The Other Israel _ Issue No. 76, December 1996
The Imminence of War
Mothers for Peace
Dr. Gideon Bieger's Proposal for Jerusalem
Kafr Qasem -- Forty Years Later, by Adam Keller
"Prepare Your Gas Masks!" by Beate Zilversmidt
Seeking the Peace of Hebron
News of Peace Activities
A Year Without Rabin
From the Twilight Zone
THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for
Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: 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
Issue No. 76, December 1996
THE IMMINENCE OF WAR
Throughout the whole of October and much of November, the Israeli and international media confidently predicted
that a deal on military redeployment in Hebron would be reached and implemented "within days." Careful
pursuing of such headlines, repeated nearly unchanged for weeks on end, would reveal the news item to be based
on leaks from Israeli officials -- who claimed that "an agreement is all but ready for signature," with
"only a few minor details to be worked out."
The Israeli settlers, at their fortified enclave in the heart of Hebron, took it quite seriously -- straining themselves
for a last-ditch struggle against the Netanyahu Government which they themselves had helped to power. On the other
side of the political spectrum the enormous moblization of peace supporters, angry and alarmed in the aftermath
of the September "Tunnel War," faded out in early November; many of them, exhausted after more than a
month with a demonstration or rally of some sort nearly every day, retired to their homes with a feeling that things
were turning to the better, after all.
With the imminent military redeployment taken for granted, hundreds of journalists and TV crews converged on the
city of Hebron, spending their days interviewing Palestinians, settlers and numerous visitors. Among those walking
Hebron's narrow alleys could be seen generals, ministers and senior diplomats, improbably mixed with all kinds
of exotic radicals and crackpot religious sectaries. The settlers mobilized their political friends for noisy rallies,
and in response the various peace groups came -- to side with the Palestinians; at any one time the number of Knesset
Members present would have been enough to hold a regular parliamentary session in Hebron.
The press was full of speculations and predictions of widespread violence in Hebron on the expected day of redeployment,
and some conspicious violent outbreaks occurred during the tense waiting period: a settler emptied a glass of scalding
tea on the face of Labor KM Yael Dayan; a demonstration of Palestinians and Israelis organised by the Hadash Communists
was forcibly broken up; two Israeli soldiers suffered medium burns from a Molotov Cocktail thrown at their patrol
jeep; a Palestinian family which had been harassed for years already by the nearby settlers had their home burned
down in the middle of night, barely escaping with their lives...
As the days of tense waiting lengthened into weeks and months, the predictions of a soon-to-be-signed agreement
were gradually replaced by accusations that Arafat, for some mysterious reason, was "holding up the negotiations."
It took several weeks for the mystery to clear up: one of the "minor details" which Netanyahu failed
to resolve was his demand for "the right of hot pursuit."
In the Prime Minister's opinion, this implied that also after the redeployment, the Israeli Army would have the
right to reenter the evacuated part of Hebron -- not only in order "to chase Palestinian terrorists who might
escape into the Arab neighborhoods," but also "to carry out preemptive entry and detention of intended
terrorists" and even to impose curfews "if necessary for security reasons." Quite evidently, Arafat
had no intention of accepting such terms, which would have left Hebron effectively as much under occupation as
As the Hebron negotiations ground down, tensions grew throughout the Palestinian territories -- especially near
settlements. Armed clashes between Israelis and Palestinians were several times narrowly avoided around the settlement
of Netzarim, just south of Gaza City -- where some hundred settlers hold a piece of land much bigger than the overcrowded
refugee camp nearby, and monopolise for their own exclusive use a major road from which the area's 300,000 Palestinian
inhabitants are excluded.
Near the settlement of Kiryat Sefer at the edge of the West Bank, soldiers shot at a protest demonstration of Palestinian
villagers, killing one of them -- who fell down, still clutching the documents proving his ownership of the latest
piece of land grabbed by the settlers. A few days later, at the Palestinian village of Husan a settler security
guard beat to death the ten-year old Palestinian boy Hilmi Shusha -- a crime horrible enough to penetrate the wall
of indifference usually surrounding cases of Palestinian victimization, generating a week-long wave of headlines
and shocked editorials throughout the mainstream media -- as well as a visit to the boy's family by a group of
Israeli Orthodox Rabbies, quite exceptional in a community which during the past decades drifted
more and more into the extreme right.
A second shock wave was produced by the screening on Israeli TV of a film, taken by a daring Palestinian phtographer,
of two Israeli Border Guards beating up Palestinian workers north of Jerusalem. (Human rights organizations had
long before collected many testimonies of such treatment, but without filmed proof did not succeed in getting them
into the public consciousness).
Time of panic
Inside Israel itself, rumors abounded in the media, fanned on by panicking statements from ministers, of an impending
major terrorist attack -- which would mark the passing of a year since Israeli undercover agents at Malta assasinated
Fathi Shkaki of the Islamic Jihad. Unprecedented security precautions were taken. In addition to the by now routine
step of imposing yet another total closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and landing yet another blow on the
moribund Palestinian economy, police roadblocks were erected on the main arteries of the Tel-Aviv metropolitan
area, and cars systematically searched, which for once caused a serious disruption also of Israel's own economic
life. Meanwhile, his ministers reportedly asked Netanyahu to stop using the method of undercover assassinations,
with their "prohibitive cost" in actual and expected retaliations...
The alarm was finally ended through an apparently miraculous phone call made by Netanyahu to Washington, asking
the Americans to ask the Syrians to curb the Jihad, whose headquarters are in Damascus.
President Assad reportedly reassured Netanyahu as far as the expected Jihad attack was concerned -- but tensions
between Israel and Syria itself soon resumed. Though vaguely hinting at his willingness to make some kind of compromise,
Netanyahu refused to honor the unofficial protocol on withdrawal from the Golan reached at the previous government's
negotiations with Damascus. With the diplomatic channel almost completely blocked, Israelis and Syrians more and
more openly looked to their military options -- with both loudly insisting that such preparations were strickly
Israeli and Syrian ministers routinely exchanged insults and threats through the media; some Israeli remarks seemed
to hint at a possible use of nuclear weapons; the Syrians reacted by a first-ever explicit threat to use chemical
weapons, which was soon retracted at the firm demand of the Americans... Meanwhile, the guerrilla war in South
Lebanon, conducted by Syria's allies, continued to take a heavy toll of the occupying Israeli forces -- and unidentified
commandos or guerrillas started attacking Syrian forces in north Lebanon, in what seemed an adventurous Israeli
attempt to even the Lebanese odds.
There was plenty of tension also in the relations with Egypt, which "changed from cold peace to cold war"
as one commentator put it. The Egyptians took a direct interest in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations -- to the
point of becoming, according to an Israeli negotiator, "the invisible third partner at the table." Netanyahu
and his ministers alternated between stridently accusing President Mubarak of "encouraging Palestinian intansigence"
and attempting to court the Egyptian leader and get him to put pressure on Arafat; neither approach achieved much.
And meanwhile, an Israeli was arrested in Cairo on charges of espionage, amidst a blare of publicity -- on the
very day the long-expected Middle East Economic Conference opened in the same city....
