The Other Israel _ April 1997, Issue No. 77/78
Bulldozers of Death
Statements and Ads opposing Har Homa project:
The Contractor's Plea against the Har Homa project
Save the Peace! ad by Dor Shalom
No Easy Way Forward, by Beate Zilversmidt
Diary of the Struggle for Peace
The Last Moment Petition "Stop the Bulldozers"
including partial list of signatories
Arab Green, a commentary by Beate Zilversmidt
Land Day in Jaffa
Where Are They Now, Your Israeli Friends?, by Naif Alarjub
Jahalin's Last Stand
Onward to Disaster, by Uri Avnery
The Way of Violence, by Leah Rabin
Confidence Destroyed, by Israel Loeff
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
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
April 1997, Issue No. 77/78
BULLDOZERS OF DEATH
These words are being written in a country in the midst of a deep crisis, a country mourning innocent victims and
waiting anxiously for a bloody confrontation on which its government seems bent. I sit behind the computer in a
few calm hours, snatched from the daily effort to organise protests and avert at the last moment the danger into
which the Netanyahu Government's criminal folly has brought us. It is now just two months since the Hebron Agreement
was signed, amidst a renewed outburst of hope which touched even the more cynical and jaded of us.
Looking back on the past years, one realizes that it is not the first time we have passed through a rapid transition
from despair to hope -- and back again. In fact, such transitions seem to be a basic characteristic of a peace
process in which so many contradictory and antagonistic forces are held together in an extremely unstable balance,
and which nevertheless endured through seemingly hopeless situations. On the other hand, with every passing day
it is becoming obvious that this might be the deepest crisis and most dangerous moment since Oslo was signed.
While waiting for the last-ditch mediation effort, I will take the time to recount the main events of the past
two months, and try to reconstruct how we got to this point. By the time this issue reaches print, things are likely
to have resolved themselve -- for better or for worse.
In the middle of January, the long-delayed Hebron Agreement was achieved at the end of five months' arduous Israeli-Palestinian
Though the predicted settler revolt against the redeployment did not take place, one serious incident did accompany
it: a shooting spree in the Hebron marketplace by Israeli soldier Noam Friedman who was later said to be mentally
deranged. On this occasion, the Israeli and Palestinian officers on the ground were able to take quick and coordinated
action: to apprehend and disarm Friedman before he could succeed in the random killing of Palestinians; to calm
down the angry reactions of the Palestinian population and prevent a serious conflagration. And meanwhile, the
Hebron Agreement was ratified by a large majority in the Knesset -- 87 out of 120, far more than was given to any
previous Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
The redeployment itself was carried out quickly and smoothly. Israeli forces evacuated some 85% of Hebron, and
tens of thousands gave Arafat a tumultous welcome at the former military government headquarters. At the same time,
riots broke out in the other part of Hebron, the 15% left under Israeli control -- where 20,000 Palestinians had
been condemned to remain under occupation, in order to "safeguard" the armed enclaves housing some 450
religious-nationalist settlers. Thus was exhibited from the very outset the basic instability of the Hebron deal,
but at the time it was regarded as no more than an incident.
The media version of the event followed quite simple lines: that Netanyahu had now formally bound himself to carry
on the Oslo peace process; that in token of his intentions he had brought about a military withdrawal from a Palestinian
city (or at least from the major part of it); that he further obliged himself to a timetable for three further
redeployments of military forces in the West Bank; and that he had done all this with far greater public and parliamentary
support than Rabin or Peres ever enjoyed, against only a feeble resistance from the right.
Few people actually read the full text of the Hebron Agreement, with its closely-typed clauses couched in a language
comprehensible only to specialists. Still, some of the pitfalls were clearly visible, the most obvious being that
the agreement set out the dates of the three stages of military redeployment -- but did not specify the territory
to be evacuated. Moreover, Netanyahu claimed for Israel the right to define unilaterally the extent of territory
to be evacuated, and though the Americans declared their support for this curious interpretation, the Palestinians
most emphatically did not.
