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The Other Israel _ May 1995, Issue No. 66

Contents

New Lebanons
Editorial Comment by Adam Keller

Doves in Quandary

Peace Actions:
Hebron Solidarity Committee, Land Defense Committee
Gush Shalom, Alternative Information Center,
Land and Water Institute

Matti Peled (1923-1995)
Two Worlds
Telegrams and Messages
A "Traitor" Before His Time, by Teddy Preuss
I Shall Not See His Like Again, by Uri Avnery
Converging Tracks, by Walid Khalidi
For a Broader Security, by Inge Hoffmann
"True Enemies," from the Friends of Henri Curiel, Paris
(Joyce Blau, Alain Gresh, Joseph Hazan)
A Very Strange General, by Haim Ha'negbi
It Is My Considered Opinion, by Haim Bar'am
Extremely Moderate, by Yossi Amitai
A Salute to Peled, by Lutfi El-Kholi


No Regrets - Arna Mer as I knew her, by Iris Bar

Peace Actions (continued)
Peace Now
Palestinian Housing Rights Movement, Gush Shalom,
Jerusalem Link.
Hadash
WRI Section - Pacifists Israel/Palestine
Vanunu Solidarity Commitee and
Physicians Against Nuclear War

How Did We Become So Lame? by David Grossman

----------

THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Assistant Editor: Beate Zilversmidt

For a free copy of this issue, please send your name and postal address to AICIPP via Peacenet e-mail (AICIPP@igc.apc.org) or to AICIPP@mcimail.com.

THE OTHER ISRAEL
May 1995, Issue No. 66

***TOI 66, MAY 1995***


NEW LEBANONS
Almost ten years ago -- on June 6, 1985 -- Israeli papers carried banner headlines: Withdrawal from Lebanon completed today! The papers were wrong: withdrawal from Lebanon has not been completed up to the present day. Yitzchak Rabin, Defence Minister at that time, insisted upon retaining control over a compact slice of Lebanese territory, a policy for which Israeli soldiers -- and Lebanese villagers -- continue to pay with their lives. Just like ten years ago, Israel is still involved in a grim Lebanese guerilla war -- a forgotten war, going on perpetually though getting attention only when a major incident occurs. The "Security Zone" concept, whereby the so-called South Lebanon Army would bear most of the burden of fighting, never really worked. The locally-recruited SLA mercenaries proved no match to the determined guerillas of Hizbullah, motivated by a mixture of religious fervour and resentment of foreign occupation. Thus, the Israeli army was drawn back into the thick of the fighting.

Since early 1995, the pace of this war in Lebanon became swifter. The newly-installed Commanding General, Amiram Levin, ordered a series of offensive actions and counter-raids northwards -- causing a considerable number of Hizbullah casualties, but also provoking numerous retaliations. Recent army statistics listed 50 to 60 "terrorist incidents" per month in South Lebanon -- double the rate of last year (Israeli TV, April 25.)

In fact, the Israeli military options in Lebanon are rather limited. A large-scale ground offensive deep into Lebanon is totally ruled out since Sharon's fiasco of 1982. A massive air and artillery bombardment was tried by Rabin in 1993 -- with, at best, mixed results. And undercover assassination of Hizbullah leaders, a method tried several times, always entails a Katyusha rocket attack upon northern Israel.

Recently, Prime Minister Rabin admitted that 'there is no military solution to the Lebanon problem.' In seeking a political solution, however, Rabin looks neither to the Hizbullah -- Israel's direct antagonist -- nor to the Beirut government, which is considered a mere Syrian satellite (with some justification, but then Rabin never offered the Lebanese anything encouraging them to take an independent line).

For Rabin, progress on the Israeli-Lebanese front is to be achieved as a side-issue in the ongoing negotiations with Hafez Assad, President of Syria and de-facto Overlord of Lebanon. In effect, the possibility of Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon is deferred to the unknown future date when Israeli-Syrian differences on the even more vexed issue of the Golan are finally ironed out.

For his part, Assad is quite happy with the linkage: Hizbullah, unlike the SLA, neither needs nor wishes for the direct military involvement of its patron; thus, the ongoing South Lebanon conflict provides Syria with an excellent bargaining counter, at little or no cost to itself.

As Israeli-Syrian negotiations drag on slowly, Israeli soldiers and Lebanese guerillas continue to be killed by each other (together with civilian bystanders). But meanwhile, press rumors of an impending agreement and impending Israeli withdrawal increase the rate of desertion among SLA soldiers, apprehensive of retaliation by the future Lebanese or Syrian authorities -- and the disintegration of the SLA forces Israel to pour more of her own young manhood into the Lebanese trap.

****



With the approaching first anniversary of the Israeli evacuation from Gaza, the Gaza Strip is increasingly coming to resemble South Lebanon -- once again due to Rabin's failure to decide upon complete withdrawal from an untenable position.

In May 1994, Israeli soldiers sang with enthusiasm: Goodbye, Gaza /May we never see you again! -- but they did not get very far. Rabin re-deployed the soldiers throughout the Gaza Strip, to protect the settlements he refused to dismantle, the roads leading to them, and the settler cars traveling on these roads.

For the Palestinian opposition groups, determined to continue the armed struggle against Israel, these soldiers -- scattered over numerous and vulnerable positions -- pose a tempting target, accessible even when closure made attacks inside Israel more difficult. At the same time, the unemployment and economic hardship resulting from closure increase the number of embittered Palestinian youths seeking to exchange their miserable lives for the glory of martyrdom.

p.2

A typically "Lebanese" mode of life became the norm for soldiers on the Gazan roads: constantly on the alert at their machine-guns, in isolated, sandbagged outposts; traveling to and from leave in the specially-constructed "Safari trucks," with their sides open to leave the soldiers a clear field of fire at any assailants.

After every attack in which Israeli soldiers get killed and wounded, Arafat comes under strong Israeli pressure to suppress the armed Islamic opposition operating in the areas under his authority. Arafat reacts in a manner consistent with his decades-long career of walking delicate tightropes and maintaining a precarious balance between opposing forces and pressures.

Following each attack on Israelis, the Palestinian Police rounds up hundreds of activists of whichever organization claimed responsibility. Some get prolonged prison sentences at Arafat's "Special Military Court" (whose judicial procedures leave much to be desired) -- but many others are released within days.

Arafat takes care to keep open lines of communication with the opposition groups and avoid an all-out confrontation and civil war with the Islamic opposition. At the same time, Arafat also manages to keep Rabin -- if not happy, at least satisfied enough to continue negotiations on Arafat's main objective: the re-deployment of Israeli forces on the West Bank.

****



July 1, 1995, has been fixed as the target date when the IDF's re-deployment should begin, out of the Palestinian inhabited areas on the West Bank -- in preparation for the projected Palestinian elections, though Rabin was quick to interject his by-now hallowed "No dates are holy!" It is quite obvious that failure to keep even this date -- itself already a year behind the original Oslo time-table -- may deal the final blow to an already crippled peace process.

The Israeli generals made no secret of their discontent -- repeatedly pointing out that evacuation of the Palestinian cities, while maintaining Israeli control in the settlements scattered among these cities, would set the scene for yet another Lebanon scenario -- and on a much larger scale than in the Gaza Strip: the West Bank has many more settlements -- most of them located in a mountain terrain ideal for guerilla ambushes.

In a last effort to avoid the agonizing choice, Rabin came up with a new offer: complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and official recognition of the Strip as a fully sovereign Palestinian state -- in return for Palestinian acceptance of indefinitely extended Israeli rule in the West Bank. Arafat refused to get Rabin off the hook, insisting on the implementation of Oslo.

At Rabin's request, the Army General Staff prepared contingency plans for the scenarios likely to unfold in the coming months -- of which Ha'aretz, with its excellent military sources, obtained and published considerable details.

In case of a definite government decision to avoid any military evacuation and to retain control over the West Bank, the generals predict the need for large troop reinforcements, to put down the major riots which are expected to break out over the entire area.

The generals also prepared a re-deployment plan to Rabin's specifications, code-named "Operation Rainbow-2" ("Rainbow-1" was the evacuation of Gaza and Jericho.) It lists, with meticulous thoroughness, the military camps to be abandoned and the new fortifications and strongpoints to be constructed. In particular, there are plans of an extensive network of new access roads to be established for the settlers' exclusive use -- but which, it is cautioned, are far from immune to Palestinian ambushes.

It seems that among all the army's contingency plans, no provision was made for a third scenario -- that of dismantling the settlements and making a complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

Due to what seems a chronical deference of difficult decisions and preference for half-solutions, Israelis and Palestinians seem fated to pass through the purgatory of yet another new Lebanon on the West Bank, before seeing the dawn of a new era.

The editor

****


Doves in quandary


The repeated Palestinian suicide bombing attacks greatly damaged the Rabin government's standing in the public opinion, as indicated in the polls. The confidence even of staunch government supporters was shaken. Especially afflicted was the government's Dovish wing -- comprising Meretz, with its four ministers, a considerable faction inside the Labor Party, and extra-parliamentary allies such as Peace Now.

The Doves' basic mistake had been to present Oslo to the public, and maybe to themselves, as more than it was. As anybody should have been aware, what was signed in September 1993 was no more than a declaration of principles and a framework making possible a future advance towards peace. Yet, in an endless stream of speeches, articles, brochures and advertisements the accords were presented as if they were an actual Peace Agreement, starting a new era of peace already in the here-and-now and already ending the bloodshed.

Some of these old brochures now prove an acute embarassment, when quoted by the right-wing. Nor does it help the Doves to claim credit for the idyllic peace with Jordan -- a country with which a de-facto peace already existed for decades.

