The Other Israel _ April-May 1996, Issue No. 72
The Loosing of the Hounds
The Politics of Hunger
The Limits of Power
A New Beginning?
Responses to Closure and the War in Lebanon:
Physicians for Human Rights
International Center for Peace in the Middle East
The Committee to Defend Peace
The Laws of War, by Moshe Negbi
Our Suffering - and Theirs, by Chemi Shalev
Not the Same, by Iris Bar
I Know Every Corner, by Naif Alarjub
Yes to Peace, No to Settlements -- Peace Now
Palestinian State - Now! -- Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc
This Peace is Killing Us, by Uri Avnery
THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon,
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Assistant Editor: Beate Zilversmidt
For subscription information and 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
April-May 1996, Issue No. 72
THE LOOSING OF THE HOUNDS
The first part of this issue's leading article is based on observations and considerations written down by Adam
Keller in the immediate wake of the suicide attacks in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, and sent at the time to various
international peace groups who had contacted us.
Saturday February 24 was a clear and sunny weekend day, also on the political scene. The Israeli general elections
had been definitely set for May 29. In all opinion polls, Prime Minister Shimon Peres kept a strong and steady
lead over Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and his victory seemed a foregone conclusion; a power struggle was developing
inside the Likud, with many leading members believing that Netanyahu should be replaced by a candidate with a greater
chance of success. Israeli-Palestinian relations were moving smoothly along, following Yasser Arafat's success
in the Palestinian elections. The way seemed clear to further stages: revocation of the Palestinian Covenant, outdated
symbol of Palestinian intransigence; Israeli withdrawal from Hebron, the only major West Bank city still under
occupation; the beginning of negotiations on the final status... In the meantime, the young Israeli singer Zehava
Ben performed in Arabic to wild applause of a Palestinian audience in Jericho, and prospects for the future seemed
Under the calm surface, however, a fuse was burning -- lit with the assassination of senior Hamas member Yihya
Ayash by Israeli undercover agents at Gaza on January 5. The Israeli security service needed such a coup as the
killing of Ayash -- who had been involved in the blowing up of several Israeli buses -- in order to compensate
for its failure in guarding the life of Prime Minister Rabin. But in giving Shabak the go-ahead to kill Ayash,
Rabin's successor Shimon Peres made one of the worst blunders of his long career. The Ayash assassination shattered
the de-facto ceasefire which Hamas had maintained since August 1995. It tipped the balance inside Hamas against
the relatively pragmatic internal leadership, which aims to become a political party and which conducted an intricate
series of negotiations with Arafat in order to take an active role in building up the new Palestinian political
system. In the aftermath of the killing of Ayash -- foul arch-murderer in Israeli eyes, hero and martyr to many
Palestinians -- the lead among the radical Muslims was seized by the exiled leadership, which is based in Sudan
and Syria and which seeks to continue at all costs and by all means the struggle against Israel.
Arafat tried -- and for some time seemed to succeed -- in stemming the tide, holding extensive negotiations with
the Hamas leadership to stop them from taking revenge against Israel which he knew would entail an Israeli crackdown
greatly damaging to all Palestinans. But, as we now know, a group of Hamas militants -- with or without the leadership's
official sanction -- was already preparing for the series of suicide attacks which were to shake Israel and the
entire region. February 25 -- second anniversary of the massacre perpetrated in Hebron by the fanatic settler Baruch
Goldstein -- was the date selected by Goldstein's Palestinian equivalents.
On the morning of February 25 I got up full of energy. There were many plans to carry through in the coming week.
The campaign for the Palestinian women prisoners seemed to pick up much momentum and media attention, and an alliance
of Israeli peace activists had recently confronted the continued settler enclave in the heart of Hebron, in cooperation
with the local Palestinians -- an action to which a follow-up seemed indicated. Turning on the radio, I realised
at once that all these plans -- and much else -- have been rendered moot.
A suicide bomber had blown up himself, and a busful of Israeli passengers, in the center of Jerusalem. The radio
estimates of the death toll steadily rose, as rescue teams combed through the burned-out wreckage. The emergency
TV broadcasts showed the kind of horror scenes familiar from last year's Hamas bombing campaign, which we had begun
to hope would not be seen again in Israel; and in the background of the picture we could see the right-wing mobs
already beginning to form, as always on such days, with their shrill cries "Death to the Arabs" and "Down
During the week of mourning for Rabin, in November 1995, peace activists from different groups discussed the possibility
that such a day would come again -- and resolved that if it did we
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would not leave the right-wing in possession of the streets, that we would come out and demonstrate whatever happens.
Yet now that the moment had indeed come, I felt again the kind of hesitation and paralysis I had felt at such moments
in the past, and I could heard it also in the voices of others whom I phoned. It was not just the fear of being
physically assaulted if we came out on the street with peace signs, but also the simple difficulty of answering
the question which would be certain to be asked by some passers-by: "You said that Oslo would lead to peace.
Is this peace?"
At noon, the radio announced that a group of bereaved families who lost their dear ones in terrorist attacks had
actually met with Prime Minister Peres -- to encourage him to continue with the peace process. Religious peace
activist Yitzchak Frankenthal, speaking for the group, told the radio: "My son Arik, who was kidnapped and
killed by Hamas, believed in peace. He knew that terrorism is blind and that anybody could become its victim, and
he believed that reaching real peace with our neighbors is the only way terrorism can truly be overcome. He would
have wanted me to come here and talk to the Prime Minister the way I did."
After that, it was more easy to start organizing, to discuss in hasty telephone consultations tactics and scenarios,
the expected behavior of the right-wing, of the police, of ordinary passers-by. It was decided not to come to the
site of the bus explosion itself; rather, the evening vigil was scheduled to take place at Paris Square in central
Jerusalem, the old rallying place of the Women in Black recently taken over by weekly Peace Now vigils. It was
decided to have a single slogan -- "Yes to Peace -- No to Violence", the same as at the November 1995
rally at whose conclusion Rabin was assassinated.
At 7.30 P.M. we gathered at the spot -- a large contingent of Peace Now youths, with a group of Labour students
from the Hebrew University and several Gush Shalom activists. We came with more than a little trepidation; the
signs were all made of tough plastic, to prevent hostile crowds from snatching and tearing them up. The police,
too, was quite nervous, to judge from the numbers in which they arrived. Yet, surprisingly enough, response of
passers-by was no more hostile than at normal times, and in more than one case was positively supportive. The hour-long
vigil ended with the lighting of candles and the singing of sad songs of mourning, reminiscent of the days following
the Rabin murder.
Polls taken in the following days indicated -- as could have been expected -- that Peres lost most of his lead.
He now seemed to run almost neck-and-neck with Netanyahu -- who had gotten some credit for remaining calm and "statesmanlike"
and dissociating himself from the violent mobs. Meanwhile, the government took the almost automatic step of imposing
a closure on the Palestinian territories, supposedly in order to prevent the entry of further bombers, and incidentally
depriving tens of thousands of workers of their livelihood. For its part, the Hamas leadership released a statement
calling for a ceasefire with Israel, and setting March 8 as a deadline for Israeli response, until which date no
further action would be taken. The offer was officially rejected by the Peres government -- yet it was taken quite
seriously by several mainstream politicians and commentators, who discussed at length the pros and cons. On March
1, several of us from Gush Shalom had an unexpected chance to meet with a senior Hamas leader at the West Bank
village of Bila'in -- where we had come in order to participate in a rally against land confiscations. The man,
Sheikh Hasan Yusef, was clearly in favor of a ceasefire.
However, the band of bombers seemed bent on discrediting their own movement's leadership and proving its deadlines
to be meaningless -- as well as defying the Israeli and Palestinian authorities and showing that, in spite of the
closure and of all security precautions they could strike again, and not just strike again, but strike on the same
hour of the same day in the week, at the same Jerusalem bus line. (It was Line 18, serving mainly the more impoverished
of the Jerusalem slums.) Once again, at nearly the same place on Jerusalem's main street as on the previous week,
a full passenger bus was blown up by a suicide bomber.
Seeing the same horrors re-enacted exactly one week later gave a feeling of unreality, of living in a nightmare.
One detail was different: we could clearly see that this time, the right-wingers were more numerous and more violent
than in the previous week. Again there were the frantic consultations between different peace groups, the hasty
telephone mobilization. In the afternoon we gathered at the Rabin Square in Tel-Aviv, trying to draw strength from
the memory of the Martyr of Peace. It was a heterogenous group, combining secularist Jews with a group of religious
students led by the maverick settler Rabbi Menachem Froman, as well as Pales
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tinians and visitors from Morocco and Tunisia who came for a conference of the Tel-Aviv Center for Peace; we all
lighted candles, and several kinds of mourning services were held simultaneously.
On the afternoon of the following day I was seated at my word processor, when the open radio announced yet another
suicide bombing attack -- outside the Dizengoff Shopping Center, in the heart of Tel-Aviv. This time, the news
hit me quite personally; my mother, an organiser in Women for Political Prisoners is in the habit of passing that
precise spot on her way to the group's tiny office.
Phoning was of no avail; too many people had dear ones to worry about at or near the Dizengoff Center, one of the
most crowded spots in Israel, and the telephone system simply collapsed under the sudden enormous overload. It
was a terrible bus ride to central Tel-Aviv, with the bus radio blaring detailed descriptions of headless corpses
strewn about the ruined shops. At last I found my mother safe and sound -- she had missed the bomber by a couple
of minutes. Only then did I have time to think of the catastrophic political consequences.
On that night the cabinet -- holding an emergency meeting in an atmosphere of panic magnified by the exaggerated
media coverage of the shouting mobs -- could have decided upon any wild measure and passed it by public acclamation.
