+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:55:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 ‘A new page in human history’: Darfuri refugee on landmark court ruling http://972mag.com/a-new-page-in-human-history-darfuri-refugee-on-landmark-court-ruling/96947/ http://972mag.com/a-new-page-in-human-history-darfuri-refugee-on-landmark-court-ruling/96947/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:23:43 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96947 Mutasim Ali is happy but he is not celebrating the landmark court ruling that will set him and thousands of other African asylum seekers free by the end of the year. There is a long, bumpy road ahead, he says, but ‘Israel will be a better place and it is our responsibility to make it so.’

By Mutasim Ali

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

A new dawn has come. A tremendous success has been achieved by everyone who believes in justice and equal rights for mankind. I wasn’t surprised by the resolution of High Court of Justice. No smart person would think differently.

The reason why I expected this [decision] is the same reason why I am in Israel. Israel is the only democratic and lawful country in the Middle East. Trust me when I say this; I believe in the Israeli judicial system and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Read also: Israel’s High Court orders closure of ‘Holot’

I’m happy not only because this is what we are looking for — we have worked so hard to make this happen and the journey is still very long. The path ahead will be bumpy but we made a commitment never to give up and we have to finish what we have started. This is not about us but it is also about Israel and Israelis: never lose hope and never lose faith. Israel will be a better place and it is our responsibility to make it so.

Mutasim Ali, an asylum seeker from Darfur, waves as he departs Tel Aviv for the Holot detention center, May 5, 2014. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The author, Mutasim Ali, waves as he departs Tel Aviv for the Holot detention center on May 5, 2014. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I am not celebrating this, because this is normal — what should happen. I knew from day one that Holot was illegal and that it was only a matter of time and here we are now. That said, justice is not in the High Court, it is in our hearts as human beings.

I know some of Israeli citizens are upset and that they have started to lose faith in the Supreme Court, but it should be a swift point to revise their thoughts and change the way they look at strangers. You might think the court is wrong and doesn’t represent you, but you have to know that the High Court rules according to what the law says and it doesn’t have to represent you like the Knesset; this is how it works in democratic and responsible countries.

Read also: The origins and politics of Israel’s refugee debate

To Israeli citizens, I condemn all acts of violence in your neighborhoods, whether it is from my community or yours. And I say with a loud voice that we are here in Israel and we are entitled to Israeli laws. I do understand your pain and your suffering and we should work closely to address it.

To my community, don’t get too excited. Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar is going to look for ‘Plan C,’ which will not be good for us. But keep hopeful and optimistic and as I said very long ago, justice will always stand firm. It is true that the law is unconstitutional and according to the court’s decision we shall be released in 90 days. Look, we have been in the cities before and we came to Holot to find a solution, so we need to think carefully about it and not to accept being released in the same condition and status had when we first came to Israel — for which we and Israelis both still pay the price until today. We are looking for a legal status that allow us to have our basic rights and a dignified life, as well as a normal life for Israeli society.

Thank you to the High ‎Court of ‎Justice and looking forward to working with the Knesset as well as all of Israeli society.

Mutasim Ali, 27, is an asylum seeker from Darfur who has been living in Israel for five and half years. He is the executive director of the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) and is currently being held without charge in Israel’s ‘Holot’ detention facility. A version of this article first appeared on Mutasim’s Facebook page and is reproduced here with his permission.

Israel’s High Court orders closure of ‘Holot’ refugee detention facility
Marching toward freedom in a fictional plot of land
Israel hasn’t recognized one Sudanese refugee

http://972mag.com/a-new-page-in-human-history-darfuri-refugee-on-landmark-court-ruling/96947/feed/ 1
Space for perpetuating the conflict: Tunnels, deterrence and profits http://972mag.com/space-for-perpetuating-the-conflict-tunnels-deterrence-and-profits/96887/ http://972mag.com/space-for-perpetuating-the-conflict-tunnels-deterrence-and-profits/96887/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 22:03:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96887 Israeli leaders cannot escape the idea that Palestinians must be controlled, all the time and in all areas of life. Indeed, if controlling the Palestinians is everything we want, then the separation wall and the ‘Iron Dome’ are excellent solutions. The longer this snowball rolls, however, any non-military option is ruled out more aggressively, and even relatively moderate military options become irrelevant.

By Idan Landau

It became official this summer: tunnels are the new centrifuges. For years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been waving the Iranian threat in front of us, and one morning we woke up and… poof! – the threat vanished, at least from most of the prime minister’s speeches.

Then came the rockets – from Hezbollah and Hamas. The Israeli hasbara machine painted that capability in demonic dimensions, used to justify every crime and injustice against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza. And yet, after each Israeli military operation Hezbollah and Hamas improved their ability to launch rockets.

But then the tunnels made an appearance, followed by their offspring: smuggling tunnels, terror tunnels, explosive tunnels, launching tunnels, and most recently – infiltration tunnels.

We need to raise some serious questions about the tunnels, just a moment before they become a holy cow no one can question.

Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel in the Gaza Strip during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ July 20, 2014. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel in the Gaza Strip during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ July 20, 2014. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

My starting point is an extensive post I wrote two and a half years ago about the special elite combat engineering unit of the IDF, Yahalom, which described its deeds from the days of operation Cast Lead to today. A part of it was dedicated to the significant efforts that the IDF is investing, both technological and operational, in the training of this unit for “tunnel combat.” I emphasize the expression “tunnel combat,” not to be confused with “tunnel detection” and “tunnel destruction,” which are the focus of public attention these days. It’s not the same thing, though by the end we’ll see that the conclusions are not significantly different.

That is what I wrote then:

The notable examples from our days are the tunnels that the Chinese dug in Ranzhuang against the Japanese in the second Chinese-Japanese war, and the tunnels dug by the Viet Cong against the Americans in the Vietnam war. In both cases, the empires got into a frustrating war of attrition against an elusive enemy that knew the territory much better than they did, and caused them severe losses by using explosive booby-traps and punji stake pits. The Cu Chi district in Vietnam, where the Viet cong built an immense underground network to the level of an underground city, was attacked several times by the American army. In Operation Crimp (January 1966) 30 tons of explosives were dropped on Cu Chi, along with 8,000 soldiers; in Operation Cedar Falls (January 1967) 30,000 American soldiers attacked Cu Chi; in 1969 the district was carpet bombed again. Eventually, the Americans had to retreat, and the Viet Cong won the war.

The engineers and commanders of Yahalom obviously know all that. Certainly they think it’s going to be completely different for us. We have advanced technologies (first send a robot into the tunnel, only then go down!); we have a proper combat doctrine; modernistic explosives; and so on. I assume that in every generation, the empire confronted with tunnel combatants said to itself: it’s going to be different for us. We’re smarter, we’re more advanced.

And in every generation, the tunnel combatants told themselves: we have no choice. This is our land. Now we are under it, but at some point the enemy will give up and retreat. Then we can go back up.

What is the IDF looking for underneath southern Lebanon and Gaza? There are already thousands of tunnels, an organized infrastructure for transporting goods and ammunition. The tunnels are a fact; no military force in the world will erase them. Is the IDF planning massive carpet bombings on all the settled areas in Gaza? We should know such things in advance. At most, isolated parts of some tunnels can be collapsed, a drop in the sea. There’s no way of reaching all the ammunition that’s hidden there, and as long as the Israeli restrictions on transporting goods to Gaza continues, and especially the restrictions on exporting, the tunnels are an answer not only to military, but to genuine civil necessities as well. Life is stronger than everything.

Yes, the tunnels are used for military purposes. In Israel’s official propaganda lexicon, crazy accumulation of weapon is called “power building” when it’s on our side and “weapon smuggling” when it’s on their side. Isn’t it an armed conflict? What do they expect in the general staff, that the Palestinians would smuggle crossword puzzles and woolen pompons, while Israel arms itself to the teeth with more and more and more sophisticated weapons systems with unimaginable human and economic costs?

That’s how it is in armed conflict. The enemy accumulates ammunition, trains and plants ambushes. If we have a problem with it, we might start to consider non-violent ways of stopping the violence. As long as the conflict is violent, we can stop being shocked every day by the enemy’s diligent accumulation of weapons.

This is still true and relevant. The main function of the tunnels in Gaza is transportation of goods and weapons into the strip. The Israeli attempt to eradicate this phenomenon is doomed to failure for the reasons I indicated two-and-a-half years ago, and indeed, it becomes clear now how far Israel was from achieving this goal.

Now there’s also something new to address: the “infiltration tunnels,” or cross-fence tunnels, through which Hamas combatants infiltrated Israeli population in order to kill civilians. This option is sickening, naturally, and the majority opinion is that all should be done in order to detect and destroy these tunnels as soon as possible.

Before we dive into the details, it is worthwhile noting that the Israeli PR machine did not waste a moment — it actually turned the existence of the cross-fence tunnels into the primary and nearly only ground for the operation. From its first days, analysts were already defining the goal of the operation as “the destruction of the tunnels.” That’s how a consensus was being created in motion, and it’s also most effective at silencing possible objections. For what will we do when it turns out that the new goal is as impossible as in the previous attacks on Gaza?