At the grassroots level, the Doves' line generated a general feeling of demobilisation. The moderates stopped coming to demonstrations which they considered superfluous, believing that the struggle for peace had been practically won. Scant months later, the same people were in total despair, feeling that all is lost and that demonstrating would be useless. It is now more than a year since the Peace Now leadership felt confident enough to call one of the mass rallies on Tel-Aviv's Municipality Square, which used to the movement's hallmark. (The last one was held in March 1994, in the exceptional conditions of the Hebron massacre's aftermath.)
 
p.3

The period immediately following the Beit-Lid bombing was the Doves' nadir -- characterized by their inability to put up any effective resistance to the new government-sponsored settlement construction around Jerusalem, and by growing doubts whether the Oslo Agreement will ever be implemented -- even in its most rudimentary form.

In trying to analyse the reasons for the deteriorating situation, the despondent Doves were faced with a crucial question: on whom should be placed the main blame. Criticism of Rabin's conduct, strongly expressed by more radical groups such as Gush Shalom, finds more and more echos also among the government-loyalist Doves -- whose silence was effectively broken by writer David Grossman in a recent Ha'aretz article (see page 16).

However, criticizing Rabin inevitably raises questions about the role of the Doves' own representatives in government -- such as Environment Minister Yossi Sarid, the talented and ambitious Meretz leader.

Over the past year Sarid had hang on to Rabin's coattails, often repeating the Prime Minister's assertion that the peace process is delayed mainly because of "Arafat's failure to crack down on the Hamas." Sarid had also consistently supported the increasingly tight closure imposed upon the Palestinian Territories, depriving workers of their livelihood and driving the Gazan unemployment levels to 50% and more. To alleviate this misery, Sarid proposed that Israel provide the Palestinians with a yearly subsidy of 300 Million Dollars (about as much as the Palestinian workers used to earn). Thus far, the Finance Ministry vetoed such generous schemes -- but Sarid seems to support the closure anyway...

The position of Sarid, and of many other closure-happy Doves, was much in tune with the mood of the general society, with Israelis clamoring to have as high a wall as possible between themselves and the places where those suiciders come from -- regardless of what will happen next. Only a minority was willing to lend an ear to Rabbi David Forman, of Rabbis for Human Rights: 'Is it fit for seekers after Peace and Justice to countenance the punishing of tens of thousands for the acts of a few?

Sarid also led in another aspect of "adaptation to the facts of Realpolitik, the assumption that some big settlements -- such as Ma'aleh Adumim, East of Jerusalem, with its 20,000 strong population -- have already become "irreversible" accomplished facts and cannot anymore be dismantled. According to several Sarid statements, some 10 or 15 percent of the West Bank must eventually be annexed to Israel.

This way of thinking was also evident in the "Proposal for Re-deployment of the IDF" prepared by Peace Now and officially presented by the movement's proud leadership to Prime Minister Rabin, on February 27. The plan, worked out in meticulous detail, lists 26 settlements which should be dismantled already -- and leaves some hundred other settlements in place for the five years of the interim period. (Rabin immediately brushed aside the idea of dismantling any settlements in the immediate future.) The Peace Now team also offered a map of the West Bank, visualizing which parts should remain -- according to their proposal -- under Israeli control during the interim period of the next five years. But maps have a life of their own: taking the map as a proposal for the final borders, Rabin remarked: "Arafat would be horrified to see this. Why, in the Jordan Valley sector I am willing to give him far more than you." (Ha'aretz, March 2).

Already in late January, more than a hundred medium-level Meretz activists signed a petition protesting the leadership's acquiescence in settlement extension -- but only when the dejection following Beit Lid started to abate did their call gain momentum.

Minister of Culture Shulamit Aloni -- founder and historical leader of Meretz, whose actual power is steadily eroded by Sarid's advent -- is increasingly becoming the voice of discontent inside the government. Aloni's denounciation of the government-financed settlement construction is expressed in terms never before used by a serving cabinet minister: 'This construction is being carried out on stolen land, land which the occupation robbed for its own purposes!' (Ha'aretz, April 17). Responding to the calls for "a Dovish annexation" of Ma'aleh Adumim and other settlements, Aloni came up with a completely novel idea, getting headlines and opening a new controversy: for annexing parts of the West Bank, she argued, Israel must compensate the Palestinians by conceding equivalent parts of its pre-'67 territory -- for example parts of the Negev, to extend the overcrowded Gaza Strip.

****



The month of March saw a whole series of meetings, discussions and debates called by various Dovish movements and groups, all with the proclaimed aim of discussing the situation and trying to formulate programs and/or action plans. Labor Party Secretary Nissim Zvili tried to revive the Coalition of Peace Groups formed immediately after Oslo. (Gush Shalom which had participated then, was not invited this time!) The deliberations came to naught because of inability to agree whether or not to call for the dismantling of settlements.

This was followed by a large-scale meeting of Peace Now activists, where some voiced criticism of the re-deployment plan presented to Rabin. The debate ended with a concensus decision to concentrate upon emphasizing the need for a Palestinian state, in order to achieve peace -- under the slogan "Separate into Two States!"

Immediately afterwards, the International Center for Peace held its public meeting in Tel-Aviv, dominated by prominent Labor Doves. Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin called upon the Labor Party leadership to concentrate on winning the peace -- not the elections. 'To win the elections -- that's a bonus. But if we lose them, let's at least leave the Likud with a Palestinian Authority well-established on the West Bank as well as in Gaza.'

Beilin's Mashov Circle -- a well-organized Labor faction -- held its own conference, resolving to work for amendment of the Labor Party platform, to include recognition of a Palestinian state.

p.4

Meanwhile, the representatives of 44 Kibbutzim, organized in the Granot movement, gathered at Kibbutz Shfa'im and decided to launch a campaign under the slogan Rabin, lead us to peace! This slogan was printed on bumper stickers and on giant signs placed at roadsides and held by kibbutzniks during Rabin's public appearances. Several vigils under the same slogan were held at the Prime Minister's Office. Finally, the Prime Minister himself was invited to a large meeting -- again at Shfa'im -- where his speech was unusually Dovish.

There was also a series of meetings of Knesset Members and activists with Palestinians -- including Arafat himself. The Israeli participants reiterated the demand that Arafat "do more to combat terrorism" -- but they also listened to him, hearing the Palestinian grievances concerning the closure and the deterioriating situation, which they later repeated in Israeli forums.

Minister Yossi Sarid, ever quick to notice a shifting wind, launched a series of well-calculated statements. A call for the dismantling of the Netzarim settlement near Gaza City was followed by a demand for the removal of the settler enclaves in Hebron. About a week later, Sarid was quoted saying: 'The Palestinian elections, due in a few months, will in fact create a Palestinian state. We had better get used to that.' Each new Sarid statement reverberated through the country, drawing angry reactions from settlers and right-wingers and increasing Sarid's grassroots support. As a final touch, the Minister got himself photographed with a group of young Meretz activists, standing at a roadside and offering peace stickers to passing motorists (Ma'ariv, April 24).

The Doves' new assertive posture was reflected in their ability to foil, in early April, the attempt by Housing Minister Ben Eliezer to gain authorisation for yet another major project of settlement construction. Moreover, it is now generally assumed that some military redeployment on the West Bank is indeed going to take place -- which was seriously doubted a few months ago.

Also counted as a victory by the Doves was Yitzchak Rabin's first-ever open acceptance of the Palestinian state idea -- albeit a state confined to the Gaza Strip. The cynical but influential columnist Dan Margalit of Ha'aretz wrote: "The principle of a Palestinian state has been conceded. Now it only remains to define its borders..." The border issue, however, is a big and weighty one. It remains to be seen whether Israel's Doves are able to offer borders within which even the most modest Palestinians could live.

Peace Actions:

+++ On Friday, Feb. 25, members of the Hebron Solidarity Committee joined representatives of the Land Defense Committee in a procession through the streets of Hebron and a vigil in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs -- in memory of the 30 Muslim worshippers, slain by the settler Baruch Goldstein on that other Friday at the end of Ramadan, a year earlier. Signs in Arabic, English and Hebrew deplored the massacre, called for the dismantling of the settlements and reiterated that what Oslo actually brought is far from peace.

After several minutes, a police officer declared the vigil "an illegal gathering" and gave participants five minutes to disperse -- or be arrested. Feeling they had done what they had come for, they started leaving the area, several moving on to the grass to complete interviews, etc., as ordered by the police. Suddenly, without further warning, four members of HSC were arrested and were requested to sign guarantees not to return to Hebron for periods ranging from one month to "the end of proceedings." Upon refusing to undertake such a commitment -- which would have precluded their continued participation in the (legal, non-violent) activities of HSC, the four were taken to Jerusalem to the Russian Compound Detention Center, for 48 hours. (One of the four was refuser Nathan Krystall, fresh from a term in military prison after which the army decided to give up his services as a conscript.)

All were released on Sunday, after a hearing before judge Inbar of the Jerusalem's Magistrate's Court. Although the HSC activists had not been further interrogated while at the Compound, the police nevertheless requested that their period of detention be extended by five days. Judge Inbar refused even to consider this request, and accepted their proposed compromise conditions -- not to return to the immediate area of the mosque for a period of one month, stating that the police' condition banning them from all of Hebron was out of proportion to the offense, "assuming that an offense was committed."

