Gush Shalom

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More wisdom from brother Uri. 

In Avnery’s analysis, Netanyahu is an almost comical character, but it’s not possible to laugh when the lives of millions of people are affected by this clown’s antics.

Father Dave

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu

A new Guinness Record

by Uri Avnery

I DON’T know if the Guinness Book of World Records has a special section for Chutzpah.

If it does not, it should. That’s the one competition where we might take home a few gold medals.

The first one would surely go to Binyamin Netanyahu

THIS WEEK, on the eve of the first round of serious negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu did two interesting things: he announced plans for several large new settlement projects and he accused the Palestinians of grievous incitement against Israel.

Let’s take the settlements first. As explained by Israeli diplomats to their American colleagues, and repeated by all the Israeli media, poor Netanyahu had no choice. John Kerry compelled him to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a “confidence building measure”. After such a momentous concession, he had to pacify his extremist colleagues in the Likud and in the cabinet. A thousand new housing units in the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) was the very minimum.

The agreement to release prisoners let loose a veritable Witches’ Sabbath. All the newspapers and TV news programs were awash with blood – the blood on the hands of the Palestinian murderers. “Murderers” was the de rigeur appellation. Not “fighters”, not “militants”, not even “terrorists”. Just plain “murderers”.

All the prisoners to be released were convicted before the Oslo agreement was signed, meaning that they have been in prison for at least 20 years. The probability that they would take part in future bloody activity must be minimal.

Some of the victims’ families carried out staged stormy protests, with bloody hands and blood-smeared flags. The media vied with each other in publishing pictures of weeping mothers (TV loves weeping women) waving photos of their killed sons and blood-curdling descriptions of the attacks in which they died. (Some of which were indeed atrocious.)

However, not so long ago, Netanyahu had agreed to release more than a thousand prisoners in return for one captured Israeli soldier. This means that one single soldier is ten times more precious than the chances of peace.

The actual release bordered on the grotesque. In order to avoid photos in the morning papers of the rapturous reception of the prisoners by their families, the actual release of the first 26 prisoners took place after midnight, in a shroud of mystery. Which reminds one of the Biblical passage, in which David mourned for Saul, slain in battle with the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon (both Philistine towns), lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (II Samuel 1)

Does all this testify to an atmosphere of peace on the  eve of peacemaking? Wait, there is more to come.

THE DAY the new settlement projects were announced, Netanyahu fired off to John Kerry a furious protest against the ongoing Palestinian “incitement” against Israel. This missive could interest the adjudicators of the Guinness record for Chutzpah.

The main evidence for Mahmoud Abbas’ perfidy, in Netanyahu’s letter, is a text in which a minor Palestinian official called for a Palestinian state “from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat.” Rosh Hanikra (Ras Naqura in Arabic) is on the Lebanese border, so this state would include all of Israel. Also, during a soccer event in Ramallah, anti-Israeli shouts were heard.

Awful, just awful. Kerry should spring from his seat in fury. Were it not for the fact that almost all leading Likud members proclaim that the whole of historical Palestine belongs to Israel, and Naftali Bennett, a pillar of Netanyahu’s government coalition, just announced that the Palestinians “can forget about” a Palestinian state.

Not to mention a certain Daniel Seaman, the former director of the Ministry of Explaining (that’s its  real name. I didn’t make it up. Israelis don’t do propaganda, God forbid. Seaman has just been appointed to Netanyahu’s own office, in charge of “explaining” on the internet. This week he posted a message on facebook addressed to Saeb Erekat, the chief of he Palestinian delegation to the peace talks, telling him to “go and f**k himself”. To the theological declaration by the Church of Scotland that the Jews have no special claim to Palestine he posted the reply: “We don’t give a [obscenity] for what you say.”

This genius of public relations is now setting up a clandestine group of Israeli university students, who will be paid to flood the international social media with government “explaining” material.