At the end of November, Netanyahu effectively gave up the demand for the right of "hot pursuit" in Hebron
-- which turned out to be too little and too late. Too little, because he still retained several draconian demands
such as that Al-Shuhada Street -- Hebron's main street -- remain closed to Palestinian traffic and reserved for
settler use only, despite Israel's explicit obligation under Oslo-2 to open it. And too late -- because by now
the whole Hebron issue was overshadowed by more comprehensive problems.
Paradoxically, by now it was obviously Netanyahu who was the most eager to conclude an agreement on Hebron -- not
so much because he was enthusiastic about giving up that unhappy city, but because he hoped that by relaxing his
hold on it he may succeed in easing the international and domestic pressure on his government, which would enable
him to avoid further, more substantial concessions.
Netanyahu made no secret of what was on his agenda, after getting rid of the Hebron imbroglio. He definitely did
not have in mind to embark on the implementation of the "further redeployment," which according to Oslo-2
should include evacuation
of most of the West Bank by September 1997. He made it quite clear that he would, on the contrary, start with settlement
expansion, to compensate the settler movement for the loss of Hebron.
Arafat, well aware of the situation, insisted that the agreement to be signed would not only refer to Hebron, but
include an additional protocol in which Netanyahu would commit himself unequivocally to carrying out the "further
redeployment," as well as other still unfulfilled obligations of Oslo, such as opening "a safe passage"
between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, releasing male and female prisoners, opening for traffic the alredy-completed
Palestinian airport at the southern Gaza Strip... Netanyahu apparently agreed to sign a document phrased in general
terms, but without any specific timetables -- which only increased the Palestinian suspicions.
With the negotiations gradually dwindling to nothing, Arafat turned to mobilizing international support, and not
without success -- especially in Europe. President Chirac of France, on a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, went
as far as engaging in a decidedly undiplomatic confrontation with Israeli security men, who in his presence behaved
in their normal way to by-passing Palestinians...
In the Territories, local struggles of Palestinian peasants against encroaching settlements were stepped up and
conducted with the presence of the media, of senior Palestinian Authority officials, and of Israeli peace activists.
Israeli TV viewers became also used to the daily sight of Hebron students, who decided to wait no more and resume
the struggle to have their university reopened; they held marches or sit-ins, sometimes with the participation
of Peace Now students and Knesset Members. The military authorities were relatively mild towards these manifestations,
occasionally using physical violence but avoiding shooting and offering to negotiate on a gradual opening of the
university and on interruption of settlement activity on particularly disputed parcels of land.
Meanwhile, investigative Yediot Aharonot journalists had found out that, all around the settlements of the Gaza
Strip, both the Israeli army and the Palestinian Police were busily erecting fortifications. The Israeli commander
and his Palestinian counterpart both denied that this was what they were doing. (The rival towers, facing each
other with sniper positions visibly ready for use, were explained away as "agricutural artifacts.")
Foreign papers reported that a full-scale model of the Nablus Casbah had been erected in the Negev, and that elite
Israel units were practicing its capture; the story was denied by the Israeli authorities. Also, Israeli tank crews
were reportedly training for figting in city streets -- a tricky situation for tanks, as the Israeli Army learned
to its cost in both 1973 and 1982. (Knesset Member Ran Cohen, himself a reserve colonel, called the decision to
initiate such training "a criminal folly, from both the military and the political points of view").
For their part, the Palestinians were reported by the foreign press to be building concrete bunkers and engage
on a frantic campaign to acquire anti-tank missiles; the report was denied by the Palestinian authorities. And
in the midst of it all, joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols were resumed, and the members of such a patrol were photographed
-- smiling broadly, as the Israelis invited their Palestinian colleagues to join in lighting candles and celebrating
the Jewish holiday of Hannuka...
On December 10 (yes, on the international Human Rights Day), a series of events rapidly escalated the situation.
The Jerusalem Municipal Planning Board approved the creation of a Jews-only neighborhood in the midst of the Palestinian
Ras-El-Amud Neighborhood of East Jerusalem, overruling the objections of the Palestinian inhabitants and of the
Israeli Ir Shalem Association supporting them. The plan -- which would constitute the deepest settler penetration
since 1967 into the compact Arab-inhabited area of Jerusalem -- turned out to be one more of the pet projects of
extreme-right, Florida-based millionaire Erwin Moskowitz, already notorious for his part in the tunnel affair (see
previous issue, p.9). Israelis and Palestinians started immediately to organize a joint protest -- but in the evening
of the following day, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ambushed near Ramallah a car
in which a settler family was travelling, shooting and killing the mother and a 12-year old child.
At noon on December 20, a thousand protesters rallied at the Ras-el-Amud Neighborhood -- local Palestinians and
Israelis from Meretz, Gush Shalom and Peace Now. Waving big Two-Flag signs, and signs reading Ras-el-Amud -- the
NextTunnel!, the demonstrators listened to fiery speeches from Knesset Members as well as Palestinian ministers
and parliamentarians. A huge police force, prepared for large-scale riots which did not break out, contented itself
with preventing the demonstrators from planting olive saplings on the spot.
The Ramallah assault made international headlines. (The killing on the same night of a Palestinian worker at an
Israeli village -- a regrettable accident according the Israeli authorities, a deliberate revenge killing in Palestinian
eyes -- got practically no media attention.) The settlers -- including the newly-bereaved father and husband, one
of their leaders -- seized on their moment in the spotlight; speeches at the funeral, which was made into a political
demonstration, listed the exact number and location of houses whose immediate construction the settlers demanded.
The Prime Minister, who was present and made a speech himself, seemed to agree that the settlers be allowed to
establish a new settlement on the spot where the deadly assault took place, as 'The Zionist response to terrorism.'
However, the idea was firmly opposed by Shabak Director Ami Eylon who -- using his authority as the recognised
expert on security threats -- warned Netanyahu: 'You are lighting the fuse of war!' Spoken in a secret, high-level
conference, the words were soon leaked to the media -- leading to a week-long acrimonious public confrontation
between the Prime Minister and his security chief, with the
Labor opposition gleefully taking Eylon's side.
The creation of a new settlement was also opposed by the Army General Staff, and by Netanyahu's Defence and Foreign
Ministers, Mordechai and Levy. Netanyahu settled for what he considered a lesser step -- restoring the government
subsidies to settlements, which were mostly abolished by the Rabin Government, and which would make it far easier
to attract new inhabitants. Netanyahu had intended to take this step concurrently with the Hebron withdrawal, so
as to let the two steps "counterbalance" each other in domestic and international public opnion; the
crisis forced him to take premature action, with quite serious results for his government's position.
The granting of the settler subsidies was widely resented in the Israeli society: by peace seekers, because of
the obvious negative implications for the peace process; among the general public -- because they would cost some
900 million Shekels (about 300 million Dollars) at the very time Netanyahu was seeking to slash the health, education
and welfare budgets, in line with his proclaimed neo-liberal ideology. However, Netanyahu seemed even more worried
about the external repercussions -- the heightening of tensions with the Palestinians and other Arabs, the enormous
wave of international condemnations and protests, and in particular the rift opening with Washington.
The Prime Minister found himself under a concerted attack in the U.S. media, followed by a censuring letter from
eight respected former Secretaries of State and National Security Advisers, and concluding with a direct, well-prepared
salvo from President Clinton personally -- in line with predictions that once reelected Clinton would feel more
free to pressure Netanyahu.
