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And the peace camp stood silent

Polls say most Israelis oppose Netanyahu on Iran, but there hasn’t been a protest, a press conference or even a bumper sticker to give them a voice

The world is worried more and more that Israel is going to attack Iran and start a Middle Eastern war, yet the Israeli peace camp, which used to put hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to protest war and occupation, is sitting there, excuse the expression, with its thumb up its ass.

Not one demonstration (unless you count a few dozen nuclear disarmament folks standing on the street), not a press conference, not a TV interview, not an ad in the newspapers, not a bumper sticker.

“I spoke out in the Knesset very clearly last month against any sort of megalomaniacal attack on Iran by this government,” Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On told me last week while Netanyahu was in Washington. Labor leader Sheli Yachimovich also came out against Bibi’s “megalomaniacal” designs late last year. There have been several statements by Israeli doves, but in terms of a sustained domestic campaign, it begins and ends with Meir Dagan.


“Nobody in the peace camp takes the idea of an [Israeli] attack on Iran seriously,” said Gal-On, suggesting that Netanyahu’s saber-rattling was meant to give him an issue to run on in the next election.

Uri Avnery said he wasn’t moved to protest because he was “totally certain” that Israel wouldn’t attack without American approval, which he was equally certain wouldn’t be forthcoming. He said he hadn’t thought about why the peace camp was in such a coma over Iran, but now that he did, he figured, “People don’t feel that anything like that could happen, it’s so remote and outside of anyone’s experience.”

Mohammed Barakeh, head of the Jewish-Arab Hadash party, said he, too, has spoken out in the Knesset, adding that the Iran issue “is always on the agenda at Hadash meetings.” The Arab media mention it now and then, “but the reaction is still mild, people aren’t aware of the danger yet.” There haven’t been any protests by Israeli Arabs, he said, and none are planned.

Peace Now’s Yariv Oppenheimer said the organization’s leadership has refrained from speaking out because “we don’t have the authority with the public on this subject that the security experts do, and we also didn’t want to put a ‘leftist’ label on opposition to an attack.” He added, however, that Peace Now is considering taking a stand against the war from a peace-oriented angle – by pointing out that it could endanger the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

Come on, folks. This is just wrong. True, the war isn’t upon us yet, there’s a chance it may never happen, and the occupation requires full-time attention – but a goddamn ad in the newspapers? Something? Poll after poll shows that a majority of the public does not want Israel to attack Iran (even if they would like America to do it), but this opposition is so silent, so unassertive, that it leaves Netanyahu free to go full speed ahead.

David Grossman, the strongest voice in the peace camp, spilled his guts in an interview with The Nation, and right afterward published an op-ed in Ha’aretz, which was terrific – but even he wasn’t ready to commit to a high-profile campaign. “If I feel it will be useful, then I will. But I’m not there yet,” he said. “For now, I’m speaking to people who may have influence.”

As for Amos Oz, he made a statement a few years ago, exaggerated for effect, that “in 15 years everyone will have nuclear weapons and there will be a balance of terror.” These days, he hasn’t been heard from. Rounding out Israel’s trio of great novelists for peace, A.B. Yehoshua wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth a week ago that he didn’t know what should or shouldn’t be done about Iran – except to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. Pretty tired and evasive.

Like Oppenheimer says, the people who could influence the public most powerfully on this issue are the retired generals and spymasters. The Council for Peace and Security has hundreds of them, but except for a couple of statements by its chairman, Nathan Sharony, there’s been nothing out of them.

I asked Shlomo Gazit, a former head of military intelligence who has warned that an attack on Iran would bring Israel’s “liquidation,” no less, whether he thought a coordinated campaign by retired warriors could start a public backlash against Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, thereby making it very hard for them to start such a hugely dangerous war.

“I don’t want to do it,” said Gazit. He reasoned that it was possible Netanyahu and Barak were bluffing so the world would pressure Iran into giving up its nuclear program, which would be the best solution – and if that’s what was going on, he certainly didn’t want to get in the way.

But by keeping quiet, I said, he was giving Netanyahu and Barak a free hand to bomb Iran, which he himself believed would be the end of this country. “What can I do?” he said over the phone. “I have nothing to tell you. I don’t want to talk about this, it’s a very delicate, sensitive issue.”