Some ministers actually proposed reconquering all the towns recently handed over to the Palestinian Authority --
which would have meant a total confrontation with the Palestinians and a bloodbath of staggering proportions. Some
Labor members, in panic, actually contemplated bringing the Likud into the government and giving the defence ministry
to the notorious Ariel Sharon; senior ministers seriously considered an immediate internal Labor Party coup, forcing
Peres to hand defence to the hawkish Ehud Barak; also, detailed plans were floated for a new mass deportation of
Hamas leaders, on the lines of the disastrous December 1992 deportation.
The cabinet's actual decisions were draconian enough: a virtual siege of the Palestinian self-governing territories,
effectively cutting the West Bank into a series of isolated enclaves; a brutal reconquest of the West Bank villages,
left in the Oslo agreements as an ambiguous no-man's-land between the Israeli and Palestinian jurisdictions; and
a campaign of house demolitions and arrests of the suicide bombers' family members, for the sole crime of being
their family members. But at least Peres did not take any irrevocable step which would demolish the entire shaky
structure of Oslo. In the conditions of that wild and desperate night, that was far from little.
That night, a group of activists gathered in front of Peres' home in North Tel-Aviv to protect it from the mobs
and to urge the Prime Minister that he preserve what was left of the peace process. Seeing them on the TV screen,
at the late news, was like finding an oasis in a scorching desert.
In the following days, something happened which nobody would have believed possible -- this oasis of dedication
to peace showed enormous vitality, rapidly spreading in all directions. The spate of right-wing violence died out
within twenty-four hours of the Tel-Aviv bombing, leaving behind nothing but a trail of racist graffity scrawled
on the walls of the ruined shopping center. Instead, an increasing number of peace demonstrators, organised by
a variety of groups from the center to the left of the political spectrum, took to the streets of Tel-Aviv and
Jerusalem. With growing confidence, these people expressed in the streets their determination not to let the chance
for peace be snatched away. 'We will not let Hamas blow up our peace!' was an especially popular slogan.
There was also an enormous mobilization by Israel's Arab citizens, with "Yes to Peace -- No to Terrorism"
demonstrations and vigils taking place at practically every significant Arab town in Israel and at many of the
smaller villages, supported by all parts of the Arab political spectrum. On the other side of the border, there
were for the first time big peace rallies in Gaza and at several of the West Bank cities, in spite of their difficult
situation under virtual siege by the Israeli army. There seemed to be quite a genuine revulsion against the suicide
bombers at the Palestinian grassroots -- though it remains to be seen whether that would deter the bombers, now
seen to be a small fanatic breakaway group, oblivious even to the Hamas' own political leadership.
The weekend of March 8 and 9 saw an enormous number of demonstrations in Tel-Aviv: a big demonstration by Jewish
and Arab women in Nazareth, originally scheduled to mark International Women's Day; a three-hour vigil by hundreds
of Laborites outside the defence ministry, where the inner cabinet met for a special session, with passing drivers
honking in approval; a rally at the Rabin Square was attended by thousands, at the call of former Mayor Shlomo
Lahat and his group of (former) Generals for Peace; a Meretz Youth vigil at the site of the bombing itself in the
Dizengoff Center; an enormous rally outside the private home of Shimon Peres, in which the arriving Prime Minister
was given a hero's welcome by thousands of cheering supporters -- and to his bodyguards' great chagrin, plunged
into the mass, ignoring the stringent security measures instituted since the Rabin murder. On the following day,
some 5,000 participated in a Peace Now march in the heart of Jerusalem -- an impressive scene full of placards
and lighted torches.
For the more radical of us, as to all others, this incredible upsurge was a heady and heartening experience --
but with a reservation. The mobilization around Peres and against the right-wing onslaught left little space for
confronting Peres from the other direction. Only a few isolated placards in the demonstrations took up the collective
punishments and gross human rights violations in the Palestinian territories -- territories which the army's brutal
actions in the past few days have shown to be still very much under occupation.
Now that Peres has shown himself able to survive the right-wing onslaught and still keep his own in the
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electoral race with Netanyahu, it is time to take again more distance from him, in the cause of Palestinian human
rights -- which also has much to do with the chances of peace.
For the slightly longer range, the crisis had shown a deepening of a tendency already discernable among the Israeli
population, transcending traditional political differences: the tendency towards "a separation between the
two peoples." More and more people -- even long-time Likud and right-wing supporters -- have come to accept
that this means an independent Palestinian state. Increasingly, such people are willing to accept even that this
Palestinian state would include the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem -- hitherto the heresy of heresies. All this,
however, is on condition that the borders remain closed, that no Palestinian will come to Israel; all Palestinians
are now regarded with suspicion, as potential bombers. Israel is at present the only developed industrialised country
in the world to actively welcome Third World migrant workers in large numbers -- for the express purpose of replacing
the Palestinian workers hitherto employed in Israel. (The inevitable social and political problems resulting from
this immigration wave will undoubtedly be deeply felt at the next decade.)
The peace which seems to be taking shape might turn out to be a cold and harsh thing, a far cry from the open symbiosis
and open borders which we always dreamed about. Yet, if it will provide an end to violence and a time for both
peoples to heal their wounds, it may soften in time. (Tel-Aviv, March 10.)
The politics of hunger
It did not take long for daily life in Israel to resume. The media restarted normal programming, and new gleaming
shop fronts at Tel Aviv's Dizengof Center were proclaiming the vitality of Israeli consumer society -- as if to
belie those right-wingers who had dared to shout "Peres, where is your new Middle East?"
The Prime Minister had his grand show of the Sharm-al-Sheikh Anti-Terrorist Summit, where Peres could bask in the
support of numerous international heads of state and show off his newly-acquired contacts with a widening circle
of Arab states, in the Gulf and North Africa.
And in Jerusalem, eight specially-imported French chefs prepared "King David's Dinner" for some 150 gourmets,
each of whom paid $600 for the privilege. This gala event -- part of the official celebrations to mark the (historically
doubtful but politically expedient) 3,000th anniversary of (Jewish) Jerusalem -- was broadcast live on Israeli
television, and the ornate menus reproduced over whole pages in the mass-circulation Israeli press.
No delicacies, however, for the people who live only a short distance away -- in the Palestinian territories. The
closure imposed on March 4, went much further than anything implemented by an Israeli government since 1967 --
and far beyond what could, by any stretch of the imagination, be connected with the need of preventing suicide
bombers from entering Israel. Not only were all Palestinians without exception denied entry -- including terminally-ill
patients in need of treatment, and high officials of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians were also forbidden
to travel between the cities of the West Bank; the border passes to Egypt and Jordan were closed, and the transport
of basic food and medicines into the territories -- not allowed.
There was little doubt about the purpose of this siege, since the Israeli military and political leaders spelled
it out quite clearly -- to put as much pressure as possible on Arafat "to deal with Hamas, once and for all."
To underline the message, Peres instituted a boycott of Arafat, pointedly snubbing the Palestinian leader and refusing
to meet with him at the Sharm-al-Sheikh Summit. Instead of political leaders, generals were sent to meet Arafat
in Gaza -- bearing blunt ultimatums.
Meanwhile, the army was highly active in the areas still directly accessible to it -- the city of Hebron, whose
evacuation was put off indefinitely, plus the villages and smaller towns of the West Bank, marked as "B"
areas in the Oslo-II maps. The soldiers were busy raiding at night, arresting, imposing curfews, blowing up houses,
closing down schools, universities and mosques. The trend of the period since Oslo-II was reversed: increased military
presence where it had been thinned, new mass detentions instead of negotiations on prisoners' release. The army's
"Special Units," which had been faced with imminent disbanding, got a new lease of life -- their expertise
in night raids on "Hamas stronghold villages" being once again much in demand.
From their tone of voice on the radio, the army brass -- who had never been particularly happy with the Oslo Agreements
-- seemed relieved to get loose and take some "real action." The crisis revealed that the army senior
command has become -- to a degree never seen before in Israel -- a political lobby acting openly and consciously
to promote "hawkish" and tough policies, often in concert with ex-general politicians (among them the
new Foreign Minister Ehud Barak).
The general's enthusiasm was not shared lower down the military hierarchy. At the same time that the State of Israel
broke some of its explicit obligations to the Palestinians (withdrawal from Hebron, release of women prisoners,
free passage between Gaza and West Bank), there were broken also explicit promises made by the military authorities,
to reduce the burden of military service.
During March and early April, there were increasing reports of discontent in reserve units, spread along the confused
and ill-defined "confrontation lines" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Several petitions, each signed
by dozens of soldiers and officers of a particular unit, were published in the press. In other cases, commanding
officers at the rank of captain and major assumed the task of spokespersons for their soldiers, effectively acting
as "trade unionists" and reversing the normal top-down directions of communications in the military.
One of these petitions,
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prominently published on the front page of Yediot Aharonot stated: "We are the slaves of Israeli society.
We are asked to do the dirty work, and we do not even get thanks." Their complaint dealt mainly with the unequal
burden of reserve duty, which falls mainly upon the army's combat veterans. Recent figures show that 80% of the
total reserve duty is carried out by 30% of those eligible for service, while 42% are not called up at all. (Yediot
Aharonot, April 3.)
It was far from easy in this period, to oppose the harsh military measures. One of the earliest campaigns concerned
the government's decision to blow up the suicide bombers' homes. Even in a heated and emotional atmosphere, it
was possible to point out that the culprits were already dead and that revenge was being taken against family members
who had not been involved in the act -- and that anyway the act of destruction is just as likely to provoke further
bombings as to deter them. Several protest vigils took place in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. Veteran human rights lawyer
Lea Tzemel undertook to seek an injunction at the Supreme Court -- to no avail. Justice Mishael Hishin -- the only
one on the bench who in the past opposed house demolitions -- was now the most aggressive of all: "Adv. Tzemel,
you are representing here a vile mass murderer!" "Your Honour, my client is the father of the person
you refer to. To the best of my knowledge, no charges of any kind were brought against my client, and there is
no reason why his house should be demolished." Also the fact that the Meretz ministers did speak out against
it, did not prevent the blowing up of eight houses at various locations in the West Bank -- with the destruction
prominently broadcast evening after evening on TV prime time, with the evident purpose of demonstrating the government's
determination "to fight terrorism."