Netanyahu clearly felt the heat. Already during the cabinet meeting which approved the settler subsidies, his aides
sent unofficial messages to the Americans as well as to the Europeans, telling them that the decision was "purely
declarative" and "will not be implemented in practice." (These assurances were quickly leaked to
the press, bringing the alarmed settlers running and demanding counter-assurances.) Netanyahu also indicated clearly
his willingness to smother the Ras-El-Amud Plan in bureacratic red tape and not allow it to be implemented -- as
he seems to have already done to an earlier East Jerusalem settlement plan aimed at Har Homa/Jabl Abu Rena'im.
Somewhat mollified, the Americans turned their energy to getting the long-overdue Hebron redeployment signed and
implemented, at last. The arrival of U.S. mediator Denis Ross was accompanied by banner headlines once again predicting
a speedy conclusion of the negotiations -- which were greeted with understandable scepticism.
With all the caution due after so many delays, it does seem more likely than not that the Hebron redeployment will
take place at some date in the near future -- but clearly, it will not resolve the basic issue. Without a clear
Israeli commitment to fully accept Palestinian self-determination, and abandon once and for all the occupation
-- of which settlements are but the most dynamic and malignant element -- the slide towards war will be inevitable,
regardless of what happens in Hebron.
The war which is now discussed throughout Israel as a real, concrete possibility for the near future could become
the most destructive in Israel's history; it would certainly be the most controversial and the least popular of
all Israel's wars, a war widely regarded as unjustified, unnecessary and futile. It would be a war fought under
conditions of international isolation and a deep internal division within Israeli society itself, a division among
the very soldiers and officers who would be sent to shed their blood for a cause alien to many. A war at whose
end, as everybody knows, the Israeli side would have to accept the same political solution which is available right
The fact that it is so -- and that it is seen this way by an overwhelming part of society -- might deflect Netanyahu
from the course leading to war. Everything is known in advance, written in the papers (and not only by radical
writers), spoken by middle-of-the-road politicians, repeated in one way or another in the daily conversations of
ordinary citizens throughout the country -- including many of Netanyahu's own voters.
To increase his room of manoeuvre, Netanyahu has been sending feelers to the opposition Labor Party in an effort
to formulate "a common policy" on the peace negotiations. For his part Shimon Peres, officially still
Labor's leader, seems all too eager to prolong his political life as a senior minister in a "National Unity"
A common Labor-Likud policy, according to formulas openly discussed by senior members of both parties, might include
an agreement on annexing parts of the West Bank, while giving the Palestinians "limited sovereignty"
in the remainder. Netanyahu adviser David Bar-Illan already expressed himself (Jerusalem Post, 20/12) as willing
to concede to such a truncated Palestinian entity the name of state.
It is, however, short-sighted to think that an agreement unilaterally reached between various factions of the Israeli
establishments could force the Palestinian people to give up what is by any reasonable standard the bare minimum
on which they could hope to build a viable existence: a fully sovereign state in all of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip -- which are after all no more than 18% of historical Palestine -- with a fair share of Jerusalem as its
capital and the right of welcoming in their state as many of the scattered Palestinian refugees as would want to
Without an Israeli acceptance of this reality, the slide towards war would continue. No proclamation of "national
unity" would be able to paper over the deep fissures running through Israeli society, and even a government
containing both big parties would find it difficult to infuse in soldiers the motivation to
fight a futile war. Such considerations seem to influence the position of upcoming Labor star, former Army Chief-of-Staff
Ehud Barak; himself far from being a dove, Barak opposes any attempt to bring Labor into Netanyahu's government,
preferring to let Netanyahu dig his own grave (all the better for Barak's chances in the elections of the year
The choices made in the coming months by a small number of Israeli politicians -- in the first place, of course,
by the Prime Minister -- will have the most serious consequences for all: for the people in Israel and Palestine,
for those in the neighboring states, and for those who live elsewhere and who might be caught in the effects of
a Middle-East conflagration. It is both a right and a duty for those who can to interfere and do all in their power
to force a choice for peace.
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
Mothers for Peace
"The Mothers' Letter," hastily drafted by a few Tel-Aviv women in the aftermath of the bloody confrontations
between Israeli and Palestinian forces in September (see TOI 74-75, p.12), continues to strike a chord throughout
the country -- wherever mothers of soldiers read with growing anxiety the newspaper predictions of impending war.
So far, about two thousand Israeli women signed and each one (except for 'special cases') paid the sum of 100 Shekels
-- not an impossible sum, but far beyond what most Israelis give in casual political or charity donation. The contributions
made it possible, without resorting to rich outside donors, to publish five times full-page ads in the mainstream
press, containing the text of the letter and the new signatories' names under the banner headline: Binyamin Netanyahu,
our children's future is in your hands!
An activist core group started a weekly mothers' vigil, standing each Friday noon outside the Defence Ministry
in Tel-Aviv with well-designed placards reading PEACE AND LIFE! Women and mothers demand peace! It has drawn into
action a considerable number of women who were only marginally involved before, as well as "reawakening"
long-inactive peace veterans. Following are exerpts from an extensive series of interviews with members of the
group, conducted by Ruvik Rosenthal and originally published in Ma'ariv on October 22.
Ili Kaufman: "I and Merav here, my neighbor, just met on the staircase on the 'Day of the Tunnel' and as usual
complained to each other of the horrible situation, and suddenly we decided that enough was enough and we must
do something, not just talk. So many years I have done nothing, just barricaded myself here on Shenkin Street where
people think like me and ignored the world beyond. After what happened at the Joseph's Tomb I knew that if I stay
silent also after this, I will be an accomplice.(...) Merav felt the same, and soon we got to more mothers. My
eighteen-year old daughter just got a call-up order, my friends have sons in the army. We all feel that we have
been assigned a passive role, to sit and wait for our sons and husbands to come back from the battlefield; we just
It is snowballing all the time. I went to a shop to photocopy the letter, and the owner suddenly gave me a hundred
shekels, asking to add her name. A woman on a family outing in the Judean Desert heard about it from somebody in
the Nature Preserves Authority, and called from her mobile telephone in the middle of the desert.
Merav Oren: "I have three sons, the eldest ten years old. I still have a few years, but this does not calm
me down. I can't stop thinking of the mother in Zichron Ya'akov, whose son was killed at Josheph's Tomb. I could
not stop crying. I must do something or I will go mad. We were asked why this is an organization of mothers and
not of parents including fathers. Well, mothers react in a more emotional way, and I think this is very much needed.
We feel that we had hope, hope for the future, and Netanyahu just took it from us.
Nurit Kashtan: "My father is General Uri Ben Ari, the veteran fighter, a walking myth. I grew up in a very
military family, my brothers were officers and participated in all the wars. But for all my Zionism, now is a time
I would be very happy to see my son out of the army.
Rabin, as an old friend of my father, was in my wedding. He was such a nice man, very shy though politics forced
him to cover it with aggressiveness. After he was murdered I spent a whole week crying on the square.(...) My husband
is from a right-wing family. In my home it is no longer possible to talk about politics, and it grows worse and
worse. The two younger sons are with me, the eldest followed his father. Any slight remark just ignites a flame
in our home.