So here we are – this week, Netanyahu gives a Knesset speech that a TV newscaster sums up as follows: “Short of saying, ‘We’re bombing them now,’ he did everything to indicate that we will.” The editor of Israel Hayom, Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, writes a front-page editorial calling for an attack, Ha’aretz editor Aluf Benn says this is really Bibi talking, and Yediot star Nahum Barnea writes a column today titled “Winds of war.”

And we’re still all sitting around with our thumb up our ass.

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    1. Henry Lowi

      Well said. And timely. Thank you for saying it.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Steve

      The Israeli “peace camp” is irrelevant, because there’s no peace camp on the Palestinian side.
      Hamas want to wipe Israel out.
      Fatah want to make Israel cease to exist via a “right of return.”
      None of these people want peace with Israel.
      For some INSANE reason, people on the far-left continue to hold Israel responsible because they are the ones in power, but the reality is, until the Palestinian powers that be actually want a permanent peace with the JEWISH state of Israel, the Israeli “peace camp” might as well not exist.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Piotr Berman

      What Steve wrote is both false and irrelevant.

      Concerning false: Abu Mazen and Fayyad basically in “peace camp”, and so are civil disobedience movements. Knesset majority is basically for wiping Palestinians out or enclosing in tiny fenced areas, connected together with some tunnels so their movements would not mar “our beautiful lives”.

      Concerning false: the subject is attacking Iran which is not controlled by ANY of Palestinian factions. And if Israel attacks then it does not matter if you, Steve, will hold Israel responsible, or if peace camp will hold Israel responsible, there will be consequences which may but very, very ugly.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bill Pearlman

      Actually Steve was dead on. Fayyad is out and Mazen is against negotiations, a holocaust denier, and the bag man for the Munich attacks. But other then that an all around wonderful guy.

      And Larry, Sorry that the people are such a disappointment to you. After all, they aren’t has wise and all knowing has you. What are you going to do. Perhaps China

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      The peace movement is dead in the US, as well. It self-destructed after the election of the warmonger Obama, under the delusion that peace had won the election, and the entrenched Obamaphiles prevent it from coming back to life, lest it turn on their favorite dictator.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Dhalgren

      I’m surprised no one has capitalized on the “nuclear duck” meme (at least outside of YouTube). The possibilities for newspaper ads and bumper stickers are endless, and nothing defuses tension like humor.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Dhalgren

      It makes no sense to say “defuses tension” in this context. I should say “subverts power.”

      Reply to Comment
    8. Walter Sauerland

      It is the same in Europe.The silence of the once
      powerful peace movement is only by part due to passivity. I think it is more about a dilemma or trap set up by a union of liberal hawks and outspoken reactionaries.’So u are against war to Iran? You are an anti-feminist! A gay-hater! Someone who approves of violations of Human Rights! U are not? So then u are an Antisemit, fulfilling your subconscious exterministic phantasies by starting there where the Führer stoppt! U deny? So u are at least an irresponsible
      miser who wants to sacrifice Israel and submit to Islamisofascism just to save some Euros at the pump!’In short : the highly moralised slogans of the former peace movement ( e.g. No blood for oil!) are continuously topped by an even stronger moralised discourse set forward now by the mainstream media. A discourse which has the advantage to coincede with bad old ‘Realpolitik’and doesn t smack of pink utopism. Omg : the alliance of Neocons and Chickenhawks played us a really fast and tough one.
      Thats why the tiny remains of the former peace movement in Germany cant find a lever to
      initiate a broad alliance in favor of a large campaign.We cant even find a level of argumentation which wouldnt sound ridiculous at once.(Or get applause from the wrong side! )So it is like it was for years : some anti-warniks distributing leaflets, holding a solemn vigil or -worst of worst – a silent vigil.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Robert Werdine

      Where, indeed has the Palestinian peace partner been for the last decade? The Road Map, which was to herald the restarting of the Arafat-rejected peace process, was performance based, and that the Palestinians, to put it mildly, have not “performed” anything, and, with some exceptions, could barely get their own house in order in the next several years. The Palestinians fulfilled none of their obligations in Phase One to cease terror, and their efforts at political reform were hapless at best.