Political and human rights activists had more success in opposing the idea of deportations, seriously discussed
in the media and the security system -- where a list of suicide bombers' family members was drawn up, to be deported
"in order to deter new bombers." Meretz Minister Shulamit Aloni -- determined to atone for her support
of the 1992 deportations -- took the exceptional step of demonstrating in the street outside the Defence Ministry,
to influence the policy of the cabinet of which she is a member. Meretz activists standing with Aloni held carton
boomerangs, bearing the slogan "deportation is a boomerang." Apparently, some of the security experts
shared that opinion; mentioning that the mass deportations of December 1992 served mainly to give Hamas activists
an extensive opportunity to air their views on CNN News.
Eventually, the idea of deportations was shelved.
Ironically, the worst to suffer of Israel's punitive measures were not the West Bank villagers still subject to
direct military control, but the Gazans -- nominally free of such control, but extremely vulnerable, due to their
economy's near-total dependence on Israel. Not only did the closure deprive half of the Gazan workforce of their
jobs in Israel; most of the other jobs were cut off as well: Gaza's two largest local industries, building and
textile -- deprived of raw material imported from or through Israel; Gaza Strip farmers -- cut off from their main
market in Israel; Gazan fishermen -- prevented by the Israeli navy from putting out to the sea.
One of the few Israelis who did enter Gaza was Gush Shalom leader (and ICIPP member) Uri Avnery. As a journalist
he succeeded in getting a permit and meeting with Yasser Arafat after a week of closure. The message which he brought
with him made headlines in all Israeli media: "The Israeli army does not allow us to bring in flour, either
from Israel or from Egypt. The people have nothing to eat. If this goes on I, Yasser Arafat, will personally go
to the Egyptian border to smuggle flour to Gaza with my own hands. If the soldiers shoot me, so be it" (Ma'ariv,
War of the doctors
With the closure of March 4, the hard-won arrangements of the past -- to let Palestinians receive treatment in
Israel also intimes of closure -- were canceled overnight and the struggle had to be waged all over again. Moreover,
on the West Bank the military roadblocks often separated patients even from local clinics and hospitals. For at
least ten Palestinians, among them little children, help came too late.
The staff of the Tel-Aviv-based Physicians for Human Rights worked virtually non-stop: sending communiques and
revealing shocking stories to the general public; presenting appeals to the Supreme Court; organizing doctors to
demonstrate in their white coats and bringing medical supplies to Nablus and Gaza (getting them past army roadblocks
being far from easy).
PHR's 4-page report on the campaign concludes: (...) The Israeli officials' willingness to re-evaluate the requests
of Palestinians when PHR or other human rights organizations intervene underlines the fact that security is not
the sole consideration leading the policy of total closure. Moreover, in PHR's negotiations with numerous authorities
it has become apparent that different levels of compassion exist: even within the very strict rules of this closure,
room for one's own judgment remains (...).
On April 23, PHR activists -- together with those of Rabbis for Human Rights -- have started monitoring the army
checkpoints, in order to intervene on the spot if needed.
English-language report from:
PHR, POB 10235, Tel-Aviv 61101; fax: 972-3-5662527.
Gradually, following the protests of the Palestinians with the support of Israeli peace groups and international
pressure the most severe aspects of the closure were eased: the Gaza Strip got a regular flow of medicines and
basic foodstuffs, and later -- of raw materials for its rudimentary industries. The small Palestinian textile workshops,
working as sub-contractors to Israeli entrepeneurs, were allowed to send their produce into Israel -- after their
Israeli business partners had rioted and clashed with the police in South Tel-Aviv.
Even after all of these ameliorations -- each one of them highly publicized , for the benefit of liberals inside
and outside Israel -- the closure remained far
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more tight than ever before, with hardly any Palestinians allowed to work in Israel, or pass between the West Bank
and Gaza, or get into East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority initiated an emergency program of relief works, in which Palestinians get paid 30 Shekels
(US$10) for cleaning the streets of Gaza; observers now concede that "there is no actual starvation,"
but that "severe malnutrition" was observed among poor Gazans.
Some Israeli groups have undertaken to oppose the closure as such: Gush Shalom, the Hadash Communists, the network
of women's peace organizations -- and the Tel-Aviv based Center for Peace, which is usually closer to the mainstream.
Paid ad placed in Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post, April 7.
No to Closure -- Yes to Peace
The continued closure of the territories is causing severe damage to the Palestinian economy and society and serious
harm to the majority of the Palestinian people.
The continuation of the closure will impair the delicate fabric that has been woven between the peoples these past
two years. Each passing day of closure is steadily closing the door to peace which has been opened between them.
We call on you, Prime Minister and Defense Minister Mr. Shimon Peres, to put an end to the closure and allow us,
Israelis and Palestinians, to continue to work together as partners in strengthening peace and tolerance.
International Center for Peace in the Middle East
POB 29335, Tel Aviv 61292; fax: 972-3-5160340.
Various actions were taken: publishing ads, collecting signatures on petitions, demonstrating outside the defence
ministry, distributing leaflets at the esplanade on Tel-Aviv's seashore, picketing the open-air classical music
performance attended by Tel-Aviv's well-dressed yuppies... The latest idea, raised by the Bat Shalom women's center,
is to hold in an Israeli city a bazaar of Palestinian produce.
It all remains very much an uphill struggle. One may argue and bring cogent moral and practical arguments; one
may point out that none of the Palestinian workers who entered Israel legally ever carried out a bombing attack;
that the suicide bombers have many ways of getting in despite the closure; that enormous long-term dangers are
involved in creating a large population of ever more destitute, desperate Palestinians in Israel's close vicinity;
that by ruling the Territories for three decades and shaping their economy into total dependence, Israel assumed
a moral obligation which cannot be shrugged off -- and which was, moreover, given a legally-binding form in the
economic annex to the Oslo Agreement.
Still, in talking and arguing with ordinary Israelis -- even many of the peace-minded ones -- all these considerations
are outweighted by a widespread emotional gut-feeling: that lifting the closure would mean opening the gate to
new suicide bombers.
Meanwhile, as political attention was riveted on the Palestinian imbroglio, a new fuse started to burn north of
the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The limits of power
In the gloomy days of early March, Israeli President Ezer Weitzman -- former dove turned hawk and infamous for
his unpresidential tongue -- called for a complete suspension of the peace process with all Arab partners. He proposed
introducing a radical new principle of policy: "If you can't find a needle in a haysteck, burn the whole stack."
One and a half month later, it seems that Peres was driven to try taking his advice to heart.
Among the "tough moves" after the Hamas bombings was the suspension of negotiations with the Syrians,
which had been going desultorily in Wye Plantation, Maryland. In any case, no progress had been expected in the
negotiations until the Israeli elections. Peres' attempt to garner popular support by suspending this charade seemed
a relatively innocuous step, compared with the steps he had taken against the Palestinians -- but it was taken
quite seriously in Damascus. President Assad's disconfiture grew with Peres' grand show at the Sharm-al-Sheikh
Summit, in which Israel staked a claim to being the Middle East's new regional power -- and from which Syria was
excluded. Even more alarming, from Damascus' point of view, was the signature of a military agreement between Israel
and Turkey, Syria's not-so-friendly neighbor to the north -- which certainly looked like an attempt to encirclement.
As he had done before when faced with an unfavorable diplomatic situation, Assad turned his attention to South
Lebanon, scene of long-standing confrontation.
Israel has been in control of South Lebanon ever since the "mini-invasion" of 1978. In all that time,
it has never been admitted that South Lebanon is an occupied territory; the Israeli general in charge is designated
"chief liaison officer" rather than "military governor." Nevertheless, there is no longer any
pretence that the area is in fact ruled by the "local militia" known as the "South Lebanon Army."
The SLA mercenaries proved completely unable to fend for themselves; the constant presence of thousands of Israeli
troops is needed to maintain control of the area. In contrast, the Hizbullah guerillas -- Syria's allies -- are
efficient, highly-motivated fighters who neither need nor desire the direct involvement of Syrian troops. Thus,
the South Lebanon "war by proxy" turned out to have a built-in advantage for Syria.
In early 1996, Hizbullah made a series of daring ambushes and raids on Israeli military convoys, deep inside the
"security zone." As a resistance movement struggling to liberate occupied Lebanese territory, Hizbullah
gained support also from many Lebanese who do not share its militant Islamic ideology.
Among the Israeli-backed SLA troops, morale plummeted; there were reports of a high desertion rate, with some SLA
deserters actually going over to the guerillas. The Israeli army command ached "to get back" at the Hizbullah
-- but attacks on villages where the guerillas hid inevitably resulted in civilian casualties, in contravention
of Israel's obligation
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under the July 1993 cease-fire; in such cases, Hizbullah retaliated by shooting Katyusha rockets at northern Israel
-- particularly at the long-suffering town of Kiryat Shmona.
The army command, which had so recently gotten a free hand on the West Bank, started pressuring Peres to have the
same in Lebanon. They were aided by the right-wing opposition, which blamed Peres of "tying the army's hands."
Local politicians in the northern towns agitated for "a big blow in Lebanon to get rid of the Katyushas once
and for all;" when Peres intended to visit Kiryat Shmona, local Likud militants rioted at the town entrance,
forcing him to cancel the visit.