In the notorious Russian Compound, the peace activists had an opportunity to share for two days the fate of Palestinian prisoners: rushed meals, and exercise time severely limited -- with the rest of the time spent in extremely crowded small cells, without even the possibility of privacy in the toilet. This was a bit compensated for by the Palestinians' warm reception of the Israeli activists. Fatmeh Jaradat made the three HSC women feel especially welcome, sharing with them tea bags and coffee, and other supplies provided her by the Israeli Women for Political Prisoners.
Contact: HSC, POB 954, Jerusalem.

s On Feb. 25, two buses full of peace activists set out for an intended planting of olive trees in Izja Village, on Palestinian land threatened by settlers. The Tel-Aviv bus brought members of Gush Shalom, while from Jerusalem came activists of the Alternative Information Center, as well as Palestinians from the Land and Water institute.
The Ghaeb family in Izja got fame over the past years for their struggle not to leave but stick to their place. They have gradually become surrounded from all sides by the Giv'on settlement. The confiscation of 90% (!) of their land leaves them only a narrow passage to the outside, with the settlers conducting an ongoing campaign of threats and harassments.

Several kilometres away from the village the buses were stopped: the whole area was declared to be a "closed military zone." It was closed to the peace activists -- but not to the settlers, who continued to pass freely on the road. The activists got off the buses
[continued]
and spread out along the road with signs, such as: Stop the land robbery! / Peace or settlements -- it does not go together! The passing settlers were not pleased.

The half-hour roadside vigil went without interruption, as did the improvised rally which followed, joined by several members of the Ghaeb family. As the demonstrators were getting back to their buses, police suddenly summoned organizers Uri Avnery and Michael Warshawsky to appear at the settlement's police station on the following day. The two sent to the Minister of Police a letter stating: 'We are willing to talk to the Israeli police on the soil of Israel -- but we refuse to appear at a police station in a settlement on Occupied Territory.' In the end, the two appeared for a -- rather amicable -- investigation at Jerusalem's main police station.
Gush Shalom, POB 11112, Tel-Aviv 61110.
AIC, POB 31417, Jerusalem.

+++ On March 12, and again on March 26, a group of Tel-Aviv University students picketed the Defence Ministry, demanding an end to the ongoing Israeli naval blockade of Lebanon, which deprives thousands of Lebanese fishermen of their livelihood. The second vigil coincided with a big demonstration of the fisher families in Sidon, Lebanon.
p.5

This is probably the first issue of our newsletter which appears without an article by Matti Peled. Matti Peled is no more. He died on March 10, after a year-long struggle against cancer.

Only three weeks before his death he sent us by fax his column for TOI-65, at the very last moment before we went into print. That short piece on the back page, with his typical incisive arguments, was his last -- written only thanks to his strong will power. It took him an enormous effort to get out of bed, sit at his word processor and type out those lines -- a victory of his determination over his failing body. We are grateful that he has still been able to see it in print.

He also had the chance to enjoy the acknowledgement, by the Israeli Translators Association, for his fine work in translating into Hebrew Sages of Darkness by the Kurdish-Syrian exile writer Salim Barakat.

It is left us now to offer you on these pages a selection of the articles which appeared about him, as well as some written especially. While putting them together, we were impressed to discover that there was so much we did not yet know about Matti and his share in twenty long years of getting the dialogue with the Palestinians off the ground.

The ideas which Matti Peled formulated years ago are now at last starting to be seriously discussed in the mainstream of Israeli politics. His personality and credentials gave him a unique authority to initiate the re-drawing of the boundaries of Israeli discourse -- the definition of what is "realistic" or "reasonable;" the border line between the "acceptable" and the "illegitimate."

For many, what he had to say came too early. Nevertheless, from all that has been written and said by political friends and opponents alike, it appears that he never stopped being respected as a man of the highest integrity, who devoted himself to what he felt to be the ultimate interest of his country. His dream was a reconciliation between the existing state of Israel and the Palestinian state to be.

Darwish Naser -- who spoke at the funeral on behalf of the ICIPP -- concluded: Matti Peled, like Moses, saw the Promised Land only from afar. He has been able to see the beginning of a process, but not its successful culmination.

****


Two worlds


Matti Peled's funeral, at the Kibbutz Nachshon Cemetary on March 12, was attended by a rare combination of people -- reflecting his life. At the graveside the family received the condolences of President Weitzman, Prime Minister Rabin, Knesset Speaker Shevach Weis, and an impressive number of serving and retired generals (including even Sharon). Yet conspicuous among the mourners were also Matti's numerous friends and comrades from the radical peace movement, among them veteran refusers with a record of military prison terms. A third distinct group were many prominent Palestinians with whom Matti had personal contact. (Nadya Sartawi, the daughter of Matti's assissinated partner in dialogue, came to Israel especially for this occasion.)

It was an official military funeral, with the coffin carried -- as per protocol -- by six uniformed generals, and a platoon of soldiers serving as a honor guard. (At the request of the family, though, the customary volley of "salute shots" was omitted.) It was nearly surrealistic to hear, against this background, the condolences of Arafat read aloud in Arabic.

****

Telegrams and Messages

Following the announcement of Matti Peled's death hundreds of telegrams and messages arrived at the Peled family home, as well as at the ICIPP office, and the homes of Matti's friends. They arrived from groups and individuals, Jews and Arabs, and from all over the globe. We chose to bring here excerpts from a few only -- which must stand for the whole.

+++ The Palestinian People will hold in the highest respect the memory of Matti Peled, for his effective role in extending bridges of understanding and coexistence between the two Peoples.
(Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, in a message read at the funeral.)

+++ Matti knew how to pound on the table when it was time for war, and he strongly voiced the need to make peace when he thought it was possible.
(Ezer Weizman, President of Israel, on Israeli television.)

+++ For many years Matti Peled swum against the current, but now the current starts to turn his way. We can say with Marcuse that today's protests become tomorrow's programs.
(Knesset Speaker Shevach Weiss, officially notifying the House of Matti Peled's passing.)

+++ The acts of Matti Peled and of those who worked with him will be the torch lighting the way to the coming dawn of peace.
(Fatah Youth Movement, Jerusalem.)

+++ He was a soldier in the service of peace, one of those who run first and lay themselves down on the barbed wire, to let others pass over their backs.
(Aryeh Lova Eliav, educator and veteran peace activist.)

+++ We shall greatly miss General Peled's wisdom and guidance in our work for a more peaceful world.
(Brigadier General (ret.) Michael Harbottle, Center for International Peacebuilding, Chipping Norton, England.)

p.6


A 'traitor' before his time

by Teddy Preuss


On the night between October 16 and 17, 1948, the Israeli army launched an offensive on the Southern Front, to break through the Egyptian siege and releive its forces, cut off in the Negev. A company was sent to capture an Egyptian position overlooking a key road junction.

The night attack did not go as planned: the company did capture one of the Egyptian positions, though with heavy casualties -- but found itself cut off behind the Egyptian lines in what seemed an untenable position. The Company Commander, himself wounded during the attack, was ordered to withdraw while still having the cover of darkness. He refused, insisting: "We can hold on" -- and repeating this also to General Ig'al Alon, Commander of the entire Southern Front. And during the next day, he and his men did hold on against the Egyptian counter-attacks, until relieved by the advance of the main forces. For this, he got the highest commendations.

Thirty-five years later, the same Company Commander participated in a Knesset debate, where right-wingers -- many of whom had never been under fire -- shouted at him: Traitor! Traitor! Anybody else would have been tempted to fling his military past in their faces. This man did not make any mention of it, answering his accusers calmly, in a matter-of-fact tone -- as he always did. Such was Professor Matti Peled, who died last week at the age of 72, of a prolonged illness.

Matti Peled, whose later years were spent in constant efforts to reach reconciliation with the Palestinians, started out as a "Cana'anite," member of a group which sought cultural as well as political integration in the region. Some of his friends believe that he left this group because of the Holocaust horrors, which dissuaded him from the "Cana'anite," idea of "cutting off the Hebrew Nation from decadent Diaspora Judaism."

As a young man, he had other idealistic -- sometimes impulsive -- ideas, such as his attempt (while only fifteen years old!) to run away to Spain and join the anti-Fascist forces fighting there. His actual course was more conventional for the society in which he grew up -- joining the Palmach militia while still a pupil at a prestigious Jerusalem highschool. In 1946, he went to study law in London -- but his studies were cut short by the outbreak of war. He came back, fought with distinction, and stayed on in the army.

He was, among other things, governor of the Gaza Strip during its earlier occupation. As such, in charge of the 1957 withdrawal, he took care to leave well-stocked food stores for the Strip's population, then numbering 300,000.

His Palmach comrade Rabin promoted him to general and placed him in charge of logistics. In this job he did several lasting reforms. (He was among the first to appreciate the advantages of computers, at a time when many generals regarded them with suspicion.)

His last years in the army, 1967-1969, were spent on the big Suez Canal Debate. Like Sharon (for whom he had much appreciation, despite their political differences), he favored "a mobile defence". Yet when his misgivings about the fixed fortifications of the "Bar Lev Line" proved all too true, in the 1973 debacle, he did not burst out with an "I told you so." Nor did he on several other occasions -- after the fall of the Labor government in 1977, or in 1993, when his idea of talking to the PLO was vindicated by those who had opposed it all those years.

Also as a Knesset Member he was thorough and incorruptible. Former General Zvi Zamir, Director of the Haifa refineries, once told me: "When I came to testify at the Knesset, Matti asked me the most tough and detailed questions -- as if he had worked in the refineries and knew them from the inside, and as if we had not been so many years together in the army."

Matti Peled never liked to throw around, in civilian life, his former military rank. Of course, in the dialogue with the PLO, his being "a general" gave additional weight to the delegation of Israeli "traitors." But this political use of his military past was initiated by the others, with Peled himself only reluctantly consenting.

