uri avnery

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Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom, weighs in on the issue of Chuck Hagel’s nomination for US Secretary of Defense.

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

Welcome, Chuck

I FIND Chuck Hagel eminently likeable. I am not quite certain why.

Perhaps it’s his war record. He was decorated for valor in the Vietnam War (which I detested). He was a mere sergeant. Since I was a mere corporal in our 1948 war, I find it elating to see a non-commissioned officer become Minister of Defense.

Like so many veterans who have seen war from close up (myself included), he has become an enemy of war. Wonderful.

NOW Hagel is violently attacked by all the neocon warmongers, almost none of whom has ever heard a bullet whistle in the wars to which they sent others, and the combined political regiments of the American Jewish establishment.

His main sin seems to be that he objects to war against Iran. To be against an attack on Iran means to be anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, indeed to wish for the destruction of Israel if not all Jews. Never mind that almost all present and past chiefs of the Israeli army and intelligence community object to an attack on Iran, too. But Binyamin Netanyahu knows better.

Last week, the former much-lauded chief of the Shin Bet painted a frightening picture of Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak at a security meeting to discuss the bombing of Iran some time ago. The two were in high spirits, puffing on cigars and drinking whiskey, much to the disgust of the assembled security chiefs. In Israel, cigars are considered an ostentatious luxury and drinking at work is taboo.

Netanyahu’s spin-doctors retorted that Winston Churchill, too, was a brandy drinker and smoked cigars. Seems that spirits and cigars are not enough to make a Churchill.

Actually, I think that the appointment of Hagel may come as a relief to Netanyahu. After years of depicting the Iranian nuclear bomb as the end of the world, or at least of Israel, the bomb is mysteriously absent from Netanyahu’s election campaign. Hagel’s appointment may allow Netanyahu to climb down from this tree altogether.

But the catalogue of Hagel’s crimes is much more extensive.

Many years ago he called the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington (would you believe it?) the “Jewish lobby”. Until then, it was understood that AIPAC is mainly composed of Buddhists and financed by Arab billionaires like Abu Sheldon and Abel al-Adelson.

HOWEVER, HAGEL’S most heinous sin is not often mentioned. While serving as the Republican senator for Nebraska, he once uttered the unspeakable words: “I am an American senator, not an Israeli senator!”

That is really the crux of the matter.

US senators are nearly all Israeli senators. Ditto for US congressmen. Hardly any of them would dare to criticize the Israeli government on any issue, negligible as it may be. Criticizing Israel is political suicide. Not only does the Jewish lobby use its huge resources to get loyal pro-Israelis elected and re-elected, but it openly employs these resources to unseat the few elected officials who dare to criticize Israel. They almost always succeed.

In the present election campaign, the Likud is showing again and again (and again) the scene of Netanyahu addressing the US congress. The senators and congressmen are seen wildly applauding after every single sentence, jumping up and down like children in gymnastics class. The text of the clip says: “When Netanyahu speaks, the world listens!”

(A curiosity: right after this shameful scene, the clip shows Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly. Since the applause there was sparse – hardly anyone, other than Avigdor Lieberman and the other members of the Israeli delegation in the half-empty hall did applaud – the editors of the clip used a little trick: they took the applause from the US Congress and transferred it to the UN Assembly hall.)

Somebody sent me a satirical piece saying that if Hagel’s appointment is not cancelled by the US Senate, Israel will have to use its veto power to block it. In such a case, the senate would have to muster a 90% majority to overcome the veto. If this fails, President Obama would have to choose another Defense Secretary from a list of three names provided by Netanyahu.

Jokes aside, the Israeli defense establishment is not worried by the Hagel appointment. They seem to know him as quite receptive to Israeli requests. Several Israeli generals have already come to his defense.

THIS WHOLE episode might be considered trivial, or even funny, were it not for the question: Why did President Obama put forward this controversial figure in the first place?

An obvious answer is: Revenge. Obama is a master of controlling his emotions. During all the months of Netanyahu supporting Mitt Romney, Obama did not react. But his anger must have been building up inside.

Now the time has come. Appointing Hagel and openly humiliating the pro-Israel lobby was one way. More of this can be expected to come. Any slight nudge from America is bound to be felt by Israel as a heavy blow.