With an escalating number of incidents -- attacks on Israeli soldiers in South Lebanon, followed by retaliation
and counter-retaliation hitting both sides' civilians -- Peres was expected to start military operations. For a
whole month, however, he proclaimed a policy of restraint, going as far as making a public apology for the killing
of two Lebanese civilians and reprimanding the officer responsible for the shooting. Before starting a military
campaign, Peres had to be sure of his ground and get assurances of diplomatic support from the U.S. government.
Peres' moderation and restraint were to be cited by government supporters as proof that war had been inevitable.
Yet, in all the period of rising tensions, there was hardly any mention of the root cause of tensions -- Israeli
occupation in South Lebanon and the suspension of the talks with Syria. In the discourse of mainstream politicians
and journalists, the only two options discussed were passive continuation of the status-quo and a big Israeli blow;
given the worsening situation on the ground, the second was a forgone conclusion.
There was little original in "Operation Grapes of Wrath" -- to cite the official name of the war started
on April 11. Not only were the tactics very similar to those used (not very successfully) by Rabin in 1993, but
the reactions of the peace movement and of Israeli society in general followed closely the pattern established
in all the military adventures in Lebanon since 1982: the same spontaneous opposition by radical peace groups;
the same hesitation, indecision and silence during the war's initial stages from more mainstream groups such as
Peace Now; the same massive propaganda campaign centering on the plight of inhabitants in the north, creating a
kind of emotional blackmail to support the war (though it was the war which forced the inhabitants of the north
to flee or hide continuously in bomb shelters).
One thing, however, was a bit different: the number of critical articles which found their way into the opinion
pages of the mass-circulation papers -- even with the news pages of the same papers looking like sheets of jingoist
war propaganda. Nahum Barnea of Yediot Aharonot, Israel's biggest daily, voiced a note of caution on the very first
day: "All Lebanon wars start well, with video films of enemy command centers being blown up -- the problems
begin later" (Y.A., April 12).
Also on the 12th, the first protest vigils were held, at the call of the Hadash communists and the new, mostly
Arab Tadjamu group -- with several dozen activists at each of the usual places: Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv, Prime
Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Nisnas Neighborhood in Haifa... On the weekly Friday vigil of Women in Black
and Yesh Gvul in Tel-Aviv on that same day, ten-year old signs were dug out and put again into use, with the slogan:
Bring the soldiers back from Lebanon!
During the 1982-1985 period, this had been an enormously powerful slogan, especially drawing the support of soldiers'
parents. This memory clearly influenced the choice of the army's strategy in the present war: the option of ground
operations further into Lebanon, with soldiers constantly exposed to guerrilla ambushes and suicide bombers, was
ruled out. Proposals by Likud's Ariel Sharon and Rafael Eytan -- to extend northward the Lebanese zone under Israeli
rule -- were not well received. Instead, the operation aimed at maximizing the use of Israel's enormous fire-power:
air force, artillery and gunboats.
To break the silence
The following press release -- issued in the first week of the bombardments -- was sent out on a large scale inside
Israel and abroad, to announce the Gush Shalom April 17 vigil in Tel-Aviv.
(...) Our aim in organising this vigil is to give voice to the section of Israeli society which in recent days
has gone nearly unheard.
+++ We feel distressed and disgusted at seeing hundreds of thousands of Lebanese civilians turned into refugees
by the bombs of our country's air-force. The very real damage caused to Israeli civilians by the Hizbullah rocket
attacks in no way justifies the use of Israel's enormous firepower to cause such a humanitarian disaster.
+++ We feel that Israel was wrong, ten years ago, to establish a "Security Zone" on Lebanese soil without
the consent of the Lebanese. Instead of giving security, this zone has become a deathtrap for young soldiers.
+++ We oppose the "solution" of using ever-increasing brute force, ever deeper into Lebanon. We call
upon our government to restart immediately the talks with Syria and Lebanon, and not to reject out of hand the
proposal already made by Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri -- to guarantee the disarming of Hizbullah in exchange
for the Israeli Army's withdrawal to the international border.
Contact: Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
The inhabitants of 45 villages were told through the Israeli-controlled South Lebanon Radio "to leave immediately,
on pain of being bombed and shelled." Later, this ultimatum was extended to 45 further villages, and then
-- to the ancient city of Tyre with its 150,000 inhabitants. By the hundreds of thousands, panic-stricken people
who had to flee from their homes started to crowd into Beirut, creating an enormous strain on its resources. (Ironically,
it was Hizbullah, with its network of charity organizations, which was best equiped to take care of the wave of
refugees -- and incidentaly garner additional political influence.)
At the same time, the Israeli navy blocaded the
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Lebanese ports, and continuing air raids destroyed the Lebanese capital's power stations. Undermining the Lebanese
economy and undoing the Hariri Government's efforts to rebuild the ruins of Lebanon was not just an incidental
by-effect; it was the repeatedly and openly stated central part of the whole strategy -- an economic war, aimed
at forcing the Lebanese government to disarm Hizbullah, much as the closure was aimed at forcing Arafat to move
In this strategy, direct fighting against the Katyushas was in fact secondary. Nevertheless, the army and air-force
had at least to be seen doing their best, since "stopping the Katyushas" was the only legitimate aim
of the whole operation. The Katyusha rocket -- an obsolete, short-range, inaccurate weapon by the standards of
regular armies -- is a perfect guerrilla weapon: small, light, easy to hide and transport; capable of being launched
from among vegetation and without much preparation.
As the army once more found out, it is very difficult to prevent the shooting of Katyushas; the best which artillery
and airplanes could do was to shoot back at the spot from which the Katyusha had been fired -- and where, in most
cases, the guerrillas were no longer present. The army's attempt at an answer to that problem, a new sophisticated
radar system, failed to stop the Katyushas -- and produced the war's worst calamity.
The aerial assault upon Tyre failed to bring any concession from the Lebanese or Syrian governments; indeed, the
speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, came to the city under bombardment to demonstrate his defiance.
In Israel the impatient generals, backed by the cabinet hawks, pushed for implementation of the next stage -- the
evacuation of Sidon, Lebanon's second largest city. (If implemented, it would have more than doubled the number
of refugees.) On the other hand, Meretz leader Yossi Sarid, who had been in favor of opening war, now started to
talk in cabinet meetings of a unilateral cease-fire. The Arab parties in Israeli politics -- on whose electoral
support Peres hitherto counted -- became increasingly upset. The U.S. still backed Israel diplomatically, but growing
criticism came from Europe, especially after "the ambulance incident" which cost the lives of four Lebanese
children; the French Foreign Minister arrived in Lebanon in an effort to end the fighting.
The strains within the Israeli political and military establishment came out with the unprecedented radio statement
of Brigadier-General Giora Inbar, the military boss of South Lebanon: "We just won't allow Peres to interrupt
us before completing our task." The incident was hushed up in a day, Inbar was reprimanded -- but allowed
to keep his job.
On the evening of April 18, more than a hundred people answered the call of Gush Shalom to demonstrate in Tel-Aviv.
A long thin line spread along the defence ministry, standing in the pouring rain with the signs 'There is a Solution:
Get out of Lebanon!' News that night gave the feeling that at least the fighting was not escalating further, and
that there were the first feelers of diplomatic contacts to end the war. But the following day was the day in which
the artillery barrage tore into the refugee encampment improvised at the U.N. position in Kana Village, killing
in two minutes many more civilians than were killed in all this year's Hamas bombings put together.
Get out of Lebanon!
Under this headline, a petition was initiated by lecturers from Tel-Aviv University. On April 19, it appeared in
Ha'aretz and Davar, signed by 180 Jewish and Arab Israelis. During the following week it appeared two more times,
with a total of 800 signatures.
The government has started a 'limited' war in Lebanon -- which gives us a strong feeling of deja vu. We have seen
before that 'a limited operation' could become an entanglement; that getting in is much easier than getting out;
that a 'clean' and 'surgical' assault can somehow end with the killing of children. Experience has shown already
that Israeli military operations leave Hizbullah stronger -- not weaker -- than it was before.
In 1996 as in 1982, war in Lebanon is a wrong policy -- morally as well as politically and militarily.
To ensure peace and security to the inhabitants of the north, and of the whole country, we demand:
+++ Put an immediate end to the bombings, the artillery shellings and the displacement of hundreds of thousands
of innocent civilians!
+++ Get the army out of all Lebanese territory -- now!
It has now been clearly demonstrated that the 'security zone' does not prevent Katyusha rocket attacks upon northern
Israel. A military assault is not the way forward -- only a political initiative can lead to permanent peace with
Syria, Lebanon and Palestine!
The Committee to Defend Peace, POB 33076, Tel-Aviv
The exact circumstances leading to the Kana carnage, the apportioning of responsibility, will doubtlessly be debated
for years. Did the Israeli military intelligence know the refugees were there? (And how could they not know, when
they were day after day shown on international TV networks?) And if military intelligence knew, why was the Artillery
Corps not warned? Did Hizbullah really shoot from the vicinity? And if they did, does it absolve Israel of responsibility
for the grisly results?
The exact answers to such questions hardly make a difference to the men, women and children who were mangled, torn
to bits, or burned to death at Kana. Nor did they make a big difference to the military and political results.
Israeli wars in general -- and this war in particular -- are fought nearly as much on CNN News as on the battlefield.
Western public opinion -- and the effect upon it by the horror scenes from Kana -- were a factor which a mini-power
like Israel could not ignore. Plans for further escalation were shelved, and the focus shifted to intense diplomatic
efforts aimed at achieving a cease-fire.
