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J14 may challenge something even deeper than the occupation

The social justice demonstrations have been accused of ignoring the key issue of the occupation. But their tremendous groundswell of solidarity and cooperation is  slowly gnawing at something even more significant than that – the principle of separation, of which the occupation is just one exercise.

Placard citing the Tahrir slogan of "Go!" and reading "Egypt is Here" at the J14 rally. Photo: Oren Ziv, Activestills.org

One of the most impressive aspects of the J14 movement is how quickly it is snowballing, drawing more and more groups and communities into a torrent of discontent. Pouring out into the streets  is everything that Israelis, of all national identities, creeds and most classes complained about for years: The climbing rents, the rising prices on fuel, the parenting costs, the free-fall in the quality of public education, the overworked, unsustainable healthcare  system, the complete and utter detachment of most politicians, on most levels, from most of the nation.

All this has been obfuscated for decades by the conflict, by a perpetual state of emergency; one of the benefits from leaving the occupation outside the protests, for now, was to neutralise the entire discourse of militarist fear-mongering. Contrary to what Dahlia and Joseph wrote last week, the government so far utterly failed to convince the people military needs must come before social justice; Iran has largely vanished from the news pages, and attempts to scare Israelis with references to a possible escalation with Lebanon or the Palestinian are relegated to third, fourth and fifth places in the headlines, with the texts often written in a sarcastic tone rarely employed in Israeli media on “serious” military matters.

Over the past week, though, the Palestinians themselves have begun gaining presence in the protests; not as an external threat or exclusively as monolithic victims of a monolithic Israel, but as a part and parcel of the protest movement, with their demands to rectify injustices unique to the Palestinians organically integrating with demands made by the protests on behalf of all Israelis.

First, a tent titled “1948” was pitched on Rothschild boulevard, housing Palestinian and Jewish activists determined to discuss Palestinian collective rights and Palestinian grievances as a legitimate part of the protests. They activists tell me the arguments are exhaustive, wild and sometimes downright strange; but unlike the ultra-right activists who tried pitching a tent calling for a Jewish Tel Aviv and hoisting homophobic signs, the 1948 tenters were not pushed out, and are fast becoming part of the fabric of this “apolitical” protest.

A few days after the 1948 tent was pitched, the council of the protests – democratically elected delegates from 40 protest camps across the country – published their list of demands, including, startlingly, two of the key social justice issues unique to the Palestinians within Israel: Sweeping recognition of unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev; and expanding the municipal borders of Palestinian towns and villages to allow for natural development. The demands chimed in perfectly with the initial drive of the protest – lack of affordable housing.

The demands chimed in perfectly with the initial drive of the protest – lack of affordable housing. Neither issue has ever been included in the list of demands of a national, non-sectarian movement capable of bringing 300,000 people out into the streets.

And, finally, on Wednesday, residents of the Jewish poverty-stricken neighbourhood of Hatikva, many of them dyed-in-the-wool Likud activists, signed a covenant of cooperation with the Palestinian and Jewish Jaffa protesters, many of them activists with Jewish-Palestinian Hadash and nationalist-Palestinian Balad. They agreed they had more in common with each other than with the middle class national leadership of the protest, and that while not wishing to break apart from the J14 movement, they thought their unique demands would be better heard if they act together. At the rally, they marched together, arguing bitterly at times but sticking to each other, eventually even chanting mixed Hebrew and Arabic renditions of slogans from Tahrir.

Yesteday’s mega-rally was also where Palestinian partnership in the protests came to a head, when writer Odeh Bisharat spoke to nearly 300,000 people – overwhelmingly, centrist Israelis Jews – of the grievances of Palestinians in Israel and was met with raucous applause. I’ll return to that moment a little further below, but before that, perhaps I should  explain why I think the participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the protests has more bearing on the conflict than any concentrated attempt to rally the crowds against the occupation.

On the most practical level, if the protesters had begun by blaming all of Israel’s social and political woes on the occupation, none of the breathtaking events of the past three weeks would have happened. They would have been written off as Israel-hating lefties and cast aside, just like every attempt to get mainstream Israelis to care for Palestinians before caring for themselves was cast aside for at least the past decade.

Altruist causes can rarely raise people to a sustained and genuine popular struggle against their own governments, and attempts to rally Israelis to the Palestinian cause for selfish reasons – i.e. for our own soldiers’ sake or because of the demographic time bomb – smacked of hypocrisy and ethnic nationalism; hypocrisy is a poor magnet for popular support, while ethnic nationalism is the natural instrument of the Right, not of the Left, which wields it awkwardly and usually to its own detriment.

It should be admitted, 11 years after the second Intifada, 18 years after the beginning of the peace process, that the Israeli left has utterly and abjectly failed to seriously enthuse Israelis in the project of ending the occupation. There was never a choice between a social struggle focused on the occupation and a social struggle temporarily putting the conflict aside, because the first attempt would have flopped . There was nothing to be gained by trying the same thing again for the Nth time. There have been many important victories in battles, but on the whole, the two-state left (as opposed to the two-state right) has lost the war.

The Occupation is just part of a bigger problem

But these were the tactical considerations valid only for the beginning of the protests. Social injustice does not exist in a vacuum, most certainly not in a conflict zone – and the problem in Israel-Palestine is much wider and deeper than the occupation. The occupation may be the most acute and violent injustice going on, and, like Aziz and I wrote in our New York Times op-ed last week, it’s certainly the greatest single obstacle to social justice on either side of the Green Line. But it’s still only one expression of an organising principle that has governed all of Israel-Palestine for at least the past sixty years: Separation.

Israel-Palestine today is, for all intents and purposes, a single political entity, with a single de-facto sovereign – the government in Jerusalem, but the populations this government controls, are divided into several levels of privilege. The broad outlines of the hierarchy are well-known – at the bottom are Palestinians of ’67, who can’t even vote for the regime that governs most areas of their lives and are subject to military and bureaucratic violence on a day to day basis; Palestinians of ’48, who can vote but are strongly and consistently discriminated and lack collective rights (which is a Jewish privilege); and finally the Israeli Jews.