By the way, this blow could be used by the opposition parties here to to expose Netanyahu’s rank incompetence. Supporting Romney was plain stupid. All the more so as Netanyahu, who was raised in the US, depicts himself as an expert on US affairs. But no party dares to raise this subject in our election campaign, for fear of being considered less than super-patriotic.

I don’t expect President Obama to change the US treatment of Israel in the near future, beyond some small punitive acts like this one. But when we raise our eyes towards the horizon, the picture looks different.

There is already a marked difference between Obama I and Obama II. When he was elected the first time, he chose Chas Freeman, a highly respected diplomat, to head the National Security Council. The pro-Israel lobby raised a storm, and the appointment was withdrawn. Obama then preferred public humiliation to a confrontation with the lobby. How different this time!

This change may well become more marked in Obama’s second term and far beyond. The lobby’s stranglehold on Washington DC is loosening, slightly, slowly, but significantly.

Why?

I believe that one of the reasons is that the perception of the American Jewish community is changing. American politicians are beginning to realize that Jewish voters are far from unanimously behind the lobby. American Jewish “leaders”, almost all of them self-appointed and representing nobody but a small clique of professional representatives, as well as the Israeli embassy and some right-wing billionaires, do not control the Jewish vote.

This became clear when Netanyahu supported Romney. The great majority of Jewish voters continued to support Obama and the Democratic Party.

This is not a sudden development. For years now, American Jews – especially young Jews – have distanced themselves from the Zionist establishment. Becoming more and more disillusioned with official Israeli policy, alienated by the occupation, disgusted with the pictures of Israeli soldiers beating up helpless Palestinians, they have quietly dropped away. Quietly, because they fear an anti-Semitic backlash. Jews are indoctrinated from early childhood that “we Jews have to stick together” in face of the anti-Semites.

Only a few brave American Jews are ready to openly – though ever so timidly – criticize Israel. But US politics are slowly adjusting to the fact that much of the lobby’s strength is bluff, and that most American Jews don’t let Israel determine their voting pattern.

AMERICANS MUST be a race of angels – how else to explain the incredible patience with which they suffer the fact that in a vital sphere of US interests, American policy is dictated by a foreign country?

For five decades, at least, US Middle East policy has been decided in Jerusalem. Almost all American officials dealing with this area are, well, Jewish. The Hebrew-speaking American ambassador in Tel Aviv could easily be the Israeli ambassador in Washington. Sometimes I wonder if in meetings of American and Israeli diplomats, they don’t sometimes drop into Yiddish.

I have warned many times that this can’t go on forever. Sooner or later real anti-Semites – a disgusting breed – will exploit this situation to gain legitimacy. The hubris of AIPAC bears poisonous fruit.

Since Israel is dependent on US support in almost every sphere – from the UN Security Council to the battlefields of future wars – this is a real existential danger.

Perhaps the lobby is becoming alert to this danger. In the present affair, their voice is remarkably subdued. They don’t want to stand out.

THE SADDEST part of the story is that all these false “friends of Israel” in the US Congress and media are not really embracing “Israel”. They are embracing the Israeli right-wing, including the extreme and even fascist right-wing. They are, thereby, helping the right-wing to tighten their control over our country.

American policy plays a major role in the agony of the Israeli peace camp, which is so manifest in the present election campaign. Just one example: the huge settlement effort now in process, which makes the two-state peace solution more and more difficult to implement, is financed by American Jews who funnel their donations through tax-free organizations. Thus the US government in practice finances the settlements, which it officially condemns as illegal.

Since the 19th century, newspapers have got used to abbreviating their reports by saying “France protests” and “Germany declares” when they mean “the French government protests” and “the German government declares”. Thus the media today write that “Israel” promotes the settlements, when in actual fact it is the Israeli government which does so. Several respected recent polls prove that most Israelis want peace based on the two-state solution, which is undermined by our government on a daily basis.

BACK TO Senator Hagel: the Israeli government and the “friends of Israel” will do anything to undermine his appointment.

Speaking for myself, I hope that his appointment will herald a new American policy – a policy of support for a sober, rational, liberal, secular, democratic Israel, striving for peace with the Palestinian people.

More Avnery articles online: zope.gush-shalom.org……………

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The speech of Khaled Meshal (leader of Hamas) to his adoring crowds in Gaza has caused a lot of controversy – not least amongst those of us who are seeking for a genuine and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine!