The pictures of horror had appeared also on Israeli TV -- which hitherto showed very little of how the war looked
from the Lebanese side. There were
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several protest actions. An already-scheduled Hadash rally in Tel-Aviv, brought several hundreds, chanting slogans
and listening to the emotional speeches of poets Dan Almagor and Yitzchak La'or. At Tel-Aviv University, the Campus
student group picketed the hall where Peres -- as it happened, on precisely this day -- delivered a speech. Peace
Now broke its silence, calling for withdrawal from Lebanon and holding an improvised vigil (not a big demonstration)
in Jerusalem, near the place where the long-dormant Jerusalem Women in Black surged into renewed action. And Yesh
Gvul published the most sharply-worded ad in its history, denouncing Kana as a war crime and calling upon pilots
and artillerymen to refuse participation in "surgical operations upon Lebanese villages."
Yet there was nothing resembling the explosion of anger and moral outrage which gripped Israel in September 1982,
after Sabra and Shatila. The people in general accepted Peres' position that "it was a tragic accident which
we deeply regret, but for which the Hizbullah is to blame." What may have lamed the reaction in Israeli Jewish
society is the concern with the impending elections: most of those who could have been expected to come out on
the street did not want to harm Peres' chances for re-election.
Outside Shimon Peres' Tel-Aviv home, two opposing groups of demonstrators engaged in a bitter shouting match --
all the more bitter, since many in the two groups had stood together against the right-wing but a month earlier.
"Peres is a murderer!" -- "Do you want the Likud to win the elections?" -- "Peres is no
better than Netanyahu!" -- "Peres is the only chance for peace!" A young laborite tried to mend
the quarrel by asking everybody to put on "Yes to Peace -- No to Violence!" stickers.
Most of the protests in Israel occurred among the Arab citizens. In dozens of towns and villages there were demonstrations
and rallies, with black flags of mourning and angry shouts "Peres, Peres, hey hey hey -- how many kids did
you kill today!" The main street of Nazareth broke into hours of violent, Intifada-like riot; an angry youth
told Israeli TV: 'Now we are as angry as you were after the Tel-Aviv bombing.'
After Kana, commentators of different political shades were near-unanimous in defining the whole Lebanon operation
as "failure" or "fiasco." There were confident expectations of an immediate cease-fire. In
the event, it took a whole further week of agony on both sides of the border, with intensive diplomatic efforts
centering upon Damascus and confirming President Assad's position as the power-broker of Lebanon.
The senior mediator was clearly the indefatigable U.S. Secretary of State Christopher; Peres would have preferred
him to be the only mediator -- but had to accept the presence, and influence upon the final document, of Christopher's
colleagues and rivals from France and Russia.
Under the new "understandings," Israel and Hizbullah are both stricktly forbidden to harm civilians or
use civilian areas as "launching grounds" for attacks; and both sides reserve an undefined "right
to self-defence." There is no explicit mention, either of the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon or of Hizbullah
actions against that occupation. One day after the cease-fire went into force, two press conferences were held
almost simultaneously. In Beirut, Sheikh Nasrallah of Hizbullah declared: "The agreement recognizes our right
to continue resisting the invaders on our country's soil." In Tel-Aviv, army Chief-of-Staff Shahak responded:
"The agreement recognizes our right to self-defence, to respond in force to any attack on our forces."
The most novel part of the "understandings" sets up a "monitoring committee" consisting of
Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the United States and France; disputes are supposed to be resolved within this body, rather
than in cycles of retribution and counter-retribution, as hitherto. Such a mechanism might work for some interim
period -- but would surely break down if there is no serious move towards Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon.
In a curious way this war -- in which no Israeli lost his life, and whose heavy price was paid mostly by the Lebanese
-- seems to have changed some perceptions on the Israeli side, bringing home the limitations of power.
Hizbullah emerged unbroken from the seventeen days of fighting, continuing to shoot until the very last minute
before cease-fire -- and, unlike Hamas, demonstrating complete control over its men, none of whom continued to
shoot after that moment. A featherweight boxer, emerging on his feet after seventeen bouts with a heavyweight,
would certainly be accounted the victor -- had the world of sport allowed such matches.
Also politically Hizbullah emerged strengthened, gaining popularity and legitimacy in its own Shiite constituency
and the Lebanese society in general. The war seems to have united Muslim and Christian Lebanese to a degree which
for a long time seemed unthinkable. This newfound unity may eventually serve the Lebanese, not only towards Israel
but towards their big Syrian "protector" as well.
The Israeli generals also claim to have won, to have restored the Israeli army's power of deterrance. They could
hardly speak otherwise in public. Nevertheless, those forces which seek to solve Israel's problems by brute force
seem somewhat chastened. And it is certainly a fact that many mainstream commentators now speak of Israeli withdrawal
from Lebanon as a concrete political possibility.
On the night of the cease-fire, Prime Minister Peres told Israeli TV: "Hizbullah says we are occupying South
Lebanon? Well, we told the Syrians and Lebanese that through the peace process Israeli presence in South Lebanon
could be totally eradicated!"
Though Israel always stated that in principle its presence in Lebanon is not permanent, it was never put in quite
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
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A new beginning?
More than once was the suspicion voiced that the military campaign in Lebanon constituted, in fact, part of Shimon
Peres' electoral campaign for the May 29 elections. If this was indeed so, the Prime Minister may have seriously
miscalculated. He has certainly alienated many Arab and some Jewish voters. They are unlikely to vote for Netanyahu,
but many may now cast blank ballots in disgust. And it is by no means certain that the war's ambiguous conclusion
would draw wavering right-wing voters to Peres' camp.
As it now seems, for the month left until elections day the versatile Peres will make some effort to restore his
image as a peacemaker. Even while the fighting in Lebanon was at its peak, a quiet gradual rapprochement had been
staged between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In the past months, Arafat had carried out a ruthless crackdown
on Hamas, arresting hundreds of its activists and disrupting many of its institutions. Yet, Arafat left open the
option of future new dialogue with the Hamas, gradually releasing imprisoned members of the Hamas political wing
and floating various mediation initiatives. He was also willing to make concessions to demonstrating students,
angry at the Palestinian Police breaking into the Najah University campus.
Having managed to satisfy Peres without too much alienating his own people, Arafat was ready to convene the Palestine
National Council at Gaza. Observers were flabbergasted at the ease with which Arafat mustered a huge majority for
at last changing the outdated Palestinian National Covenant, striking out all clauses rejecting the existence of
Peres reciprocated, on the very next day, by getting the Israeli Labor Party Conference to amend the party platform
and strike out the article opposing the creation of a Palestinian state. Peres also promised to carry out in May
the evacuation of Hebron, as stipulated in Oslo-II. However, no significant easing of the closure seems likely
in the near future.
Meanwhile, Likud leader Netanyahu -- seeking to establish a "man of peace" image towards wavering voters
-- declared his recognition of the Oslo Agreements "as an accomplished fact" and announced that, if elected
Prime Minister, he would even consider meeting with Arafat. And meanwhile, it was revealed that central settler
leaders have already met with senior Palestinian Authority officials -- to discuss the future of the settlements.
Thus, the idea of talking to the PLO -- pioneered twenty years ago by the ICIPP -- has by now become the new fashion
in Israeli politics.
After two dark and very difficult months, the Middle East skies seem to start clearing.
Tel-Aviv, April 28, 1996.
* In Ha'aretz of April 26, veteran columnist Haim Guri -- not especially known as a leftist -- sharply condemned
the war and revealed, for the first time, that during the 1982 Lebanon War there was an Israeli combat pilot who
refused an order to bomb Tyre, declaring that in no way would he be party to harming civilians.
The following is excerpted from an article by the well-known jurist and legal commentator Moshe Negbi, published
in Ma'ariv on April 26.
The laws of war
(...) Specific instances -- the artillery barrage in Kana, the Ambulance Incident, the Nabatiya bombing which wiped
out a whole family -- have been singled out. Many people -- internationally and also here in Israel -- pronounced
these to be war crimes. The bitter truth is that, beyond specific cases, the entire concept and strategy of "Operation
Grapes of Wrath" -- as of "Operation Accountability" in 1993 -- are in fundamental contravention
of a basic principle in the Laws of War: the strict prohibition upon deliberately harming an unarmed, non-belligerant
Harming civilians is in fact part of the basic "Grapes of Wrath" strategy, as proclaimed by the planners
themselves. The fundamental assumption is that causing untold suffering to the civilians, terrorizing them and
forcing them to abandon their homes, will have the result of forcing their government to eliminate terrorism in
its territory. In other words: to achieve the (quite legitimate) aim of fighting terrorism, the roundabout (and
criminal) method utilised is to cause suffering and damage to totally uninvolved civilians.
Unpleasant as it may seem, honesty forces us to admit that this is no more moral than to take Israeli civilians
as hostages and threaten to harm them, in order to force the government of Israel to take some action which the
Army Chief-of-Staff Shahak accused Hizbullah of a cynical and despicable crime: using civilians as a "living
shield." True enough -- but is it not just as cynical and despicable to drive civilians out and make them
into the "living spear" of our attack? Indeed, we neither intend nor wish to kill those civilians, "merely"
to make their life into hell, so that they will cry out to Beirut and Damascus. But this is already a serious breach
of the Laws of War -- and it is also the first step on a slippery slope, at whose bottom wait the Kana bloodbath
and its like.
Our suffering -- and theirs
by Chemi Shalev
Whoever watches these days the international TV networks sees a Lebanon war which is completely different from
the one on our local media. On Israeli TV we are presented with an efficient, sophisticated and "surgical"
military operation, targeting the Hizbullah terrorists. Turning to the international media, we are confronted with
a war in which suffering and destruction rain upon the heads of hundreds of thousands of innocent Lebanese civilians.
Our leaders repeat ad nauseam the cliches about Israel's "clean hands war." Emphasizing the hardships
of our people in the north who have to sit in bomb shelters, Israeli politicians hardly relate to the
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tremendous toll exacted from the citizens of Lebanon.