Then again, we can always define a new destination and go on another operation, no doubt about it. For now, I would like to concentrate on the “destruction of the tunnels.”

The tunnels in Gaza

An IDF photo dated April 8, 2001, shows a soldier entering a tunnel shaft that was discovered a few hundred meters from the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

An IDF photo dated April 8, 2001, shows a soldier entering a tunnel shaft that was discovered a few hundred meters from the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

Israel has had a “problem” with the tunnels for… you won’t believe it, since 1990. Two and a half decades. As years go by, and especially since the onset of the siege, the tunnels play a primary role in Gaza’s economy and military growth. In their prime, there were about 1,200 tunnels in Gaza, most of them in the direction of the Sinai peninsula. In recent years the Egyptian authorities have declared war on the tunnels and destroyed most of them. Israel estimates that today there are dozens of tunnels in Gaza. It’s an entrenched array inspired by the underground network of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It’s as organized and supervised as any military project.

During the first part of this summer’s war, the concept of “strategic failure” received substantial attention: the fact that after years of alerts and warnings and examinations of alternatives, the Defense Ministry had yet to find a technological solution for early detection of tunnels. A line of geophysics experts line up for interviews, all very smart – some smart enough to hold the stocks that will jump miraculously with the granting of the franchise to the tunnel detection system – all pointing the finger at the “shuffling” of the Defense Ministry. The technological challenge is not at all simple; the ideas move from planting optic fibers underground, geological radar, gravitation measurements, microseismic monitoring, one suggests digging a 70-kilometer canal around the Strip and planting radar in it, another suggests digging a canal filled with sewage along the border.

In any case, the estimated cost is billions.

It is important to note that there doesn’t yet exist a geophysical system which is able to detect tunnels in Gaza, certainly not one which can be operational in the near future. This means that for at least a couple of years, the IDF will continue to rely on the existing system of intelligence and surveillance. As we saw during the latest opreation and as reported by Palestinian workers who took part at the mining of tunnels, this system doesn’t work. It’s very easy to disguise the work on tunnels, the entrance and exit holes, and the Palestinians have already become experts.

More crucially, even if the huge budget and technological efforts the Defense Ministry invested in its “Iron Dome Against Tunnels” soon pay off with a new efficient system, the tunnel problem will not end. And that is what nobody talks about. It’s taboo.

The pace of tunnel construction

According to the IDF, 32 attack tunnels were destroyed during Protective Edge. Once they were destroyed, the army said it had “achieved the goals” of the ground operation began its first retreat in early August.

Then what? The IDF will restore its stocks of ammunition, and the Hamas would restore its tunnels. That’s how it is between enemies: both sides spend every spare moment for military growth.

How long does it take to construct a weapon tunnel? According to this estimation (Hebrew), at a pace of 12 meters a day with five workers — three months. According to another (20 meters a day) – even less. Let us assume a short recovery period in Gaza before construction is renewed. A conservative estimation could assume the recovery of the tunnels within six months from the end of “Protective Edge.”

All of the tunnels, and perhaps more. Manpower is not lacking in the Strip. And materials? As “Gisha” point out time and again, the Israeli siege and restrictions on the import of construction materials did not prevent the construction of tunnels — it hurt only civilian construction needs. That “stopping the tunnels” would have been a condition in a ceasefire agreement is an Israeli illusion that better end. Just like Israel won’t give up on the $3.1 billion of American assistance, or dismantle an F-16 squadron as a part of an agreement, Hamas won’t give up its right to restore its military deterrence ability. Former commander of Yahalom admits the obvious: “Hamas will resume tunneling as soon as we leave.”

In six months the IDF will still be working on the development of tunnel detection technologies. More critical is the question of dealing with detected tunnels. IDF officers have already clarified during this operation that “dealing with tunnels using aerial bombardments is impossible.” Destruction of the attack tunnels was actually the basis for the ground invasion. A dropped bomb may destroy the entrance and exit, but not its entire length. For that you need soldiers to go inside.

Conclusion: in six months at most, the “achievements” of Operation “Protective Edge” will be erased, and the basis for a ground invasion will be renewed.

Here is the core of the argument again: (1) in most cases, the IDF is unable to detect tunnels in real-time, when built; (2) even if it could, the pace of construction and availability of resources would allow the reconstruction of dozens of cross-fence tunnels within a few months; (3) the only way to destroy a tunnel is a ground invasion (with all of its consequences, including the massacre of innocent civilians, etc.); (4) therefore, Operation “Protective Edge,” like its predecessors, in the long-run will have failed to achieve its defined goals and will only pave the way for the next round.

The IDF will not invade Gaza in six months, but talks about the “attrition of deterrence” and “violation of understandings” on the part of Hamas will start dripping in the next couple of months and will become a propaganda rainstorm soon thereafter. Public opinion will be ready, the weapons stocks renewed and the defense budget will return to voraciously chewing at the budget of everything that requires fixing in Israeli society. Righteous Israelis will continue ranting about Hamas “spending all its money on building tunnels instead of improving life in the Strip,” while nodding obediently when the Defense Ministry absorbs the budgets of social services, public education is deteriorating, hospitals are buckling and the idea of public housing is dead. The grotesque symmetry will escape them. Still there is one difference in the Gazans’ favor: nobody asked them. The dictatorship of Hamas crushes all opposition and then steals public money without fear of criticism. In Israel, “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the public voluntarily sacrifices itself on the altar of defense.

And the politicians? They’ll wait for an appropriate time. A terror attack. Renewed signs of Palestinian unity. Intolerable political pressure. Then they’ll give the order. The media, as always, will stand aside applauding the prime minister’s “responsibility” and “discretion.”

Technologies for conflict management

Woman near shattered window caused by a Hamas rocket on July 15, 2014 in the town of Sderot, Israel. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Woman near shattered window caused by a Hamas rocket on July 15, 2014 in the town of Sderot, Israel. (Photo by Activestills.org)

The cross-fence tunnels are a real threat to the lives of southern Israelis. Eighty-five percent of Israeli citizens living in settlements next to the fence fled their homes out of fear of tunnels, and for weeks after the fighting many refused to return. This threat must be eliminated. But there’s no military way of eliminating this threat, not even for six months. All military measures will only shed blood, spend enormous sums of money and their achievements will wane quickly.

That’s the honest thing to say, and that’s the one thing no politician would dare saying. The reason is saying so suggests that there’s a limit to the effectiveness of Israeli military force (beyond the moral limits, an annoying lefty niche). There do exist political problems with no military solutions. Again, an oxymoron for Israel’s leadership and most of the public.

This problems is wider, extended over a variety of military technologies that Israel adopted as a substitute for political thought. It began with the separation wall and the control and monitoring tools surrounding it, continued with growing use of UAVs and other robots for fighting, and reached the “Iron Dome.” The logics remains the same: minimum friction, maximum control and killing, and most importantly: “breathing room” or “leeway” for politicians.

Notice how frequently this term was used in the media when the “Iron Dome” is praised; also note that the alleged “room” does not include the Gaza border communities, which the “Iron Dome” does not cover. Now they’ll say: we can breath easy because citizens in the center of Israel are protected, not because the citizens in the South are protected.

And for what do we need this extra breathing room? What does Israel do with the time without casualties provided by “Iron Dome?” Again, unasked questions, though the answer is quite obvious: the time is used for escalating the current round, while the next is being planned.

Paradoxically, the allegedly defensive system of “Iron Dome” becomes an offensive gadget in the Israeli arsenal. Its phenomenal success at lowering the casualty levels in the Israeli home front has silenced a powerful political factor, one that forces politicians to end their bloody businesses as fast as possible: the protest of victims, the cry of bereaved parents. Anyone who knows the history of protests against the First Lebanon War and against the presence of soldiers in the buffer zone knows that this was a significant factor. As the casualties on the Israeli side are lowered, the government has more “space” to continue fighting and wreak havoc on the Palestinian side. The losses there will naturally not incite a significant Israeli protest.

Going back to the West Bank wall; it too spared human lives in the short run and decreased terror attacks within Israel dramatically. But at the same time it created a horrid reality for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who were dispossessed of their land, disconnected from their sources of livelihood or from their family members, and became “temporary residents” on their homeland. That is merely “collateral damage” in the eyes of Israelis, but they boomerang back to us in many shapes, all the time: terror attacks, occasional riots, escalations in the forms of Palestinian resistance and international isolation.

(Hecklers in the crowd: “so what, would you prefer to have no separation wall? No “Iron Dome”? Would you prefer to see all of us be blown up for your justice?” –No. Not at all. But wait just another moment with that one).

The problem is terminology

The problem stems from the terms Israel uses to formulate and describe the conflict with the Palestinians. The basic term is control, and all strategies are derived from it. Israeli leaders cannot escape the idea that Palestinians must be controlled, both in the West Bank and in Gaza, all the time and in all areas of life — and that idea seeps into low-ranking clerks at the Civil Administration. When this is the frame of reference, only utilitarian questions remain: is system A better than system B in maintaining Israeli control?

