed to have control over security and civil matters. Israel is making a mockery of the agreement. The Israeli Occupation army penetrates into Ramallah whenever it feels like it, breaks into offices, wreaks havoc and arrests people while the Palestinian Authority stands aside, humiliated and helpless. Below is an example of the absurd state of affairs brought about by the Occupation.

Ayman Amin Ahmad Nasir is an activist in the al-Damir organization, based in Ramallah. It is an organization of lawyers that provides legal defence to Palestinian detainees.

I am making extensive use here of a report of Hava Halevi and Nitza Aminov, activists from Mahsom Watch who do excellent work as observers in the military courts.

Their reports cast light on one of the darkest corners of the Occupation, to which the public has little exposure, and reveal the injustices and crimes of the military justice system. It has already been observed that the relationship between the justice system of a democratic state and the military courts of a colonial regime is like the relationship between a philharmonic orchestra and a military band. The reports of the activists of Mahsom Watch on what is going on in the military courts confirm that thesis very well.

From the notes of the observers:


Military Court at Ofer, 17 December 2012

Observers: Nitza Aminov, Hava Halevi (reporting)

Courtroom 5

Trial of Ayman Amin Ahmad Nasir – ID card no. 981581069

Judge: Meir Vigiser

Defence Attorney: Mahmoud Hasan of the al-Damir organization.

Ayman Amin Ahmad Nasir was arrested on 15 October 2012. That night a large force of regular and undercover soldiers accompanied by dogs broke into his home. They turned the house upside-down and confiscated the computer and the mobile telephone and parts of his children’s computer. The army held him for over an hour for interrogation in his house, separate from his family, which was held in another room at the point of a gun. Afterwards he was taken to the detention centre at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. On 22 November 2012 Ayman was transferred from the Russian Compound to the Megiddo jail for solitary confinement. He was held for over 39 days for interrogation under harsh and inhumane conditions and he was evidently subjected to torture and humiliating, cruel and inhumane treatment. He was interrogated, sometimes 20 hours at a stretch, while his hands were bound to the back of a chair and his legs bound to the legs of the chair. At certain points in the interrogation he was questioned with his eyes covered and the interrogators threatened that he would be imprisoned for the rest of his life if he did not confess to what they attributed to him ...

Ayman reported to his lawyers that over the course of the interrogation he sometimes lost his track of time and suffered from severe back pain.

So far, all is routine, nothing special.

A few days before the deliberations the army invaded the organization’s offices in Ramallah. The soldiers stole computers and other equipment and left the stamp of Israeli culture on the place. I attach here the text of the charge-sheet drafted by the military prosecutor Agranash Agnihu. It is so absurd that there is no point in detailing what the judge said and what said the prosecutor said and all the rest, because the through the judicial texts it is possible to hear the military grinding its teeth at the idea that Palestinians have not yet lost the their will and their ability to think. When you read this charge-sheet you understand that all the judicial bureaucracy that indeed exists there is only foam on the water, word-games, puppet-theatre and other such trickery intended to cover up (unsuccessfully) the system of oppression, threats and intimidation.”


The above is a quote from the observers’ report.

So that’s what I did. I examined the charge-sheet, and it was evident on its face that there were no grounds for charges apart from the Israel Security Agency’s desire to torment, torture, break and undermine the capacity to resist the Occupation, even when it takes the form of legitimate political activism.

The first item on the charge-sheet: membership in an association that is not permitted under to the Emergency Defence Regulations of 1945, an inheritance from the British occupation (of which Yaakov Shimshon Shapira, Justice Minister in the Eshkol government, that they were Nazi regulations). Since a time not known to the prosecutor, he has been a member and activist in the Popular Front. What did he do there? “Public activism”. This immediately raises the question: this is Area A we’re talking about here, which is under the security and civil control of the Palestinian Authority, and where the Popular Front is legal. So why did Israel abduct him and torture him when no infraction has occurred?

Second item on the charge-sheet: transferring NIS 200 to pay for transportation to take participants to a procession to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. So that too is illegal to Palestinians – to identify with their compatriots who are in prison.

Third item: presence at a gathering by an unrecognized association. As I already pointed out, it’s legal in the Palestinian Authority. And this kind of “infraction” is also indicative of harassment of a person who has done nothing wrong. The ISA invents groundless infractions, which was characteristic of Nazi Germany.

Fourth item: he participated in organizing a rally in memory of the martyr Abu Ali Mustafa. Not only is it forbidden to identify with the prisoners, it is also forbidden to remember the victims. Only we are allowed to have memorial gatherings and days of remembrance for all kinds of terrorists who murdered Arabs.

Fifth item: presence at a gathering on the occasion of a day of remembrance for the martyr Abu Ali Mustafa that took place at Clock Square in Ramallah “or in a nearby place”. Here we see how they are inventing accusations. One time he “participated in the organization of” a gathering, a second time he was “present at” it. Thus did they contrive to stretch out the charge-sheet to five provisions, that all of which are expressions of the wickedness and arbitrariness of the Occupier as well as a violation of the Oslo Accords.

I disregard for the moment the fact that the accused denies the charges, because on the face of things it is clear that he was arrested and tortured for over two months for a judicial vacuum. The military judge Meir Vigiser looks at the charge-sheet and rather than throwing the prosecution team out on their ear and freeing Ayman on the grounds of `no cause`, he orders the prolongation of his detention.

So what do I learn from all this? Either that the judge is stupid in the sense described in a ruling by the late Supreme Court Judge Haim Cohen, who wrote: “In our modern language the adjective `stupid` [Heb. metumtam] refers to the obstruction of channels of thought, whether in general or with regard to a specific matter”. (Criminal Appeal 523/72) Either that, or we’re dealing here with a judicial puppet whose strings are being pulled by the ISA, or we are faced with a true believer in the Occupation, or maybe, God forbid, a “human rights activist” in the Orwellian sense of the Hebron settler Orit Struk (who may soon – heaven forfend – become a Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party). Due to my lack of respect for the judge and the military court, there are a few salty epithets on the tip of my tongue, but for now I will restrain myself and save them for another time. And maybe I am mistaken and we are dealing here with a true Righteous Gentile, who is awaiting the right moment to hit the prosecution with stiff compensation payments to Ayman for this malicious prosecution.


Translator’s notes

1. This could be read as a pun, because the Hebrew verb “to enlarge” (lehagdil) and the name of the Palestinian Arab community that existed on the site of what is now the Israeli city of Ashkelon before 1948 (Majdal) are derived from the same Semitic root: G/J-D-L. So in this particular context, the Hebrew phrase “We will enlarge Ashkelon” also suggests the meaning “We will (re)convert Ashkelon into Majdal” or “we will “Majdalize Ashkelon”.

2. A “realistic position” on an Israeli electoral list means a position close enough to the top of the list so that election to the Knesset is probable. A candidate who is number 1 on an electoral list is guaranteed to get a seat in the Knesset as long as the list receives the minimum percentage of votes required by law for a list to be represented in the Knesset. A candidate who is number 100 on a list, on the other hand, has a virtually 0% chance of getting a Knesset seat.


Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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