Uri Avnery (former Knesset member and founder of Gush Shalom) thinks that we should not take Meshal’s statement that all of Israel/Palestine “belongs to us” too seriously. It only mirrors statements being made by right-wing Zionists in Israel, he says, though he evidently does consider Meshal’s tirade rash and ill-considered.

Rabbi Michael Lerner thinks Avnery is not sufficiently disturbed by Meshal’s “murderous discourse” and believes that all of us working for peace need to be unequivocal in our condemnation of all such calls to arms.

Personally, I recall the one wise thing taught to me by my first Martial Arts instructor – that ‘your mouth can lie but your body can’t lie’.  This statement has a special relevance to young pugilists who say they want some gentle sparring but whose fists give away their real intent. It applies equally in international politics. We should always pay less attention to what the mouth is saying and focus on what the speaker is doing.

Netanyahu likes to speak of peace while he destroys any possibility of such a peace with his settlement expansion. Meshal speaks of war but has also said that he will accept a Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders. The two statements are not reconcilable. Let’s allow his body to speak for him over the coming weeks and months.

Father Dave

Khaled Meshaal

Khaled Meshaal

The Sea and the River

By Uri Avnery

December 15, 2012

“Palestine, from the Jordan to the Sea, belongs to us!” declared Khaled Meshal last week at the huge victory rally in Gaza.

“Eretz Israel, from the sea to the Jordan, belongs to us!” declare right-wing Israelis on every occasion.

The two statements seem to be the same, with only the name of the country changed.

But if you read them again carefully, there is a slight difference. The direction.

FROM THE sea to the river, from the river to the sea.

Therein lies much more significance than meets the eye. It shows how the speaker sees himself – coming from the East or from the West.

When one says “from the river to the sea”, one sees oneself as belonging to the extensive region known to Westerners as the “Middle East”, a vital part of the Asian continent. The term “Middle East” is, itself, a patronizing expression with colonial undertones – it suggests that the area has no independent standing. It exists only in relation to a far-away world center – Berlin? London? Washington?

When one says “from the sea to the river”, one sees oneself as coming from the West and living as a bridgehead of the West, facing a foreign, and probably hostile, continent.

In its long recorded history, going back many thousands of years, this country – whether Canaan, Palestine or Eretz Israel – has seen many waves of invaders who came to settle here.

Most of these waves came from the hinterland. Canaanites, Hebrews, Arabs, and many others came from the East. They settled here, mingled with the existing population and were soon absorbed, creating new mixtures and establishing natural relations with the neighboring countries. They fought wars, made peace, prospered, suffered in times of drought.

The ancient Israelite kingdoms (not the mythical ones of Saul, David and Solomon but the real historical ones of Ahab and his successors) were a natural part of this environment, as witnessed by contemporary Assyrian and other documents.

So were the Arab invaders of the 7th century. They settled among the locals. These very slowly converted from Christianity and Judaism to Islam, adopted the Arabic language and became “Arabs”, much as the Canaanites before them had become “Israelites”

QUITE DIFFERENT was the way of those invaders who came from the West.

There were three waves: the Philistines in antiquity, the Crusaders in the Middle Ages and the Zionists in modern times.

Coming from the West (even if, like the first Crusaders, overland)]  the invader sees the vast enemy continent before him. He clings to the shore, establishes a bridgehead and advances to enlarge it. Significantly, no “western” invader ever established borders – they advanced or retreated as their forces and circumstances decreed.

This historical picture applies, of course, only to those invaders who came and settled in the country. It does not concern the invading empires which just wanted to control the area. They came from all directions and moved on – Hittites and Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians, Persians and Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, Arabs and Mongols, Turks and British. (The Mongols came here after destroying Iraq, and were beaten decisively by the Muslim general Baybars, heir of Saladin, in one of the most decisive battles in history.)

Eastern Empires usually continued through Egypt to the West, turning North Africa into a Semitic sphere. Western Empires continued to the East, towards India.

Tutmosis, Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon and many others came and passed on – but none of them left a lasting mark on the country.

LIKE THEIR predecessors coming from the West, the Zionists had a bridgehead mentality from the start, and have it to this day.

Indeed, they had it even before the Zionist movement was officially founded. In his canonical book, Der Judenstaat, Theodor Herzl, the visionary whose picture hangs in the Knesset plenum hall, wrote that the future Jewish State would form a part of the “wall against Asia”. It would serve as a “forward position of the culture against the barbarism”.