"A clean war," is also the picture given in the press briefings of the army commanders, who give daily
tallies of air raids and the action films of airborne cameras. Evening after evening the cross-hairs are seen zeroing
in on a vaguely-seen target which is then shown exploding in a perfectly placed mushroom of smoke. No human being
is visible at this range, no blood is seen spilled, and the whole seems more like a computer game than something
from real life.
The foreign TVs, however, show the fear and horror on thousands of faces in a stream of refugees fleeing from the
Israeli bombs and missiles, the burned bodies of children who happened to be "in the wrong place at the wrong
time." People abroad feel pity for the inhabitants of Lebanon who already live for twenty years in a chaos
of horror and suffering -- not less than for the Israelis of Kiryat Shmona.(...)
Yesterday's accidental overlapping of "Operation Grapes of Wrath" and the Holocaust Memorial Day gives
still another dimension to the deep psychological gap between the two sides. For many Israelis, this isn't a meaningless
coincidence. Rather, it is a very concrete expression of "never again." For many of us, the Holocaust
is the ultimate justification, both for the existence of Israel and for every military action taken by the state
-- on the assumption that in the historical "bank of suffering" the Arabs still do not come close to
the amount of suffering we Jews have gone through.
For our neighbors, on the other hand, the total disaster visited upon European Jewry fifty years ago is a distant
event, irrelevant for present-day events. At best, they feel that our Holocaust serves us as an excuse for innumerable
acts of injustice inflicted upon the Arab nation; and some Arabs claim for themselves the mantle of the new victims,
while casting us as the spiritual successors of the perpetrators.
Without mutual reference to the other side's suffering, we are building our perceived moral superiority upon a
self-centered view. It is a widely and sincerely held view that among us every individual life is sacrosanct while
"they" are supposed to be indifferent to their own casualties. The extrapolation from some rhetorics
of some Arab leaders makes it possible to ignore the suffering of the victims themselves.
This twisted perspective makes it easier to live with the suffering we inflict upon others: to pretend that one
of "our" children is worth more than one of "their" children and that "our" mothers
feel a deeper grief than "their" mothers...
The agreements signed with the Palestinians did not change this psychological reality -- either on our side or
on theirs. The emotional hatred is still far stronger than the declarations of reconciliation, and for the time
being the grudges from the distant past are much more vivid than the visions of a bright future.
If a "new Middle East" does exist somewhere, it still needs to be transferred from the paper into the
hearts. (Translated from Ma'ariv, April 17.)
'Not the same'
At the end of February, after the Hamas attacks, we asked Iris Bar to start an "activist's diary". Bar
is one of the few Jews living in the Arab neighborhood Halisa of Haifa.
(...) The Arabs here were really very shocked. How could they not be moved by those terrible pictures. They watch
the same Israeli TV news as anybody else and many of them read Hebrew newspapers as well. But still, what people
felt here was different: it was compassion mixed with fear. Everybody was immediately aware of the nasty position
in which Palestinians suddenly found themselves because of the attacks.
There is the example of the teacher in the local school. A few years ago he was very forceful in preventing pupils
from demonstrating in protest of the Temple Mount Massacre, when Border Guards shot to death more than twenty Palestinians.
"No, no, this is a school, we are not involved in politics" he insisted at that time. I remember how
he actually pulled a pistol and threatened two activists who distributed leaflets in the schoolyard. That was then.
And now? Now, the same teacher took the intiative to close the school and bring the pupils out on the street. "Yes
to peace -- No to terrorism" is a fine slogan -- but this man, an Arab, has implicitly accepted the attitude
that the killing of Jews is a far more serious matter than the killing of Arabs.
Several of the young people I know, student activists at Haifa University, went to the public meeting organised
by the Arab members of the city council. They were rather disturbed by the way the councillors conducted things.
The moment of silence for the victims was put off again and again, because the organisers wanted Mayor Amram Mitzna
to be present (in the end, he did not show up at all). Actually, Mitzna is not the worst representative of the
establishment; he was nearly the only politician who dared, on the night of the Tel-Aviv blast, to say on TV that
there is no military solution to terrorism. But the behaviour of the Arab councillors had very little to do with
Mitzna's particular views. They just behaved very subservient.
My friends wanted to organise a different kind of demonstration -- certainly to protest against the terrorist atrocities,
but to do it in a strong and proud way. Not to apologise for being Arabs, but to say that human beings mourn for
other human beings who had been murdered. The students also intended to mobilise a large contingent of Haifa Arabs
to march in the Jerusalem Peace Now demo. But than they saw on TV Amnon Levy, who is generally considered to be
liberal, interview the writer Emile Habibi. Levy was just insufferable. "We have called you here to the studio,
Mr. Habibi, because you Arabs have not yet proven to us that you sincerely condemn terrorism." "Many
more Arabs demonstrated against these terrorist attacks than Jews usually demonstrate when Palestinans are killed."
"Ah, but were they sincere? We are not yet sure of that." After seeing Levy, my student friends reacted
"to hell with them!"
In my neighborhood, Halisa, the demonstration for
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peace and against terrorism was held very late, more than a week after the bombings. It was organised mainly by
the local Labor Party people. One of them tried to get us to help. I told him: "You know, my husband still
faces charges for organizing the demonstration after the Hebron Massacre." He laughed and said: "You
know very well that this is not the same." Half an hour before the demonstration they sent some children,
nine or ten years old, to our doorstep -- to convince us to join: "Come, please come, it is for peace."
I did not feel very much like joining -- but my younger son, five years old, suddenly became rebellious: "Mother,
mother, but you are always talking about peace!" He insisted upon putting on his shoes and joining the procession.
Partially it comes from his growing up in a politicized home, with two activists for parents. Also there is the
effect of the Rabin murder. Since that time, the teachers in the kindergartens have been telling the kids that
when someting horrible happens, the right response is to go out on the streets. They would not have said that earlier.
My son is in an Arab kindergarten, nearly the only Jewish child there. But in this respect, all the kindergartens,
Jewish and Arab, give the same message. Going out on the street in protest is what you should do. The question,
of course, is when, how, at whose call and under which slogan...
(...) Last Saturday my group, Tadjamu (National Democratic Alliance), held a demonstration in Nazareth against
the closure of the Palestinian territories. We had several hundreds of people, mostly Arabs with a few Jewish activists
like myself. We divided into several groups because of the "fifty rule." (Without a specific previous
police permit, no more than fifty demonstrators are allowed to stand in one place -- "a wrong interpretation
of the law" according to a lawyer friend of mine, but to explain that to the police is a mission impossible.)
Actually, in our case it was better that we had to divide. The original place was near Mary's Well -- a famous
place in Nazareth and a traditional site for demonstrations, but in fact it is a bad place because very few people
pass there. The other groups went to the marketplace and near Ha'mashbir Department Store, where there is much
more pedestrian traffic. We got many sympathetic responses, some passing highschool pupils spontaneously took up
signs and joined the demonstration. We also had good responses from Jews who passed. There are many Jews who come
to the market in Nazareth, which is open on the Sabbath.
There is very much concern for the Palestinians in the territories and what they suffer. The Monitoring Committee,
official leadership of the Arabs in Israel with all the mayors, Knesset Members and public figures, now decided
to collect food, clothes and medicines. It is doubtful whether the Monitoring Committee as such is capable of actually
doing much. It is a loose assembly of politicians from rival parties. With the general elections so near, close
cooperation is not likely. What will happen in practice is that different parties and groups will conduct relief
actions for the Palestinans, each in their own way with their own means and channels.
The Islamic Movement has the best-developed relief network. The government recently closed down the offices of
the Islamic Relief Committee in Nazareth -- which infuriated not only the movement's adherents. The authorities
claim that the Islamic Movement helps Hamas. They insinuate that it is all part of a very sinister International
Islamic Plot. But I don't think they can bring evidence, the police had to release the Deputy Mayor of Umm-El-Fahm
after four days. As a matter of fact the Islamic Movement in Israel is quite moderate -- at least on political
issues. (They can behave quite nasty towards women in mini-skirts -- but I don't think the police is very disturbed
We decided to participate in the relief operations of the Galilee Association. They try to be non-partisan and
concentrate on the concrete task of helping the Palestinain population. In the past week, they have already twice
succeeded in bypassing all the roadblocks and getting loads of food and medicines into the Gaza Strip.
(...) The assault in Lebanon started shortly after we, in Tadjamu concluded negotiations with the Hadash Communists
to form a joint electoral slate. The negotiations had not been easy, there was a lot of suspicion on both sides,
especially because many of our activists are people who had left Hadash at one point or another in the past. Anyway
we made a pact and became partners in the electoral campaign, but before we had time to start campaigning we found
ourselves demonstrating together: the bombs had started to fall in the north.
On the first day of the war, we got only twenty people in a vigil on the main street of our neighborhood -- I was
disappointed in some of my old friends, who gave all kinds of excuses for not turning up.
However, the news of the bloodbath at Kana really galvanised the people. On the evening of the same day we had
a hundred people on the street within hours, mostly Arabs. Immediately afterwards we had an emergency meeting of
the left-wing groups in Haifa, to revive the old Committee Against the War in Lebanon. We did not have all these
groups together in one place for many years, not since the big quarrel and split of 1989. There were Peace Now
people on one side and very intransigent Arab nationalists on the other, all agreeing to cooperate with nearly
no debate. On the following morning, Friday, we had several hundred people demonstrating outside the Solel Boneh
Building, which is more or less on the borderline between the Arab and Jewish parts of Haifa. There were really
Jews and Arabs in equal numbers -- the proportion you would like to achieve in such demonstrations, but only rarely
succeed. Some of the participants went on directly to the Tel-Aviv rally. We decided to hold regular Friday vigils
from now on, not only about Lebanon (it seems like there will be a ceasefire within a few days) but also about
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'I know every corner'
by Naif Alarjub
I grew up as a Palestinian on the West Bank under Jordanian rule. During my childhood, hatred towards the Jews
was a natural ingredient of daily life. The Jews were the invaders who had come to chase my people from their homes.
