Israeli and Jewish soul-searching
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Israeli and Jewish soul-searching

January 26, 2001

The Intifada, coupled with Israeli brutality and recognition that the term "Apartheid Peace" is in fact applicable after all, are having an effect on at least some Israelis and some Jews; even while Ariel Sharon marches to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (and maybe because of this).

The real suffering of course is being done by Palestinians -- large numbers dead and wounded, the severe restrictions and destructive economic sanctions, plus the day-to-day realities that go along with an "Apartheid Peace". Add to this the "double occupation" of the Israeli Army and the Palestinian Authority -- or is it "triple" when one adds the "Hashemite Regime" which cooperates so closely with the Israelis and greatly represses the large numbers of Palestinians on the East Bank.

Even so there is also psychological and moral suffering. And while the Palestinians face these as well, and far more than the Israelis and Jews do, nevertheless this kind of suffering is far harder to quantify and discuss.

Recently the editor of a Jewish newspaper in Kansas City was immediately fired when she published a rather simplistic but very sincere article from an American Jew who wrote to support the Palestinian "Right of Return" and to express her awakening to Palestinian suffering and Israeli lies. Indeed what is called "the organized Jewish community" deserves to be condemned for decades of blind support for Israel and numerous instances of quashing any expressions of moral anquish and dissent from within. Years ago during the first Intifada the "Jewish Committee On The Middle East" (JCOME) did just this in dozens of full-page advertisements that appears in many magazines and newspapers throughout the country; but the organization was not able to continue after the renwed "peace process" limited support.

It is some Israelis from within who have really led, especially in recent years, when it comes to protesting the "Apartheid Peace". It's not a large percentage of the population, for after all look how far Sharon is so far ahead in the polls. But still it is a significant number of intellectuals and activists -- including some key revisionist historians, like Benny Morris; journalists, like Amira Hass; and activists, like Peretz Kidron. And during the first Intifada there was Dan Almagor, the TV personality, and Natan Zach, probably Israel's most famous poet at the time -- who in fact pushed hard from within the core of the Israeli establishment for recognizing the justice of Palestinian demands for Statehood and reparations. The following article in an American Jewish publication, after so many years of overlooking and belittling such persons as Kidron and such organizations as "There is a Limit", is far too little far too late -- that's for sure! The "organized" Jewish community cannot redeem itself with such limited willingness at this very late date after so much suffering and after so many "facts on the ground". And the same goes for Henry Siegman's recent article in the New York Review of Books applauding the efforts of Barak and Foreign Minister Ben-Ami while making a few thoughtful comments about the Palestinians -- for after all Siegman has been in the lifetime forefront time supporting the Israelis and decrying the Palestinians while now in his declining years he is apparently seeking redemption and forgiveness.

MER will have more to say in the future about why the "organized" American Jewish community deserves such condemnation -- including Siegman who himself headed one of the worst of the big Jewish organizations at one of its most anti-Palestinian times, the American Jewish Congress (AJC). But right now this article just published by the Jewish Bulletin in Northern Californa about Israeli "conscientious objectors" who refuse to follow orders and be "Good Germans" -- no, they didn't dare to write it that way but we do!:

Bulletin Staff

[Jewish Bulletin of Northern California - 26 January]: In 1979, the translator of Yitzhak Rabin's memoirs leaked a passage to the New York Times.

Peretz Kidron knew just how explosive those few paragraphs would be. "Dynamite," he called them. The lines were not in Rabin's book because they had been excised by Israeli censors.

The passage told how Rabin, then a 26-year-old brigade commander, was ordered by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to expel 50,000 Arabs from the villages of Ramle and Lod during the War of Independence.

"There were some fellows who refused to take part in the expulsion action," Rabin wrote. "Prolonged propaganda activities were required after the action, to remove the bitterness of these [soldiers] and explain why we were obliged to undertake such a harsh and cruel action."