Indeed, if controlling the Palestinians is everything we want, then the West Bank wall and the “Iron Dome” are excellent solutions. They both ensure minimum casualties on the Israeli side and give “breathing room” for the military and political administrations, which allows them to deepen control over the Palestinians. The blind spot of Israel is that the dynamics of control and technological management only enhance mutual hatred and inability to understand the other side. Israelis in 2014 are so distant from the Palestinian’s world, so detached from his day to day life – and again, thanks the Israeli media for consistently ignoring Gaza when missiles are not launched from it – that everything they are told about Palestinians is readily accepted. On the other hand, Palestinians under the technologically advanced control of Israel are losing every hope that Israel will ever strive for an agreement with them, one based on mutual respect and equality. Try to appeal to the inhabitants of Shujaiyeh, bombarded by the Israeli Air Force with 120 bombs, a ton each, within a week or less. Try telling them that most Israelis actually want to live in peace.

You’ve heard correctly. One hundred and twenty one-ton bombs dropped on a densely populated neighborhood, with inhabitants repeating time and time again – but there’s no one listening on the Israeli side – that they have nowhere to evacuate to. And that was before the ground assault. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the neighborhood you live in after 120 one-ton bombs are dropped on it from the above.

Palestinians search among the rubble in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborhood, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians search among the rubble in a destroyed quarter of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Do you know the old saying: “when you have a hammer in your hand everything looks like a nail?” Think about who in that allegory is Israel, who is the IDF and who is Gaza. The “control above all” doctrine has a heavy toll on Israeli society, but its most startling aspect is it’s ability to self-perpetuate. The solutions it offers create a reality that requires more these sorts of solutions. If the analysis I propose here for the tunnel annihilation project is correct – the project will fail. Sticking with it means more deadly attacks on Gaza — more and more seeds of hatred for future generations. These seeds will undoubtedly sprout new, more sophisticated and ruthless methods of warfare by Hamas, answered by new creative military solutions by Israel. The longer this snowball rolls, any non-military option is ruled out more aggressively, and even relatively moderate military options become irrelevant.

This is how the logic of escalation works. From the inside, it seems inevitable. (Hamsters running in their wheel probably think that stopping would cause them such horrible injuries that it’s just not worth it.) Those trapped within it cannot imagine a solution that isn’t articulated in the current terms of the conflict. They’re shooting rockets? The only solution can be an air defense system. They’re digging tunnels? The only imaginable solution is founding an elite combat engineering unit specializing in tunnel combat. Every step seems natural, every conclusion inescapable.

Only the final result somehow seems to be a complete absurdity.

Let’s talk about… hmm… the profits

Conflict management technology is big business, and there’s a lot of money in it. Israelis don’t feel comfortable talking about this money; a bit like digging in the pockets of a heart surgeon who saves lives every day. But big businesses and big money are inevitable players in the political game, and whoever wants to understand the game thoroughly can’t afford ignoring them. The fact that “Iron Dome” saves lives doesn’t take away from the fact that there are a number of actors making good money from it, and as its operational deployment and use expands – they make even more.

The “Iron Dome” system is sponsored mostly by American money – a special budget for missile defense systems, in addition to the regular military aid (this year’s package includes $3.1 billion). To this date, the U.S. supported the “Iron Dome” with over $1 billion, and including other missile defense systems such as the “Arrow” and “David’s Sling” – over $2 billion. Only a couple of months ago the Senate approved an addition of $351 million for “Iron Dome”; in less than a week, the American secretary of defence asked for – and received – an additional $225 million to compensate for inadequate stockpiles following “Protective Edge.”

In other words, “Iron Dome” is a joint American-Israeli project. The U.S. gives the money, Israel provides the development and operational experience. The big money coming from Washington to Rafael and Elbit can teach us about the American interest in the Middle East, much more than a hollow statement from the secretary of state. Does the U.S. have any interest in revolutionizing the Middle East – a revolution that would make the expensive “Iron Dome” (every battery costs around $50-60 million, every interceptor missile upwards of $20,000) obsolete? It’s like asking if someone would be interested in deliberately throwing a fortune down the drain. (More in Hebrew here.)

The Israeli weapons manufacturers have decent profits thanks to the conflict. The profits have two stories: the first is selling to the IDF. The second, selling to foreign armies, based on solid evidence tested in the “laboratory” called the Gaza Strip. No commercial is as good as a baptism of fire. But the story is much wider; we can’t even touch the tip of the iceberg here. A huge portion of the Israeli hi-tech sector contributes directly or indirectly to the technologies of conflict management. The major earners are the stockholders, but the huge sums trickle down and actually provide for tens of thousands of families in Israel. That’s also a fact that we should look in the eye when we hear the usual rants about the “losses” due to the war: while you’re losing, someone else is earning. Connected vessels. Presumably, some Israelis who contribute their engineering or computational expertise to the conflict management technologies see themselves, in the hours after work, as peaceful, moderate people. The separation wall, as we know, goes through the soul as well.

My goal in bringing up these facts is simple. I do not intend to claim that Israeli society, or at least a part of it, diligently conspires to perpetuate the conflict in order to make more money. Things almost never work like that, but more prosaically, in a manner Marx concisely described: matter precedes thought. If your being serves the occupation, if your labor creates ideas and products that enable its continuation more easily and with no casualties on our side – this being is probably above every doubt to you; it is as justified as the rising of the sun every morning. You couldn’t even imagine acting in a manner that would undermine this being, appeal against it and try to disrupt it. People, communities and collectives act primarily for self-preservation. That’s how they act; what they’re saying is less important.

Thus, a political course which means a drastic cut to the defense budget; which means taking expensive technologies out of use; which means moving resources of monitoring and control in other directions – also means a political course that pulls the rug out from under the incomes of tens of thousands Israelis (and implicitly, the economic security of hundreds of thousands). These people cannot actively support such a course (though they can support it declaratively), they cannot cooperate with a future that sentences them to economic insecurity. As Amira Hass once wrote, “peace just doesn’t pay.”

This catch-22 has all the fundamentals of a tragedy: a foretold terrible fate, and the hero’s lake of awareness of his own part in fulfilling that fate. In front of our eyes, the hero of “Iron Dome” is replaced with the hero of “tunnel detection.” The best minds in the Israeli defense industry are already working on the sought-after “solution”; the solution that will catalyze the problem that its successor would need to solve, and so forth.

‘So what do you propose?’

This question is a snare many lefties fall into, never to return. This trap is not in the legitimacy of the question; there’s nothing more legitimate. The trap comes after the first, and second and third answer, when you realize that the inquirer is actually ruling out every possible answer and is not open to persuasion.

For this reason, it is better to kindly say goodbye to all who think that it is strictly forbidden to talk to Hamas because (delete as appropriate): the Hamas charter calls for the obliteration of all Jews / the Muslims will never accept us here / you can’t rely on agreements with Arabs / I heard an anti-Semitic speech yesterday by a bearded Imam in Deir el-Balah / look what they’re singing in that video / and so on.

Those lines are not intended for this sort of people. They’re intended for Israelis who are ready to suppose that next to fanatics there are also pragmatic people in Hamas. Just like there are Israeli politicians, religious authorities and public figures calling for ethnic cleansing or genocide in Gaza, and there are others who don’t.

In fact, you only need to recognize that people in Gaza aren’t that different from you. They also want to live in peace without being bombarded from the air. They also want to love and create and travel and enjoy a good song or a movie. And they’re also willing to keep their word if they get what they need in return.

Therefore, the answer to “what are you proposing” is very simple, even trivial (perhaps that’s the reason it sounds like a scam to fanatic right): talk, listen and sign an agreement. Here are some people saying the same thing in more words and more fleshed out arguments (Here, here, here and here). Read them. Here’s a serious expert (Hebrew) who has been claiming for years that it is possible and necessary to sign an agreement with Hamas. An agreement can be anything starting at a temporary cease fire, through a period of calm that renews every couple of months, and to a full peace agreement. All the options are open and there’s no use in committing to any of them at the moment. The demand to go into details when bodies are piling up in Gaza is another favorite snare of the right, one we need to move past.

Years of conditioning has left Israelis with a crazy paranoia that the Arabs will “violate agreements.” This paranoia has basis: no Arab side Israel ever entered an agreement with has ever violated it in military action. The Oslo accords, just a reminder, were endlessly violated on both sides, and in any case were never an equal agreement between independent political beings. Still, the Israeli asks: what if they violate the agreement?

Well, and if they do? Let’s phrase this question differently. What if the Egyptians violate the peace agreement with us? What shall we do then? The answer is of course: what kind of violation, what’s the background for it, at what risk does it put Israeli citizens, and so on. If the Egyptians start bombarding Tel Aviv tomorrow, I’m sure that the Israeli Air Force would be bombing Cairo within minutes. If Hamas were to do the same, it will also meet retaliation. Retaliation must be proportional to the violation, and unlike the murderous operations in Gaza in the last couple of years – it would enjoy worldwide legitimacy (not only the support of the arms supplier, the U.S.). And the anxious inquirer should also be asked: is the situation today, without an agreement, keeping you any safer than a situation with a peace agreement? Against the amnesia attacks during this discussion it’s always worthwhile to pull out this diagram. Eventually, the ancient demon would emerge: “there’s no reason to sign agreements with them, they won’t keep them,” an utterance that in hindsight puts the inquirer in the group of people with whom there’s no point arguing.