Only once did I see him actually sign as "Major General Matti Peled." It was at Belgrade, in still-united Yugoslavia, when he understood that our kind hosts at the Partisan Museum would be very happy to have it this way.
(Translated from Davar, March 12.)

****

I shall not see his like again

by Uri Avnery


At some time in 1943 or 1944 when I visited the Tel-Aviv apartment of the artist Binyamin Tamuz -- active member of the "Canaanite" movement -- I met there with another visitor, my age (20), named Matti Peled. He was introduced to me as a new recruit, who might give the group entry into the Palmach militia. I only talked to Matti for a few minutes, but the brief meeting left in my memory a lasting imprint of a black-haired youth who had about him a strong air of confidence and self-assurance.

The meeting had no immediate sequel. Peled soon dropped out of Tamuz's group, and the group itself -- with its ideal of creating "the New Hebrew Nation" -- remained a marginal phenomenon.

Though it turned out that both of us got wounded in the same sector of the 1948 Negev Front, we did not actually meet again before the mid 1960s. We moved in different orbits. I became a journalist, he stayed on in the army, a dedicated career officer.

Though involved in some interesting and controversial affairs, Matti Peled -- unlike some other officers -- never considered leaking information to the press. As a matter of fact, even many years later -- as the Knesset representative of a radical peace movement -- he refused to disclose in public any information which

p.7

had reached him during his military career.

Most of what I know of this time in his life I learned during flights to and from meetings with PLO representatives. At such occasions he would open up a bit and reveal a glimpse of his army past, such as in the early 1960s when he threw out of his regimental headquarters two officers who prepared -- on authorisation from higher up, they claimed -- contingency plans for the expulsion of Arab populations.

His job as Governor of the Gaza Strip in 1956 was of decisive influence. Suddenly I realised the absurdity: I, a 32-year old guy, being appointed the near-absolute ruler of a quarter of a million people -- without understanding their language and without knowing anything about their cultural background, their way of life. That was the time when Matti decided to start studying Arabic, with the well-known result.

In the "Days of Waiting" before the Six Day War, Matti Peled was among the generals who strongly pressured Prime Minister Eshkol into ordering a pre-emptive strike. He believed that the Egyptian threats and blockade of Israeli shipping required a military response -- and that such a response must come swiftly, since a prolonged high alert and general mobilization would wreck the fragile Israeli economy. He was, however, opposed to the ground attack against Jordan and Syria. And immediately following the war, he raised the idea of a bold peace initiative directed at the Palestinians, including the possibility of creating a Palestinian state. For this idea he found no support among his fellow generals, nor from then chief-of-staff Yitzchak Rabin.

His relationship with Rabin was complex. For decades, their careers run together, and they had somewhat similar characters -- both of them introverted men, with disdain for small talk, and a reputation for analytical thinking. But Matti had something more: moral strength -- which led him to follow his convictions to their ultimate conclusion, however difficult and uncomfortable.

It was in the post-'67 period that our paths crossed. In 1969 Matti, shortly after finishing his army career, called for withdrawal from the Suez Canal. Such a step could have started, already then, a peace process with Egypt and prevented the Yom Kippur War. I asked him to join me as a parliamentary candidate in that year's elections, but he preferred to concentrate on his academic studies of Arabic literature.

He entered politics in 1973, in the wake of the Yom Kippur War -- a short period on the left of the Labor Party, followed by a brief partnership with Shulamit Aloni. It was at this time that possibilities developed for political dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, Israelis and PLO. Matti soon became part of this development and had a key role in giving the dialogue -- which had started as a series of secret meetings between Sa'id Hamami and myself -- a more institutionalised form, in the framework of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, formed in 1975.

Over the following two decades we cooperated closely in the ICIPP, in two successive political parties, in numerous actions and political initiatives.

We shared the special relationship of trust and common effort with Dr. Issam Sartawi, the Palestinian Pioneer of Dialogue who paid with his life for his devotion to peace.

The dialogue with Matti Peled -- a former general with extensive contacts in the Israeli establishment -- was the most concrete success which Sartawi could point out to his PLO critics. In 1981, Sartawi conceived the idea of inviting an ICIPP delegation -- headed by Peled -- to the PLO headquarters in Beirut. The idea was seriously considered in the PLO leadership -- and rejected as too bold. A year later, with the Lebanon War and Beirut Siege, Sartawi confronted his opponents: You rejected General Peled -- and you got General Sharon!

Matti was implaceable in his opposition to the Lebanon War, and in particular to the bombing of Beirut -- which he considered to be a war crime, as he said in public. The fact that some of his fellow members in the Shelli Party regarded reserve service in Lebanon as the correct course was for him reason to precipitate a split in the party.

A year later, he was elected to the Knesset, on behalf of the newly-formed Progressive List for Peace. He was a special kind of parliamentarian, who did not seek the attention of the media; he felt disgusted with the chase for the attention of journalists, common among Knesset Members. He prepared each and every Knesset speech with meticulous care, reading up for days to prepare a ten minute speech and never consenting to insert a provocative line which would have assured headlines. So he was to the very end: honest to himself and to others, uncompromising in thought and action.

When his severe illness became known, his friends organised an academic evening -- as a belated celebration of his 70th birthday. Though nobody said it aloud, we had come to say goodbye. For his part, Matti stuck to the official program, delivered an academic lecture on the Kurdish writer Salim Barakat -- and went on living half a year more, longer than the doctors gave him, persistently battling the disease.

As Shakespeare wrote: He was a man, take him for all in all -- I shall not look upon his like again.

(Translated from Ma'ariv, March 3.)


Converging tracks

by Walid Khalidi



Matti and I belonged to the same generation, he being just two years older, but we knew each other for only the last two decades of his life. During the British Mandate I had little opportunity to engage in political discussion with Jews -- the closest I got to that was with Arthur Koestler, who was on a visit to write Thieves in the Night and wanted to meet a young Palestinian. Teddy Kollek, whom I had not previously known, arranged the meetings with Koestler but did not himself attend them. During the last few years of the Mandate, the incomparable Wolfgang Hildesheimer

p.8

and I became inseparable, but politics had no presence in our universe.

By the time we met, Matti and I had already reached the same "crossroads." His path -- a distinguished military career followed by a no less distinguished academic one -- needs no introduction from me. Superficially, Matti's road appears to be somewhat different from the predominantly academic one I had taken from the start. But internally, in the intellectual, emotional, and moral sense, I believe we had for some time been travelling on converging tracks, if also across different landscapes.

1948 was, and still is, the great watershed of my life. As a Palestinian and a Jerusalemite, the wounds and the suffering this year inflicted on my country, my people, my city, my family and my friends (not to mention myself) fester to this day. For long I remained obsessed with the colossal injustice of it all. But even before 1948 a different train of thought had begun to form in my consciousness. This occurred quite inadvertently on board one of the earliest flights (and my own first air journey) organized by the Middle East Airlines between Lydda and Beirut. As we flew over Greater Tel Aviv and the belt of Jewish colonies stretching towards Haifa Bay, I was suddenly struck by the tension between the reality on the ground and the feeling of anger and consternation in my heart at its alien and intrusive presence.

For some two decades after 1948, I was trapped in the vise of my awareness of the increasing reality of Israel on the one hand and my rejection of it on the other. Meanwhile I had devoted the better part of my time to the study of Zionism, the Mandate, the Palestinian 1936-39 Rebellion and the civil and regular wars of 1948. The collapse of the United Arab Republic (1961) and the fiasco of the First Arab Summit (1964) following the diversion of the Jordan River were important milestones in crystallizing my thoughts. The truism that there is no justice in any absolute sense on this planet acquired an increasingly compelling relevance. This nudged me further in the direction of acceptance of the "other" and recognition of the imperative to put a ceiling on the suffering of my people. Thus, in the mid 1960s I was immune to the analogies of Vietnam, China, Algeria, and Cuba then widely current. Matters were clinched for me by the June 1967 War.

As a nationalist, I was only too conscious of the other solid wall of nationalist solipsism on Palestinian soil. To be sure, Sadat had breached it for Egypt, but that seemed only to solidify it in the face of the other Arabs -- primarily the Palestinians. It was with these concerns that, during the Lebanese Civil War, I moved from Beirut to Cambridge, Massachusetts, largely in search of dialogue with American Jews and hopefully, through them, with Israelis. I could not have chosen a more suitable place. There, I was privileged to become friends with the Hoffmanns (Inge and Stanley), the Kelmans, (Rose and Herbert), the Macks (Sally and John), Guido Goldman and Toney Lewis, and through them (particularly through Inge and Herb) I met over the years a galaxy of remarkable Israelis: Yehoshafat Harkabi, Yair Evron, Lovah Eliav, Ora Namir, Simha Flapan, Tzaly Reshef, the two Gazits, Abba Eban, Yossi Sarid. But the longest and most sustained discourse was with Matti, to whom Inge had introduced me.

None of us had any illusions about our ability to influence the course of events. What we were searching for was something quite different -- cues about our recognition of each other's humanity and its concomitabt fears and needs. I, for one, received such cues in abundance.

Matti was no diplomat. He came straight to the point. He thought with austere clarity and his chain of reasoning was impressively methodical. Well ahead of his time and against daunting opposition, he had cut through the century-old Arab-Zionist conflict and had developed deep convictions with regard to its resolution. Their gist is as follows: Looking beyond seemingly insurmountable obstacles and complexities, the permanent survival of Israel in an Arab-Muslim ocean and the peaceful termination of the Zionist-Arab conflict are contingent on a viable resolution of the conflict's Palestinian core. The only way to achieve such a resolution lies in the establishment, alongside Israel within its 1967 frontiers, of a Palestinian state willing to live in peaceful coexistence, provided Israel's security needs could be guaranteed. And, he was convinced, these security needs could be guaranteed. His assessment was clear-eyed. It was rooted in his vast military experience as well as in his firsthand and extensive reading of mainstream Palestinian opinion. This was precisely the conclusion at which I as well had independently arrived.