If the soldiers that Rabin referred to were serving in the Israel Defense Force now and refused to take part in an action they believed to be unethical, they'd have a support group to help them. And some 20 years after Rabin's translator made that passage public, he is the spokesperson for that group.

Kidron, a translator and journalist who has a long relationship with KPFA Radio in Berkeley, was in the Bay Area recently to promote the activities of Yesh Gvul, a support group for soldiers who refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Yesh Gvul means "there is a limit," or "there is a border."

With his unruly white hair and bright blue shirt, Kidron looked much like the kibbutznik he used to be.

Originally from Vienna, Kidron's family fled to Great Britain in 1938 when he was 5. "I was a refugee at an early age," he said. "If you're looking for a pat explanation for my politics, that's it."

Kidron, 68, has been involved with Yesh Gvul since its inception during the Lebanon War. At that time, about 170 reservists refused to serve in the invasion.

Yesh Gvul believes in selective refusal, meaning soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories will still protect Israel in a war situation within its borders.

The group faded and resurrected itself in the 1980s, during the intifada, when some 200 soldiers -- also reservists -- refused to serve in the territories. Yesh Gvul has been lying low since the Oslo peace process began. But with the current violence in the territories showing no signs of abating and an election that -- if the polls are correct -- will usher in a more hardline prime minister, those involved with Yesh Gvul felt the time had come to resurface.

Only a handful of soldiers have refused to serve in the territories, but for the first time, they are not all reservists.

In a highly publicized case, soldier Noam Kuzar received a 28-day sentence in military jail for refusing to serve in Jericho. When he was released, he was made to do such jobs as clean toilets. He was not allowed to speak to the press.

Yesh Gvul representatives have been standing at bus stations, handing out fliers to soldiers that quote laws from the Geneva Convention.

With the headline "Hey soldier, where are you headed?" the flier suggests that refusing to obey orders may be the right thing to do.

"It's a moral question, not a geographical one," said Kidron. The most obvious reason for refusing to serve is that "the overwhelming majority of casualties fell in the conquest of or retention of places now under Arab rule."

Additionally, he said, it is difficult for a soldier -- even one who is sympathetic to the Palestinians -- to refrain from inflicting harm when he feels as if his life is threatened.

"The soldier is placed in an intolerable situation, where he has to commit some kind of atrocity or disobey orders," Kidron said. "The best way to avoid it is to not get into the situation in the first place. Even if you're a nice occupier, you're still an occupier."

For those refusing to serve, Yesh Gvul tries to boost their morale by initiating letter-writing campaigns to incarcerated soldiers or, in the case of reservists, offering support to their families.

During the Lebanon War, Kidron said, a U.S. Reconstructionist congregation called two conscientious objectors up to the Torah, a move that received a huge amount of press coverage in Israel.

Such actions of U.S. Jews are much appreciated by the peace movement in Israel, he said, since often, American support of Israel can be misguided.

By giving billions of dollars a year to Israel without placing any conditions on how the money is used, Kidron said, "the U.S. is providing us junkies with a regular allowance to get our next fix. But then, when they say, 'Maybe we should cut off the money and make us go to detox,' we say, 'That's interfering with our private life.'"

Oftentimes, he said, American Jews come off like cheerleaders, even when supporting specific Israeli policies that "are leading to suicidal behavior."

Like the rest of the country, Yesh Gvul is preparing for Ariel Sharon to be the next Israeli prime minister. If that happens, the group will step up its efforts.

"He can do whatever he's going to do," Kidron said. "The Palestinians aren't going to lie down or go away." Saying he hoped Sharon didn't turn Israel into another Chechnya, he added, "The question is whether Israelis are ready for it. I hope there will be many soldiers who say, 'Count me out.'"

January 2001


Leila Khalid - refugee from Haifa, fighter for Palestine
(January 31, 2001)
When Palestinian liberation fighter Leila Khaled hijacked her first plane in 1969, she became the international pin-up of armed struggle. Then she underwent cosmetic surgery so she could do it again. Thirty years on, she talks to Katharine Viner about being a woman at war.