Tzipi Masa: "We saw on TV the girlfriend of one of the dead soldiers crying on his grave. My daughter, who
herself has a boyfriend in a combat unit, ran away from the table and locked herself in her room for a whole day.
She was very shaken. Why does she have to go through this?
(...) When I lived at a kibbutz in the Negev, I have been regularly standing in weekly Women in Black vigils. Men
from the nearby 'Development Towns' of Netivot and Ofakim used to come and shout at us. In retrospect, I regret
that we did't make a serious effort to go into these towns, to make contact with the women there.
Now that we start again a women's protest movement, we should give it a more broad social base, not just the affluent
Ashkenazi women of North Tel-Aviv and similar areas. We also should not be completely strict about asking 100 shekels
from each signatory, or we will have only middle class women. We got a call from Moshav Faran, in the south Negev.
The women said that their farms are nearly bankrupt and they had already spent much money on a campaign against
the government agricultural policies. Of course we let
them sign for free. Also many of the Russian immigrant women can't afford to pay a hundred shekels.
Michal Straus-Tavori: "Last Friday I went to the entrance of the cooperative shop here in Kfar Tavor, and
asked the women who came in to sign our letter. It was not easy. Most of the people here are farmers. Some of the
women said that this will not help, that politicians do whatever they want and ordinary citizens can't influence
anything. Many women said they must ask permission from their husbands. Do they also ask the husband's permission
to buy a new dress?
Contact: Mothers for Peace, POB 56203, Tel-Aviv 61561.
+++ On October 27, Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived at the Druze village of Hurfesh in the Galilee, to offer condolences
to the family of Colonel Nabih Mar'ai -- the highest-ranking Israeli officer killed during the September flareup
with the Palestinians. Immediately after praising the dead officer's valor and calling upon others to emulate him,
the Prime Minister found himself sharply attacked by Mar'ai's widow Sharha: 'I am angry with your government. You
opened this tunnel without consulting anybody, and look how many people died. Why did you do it? He had served
for twenty-three years, he was totally devoted. Why did he have to die like this? Why do I and my daugter have
to pay such a price?' The TV cameras, which caught the entire scene, showed the pale Netanyahu muttering: 'Perhaps
I should also ask you... no, some other time. I know how you feel, how much pain you feel' and beating a hasty
+++ In the midst of the Israeli and international debate on the settlement policies, the 30-years old reserve lieutenant
Roa'i Kozlowski of Tel-Aviv received his annual call-up -- containing orders for a month in commnad of a detachment
guarding a West Bank settlement.
Kozlowski -- in daily life an architect and graduate student -- had already given up a well-paid job which turned
out to involve designing houses in a settlement. He now wrote his commanding officer:
"The settlements are illegal from their very inception. They constitute robbery of land from the rightful
owners, by main force. Their continued existence forces the army to continue oppressing hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians, and constitutes a considerable barrier blocking the road to peace with our neighbors, just so that
a handful of fanatics may continue settling on 'ancestral lands.' The inevitable result is an institutionalized
contempt and violence towards (Arab) human beings, of which we see daily new examples on our TV screens. It is
my primary human duty to refuse this kind of military service -- a duty which takes precedence even to obeying
the law. Collaborating with the policy of the government of Israel would make me a criminal. Not only those who
give immoral orders are responsible for them -- those who do not agree with such orders and nevertheless obey them
Shortly after writing this letter, Kozlowski was sent off to prison -- but the officer who judged him imposed only
the minimal punishment of 18 days' imprisonment, and he encountered sympathetic reactions from many soldiers and
fellow-officers. The refuser-friendly atmosphere was even more evident at Tel-Aviv University, which was flooded
with Kozlowski solidarity posters, and had daily support vigils held at the university gates. A university hall
in which a meeting took place was too narrow to contain the hundreds who poured in, and many of the prisoner's
fellow students participated in the Yesh Gvul demonstration on the hill opposite Atlit Military Prison, on December
14. (Kozlowski was observed waving to them, from the prison courtyard.) Also, when Kozlowski's mother Esther --
who took an active part in the solidarity actions -- participated at an economic conference, she was surprised
by the expressions of support and of respect for her son from senior Finance Ministry experts and "captains
The Yesh Gvul movement -- which swung into full-scale action after years of suspended animation -- finds it much
easier than before to get new signatories for its petition. "In the past, when we set up a table for collecting
signatures, we could expect hours of debate also with people who are not so far from us politically, Meretz and
Peace Now people" says veteran refuser Tzvi Razi. "They used to say 'I am against the occupation, but
military refusal goes too far.' Now the same people -- I still remember the words I had with them during the Lebanon
War and the Intifada -- are signing eagerly, and also people who are really at the political center, people from
whom I would never have expected it. It's a real landslide!" (Zman Tel-Aviv weekly, 13/12).
Contact: Yesh Gvul, POB 6953, Jerusalem 91068.
+++ On October 28, Army Chief-of-Staff Amnon Shahak used a ceremonial occasion to make a far from ceremonial speech,
in which he complained of the army's deteriorating prestige and a growing alienation between it and civil society:
"How far did we come from the days when an IDF uniform was a source of pride(...). Nowadays, the ideal Israeli
is perceived as a stockmarket broker who spends his holidays skiing in Switzerland. Commanding officers who devote
their lives to service are made to feel as suckers."
+++ In a series of testimonies to Knesset commitees, the military authorites at last disclosed statistics which
had been kept secret for years: "A quarter of the conscripts joining the army do not complete their three
years' service. There is a clear and sharp drop in the conscripts' willingness to join combat units, from 64% in
1989 to 44% in 1996. Of reservists, only half of those who got call-up orders in 1995 actually showed up in their
units" (Major General Gideon Shefer, Head of the IDF Manpower Dept., quoted in Yediot Aharonot 24/10).
At a later debate, the same general offered an explanation: "When a Prime Minister [Peres] says that building
hotels along the Sea of Galilee is more important than building army camps there, it
influences soldiers' motivation. When another Prime Minister [Rabin] embraces in public the singer Aviv Gefen,
a singer who did not go to the army and who is not even ashamed of it, how can we convince youngsters that military
service is important?" (Ma'ariv, 14/11).
+++ On October 31, a letter arrived at Prime Minister Netanyahu's bureau, signed by 150 highschool pupils:
"Mr. Prime Minister! As youngsters about to become soldiers in the near future, we are deeply concerned about
the danger of war. If we must fight, it is vitally important for us to know that it was not the state of Israel
which sought this war, that the war was forced upon us in the absence of any other choice, and that we fight in
true self-defence. We believe that war can be be averted, if only the government of Israel would take care to respect
its international treaty obligations, treat neighbors and negotiating partners with respect and a true desire for
peace, and regard human life as the supreme value which must be decisive in any decision-making process(...)."
The youngsters, invited for an intensive week-long series of TV and newspaper interviews, exhibited a strong historical
sense, pointing out that there have been in Israel's history three earlier "Highschool Letters" -- in
1970, 1979 and 1987 -- and that in all three cases, the war which the signatories tried to avert did break out
(Yom Kippur, Lebanon and the Intifada). "Nevertheless, we still hope that we will succeed, because the situation
changed since these times and the support we get is so much greater than what our predecessors had" said Yuval
Kremnitzer, the group's spokesperson (Yediot Aharonot, 8/11).