They did not seem to be real people. In fact, until the war of 1967 and the occupation I never saw a Jew with my
For me, the big change came in 1972, when I started working in Tel-Aviv and got to know individual Israelis, as
employers and fellow workers. I learned Hebrew quite easily and kept my eyes and ears open. During the war of October
1973 [when the Israeli Army was caught by surprise and suffered heavily], it was not easy to be an Arab in Tel-Aviv.
I felt the hostility from the Jews around me. They were apprehensive and suspicious. However, towards the end of
that war I noticed that something was changing among them, too; that they were starting to view Arabs in a new
In 1977 the late President Sadat of Egypt took his historic decision to visit Israel -- a moment of truth after
a hundred years of conflict. Sadat and Begin made peace, and it held. Already then I felt it as a terrible mistake
that we Palestinians did not join in this move. But as a people, we were not yet ready for it. Our leadership was
still too caught up in alliances with the radical Arab regimes.
I got to know a lot of ordinary Israelis, also many from the right-wing. I learned a lot about their moods and
feelings. I often had debates with them, but I think I succeeded in getting through the message that we are a people,
that we have our national identity, that there will be no peace until there are two states for the two peoples.
This was at a time when the government did not even recognize the existence of the Palestinian people. I felt that
the ordinary people in Israel had a better understanding. It was the time of the Lebanon War. The government wanted
to destroy our leadership and crush our people. But I think the result was to prove to the people in Israel that
it is not so easy to destroy the Palestinian identity. I was myself in the giant 1982 anti-war rally in Tel-Aviv,
and when I looked around me, at so many Israelis demonstrating, I felt that at last the change had started. I then
also got into direct contact with the ICIPP and met personally with the people who had initiated the dialogue with
the late Dr. Sartawi and others in the PLO, which in the end opened the way for Oslo. For some time, I was regularly
participating in meetings of different Israeli peace groups.
The moment of the handshake between Yithchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat aroused so many hopes on both sides, among
people who had gone through all the war, the occupation, the mutual terrorism! But after just a few months, the
enemies of peace and brotherhood started acts of violence and bloodshed in order to sabotage this great process.
First the Israeli extremists, whose attacks on Palestinians culminated in the Baruch Goldstein slaughter, then
the Palestinian extremists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad who competed with him, and with each other. Nevertheless,
the process continued moving forward. The Palestinian Authority became a reality.
Meanwhile the Israeli extremists had Rabin murdered, and Hamas started its series of attacks. I saw on TV the place
where the bomb exploded in Tel-Aviv. It is very very near to the cinema where I used to work. I worked there for
fifteen years, until the closure took away my permit. I knew every street corner when I saw it on television. I
think I know the streets of Tel-Aviv as well as the streets of my native Dura, and I also know very well how Israelis
feel when such terrible things happen.
At the same time, however, we suffered our own ordeal. The Israeli army imprisoned us in our village. We could
not even go to Hebron, the nearest city to Dura. During one night the army made a raid and arrested two people
in our neighborhood. We had hoped such things would never happen again but, true, Dura is in the "B"
area where Israel still has the right to arrest people, according to Oslo-2. So, during a whole week, I sat every
night until very late on my roof and watched out for the soldiers; it seems now that they have more or less decided
to leave us alone.
The big problem left is the closure. It is more tight than ever. Most of the people here are sitting at home, without
work, without income and without perspective: there are just no jobs for them.
The punishment if you are caught illegally in Israel has also become much more severe; even your employer can go
to prison if they catch you at his place. The economic hardship of every household is not easy to describe. If
only we could import flour from Jordan. In Amman you could buy a sack of flour for ten Shekels, but we are not
allowed to bring it here and for Israeli flour we have to pay ninety Shekels. The same is true for rice and other
basic foodstuffs; everything costs here ten times more than in other Arab countries. When we have to pay in the
shop we are part of the Israeli economy but when we want to work in Israel we are not.
If the Hamas thought that in such a desperate situation they will become more popular, than they made a big miscalculation.
Most of the people which I know, even people who are not in favor of Arafat generally, blame Hamas for the situation
more than they blame Israel. We must hold on to the peace process, hold on to it tooth and nail and not let go.
I think that the enemies of peace are no more than some 10% -- ten percent on the Israeli side and the same on
the Palestinian side. We must not let this minority succeed. We must cooperate, there should be reconciliation
and cultural exchange -- not just political treaties. It's time to introduce to each other the beautiful aspects
of our peoples. The ugly sides have already been shown far too much.
March 15, Dura -- West Bank
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Yes to Peace, No to Settlements
+++ At the end of March, a special ministerial committee approved the building of a shopping center at the Jewish
settlement of Karnei Shomron, in the northern part of the West Bank. The plan, approved despite the strongly-worded
opposition of Meretz Minister Shulamit Aloni, allows the settlers to go ahead with a 4.5 million dollar two-year
The jubilant settlers tried to make the most of it and embarked upon an official festive cornerstone laying ceremony
-- to take place immediately. On April 8, however, it was some twenty Peace Now younsters who stole the show. They
suddenly appeared from nowhere right next to the grandstand, waving Yes to Peace -- No to Settlements! placards.
Predictably, a violent confrontation erupted with furious settlers, well-dressed for the occasion, shouting abuse
at the youngsters -- who stood their ground. The police, who did not succeed in separating the two sides, decided
to evict the demonstrators, arresting six of them -- but not before Peace Now organizer Mossi Raz had had an opportunity
to explain to the ITV crew: "We have come here, not so much to confront the settlers as to give a message
to the government: Stop flirting with settlers -- turn back to the path of peace!
Contact: Peace Now, POB 8159, Jerusalem 91081.
The Oslo-2 Agreements left Bethlehem a divided city, with the city center under full Palestinian control while
the northern outskirts, towards Jerusalem, remain under Israeli rule. The full implications of the division became
clear on March 26 -- when the military authorities informed Palestinian landowners that considerable parcels of
agricultural land have been confiscated to build a new road. The road would serve the planned Jewish-only neighborhood
of Har-Homa, itself to be located on earlier-confiscated Palestinian land at Abu-Ghoneim Mountain.
On March 30, a group of Gush Shalom activists set out for Bethlehem. Reaching the city during the strict closure
should not be too difficult: after all, could Israelis not pay a visit to "Rachel's Tomb?" On the central
Manger Square they joined thousands of Palestinians in a protest march, organised by the newly-founded Land Defence
Committee. As the demonstration wound its way through the narrow alleys, the multitude of banners and leaflets
made clear that all Palestinian currents and political factions were represented, supporters as well as opponents
of Arafat and the Oslo Agreements. They were united by disillusion: first, the closure -- no work, no money, and
no access to Jerusalem (so near, yet so far) -- and on top of everything, the land confiscations.
Near Rachel's Tomb -- the Israeli enclave in the middle of Bethlehem -- the road was blocked by a line of Palestinian
Police, under strict orders to prevent a confrontation between demonstrators and the Israeli soldiers guarding
the Tomb. Some of the young demonstrators reacted angrily, pushing against the police and shouting "Long Live
Free Palestine." Fortunately, however, a real clash was avoided: a senior member of Bethlehem's Fatah branch
climbed upon the police barricade, and harangued the crowd for some ten minutes. The angry young people were convinced
finally to turn aside, on an alternative line of march into the confiscated lands.
After two more kilometers of walking in the hot sun, the march reached its destination: a grassy knoll, on the
route of the intended new Israeli road, and overlooking the older trouble spot of Abu-Goneim/ Har-Homa. There,
a prolonged rally took place, with dignitaries, members of the newly-elected Palestinian Parliament, and representatives
of numerous political and social groups from Bethlehem and its neigboring towns, Beit Sahur and Beit Jala -- also
affected by the confiscations. Gush Shalom representative Uri Avnery declared: This is not a struggle of Palestinians
against Israelis. This is the struggle between those who want peace and those who choose for conflict. Suddenly,
an old man dressed in traditional Arab clothing got up and started dancing and chanting in Hebrew(!): Yes to Peace,
No to Occupation -- soon joined by a suddenly cheerful crowd.
The army stayed away during the entire rally -- but after the crowd dispersed and only the landowners themselves
were left, soldiers suddenly appeared, pulling down the Palestinian tent, confiscating identity cards and making
This ugly aftermath did not deter the Bethlehem Palestinians from holding a second march, exactly a week later.
With more time to prepare, Gush Shalom was now able to bring a full busload of Israelis to join in and mingle with
the Palestinians; there was also an increased presence of Israeli and international television crews, and a considerable
number of clergy, monks and nuns from various chuches -- come to express concern over the situation in Christ's
birthplace. This time, the long march proceeded without incident, again concluding with a long rally -- and at
its end, Israelis and Palestinians planted olive seedlings, on the site of the intended road.
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
Land Defence Committee, POB 49, Bethlehem
(Brochures available in English, French and German)
+++ The struggle against the creation of the "new Jewish neighborhood" Har Homa, on confiscated Palestinian
land, seems to near the boiling point. After a period in which the government appeared ready to freeze the whole
project, the general hawkish trend of the past months included approval of the Har Homa Plan by the Jerusalem Regional
Planning Committee -- in the absence of the Palestinian landowners, whom the closure prevented from arriving and
lodging their objections. However, the Ir Shalem association, affiliated to Peace Now, succeeded in obtaining a
series of injunctions, and work on the site was ordered stopped at least until May 14. Nevertheless, on April 3
Meretz Knesset Members Dedi Zucker and Naomi Hazan, visiting the site, discovered bulldozers working in spite of
the injunctions; a complaint to the police put an end to the construction activity -- for the moment.