The end of Israel?
(January 30, 2001)
At a time with rampant current events breaking daily, often hourly, there is much need to remember the importance of sometimes taking time for reflection, of sometimes stepping back to contemplate both the past and the future.

Sharon - the REAL legacy of Clinton and Barak
(January 30, 2001)
As the Barak era fades from view -- more short-lived than anyone predicted just a long year and a half ago -- his epitaph is already being written and Ariel Sharon's government and policies are already being debated.

Looming civil war in Palestine
(January 29, 2001)
Fears are growing in the international community that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) is heading for collapse.

Arafat blasts, Peres maneuvers, Barak sinks
(January 29, 2001)
For all practical purposes Ehud Barak is gone and Yasser Arafat is now desperately trying to save his own skin.

Barak's 3 no's, and Bush's 7 minute call
(January 28, 2001)
The Americans leaked it, a 7-minute Saturday call from the new U.S. Pres to the sinking Israeli PM -- leaked its brevity that is.

The Bomb and Iraq
(January 28, 2001)
As war clouds gather in the Middle East public opinion is being prepared for a possible regional war that could likely include a combined Western/Israeli effort to take out the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The "nuts" in the next room
(January 27, 2001)
In recent years Israel's most important and serious newspaper, Ha'aretz, has taken to not only reporting Palestinian affairs much more deeply but to interviewing major Palestinian personalities abroad.

Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon
(January 27, 2001)
The new Ma'ariv-Gallop poll questioned a particularly large sample of 1,100 people, putting special emphasis on the Arab population and new immigrants.

Panic in the Barak camp
(January 27, 2001)
All the tricks and lies of the Israeli Labor Party have now come back to haunt it. Barak, never a politician, bears the brunt of popular blame for all the political deceptions and tricks that have for so long accumulated.

War alert in Europe and Middle East
(January 27, 2001)
We've noted the "war fever" growing in the region for some months now. There's considerable anxiety about who may now strike first.

Israeli and Jewish soul-searching
(January 26, 2001)
The Intifada, coupled with Israeli brutality and recognition that the term "Apartheid Peace" is in fact applicable after all, are having an effect on at least some Israelis and some Jews; even while Ariel Sharon marches to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (and maybe because of this).

"Disastrous" American intervention
(January 26, 2001)
ou've got to wonder about these Palestinian "negotiators". What others saw decades ago those who have been most involved are apparently beginning to see only now.

Sharon marches on, Barak stumbles on
(January 25, 2001)
The 554,000 Arabs eligible to vote represent 12.3 percent of the electorate. The Arab turnout in 1999 was 76%, and 95% voted for Barak.

An alliance of the outcasts? Iran, Iraq and Syria
(January 24, 2001)
So the Israelis are going to elect war-criminal tough-guy General Ariel Sharon to be Prime Minister. This after the most top-heavy military-intelligence government in peacetime history for Israel -- that of General Ehud Barak.

General Powell says no to sanctions on behalf of Corporate America
(January 23, 2001)
Hamas has struck again and the "negotiations" are "suspended" again. Two Israelis were assassinated by masked men while eating at a restaurant in Tulkarm. Though this time it was Israelis who were killed it was another warning to Yasser Arafat. Last week similarly masked men in Gaza killed a close Arafat friend, the head of Palestinian TV in Gaza, just as it was rumored Arafat was about to sign some kind of new deal with the Israelis.

EyeWitness Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa
(January 23, 2001)
The depressing element of this entire struggle is that the Arafat regime survives and...will be the one to ultimately determine the fate of the Palestinian people.