But separation runs deeper than that: It employs and amplifies cultural and economic privilege to fracture each broad group into sub-groups, separating Druze from Bedouins from Palestinians, Ramallah residents from residents of Hebron, city residents from villagers, established residents from refugees; and within Jewish society, Mizrachis from Ashkenazis, settlers from green-line residents of Israel, ultra-Orthodox from secular, Russians from native-born Israelis, Ethiopians from everyone else, and so on.

The separation system is so chaotic even its privileges are far from self evident: ultra-Orthodox and settlers are seen as the communities most benefiting from the status quo, but it is important to remember the actual socio-economic standing of both is rather weak, and many in both are not only beneficiaries, but also hostages – the ultra-Orthodox to sectorial parties, the settlers to the occupation. And the occupation itself is just an instrument of separation: Its long term purpose is to acquire maximum land  with a minimum of Palestinian on it, but for the past 40 years it mainly ensured half the population under the control of a certain government would have no recourse or representation with that government on any level.

And while the issue of the occupation remains to be engaged with directly in the #j14 movement, the very dynamic of the protests is already gnawing at the foundation on which the occupation rests – the separation axiom. Haggai Matar is a veteran anti-occupation activist, with a prison term for conscientious objection to serve in the IDF and countless West Bank protests under his belt. There are few people in Israel more committed to ending the occupation than him. And yet this is how he writes of yesterday’s rally:

Odeh Bisharat, the first Arab to address the mass rallies, greeted the enormous audience before him and reminded them that the struggle for social justice has always been the struggle of the Arab community, which has suffered from inequality, discrimination, state-level racism and house demolitions in Ramle, Lod, Jaffa and Al-Araqib. Not only was this met with ovation from a huge crowd of well over a hundred thousand people, but the masses actually chanted: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” And later, in a short clip of interviews from protest camps across the country, Jews and Arabs spoke, and a number of them, including even one religious Jew, repeatedly said that “it’s time for this state to be a state for all its citizens.” A state for all its citizens. As a broad, popular demand. Who would have believed it.

It would be seriously far-fetched to assume the protesters are deliberately trying to pull down the entire meshwork of rifts and boundaries. But one of the many unexpected consequences of this movement – indeed, the movement itself is an avalanche of completely unexpected consequences – is that these boundaries are beginning to blur and to seem less relevant than what brings people together. We have failed to end the occupation by confronting it head on, but the boundary-breaking, de-segregating movement could, conceivably, undermine it.

Like Noam wrote earlier today, it’s still too soon to tell where the movement will eventually go, and “it can even bring Israel further to the right; it certainly won’t be the first time in history in which social unrest led to the rise of rightwing demagogue – but right now, it is creating a space for a new conversation. Limited as this space may be, it’s so much more than we had just a month ago.” The slow erosion of separation lines means there are also possibilities opening up for new conversation about the Jewish-Palestinian divide – including the occupation.

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    1. david

      really? matar has “years” of prison time under his belt? how many, exactly? 0.6?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Deïr Yassin

      Thank you so much, Dimi.
      This is the first article (together with Noam’s earlier) that made me a little bit enthusiastic about what going on in that State built on top of Palestine.
      I’ve really tried, but always ended up with a feeling of ‘those spoilt children’ or ‘the colonizers who can’t agree on how to share the loot’.
      May the feeling of fraternity and common humanity embrace the West Bank and Gaza, break down these damn borders and give birth to One State.
      Irhal ! dégage ! Amandla ! No pasaràn !

      Reply to Comment
    3. Dalit

      I love your cautious optimism! and your analysis as to the problem being “separation” (in Afrikaans?).
      From the US, where I am right now, it is easier for the left to advocate in the name of Israeli exceptionalism then in the name of democracy and social solidarity. ie: the special circumstances of Zionism, Nakba, Occupation, and not the similar structure of exploitation and social separations… But maybe that is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Zenobia

      wonderful piece. very hopeful. thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Lama

      Thank you, very interesting and thought provoking. However, I am in disagreement with your basic assumption about the emphasis on ‘separation’ as the base of the functioning of the Zionist regime. Contrary, ‘separation’ is merely the tactic it uses to preserve its colonial existence – but it is that colonial existence which is at the heart of the problem and not anything else, which is of course an issue of deep denial within the Israeli public.
      I might be pessimistic or optimistic about this, I do not know. However I do sense a kind of romanticism that has probably originated from the overwhelming number of protesters and the spirit of awakening in the region at this time. Thus I partly agree with Noam, it’s quality not quantity – meaning, an extreme right-wing turn is a serious threat to whatever this movement is about.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Amos

      To David: try 2

      Reply to Comment
    7. Kevin Barrington

      Here’s to “unexpected consequences.” May they be manifold.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Palestinian

      I am cautious, but hopeful. We have been dissapointed far too many times in history to get our hopes up now.

      On another note, good article! Was a joy reading it!

      Reply to Comment
    9. Dr Zvi Solow

      It is typical at times of serious social and eventually political upheaval that everyone would like to see in it the coming of his own utopia.
      In fact the consensus of this movement (if any can be seen at all) is a return to the social visions of the fathers of classical liberal & social-democratic Zionism. Typically, the slogans quoted were from Herzl, and even Zabotinski, with expressions of nostaglia for the social solidarity of their parents times ie the 1950’s.
      Already the “economic experts” are warning that the “unreasonable” demands ie free public education for pre kindergarten kids “will drive the country to Greece like economic ruin” etc. Which will very soon bring up the question of where the money is going to now. The occupation ? The settlements ? It will be the economy….

      Reply to Comment
    10. So refreshing to see (like in the demonstrations themselves) – progressive thinking that is so much more innovative, and yes, hopeful, than the typical ideological and cynical thinking of the “left”. EVERY successful revolution was only that way because it overcame ideologies (which tend to separate, to use dimi’s idea), instead creating broad coalitions of humans who decide to bridge their difference by finding common ground. Good work, Dimi!