Most Israelis are mentally injured, paranoia struck. I’m not cynical. They too are victims of indoctrination; Hamas terror planted the seeds of doubt, but Israeli propaganda watered and nurtured it into a dense forest with no way out. There’s no way of dealing with such mental complexes with logical arguments. There are probably other ways, of therapy or empathy. These are not discussed here, since I knowingly limit myself to appeal only to the minority that is open to logical arguments.

This minority could benefit from a reminder provided by Yonatan Mendel a few weeks ago, a reminder that there is a pragmatic stream within Hamas leadership:

In 1997, 10 years after its establishment, Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin proposed to Israel a ceasefire (hudna) of 30 years. The proposal was mediated through King Hussein of Jordan and was never answered. About two years afterwards, Yassin proposed another ceasefire of 20 years in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The proposal was not answered. According to an investigative report by journalist Shlomi Eldar, seven years after that, in 2006, Hamas political bureau head Khaled Meshaal sent another proposal: a hudna of 25 years in exchange for the end of the occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza. The proposal was not answered. Ahmed Yousef, a senior adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, said that to end the occupation he would be willing to have ceasefire for 60 years, and that the next generations would be the ones to sign the peace agreement. The proposal was not answered. In 2007 the same Yousef passed along a proposal to an unlimited ceasefire in exchange for the release of all Palestinian prisoners and a return to the ‘67 borders. The proposal was not answered. In 2014, just before the ground assault of the IDF, there arrived another proposal of a ceasefire for 10 years. For the first time, the proposal did not include return to the borders of 67’ and release of Palestinian prisoners as conditions, but only the normalization of life in the Strip, including permitting fishing at a distance of 10 kilometers from shore, international supervision in Rafah crossing, and the release of Palestinian prisoners that were previously released three years ago in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. This proposal was again not answered by Israel.

And the tunnels? And Iron Dome?

With all of my criticism against the “Iron Dome” system and against the effort to destroy cross-fence tunnels, I’m not suggesting we stop them now, of course. The tragedy of the Israeli situation, as explained earlier, is that the political-military leadership directs the public into traps that do not allow other solutions. In my current situation, I cannot oppose the “Iron Dome,” a life saving system that may have saved my life. I also can’t oppose efforts to detect all cross-fence tunnels and deny the Gaza border communities a normal life.

My argument was that these solutions, which have in a way been “forced” upon us in the current situation, are perpetuating and radicalizing the never ending rounds of violence. The calm they provide in the short run is lost in the long run, with losses on both sides of the fence at intervals that are not actually that long (between two to three years). These solutions also take away our ability to imagine an alternative.

And this alternative can protect us much better. An alternative of a signed agreement with two equal, independent sides, without a monitoring and control system on one side, is an alternative that both sides would make serious efforts to preserve – by fighting militant elements on their own side. In this scenario, Israel learns to live with the existence of stockpiles of munitions it can’t control, just like it learned to live with the existence of ammunition stockpiles in Egypt and in Lebanon. Israel is currently learning to live with cross-fence tunnels, which it cannot completely destroy, just as much as Palestinian are learning to live with F-16s that Israel can put over their heads in seconds and that destroy families in a moment.

To summarize: Israel is learning to live under the constant threat of an armed neighbor, just like the neighbor learned to live under the IDF’s constant threat. I cite Danny Baron’s question: “does the fact that Hamas decided to use the tunnels now, though they have been ready for a long time, teach us that Hamas is not lead by a bunch of crazy radical Islamists, but actually holds a variety of instruments, which it uses intelligently, and when it is best served to do so – just like Israel?”

Israel will sooner or later need to let go the crazy fantasy that it can control the levels of armament of its neighbors, thereby ensuring the safety of its citizens. It turns out that despite all of Israel’s glamorous operations capturing weapons shipments, Hamas was able to accumulate long-distance rockets under the ever-watching eyes of the Israeli intelligence. We better not even start talking about Hezbollah. A security-mad and military-obsessed state like Israel cannot lose its senses with every rockets shipment that ends up in Arab hands. Israel must grow up and understand that real deterrence is achieved in political ways. (Did you forget it again? The diagram is still here.)

Hamas will not stop shooting missiles at us and infiltrating into our populations through underground tunnels because it is afraid we will flatten another neighborhood in Gaza or commit another massacre in response. No, we do all of that mercilessly, and Hamas keeps fighting. It will stop fighting us if and when holding its fire becomes more beneficial than using it: if a signed agreement promises it that valuable assets will be lost the moment it starts shooting. Right now, with no political assets – it has no reason to stop.

And yes, the siege must be removed — entirely.

This post was first published in Hebrew on Idan Landau’s blog.

Newsletter banner 4 - 540

http://972mag.com/space-for-perpetuating-the-conflict-tunnels-deterrence-and-profits/96887/feed/ 20
How the IDF abdicates its monopoly on violence in the West Bank http://972mag.com/how-the-idf-abdicates-its-monopoly-on-violence/96873/ http://972mag.com/how-the-idf-abdicates-its-monopoly-on-violence/96873/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:52:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96873 The IDF grants arrest and other powers to civilians in West Bank settlements and outposts but fails to ensure they are held accountable. In essence, the army has privatized law enforcement.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement's civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement’s civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Privatizing the state’s use of force should be a source of concern to us all. Such a process – and particularly when the powers are transferred to a body with a clear political agenda – creates uncontrolled militias. This is the process that has occurred in the West Bank due to the army’s policy of delegating some of its law enforcement powers to civilian security coordinators, as discussed in Yesh Din’s new report, “The lawless zone.”

The institution of the civilian security coordinator in itself is not new; it is part of a spatial defense approach that predates the establishment of the State of Israel. This function was formalized in the Local Authorities Law (Arrangement of Guarding), 1961. That law established that the security coordinators and guards were to be accountable to the police or the army. In the West Bank, where this mechanism was introduced by a military order in 1971, is more complex.

Read the full Yesh Din report here

The security coordinators — and the guards accountable to them — enjoy quasi-military and law enforcement powers, such as the power to detain or search a suspect and to arrest him if he resists. Despite this, supervision over their actions is remarkably vague. In official terms, security coordinators derive their powers from appointment by the IDF’s Central Command. In practice, however, they are appointed by the settlements in which they work. In official terms, security coordinators are accountable to the army, which grants them their powers and provides training programs, and to military law. In practice, there is not even a single documented instance in which a security coordinator has been prosecuted for deviating from his authority, despite the fact that the new report itemizes a number of documented violations. In official terms, the security coordinator receives instructions from the army brigade; but he receives his salary from the settlement where he operates. The security coordinator is not an employee of the Defense Ministry and coordinators who have filed suits for compensation against the ministry have been unsuccessful for this reason.

While we were preparing the report, the IDF Spokesperson was forced to admit that there is no document establishing procedures for the supervision and assessment of security coordinators, along the lines of the procedures relating to army officers, for example. The Spokesperson also confirmed that it has no information about disciplinary proceedings against coordinators or against members of their guarding units. Yet according to an Operations Division order, the security coordinator bears a “responsibility to soldiers undertaking a guarding function in the area, including briefing them on their arrival, monitoring the execution of their task, and attending to their welfare.” It is also worth noting that then-deputy state attorney Shai Nitzan stated in an official letter that commander-commandee relations are not applicable to the relationship between security coordinators and soldiers. This claim is contradicted by the experience of many soldiers who have reported such relations.

The transfer of military powers to civilians is particularly serious when it is to a group of civilians with a distinct ideological viewpoint, who are motivated by an aspiration to seize additional Palestinian land and who refuse to recognize Palestinian land rights in the West Bank. The transfer of quasi-military powers to an ideological group, some of whom do not recognize the State of Israel and some of whose leaders have called for the elimination of the democratic regime, can only be seen as the army waiving its authority to exercise power. Or in other words – privatization.

Been there – done that. When the Finance Ministry attempted to privatize Israel’s prisons and build the first prison managed by a private company, the High Court struck down the law. Justice Ayala Procaccia explained that such privatization creates the clear potential for the violation of human rights: “the private body that receives a governmental authority carrying the potential to violate the core of individual rights is not rooted in the framework of rules of action and criteria that dictate the standards of use of the institution power of authority and guide the actions of state organs. It did not grow up and was not educated in this framework; it is alien to its concepts, and it has never internalized the theory of balances in the use of governmental power.”

Anyone seeking a practical example of all these defects need look no further than the security coordinators. By the way, we should note that the state is currently attempting to privatize another arm of the law enforcement system, namely the prosecution: it is proposing to employ attorneys from the private sector as prosecutors who will decide whether or not to serve indictments. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has asked the attorney general to halt this further attempt at privatization: responsibility for the penal process must remain entirely in the hands of the state.