Not just culture, but The Culture. And not just barbarism, but The Barbarism. For a reader in the 1890s, these needed no explanation: Culture was white and European, Barbarism was everything else, whether brown, red, black or yellow.

In today’s Israel, five generations later, this mentality has not changed. Ehud Barak coined the phrase which reflects this mentality more clearly than any other: “We are a Villa in the Jungle”.

Villa: culture, civilization, order, the West, Europe. Jungle: barbarism, the Arab/Muslim world surrounding us, a place full of wild animals, where anything can happen at any moment.

This phrase is repeated endlessly and accepted by practically everyone. Politicians and army officers may replace it with ”the neighborhood” (“Shekhuna”). Daily examples: “In the neighborhood in which we live, we cannot relax for a moment!” Or: “In a neighborhood like ours we need the atom bomb!”

Moshe Dayan, who had a poetic streak, said two generations ago in the most important speech of his life: “We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and the cannon we cannot plant a tree and build a house…This is the fate of our generation, the choice of our life – to be prepared and armed, strong and tough, or otherwise the sword will slip from our fist and our life will be snuffed out.” In another speech, a few years later, Dayan clarified that he did not mean just one generation – but many to come, endlessly – the typical bridgehead mentality which knows no borders, neither in space nor in time.

(Just a personal remark: sixty-five years ago, a year before the foundation of Israel, I published a pamphlet which opened with the words: “When our Zionist fathers decided to set up a [national home in this country] they had the choice between two courses: They could appear [as] a bridgehead of the “white” race and the master of the “natives” [or] as the heirs of the Semitic political and cultural tradition [leading] the war of liberation of the Semitic peoples against European exploitation…”)

The difference between sea-to-river and river-to-sea is not just political, and far from superficial. It goes right to the roots of the conflict.

BACK TO Meshal. His speech was a reiteration of the most extreme Palestinian line. The same words could have been delivered seventy years ago by the then leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. It is the line that has played into the hands of the Zionists and condemned the Palestinian people to disaster, to untold suffering and to its present situation.

Part of the blame must go to the Arabic language. It is a beautiful tongue, and can easily intoxicate its speaker. Modern Arab history is full of wonderful orators, who got so drunk on their own words that they lost contact with reality.

I remember an occasion when the Egyptian president, Gamal Abd al-Nasser, an outstanding rhetorician and the idol of the Arab masses, was making a sensible speech about Egyptian affairs, when somebody in the crowd shouted: “Palestine, oh Gamal!” Nasser forgot what he was talking about and launched into a passionate exposition of the Palestinian cause, heating himself up more and more, until he was obviously in a kind of trance. It was the state of mind which led him into the Israeli trap in 1967. (Israeli politicians since Menachem Begin are, fortunately, very poor speakers, speaking very inferior Hebrew.)

One could say, of course, that Meshal’s speech before the masses was just a politician’s bid for popularity and does not really count – what counts is the very different positions he adopted behind the scenes in Egypt and Gaza. That might sound reasonable – but is not.

First, because speeches influence the speaker. It would be very difficult for him to extract himself now from the verbal trap he set up for himself, even if Arab listeners have learned to take grandiose speeches with a grain of salt.

Second, because extreme Arab speeches immediately become ammunition in the hands of Israeli extremists. They reinforce the general contention, also from  Ehud Barak, that “we have no partner for peace”. Meshal’s mirror image, Avigdor Lieberman, has already used this speech as his main weapon in repulsing the European condemnation of Netanyahu’s new destructive settlement project.

IN REALITY, Meshal is now more than ever ready for compromise (as was Nasser at the time he made the speech I mentioned.) He has indicated that while not ready to make peace with Israel himself, he would accept a peace agreement signed by Mahmoud Abbas and ratified in a Palestinian referendum. He also indicated that such a peace should be based on the 1967 borders. He knows, of course, that Abbas is ready for an “agreed” solution of the refugee problem – agreed, that is, by Israel. This means that only a symbolic number will be allowed to return to Israeli territory.

Trouble is, in his exciting public speech he said the very opposite, and worse. So did Nasser, and it killed him. So, for some time, did Yasser Arafat, until he saw the folly of this method. As, I think, will Khaled Meshal, in due time.