      Reply to Comment
    11. The cat of mutual humanization is already out of the bag, and will never just quietly hide away.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Philos

      DEÏR YASSIN; your criticism and attitude are reminiscent of settler views of the J14 protests…. funny that, isn’t it? Maybe you should look at the ground to see if you stand on the left or right.
      BTW, they (the settlers) too want a single-state but they want to keep the separation.
      Furthermore, something that might happen that could horrify you is that a collective Jewish and Arab Israeli identity might be finally born after so long in gestation. Let’s face it Palestinian-Israelis (formerly known as Israeli-Arabs) aren’t welcome in the Arab world; their Arabic is “tainted” with Hebrew expressions and they’re despised for not joining in the collective refugee narrative of the un-hyphenated Palestinians. Indeed, they sit in the Knesset and pay taxes. My sincere hope is that a collective civil Israeli identity will arise and put aside ethnic and religious differences of Jew and non-Jew.
      Palestinians still deserve a state of their own and hopefully one day, in a few generations, we can all live together in a federation of Israel and Palestine; your condescension not lacking

      Reply to Comment
    13. For what its worth, I find this to be the most impressive article that I’ve read here.

      And, what is written about, cross-cultural connections, is the most impressive action to be writing about.

      I worry about the demand that government do something. I’m waiting for reports of mutual aid anarchists (in contrast to ruckus anarchists), to organize cross-cultural mutual aid efforts, that would make the communities family rather than only a lobbying coalition.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Deïr Yassin

      No, “let’s face it”: you don’t know what you’re talking about !
      First: “Palestinian-Israelis formerly known as Israeli-Arabs”. No, ‘Israeli Arabs’ was invented after the establishment of the State of Israel by the Zionist proganganda to strip the Palestinians of their historical link to Palestine and decribe them as Arabs, i.e. interchangeable with other Arabs elsewhere. The Palestinian citizens of Israel have ALWAYS self-identified as Palestinians, and no Israeli Jew is going to lecture me on how my own family living within the State of Israel think about themselves ! I don’t lecture you or wheter ‘a Jewish people exist or not’, whether you feel belonging to the Western world or not, in spite of the evident geographical situation in the MIDDLE EAST and among ARABS !
      You could read Dan Rabinowitz, professor at TAU, in his “Coffins on our shoulders: the experience of the Palestinian citizens of Israel” (he writes about the “Israeli Arab” terminology p. 43-44, it’s on the net too) or Ilan Pappe’s new book from June: “The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel”.
      You don’t know anything bout how “the Arab world” perceive the Israeli Palestinians. You know what your propaganda tells you, or you would know otherwise. Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi, Ahmad Tibi, Raed Salah etc, all proud representatives of our people have done much to change an image that might have been biased among some Arabs.
      The Palestinian people in ONE, and you can’t change that !

      Reply to Comment
    15. Deïr Yassin

      Erratum: the Palestinian people IS one.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Ben Israel

      Deir Yassin-Your claims are a rewriting of history. The term “Palestinian” before 1948 meant JEW, the Arabs rejected it. They referred to the separation of Syria and Palestine after World War I as “THE NAKBA” because they said there is only one, indivisible Arab nation. The Palestinian constitution says that the Palestinians are an inseparable part of the Arab nation and they are working for unity of that Arab national.
      You certainly remember Pan Arabism. You recall that Egypt was called “The United Arab Republic” without any reference to a geographical entity and this UAR aspired to a united political entity throughout the Arab world.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Taoist

      @Deir Yassin,

      The Palestinian and Israeli people are ONE. That might be difficult for you to see, given the decades of grievances vis-a-vis Israel, but in the same way blacks and whites used to see each other as different 50 years ago in the US, and despite all the inequalities that years of separation created, no white in the US would nowadays think of any differences, except for a nut fringe look down upon by the rest of society.

      Humanity is embedded in the human soul, and given the opportunity (peaceful or not, e.g. South Africa), people would take the option of being (and feeling) fully human, an option separation of any kind doesn’t provide.


      Great piece. Keep on going, +972. From the US, I cannot convey to you how vital your site is to keep us informed, given the pro-Israel biased of the US media.


      Reply to Comment
    18. Deïr Yassin

      “The Palestinian and Israeli people are ONE”.
      Well, I don’t know much about Taoism, but as a social scientist, I’ve studied the concept of ‘people’ and the innumerable definitions of what it takes to form one. Anthropologists have a never ending debate on the defintion, but Palestinians and Israelis don’t fullfill ANY of the common denominators of forming one ‘people’, firstly: the self-identification of belonging to ONE people. It might come one day in the future, but it’s not going to be soon.

      And if we stick to the Palestinian citizens of Israel: How on earth can you claim that they form one people with the Jews. The State of Israel itself has institutionalized the division of the population into ‘nationalities/peoples’: Jews, Arabs, Druze, Bedouis, Circassians (completely artificial, as if Druze and Beduins weren’t Arabs), and all Israeli citizens only share a common ‘ezrahut’ (citizenship). This classification into different ‘people’ follows you your whole life, decides upon the degree of dicrimination you’ll undergo (this of course doesn’t concern the Jewish le’um, but only the ‘goyim’).
      Comparing with the US has absolutely no validity, but maybe you don’t know much about Israeli laws … or the history of the region.

      @ Ben Israel.
      Funny pen name though for a recent immigrant from the States. Like if you have something to prove. I think that other pen name of yours, “I_like_Ike_52”, fits you much better. It gives us a hint about you anti-Left-paranoia.
      Claiming to be a Palestinian does not contradict one’s belonging to Pan-Arabism. Pan-Arabism does not mean that people are willing to be expelled from Jaffa or Akka to settle down in Amman or Damascus !! Why don’t you find out what you fellow Israeli countryman Jamal Zahalka thinks about that.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Philos

      @ DEÏR YASSIN, yowzers, there you go again with that chip on your shoulder! I didn’t say that Palestinians do not exist. As a social scientist you will know your claim, empirically, that Palestinians have always identified as Palestinians is subject to dispute; however, I will respect your right and that of your family’s to identify as such.