War Fever - Israel and Syria
(January 23, 2001)
Tensions continue to grow in the Middle East region, armies continue to prepare, public opinion continues to be manipulated. Though Ehud Barak too is a militarist -- a former commando, General, and Chief of Staff of the Army -- Ariel Sharon brings with him historical baggage and war-criminal image which could easily contribute to a clash of armies sooner rather than later, even if not fully intended by either side.

EyeWitness Gaza
(January 22, 2001)
A year or so ago, I visited the Mouwasi area in Gaza. It was a green paradise, on top, and in the midst, of white sand dunes. I particularly remember this Guava grove, where the guavas hanging from the trees were the size of large oranges; I hadn't seen anything like that ever before.

Reaping what they have sown
(January 22, 2001)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abruptly cut short a radio interview on Sunday after being asked about his poor showing in opinion polls, prompting speculation he was buckling under pressure of a February 6 election.

Israel's president departs
(January 21, 2001)
There has never been, and there probably never will be, a president who had such fantastic relations with the State of Israel. It's unbelievable.

Ross officially join Israeli lobby
(January 19, 2001)
During the Lebanon War of 1982 -- some think of it as Sharon's war -- the Israelis and their American Jewish friends felt they had a difficult time when it came to public relations. And when the American Marines pulled out, symbolizing the failure of the Israelis to force Lebanon into the American-Israeli orbit and out of the Syrian-Arab one, the Israelis realized that they had much power in Washington on Capitol Hill, but not enough power with the media, intellectuals, and think-tanks.

War preparations in Israel
(January 19, 2001)
It's always called "The Peace Process" but more behind-the-scenes the whole Middle East region continues to be an arms bazaar with more weapons being sold to the countries in the area than ever before, most by American arms merchants and allies.

Palestinian TV Head killed
(January 17, 2001)
It may have been a warning to Arafat not to dare sign any new agreements, as has been rumored in the past few days he was planning to do tomorrow in fact. It may have been another Israeli assassination - though usually they don't take such risks and use such methods, strongly preferring instead to use high-technology and long-distance means.

Iraq, Saddam and the Gulf War
(January 17, 2001)
It was 10 years ago yesterday that the U.S. unleashed the power of the Empire against the country of Iraq after created the regional conditions that lead to the Iraq-Iran and then the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi wars. In that period of time somewhere in the number of 1.5 million Iraqis have been killed, the history of the Middle East altered, the future of the region more uncertain and dangerous than ever.

Last night in Gaza ghetto
(January 16, 2001)
It's quite a game of international political brinkmanship. At the same time that Yasser Arafat is being tremendously pressured, and quite possibly further tricked, to sign some kind of "framework agreement" with Clinton and Barak before it is too late -- his regime is also being threatened with extinction both from within and without.

Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians
(January 16, 2001)
With Jan 20 (Clinton leaves office) and Feb 6 (Barak likely to be defeated by Sharon) fast approaching, desperation and near panic are evident in the traditional power centers, including various Arab capitals.

"Unilateral separation" one way or another
(January 15, 2001)
The separation plan would go into the event of one of the following three scenarios: as a response to a unilateral declaration of statehood on the part of the Palestinians; under a severe security threat; or as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority

Up in arms against Apartheid
(January 13, 2001)
At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off course. Barak scuttled it.

Locking in Oslo
(January 12, 2001)
The Americans and the Israelis continue to try to twist the screws. Their minimum goal now is to "lock in" the "Oslo Peace Process" approach to the conflict. It may be an "Apartheid Peace", and it may have resulted in considerable bloodshed, but even so it is leading to a form of "Palestinian Statehood" and "separation" that the Israelis strongly desire as the best alternative for themselves.

Sharon charges on
(January 12, 2001)
he long-serving (now recalled to Cairo) Egyptian Ambassador to Israel was quoted saying last week that if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement isn't reached in the next two weeks there won't be an agreement for the next two decades.

"Sharon leads to peace"
(January 11, 2001)
The last time the Israeli "Arab vote" was pushed toward Shimon Peres for Prime Minister -- back in 1996 -- there was much resistance. Then Peres was acting Prime Minister after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Army had just committed the Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon, and Peres was busy trying to cover it up.