There is no escape from the simple truth that there will be two states between the river and the sea – as well as between the sea and the river.

Unless we want the whole country – sea to river, river to sea – to become one vast graveyard.

More Avnery articles online: zope.gush-shalom.org…

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More wisdom from Uri Avnery, former Knesset member and founder of Gush-Shalom. Interestingly, Avnery sees the success of the UN bid as being a direct outcome of operation “Pillar of Cloud”. If that’s the case, it wasn’t the outcome Mr Netanyahu was looking for!

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

IT WAS a day of joy.

Joy for the Palestinian people.

Joy for all those who hope for peace between Israel and the Arab world.

And, in a modest way, for me personally.

The General Assembly of the United Nations, the highest world forum, has voted overwhelmingly for the recognition of the State of Palestine, though in a limited way.

The resolution adopted by the same forum 65 years ago to the day, to partition historical Palestine between a Jewish and an Arab state, has at long last been reaffirmed.
I HOPE I may be excused a few moments of personal celebration.

During the war of 1948, which followed the first resolution, I came to the conclusion that there exists a Palestinian people and that the establishment of a Palestinian state, next to the new State of Israel, is the prerequisite for peace.

As a simple soldier, I fought in dozens of engagements against the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. I saw how dozens of Arab towns and villages were destroyed and left deserted. Long before I saw the first Egyptian soldier, I saw the people of Palestine (who had started the war) fight for what was their homeland. Before the war, I hoped hat the unity of the country, so dear to both peoples, could be preserved. The war convinced me that reality had smashed this dream forever.

I was still in uniform when, in early 1949, I tried to set up an initiative for what is now called the Two-State Solution. I met with two young Arabs in Haifa for this purpose. One was a Muslim Arab, the other a Druze sheik.

(Both became members of the Knesset before me.)

At the time, it looked like mission impossible. “Palestine” had been wiped off the map. 78% of the country had become Israel, the other 22% divided between Jordan and Egypt. The very existence of a Palestinian people was vehemently denied by the Israeli establishment, indeed, the denial became an article of faith. Much later, Golda Meir famously declared that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people”. Respected charlatans wrote popular books “proving” that the Arabs in Palestine were pretenders who had only recently arrived. The Israeli leadership was convinced that the “Palestinian problem” had disappeared, once and forever.

In 1949, there were not a hundred persons in the entire world who believed in this solution. Not a single country supported it. The Arab countries still believed that Israel would just disappear. Britain supported its client state, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The US had its own local strongmen. Stalin’s Soviet Union supported Israel.

was a lonely fight. For the next 40 years, as the editor of a news I brought the subject up almost every week. When I was elected to the Knesset, I did the same there. In 1968 I went to Washington DC, in order to propagate the idea there. I was politely received by the relevant officials in the State Department (Joseph Sisco), the White House (Harold Saunders), the US mission to the UN (Charles Yost), leading Senators and Congressmen, as well as the British father of Resolution 242 (Lord Caradon). The uniform answer from all of them, without exception: a Palestinian state was out of question.

When I published a book devoted to this solution, the PLO in Beirut attacked me in 1970 in a book entitled “Uri Avnery and Neo-Zionism”.

Today, there is a world consensus that a solution of the conflict without a Palestinian state is quite out of the question.

So why not celebrate now?

WHY NOW? WHY didn’t it happen before or later?

Because of the Pillar of Cloud, the historic masterpiece from Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman.

The Bible tells us about Samson the hero, who rent a lion with his bare hands. When he returned to the scene, a swarm of bees had made the carcase of the lion its home and produced honey. So Samson posed a riddle to the Philistines: “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. This is now a Hebrew proverb.

Well, out of the “strong” Israeli operation against Gaza, sweetness has indeed come forth. It is another confirmation of the rule that when you
start a war or a revolution, you never know what will come out of it.

One of the results of the operation was that the prestige and popularity of Hamas shot sky-high, while the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas sank to new depths. That was a result the West could not possibly tolerate. A defeat of the “moderates” and a victory for the Islamic “extremists” were a disaster for President Barack Obama and the entire Western camp. Something had to found – with all urgency – to provide Abbas with a resounding achievement.

Fortunately, Abbas was already on the way to obtain UN approval for the recognition of Palestine as a “state” (though not yet as a full member of the world organization). For Abbas, it was a move of despair. Suddenly, it became a beacon of victory.