Endearingly, Matti somehow managed to combine being both low key and unconsciously brusque. By tacit agreement, we never discussed the past. We didn't need to. We had passed that stage. Indeed one of my fondest memories is an evening my wife and I spent with Matti and Zika during his last sabbatical at Harvard, in 1989. After dinner in his flat, we sat chatting and watching the students in the courtyard of Quincey House. As my wife and I rose to leave, I asked Matti if he had noticed anything. Puzzled, he asked what I meant: in nearly four hours, neither of us had uttered a word about "The Problem."

As one who had tried but failed to learn Hebrew, I was impressed by his grasp of Arabic. I was, of course, out of my depth in his specific field of literary criticism, but I read enough of what he had written to recognize the same rigour and perceptiveness at work there too. I have little doubt that these writings, once translated, will have an impact on Arab literary circles. He has in fact already made a significant contribution to Arabic letters. His early scientific study of Najib Mahfouz was at least partly responsible for Mahfouz being granted the Nobel Prize.

Like many others I shall miss Matti. My wife and I send our warmest condolences and affection to Zika and to their children and grandchildren in this time of their great loss and grief.

Cambridge, Massuchusetts, April 1995.



[insertion]
NO COPYRIGHT
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.



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For a broader security

by Inge Hoffmann


When I first saw Matti Peled, I saw him as the former Military Governor of Gaza turned academic, whose manner and mind reflected the cool strategist intent on achieving Israel's military security by pre-emptive strike. But here he was, arguing for a broader Israeli security, one which took account of a serious Palestinian problem and Palestinian moral and political rights. It was January 1974 in Jerusalem and he was on a panel with Friedlander, Harkabi, Ma'oz and Shlomo Avineri -- all of them not yet Doves. They were heatedly discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict, for the benefit of two dozen American academics and publicists invited by Hebrew University to experience Israel.

We were introduced to everybody who was anybody, including Golda Meir ('Palestinians? There are none, hence there is no Palestinian problem!') and a silent Yitzchak Rabin. We toured "Judea and Samaria," and met with Kollek, Allon, Begin, as well as the writers Oz and Elon. Everyone was still under the shock of the Yom Kippur defeat and we heard a lot about Israeli fears.

Matti had been a striking exception -- and I remembered him still on the following January in Cairo, when as a tourist I heard some of the Egyptian counterparts of the Israelis we had met. Even the most sophisticated Egyptians had distorted images of Israel. They appeared like mirror images of the fears and assessment of the other side's motives we had heard from the Israelis. Was there any way for Israeli and Arab "opinion-shapers" to confront the realities about each other?

My letter recounting the Egyptian conversations was tossed across the sea without address: To Gen. Matti Peled, Jerusalem. His reply came by return mail: Publish and give it a follow-up! He himself was at that time involved in founding the ICIPP.

Back at Harvard in 1976, I heard Walid Khalidi, the leading Palestinian intellectual, speaking out with the same hard-headed uncompromising but empathic approach to "the problem." Here was the follow-up. And on Matti's visit to Cambridge that year the two met in my living room.

Out of this encounter grew a luncheon group of "enemies" and others who met regularly and discreetly to confront their intense differences without public knowledge. American Jews, Arab Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, some Egyptians, Mid-East scholars and policy makers, a Rabbi, major journalists, leaders of American Zionist organizations -- the circle became wider and more influential over the years. The central energy came from the years-long dialogue between Matti and Walid. The purpose of these meetings, is well-expressed in a letter Matti wrote me in 1981:

I told him [the skeptic] it is worthwhile to continue these meetings, for the following reasons: that they enable us to gain important insights in an atmosphere which is unique, and that while we are doing this, others -- Jewish guests -- can see that the real interests of Israel and the Palestinians can be discussed amically.

And this is what happened. It's not that hawks turned into doves -- but often they, too, could not help being moved witnessing this solid, stolid definite man laying out his view of reality "slowly, thoroughly and with such conviction" as none other than Sharon wrote at his death. Matti felt that Israel's time was short, that Palestinians without the self-respect of a self-determined homeland became parents who passed on their rage and despair to their children's children, to the terror and peril of Israelis -- and that no measure of military might could secure Israel's ultimate future. This certainty focussed our small informal meetings and fuelled his fearless public striving.

In the nearly twenty years of our correspondence he often voiced "a strong urge to recoil, get lost in my academic work which is so fascinating." After a particularly heated confrontation he wrote:

"You know that at moments I felt quite unhappy during the sessions... but I know that the experience was absolutely necessary, ...just a foretaste of what lies ahead if any progress is to be made... I hope that the meeting with the Jewish leaders will not make the whole effort so disgusting to [Khalidi] that he would decide to give up... I really fear it would be an unpleasant experience if the right[-wing] leaders are persuaded to come."

His comments in 1988 on the Palestinians he was meeting publicly were no more sanguine:

"The Palestinians are behaving as if it doesn't matter and pay more attention to trivialities which makes it impossible to go ahead."

Matti and Walid did go ahead. They had initiated dialogues that drew even the sceptics to talk about the future. They refused to get stuck in inevitable discussions of past rights and grievances and had tried to assess and shape the realities of a future where the Israelis and Palestinians might be safely established.

In the last issue of The Other Israel, Matti's "Requiem to Oslo?" shone with his so characteristic determination to face the grimmest reality, the dashing of hopes, and his nonetheless persistent devotion to act against hopelessness in the interest of what he considered the greater good for Israel.

****


'True enemies'
From the Friends of Henri Curiel, Paris.



Our first meeting with Matti Peled -- the Reserve General who headed the then newly founded ICIPP -- took place in July 1976, nearly twenty years ago.

It had become clear after the Bologna Conference (Italy 1973) that the dialogue then ongoing, between Arabs, Palestinians and non-Zionist Jews on the other, would never result in a real advance towards peace. We had to make the next step and bring together the true enemies to begin some kind of negotiations. But it was not an easy task. It meant getting the Arab side to acknowledge the State of Israel and getting Zionist Israelis to accept the PLO as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

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In order to get things started there was contact with PLO representatives throughout Europe, particularly with Said Hammami in London. While keeping to the official PLO line, i.e., contact only with non-Zionist Israelis, he nonetheless made it understood that at least some PLO leaders had come to the conclusion that they would achieve peace only with their true enemies, and that sooner or later they would have to sit down and talk with Zionists.

We began to organize a conference to take place in Geneva at the end of July 1976, to which Israeli public figures, PLO representatives, and delegates from Arab countries were invited, and which would be sponsored by a series of internationally renowned individuals known for their efforts on behalf of peace in the Middle East.

But around July 15, an official PLO delegation came to tell us that unless total secrecy could be guaranted, the meeting would not take place. This, however, was out of the question for the approximately fifteen Israelis, of different political affiliations, who had agreed to come. Thus, the project collapsed. But we did not give up so easy. Okay, the meeting was to be postponed because the weakened position of the Palestinians in Lebanon (the siege of the Tel Al Zaater camp) made it problematic for them to start now anything like talks even with Israelis of the peace camp. But the Palestinian delegation -- if they wanted our credibility preserved -- had to explain themselves directly to the Israelis who had accepted the invitation, at least to one or two key people among them.

That is how Matti Peled came to Paris to meet with the Palestinian delegate sent by Yasser Arafat. The first meeting took place in a secluded apartment near Paris, where Matti was greeted by Henri Curiel who then gave him a description of the Palestinian he would meet a few minutes later: Dr. Issam Sartawi.

These two man -- each a significant figure in his own camp, each a patriot convinced that he was acting in the true interest of his people -- were literally fascinated by each other. Very quick they recognized each other as congenials, and discovered with continuing amazement that they could talk about the common problems of their peoples. It was the beginning of true friendship.

We also were enchanted as we got to know Matti Peled, once an active combatant, now Professor of Contemporary Arabic Literature with a reputation beyond Israel's borders, and one of Israel's foremost "doves". We were struck by his sense of fairness and justice -- indispensable as these are for achieving true peace.

During the many discussions he held with Sartawi, we sensed that both men strove to be realistic and in touch with the concrete conditions they had to contend with, but that they also had a dream of peace which would let the two peoples live and work side by side.

The assassination of Issam Sartawi, at the meeting of the Socialist International in Portugal on April 13, 1983, was deeply felt by Matti Peled. Not only was he deprived of an important partner in dialogue, but he lost also a friend. He blamed himself for not having been more capable of warning Issam Sartawi to take care. But the struggle continued and, in memory of the friend who was gone, the work they began together had to succeed.

If Yasser Arafat and his companions live on Palestinian soil today, if the war of stones has ceased and the two peoples are painfully learning to live side by side, it owes not a little to the fact that two exceptional men, Matti Peled and Issam Sartawi, met and shook hands -- a handshake which marked the very first beginnings of a process of reconciliation.

The sad loss of Matti Peled, coming after the cowardly assassination of Henri Curiel and Issam Sartawi, distresses us deeply. But we also draw inspiration from their tireless efforts for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The fire which moved them still burns, urging us to keep up the struggle.