Grandfather Sharon
(January 10, 2001)
If the polls remain as disastrous as they now are for Ehud Barak, expect him to be pushed out and Shimon Peres substituted. Barak has no chance; Peres has some, especially with the "Arab vote".

The Dangerous weeks, months ahead
(January 10, 2001)
Guys like Commando-General-Prime Minster Ehud Barak don't go easily from the scene. Barak's daring-do was lavishly praised just a few years ago; now it has even the military types fretting. No telling just what Barak and friends might try in the next few weeks.

Assissination, siege and war crimes
(January 9, 2001)
The Israeli government, both as a group and as individuals, bears full responsibility for the crimes that were committed. We will do everything possible, including declaring members of this government war criminals who are eligible for trial by the world tribunal." Palestinian Authority "Minister"

Soul-searching Israelis
(January 9, 2001)
The "liberals" among them, the most cosmopolitan and internationally-oriented of the Israelis, are now getting extra nervous. Not only is Ariel Sharon coming to power, not only is regional war possible, not only are the cold treaties with Egypt and Jordan in jeopardy, but even Israel's future has come into question

Israel acts while Arafat talks
(January 8, 2001)
srael continues to take major steps designed to shrink, isolate and control the Palestinian areas forever. The policy is termed "unilateral separation" and it is linked to bringing about a so-called "Palestinian State" that serves Israeli interests, making everything worse than ever for the Palestinian "natives".

Clinton's Israel speech
(January 8, 2001)
On his way out the Presidential door Bill Clinton went to New York City to speak to his American Jewish supporters and further grease his way toward his future. This is the Bill Clinton that turned the U.S. government over to the Israeli/Jewish lobby in his years in office; of course pretending otherwise.

Specter of an "ugly future"
(January 5, 2001)
Lofty, humanitarian goals like 'peace and democracy'? No, America's primary interest in the Middle East is effective control of the world's most important energy reserves, Noam Chomsky tells Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
Did President Hindenburg and the German intelligentsia feel this way in 1930s when they saw that Adolf Hitler, and his brownshirt thugs, were about to be elected to power?

Barak and Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
While the Labor "Doves" are busy running ads in Arab papers showing dismembered corpses in Palestinian Refugee Camps -- with the caption "Sharon" -- the reality is that Generals Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon are more two of a kind than anything else.

Arab nations add their voices to the chorus of despair
(January 4, 2001)
All chance of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future is vanishing, destroyed by hardening opinions on both sides, continuing violence, the precarious position of the political leaders involved and disagreements over key issues.

Darling of American Jewry
(January 4, 2001)
Over the years, most of the strongest advocates of Israel have usually been people who are not Jewish....[I] look forward to working with him...

Barak publicly warns of regional war
(January 4, 2001)
Amid veiled threats from the Israelis to start targeting even more senior Arafat Regime persons, and even to bring the Arafat "Palestinian Authority" to an end, Ehud Barak has also started publicly talking about the possibility of regional war.

No deal for Arafat
(January 3, 2001)
In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump.

Arafat rushes to Washington
(January 2, 2001)
Clinton and the Israelis have set the stage for the last act of their multi-year drama attempting to trap the Palestinians on controlled reservations and calling it "an end to the conflict". But like a modern-day computer game the users can interact and change the outcome to various scenarios.

Top Palestinian Leader in the Arafat Regime
(January 2, 2001)
The whole house of political quicksand built by Bill Clinton at the behest of the Israelis (and popularly known as the "Peace Process") is bubbling, steaming, and swallowing many of its key participants.

Arafat hangs up on threatening Clinton
(January 1, 2001)
The coming issue of TIME magazine reports that Arafat hung up the phone receiver on Clinton a few days ago, turning to an aide and saying: "He's threatening me!

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