      In 2005, after Israel’s full withdrawal from Gaza, Abbas watched as Hamas spread all over the strip like a slime. In 2006, he lost an election to the terrorist group, and was thrown out of Gaza by them altogether in 2007. In 2008 he received an offer of statehood slightly more generous than the one Arafat thumbed his nose at in 2000/2001, and rejected it without making a single counter-offer, just like his predecessor. In 2009 he told the Washington Post that he was through making concessions and would sit back and watch Obama squeeze Israel for them instead. In 2010 he had effectively jettisoned negotiation for UN support for a state. In 2011 he reconciled with the violent terrorist group who evicted him from Gaza, and brought them into his government, and, in a NYT op-ed last year, made it perfectly clear that even statehood within the ’67 borders will only serve as a platform for carrying on the conflict against Israel through other venues. His term of office expired more than two years ago.

      The PA were then, and remain today, a wholly dysfunctional polity grievously compromised by corruption, violence, a culture of non-stop hatred and incitement, and a leadership that has now legitimized and partnered with the very terrorists whose dismantlement was their primary obligation under the Road Map. Does anyone really see anything peace-seeking in the words and actions of Palestinian leaders? No; nothing but rejection, and no, no, no, Jihad, Jihad, Jihad, and everything Judenrein from the river to the sea.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Philos

      I am a member of Peace Now and I can’t get anybody there to lift a freakin’ finger to stand up to the government over Iran. They prefer the comfort zone of Migron. My arguments that Migron isn’t going to be the top of anybody’s priorites should Iranian hellfire be falling on our heads doesn’t make a dent. It’s like they’re in denial.
      Out of the five stages of grief I am still at anger! Gideon Levy is right, THERE IS NO LEFT IN ISRAEL!!!!!!!

      Reply to Comment
    11. John Yorke

      In an ideal world, Larry, those on the left would have long been loudly voicing their concerns about the impending possibility and morality of a first-strike by Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities. In an equally ideal world, the scales would then drop from Mr. Netanyahu’s eyes, his rhetoric and right-wing posture would undergo a complete transformation, morphing rapidly into that of an entirely new persona, one which might easily bear the stamp of a very liberal politician.

      And, if there can ever be a world sufficiently ideal where circumstances might carry that transition any further to the left, then the universe is an even more mysterious place than it’s claimed to be.

      But it must come as no surprise that we do not live in such an ideal world and, as our real world turns, that observation gets reinforced all too often and on a daily basis.

      I think that, after more than half a century of continuing tension and mounting conflict in the region, an understandable amount of war-weariness must be setting in just about now, the response to every new alarm and crisis becoming more and more muted as the days progress.

      One reason why this may have happened is the total absence of any real alternative to the present arrangements.
      There’s ‘them,’ then there’s ‘us’ and, over there, are the ‘rest.’ And it seems that no one can agree on how to proceed other than to do what is being done at the moment; preparing for war and threatening all and sundry with the direst of consequences.

      Where then is our alternate world, that place where everyone can get along with a degree of harmony that leaves aside the need for so much of the violence we see about us today?

      In a parallel universe, it may very well exist. But here in this one, if we really want it, we might just have to create it all by ourselves.


      Not exactly an ideal world. But a damn sight closer to it than the one we have now.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Steve

      Where’s the Palestinian peace camp? Hamas want to wipe Israel out. Fatah want to “undo” Jewish Israel via a “right of return.” Only two of Israel’s neighbors even recognize Israel’s existence, and they’re hostile too.
      Who is Israel supposed to make peace with? Assad/Syria? The other leaders around there are just as bad as Assad. Netanyahu is intelligent enough to recognize this. Others want to cover their eyes and deny reality.

      Reply to Comment
    13. John Yorke

      If there really is no one to make peace with, and some validity does attach to that argument, then what, if any options are left open to take the matter forward? If, as indicated, there are none, we can expect only further deterioration in the status quo and a future even more bleak than the past from whence it came.

      That certainly doesn’t leave much to work with.

      Why is there no peace process in hand at the moment? How long has it been since the last one?
      What is stopping the various factions from getting round a table, thrashing out some universally acceptable agreement and settling the matter once and for all? This would then allow everyone to get on with the serious business of living; a hard enough task in itself without having to be on a war-footing for most of the time.

      How to take the heat out of something that gets stoked up every day because no one can find its ‘off” switch?