THE COMPETITION between the Hamas and Fatah movements is viewed as a disaster for the Palestinian cause. But there is also another way to look at it.

Let’s go back to our own history. During the 30s and 40s, our Struggle for Liberation (as we called it) split between two camps, who hated each other with growing intensity.

On the one side was the “official” leadership, led by David Ben-Gurion, represented by the “Jewish Agency” which cooperated with the British administration. Its military arm was the Haganah, a very large, semi-official militia, mostly tolerated by the British. On the other side was the Irgun (“National Military Organization”), the far more radical armed wing of the nationalist “revisionist” party of Vladimir Jabotinsky. It split and yet another, even more radical, organization was born. The British called it “the Stern Gang”, after its leader, Avraham Stern”.

The enmity between these organizations was intense. For a time, Haganah members kidnapped Irgun fighters and turned them over to the British police, who tortured them and sent them to camps in Africa. A bloody fratricidal war was avoided only because the Irgun leader, Menachem Begin, forbade all actions of revenge. By contrast, the Stern people bluntly told the Haganah that they would shoot anyone trying to attack their members.

In retrospect, the two sides can be seen as acting as the two arms of the same body. The “terrorism” of the Irgun and Stern complemented the diplomacy of the Zionist leadership. The diplomats exploited the achievements of the fighters. In order to counterbalance the growing popularity of the “terrorists”, the British made concessions to Ben-Gurion. A friend of mine called the Irgun “the shooting agency of the Jewish Agency”. In a way, this is now the situation in the Palestinian camp.

FOR YEARS, the Israeli government has threatened Abbas with the most dire consequences if he dared to go to the UN. Abolishing the Oslo agreement and destroying the Palestinian authority was the bare minimum. Lieberman called the move “diplomatic terrorism”. And now? Nothing. Not a bang and barely a whimper. Even Netanyahu understands that the Pillar of Cloud has created a situation where world support for Abbas has become inevitable.

What to do? Nothing! Pretend the whole thing is a joke. Who cares? What is this UNO anyway? What difference does it make?

Netanyahu is more concerned about another thing that happened to him this week. In the Likud primary elections, all the “moderates” in his party were unceremoniously kicked out. No liberal, democratic alibi was left. The Likud-Beitenu faction in the next Knesset will be composed entirely of right-wing extremists, among them several outright fascists, people who want to destroy the independence of the Supreme Court, cover the West Bank densely with settlements and prevent peace and a Palestinian state by all possible means.

While Netanyahu is sure to win the coming elections and continue to serve as Prime Minister, he is too clever not to realize where he is now: a hostage to extremists, liable to be thrown out by his own Knesset faction if he so much as mentions peace, to be displaced at any time by Lieberman or worse.

ON FIRST sight, nothing much has changed. But only on first sight. What has happened is that the foundation of the State of Palestine has now been officially acknowledged as the aim of the world community. The “Two-State solution” is now the only solution on the table. The “One-State solution”, if it ever lived, is as dead as the dodo.

Of course, the apartheid one-state is reality. If nothing changes on the ground, is will become deeper and stronger. Almost every day brings news of it becoming more and more entrenched. (The bus monopoly has just announced that from now on there will be separate buses for West Bank Palestinians in Israel.)

But the quest for peace based on the co-existence between Israel and Palestine has taken a big step forwards. Unity between the Palestinians should be the next. US support for the actual creation of the State of Palestine should come soon after. The strong must lead to the sweet.

More Avnery articles online: zope.gush-shalom.org………

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More words of wisdom from brother Uri (founder of Gush-Shalom), and even some humour this time: “Each of the two sides is now celebrating its great victory. If they organized just one joint celebration, a lot of  money could be saved.”

Of course there is really nothing to laugh about in the aftermath of this violence. The dead are being buried, the families are grieving, the hostility has increased, and, as Avnery points out, there has been a power-shift towards radicalism! What a senseless waste of human life!

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

Once And For All!

THE MANTRA of this round was Once And For All.

“We must put an end to this (the rockets, Hamas, the Palestinians, the Arabs?) Once and For All!” – this cry from the heart was heard dozens of times daily on TV from the harassed inhabitants of Israel’s battered towns and villages in the South.