+++ On December 2, a conscript prisoner -- caught by the military police 78 days after running away from his unit
-- was brought into the Jaffa Military Court stark naked, with only a blanket partially covering his body. To the
judges' question, the military policemen replied that the youngster -- identified only by the initials D.S. --
refuses to wear a military uniform and has gone naked since his civilian clothes were taken away. (Ma'ariv, 3/12).
+++ The Shabak Security Service utterly failed in its campaign to gain new recruits in the Kibbutzim and Moshavim
of the norhtern Galilee -- an area which in the past provided the service with many of its interrogators and field
agents. A campaign was held for three months, with advertisements on Kibbutz billboards and in the local cable
TV network offering young men "a challenging and rewarding job at a state institute." Only a handful
of applicants appeared, and all of them withdrew when they heard the identity of the "institute." The
affair's publication in Ma'ariv (Nov. 1) was taboo-breaking in itself.
Dr. Gideon Bieger's Proposal for Jerusalem
+++ Dr. Gideon Bieger, a geographer of Tel-Aviv University, was among the founding members of the right-wing Tzomet
Party, and still took part in various nationalist initiatives opposed to the Rabin Government. To everybody's surprise,
Bieger has now publicly declared his conversion to the two-state solution.
After analysing the sixty years' history of the idea of partitioning the land, first proposed by the British Peel
Commission in 1937, Bieger concluded that "paradoxically, partition was made inevitable precisely as the result
of Israel's attempt since 1967 to unite the whole land under its own rule" (Ha'aretz 16/12). He went on to
propose a detailed tripartite division of Jerusalem: the Arab neighborhoods in the east would comprise Urshalim,
a Palestinian-Arab sector in which Jews could live under Palestinian law; the secular Jewish neighborhoods in the
west would form Yerushalayim, a Jewish-Israeli sector with a reciprocal right of residence for Arabs; and in between
them would be a wide buffer, comprising the Old City, the Arab neighborhoods near to it and the Jewish ultra-orthodox
neighborhoods, bearing officially the English title "Holy City of Jerusalem" and administered by a council
representing the various religious authorities. "There is in Jerusalem an enormous concentration of people
who want to live in a theocracy, and we must respect them. Those who don't want it could find, by moving a few
kilometres eastwards or westwards, the secular regime of their preference."
Kafr Qasem -- Forty Years Later
After the passage of forty years, the massacre at Kafr Qasem remains one of the unhealed traumas of Israeli society.
On October 29, 1956, as Israeli forces swept southwards into Egypt, the army imposed a curfew on Arab villages
inside Israel, as a "preventive measure." Colonel Yisa'char Shadmi, in charge of the region close to
the then Jordanian border, instructed his subordinate officers to enforce the curfew with all severity; asked how
to deal with peasants returning from a day's work in the fields and not knowing that a curfew has been imposed,
Shadmi uttered the Arab expression "Allah Yerhemu" ("God have mercy on their souls"). Major
Smuel Malinki, in charge of the Border Guard unit at the village of Kafr Qasem, took these instructions literally
and ordered his men to shoot and kill the peasants returning from the fields. Forty nine men, women and children
were lined up at the entrance to the village and shot to death in cold blood; thirteen others were wounded by the
soldiers' bullets and survived by running away or pretending to be dead. (Col. Shadmi's other underlings, in five
other villages, refrained from such acts and let the peasants return safely to their homes.)
For nearly two months afterwards, strict military censorship forbade any mention of the massacre in the Israeli
press. The wall of silence was broken by the efforts of the villagers who succeeded to inform the inhabitants of
neighboring and distant Arab villages and towns, from where it spread to the Jewish population as well. Oppositional
activists, Knesset Members and journalists arrived and took testimonies from the embattled villagers and the hospitalised
survivors. These were collected into a brochure, and the activists informed the Ben-Gurion Government
of their determination to publish and disseminate it, with or without permission from the military censorship.
Thereupon the government officially admitted that the massacre had taken place and opened judicial proceedings
against the perpetrators.
The sensational and controversial Kafr Qasem Trial had an ambiguous outcome. On the one hand, the Israeli Supreme
Court created a landmark precedent in ruling that it is not only a soldier's right but also his duty to disobey
a "manifestly illegal order" and that he could be prosecuted for obeying such an order. In the following
decades, the Supreme Court's words 'an order on which the black flag of illegality flies, an order whose illegality
stabs deep into the heart' entered the discourse of Israeli politics and culture, being again and again repeated
by dissidents of all kinds in a perennial effort to extend the range of orders defined as "manifestly illegal."
However, the actual punishment meted out to the perpetrators did not quite match the court's high rhetoric. Major
Malinki and his men got prison sentences ranging between five and seventeen years, but were one by one pardoned;
by 1959 all were free to resume their military careers. (Malinki was promoted and appointed Security Chief at the
newly-constructed Dimona Nuclear Pile.) For his part, Colonel Shadmi was only convicted of a purely technical offence
and sentenced to a "fine" of one Agora (equivalent of less than a U.S. Cent). Official accounts of the
affair give little mention of "The Agora Punishment" -- but it became a well-known concept for the inhabitants
of Kafr Qasem, and for Israel's Arab citizens in general, a symbol of their humiliation and of helplessness in
the face of an uncontrolled, arbitrary power.
During the late 1950's, the state gave the survivors and the families of the victims meagre sums of money, which
were ruled to be a sufficiant compensation; and the Kafr Qasem village elders were 'persuaded' by the military
authorities into taking part in a Reconciliation Ceremony with military officers, which was widely screened on
the cinema newsreels (Israel still didn't have TV) but was far from reflecting the villagers' true feelings. That,
as far as the authorities were concerned, was the end of the matter. There was no official commemoration of the
tragedy, and it is scarcely mentioned in the curriculum of Israeli schools.
The memory remained very much alive among the villagers. 'We don't talk about it very much, and we are beyond anger
and bitterness, but it is with us all the time. The babies in Kafr Qasem suck in the massacre together with their
mothers' milk" was how one villager put it. In the sixties, the Kafr Qasem Municipality erected, despite some
obsruction from the government, a large monument on the site of the killings. It is the starting point for an annual
procession to the cemetary.
In 1992, the Habima Theatre in Tel-Aviv presented "Malinki," a newly-written play which attempted to
probe the personality of the officer who had supervised the killings at Kafr Qasem. The play won critical acclaim
and was presented at packed halls -- and was nevertheless taken off the stage after scarcely a month, for which
step the theatre gave only the most vague and evasive of explanations.
At about the same time, several of Israel's critical "new historians" unearthed in recently declassified
official documents several references to a secret military contingency plan, codenamed "Operation Mole."
The object of this operation, planned in the early 1950's, was to use the outbreak of war as a pretext to expel
the inhabitants of Kafr Qasem and other Arab villages in its region into the West Bank, then held by Jordan. The
obvious conclusion is that the massacre was an abortive attempt to carry out "Operation Mole" -- though
the documents so far published do not give a conclusive proof of this. Several articles on this theme appeared,
both in professional historical publications and in the mainstream press; there was conspiciously no official reaction
of any sort...