To sum up: when the state – and remember that in the West Bank, the Israeli army acts as the sovereign – transfers any of its powers to use force to private individuals who are accountable not to the army but to their settlement, it damages its own standing, the ability to enforce the law, and above all – the occupied population whose person and property it is obliged to protect. Accordingly, Yesh Din’s report urges the army to correct this flaw and to appoint security coordinators who are not settlers but officers in the standing army; and to ensure that they are accountable to the army and not to the settlements. In a nutshell: the army should take back its monopoly on the use of force.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

Settler violence: It comes with the territory
Sheriffs of the land: Meet the settlers with military authority

http://972mag.com/how-the-idf-abdicates-its-monopoly-on-violence/96873/feed/ 4
The U.S. is also guilty in Palestine http://972mag.com/the-u-s-is-also-guilty-in-palestine/96863/ http://972mag.com/the-u-s-is-also-guilty-in-palestine/96863/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:46:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96863 When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

By Sam Bahour

The U.S. is not a neutral mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it is an active participant and is guilty of the crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians, most recently, the mass killings and destruction Israel wrought on the Gaza Strip during the summer. The reality that the U.S. is an active supporter of unimaginable suffering may very well be the motivating force behind the U.S.’s adamant attempts to block the Palestinians from using any of the internationally recognized tools of accountability to hold Israel responsible, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

While Israeli bombs were hammering Gaza, Alice Lynd with the assistance of Staughton Lynd, drafted a 32-page pamphlet which was published by the Palestine-Israel Working Group of Historians Against the War (HAW) titled, Violations by Israel and the Problem of Enforcement (August 2014). The policy paper places the U.S. in front of its own mirror and meticulously documents how one hand of the U.S. government systematically documents Israeli violations of U.S. law and international law, while the other hand unconditionally dishes out financial, military, and diplomatic support to Israel.

The study notes that:

United States law states that no military assistance will be provided to a government that engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Yet the United States gives more military assistance to Israel than to any other country, currently in excess of $3.1 billion per year. The U.S. participates in joint military exercises, military research, and weapons development.

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the "Blue Flag" exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the “Blue Flag” exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

This contradiction of its own policy would seem incriminating enough, but if all the other means of U.S. support to Israel are added – especially the U.S.’s unwavering role in the UN Security Council as a proxy for Israel’s interests by vetoing and thereby blocking international steps for justice – the evidence that the U.S. is an active player in Israel’s onslaught and continued military occupation becomes overwhelming.

It stands to reason that the U.S. very rightly fears that any step to hold Israel accountable for crimes against humanity would ultimately incriminate the U.S. as Israel’s funder, diplomatic cover, political handler, and arms supplier for decades.

While this new document was being researched, the Historians Against the War circulated a letter to President Obama and members of Congress that begins: “We deplore the ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza and in Israel. We also recognize the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.” (July 31, 2014). The pamphlet’s contents strike this point home with incriminating details.

The pamphlet quotes historian Robin D. G. Kelley who recently said about the ongoing conflict, “Determining next steps requires that we go back many steps—before the siege, before the election of Hamas, before the withdrawal of Jewish settlements in Gaza, before the Oslo Accords, even before the strip came under Israeli occupation in 1967.” (“When the smoke clears in Gaza,” Aug. 8, 2014, Black Educator).

Read +972′s full coverage of the Gaza war

I had the honor of working with both authors of this pamphlet following the First Gulf War (1990-1991) when they suggested we co-edit an oral history of Palestine as a tool to understand the centrality of Palestine to the entire destabilization of the Middle East, a reality that is even more true today. Following several field visits to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, and the Golan Heights, that effort resulted in the publishing of Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (1993). Their new effort revisits many familiar topics that we addressed in our book, with chapter headings such as International Agreements and U.S. Law, International Agreements on Human Rights, U.S. Law on Foreign Assistance, Violations of Internationally Recognized Human Rights, Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Arbitrary Arrest or Detention, Collective Punishment, among many more.

Perhaps the most important chapter in this brief pamphlet is “The Problem of Enforcement.” One need not be a historian or political scientist to understand that as long as global enforcement mechanisms of accountability are denied to Palestinians due to the political whims of a superpower, Israel has the green light to attack Gaza and the West Bank at any time with impunity.

Israel’s senseless military attack this summer (deceptively coined “Operation Protective Edge” in English, and more accurately “Solid Cliff” in Hebrew) left 2,168 Palestinians dead, more than 500 of them children. The Institute for Middle East Understanding compared the proportionate impact of these deaths to the population in the U.S. Gaza’s devastating human loss would be equivalent to 376,680 Americans killed in 51 days if such events were undertaken in the U.S. To put this in perspective, this number is slightly fewer than the 407,000 U.S. soldiers killed in World War II. It is not hyperbole to say that everyone in Gaza knows at least one person who died or was injured in this atrocity, with each person left wondering if he or she would be next.

If humanity is to be served, citizens who believe in equal access to international tools of justice must speak up and denounce the continued U.S. hegemony over Palestine. It is time to demand a change in policy so that marginalized populations are not shut out of systems of justice when they are the victims of crimes against humanity. Holding individuals responsible for their crimes is a core American value; it’s a value we should not compromise for any country, especially our own.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah and serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and blogs at ePalestine.com. This article was first published in The Hill.

http://972mag.com/the-u-s-is-also-guilty-in-palestine/96863/feed/ 22
Contradicting its own ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court legalizes segregated communities http://972mag.com/contradicting-its-own-ruling-israels-supreme-court-legalizes-segregated-communities/96817/ http://972mag.com/contradicting-its-own-ruling-israels-supreme-court-legalizes-segregated-communities/96817/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:08:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96817 The Israeli Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed various petitions against the Admissions Committees Law, which allows admissions committees in hundreds of communities in Israel to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability.”

By Amjad Iraqi

March 8, 2000 marked a unique moment in Israeli history. In a major decision, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the town of Katzir, which was established on state land by the Jewish Agency, could not deny the right of the Arab Ka’adan family to live in the town simply on the basis that they were not Jewish. This was the first time that Palestinian citizens of Israel successfully challenged the legality of “Jewish-only” communities in the state, generating cautious optimism that it could set an important precedent for Palestinian rights in land and housing.

Fifteen years later, on September 17, 2014, these hopes came to an abrupt end. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed various petitions filed by human rights groups against the Admissions Committees Law, enacted by the Knesset in 2011. The law allows admissions committees in 434 communities in the Negev and the Galilee (about 43 percent of all towns in Israel) to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability” and the communities’ “social and cultural fabric.” In effect, these committees are now legally permitted to refuse residency based on any “undesired” identity, including Palestinian, Sephardic, African, gay, religious, secular and others.

The Admissions Committees Law is the Israeli right wing’s response to the Supreme Court ruling in the Ka’adan case. Realizing that marginalized groups were increasingly challenging the state’s discriminatory practices, the Knesset under the 2009-12 Netanyahu government sought to turn Israel’s historical policies against these groups into law. Many Knesset members openly declared that the purpose of these laws was to subdue the “threats” posed by Palestinian citizens to the Jewish character of the state. The authors of the Admissions Committees Law even stated that, though deliberately written in neutral language, its main aim was to prevent Arab citizens from living with Jews.

This objective of segregation is not a new phenomenon in Israel, and has in fact been a central, ongoing practice since the state’s establishment in 1948. Legislation ranging from the Absentees Property Law (1950) to the Negev Individual Settlements Law (2011), along with the policies of the Jewish National Fund, Israel Land Authority and the government itself, operate with the explicit goal of securing maximum and privileged control of land for Israel’s Jewish citizens – a process known as “Judaization.” This runs jointly with the state’s goal of minimizing and concentrating non-Jewish communities in Israel, resulting in the mass confiscation of Palestinian land and the containment of Palestinian towns through discriminatory planning, home demolitions and unequal resource allocation.

Protesters outside the village of Hura in the Negev, protesting against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Protesters outside the village of Hura in the Negev, protesting against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. (Photo: Activestills.org)

However, what makes the admissions committees case significant is that the Supreme Court – the supposed bastion of Israeli democracy – has upheld this clearly discriminatory law, claiming that it could not determine yet if the law violated constitutional rights. Numerous petitions condemned the law from multiple angles, including nationality, race, religion and sexual orientation, but the court swept them aside. More importantly, the court directly undermined its own landmark ruling in the Ka’adan case, overriding one of the few legal decisions that set a precedent for minority rights in Israel and the struggle against state-sanctioned discrimination.

The latest ruling instead illustrates the deteriorating status of Palestinian citizens of Israel at the hands of an increasingly right-wing government and high court. Rather than introducing laws that guarantee equal rights for all of Israel’s citizens, the Knesset has worked to deepen racial inequality and consolidate its discriminatory vision for the state. Meanwhile, the judiciary has allowed the government to carry out this program, choosing not to set precedents on critical cases affecting Palestinian rights. With more discriminatory laws being introduced – including the Prawer Plan Bill, the Contributors to the State Bill, and the Jewish Nation-State Bill – Palestinian citizens and others are left fearing that, despite their best efforts to overturn it, race will continue to be the prime determinant of their rights.