      I also want to strongly stress that I wholeheartedly disagree with and reject the tactic of equating all Arabs as interchangeable especially Arabs from Palestine. I think the practice is completely racist and appalling. I think you should also know that I consider myself an Arab; my grandparents and parents speak Arabic, we eat Arabic food and listen to “Oriental” music. The “separateness” of the Israeli system forces people like my family and me to say we eat “Iraqi food” and listen to “Eastern” music. It forces otherwise secular Moroccans and Yemenites to wear kippas or Stars of David so that they won’t be discriminated against or thought of as Arabs. I loathe the fact that people of my descent and from elsewhere in the Middle East are forced to become self-loathing. Look at Eli Yishai the proud Moroccan in a Lithuanian outfit.

      The bottom line, in my opinion, is that at the root we are all the same people. Indeed, genetic studies show that people don’t move very far over thousands of years and the great irony of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict is that descendants of the same inhabitants from this land are fighting each other. Imudeans, Judeans, Israelites, Nabatteans, Galileans, et al; we are all their children. Semites all of us. I did not intend to offend your sense of identity in my post and I will look Dan Rabinowitz. I suggest reading up on genetic studies of Palestinians and Sephardic Jews, the linguistic features of the Palestinian-Israeli community and how bi-lingualism has altered both Hebrew and Arabic in both our communities.

      Reply to Comment
    20. spot on. Dimi. Thanks for articulating it so brilliantly.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Taoist

      @Deir Yassin,

      As a “social scientist,” did you ever hear about the concept of “human race”? Israelis and Palestinians might not be the same “people” in cultural terms, but my point goes beyond the cultural upbringing that defines a “people” as a particular group, clan, tribe, or nation-state. The divisions you refer to are purely artificial, such as Israel’s classification of “people” rooted in their “chosen people” delusions. It is clear that you have internalized Israel’s categorization of “gentiles” and project it as your own, but when confronted when such a deep division, as between Israel vs Palestinians/Arabs (or blacks and whites in the US or South Africa in the recent past), an examination of our basic humanity provides the only point of departure from which to bridge the “artificial” constructs that make up the divisions.

      You might have heard about Gandhi or Martin Luther King. Well, that was their point of departure.

      As for the validity of the US/ME analogy, you don’t show any argument that invalidates it. Simply dismissing it won’t take you far. Having read some of your interactions with other posters, your main debate tactic seems to be putting the others down (“…you don’t know about this, you don’t know about that…”), a tried and failed trick used in many forums, since you have no idea who you are debating with. All it shows is arrogance, which IMHO is the main ingredient of ignorance.

      I strongly believe the US analogy, more than the South African analogy, is closer to Israel’s current predicament. I invite you to read my post on the “Jewish state” and “Jim Crow” laws here, http://972mag.com/demoting-arabic-knesset-finally-tells-the-truth/

      That might give you an understanding of some of my views to continue the debate. As for showing off one’s credentials on knowledge on any subject under the sky, we Taoists like to say that those who really know, remain quiet about it.


      Reply to Comment
    22. Deïr Yassin

      @ Philos
      And I didn’t say that you said that the Palestinians didn’t exist.
      I just said that your “Palestinian-Israelis (formerly known as Israeli-Arabs” is NOT true outside the Zionist narrative which Palestinians – thanks to God and our mental resistance – have never adapted.
      I’ll quote from Dan Rabinowitz (and Khawla Abu Baker). I really recommend this anthopologist and his writings on Palestinians. His “Overlooking Nazareth: the ethnography of exclusion in Galilee” is just great.
      From “Coffins on our shouldres: the experience of the Palestinian citizens od Israel”, p. 43-44:
      “…Israel also subjected them to a host of dominating practices. One was a discursive move involving the State’s introduction of a new label to denote them: the hyphenated construct “Israeli Arabs …”
      “The new idiom Israeli Arabs while purporting to be no more than a technical, evidenced a deliberate design. A clear reflection of the politics of culture via language, it intentionally misrecognized the group’s affinity with and link to Palestine as a territorial unit, thus facilitating the erasure of the term Palestine from the Hebrew vocabulary”
      The term puts ‘Israel’ in the front, constructing it as a defining feature of ‘its Arabs’….Moreover the term ‘Israeli Arabs’ invokes spatial diffusion. ‘Arab’ is a term applied to hundreds of millions in highly diverse groups from the Atlantic to the Steppes of Central Asia. The Arabs may have common cultural denominators but they have no unitary territorial focus.”
      ‘Israeli Arabs’ which obliterates any suggestion that the group in question is related to a territory, is a label the ethnoterritorial project called Israel could easily embrace”
      “The label ‘Palestinian’, on the other hand, signifies an obvious link to a specific territory – the one where Israel had been established. Most Israelis of course refuse to recognize that the land in which they live was until recently the communal home of Palestinians. The notion that the land they see as theirs is the national home and cultural cradle of others is anathema to them, one that breeds amnesia and denial”.
      Nobody could state that better.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Taoist

      @Deir Yassin,

      As a “social scientist,” did you ever hear about the concept of “human race”? Israelis and Palestinians might not be the same “people” in cultural terms, but my point goes beyond the cultural upbringing that defines a “people” as a particular group, clan, tribe, or nation-state. The divisions you refer to are purely artificial, such as Israel’s classification of “people” rooted in their “chosen people” delusions. It is clear that you have internalized Israel’s categorization of “gentiles” and project it as your own, but when confronted when such a deep division, as between Israel vs Palestinians/Arabs (or blacks and whites in the US or South Africa in the recent past), an examination of our basic humanity provides the only point of departure from which to bridge the “artificial” constructs that make up the divisions.

      You might have heard about Gandhi or Martin Luther King. Well, that was their point of departure.

      As for the validity of the US/ME analogy, you don’t show any argument that invalidates it. Simply dismissing it won’t take you far. Having read some of your interactions with other posters, your main debate tactic seems to be putting the others down (“…you don’t know about this, you don’t know about that…”), a tried and failed trick used in many forums, since you have no idea who you are debating with. All it shows is arrogance, which IMHO is the main ingredient of ignorance.