The fortieth anniversary, this year, once again drew public attention to the issue. The Netanyahu Government --
like all its predecessors, whatever party was in power -- refused to mark the date in any official way; but the
mainstream media did mark it in a series of interviews, news and feature articles. Yediot Aharonot published extensively
the stories of survivors: Mahmud Freij, now 62 years old, who had pretended to be dead and lain bleeding for hours
beside the bodies of his two brothers; Aziza Taha, who as a child witnessed though the cracks in a shuttered window
the killing of her neighbors...
Yediot Aharonot published the accounts under the title "we would like to hear the Jews expressing some shame,"
a quote from the words of Abed Tamam Taha, a cousin of one of the victims. However, when the former Colonel Shadmi
was asked to comment, he found nothing better to say then "this damned affair has blighted my whole life and
destroyed my hopes for a political career" (Ma'ariv, 29/10).
The demand for an official acknowledgement of responsibility by the Israeli establishemnt was the central element
in the commemoration ceremonies, organised by a committee including the entire political and social spectrum of
Israel's Arab citizens, but only the more peace-minded forces among the Jews.
The week-long events started with an exhibition by the Kafr Qasem painter Abed Tamam Taha, presented first at a
Tel-Aviv gallery and later in a large tent erected for the purpose in the village itself. With black flags flying
on the roofs of the village and all shops shut down, the traditional march to the cemetary was held on October
29; at the graves, Koran verses were read by Sheikh Abdullah Nimer of The Islamic Movement in Israel, himself a
survivor of the massacre, followed by a short Jewish prayer by Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom.
On the evening of October 31, a mass rally was held in the Kafr Qasem football stadium, with practically the entire
village population attending, together with numerous guests from other Arab towns and villages in Israel and the
Palestinian Territories, and Jewish members of various peace groups. Several of the
speakers compared the situation of 1956 with the present conditions in the Palestinian Territories, in particular
mentioning the previous week's case of a ten-year old Palestinian child killed by a settler.
Also, the representatives of the village made many references to the government decision to remove a considerable
parcel of land from the jurisdiction of the Kafr Qasem municipality and grant it to the nearby Jewish town of Rosh
Ha'ayin, which intends to erect on it an industrial zone -- very close to the Arab homes.
At the conclusion of the rally, the honorary citizenship of Kafr Qasem was granted to four people who had played
a major role in exposing the massacre -- Latif Dori (in 1956 a young Mapam activist), Uri Avnery (at that time
editor in chief of Ha'olam Ha'zeh) as well as Taufik Toubi and Meir Vilner (who were then Communist Knesset Members).
This was followed by the premiäre screening of a new documentary on the massacre by the young researcher and
film director Naftali Glicksberg, including some hitherto-unpublished testimonies.
Contact: Mayor Ibrahim Sarsur, Town Hall, Kafr Qasem, IL.
'Prepare Your Gas Masks'
The atmosphere at the many and massive commemorations of the Rabin murder's first anniversary was dominated by
a mood of sad superiority, a mixture of disgust and contempt for those who had succeeded in murdering and replacing
Rabin. Things had turned so bad -- with army sources already talking about war as "realistic" -- but
exactly this deterioriation had also exposed for everybody to see the new government's policy. Never before in
Israel did public opinion turn so strongly and swiftly against the leader only months earlier voted into power.
Neither in the fifteen years of Likud government after 1977, nor during the peak of the Oslo euphoria, had a right-wing
leader been so unpopular, so much criticized, contempted and ridiculed by "the man in the street." But
-- the fact is that representative democracy in general, and in particular the "Strong Prime Minister"
version now tried in Israel, protects governments against intermediate fluctuations in public opinion...
Yesh Gvul, Meretz, Gush Shalom, Hadash, Labor Party, Dor Shalom, Peace Now, all were present in one way or another
at the Rabin rallies. The big political parties dominating -- with giant banners and their sky-scraper high balloon
dove; the radical groups -- with a table on the side, or activists walking around, distributing political statements.
Gush Shalom chose to have both: a small batallion participating, standing with Gush Shalom signs (Two States --
One future) among the crowds, while others concentrated on handing out material made specifically for the occasion:
two-flag stickers and flyers with a very simple and short text: The way to implement Rabin's legacy: peace with
the state of Palestine!
The approach proved itself: on the following days, many new people contacted Gush Shalom. And among calls of young
people asking for stickers and badges there were also more committed reactions, among them a really very interesting
A group of Kibbutzim in the Negev area close to the Gaza Strip, organised as a Regional Council, invited Gush Shalom
to hold together with them a march along the barbed wire surrounding the Gaza Strip -- a march to be held jointly
with Palestinians, be it each on his own side of the fence. The intention was to demonstrate for a future of peace
and cooperation, in which the barbed wire fence would be transformed into a national border between two states
living in peace. The Kibbutzniks had their own contacts with the Gaza Palestinians, who already promised to participate,
and some other Israeli groups had also been approached -- but the cooperation of Gush Shalom was especially important,
so they said, because the organizers would like to make use of Gush Shalom's Two-States banners, and the Two-Flag
buttons had especially appealed to the young kibbutzniks.
A month later, in the beginning of December, the regular recipients of Gush Shalom mail were rather surprised.
They had received an invitation for a peace march which was signed, not only by Gush Shalom, but also by the Sha'ar
haNegev Regional Council, the Gaza Youth Movement for Peace, the Histadrut General Trade Union, and The Federation
of Students and Working Youth. The slogans: Two States -- One Future; Yes to good neighborliness! Yes to cooperation!
and The Fence Shall Not Bar Peace!
It was a very nice perspective, and seemed a real breakthrough, to have -- not just a few Kibbutzniks but a whole
regional council, representing all Kibbutzim and Moshavim of the area bordering to the Gaza Strip, wanting to march
together with Gush Shalom for two states and against the concept of separation as implemented in the closure. Too
good to be true?
It will never be known for sure whether the march planned on Saturday the 14th would have taken place had there
not been a few days earlier the terrorist attack in which a settler mother and 12-year old son got killed. The
fact is that this shooting assault initiated a new cycle of rapid escalation: the bereft husband and father opened
the campaign for settlement extension at the funeral of wife and son, and the government also decided that this
was the golden opportunity to start settlement promotion.
Palestinian society, which had swallowed silently the days-long military blockade of the "free" town
of Ramallah, burst out over the government decision to further settlement extension, and by Friday morning the
tone from both sides had become very grim.
Those last days the organizers of the peace march had been in phone contact all the time. Until Friday morning
it seemed that all parties wanted to go on with the event, "not to cancel especially now a joint Israeli-Palestinian
march for peace which was intended to carry on the flame of hope, a cause which has become only more relevant."
But suddenly, on the last possible moment, everything collapsed and Gush Shalom -- whose task had also been to
press involved -- was asked to cancel all invitations.
The mood in the small Gush Shalom office was at an all-time low. On that Saturday, thousands of Gaza Palestinians
did march on their side of the fence -- no flame of hope, only anger. Against the closure, against settlements,
On the evening of that same Saturday, December 14, a spontaneous anti-government event took place opposite the
Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv. The idea to spot the place had come up at the weekly Friday vigil around the Rabin
Memorial of youths calling themselves Mishmarot Shalom (Peace Guards), and about which only a few other peace activists
had been informed. Some of the frustrated Gush Shalomers got wind of this just in time to join.