Joyce Blau, Alain Gresh, Joseph Hazan
Paris, April 3 1995

****


A very strange general

by Haim Ha'negbi



It was the second week of June 1967 -- at the first weekly meeting of the General Staff after the Six Day War. Chief-of-Staff Yitzchak Rabin was shining with glory after victory, beloved of all Israelis. When the meeting was nearing its end, one of the generals (Peled was his name and he was Head of Logistics) raised his hand and brought up an issue, an issue which would remain on the agenda for a long, long time: the Palestinians. General Peled spoke of the unique chance which the victory offered: to solve once and for all the Palestinian problem. Here, said the general -- the same who not so long ago had urged Prime Minister Eshkol to start a war -- here is an opportunity which must not be missed.

The other generals, and Rabin as their chief, were curious to hear what he had to say. They had learned to respect the ideas of that strange general, the introverted intellectual. They knew that he was an honest man, who said what he had to say, without further ado. For the first time in our history, said Peled to his comrades, we are face to face with the Palestinians, without other Arabs between us. Now we have the possibility of offering them a state of their own!

The generals did listen -- but they pushed the idea aside. They were convinced -- as were many Israelis at that time, and many still are -- that the Palestinians would not agree, that they would never settle for less than "everything."

Stubborn as Peled was, he did not give up. Some weeks later, he asked to see the Intelligence/Censorship reports on Palestinian mail. There he discovered interesting things: an overwhelming majority of Palestinians thought, as he did, that a new situation was created by the war. If through our Arab brethern we only received misery, wrote the Palestinians

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among themselves, than who knows if we may not snatch independence out of the jaws of defeat.

Peled, with the censorship report in his briefcase, brought up the issue once more. And then the story repeated itself. Yes, but... There is something in what you say, but... True, but... When the meeting was over Rabin took the strange general to a quiet corner, and told him in a low voice: No, I don't disapprove of your idea, but this is not the right moment. Right now, I can't afford to irritate the hawks in the cabinet...

At that time, the future Intifada leaders were still lying in their cradles.

Translated from Ma'ariv, April 7.

****


'It is my considered opinion'

by Haim Bar'am


(...) Matti was a patriot, who despised nationalist clichÇs. In his speeches there was not the slightest trace of demagoguery. (It must be admitted that, on occasion, they were rather boring.) The military and academic discipline which he followed throughout his life imposed upon him a kind of almost monastic austerity. I had several times the chance to stay with him abroad. There he seemed more warm, more willing to open himself up. It was said that he lacked a sense of humour. My impression was different: he was able to laugh at the silliness of others, and more important -- at that of himself.

Matti Peled abandoned the establishment, took his positions to their most radical, logical conclusions, and was perfectly willing to pay the price. Yet senior members of the establishment were reluctant to cut him off completely -- regarding him as a prodigal son and having a fond memory of his earlier years. Soon after the ICIPP was founded, a right-wing Jerusalem group denounced it as "anti-Zionist." Peled and his fellows went to court, sued for libel and won -- though I felt, at the time, that the rightists' assertion was not a real insult.

In 1988, the authorities attempted to forbid the Jewish-Arab Progressive List for Peace from running in the Knesset elections, in order to "counterbalance" the banning of Rabbi Meir Kahane. The Supreme Court rejected this hypocritical attempt at" balance," throwing the Kahanist racists out of the parliamentary race and letting the PLP stay in. I am quite certain that this outcome resulted mainly from Matti Peled's presence on the second place in the PLP list of candidates. By themselves, Muhammad Miari and the other Arab PLP members would not have been able to get past the Supreme Court. This assumption confirms Matti Peled's enormous contribution in giving legitimacy to the pro-Palestinian peace camp -- though it is not much of a compliment to Israeli justice.

Peled has changed a lot in the course of his career inside the peace camp. In 1977, he was still quite a typical member of the establishment, except for his "left deviation" with regard to the Palestinians.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
In recent years, the Middle East arms race reached alarming proportions -- in particular, the intensive efforts to obtain and deploy long-range missiles, with warheads capable of causing mass destruction. Israel, Syria and Iran have taken the lead in this field, each possessing missiles capable of threatening the others' territory. Israel has stockpiled a considerable quantity of nuclear warheads, while Syria and Iran are in the process of constructing chemical ones. Iran and Lybia are also engaged in nuclear research with military applications.

The Israeli Vanunu Solidarity Committee is quite justified in stating that it is up to Israel to initiate the process of making the region free of such weapons of mass destruction -- since it was Israel which introduced nuclear weapons in the first place. If Israel initiates the process of disarmament, it will set an example which all other regional states would have to follow -- either voluntarily or under international pressure. Such an Israeli step would render indefensible the main argument used by these other states -- that they seek to establish or maintain a balance with Israel.

The above statement by Matti Peled was written by him for a fund-raising brochure of the Vanunu Solidarity Committee -- of which Peled was an outspoken supporter. Aryeh Dayan published it posthumously in the 'Yerushalaim' weekly (March 17) as part of an article entitled 'The general who supported Vanunu.'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
He was then quite elitist, disliking the alliance with the radical Oriental Jewish Black Panters. And in global politics, he was completely pro-American -- even about Vietnam. (During the Vietnam War, he had visited the battlefields as official guest of the U.S. army.) On all these issues, he moved gradually to the left, though he never became "a leftist" in the European sense. Especially after the Lebanon War he became more reconciled to being part of "the left," and never boycotted joint actions with non- or anti-Zionists. His fruitful study of Arab literature and poetry enriched his personality, and as a Knesset Member he became increasingly involved in social, ecological and educational issues, and assumed a more humanist and integrated world view.

His attitude towards Yitzchak Rabin was ambivalent. When Rabin ordered brutal measures against the Intifada "rioters," Matti made very sharp speeches, condemning his old comrade-in-arms in no uncertain terms -- yet I felt that there was also an undertone of pain.

In June 1982, the two of us met in Paris with President Mitterand's aide. Matti did not mince words, calling upon our interlocutor to help bring about the strongest possible pressure upon Israel in order to halt the invasion of Lebanon, which in Matti's eyes was an unforgivable war crime. It was strange and even painful to see the very author of that war crime, Ariel Sharon, among the crowd at Matti's funeral -- but it would be useless to protest against

p. 12

this. Many things in Matti Peled's world remained always alien to his friends on the left.

Often, when military tactics and strategy were discussed, Matti expressed his opinion that Sharon was a capable general -- while condemning for incompetence Sharon's great rival, General Haim Bar-Lev (whose political views were far closer to Peled's). When I once asked him directly about this, Matti was a bit annoyed: "This is my considered opinion, and I am not going to change it for political reasons."

Translated from Kol Ha'ir, March 17.

****


Extremely moderate

by Yossi Amitay


When the Israeli radio and television broadcast the sad news of Matti Peled's death, it was a prominent news item -- but there was a consistent reference to him as the holder of "extreme leftist views." This presumably refers to his well-known views, for which he conducted a decades-long struggle: mutual recognition between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples -- a recognition including all legitimate national rights, among them of course the right to create an independent state, while not depriving the other side of the right to do the same.

Peled's "extreme leftism"included, it seems, also his advocating complete equality for the Palestinian national minority in Israel.

Why should anybody define such views as being in any way "extremist"? Such a definition comes of posing a "center" or "national concensus" as the norm, and condemning anybody who moves away from it in any direction as "extremist." In Israel, the center of the political spectrum is occupied -- also after Oslo -- by people who advocate a "moderate" oppression of the Palestinians, and whose way of thinking about Arabs is often tinged with a "moderate" amount of racism. Since they are the norm, people like Matti Peled are defined as "the extreme left" -- to provide a neat, symmetrical and completely false picture where they "counterbalance" an extreme right of outright racists.

In my view, in all societies with a national conflict the criteria for evaluating political organizations and individuals should be their their attitude to the ongoing conflict: those who recognise the legitimate rights of all involved ethnic, national or religious groups should be considered moderate, while those who stick to the collective egoism of their own group are the extremists.

Judged by these standards, Matti Peled -- with whom I had the privilege to share work and struggles over the past twenty years -- was the most moderate of moderates, and stuck to his moderation with exemplary courage and loyalty. Always believing in the principle of "treat others as you expect to be treated yourself," he felt that the Jewish people, which implemented its right of self-determination in the creation of Israel, should recognise a similar right for the Palestinian people. He was steadfastly opposed to the grand annexationist dreams of the right-wing -- and also to the petty annexations proposed by some who call themselves "left-wingers." In fact, the latter -- who found numerous excuses to back out of their professed principles -- angered him the most. He hated hypocrisy. (...)

Translated from Davar, April 29.

An Arab version appeared in Al-Sonara (Nazareth), and Al-Ahram (Cairo).

A salute to Peled

by Lutfi El-Kholi


Death took from us last week Mattityahu Peled, one of the most significant Israeli researchers of modern Arabic literature. He was one of the leaders of the Peace and Democracy current on the Israeli political arena. he threw his full intellectual and political weight on the scales, to support the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and the creation of its independent state side-by-side with Israel. In the 1980s he -- together with Muhammad Miari, a leader of the Palestinian national movement in Israel -- established a Jewish-Arab party and got into the Knesset.

To the last day of his life, in and out of the Knesset, Peled remained a fighter against the occupation of Palestinian and [other] Arab lands by Israel and against the Israeli government's acts of oppression towars the Palestinian people. He called for Israeli-Arab coexistence, free of occupation, racism, violence and bloodshed. He stated clearly that the right of Israel to existence and living in peace is inextricably tied to the Palestinian people's right to a life of independence in its homeland.

At the time when the Likud government criminalised its citizens'contacts with the PLO, Peled challenged this decision. He maintained a dialogue with the PLO leadership: Yasser Arafat, Abu-Iyad, Abu-Mazen and others.

He regarded recognition of and negotiations with the PLO as the key to a political solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, for which -- as he declared -- no military solution was possible.