As for soccer fans, the Betar stadium, which is linked to the Likud, resounds at every match with shouts of “Death to the Arabs!”’

So, for what the bell tolls? Nor for peace, it seems

ONE OF the problems is that absolutely nobody knows what Netanyahu really wants. Perhaps not even he.

The Prime Minister is now the loneliest person in Israel. He has no friends. He trusts nobody, and nobody around him trusts him.

His colleagues in the Likud leadership quite openly despise him, regarding him as a man of no principles, without a backbone, giving in to every pressure. This seems to have been the opinion of his late father, who once declared that Binyamin would make a good foreign minister, but certainly not a prime minister.

In the government he is quite alone. Previous prime ministers had a close group of ministers to consult with. Golda Meir had a “kitchen cabinet”. Netanyahu has no one. He does not consult with anyone. He announces his decisions, and that’s that.

In his previous terms he had at least a group of confidants in his office. These officials have been driven out one by one by Sarah, his wife.

So, as one commentator this week reminded us, this lonely man, unaided by any group of trusted advisors, experts or confidants, is called upon to decide, quite by himself, the fate of Israel for generations to come.

THIS WOULD not have been so dangerous if Netanyahu had been a Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately, he isn’t.

De Gaulle was one of the towering figures of the 20th century. Cold, aloof, overbearing, intensely disliked by the rest of the world’s leaders, this extreme right-wing general took the historic decision to give up the huge country of Algeria, four times as big as metropolitan France.

Algeria, it must be remembered, was officially not a colony, not an occupied territory, but a part of France proper. It had been under French rule for more than a century. More than a million settlers saw it as their homeland. Yet de Gaulle made the lonely decision to give it up, putting his own life in grave danger.

Since then, Israeli leftists have yearned for “an Israeli de Gaulle”, who would do their job for them, according to the old Hebrew adage that “the work of the righteous is done by others” – others meaning, one assumes, people who are not quite so righteous.

There is, of course, one important difference. De Gaulle was supported by his conservative allies, the tycoons of the French economy. These sober-minded capitalists saw how the Germans were taking over the economy of Europe, which was in the process of uniting, while France was wasting its resources on an expensive, totally useless colonial war in North Africa. They wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and de Gaulle was their man.

Netanyahu is as close to the Israeli tycoons as de Gaulle was to his, but our tycoons don’t give a damn about peace. This attitude may change, if ever the de-legitimization of Israel becomes a serious economic burden.

In this context; the boycott imposed by the European Union against the products of the settlements may be a harbinger of things to come.

By the way, the petition submitted by me and Gush Shalom in the Supreme Court, against the new law to penalize advocates of a boycott of the settlements, will be heard only next February. The court is obviously shrinking back from handling this hot potato. But it paid us a unique compliment: “Avnery v. the Knesset” will be heard by nine supreme judges, almost the full membership of the court.

SO IS this “peace process” serious? What does Netanyahu want?

Does he want to enter the history books as the “Israeli de Gaulle”, the wise Zionist leader who put an end to 120 years of conflict?

Or is he just another smart guy who is making a tactical move to avoid a tussle with the US and stop the de-legitimization process at least for a while?

As it looks now, de Gaulle in his heaven can relax. No competitor in sight.

There is not the slightest indication of any peace orientation. Quite the contrary. Our government is using the new “peace process” as a smoke screen behind which the settlement bulldozer is working full time.

The government condemns the EU boycott resolution because it “harms the peace process”. It rejects all demands for freezing the settlements because this would “obstruct the peace process”. Investing hundreds of millions in settlements which under any imaginable peace agreement will have to be evacuated is, it seems, favorable for peace.

So is there hope? Time to quote again the Yiddish saying: “If God wills, even a broomstick can shoot!”

read more of Uri Avnery’s wisdom on the Gush Shalom website

 

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More wisdom from brother Uri, but it gives us little ground for hope.

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

April 6, 2013

In Their Shoes

OBAMA IN ISRAEL: Every word right. Every gesture genuine. Every detail in its place. Perfect.