In the dark and the rain, the little action went on in an unexpexted strong-spirited way -- and with very supportive
reactions from the street. It got even (real time coverage!) into the eight o'clock TV news. Through flexible use
of a megaphone, which was going from hand to hand, different activists addressed the by-passers: Enjoy yourself
on what might be your last free Saturday night! Soon it will be all over. Tomorrow your call-up order may arrive.
And don't forget to prepare your gas masks! You have all become second class citizens. The government is cutting
the budget for your health and for the education of your children. The money will all go to the settlements. You
are going to pay with blood as well. A war can break out at any moment.
Perhaps it was after all not a day to speak about anything more far away than just that.
'Seeking the Peace of Hebron'
The Israeli settlers in the heart of Hebron claim to have revived the Jewish community which existed in that city
for hundreds of years, and which came to a tragic end with the massacre of 1929 -- in which sixty Hebronite Jews
perished, and after which all the survivors were evacuated by the British.
Yet settler accounts of what happened in 1929 never mention the fact that more than four hundred Hebron Jews --
the great majority of the old community -- were saved by Arab neighbors, many of whom risked their own lives to
protect the Jews from the raging mobs. The Old Hebronite families, now scattered throughout Israel but still maintaining
strong ties with each other, were never happy with the settlers and their acts -- yet their voice was hardly ever
heard on the public scene.
Recently the situation changed -- at the initiative of two of them, both well-known columnists: Haim Hanegbi, grandson
to Hebron's Chief Sephardi Rabbi, and Amnon Bierman, descendant of the old Hebronite Tzarfati family. They got
together a group of twenty-five for a visit to the city of their ancestors where they got an extremely cordial
welcome from Mayor Natshe and his council.
The Old Hebronites also had their manifesto published, in Ma'ariv (Dec. 8) and Ha'aretz (Dec. 12) under the title
'Seek the peace of Hebron', words with a Biblical connotation.
Sha'alu Li'Shlom Hevron
We, descendants of families which once formed part of the old Jewish community of Hebron -- the children, grandchildren,
and great-grandchildren of Jews who once lived in Hebron, and whose ancestors lived there for hundreds of years
-- seek peace. Peace for the city, peace for the land. Now that the city of our ancestors has become an international
storm center which threatens to blow up the entire political process and destroy the chances for peace, it is our
duty to speak out clearly and loudly:
+++ The Settlers, who now live in the heart of Hebron, have no right to speak for the old Jewish community of Hebron.
Their claim to be the inheritors of our ancestors is totally false and misleading. They and their way of life are
totally alien to the culture and way of life of the true Hebronite Jews, who throughout the generations formed
a heritage of peace between peoples and understanding between religions.
+++ The settlers who took over Jewish property in the heart of Hebron and made it theirs have perpetrated what
is no more than an act of robbery. No one authorised them to get hold of our ancestors' heritage and to assume
possession of private and communal Jewish property in Hebron. And to add insult to injury, the settlers announced
their intention to take over still more properties which do not belong to them.
It is in Hebron that things will be decided, for better or for worse. That is exactly why the government must immediately
remove this handful of settlers from the city, before they succeed in blowing up the political process and destroying
the chances of peace.
The Old Hebronites, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297
News of Peace Activities
+++ The Materna Factory of Kibbutz Ma'abarot donated 30 tonnes of powdered milk -- worth an estimated 50,000 Dollars
-- after the plight of the children of Gaza had been dramatically shown on the TV news. The consignment was delivered
on November 8 to representatives of the Palestinian Authority by factory representative Avishai Omri and Latif
Dori of the Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue.
Contact: Latif Dori, POB 1777 Tel-Aviv 61016
+++ As early as October 29, the Peace Now Settlement Watch Team discovered a dozen mobile homes inhabited by Israeli
settlers on a hill near to the settlement of Itamar, south of Nablus. Following the publication of this fact, the
settlers claimed that "the new hill" was part of the territory promised them by previous governments
for the eventual extension of the settlement.
For its part, the military government announced that the settlers were not permitted to conduct any kind of activity
on that hill, and that the unauthorised placing of mobile homes "constitutes illegal construction, and will
be treated as such" (Yediot Aharonot, 30/10). Peace Now notes, however, that there is not a single known case
of the military authorities actually acting against an illegally-erected settler dwelling place (as distinguished
from Arab ones). And, indeed, until the time of writing no move was made to evict the squatters.
A year Without Rabin
By the Hebrew calender, the anniversary of the Rabin Murder fell on October 24; by the civil calender -- on November
4. The double date led to the ceremonies and memorials stretching over nearly two weeks.
Many of the official commemoration ceremonies were conducted in the dry-as-dust manner characteristic of memorials
to deceased VIP's everywhere. In some of them, there was actually no mention at all of the fact that Rabin had
been murdered, while in others this was mentioned only to draw the profound conclusion that murder is a Very Bad
Thing. But for the peace movement -- and especially for movements formed in the aftermath of the Rabin murder,
such as Dor Shalom and the Peace Guards - commemorating Rabin was a clear and explicit political action, and the
natural continuation of the mobilization sparked by "The Tunnel War" of late September. Repeatedly vowing
'not to forget and not to forgive' the incitement against Rabin was in fact another way of protesting Netanyahu's
disastrous policy in the present -- and clinging to the idealized Rabin, Martyr of Peace, gave these protests a
Just one day before the official Commemoration Day, KM Ya'el Dayan was assaulted in Hebron by an extreme right
thug -- as it turned out, the already notorious Yisrael Lederman who had murdered an Arab while on military service,
was sentenced to life imprisonment and soon got a pardon. The coincidence -- if coincidence it was -- of extreme
right political violence surfacing on this very day was widely remarked upon; Lederman's glass of scalding tea,
which he had flung in KM Dayan's face, was repeatedly compared with Yigal Amir's pistol -- and Dayan herself was
received with great respect wherever she arrived -- with dozens of youngsters in a solidarity vigil outside her
During Netanyahu's speech in the special Memorial Session of the Knesset (Nov. 24), several hundred Peace Guards
gathered outside the hall -- erecting a giant screen on which was shown a selection of Netanyahu's earlier speeches,
"to refresh the Prime Minister's memory" concerning the way he had treated Rabin during his late predecessor's
At the same time some 500 torch-carrying Young Laborites retraced Rabin's last road in Tel Aviv -- from the square
where he was shot and which now bears his name to the Ichilov Hospital.
And during the night, last year's "Candle Children" suddenly reappeared, for twenty-four hours filling
once again the entire square with candles, around which they sat and sang. (Shrewd entrepreneurs turned a good
profit, selling them special Rabin Candles, as well as Rabin posters, hats, T-shirts).
Many of the same youngsters turned up in Jerusalem on the evening of November 26, answering the call of Peace Now
for a huge politically-explicit Rabin Event: a human chain stretching over five kilometres of city streets, linking
Zion Square (where Netanyahu had railed against Rabin before a mob shouting death, on the night of the Oslo-2 ratification)
to the Mount Herzl National Cemetary (where Rabin had been lain to rest, precisely one month after that infamous
rally). The chain was wound out with participants marching through the streets of Jerusalem and gathering for a
rally at the Prime Minister's Office, with numerous speakers relating the Rabin Murder to the present danger of
war. Participation was variously estimated at 30,000 or 50,000; it was certainly the biggest peace rally remembered
in conservative Jerusalem.