Peled's way was far from easy. He started as a general in the Israeli army, fighting in 1956 on the Sinai front. There, as he told me, he discovered the folly and uselessness of war, and became aware of the Arab people, and their deep culture. Since then, he abandoned war in favor of peace, replacing the trenches of narrow-minded military conflict with an open, unencumbered cultural dialogue.

We salute him on the moment of his passing. To the last he remained as he was among us, a brave and honest man. We offer our condolences to his family and to the Peace and Democracy forces, which continue their struggle for an end to the occupation and the creation of the independent Palestinian state. Only in this way -- Matti Peled's way -- can Israel achieve security in this region

Translated from Al-Ahram (Cairo), March 22.
(English based on Hebrew translation by Y. Amitay.)

****

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****

No regrets
-- Arna Mer as I knew her --


by Iris Bar


I came to know Arna through the Bir Zeit Solidarity Committee. Most of the meetings of this and other Haifa protest groups between 1981 and 1987 took place at her house on Allenby St. -- an old house with a big garden, full of cats, dogs, modern art, glass statuettes and hard rock posters. In all this period of anti-occupation committees, rising and falling under different names but with much the same people, Arna was one of the most diligent activists -- always ready to distribute leaflets or go on a demonstration at a moment's notice. She was totally unwilling to compromise on the slogans and conceal part of her message. Some of the activists -- especially the Communists -- found it difficult to work with her, feeling that her uncompromising determination was reducing the committees' appeal and frightening away the moderate "Peace Now Types."

Yet when she formed in 1988 her last and most important project -- the Care & Learning Association, for defence of the children under occupation -- she succeeded to get the help and cooperation of people from all parts of the left-wing spectrum. Without ever compromising on her principles, Arna was accepted and supported -- and also loved -- by a great variety of people.

Once, after a meeting of the Committee Against the Lebanon War, she showed me a photograph of herself as she was in 1948: a young girl wearing shorts and with a white Kaffieh around her neck, smiling into the camera while holding a rifle. The photo was taken on a jeep in the empty streets of newly-conquered Lydda...

Arna Mer -- proud woman combat soldier of the Palmach; daughter of the pioneer Dr. Mer famed fighter against malaria; daughter of the Zionist aristocracy. In 1952 she joined the Communist Party -- a party with a majority Arab membership, and which most of the Israeli society regarded with loathing. Some years later she followed her husband Saliba Khamis, one of the party's young leaders, to Arab Nazareth -- a city then under military law, where the children sang: Nazareth, the capital of Galilee / With a policeman on every corner... She lived the life of her Arab neighbors and in-laws; in Nazareth were born her three sons, and there she raised them -- in between her work and her multitude of political and social activities. She took part in the big demonstrations of Mayday, 1958, a landmark for that generation. Her husband was in prison.

She was three months in prison herself, in 1962, for participating in an illegal demonstration of women demanding to release their husbands. (She was the only one to actually go to prison -- because in court she refused to express regret for her wild behaviour, or make any promise of different conduct in the future.) In more quiet periods, she sang -- beautifully -- at the Communist Party choir.

Later, they moved to Haifa. And then, after the 1967 war, Arna and Saliba were sent by the party to Czechoslovakia, the Socialist Brother Nation. For her, the first months were exhilerating. "The Prague Spring:" a city in revolutionary ferment, thousands of people in the streets, running, debating, dreaming, planning a better world. Her children also took to this environment with great enthusiasm. And then came the Soviet tanks. Arna returned to Israel, to fling her membership card in the party leaders' face, and proclaim her dream of a non-racist, non-opresssive society "where everybody could live and think as they like".

When the Palestine National Council declared "A Secular Democratic State" to be the PLO's goal, Arna felt that here, at last, was something with which she could identify. It was 1973 -- a time when a few Jewish leftists, who had tried to establish secret contacts with Palestinian organizations abroad, were found guilty of terrorism and sent to many years behind bars. Arna felt that, in fact, there was nothing new in the positions she now adopted, that she had joined the Palestinian people's struggle already in the 1950's...

She was never one for nuances and understatements. In the demonstration organised within hours after Sabra and Shatila, she was beaten by the police -- and taken to the hospital, bound hand and foot. On the demonstration of Land Day in 1986, she had a violent confrontation with the organisers -- because she brought a Palestinian flag, in contravention of the agreement with the police.

In especially infuriating situations (which occurred very often) Arna used to take a spray-paint can with her while walking her two dogs at night, leaving her mark on the walls of Haifa. On November 15,

p. 14

1988 -- feeling excited and enthusiastic by the Palestinan Declaration of Independence proclaimed at Algiers -- she felt a great need to raise the Palestinian flag in Haifa. In fact, at a particular place in Haifa: on the flag-pole of Beit Ha'Gefen, the Haifa Municipality Jewish-Arab Cultural Center -- a showcase place often presented to foreign visitors, whose Arab workers must be members of the Labor Party in order to keep their jobs, a place symbolizing a very unequal kind of "coexistence."

A month later, several boys were arrested, charged with responsibility for the Beit Ha'Gefen Flag Incident, and sent to prison. (Also for several other flags which they did hang.) Arna was full of remorse, and wanted to give herself up to the police. A lot of effort -- and a special message from the imprisoned boys themselves -- was needed to dissuade her, since it would merely have increased by one the number of prisoners.

Arna had a special attitude to flags: The flags at official ceremonies, on official buildings, are coloured rags, nothing but coloured rags. The real flags, the beautiful flags, are the forbidden ones -- those which you take a risk to hang on electricity poles in the middle of night, and which make the police so angry in the morning.

With the outbreak of the intifada, with prolonged curfews and the years-long closing of the schools, Arna threw herself totally into the efforts to help. She joined the big food collections, whoever organised them (Arab Mayors, Peace Movements' Coordinating Committee, The Communists, Arab Parties, or any combination of these). In between, she continued all the time to collect and send food and equipment, herself or with the help of a few friends. Her consignments always got through. I remember the first closure of Gaza, in 1989. Several convoys which were sent were detected by the Army and stopped. Arna succeeded to get through. She made sure that the Army would hear everything about her plans -- and then came on a truck, one day earlier. While they were waiting at the Erez Checkpoint, she was already distributing milk powder to mothers in the Shabura Refugee Camp.

The Care & Learning Association started in a quite similar way. The Palestinian schools were closed indefinitely, because the army regarded them as centers of the Intifada. Her first impulse was no more than to provide the children with brochures for self-study (She got several volunteer educators to write these). She also got pens and pencils, coloured crayons and pen-cases, contributed by shop-keepers in Haifa and Nazareth, as well as by foremen in Kibbutz plastics factories... Her volunteers -- some for a single day, others during many months -- were of the most varied backgrounds: Tel-Aviv actors, teachers, students, kibbutzniks, middle-aged houswives... And gradually, without a conscious decision, her efforts developed into something much more fixed and extensive, which remained in existence at the town of Jenin long after the army at last reopened the schools and there was no longer a need to try providing the kids with a substitute. There were four "Children's Houses" at different neighborhoods of Jenin, a library with thousands of volumes, special treatment for children with trauma, "The Theatre of the Stone" -- which is a children's theatre fitting the highest standards. Dozens of people worked in the association, paid workers and volunteers. A year before her death, she got the "Alternative Peace Prize" in Sweden. The money she donated, of course, to the Jenin project...

When she was already in the far stages of her illness, the theatre held in her honour a special premiäre of its new play. In the end she got on the stage to get the gift they prepared for her, and read a poem which she wrote -- a poem in Hebrew.

The people were shocked. That was the very first time they heard her speak Hebrew, in all the five years she had been working with them.

In fact, she had not just been working in Jenin -- she was living there, for two or three days every week. She lived with the people of Jenin and struggled together with them -- as she did earlier in Nazareth. She was half a Palestinian.

But she had also a home in Haifa and Hebrew was her mother tongue, in which she wrote, in which she dreamed. She was also very Israeli.

She was buried in a kibbutz cemetary, on a fine spring day. There were hundreds of people: Jews, Arabs, visitors from abroad. As she requested, there were no speeches. Before the last clods of earth were thrown in, one of her young Jenin co-workers shouted: "Don't worry, Arna, we will go on! Palestine will live! Secular, Democratic and Socialist!"

The establishment is now embracing Arna, after her death. The papers, especially the local Haifa papers, write a lot: about her, her life, her work; about her sons, who developed their own colourful careers; about her divorced husband Saliba who died half a year earlier. The City of Haifa starts to feel proud of this unique family... And in the Jerusalem School of Social Work, her Jenin project is being taught as a model of "a succesful communal project."
Now, after her death, they take possession of her, saying "She did it for us, on our behalf."

Perhaps they are right. She did everything on behalf of all of us, on behalf of humanity. A woman with a free spirit, to the last.

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Peace Now

+++ After yet another lethal assault upon soldiers serving as "settler bodyguards" in the Gaza Strip, dozens of Peace Now activists positioned themselves, on the afternoon of April 13, in front of the Prime Minister's Jerusalem Residence. Also on the following two days they came back picketing the place with signs reading Let's really get out of Gaza!
+++ April 17, in the Passover Holiday, was chosen by the right-wing nationalist camp for a march opposing Israel's return to the pre-'67 border -- which in their posters was presented as "a noose around our necks."

On the same day, about a hundred Peace Now youths arrived at the old border -- commonly known as the Green Line -- where they met with a crowd of Palestinian youths coming from the other side. In the

p. 15

television coverage of the day's political events the young peaceniks stole the show: they were shown marking the "Border of Peace" with a 60-metre long roll of green cloth, on which were hung flowers, balloons and the well-known two flags.
Peace Now, POB 8159, Jerusalem 91081.