It has displaced the slogan which dominated several decades: “Bang And Finish!”

It did not quite work.

THE BIG winner emerging from the cloud is Hamas.

Until this round, Hamas had a powerful presence in the Gaza Strip, but practically no international standing. The international face of the Palestinian people was Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian National Authority.

No more.

Operation Pillar of Cloud has given the Hamas mini-state in Gaza wide international recognition. (Pillar of Cloud is the official Hebrew name, though the army spokesman decreed that the English name, for foreign consumption, should be Pillar of Defense.) Heads of state and droves of other foreign dignitaries made their pilgrimage to the Strip.

First was the powerful and immensely rich Emir of Qatar, owner of Aljazeera. He was the first head of state ever to enter the Gaza strip. Then came the Egyptian prime minister, the Tunisian foreign minister, the secretary of the Arab League and the collected Arab foreign ministers (except the one from Ramallah.)

In all diplomatic deliberations, Gaza was treated as a de facto state, with a de facto government (Hamas). The Israeli media were no exception. It was clear to Israelis that any deal, to be effective, must be concluded with Hamas.

Within the Palestinian people, the standing of Hamas shot sky-high. The Gaza Strip alone, smaller than an average American county, has stood up to the mighty Israeli war machine, one of the largest and most efficient in the world. It has not succumbed. The military outcome will be at best a draw.

A draw between tiny Gaza and the powerful Israel means a victory for Gaza.

Who remembers now Ehud Barak’s proud declaration in the middle of the war: “We shall not stop until Hamas gets on its knees and begs for a cease-fire!”

WHERE DOES that leave Mahmoud Abbas? Actually, nowhere.

For a simple Palestinian, whether in Nablus, Gaza or Beirut, the contrast is glaring. Hamas is courageous, proud, upright, while Fatah is helpless, submissive and despised. Pride and honor play a central role in Arab culture.

After more than half a century of humiliation, any Palestinian who stands up against the occupation is the hero of the Arab masses, in and outside the country. Abbas is identified only with the close cooperation of his security forces with the hated Israeli occupation army. And the most important fact: Abbas has nothing to show for it.

If Abbas could at least show a major political achievement for his pains, the situation might be different. The Palestinians are a sensible people, and if Abbas had come even one step closer to Palestinian statehood, most Palestinians would probably have said: he may not be glamorous, but he delivers the goods.

But the opposite is happening.  The violent Hamas is achieving results, the non-violent Abbas is not. As a Palestinian told me: “He (Abbas) has given them (the Israelis) everything, quiet and security, and what did [or “does”] he get in return? They spit in his face!”

This round will only reinforce a basic Palestinian conviction: “Israelis understand only the language of force!” (Israelis, of course, say exactly the same about the Palestinians.)

If at least the US had allowed Abbas to achieve a UN resolution recognizing Palestine as a non-member state, he might have held his own against Hamas. But the Israeli government is determined to prevent this by all available means. Barack Obama’s decision, even after re-election, to block the Palestinian effort is a direct support for Hamas and a slap in the face of the “moderates”. Hillary Clinton’s perfunctory visit to Ramallah this week was seen in this context.

Looked at from the outside, this looks like sheer lunacy. Why undermine the “moderates” who want and are able to make peace? Why elevate the “extremists”, who are opposed to peace?

The answer is openly expressed by Avigdor Lieberman, now Netanyahu’s official political No. 2: he wants to destroy Abbas in order to annex the West Bank and clear the way for the settlers. 

AFTER HAMAS, the big winner is Mohamed Morsi.

This is an almost incredible tale. When Morsi was elected as the president of Egypt, official Israel was in hysteria. How terrible! The Islamist extremists have taken over the most important Arab country! Our peace treaty with our largest neighbor is going down the drain!

US reactions were almost the same.

And now – less than four months later – we hang on every word Morsi utters. He is the man who has put an end to the mutual killing and destruction! He is the great peacemaker! He is the only person who can mediate between Israel and Hamas! He must guarantee the cease-fire agreement!

Can it be? Can this be the same Morsi? The same Muslim Brotherhood?

The 61 year old Morsi (the full name is Mohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyad. Isa being the Arab form of Jesus, who is regarded in Islam as a prophet) is a complete novice on the world stage. Yet at this moment, all the world’s leaders rely on him.