      I strongly believe the US analogy, more than the South African analogy, is closer to Israel’s current predicament. I invite you to read my post on the “Jewish state” and “Jim Crow” laws here, http://972mag.com/demoting-arabic-knesset-finally-tells-the-truth/

      That might give you an understanding of some of my views to continue the debate. As for showing off one’s credentials on knowledge on any subject under the sky, we Taoists like to say that those who really know, remain quiet about it.


      Reply to Comment
    24. Taoist


      I have answered your post, but for whatever reason is “awaiting initial confirmation,” in other words, is being blocked, don’t know why. I will wait for it to clear, and if it doesn’t, will post it somewhere else and let you know.


      Reply to Comment
    25. Pedro Granata

      I hear the message well but lack Faith’s constant trust. Israelis who are currently revolting and protesting the high prices of rent and cottage cheese in a “social, not political” struggle, the same Israelis who love to grow their children on stolen Palestinian lands and homes for literally nothing, shall end with the most important “outpost of Western culture against Asiatic barbarism” by pussyfooting around raising core issues related to their Palestinian brothers and sisters, afraid loosing supporters ?
      But “may the feeling of fraternity and common humanity embrace the West Bank and Gaza, break down these damn borders and give birth to One State.” Yeah !

      Reply to Comment
    26. Call me a Realist

      Comment and Correction

      As on of the Palestinian Jaffa protesters which you mention in your article – please allow me to put forward my interpretation and opinion on the Jaffa-Hatikva covenant and joint march.

      Our chants in Arabic which were inspired by Egypt and adapted to recognize and call for an end of the occupation (we were a tiny minority amongst the Jaffa group) were met with bitterness, resent and anger by our Hatikva counterparts. Threats of breaking loose from us were made if we did not take down the one Palestinian flag we had with us among the MANY Hebrew-language banners. How can you ignore the major fact that our identity as Palestinians is shunned and frowned upon, seen as inappropriate at a time when we were supposed to be calling for equality, recognition and social justice?

      It seems as though you are choosing to overlook major ideological differences and paint them over with uncalled for optimism. An ally that cannot accept my identity as an Arab, a Palestinian, simply calling to include other Palestinians in the mainstream Israeli conception of social justice – is, to say the least, not an ally. The bitterness you mention as a side-note to this event was for me the main event at the Saturday demonstration where I felt as unwelcome and marginalized.

      I wish the occupation was seen by the masses as a part of the bigger problem, but my sense of things has been that the occupation in this case is irrelevant to what seems to be simply discontent with the perils of capitalism. In any case, I pray that your optimism outlives my lack of confidence in this phenomenon.

      Reply to Comment
    27. “Realist”,
      Being accepted as a human being is pretty far along. Isn’t that the goal?

      Reply to Comment
    28. Ben Israel

      Maybe you should look to your Arab Knesset Members who never stop cursing us and our country for the blame about why Israelis don’t always “feel” for the Arab minority. Maybe if they called for cooperation, and understanding of the Jewish identity and condition, more brotherly feelings would emerge from both sides.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Taoist

      Being accepted as a human being is pretty far along. Isn’t that the goal?


      Not enough, by far. It may be, as “Realist” pointed out, the glasses are darker for the Palestinians, hope-wise. However, “Realist” has a point. If the Palestinians cannot voice their plight openly and without restraints, which “social justice” are we talking about?

      It calls to memory the US trade unions’ struggle to integrate blacks as full members in the 20’s and 30’s, or the struggle of black South Africans to represent themselves in the student unions. Steve Biko’s struggle (“The best weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”) to give black South Africans a voice, gave birth to the Black Consciousness Movement, breaking clear of the “representation” by liberal whites in the student/social movements.

      As long as Israel’s “social justice” movement does not embrace the Palestinians predicament, the “justice” part of it will be…better said, it will not be.


      Reply to Comment
    30. Dimi Reider

      Ben Israel – It’s their country every bit as it is yours or mine. The fact that a state that excludes them by default was violently established here is the state’s problem, not theirs. And while theoretically a different approach from some of the Palestinian MKs would give better results – Tibi is one good example – I would very much hesitate to ask a deliberately discriminated minority to be nicer to their discriminators.
      Realist – Completely understood and point well made. I think it will be years before Israelis begin to accept a Palestinian identity (especially in the context of the current separationist discourse. It’s employed by large parts of the Palestinian national movement as well, and is seen by Israelis as representing the Palestinian people as a whole; and then Israelis deduce that someone raising a Palestinian flag means he either doesn’t want to be there, or doesn’t want them to be here. It’s wrong, but this is deduction process that they seem to use). I guess I’m more optimistic because my expectation for a national conflict zone is to zero acceptance, and zero cooperation, and 100% hostility. So when people do manage to work together on a third issue – something they are all genuinely concerned about, as opposed to getting together for the sake of getting together – I’m immensely cheered up.

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    31. I am thrilled at the emphasis on social issues rather than political.

      Social issues are of people and empathy. Political issues are of which side are you on, divisive, making people into functions.

      I am multi-dimensional. I am Jewish, but I am not only Jewish. I am also a resident of a land area (an ecology), a participant in a community (a local economy), a neighbor, a patient, a working person, a musician.

      Much more to share as people, than to divide as parties relative to any flavor of political correctness.

      With a strong social connection (not possible between West Bank, Gazan, and diaspora Palestinians and Israeli Jews), new things become possible built on that foundation.

      I visited folksinging third cousins in Arad in 1986, before the first intifada. They sang with Bedouin, Druze, and Palestinian singers in cafes in Arad, Beersheba. After the first intifada, distrust emerged. They were no longer neighbors, colleagues.

      They became either/or Zionists or Arabs. Distrusted.

      The social is what is progressive. The political is often more regressive, dividing communities.

      Terror was the most political, the most divisive. The wall was close behind. Rock throwing “non-violent” demonstrations accompanying statements of hatred are not far behind. BDS is not far behind that.

      Connection is what is needed, not division.