Obama in Palestine: Every word wrong. Every gesture inappropriate. Every single detail misplaced. Perfect.

IT STARTED from the first moment. The President of the United States came to Ramallah. He visited the Mukata’a, the “compound” which serves as the office of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

One cannot enter the Mukata’a without noticing the grave of Yasser Arafat, just a few paces from the entrance.

It is quite impossible to ignore this landmark while passing it. However, Obama succeeded in doing just that.

It was like spitting in the face of the entire Palestinian people. Imagine a foreign dignitary coming to France and not laying a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Or coming to Israel and not visiting Yad Vashem. It is more than insulting. It is stupid.

Yasser Arafat is for the Palestinians what Gorge Washington is for Americans, Mahatma Gandhi for Indians, David Ben-Gurion for Israelis. The Father of the Nation. Even his domestic opponents on the left and on the right revere his memory. He is the supreme symbol of the modern Palestinian national movement. His picture hangs in every Palestinian office and school.

So why not honor him? Why not lay a wreath on his grave, as foreign leaders have done before?

Because Arafat has been demonized and vilified in Israel like no other human being since Hitler. And still is.

Obama was simply afraid of the Israeli reaction. After his huge success in Israel, he feared that such a gesture would undo the effect of his address to the Israeli people.

THIS CONSIDERATION guided Obama throughout his short visit to the West Bank. His feet were in Palestine, his head was in Israel.

He walked in Palestine. He talked to Palestine. But his thoughts were about the Israelis.

Even when he said good things, his tone was wrong. He just could not hit the right note. Somehow he missed the cue.

Why? Because of a complete lack of empathy.

Empathy is something hard to define. I am spoiled in this respect, because I had the good fortune to live for many years near a person who had it in abundance. Rachel, my wife, hit the right tone with everyone, high or low, local or foreign, the old and the very young.

Obama did so in Israel. It was really amazing. He must have studied us thoroughly. He knew our strengths and our weaknesses, our paranoias and our idiosyncrasies, our historical memories and dreams about the future.

And no wonder. He is surrounded by Zionist Jews. They are his closest advisors, his friends and his experts on the Middle East. Even from mere contact with them, he obviously absorbed much of our sensitivities.

As far as I know, there is not a single Arab, not to mention Palestinian, in the White House and its surroundings.

I assume that he does receive occasional briefings about Arab affairs from the State Department. But such dry memoranda are not the stuff empathy is made of. The more so as clever diplomats must have learned by now not to write anything that may offend Israelis.

So how could the poor man have possibly picked up empathy towards the Palestinians?

THE CONFLICT between Israel and Palestine has very solid factual causes. But it has also been rightly described as a “clash between traumas”: the Holocaust trauma of the Jews and the Naqba trauma of the Palestinians (without suggesting equivalence between the two calamities.)

Many years ago in New York I met a very good friend of mine. He was an Arab citizen of Israel, a young poet who had left Israel and joined the PLO. He invited me to meet some Palestinians at his home in a suburb of New York. His family name, by the way, was the same as Obama’s middle name.

When I entered the apartment, it was crammed full with Palestinians – Palestinians of all stripes, from Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, the refugee camps and the Diaspora. We had a very emotional debate, full of heated arguments and counter-arguments. When we left I asked Rachel what, to her mind, was the most outstanding common sentiment of all these people. “The sense of injustice!” she replied without hesitation.

That was exactly what I felt. “If Israel could just apologize for what we have done to the Palestinian people, a huge obstacle would have been removed from the road to peace,” I answered her.

It would have been a good beginning for Obama in Ramallah if he had addressed this point. It was not the Palestinians who killed six million Jews. It was the European countries and – yes – the USA which callously closed their doors to the Jews, who were desperately trying to escape the lot awaiting them. And it was the Muslim world which welcomed hundreds of thousands of Jews fleeing from Catholic Spain and the inquisition some 500 years ago.