      Answer: find that ‘off’ switch and then shut the whole thing down. Or most of it.


      Reply to Comment
    14. Steve

      Who is Israel supposed to make peace with, Hamas (who want to destroy Israel), Fatah (who want to “undo” Israel’s existence as a Jewish state via a “right of return”), or “other.”
      How does that work, exactly?

      Reply to Comment
    15. John Yorke

      @ Steve,

      Let us make an assumption that seems to have a fair degree of acceptance at this present time.

      There is no one to make peace with; no partner, no nation, no community, no group not even one individual.
      Does this mean that peace is impossible to achieve? On the face of it, this would appear to be so.

      But what is peace?
      Is it a formal declaration between warring parties to desist from further contest and, in return for some equitable arrangement, to forever relinquish force as a means of settling matters in future?

      If that is to be the case, then, as things stand now, peace is going to take one hell of a long time to put in an appearance. Indeed, there’s a good prospect of it never doing so.

      But can there be a looser definition of peace?

      What if it were merely the absence of violence and injustice, a tacit but not officially stated understanding that no side will attack or provoke any other while certain parameters remain in operation?

      Think of it like this. In days of yore, it was the custom to cease fighting when winter approached. Long-term climactic conditions often interfered massively with the proper conduct of war back then and so it could be halted and honourably deferred until the worst of the weather was over.

      Thus, if the present Arab/Israeli confrontation could be put ‘on ice,’ locked down as it were and for a sufficient length of time, then the chances of repairing the entire situation before the ‘campaigning season’ returned would be greatly enhanced. And, if everyone is safely confined to ‘winter quarters’ for the duration, then what is to prevent real peace from becoming the natural order of things?
      Once such a guaranteed lull in proceedings becomes established, people will begin getting used to it, allowing it to be extended time and time gain. And very soon the conflict, in its familiar form at least, loses a lot of its appeal and a whole new era opens up where matters in a much more civilised manner.

      But the amount of ‘ice’ needed for such a project would be absolutely colossal.
      So, where could enough of it be found?


      It may not be the sort of peace that can be obtained in the conventional sense but it must surely be a damn sight better than anything likely to turn up soon.

      Reply to Comment
    16. sandra b

      Its a shame our tribe established themselves in Palestine by force..It a shame that today they still hold their position there by force.Here someone write about the imminent possible attack on Iran and your rabbiting on about Hamas.
      This whole situation reminds me of Germany Pre WW2. Then to, the majority of Jews did not believe Hitler would carry out his plans.And then look what happened, did the tribe learn nothing from THAT experience.

      Reply to Comment
    17. John Yorke

      Error in sixth line from the bottom. It should read as:

      ‘a whole new era opens up where matters can be determined in a much more civilised manner.’

      Must try to avoid commenting at three in the morning (UK time zone)

      Reply to Comment
    18. zayzafuna

      Areisteides, why are you so down on Obama? Dont you realize that Obama will delay a possible zionist strike on Iran until after the elections, after which he will launch a peace offensive with Iran and force the zionist entity to knuckle under. Thats why a zionist strike must be delayed until it is no longer relevant

      Reply to Comment
    19. Sherri Munnerlyn

      @ZAYZAFUNA That is what I am hoping will happen. I think that is what Obama wants, and what would be best for everyone. After he is reelected, he can go tell AIPAC where they can go.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Kolumn9

      Larry, you should probably define why you object an attack on Iran.

      Is it because you expect the left to reflexively determine that any and all war is unacceptable? That would be problematic since much of the left supported interventions in Libya and Kosovo.

      Is it because the left is expected to argue that Iran should be allowed to get nuclear weapons? You think you can get consensus on that one in Israel?

      Is it because the left is expected to collectively make the argument that the leadership of Iran is sane and would never use nuclear weapons against Israel? Would you even make that argument?

      Is it because the left is expected to argue that Iran is not working towards having nuclear weapons capability? That seems problematic since they obviously are (even if they haven’t decided on building a nuclear weapon).

      Is it because the left is expected to stand up to the Netanyahu and his government out of purely domestic political considerations? That seems like a somewhat petty position.

      If you expect the left to make a stand, at least provide some your reasons why you think the left should oppose an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites in order to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

      Reply to Comment
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