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    32. Philos

      I have an idea: pan-Semitism 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    33. Ben Israel

      Uri Avnery and the “Canaanite” movement who came out of the Zionist Right attempted exactly what you are advocating in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Avnery was a great admirer of Nazi Germany and so tried to create some sort of “Semitic Action” racial front of Jews and Arabs. It failed miserably. The Arabs/Muslims weren’t and aren’t interested.

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    34. Ben Israel

      Toaist-You said:
      As long as Israel’s “social justice” movement does not embrace the Palestinians predicament, the “justice” part of it will be…better said, it will not be.
      You can’t look at Israel’s predicament in isolation. It is not just a matter of saying “you Israelis should be more open-minded regarding the Arab population”. You must remember that Jews are a tiny minority in the Middle East, the Arabs are the vast majority. The attitude of the Arabs towards the Jews and Israeli (the two are inextricably linked) is going to be reflected back by the attitude of Jews towards Arabs, both those in Israel and those outside of it. Jews who lived in Arab countries generally do not have fond memories of their and their ancestors time there. We also look at the propaganda messages coming out of the Arab world regarding Jews and Israel. They do not call for peace and reconciliation….on the contrary, they are quite hostile. Israelis remember the recent suicide bombing campaign and the reaction of the Palestinians to it. These things can not be erased. IF the Arabs can get together and say that Israel will be welcome as part of a new Middle East (not Shimon Peres’ discredited fraud by the same name), then the changes will inevitably be reflected by internal Israeli Jewish changes in attitudes towards the Arab minority. Without such external changes, I don’t see much change internally in Israel in coming years, regardless of how successful these current demonstrations may be.

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    35. Taoist


      IMHO, it is not so “witty” to pretend the “social justice” movement is apolitical. It is quite flabbergasting to read different opinions about the “apolitical” nature of the movement. It was Socrates who defined the human species as “zoon politikon,” i.e. “political animals,” and his definition has withstood the passing of time. Everything is politics, and politics is everything. Problem is, most people understand politics as the cloak and dagger dynamics of the greedy and the powerful we witness on a daily basis. With your post, you are doing politics, advocating for an “apolitical” approach to the complex challenges Israelis are facing, and you are taking side with those who advocate not to “politicize” the social movement.

      As you said, you are Jewish, and like to practice a type of “inclusive politics,” instead of one of rejection and division, still, you’re doing politics. Your emphasis on “social issues,” naively “free” from politics, has quickly turned into a euphemism used to mean “let’s not talk about the great white elephant in the room,” the occupation. Of course, as soon as the Palestinian issue is brought into the narrative, the “politics” become divisive, regardless of the context, party politics or tent political debate. And of which “social connection” you speak about, when Arabs/Palestinians suffer a politics (that word again) of exclusion, day in and day out? Palestinian uprisings (intifadas), are the natural reaction of any people living under oppression, to shake up a foreign occupation, similar to a feverish person when infected with a foreign virus/bacteria. It is natural. Jewish did it in Egypt on a regular basis, and were suppressed time and again, until guidance for liberation came with Moses.

      Finally, once you enter the “T” word, “terror,” then you are doing a different kind of politics, what I called ostrich politics. You are burying your head in the sand, incapable of seeing that every action has a reaction in equal magnitude and in opposite direction. You terrorize, expect to be terrorize. You are a man of peace, peace will follow you. You take someone’s house, they will fight night and day until they get it back. A whole different conversation, beyond the scope of this post.

      And when you put in the same cat-bag terror/stone throwers/BDS actions, then your narrative becomes the official hasbara line, and all rational debate ends there. In the end, what you’re advocating for, is the politics of “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” and the flaunted “connection” you talk about, doesn’t go beyond Israeli tents.

      I am sure Bibi and his ilk are very happy about your “apolitical” emphasis on “social issues,” and will be laughing until hell freezes over, waiting for this new generation of Israelis, wetting their toes into “politics” (that ubiquitous word again,) to grow up, shake up their naivete, wake up, and smell the coffee.


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    36. Philos

      Ben Israel: Uri Avnery is an “admirer of Nazi Germany”???? Are you nuts?!?!? The guy fled Hitler’s Germany and is a hard-left activist. “The Arabs/Muslims weren’t and aren’t interested”; really? Did somebody ask them? And since when did all Muslim’s become Arabs and vice versa? In a few short words you’ve exposed several things:
      1) you’re ignorant
      2) are stuck in your ways
      If you’re going to go around defaming some of the most respectable figures of Israeli society and equating them to Nazis then expect some flak Jack! It’s guys like you that make me assume whenever I meet an American-Jew that he’s a right-wing racial supremacist who doesn’t know jack about Israel or Israelis! And I figured out that Democrat voting Jews from America don’t seem to make aliyah here; only the Republican sort…. the best argument yet to ending the Law of Return so Israel can stop being diluted with foreign extremists with little stake in the future of this place

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    37. “With a strong social connection (not possible between West Bank, Gazan, and diaspora Palestinians and Israeli Jews), new things become possible built on that foundation.”

      The choice to orient to people, rather than to political credos, is the difference between an effective dissent and an ineffective one.

      The occupation is clearly present, and will not be ignored forever. Thankfully the tent movement is not oriented to a doctrinaire unanimity, but to freely and creatively linking, analyzing, acting.

      Somehow you neglected to acknowledge my comment “the wall was close behind”, second behind terrorism as great divider.

      Simply Hasbara of course.

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    38. Taoist


      The “strong social connection” is yet but an aspiration inside Israel and the social justice movement (just read above “CALL ME A REALIST” and their recent experience with the Hatikva.)

      The “wall was close behind” followed your undefined comment on “terror,” another euphemism for Palestinian “terrorism.” As I see it, the wall is a result of the dynamic of terror (occupation terrorism vs. resistance terrorism), the most shameful one at that, and a forever stain in the Jewish/Israeli soul, coming up after the world thought wall divisions were finished with perestroika and the fall of so-called “communism.”

      And my comment on the “hasbara line” was directed at your mixing of diverse elements of the Palestinian resistance as “terror,” a common thread found among Lieberman’s “talkbackers/megaphonites/cyber-zombies.”