OUR CONFLICT is tragic, more than most. One of its tragedies is that neither side can be entirely blamed. There is not one narrative, but two. Each side is convinced of the absolute justice of its cause. Each side nurses its overwhelming sense of victimhood. Though there can be no symmetry between settlers and natives, occupier and occupied, in this respect they are the same.

The trouble with Obama is that he has completely, entirely, totally embraced one narrative, while being almost completely oblivious to the other. Every word he uttered in Israel gave testimony to his deeply-rooted Zionist convictions. Not just the words he said, but the tone, the body language, all bore the marks of honesty. Evidently, he had internalized the Zionist version of every single detail of the conflict.

Nothing like this was in evidence in Ramallah. Some dry formulas, yes. Some honest efforts to break the ice, indeed.  But nothing that touched the hearts of the Palestinians.

He told his Israeli audience to “put yourselves in the shoes of the Palestinians”.  But did he do so himself? Can he imagine what it means to wait every night for the brutal banging on the door? To  be woken by the noise of bulldozers approaching, wondering whether they are coming to destroy your home? To see a settlement growing on your land and waiting for the settlers to come and carry out a pogrom in your village? Being unable to move on your roads? To see your father humiliated at the road blocks? To throw stones at armed soldiers and brave tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and sometimes live ammunition?

Can he even imagine having a brother, a cousin, a loved one in prison for many, many years because of his patriotic actions or beliefs, after facing the arbitrariness of a military “court”, or even without a “trial” at all?

This week, a prisoner called Maisara Abu-Hamdiyeh died in prison, and the West Bank exploded in rage. Israeli journalists ridiculed the protest, stating that the man died from a fatal disease, so Israel could not be blamed.

Did any of them imagine for a moment what it means for a human being to suffer from cancer, with the disease slowly spreading through his body, deprived of adequate treatment, cut off from family and friends, seeing death approaching? What if it had been their father?

THE OCCUPATION is not an abstract matter. It is a daily reality for two and a half million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – not to mention the restrictions on Gaza.

It does not concern only the individuals practically denied all human rights. It primarily concerns the Palestinians as a nation.

We Israelis, perhaps more than anyone else, should know that belonging to one’s nation, in one’s own state, under one’s own flag, is a basic right of every human being. In the present epoch, it is an essential element of human dignity. No people will settle for less.

The Israeli government insists that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the “Nation-State of the Jewish People”. It adamantly refuses to recognize Palestine as the “Nation-State of the Palestinian People”. What is Obama’s position on that?

FOLLOWING THE visit, Secretary of State John Kerry is now working hard to “prepare the ground” for a “resumption” of the “peace talks” between Israel and the PLO. Many quotation marks for something so flimsy.

Diplomats can string together hollow phrases to conjure up the illusion of progress. That is one of their main talents. But after a historic conflict lasting some 130 years, no progress towards peace between the two peoples can be real, if there is no equal respect for their national history, rights, feelings and aspirations.

As long as the US leadership cannot bring itself to that point, the chance of its contributing to peace in this tormented country is close to nil.

read more from Uri Avnery on the Gush Shalom website

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The following article is written by Adam Keller and appeared on his blog today.

I only knew the man through his involvement in Gush Shalom – as the man behind so many press releases – but a little research has shown me that Mr Keller is a powerful activist in his own right.

Imprisoned on numerous occasions for refusing to serve in the Israeli military in the Occupied Territories, Keller has a proud history of activism on behalf of the oppressed. Certainly his hopes and fears for Obama’s second term echo my own.