Palestinian Housing Rights Movement

+++ On April 1, hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians held protests simultaneously at the two military checkpoints which keep Palestinian East Jerusalem separated from its West Bank environment. The initiative for this day of action came from the Palestinian Housing Rights Movement, (an East Jerusalem body cutting across lines of political division). The purpose of the action was to make the closure more visible; it was taken up by the Tel-Aviv-based Gush Shalom movement, as well as by the Jerusalem Link Jewish and Palestinian women.

At the Gilo checkpoint on the southward road, a peculiar legal situation developed: one half of the demonstration stood on the Jerusalem side of the checkpoint, in police jurisdiction where demonstrating was allowed. The other half stood on the West Bank side, under army jurisdiction -- and were dispersed after a few minutes by paratroopers whose commander ordered the arrest of five. (They were soon releasd by intervention of Adv. Leah Tsemel, who was in the surviving half of the demo.)

At the A-Ram checkpoint in the north of Jerusalem, no permission had been obtained, since the police made its permit conditional on the non-participation of Palestinians from outside Jerusalem, a condition unacceptable to the organisers. At the site, a tense balance was maintained, with the forces of law and order accepting the accomplished fact of 200 hundred Israelis and Palestinians standing on a roadside knoll and waving flags and banners: No Peace Without Freedom of Movement! / Lift the Closure! / Jerusalem Capital of Two States!

The demonstration was swelled by the arrival of several dozen students who had participated in a seminar of the International Center for Peace. In the official seminar timetable this hour was reserved on the two-day schedule for a visit to the checkpoint.

After nearly an hour, news arrived of the flareup and arrests at Gilo. Upon hearing it on the megaphone, a spontaneous chanting of slogans started and part of the demonstrators moved towards the road, where something like a march towards the military post was soon starting. A violent clash seemed inevitable -- which was avoided not so much due to efforts by Israeli and Palestinian organisers as by an unusually calm police officer in command...
Housing Rights Movement, POB 20560, East Jerusalem
Jerusalem Link, POB 8083, Jerusalem
Gush Shalom, POB 11112, Tel-Aviv 61110

Jerusalem Link

+++ On April 29, the knoll near A-Ram was once more the scene of a joint rally by hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians. The occasion, this time, Mayday -- and the organisers -- the Hadash Communists and their trade-union affiliates, together with the Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions. Speakers concentrated on the devastating economic effects of the closure for the Palestinian society; a joint manifesto was read from the improvised podium, and signed during the event.

Many speakers also touched the two issues which had recently sprung up: new confiscations of Arab lands in Jerusalem, for the purpose of building another Jews-only neighborhood, as well as the death of 30-years old Abed Al-Zasmed Harizat while under Shabak interrogation. (On the evening before, pathologist Derrick Pounder confirmed on Israeli TV that "the autopsy leaves no doubt; his death was the result of torture.") Demanding a full investigation of the case, Israeli and Palestinian speakers also emphasized that the government is directly responsible by recently authorizing the Shabak to go even beyond the notorious Landau Report which recommended only "moderate physical pressure."
Hadash, POB 46081, Haifa.

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Hadash

+++ On February 27 the young conscientious objector Maxim Shklyar, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, was arrested by "deserter-catchers" at his Be'ersheba home, and spent the following weeks holding a hunger strike at his military prison cell -- repeating the experience of his fellow pacifist (and immigrant) objector, Sergey Sandler (see previous issue, p.15).

Sandler has by now gotten his discharge because of "unsuitablity to military service." Two consecutive terms of imprisonment -- and of hunger strike -- convinced the army that it would be hard to make a suitable IDF soldier of such material. It seems that Shklyar would follow the same course.

Meanwhile, the Pacifist Movement in Israel/Palestine, to which both belong, reports an increase in contacts made with young dissenters, through its newly-launched youth paper Ela ("But") -- published on a shoestring by the enthusiastic youngsters.
WRI Section-Pacifists I/P, POB 28058, Tel-Aviv.

WRI Section - Pacifists Israel/Palestine
Vanunu Solidarity Commitee and
Physicians Against Nuclear War


+++ On April 17, as worldwide diplomats gathered at New York to deliberate on extending the Non-Proliferation Treaty, twenty small and not so small radical groups -- well-known names to the readers of TOI -- agreed to publish an advertisement together, calling upon the government to join the NPT. The Egyptian diplomatic offensive, placing the issue prominently on the Middle East agenda, helped bring into the open the nuclear debate -- for many years stifled by military (and self-)censorship. So far, all mainstream politicians -- government and opposition alike -- oppose the NPT and support the continuation of "The Nuclear Option." But the positions of such organizations as the Vanunu Solidarity Commit-tee and Physicians Aganst Nuclear War are taken more and more seriously in the media. Sociologist-philosopher Avner Cohen tried to work out a compromise solution: Israel would keep for the time being its nuclear arsenal, but oblige itself to stop producing more. (The government did issue the very unobliging undertaking to "open negotiations on a nuclear-free Middle East, two years after full peace agreements with all members of the Arab League, as well as with Iran, are signed.")

The new openness is also expressed with regard to
[continued]
Mordechai Vanunu, whose conditions of imprisonment are now taken up by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and for whose release 22,000 signatures were recently collected in Britain. Ha'aretz, and the rest of the Shocken papers, published extensively the story of the sailors of the cargo ship which secretly transported the kidnapped Vanunu from Italy in 1986. (Shocken had to go to the Supreme Court before the military censor would okay publication.)

On April 19, Ma'ariv published a letter to the editor from Vanunu, for the first time stating his case himself: 'I was not a spy, and I don't work for any intelligence service.' A small, elementary thing -- which would have been impossible a few years ago.

The very first opinion poll on the nuclear issue (Yediot Aharonot, 24.2.95), showed a 71% majority against the NPT. There was, however, also a substantial minority of 23% in favor of Israel giving up its nuclear option -- indicating a growing potential base for the hitherto marginal Israeli anti-nuclear movement.

Vanunu Solidarity Committee, POB 7323, Jerusalem
Anti-nuclear Physicians, c/o Shenkar, 19 Hess St., Tel-Aviv.

Page. 16


How did we become so lame?

by David Grossman


About a week ago, in a meeting between Israelis and Palestinian intellectuals, one of the Israelis spoke from the depth of his heart: "You, our Palestinian counterparts, you know as well as we do that the present difficult situation is but an interim stage. You know that at the end of the process you will get what you want -- an independent Palestinian state and the separation of the two peoples. Why, then, do we not hear your voice more strongly inside your own society? Why do you not tell this to your own people -- you, who are supposed to see further than others, yet you remain silent?"

"Because we ourselves are no longer as certain as we were about the direction where this process is leading," was the answer. "Because we look around us and see the ongoing confiscations of land; the roads being built, around all our towns and villages, for the settlers' use; and the massive construction and extension of the settlements. Seeing this we begin to understand that also this time, as in all our contacts with Israelis, we are being deceived. You are dictating to us a reality whose shape fits you alone. Only this time you are doing it in such a cunning way that we may never recover."

This answer of our Palestinian partners -- all of whom are, by the way, in favor of the peace process, and already paid their personal toll -- requires of us, the Israelis who support the process, to examine honestly the uncomfortable possibility that we may be cheating ourselves. It is strange how seldom this question is heard, how much it is repressed and pushed aside.

For decades, the Left invested enormous efforts in working for and thinking about peace -- a peace of which we had a clear vision. We succeeded in creating a public atmosphere which, when the moment came, seeped into the politicians' reluctant consciousness and helped push them to the negotiating table. But since Oslo, the same Left fell into almost complete paralysis. The common excuse: Now it is the government which implements what the Left wanted, envisioned and struggled for. But is this still true? Are the negotiations with the Palestinians indeed taking place in a way which, to our view, would lead to good neighborly relations in the future? Or do the negotiations become but a further stage in the humiliation of the Palestinians, a way of imposing upon them a surrender, and in fact of ensuring the continuation of the war?

Is it possible that (out of good intentions) we are practicing self-censorship? Is it is possible that by failing to voice such questions we become accomplices in a historical mistake, whose bitter results may haunt Israel for generations to come? Precisely in the present difficult situation, the Left should have spoken out loud and clear in its own unique voice, should have thrown its full weight on the public balance.

How is it possible that Peace Now is not bringing hundreds of volunteers daily out onto the crossroads, to let the other voice be heard? Why is it not organising mass demonstrations which could, precisiely now, put the decisive pressure for the course which Peace Now always advocated? What happened to this movement? And what happened to the Meretz Ministers inside the cabinet?

Are we not aware that the other side is exerting an enormous pressure on Rabin -- a pressure which already bears fruit in the street and the opinion polls, which may soon express itself in the ballot boxes, and which -- above all -- is having strong influence on the Prime Minister. And this presure of the right is countered by -- silence. A very silent Left.

Indeed, Gush Shalom does pose these questions -- but they find no response or echo in the moderate -- and bigger -- part of the Left. "How did you become so lame and helpless?" wrote [Israel's national poet] Bialik, raging at the society of his days. Now, the same accusation is leveled at ourselves: it seems that we -- the people of the word, the book, the idea -- become weak and ineffective where it comes to realities. As if we are not interested in the small details of implementation, and leave these to "men of action." We had a sort of mystic certainty after Oslo, as if we have put our "charge" into the hands of a trustworthy messenger, whom we expected to bring it to the desired destination. From that moment on, we felt free to disperse in peace. But what if the messenger chooses to take a different road? Or if he simply lost his way? (...)

Translated from Ha'aretz, April 4.

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