      Sorry if I pushed the wrong button, that wasn’t my intention.


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    39. Taoist,
      Please consider your own buttons, how they get pushed.

      Terror is a real part of the history. All history can be used by propagandists. Don’t let your buttons suppress discussion of real events, and their current significance.

      The experience of the second intifada plays very strongly in Israeli consciousness. It can’t just be wished away, or politically analyzed away, as the nakba (historical and current) cannot be wished away.

      The important theme of the “social” rather than “political” of the tent demonstrations, is that they are seeking to allow room for participation.

      Your point about the frustration that activist Palestinians experience is real, relevant and in ways not relevant.

      I’m certain that some Palestinian Israelis LOVE that the occupation isn’t the only topic of discussion, that they do have the opportunity to air their specific tangible concerns outside of the polarization or even identification of ethnicity.

      If you are interested in Palestinians well-being, and you acknowledge that Israeli actions have a great deal to do with that well-being, then please remember that in your dissent you are communicating.

      If they way that you communicate only condemns, it is not surprising that it will fall on deaf ears.

      A harrangue is a form of wall as well as a communication. A rock thrown is a wall as well as a communication. A rocket shot is a wall as well as a communication.

      Each construct a two steps forward 1+ steps back dynamic.

      In contrast, a respectful communication is just a communication. If it makes two steps forward, thats all that it does.

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    40. Ben Israel

      Yes, Uri Avnery was an admirer of Nazi Germany. You forget that he started out on the far Right of Israeli/Zionist politics. It is not uncommon for extremists to go from one end of the political spectrum to the opposite. There is a prominent French personality whose name I unfortunately can’t remember who is quite elderly know and went from being a Communist to a Radical Muslim, which is a pretty sharp change of direction. A few years ago in Ha’aretz Avnery wrote an article praising Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who had a reputation as a “non-political military genius” but who, in the last few decades has been revealed to have been a particularly pro-Nazi lackey of Hitler’s whose military reputation was artifically inflated by Nazi propaganda since he did not come out of the Prussian military aristocracy.

      And, yes, the Canaanites DID try to get Arabs to sign on to their “Semetic Action” bloc. They failed.

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    41. Taoist

      @ BEN ISRAEL,

      In Aikido we say the only person (or attitudes) one can change is (are in) oneself. Another principle of Aikido (and other martial arts), is that when under pressure (or attack), we fall back to our training, (or lack thereof.)

      I bring these principles to the fore for a reason: you start your post from a typically defensive position, commonly found among Israelis, not of the Uri Avnery kind, by which the perps are “forever victims.”

      I mean, I shed so many crocodile tears when reading that a) you are such a “tiny” majority in the ME (forgot to say, backed by nukes); b) the Arabs are the vast majority (without our, US, the only world super-power, backing); and c) the pesky Arabs’ attitude toward Jews/Israel, is the seminal cause for the reactionary attitude of the Israeli/diaspora Jews toward Arabs.

      What kind of psychological gymnastics are needed to see oneself as a “forever victim” escapes me, but that kind of twisted neurosis fails a reality test. It’s the same “logic” behind the hyper-exploitation of the Holocaust, an event that has been used to throw a smoke-screen over the occupation, and the daily atrocities committed by Israel. The Holocaust has been abused to portray Israel/Jews as victims then, which they were, and “victims” now, which they are not.

      If I were to follow your tit-for-tat “logic” about the treatment of Jews in Arab/Muslim countries, it will only feed into your “victim” rationale, which amounts to justifying all the means of oppression and repression against the Palestinians. Arguing against that type of mindset is a waste of time. The rest of your post is sheer spin, but it says a lot about the type of mentality you represent, one that is shared by a sizable number of Israelis on the right-wing fringes: it assumes you/Israelis are on a “neutral” plane, the Arabs/Palestinians attack you, and the “poor Jews” have to react.

      Even if that were the case, then you allow others to create your responses, which means you are not free; but your logic leaks, badly. You’ve got a serious problem where the great majority of countries in the world don’t see you as a “victim,” for as much as you cry wolf. Of course, they are all “anti-Semitic.” (sic!!)

      Finally, the “hostile propaganda messages” from the Arab world fall short when compared to Israel’s hatemongering against Arabs/Palestinians.

      Here, have a little sample.



      Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias

      Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli academic, mother and political radical, summons up an image of rows of Jewish schoolchildren, bent over their books, learning about their neighbours, the Palestinians. But, she says, they are never referred to as Palestinians unless the context is terrorism.

      They are called Arabs. “The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don’t pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don’t want to develop,” she says. “The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.”

      Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism– but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service.

      “People don’t really know what their children are reading in textbooks,” she said. “One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behaviour of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering. People ask how can these nice Jewish boys and girls become monsters once they put on a uniform. I think the major reason for that is education. So I wanted to see how school books represent Palestinians.”

      In “hundreds and hundreds” of books, she claims she did not find one photograph that depicted an Arab as a “normal person”. The most important finding in the books she studied – all authorised by the ministry of education – concerned the historical narrative of events in 1948, the year in which Israel fought a war to establish itself as an independent state, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the ensuing conflict.

      The killing of Palestinians is depicted as something that was necessary for the survival of the nascent Jewish state, she claims. “It’s not that the massacres are denied, they are represented in Israeli school books as something that in the long run was good for the Jewish state. For example, Deir Yassin [a pre-1948 Palestinian village close to Jerusalem] was a terrible slaughter by Israeli soldiers. In school books they tell you that this massacre initiated the massive flight of Arabs from Israel and enabled the establishment of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. So it was for the best. Maybe it was unfortunate, but in the long run the consequences for us were good.”

      Children, she says, grow up to serve in the army and internalise the message that Palestinians are “people whose life is dispensable with impunity. And not only that, but people whose number has to be diminished…”


      On another note, your malicious slandering of Uri Avnery, a man after my own heart, and a true Israeli hero, speaks volumes about your nut-fringe roots. Plus, your “knowledge” (sic!!) of history when describing Rommel, a man who was forced to commit suicide after an attempt on Hitler’s life, reveals a trait particular to the Russian thugs a-la Lieberman/Michaeli, all bastard children of the Stalin school of falsification.