It is therefore up to the public, non-governmental actors and the international community to take a principled stance against this unjust law. Racial separation, especially when engineered by a state, must elicit the same condemnation as other cases have before. Under the segregation laws of the Jim Crow South, gentrification and ghettoization were deliberately used against black Americans in order to keep white neighborhoods economically superior and racially homogenous, the effects of which remain damaging to this day. A more infamous comparison is apartheid South Africa’s Group Areas Act, which legalized the state’s policy of designating land for separate races. Like some of the Israeli law’s proponents today, South Africa’s leaders attempted to sugar-coat their intentions by describing racial separation as a policy of “good neighborliness.” However, such claims cannot conceal the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court’s approval of the Admissions Committees Law has granted legal cover for the principle of segregation and, at worst, has permitted a housing system that disturbingly resembles apartheid.

Amjad Iraqi is a projects and advocacy coordinator at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Knesset passes segregation law
Israel’s other war: Silencing Palestinian citizens
On the Israel-apartheid analogy, yet again

Newsletter banner 5 - 540

http://972mag.com/contradicting-its-own-ruling-israels-supreme-court-legalizes-segregated-communities/96817/feed/ 78
COMIC: Rome’s finest progressives and the scourge of Masada http://972mag.com/comic-the-mythological-progressives-and-the-quest-for-peace/96734/ http://972mag.com/comic-the-mythological-progressives-and-the-quest-for-peace/96734/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 19:05:46 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96734 Stanislaus and Cecelia, progressive Romans living in Judea, wanted nothing more than peace — but the Masadans gave them no choice.

By Eli Valley


Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. He is currently finishing his first novel. Eli’s website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

More from Eli Valley:
What if Mahmoud was named Jonah?
COMIC: Consensus in the Conference
Why even god can’t reach a two-state solution

http://972mag.com/comic-the-mythological-progressives-and-the-quest-for-peace/96734/feed/ 14
PHOTOS: Anti-Zionists join rally against anti-Semitism in Berlin http://972mag.com/photos-anti-zionists-join-rally-against-anti-semitism-in-berlin/96716/ http://972mag.com/photos-anti-zionists-join-rally-against-anti-semitism-in-berlin/96716/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:16:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96716 Our joint Jewish-Palestinian-German protest confused participants at the rally against anti-Semitism, and definitely confused the German police. We wanted to chip away at the automatic linkage between Jews and the State of Israel.

Text by Inna Michaeli
Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

BERLIN — By the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Sunday, some 3,000 people rallied against anti-Semitism, at the initiative of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. As promised, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech. Many in the crowd were touched by her declaration of historical responsibility for the crimes of the past, and for ensuring that Jews are welcome in Germany.

We also came to the march — around 100 activists, a lot of Jews, Germans, Palestinians and others, and no small number of Israelis. We demonstrated with banners reading: “No to attacks on synagogues and mosques in Berlin and in Gaza”, “anti-Semitism ≠ anti-Zionism”, and some of the Israelis in the crowd carried a sign reading, “Merkel, give us German passports, not weapons.”

Israelis demand Merkel for German passports, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis demand Merkel for German passports, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the demonstration against anti-Semitism, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the demonstration against anti-Semitism, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The goal of the non-Zionist bloc was to show that we exist as Jews and others, who oppose anti-Semitism and all racism, and who reject the automatic linkage between Jews and the State of Israel. Indeed, it was evident that the bloc’s presence sparked many discussions — not only between us and the other marchers, but also among the other groups. Along with hostile reactions, demands that we leave and those doubting the Jewishness of the Jews among us, many of us had open and positive discussions.

The police were pretty confused. They came and listened to our slogans through their walkie talkies and tried to understand whether we were for or against. The police officers stressed that they were in no way asking us to leave but when some of us made it to the middle of the march, the officers asked us to move to the sides. There were some participants who insisted on our right to be in the middle of it all, and that the rally was ours too.

Anti-Zionist Jews in Berlin, September 14, 2014. The sign reads: “Jews against Zionism and anti-Semitism”. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Anti-Zionist Jews in Berlin, September 14, 2014. The sign reads: “Jews against Zionism and anti-Semitism”. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. The sign reads: “Warning! Anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia are dangerous to the public!” (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. The sign reads: “Warning! Anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia are dangerous to the public!” (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Anti-Semitism has no place in Palestine advocacy
Fight occupation, anti-Semitism, Islamic State at the same time
A distorted portrait of Palestinian ‘anti-Semitism’
At the exiled Iranian Parliament in Berlin

http://972mag.com/photos-anti-zionists-join-rally-against-anti-semitism-in-berlin/96716/feed/ 68
Returning to Gaza’s devastation after summer peace camp http://972mag.com/returning-to-gazas-devastation-after-summer-peace-camp/96685/ http://972mag.com/returning-to-gazas-devastation-after-summer-peace-camp/96685/#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 16:11:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96685 During Operation Protective Edge, dozens of Israeli and Palestinian children spent their days at a summer peace camp in the U.S. When one of those children returned to Gaza and found his family homes destroyed, he wrote a letter to the new Israeli friend he’d made at camp.

By Orly Noy

Just days before the start of the latest Gaza war I had the opportunity to speak with Noa, my daughter’s good friend, who told me excitedly about her upcoming trip to a camp run by Seeds of Peace, an a-political organization that works to introduce youths from conflict zones around the world in a neutral location – in this case, Maine.

Like her classmates in her bi-lingual school in Israel, Noa doesn’t really need well-intentioned Americans to introduce her to the “other side”; they have been some of her closest friends since age five. Nevertheless, the upcoming trip was exciting to her, partly out of the knowledge that a different setting could make her face a different discourse – her own and that of other participants. That was especially true in anticipation of meeting the “other” whom she hadn’t yet met, particularly young people from the West Bank and Gaza.

A Palestinian woman stands near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman stands near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

As her departure got closer and closer, and against the backdrop of the atrocities in Gaza and the terror in southern Israel, it became clearer that the camp was going to be much more sensitive and charged than she had imagined. I thought about her frequently while she was at the camp, but because they weren’t allowed to write or speak with the “outside world” I didn’t know what she and the other children were going through. So, I waited for Noa’s return.

Once she returned to Israel I understood that it had been a significant and moving experience for her. Noa came back with a skill that very few adults I know possess: the ability to listen, to really listen to another, and that’s what she did. Quite naturally, good friendships and strong connections were made, ones that now, upon the children’s return home, face an entirely different test.

Just days after she returned, Noa received the following letter from one of the camp’s Palestinian participants, Mustafa Shawa, 16 and a half, from Gaza. He told Noa about the reality he found upon his return. In her young wisdom, Noa listened and then sent me the letter – answering Mustafa’s explicit request that she pass it along, if possible, so that Israelis know what happened.

Mustafa’s letter to Noa:

The bloody offensive assault on my beloved Gaza lasted for 52 days, with each day resembling a different massacre on men, women and children. I lived the first 20 days of this crazy war, or more precisely, this bloodshed. Not war. I went to the Seeds of Peace camp on July 31, which marked the 22nd day of the bloodshed. My sole purpose in going to the camp was to make peace. However, watching my city being destroyed and my people getting killed was unbearable. A lot of people asked me how I had the conscience to go while Israel was brutalizing Gaza. I simply said that peace is the only way to stop war, and that’s exactly what I am doing in the camp. After an amazing 22 days at the camp, I realized it’s not that amazing after all. All my family in Gaza was in danger, waiting for death every minute. After my trip was over I got to know what really happened to my family. The Israeli offensive forces bombed my grandparents’ house. They also destroyed the houses of my two uncles. All their memories and all the hard work is gone. The army also destroyed my grandmother’s house and farm, burning all her lemon and orange trees. What took decades to accomplish vanished in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Now, the army has destroyed approximately one-third of Gaza, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring more than 11,000 innocents, with the majority of them children and women. May their souls rest in peace.

Orly Noy is a Mizrahi activist, translator and writer. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Israel’s other war: Silencing Palestinian citizens
It’s time for a real joint struggle
In J’lem, thousands of Palestinian students have no classrooms

http://972mag.com/returning-to-gazas-devastation-after-summer-peace-camp/96685/feed/ 5
In J’lem, thousands of Palestinian students have no classrooms http://972mag.com/in-jlem-thousands-of-palestinian-students-have-no-classrooms/96676/ http://972mag.com/in-jlem-thousands-of-palestinian-students-have-no-classrooms/96676/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 15:05:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96676 There is a shortage of 738 classrooms in East Jerusalem – only 38 percent of Palestinian children are registered in the municipal education system. The problem is not lack of funds, but a planning policy designed to prevent development in Palestinian neighborhoods of the city.