When I wholeheartedly welcomed the Arab Spring, I had people like him in mind. Now almost all the Israeli commentators, ex-generals and politicians, who uttered dire warnings at the time, are lauding his success in achieving a cease-fire.

THROUGHOUT THE operation I did what I always do in such situations: I switched constantly between Israeli TV and Aljazeera. Sometimes, when my thoughts wander, I am unsure for a moment which of the two I am looking at.

Women weeping, wounded being carried away, homes in shambles, children’s shoes strewn around, families packing and fleeing. Here and there. Mirror images. Though, of course, Palestinian casualties were 30  times higher than the Israeli ones – partly because of the incredible success of the Iron Dome interception missiles and home shelters, while the Palestinians were practically defenseless.

On Wednesday I was invited to air my views on Israel’s Channel 2, the most popular (and patriotic) Israeli outlet. The invitation was of course withdrawn at the last moment. Had I been on air, I would have posed to my compatriots one simple question:

Was It Worthwhile?

All the suffering, the killed, the injured, the destruction, the hours and days of terror, the children in trauma?

And, I might add, the endless TV coverage around the clock, with legions of ex-generals appearing on the screen and declaiming the message sheet of the prime minister’s office. And the blood-curdling threats of politicians and other nincompoops, including the son of Ariel Sharon, who proposed flattening neighborhoods in Gaza City, or even better, the whole Strip.

Now that it is over, we are almost exactly where we were before. The operation, commonly referred to in Israel as “another round”, was indeed round – leading nowhere than to where it started.

Hamas will be firmly in control of the Gaza Strip, if not more firmly. The Gazans will hate Israel even more than before. Many of the inhabitants of the West Bank, who throughout the war came out in their thousands in demonstrations for Hamas, will vote in even greater numbers for Hamas in the next elections. Israeli voters will vote in two months as they intended to vote anyhow, before the whole thing started.

Each of the two sides is now celebrating its great victory. If they organized just one joint celebration, a lot of money could be saved.

WHAT ARE the political conclusions?

The most obvious one is: talk with Hamas. Directly. Face to face.

Yitzhak Rabin once told me how he came to the conclusion that he must talk with the PLO: after years of opposing  it, he realized that they were the only force that counted. “So it was ridiculous to talk with them through intermediaries.” 

The same is now true for Hamas. They are there. They will not go away. It is ridiculous for the Israeli negotiators to sit in one room at the Egyptian intelligence service HQ near Cairo, while the Hamas negotiators sit in another room, just a few meters away, with the courteous Egyptians going to and fro.

Concurrently, activate the effort towards peace. Seriously.

Save Abbas. As of now, he has no replacement. Give him an immediate victory to balance the Hamas achievements. Vote for the Palestinian application for statehood in the UN General Assembly.

Move towards peace with the entire Palestinian people, including Fatah and Hamas – so we can really put an end to the violence,

ONCE AND FOR ALL!

More Avnery articles online: zope.gush-shalom.org……

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This press-release just in from Gush-Shalom – the Israeli ‘Peace Bloc’.  It’s a cynical reading of the situation – accusing the politicians of deliberately trading blood for votes – but how else are we supposed to make sense of this fresh outbreak of hostilities? Father Dave

Press Release 11/14/2012

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

Avnery: Netanyahu and Barak have decided to deliberately violate a cease-fire which had just been stabilized.

At the price of great and ongoing suffering on both sides of the border, the government’s aim  had been accomplished: social issues will be removed from the public agenda and the election campaign

“Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have decided – for the second time in a row the State of Israel will conduct general elections under the shadow of war in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire which already started to stabilize has been broken deliberately and shattered to pieces. The inhabitants of the communities of southern Israel, who just started to breathe freely, are sent right back to air raid alarms and to running to shelters” said  former Knesset Member Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.

“At the price of great suffering on both sides of the border, the government’s aim has been accomplished: the social issues, which threatened to assume prominence in these elections, have been pushed aside and removed from the agenda  of the elections campaign. Forgotten, too, is the brave attempt of Mahmoud Abbas to address the Israeli public opinion. In the coming weeks, the headlines will be filled with constant war and death, destruction and bloodshed. When it ends at last, it will be revealed that no goal has been achieved and that the problems remain the same, or perhaps exacerbated. “

Details:Adam Keller, Gush Shalom +972-54-2340749