On November 1, a new monument was unveiled at the scene of the murder, behind the Tel-Aviv Town Hall. Actually,
many of the "Rabin regulars" who had participated in the weekly Peace Guards gatherings at this place,
resented the removal of the old monument -- spontaneously erected on the spot immediately after the murder and
with components constantly added to it. Furthermore, during the unveiling ceremony the entire area was closed off
-- for the safety of the participating VIP's -- letting in only those few activists who had managed to scrounge
an invitation. Yet once the official ceremony was over and the security barriers removed, the activists soon made
the new monument theirs by covering it with candles and placing placards and stickers all around.
The following night, the biggest rally of all was held on the Rabin Square -- with Rabin's recorded speech of that
other rally suddenly broadcast on the loudspeakers, sending shivers through spines. Originally, this was intended
to be Dor Shalom's show -- but after some behind-the-scenes negotiations they conceded it to Tel-Aviv Mayor Roni
Milo, the prominent Likud Dove more and more often flirting with the peace movement. As organized by the municipality,
the rally was officially "non-political" (which made it possible to broadcast its entire course live,
on both channels of Israeli TV).
After some confrontations between municipal inspectors and activists, it was agreed that political signs not be
carried too close to the main stage. The crowd -- estimated at 200,000 and spilling over into the surrounding streets
-- nevertheless made its feelings quite clear, enormously cheering the words of Leah Rabin: "Peace is his
legacy. We must do all we can to bring peace, so that his death will not be in vain." She was followed by
the indomitable Aviv Gefen, presenting to the vast crowd his new song: Let's walk into the dream/ where there are
no races and nations/ let's just try!/ let's bury the guns/ and not the children/ let's just try!
On November 4, the long series of events was concluded with a smaller rally at the monument, which still drew several
thousands to explicitly express the things only hinted at in the bigger gathering. The keynote speech was delivered
by author Yitzchak Ben Ner: "The murder is still going on -- the murder of the living Yitzchak for the grave
of the Biblical Yitzchak in Hebron, the murder of the young soldier Yosef for the sake of the tomb of Yosef in
Dor Shalom, POB 23090, Tel-Aviv 61231
Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel Aviv 61297
Peace Guards, c/o Rosenblat, 7 Bilu St. Kfar Saba.
From the Twilight Zone
On December 12, at the conclusion of a week devoted to human rights issues, ACRI's annual Emil Greenzweig Human
Rights Prize was granted to journalist Gideon Levy of Ha'aretz. Since the outbreak of the intifada, Levy has been
indefatigably ranging the Occupied Territories and penetrating into corners few others reached; his impressions
appear in "The Twilight Zone", his regular two-page feature in the paper's weekend edition. Week after
week, his articles give a vivid picture of Palestinian daily life, exposing the terrible injustice and still preserving
a human touch which makes them highly readable.
After the Oslo Agreements Levy set himself the task of disclosing how much occupation still remains, and how little
power the Palestinians, as yet, exercise over their own daily life. He also exposed human rights violations by
the Palestinian Police and Security Services -- as he wryly noted, by Palestinians who but short ago suffered the
same treatment at Israeli hands.
At this moment there are still hundreds of Palestinians held prisoner in Israel without having ever been charged
with any offence. Many of them have been snatched from their beds a year ago -- as the Israeli army, just before
pulling out of the West Bank cities, swept up dozens of Palestinian oppositionists, known to have expressed criticism
towards the Oslo peace process. Their continued incarceration arouses deep resentment among the Palestinian public.
The only times when Administrative Detention makes headlines in Israel are those rare occasions when the government
resorts to this measure against Jews, as in the case of Hebron settler Noam Federman; a follower of the notorious
Rabbi Meir Kahane, Federman had openly announced his intension to organize violent action against the intended
withdrawal from Hebron, but the Netanyahu government preferred to avoid putting him on trial. A "Federman
Lobby" was swiftly formed, with right-wing Knesset Members explicitly stating their opposition to "Administrative
Detention of Jews" (sic!). Peace and human rights groups engaged in the perennial debate whether or not to
come out in such a case, as a matter of principle (ACRI, the Civil Rights Association, decided in the affirmative).
Altogether, the single Jewish detainee Federman got many times more space in the the press and debating time in
the Knesset than did all 280 Palestinian detainees, whose names are completely unknown to the general public.
Gideon Levy set out to redress the balance, writing extensively on the Palestinian Administrative Detainees and
their problems. On November 29 Levy, instead of writing himself, translated for Ha'aretz a long letter sent to
him from prison by Imad F. Sabi'.
The following are some quotations taken from the English original.
(...) Before my arrest, I applied for a fellowship to do my M.Sc. in Holland (i.e. it was my 'documented' intention
to leave the country to continue my studies). While in prison, I was informed that my application was successful.
However, my detention was extended beyond the start-date of the M.Sc. programme. This prompted my lawyer, Ms. Tamar
Pelleg-Sryck, to contact my jailers in order to procure a permit for me to be released directly to the airport.
On my part, I signed a statement in which I committed myself not to return for the duration of my study (18 months),
specifically requesting that my wife and [17 months old] daughter be allowed to leave with me (and I considered
this commitment [to leave the country] a huge compromise by me!) It was my assumption, as well as that of my lawyer,
that since the reason given for my detention was that I posed a threat to the area, there would be no real grounds
for objecting to my being thousands of miles away from 'the area.'
We were subjected to a long wait, during which enough signs were emitted to suggest that I will be allowed to leave.
Days before my scheduled flight (the Dutch had bought a ticket and made all the arrangements), my lawyer was told
that my application was rejeted 'on security grounds.' I pressed her to take the matter to the Supreme Court, led
by my naive belief in the possibility of having justice done through it. "Just how would they possibly defend
their decision?" I asked Tamar in order to dispel her skepticism and mistrust of the Supreme Court, "how
are they to prove that the security of the land will be under threat when I'm with my family in Holland, studying
for my M.Sc?" Well, in the High Court (...) I found out that in Holland I would be even more dangerous than
I already was and am here. (...)
I sometimes think of Ron Arad [Israeli pilot, held by Lebanese militiamen since 1986]. I find myself sympathizing
with his family: I can only be impressed with the devotion and courage of his wife, and I think I know the pain
and suffering of his daughter, as well as his very deep pain whenever he thinks of them (the fact that I was torn
apart and taken away from my daughter is something that I will never forgive my jailers for).
I also see the parallel between his and our situation. "Ron Arad is an administrative detainee" I tell
myself. Every six months, he is served with a new extension order (...) Or alternatively: we are hostages just
like he is (he is a military hostage, we are political hostages). (...). Sameer Shalaldeh has been a hostage for
thirty months now and he can never tell his two daughters when he's going home, although they keep pestering him
with the question. All of us can never tell our parents, our wives and children when we'll be allowed to go home!
Imad F. Sabi'
Megiddo Military Jail -- October 10, 1996.
Full text available from: Adv. Tamar Pelleg, 12 Hatanaim St, Tel Aviv 69209. Letters to Imad Sabi' could be sent
also to this, his advocate's address.