      As long as you don’t retract your slanders on Uri Avnery, your posts are not worth the mud on my shoes, and won’t dignify you with a reply.


      Reply to Comment
    42. Taoist


      I said I was sorry at the end of my last post to you, and I meant it. There is no need to enter into a retaliatory dynamic.

      Please consider again my point: each one of the aspects you mention as Palestinian “terrorism,” need to be treated from a different perspective/POV. However, you chose to put them all together, a common hasbara tactic you may or may not be familiar with.

      I see your points, and will take them into serious consideration. Believe me, I started posting on +972 to support Israel’s social justice movement, and to learn as much as I can (debate is a learning tool, IMHO), not to deepen the contradictions already existing between Palestinians/Israelis.

      Somehow, the hand of the Great Spirit is at play in Israel/ME, and we are merely observers in a sea of earthquake changes. We can all learn, as this moves on.

      My apologies if my hasbara comment irked you. I repeat, that wasn’t my intention.

      Best regards,


      PS: Don’t know where you are, Richard, but here in the US many forums have been under attack by the hasbara cyber-zombies for several years now, hence my sensitivities.

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    43. Ben Israel

      I am working on getting you the sources for Avnery’s attachment to Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, I have a problem with the mouse so I can’t post a link, but for a start you can look at the Wikipedia article on Uri Avnery. There is then a link inside that article “Canaanism” which tells of the pro-Fascist inclinations of the Israeli “Canaanites”. Avnery sympathized with much of Canaanite ideology but he did not join them and criticized certain parts of their ideology.
      According to an article I found, Israeli Professor Yehoshua Porat (a former MERETZ Knesset Member) wrote a book called “Selach v’at B’yado” and on p.182 he says that Avnery wrote a pro-Nazi article in 1941 in a journal called “Shem”. He openly admired many Nazis including propagandist Alfred Rosenberg, Avnery liked the “blood and race” aspects of it, trying to transfer it to his new “Hebrew-semitic” race. I have more info, I will try to find it.
      Regarding Rommel, the fact that he turned against Hitler doesn’t mean he hadn’t been an enthusiastic supporter of him. He decided to support the assassination attempt because Hitler was losing the war and destroying the Wehrmacht. There were many others like him, such as the Commander at Stalingrad, Freidrich Paulus who after surrendering, went from being pro-Nazi and pro-Hitler, to being a Communist and admirer of Stalin. You see, in the end, there isn’t really much difference between the two. In Avnery’s youth, Nazism was viewed by many people as being “anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, progressive” and opposed to Judaism as a belief”. Does Avnery have any problem with those views today?

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    44. “I see your points, and will take them into serious consideration. ”

      Thanks. That was my goal in posting, to communicate my perspective.

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    45. “In Aikido we say the only person (or attitudes) one can change is (are in) oneself. ”

      An important perspective. It constructs a humility relative to attempting to force someone else to adopt views that conflict with their own experience.

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    46. Deïr Yassin

      Richard Witty writes “my goal in posting [is] to communicate my perspective”
      Even after more than 10.000 comments on Mondoweiss – at which occasion he got an article plus more than 200 comments – nobody has ever understood anything about Mr Witty’s perspectives, other than he’s looking at the world through his own navel, and it’s the only thing that interests him: his own navel, and eventually the navel of fellow Jews, i.e. Zionist Jews. Israeli Jews, critical of Zionism, are regularly scolded by our ‘Humanist’, not to talk about his lecturing Palestinians.
      Witty is pro-ethnic cleansing in the name of ‘Jewish self-determination’, his motto is “Live and let live” (that’s why he jumps out on articles about Cast Lead because he’s too much of a hypocrite to denounce Israeli violence). His English, though he lives in MA in not understandable, that’s why Mondoweiss has a Witty-translator, James North, and others who regularly make samples of “Witty’s Bests”.
      Mr Witty fits his name perfectly, and it’s his for reel!

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    47. Richard Witty

      Please keep the misrepresentations of my views elsewhere.

      I am committed to the effort for mutual humanization, respecting and valuing Palestinians, and respecting and valuing Jewish and all Israelis.

      The tent demonstrations illustrate my concerns.

      Whereas it was a struggle to get 3,000 to come to an anti-occupation political demonstration that took pains to be minimally divisive, though still political; a demonstration defined as social (people) attracted 350,000 and across constituencies and communities.

      If you differ with my views, please convey the differences in reasoning. Please refrain from character assassination based on what you imagine my views are.

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    48. Taoist

      “In Aikido we say the only person (or attitudes) one can change is (are in) oneself. ”
      An important perspective. It constructs a humility relative to attempting to force someone else to adopt views that conflict with their own experience.


      No one can force others to learn, particularly when they are stuck in their mindset. However, “a wise man learns from others’ bad experiences, but a fool not even from his own.”* Hope Israelis’ learning curve is not that steep, or goes the way of Holon. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4107317,00.html

      *(Quote borrowed from Eyal Clyne’s article “Between Riots and Protests: Letter from London” http://972mag.com/letter-from-london-the-difference-between-riots-and-protests/)

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    49. Philos

      Ben Israel; that the Stern Gang and Irgun were fascists and supporters of Germany, Italy and Japan during the war is a known fact. Their decedents sit in the current government now and want to raise the Altelena from its watery grave.
      What is saddening is that you don’t think people are capable of change. It is recorded that there were many Nazis who changed their mind and turned out of moral repulsion. It is also a fact that Libyan Jews escaped the Holocaust because Rommel pretended he never received the orders to transfer them. Uri Avnery did something many people are reluctant to do even when they become aware that their positions are morally untenable; he changed his mind. Most people, unfortunately, are obstinate. If Rommel and Avnery show anything it is that human characters are impossibly complex and capable of change; it isn’t black and white. It’s attributed to Einstein the following, “the definition of madness is repeating the same action and expecting a different result.” It ought to apply to any ideologue….

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