T H E R E A L " P E A C E N O W "
MER - WASHINGTON - 10/5:
"Peace Now" has always been a semantic twist amd trick. Born in the days when
Israel's Labor Party had lost power to Likud around the time of Camp David, "Peace
Now" was from the start a Labor Party creation with a number of purposes. In Israel
"Peace Now" let the Labor Party test the waters for various steps being
contemplated without the Party itself having to be on board. It also, most importantly,
allowed leaders of the Labor Party to control and manipulate the left on their path to
what became Oslo. In the other country crucial to Israel, the U.S., "Peace Now"
has badly manipulated both the media and wealthy American Jews, co-opting both into
indirectly support the Labor Party and outmanuevering indigenous American Jewish groups
who lacked the resources to compete with the "Peace Now" juggernaut. "Peace
Now" has been used to specifically target many liberal and wealthy American Jews,
especially in Hollywood, siphoning away their money and energy from other organizations
and concerns far more deserving and badly in need of their resources. Many good and
unknowing people have gotten caught up in this duplicity; persons such as Richard Dreyfus,
Ed Asner, Barbara Streisand, Jimmy Klutznick, and quite a host of others who have never
really understood how they were being used and manipulated. Not only have they gotten tax
exemptions all these years by giving to "Peace Now", rather than directly to
Israel's Labor Party; but doing so has also been quite socially and politically safe,
easy, and non-controversial as well. This insightful article by a contributor to MER from
Israel helps explain what is really going on in Israel these days with what is termed the
Israeli "left", the Israeli "Peace Movement".
ISRAELI ROCKERS HOLD BENEFIT CONCERT FOR "DEMOLISHED" PALESTINIANS
While the Israeli "left" is mired in anxiety and false hopes, punk rockers in
Tel-Aviv show the way.
[MER - Tel Aviv - 8/28]
Two days ago the Israeli media was full of analysis stemming from Arafat's comment that
he would agree to a 10 per cent withdrawal plus some kind of nature reserve. The statement
was made at an event in Oslo to commemorate the signing of the accords. Netanyahu refused
to attend, even after the Norwegian foreign minister practically begged him, so Peres took
his place at the table. The irony was lost on most Israelis; Arafat, Peres and the
Norwegian host mugging for the cameras, while Netanyahu remains in charge.
The media frenzy was symptomatic not of the news value of Arafat's statement, but
rather the incredible thirst for any positive news regarding Oslo that exists among
Israel's mostly pro-peace journalists. The spectrum of opinion from Meretz to Labor clings
foolishly to the notion that if only the Accords are implemented, then peace would again
be at hand - as it was under Peres and Rabin. To this end, Labor Party leader Ehud Barak
is still willing to discuss a national unity government. By today of course, both the
Israelis and the Palestinians are lowering everyone else's expectations, and the
make-believe peace process suffers yet another blow.
However, if one peers closely at the small part of the Israeli left that has kept its
integrity, one can find younger and cooler heads at work. To meet them, one must go past
the array of parties and political groups, over the heads of the professional NGO
meisters, and beyond the traditional human rights organizations. There you can meet J.M.,
an activist with the 'IsraHell Collective' and the 'Human Rights Defenders Team.'
J.M. calls himself an 'Anarchist' and has a part time job with a Palestinian theater
troupe. He and his friends visited the al-Atrash family home six weeks ago for the first
time, and came back burning with the need to so something that will highlight the
injustice of house demolitions - and the occupation in general - to a hip young Tel-Aviv
milieu. Last night they held a benefit concert for the al-Atrash family "and the
victims of the Occupation in general" at the Left Bank club in Tel-Aviv. The event
included punk rock and hardcore bands, a spoken word performance piece, videos of house
demolitions, and calls for action by human rights groups actually doing something.
Worth mentioning is that the only band name that is printable in polite company is
'Deir Yassin,' named after the massacre in 1948. Lead singer F.G. explained to me that
every time someone hears the name and asks why it was chosen, he can explain the history
of that massacre, and similar ones known to have occurred. For the audience, mostly aged
15-18, this is an important political lesson that can counteract the lies usually told in
high school history classes. During the performance F.G., spoke about the recent killing
of a Rabbi in Hebron. "If thats what it takes to get them to leave, so be
The activists, audience, and connections made at yesterdays event won't be of
much use to the usual crowd of pro-peace Israelis. The message and the presentation can't
be swallowed or digested by those with an interest in promoting the "Netanyahu-bad,
Oslo-good" forces. Of the dozen or so organizers, only two have honorable discharges
from the Israeli army, with the rest carrying mental health discharges, fictitious
marriages, conscientious objector status, and other get-out-of-army-free passes. Based on
past experience, a large part of the audience is likely to follow that course of no-holds
The performance piece feature an actor who pretended to be a consultant for the
Institute of Psychological Defense. In his lecture, he counseled soldiers to
hate Palestinians, who are forcing sensitive youth to commit horrible acts, for the moral
difficulties they are causing by not simply going away. In reference to Palestinian
children, he explained: "they arent the victims. We are! How dare they take
that away from us!" After the show a 15 year old boy came up to the actor and
congratulated him on his show: "I wasnt hot about joining the army before this
. But now, I realize Id have to be crazy to let myself be
Interspersed between the bands were video clips of the destruction of the al-Atrash
family home, and the subsequent beating and arrest of Mrs. Al-Atrash and her daughter. The
effect of rock bands playing protest music underneath a video collage of Israeli troops
beating un-armed Palestinians into a pulp, with Netanyahus voice in the background
stating over and over again that "the State of Israel is opposed to the use of
terror" had a strong effect, and was one of the highlights of the evening.
Sadly, the energy and political wisdom of these activists has no home able to provide
leadership and support. The bankrupt and wishy-washy left making most of the noise today
has discredited itself long ago. What remains is for followers of the 'do-it-yourself'
strategy to trust themselves, and find ways to avoid being co-opted by more powerful
forces. Around 150 people attended the show, listening to the music, talking about the
issues, and in some cases signing up to help the organizations who produced the event.
$400 were raised for the al-Atrash family, who are due to receive a visit from some
strange looking guests in a few days.