By Aviv Tatarsky

Palestinian children on a rooftop in East Jerusalem. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinian children on a rooftop in East Jerusalem. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

As the Israeli school year begins, let’s do a little math. There is a shortage of 408 regular classrooms and 330 kindergarten classrooms in East Jerusalem. This does not include replacing the 681 classrooms currently not up to code. In addition, there is a shortage of 1,636 classrooms in the official, public municipal education system, forcing students to study in a parallel private, costly unofficial school system.

Over the past five years the Jerusalem Municipality has built an average of 36 new classrooms per year in the Palestinian neighborhoods of the city. At this rate, how many years would it take for the municipality to remedy the shortage and fulfill its basic obligation to provide free education to every child in “undivided and unified” Jerusalem?

This is not advanced mathematics. Still the calculation is worthwhile. It would take 21 years to build the 738 missing classrooms, 40 years if we also want to replace those classrooms not up to code. In the meantime, tens of thousands of students are forced to pay exorbitant fees for a costly education. Thousands more simply stay home; the exact number of such students is unknown but according to the municipality’s statistics the figure is somewhere above 8,000.

Truth is, it was a trick question. In practice, the current pace of building barely covers the population’s natural growth rate. The bottom line is that only 38 percent of Palestinian students in Jerusalem (42,792 out of 111,5000) study in the official municipal system, as detailed in the latest Ir Amim report.

The report outlines the legal proceedings on this issue since 2000, demonstrating the ongoing failure of the Jerusalem Municipality and Education Ministry to fulfill their obligations based on court rulings as well as their own promises to resolve the issue.

For example, in 2011 the High Court ordered the Jerusalem Municipality and Education Ministry to absorb every single student in East Jerusalem interested in pursuing an education in the public system by 2016. The numbers show that come 2016, the shortage in classrooms will not be much different from what it was in 2011. The High Court also ruled that beginning in 2016, the Israeli authorities will have to begin paying tuition for all students compelled to study in the unofficial system as a result of missing classrooms. In the meantime, the financial burden continues to fall on parents.

A kindergarten in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (Photo by Neal Ungerleider/CC 2.0)

A kindergarten in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (Photo by Neal Ungerleider/CC 2.0)

The Parents Committee of East Jerusalem was established seven years ago in response to this very problem. The committee is elected by the parents themselves and brings together representatives from most of the Palestinian neighborhoods in the city. The Jerusalem Municipality could have seen this as an opportunity; a representative body of residents could be an important partner, even with its demands. All the more so if the Municipality would demonstrate goodwill, meet the residents’ justified demands and prove to the committee and the population it represents that there is benefit to dialogue. In reality, the Jerusalem Municipality treats the Parents Committee as an unwanted entity and prefers to work with other, more complacent education bodies.

This “mistake” is a representative example of the Jerusalem Municipality’s ongoing policy: it chooses to crush most civil campaigns in East Jerusalem by force and to break any networks or associations among residents. Other examples include the residents’ campaign in Beit Safafa against the construction of a highway through their neighborhood, and local campaigns in A-Tur and Issawiya against the expansion of a national park at the expense of their only hope for neighborhood expansion. By prioritizing the “Judaization of the city” over the basic civil needs of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, Israel continually weakens Palestinian leaders seeking to obtain their rights using non-violent measures.

Returning to the subject of education. Rather than demanding assistance from the government to eliminate the enormous disparities, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat consistently chooses to publish inaccurate statistics while attacking civil society groups — including Ir Amim — which, could be important strategic partners on this issue. In response to past reports Ir Amim has published with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Barkat claimed that the disparities were diminishing, and that 400 classrooms had been built during his tenure. In reality, the municipality’s own statistics show that despite a modest increase in the building pace over the past few years, only 150 classrooms were built during the first five years of Barkat’s tenure. As stated, these classrooms barely cover the natural growth rate of the population.

Budgetary constraints are not the problem; the Education and Finance ministries consistently approve funding for schools in East Jerusalem – without delay. The primary obstacle is a planning policy that, for political and demographic reasons, prevents adequate development in Palestinian neighborhoods of the city.

Unlike the mayor, senior officials at MANHI (the Jerusalem Education Administration) recognize their own limitations. This year, at a hearing of the Knesset Education Committee, its chairman said:

We are having much difficulty building, because we do not have available land…other than 400 classrooms which are in the planning stages, in essence we are standing before a barren desert.

In another Committee hearing, his deputy remarked:

I feel that we encourage students to drop out; we force them to drop out because we do not provide classrooms. Every year, hundreds of students come to me wanting to enroll in the official system, and I tell them that there is no place. These students end up in the streets.

Even if we assume that Barkat does want to build more classrooms in East Jerusalem, when the choice is between classrooms for Palestinian students and construction of more settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods, it is clear where his priorities lie. Barkat has enthusiastically supported the construction of an IDF staff college in the A-Tur neighborhood, on land that was expropriated “for the public interest.”

Recently, he also allowed the approval of a new plan for a yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in Sheikh Jarrah on land which, according to the neighborhood’s master plan, was intended for “public structures for the welfare of neighborhood residents.” And this in neighborhoods with severe shortages of schools. In Sheikh Jarrah, for instance, there is not one official municipal kindergarten or elementary school.

All of this is to say that the Education Ministry alone cannot provide an equitable education to the Palestinian children of Jerusalem. The system is inextricably tied to a political policy, the goal of which is to entrench Israeli control over the city. According to this policy the Palestinian community of Jerusalem is a threat. The real questions we must face are not the ones posed at the beginning of this article. The real question is about citizenship, democracy and the true face of Israeli society.

Aviv Tatarsky is a field researcher at Ir Amim (“City of Nations”), which advances stability, equitability, and a negotiated political resolution in Jerusalem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Jerusalem by the numbers: Poverty, segregation and discrimination
‘Palestinians are losing their right to Jerusalem’
Israeli court says Palestinian doctors can work, as foreigners

http://972mag.com/in-jlem-thousands-of-palestinian-students-have-no-classrooms/96676/feed/ 2
It’s time for a real joint struggle http://972mag.com/its-time-for-a-real-joint-struggle/96560/ http://972mag.com/its-time-for-a-real-joint-struggle/96560/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:29:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96560 Honesty is needed to wake Israelis from their delusions. Continuing to view Israel as a normal state will only prolong this bloody conflict and create yet more suffering for both sides.

By Awad Abdelfattah

Israel’s ruling elite continues to mislead Israeli society into believing that the Palestinians will one day submit to their enslavement. Israel’s colonization of the land and people is unceasing, suppressing and killing the indigenous Palestinian population in a quest for an illusionary individual and collective security.

The recent onslaught on Gaza – the third major offensive in seven years – and the continuing escalation in official racist policies and practices against Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens have failed to make Palestinians submit. Rather, this endless warfare has only bolstered their resilience and commitment to struggle for their legitimate rights.

Israelis assume that the lessons of other colonized peoples’ triumphant liberations do not hold true for them. In this view Israel represents a “chosen people” and is immune to historical processes that drive human beings to fight for a free and decent life. This belief is sustained both by an obsession among Israelis with their self-image as an enlightened and superior society, and by a classic colonial racist worldview.

Israel’s repeated brutal assaults on the Palestinian people, and its failure to subjugate a small number of Palestinian fighters incarcerated in the tiny besieged enclave of the Gaza Strip have generated further cracks in this self-image of superiority. It will be many years before these cracks widen and reach the point where the whole colonial edifice crumbles. But the fact that it will crumble is a realization that increasingly haunts Israelis.

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. So far, Israeli attacks have killed at least 1,870 Palestinians, and injured 9,470 since the beginning of the Israeli offensive (photo: Activestills)

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. (photo: Activestills)

In the short and medium terms, Palestinians in general, including those who hold Israeli citizenship, will have to endure more suffering. Israel’s frustration with its inability to defeat a few thousand Palestinian fighters in Gaza, and disconnect the civil population from those fighters, is being translated into plans for further land grabs, Judaization, displacement of Palestinians and the ever-greater suffocation of their enclaves in the West Bank and Jerusalem. As for Palestinians inside Israel, officials issue new threats against them, either for showing solidarity with their brethren or for asserting their national identity. By these actions, the colonizer assumes he will win the next round.

Frightening era

The new surge of hatred, incitement and assaults on Palestinians in Israel is seen by observers as unprecedented in its intensity and gravity, even given the history of fragile Arab-Jewish relations. With the exception of a few thousand bold anti-Zionist Israelis and genuine liberals, polls show that the overwhelming majority continues to view Palestinian citizens as a demographic and security threat, and therefore wishes they would disappear.

During the onslaught on Gaza, such attitudes escalated, culminating in a wave of physical street attacks. This came as no surprise given the calls for transfer from senior government officials and the total silence that greeted these outbursts. For example, the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, termed all those who showed solidarity with the people of Gaza “traitors,” and urged a boycott of their communities.