Father Dave

Adam Keller

Adam Keller

source: Adam Keller’s ‘Crazy Country’ blog

A Night of Hope

A few hours and many cups of coffee after a night which seemed like an eternity. The CNN non-stop on the screen and experts arguing  and maps with red and blue spots. Swing states and swing counties in the swing states. Instant lessons in the physical and human geography of Virginia and Florida and Ohio. Here the countryside always votes Republican and the big city there is a Democrat bastion and here live many Blacks and there the number of Hispanics increased in the past decade and in this location Bush won in 2004 but Obama did in 2008 and there might develop a big surprise. And in Florida it was 50% against 49% when a quarter of the votes were counted, and the same when half were counted and when it was three quarters, and suddenly the gap narrows and then widens again, and would Obama’s advantage be maintained and when at last would the count be finished in the counties south of Miami, and how long can one stand this tension?

And in the end there was no need to wait for Florida because the die  was already cast in other places and the crowds were celebrating in the dark streets of Chicago while here in Holon in the State of Israel the light of the quiet early morning was already streaming through the window and this decision which was taken overseas will affect our destiny here, no less and perhaps more than in our own Israeli elections come January. And on the screen Mitt Romney made a respectable speech and how good to spare him a moment of a generous victor’s sympathy, and in another year we will hardly remember who he was. And how wonderful that Sheldon Adelson’s hundreds of millions have all gone down the drain and that the Jewish pensioners in Central Florida were not really impressed with the special elections broadcasts recorded by Binyamin Netanyahu.

In a way the achievement of Barack Hussein Obama last night was greater than his achievement four years ago. Than, he was widely regarded as a savior, almost a Messiah, and was swept to power on enormous  waves of enthusiasm. Since then, he has many times disappointed those who voted for him and those who looked up to him. By now, everybody  knows he is no Messiah nor does he posses any magic wand, and that he certainly does not succeed in everything he tries. Yet at the crucial moment  the Blacks came out, and the Hispanics and the Jews and the women and the Ohio auto workers, and also quite a few of the maligned White Men, and they all gave him a chance to achieve in four more years, what he didn’t so far.

And also we here in Israel, who had no vote in these elections, we shared in the dashed hopes. The impressive speech in Cairo and the high-profile clashes with Netanyahu which somehow always ended indecisively, while the settlement freeze dissolved. And the grand confrontation in the summer of 2011, when Obama proposed negotiations based on the 1967 borders and Mahmoud Abbas agreed immediately and Netanyahu burst out in a furious attack in  Congress and got a standing ovation and Obama shelved all the ideas and plans until after the election. After the elections is today.

Yesterday “Yediot Ahronot” had a large headline: “Netanyahu fearful of an Obama victory”. Below it was written: “Tension in Israel towards the US  elections. Due to Netanyahu’s support for Romney, the PM’s aides are apprehensive that Obama, if re-elected, might take vengeful steps. To the contrary, a Romney victory would put the wind in the Prime Minister’s sails.   (…) Officials believe that Obama’s anger against Netanyahu is so great that Obama would try – indirectly and perhaps also directly – to sabotage  Netanyahu’s elections campaign in Israel. There is concern that during the [Israeli] campaign, Obama would voice public criticism of Netanyahu and embarrass him. In addition it is feared that Obama would stop providing automatic backing to Israel in international forums dealing with Israeli policy in the Territories. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a private conversation that in her opinion, after the Israeli elections there would  appear an opportunity to revive the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the Obama Administration will be deeply involved if the President wins a second term.

At noon today, Netanyahu sent Obama a letter of congratulations (what else could he have done?)

Last week I expressed the hope that it might be the American voters would make for the State of Israel the decision which our political system is evading for forty-five years already.  Not everyone who read it was enthusiastic about this passage. Some argued that I was spreading false hopes and that President Obama and his party would never seriously confront Netanyahu, neither in his first term nor in the second one.

It is quite possible such criticism would prove justified; that also this time, Obama would disappoint those who still cherish hopes, Israelis and Palestinians and others of good will who care about the future of this country and this region. It is quite possible. But it is also possible that he would surprise and astonish the sceptics, as yesterday he surprised and astonished the US Republicans and their Israeli supporters and the learned commentators who prematurely wrote him off.

At least, now we will get to check all this empirically.