Contact: Ir Shalem, POB 4313, Jerusalem 91042.
+++ On the morning of February 28, a Gush Shalom activist got a phone call from a Palestinian contact in Hebron.
This usually calm, urbane man was nearly incoherent: "They are destroying houses! They destroy
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house after house! What kind of peace is this!" Gradually, he calmed down enough to give details.
On the borderline between Palestinian Hebron and the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, a Palestinian neighborhood
had existed for many years -- with nearly all its houses built illegally, since the army considers Palestinian
houses near a settlement to be a security risk, and refuses to grant building permits in such locations. With Israeli
public opinion shaken by the Hamas bombing in Jerusalem, three days earlier, the time seemed appropriate for somebody
to bring in the bulldozers and get rid of these "illegal" houses.
Gush Shalom started a frantic campaign of phoning journalists, politicians, ministers' aides -- anybody whose intervention
could in some way help. Meanwhile, two members of the Christian Peacemakers Team -- U.S. citizens who had been
based in Hebron for the past year -- lay down on the roof of one of the doomed houses; they were dragged off to
jail, and the house demolished.
Eventually, Gush Shalom contacted a Meretz activist, who got through to Environment Minister Yossi Sarid, who talked
to Peres, who was convinced to order a halt to the demolitions. By that time, five houses had already been demolished,
out of the eleven which were slated to be destroyed that day. (After receiving the halt order, the officer on the
spot insisted on completing the demolition of the house he had already started on...)
On April 11 -- the day when press attention was riveted on the unfolding military offensive into Lebanon -- the
army tried again. It was an almost exact repetition of the previous occasion: the arrival of the soldiers and the
bulldozers, the frantic phone calls and efforts, the ministerial intervention -- and once again, five houses were
already destroyed before the reprieve came.
Two weeks later, still another attempt, with a slightly different format: no less than 60 Palestinian house-owners
got an ultimatum to destroy their own "illegal" houses until May 1 -- or have them demolished by the
army. This time, the issue got onto the agenda of the top-level negotiations regarding the impending military redeployment
in the Hebron Region -- where Arafat obtained a personal promise from Peres that the houses would be spared.
It remains to be seen, however, if this is the end. These houses are in the sector which will stay under Israeli
rule even after the military redeployment, and somebody in the military bureacracy seems very determined to get
rid of them. We must stay vigilant.
Contact: Christian Peacemakers Team -- Hebron; c/o MCC, POB 19208, Jerusalem; ph: 972-50-397506
+++ Fawar Refugee Camp near Hebron, from where two suicide bombers had come, was subjected to two weeks of continuous
curfew, with inhabitants locked up in their homes. On March 16, several dozen Hebron Solidarity Committee activists
managed to get considerable quantities of food in, cutting through the hills to the less guarded back part of the
camp. More food was brought in openly after a prolonged stand-off with the soldiers at the roadblock. Contact:
HSC, POB 31417, Jerusalem.
The following statement was published as text of the weekly Gush Shalom paid ad in Ha'aretz on March 8.
Palestinian state -- now!
At a time of blood and tears, fury and agony, the voice of common sense must be clearly heard.
Suicide terrorism has severely damaged the peace process. It has exposed the basic flaw of the Oslo Agreement:
a protracted, five-year long interim period. This prolonged period -- with all the complicated intermediate stages,
each of which needs to be seperately negotiated upon -- constitutes a standing invitation to all opponents of peace,
all fanatics and madmen on both sides, to perpetrate horrors in order to sabotage and stop the process. The Oslo
timetable gave ample time and opportunity to the Hamas suicide bombers on the Palestinian side as well as to Baruch
Goldstein, Yigal Amir and their like among the Israelis; all of them were able to organise and do their worst,
again and again.
There is a clear conclusion to be drawn from the recent terrorist rampage in the streets of Israel's cities: this
dangerous time gap must be closed. The original Oslo timetable, by which negotiations on the definite agreement
between Israelis and Palestinians should drag on leisurely until May 1999, is now clearly revealed to be an unaffordable
luxury. During these three years, innumerable assaults could be launched by the adherents of "Greater Palestine"
and "Greater Israel" alike, causing further untold death and suffering and quite possibly derailing the
Crossing an abyss should be done in one jump, not in two; this was said by Shimon Peres, then Foreign Minister,
immediately after the original Oslo Agreement was signed. He has now been proven even more right than he knew.
In face of what we experienced this week, we must accelerate the timetable and reach the definite agreement --
not in years, but in months, and as few months as possible. Such a time frame should suffice: the outline of an
agreement is already clearly discernable, and the majority among both peoples -- cutting across old prejudices
and traditional party affiliations -- is coming closer and closer to accepting it. Such an arrangement would:
+++ give official recognition to the state of Palestine, which has in fact already been established and which already
possess a democratically-elected parliament, president and government.
+++ make "the Green Line," the border which existed before 1967, into the official international border
between the two states. The Palestinian government would be made fully responsible for preventing any terrorist
act originating from its territory -- and at the same time, would gain the full sovereignty and authority which
are indispensable for that task.
+++ bring about the speedy evacuation of Israeli forces from all territories still under their occupation, and
deploy them along the old-new border.
+++ include a reasonable compromise on Jerusalem, acceptable to both peoples.
+++ give Israeli settlers the choice between staying in place under Palestinian rule or returning to Israel and
Now, more than ever, it is clear that hesitation and indecision give the enemies of peace their chance. Curfews,
closures, house demolitions, deportations, mass detentions -- the old methods of opression now once again implemented
or contemplated by the Israeli military and political authorities -- have all been tried many times in the past,
and have all failed; indeed, all of them proved, again and again, to have the result of fanning higher the fire
of hatred and conflict. The only feasible solution is to conclude the final status -- now!
Gush Shalom -- the Israeli Peace Bloc
POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, Israel
phone 972-3-5221732, fax 972-3-5271108
Contributions to help defray the cost of publishing this ad and to support further actions are most welcome.
This peace is killing us
by Uri Avnery
Recently, I was walking along a street in Ramallah, when an elegant woman came out of a nearby store and called
my name. She spoke fluent English and invited me to come into her store. We talked about the current situation,
and she became more and more emotional. "I was all for peace!" she finished with tear-filled eyes, "and
I supported Arafat wholeheartedly! But this peace is killing us! This closure is a disaster! Children don't have
food. Sick people don't have medicine. We cannot go to Jerusalem, our center. I don't want to hear any more from
Peres and Arafat! I was always opposed to violence, but if Hamas carries out an attack at this point, I'll be delighted!
Maybe then the Israeli government will understand that it cannot break us by such cruel measures!"
The phrase "This peace is killing us!" was already familiar to me as an Israeli right-wing slogan. But
I was amazed to hear it from the mouth of this refined Palestinian woman. I had not understood that the results
of the closure were quite so far-reaching and pernicious. The truth is that the word "closure" is a misnomer.
In fact it is a siege, an unequivocal act of war that pits nation against enemy nation. Despite the reports of
several devoted journalists, the Israeli public still has no idea of the results of this siege. Below is a partial
list. The closure:
+++ has prevented the sick and dying from reaching hospitals in East Jerusalem and Israel, resulting in several
deaths so far.
+++ has prevented family members from visiting those hospitalized before the closure.
+++ has prevented vital medication from reaching the sick, mainly in Gaza.
+++ has prevented thousands of students in Gaza from reaching their universities in the West Bank.
+++ has prevented the majority of teachers who are residents of Palestinian-ruled territories from reaching Jerusalem
schools, to such an extent that no studies are taking place in most classes.
+++ has prevented family members of prisoners and detainees from visiting their loved ones.
+++ has prevented tens of thousands of Christians and Moslems from reaching their holy sites in East Jerusalem.
+++ has virtually shut down the Israeli-dependent Palestinian economy, as merchants cannot get to Jerusalem and
+++ has choked off southern West Bank from the northern part, permitting traffic only on the winding, poorly-constructed
bypass road. And of course, most importantly --
+++ has prevented enormous numbers of Palestinian workers from earning their living -- who together with their
families number over a million souls, thus causing widespread hunger and malnutrition.
All of this was even more severe in the first weeks of the closure, when each Palestinian city was turned into
a detention-camp, totally seperated and cut off from neighboring cities.
Every Palestinian knows that these are not just straightforward security measures. What security consideration
cuts Gaza off from Israeli supplies of building materials, for example? Meanwhile, even now, a member of Hamas
wearing an Israeli army uniform and a kippa can penetrate into Israel.
No, this is collective punishment, in the style of a commander who imposes punishment on his entire platoon when
one of the privates makes trouble. The intention is to turn the platoon against the troublemaker and induce the
other privates to make the errant soldier behave himself.
Unfortunately, employing such methods on an entire people is achieving the opposite result. The devastating effects
of a prolonged closure destroyed any semblance of a peaceful atmosphere, which had reached such a high point on
the eve of the Palestinian elections. The current mood is much worse than it was before the Oslo Accords, due to
anger and disillusionment.
The Palestinian public feels that the Gaza Strip has been turned into a large jail -- as have the cities of the
West Bank. In fact, an increasing number of Palestinians secretly, and in some cases openly, hope for additional
terrorist attacks, in order to "show the Israelis."
Prime Minister Shimon Peres has yielded to the mass hysteria nurtured by the media, and has laid this siege in
order to soothe the Israeli public until the elections. He is liable to achieve precisely the opposite, causing
irreparable damage to the prospects of peace and losing the elections while he is at it.
Every additional day of cruel siege is an additional nail in the coffin of the peace process.
Published in Ma'ariv (8.4) and Jerusalem Post (15.4).