Within the Palestinian minority in Israel, there have been people, under the influence of an obsolete Soviet-backed internationalism, who have engaged in Arab-Jewish coexistence, naively believing that it would be possible to reach peace and equality once Israel accepted the two-state solution. The unfolding of the Oslo Accords, which had seemed to concur with their political vision, slowly roused them from their illusions. Neither an independent Palestinian state nor equality for Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens was realized. Not just that: Both objectives look more distant than ever.

It is clear that this illusion was based on a poor understanding of the nature of the state of Israel, and the real intention of its leaders.

Some Arab citizens, those who favored Arab-Jewish parties, accepted at its inception that Israel should embody the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Palestine. Independent Arab political activists who challenged this flawed analysis were quickly suppressed by Israel. In the first two decades, during repressive military rule, no effective or mass movement of Arab dissent was possible. Only the Arab-Jewish Communist Party was allowed. Although it never challenged the Jewish character of the state, its activists were harassed by the then ruling party of Mapai for their opposition to state policies of repression, discrimination and land confiscation.

The Israeli Declaration of Independence included an inherent contradiction, between the pledge to grant equality to all citizens regardless of religion and nationality, and the declaration of Israel as the state of the Jewish people all over the world. The Communist Party, contrary to classical Marxism, adopted an Israeli patriotism, while its leadership opposed independent Arab parties, including the Al-Ard movement, which was banned in 1963.

The declaration’s inherent contradiction translated into a policy of sweeping confiscations of Arab lands; strict control over Arab education and denial of a Palestinian narrative; persecution and intimidation of dissenting Arab political activists; and the isolation of Arab communities, segregated from Jewish ones. A form of apartheid was instituted.

The policy of control and containment eased a little beginning in the 1970s. This period was characterized by a growing liberalism, which gave impetus to new patterns of political behavior among Arab citizens. After the 1967 war Israel felt more confident of itself, and could afford to be relatively open toward the Palestinian minority, whose growing political consciousness was becoming harder to contain.

Arab-Jewish partnership (Lisa Goldman)

Arab-Jewish partnership (Lisa Goldman)

A new assertiveness

This development brought two trends. The first was a self-assertion of Palestinian identity, influenced by internal and external factors: The rise of a Palestinian national movement in exile, combined with a mounting political consciousness among Palestinian citizens in Israel nourished by the Israeli state’s continuing land grabs and discrimination.

The second trend was a growing understanding of the need for equal citizenship (some Israeli researchers term this trend “Israeliness”). It took many years for large segments of the Palestinian minority, especially among the elites, to grasp the idea that full citizenship was unachievable as long as the existing Zionist system remained in place.

As is true for all oppressed people, this political awakening required a vehicle to accelerate the process and transform it into a concrete political agenda. It was the Balad (or National Democratic Assembly) Party that assumed this historical role in 1995. The Party’s platform of a “state for all its citizens” required that the Zionist-racist character of the state of Israel and its colonial nature be terminated.

When we, the founders of the Party, spent three years reviewing our community’s historic experiences, and debating and devising the new vision, we were careful to address both Arabs and Israeli Jews in a truly democratic and humanistic manner. But it was imperative to emphasize, along with equal citizenship, the need for a revived Palestinian national identity. Only a nationalist and democratic vision could prevent deterioration into “Israelization,” a deformed national identity. Nonetheless, we avoided terminology that could be viewed as too radical or unrealistic. Our purpose was to provide a window to true cooperation between Palestinians and Jews, and open a way toward a just and lasting peace, and to true democracy.

Surprising to us, the most hostile reactions came from those who call themselves (Zionist) liberals. In his book published in early 2000, former head of the Shin Bet intelligence agency Ami Ayalon, a signatory with Palestinians to the Geneva Agreement, demanded that the Balad Party and its leader of the time, Azmi Bishara, be put on trial for refusing to recognize the right of the Jews to a state of their own. Ayalon illustrated the extent to which even liberals were antagonized by the idea of full equality, because it runs counter to Zionist ideology.

‘Provocative discourse’

The strict system of control employed between 1948 and1966, both physical and psychological, weakened the ability of the colonized Palestinian citizens to challenge it on a mass scale. Instead the colonized sought to cope with their new situation, and relate to it in a way that ensured their survival. They faced a complex reality: opposing the nature of the state while in daily life being entirely dependent on it. Palestinian intellectuals and elites also learnt to cope with this contradiction: “Equality” in the state of Israel had to take priority over the demand to overthrow the colonial regime.

In raising our new political vision, the Balad Party helped to create an ideological and terminological shift. Over time Palestinians in Israel have become more, not less, vocal in resisting Israel’s racist and colonial policies, as we saw in the mass demonstrations in the Negev against the Prawer Plan last year.

As a result Palestinian citizens and their leaders were accused of an extreme and provocative anti-Israel discourse. Israeli society, a settler society that has gone through a long ideological indoctrination concerning its relationship to Palestine and the Palestinian people, rejected any sort of tolerance. Palestinian citizens were expected by the state to refrain from effective protest at Israel’s assaults on their people, and from demonstrating support of the right of their brethren to defend themselves. Not only that: They were required to drop their demand for full equality and accept a perpetual inferior status.

Israel was always a colonial and racist entity, but it had for many reasons succeeded in concealing this policy. Through a well-financed propaganda machine it promoted itself to Western governments and civil societies as enlightened and the only democracy in the ”barbaric and backward Middle East.”

To serve this objective, it granted the Palestinian survivors of the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) the rights to vote and run for its parliament, or Knesset, and argued that the occupation that began in 1967 was a temporary arrangement. But the recent behavior of the State of Israel toward its own Palestinian citizens and toward those living under a colonial apartheid regime in the 1967 occupied territories has placed a question mark – even for outsiders – over Israel’s legitimacy as a supposedly normal democratic state.

Police arrest an Arab protester during an anti-war demonstration in Nazareth. (photo: Activestills.org)

Police arrest an Arab protester during an anti-war demonstration in Nazareth. (photo: Activestills.org)

Finding an alternative

It must be admitted that there is no real peaceful settlement in sight. The two-state solution was never a genuine one, given the scale and depth of the colonization in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and given the right wing’s domination over Israeli polity and society. More importantly, the two-state paradigm provides no solution to the issue of the refugees or the Palestinians in Israel who live under a system of structural discrimination, exclusion and hostility.

Palestinians in Israel are not part of the decision-making process in Israel. Conversely, as a national group they are not involved in the intellectual and political efforts made by the Palestinian national movement to create alternative political visions and strategies. Except for limited involvement by individuals, their political parties and movements are ignored by the Palestinian leadership.

Some Arab parties inside the Green Line that adhere to the two-state solution reject a debate about other alternatives or paradigms. These groups hold that any move beyond this paradigm, or further rapprochement with the Palestinian national movement, would motivate Israel to take more repressive and hostile measures. But with the Israeli reality ever more antagonistic it has become harder for Palestinians and for progressive Israelis to operate inside the current paradigm.

Since there is no future for the two-state solution and no hope for the demand for equality without challenging the Jewish essence of the Israeli state, why continue wasting time on this delusion? Why not start to radically redefine the paradigm and derive a new vision and strategies, as several intellectuals and politicians, Arabs and Jews, have been doing? Both Palestinians and Jews in Israel should no longer be afraid of the hysterical Israeli reaction as we move toward a more radical but more truly democratic paradigm. Recent history shows that Arab citizens inevitably come under severe abuse and accusations even when they abide by the rules of the Israeli system.

There must be further serious intellectual and political effort and cooperation between all Palestinians and Israeli Jews interested in a shared life based on justice and a lasting peace in this country. The cooperation and joint struggle can take place on two trajectories.

The first should deal with an alternative vision: namely the one-state solution. This vision requires Israel’s redefinition as an aggressive, apartheid colonial entity. I know this makes many jump from their seats, but this level of honesty is needed to help people awake from their delusions. Continuing to adhere to the view of Israel as a normal state will only prolong this bloody conflict and create more suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Joel Kovel, the American Jewish progressive writer, notes in his book Overcoming Zionism: “There is nothing that says that a single person has to be harmed in the passage from one form of the state to another, excepting those who have to stand trial for human rights abuses.” He adds of other states’ experiences: “Nazi Germany, American confederacy and South Africa have changed fundamentally in recent times with remarkably little harm.”

The second trajectory is cooperation between Palestinian citizens and true Israeli liberals and leftists, be they from the Israeli Communist Party or other smaller groups, to combat the recent surge in racism, both from the establishment and the street. There is a need for a united front and broad coalition to take on this challenge. Cooperation must extend to a struggle against Israel’s brutal policies in the 1967 occupied territories. Such broad cooperation would create the climate needed to discard obsolete thinking.

A long struggle, and many sacrifices, lie ahead. But this is the only way to free people from the ideological chains of Zionism and its inevitable results: colonization, and death and destruction. The new generations continue to seek a meaningful life in this region. It is our moral duty to help them.

Awad Abdelfattah is the secretary-general of the Balad Party, which holds three seats in the current Knesset.

Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle
One or two states, Israelis and Palestinians are bound together
Why are Palestinian citizens expected to be loyal to Israel?

http://972mag.com/its-time-for-a-real-joint-struggle/96560/feed/ 16