Even more problematic, at the end of the third redeployment, due in August 1998, Israel is supposed to withdraw
from all parts of the West Bank except for "settlements and specified military locations." But there
is absolutely no agreement about the definition of the terms "settlement" and "military location".
According to the Israeli interpretation ("settlements: that is also all land earmarked for future expansion",
and "military locations includes all present training areas") at least half of the West Bank(!) would
fall into one of these categories.
The new peacemaker?
For some weeks, Prime Minister Netanyahu basked in the unaccustomed praise of the international media, which welcomed
him without reservations to the Middle East Peacemakers' Club. The Hebron redeployment was a conspicuous TV event,
as was the release of the thirty Palestinian women prisoners who had been waiting for this moment since September
1995. (There was hardly any media mention of the still-incarcerated 3,000 male prisoners, including more than 200
Administrative Detainees held without trial, nor was there much attention for the brutal eviction of the Jahalin
Bedouins to make place for the extension of the Ma'ale Adumim settlement...)
In yet another media event Netanyahu and Arafat were shown cordially shaking hands in the prestigious International
Econonomic Conference at Davos, Switzerland -- the annual forum where Shimon Peres used to deliver speeches on
"The New Middle East."
The Israeli business community started to consider "the new Netanyahu" a fitting successor to Shimon
Peres -- whose candidature had been endorsed, less than a year earlier, by such organizations as the Federation
of Industrialists and the Chambers of Commerce.
Like Peres, Netanyahu now seemed to combine neo-Liberal economic policies with a drive to open the markets of the
Arab World to Israeli goods; the business community enthusiastically supported Netanyahu, both in the Hebron Agreement
and in his confrontation with the unions during their one-day general strike.
On January 31, the economic section of Yediot Aharonot bore the headline: "The stagnation is over. Hebron
Agreement revived stock market, renews prospects for booming tourist season and warms up trading links with the
Arab World". This was accompanied by two photographs: a jubilant Hebron boy, carrying an enormous Palestinian
flag -- and a no less jubilant stockbroker in Tel-Aviv, watching on a computer screen the rocketing share prices.
Netanyahu's reputation as a peacemaker was further enhanced by the emergence of an increasingly vocal intransigent
nationalist faction within the ruling coalition, led by such figures as Binyamin Begin who resigned his cabinet
position in protest against the Hebron Agreement.
With Netanyahu subjected to scathing abuse from the right -- often using the very same terms of vilification which
Netanyahu himself had used against the Rabin and Peres governments -- it was quite natural for many peace seekers
to start giving credit to this Prime Minister, as they did to Rabin after Oslo. The formerly popular Gush Shalom
sticker bearing the slogan 'What have you done today to help bring down the government?' suddenly seemed no so
appropriate in demonstrations and events of the Israeli peace movement...
In the aftermath of the Hebron redeployment, the Israeli peace movement at large went through demobilization, with
participation in its activities gradually reduced to the activist hardcore. The wider circle of supporters -- those
tens of thousands who especially after the Rabin murder used to thong the squares of Tel-Aviv -- went back home.
At first, the situation seemed hopeful so why protest about "minor things"; then, within scant weeks,
everything had suddenly turned so dark as to seem hopeless.
Was it nothing but a charade? Was the big Netanyahu-Begin struggle, which filled the papers for weeks on end, nothing
but a cynical "good cop, bad cop" show put up by con man Netanyahu for our benefit? There were a few
peace activists who said so, also at that quiet time a month ago which now seems so distant.
Yet even in the bitter present one can recognise that the Hebron Agreement was indeed a significant change, at
least in Netanyahu's own terms and those of his political milieu -- a change from total unwillingness to concede
anything at all to the Palestinians into a willingness to give them a little bit (though far too little).
A party which traditionally revered each and every square inch of Biblical "Eretz Yisrael" had come to
the conclusion that at least some of these lands must be given up. Moreover, the great majority of Likud members
and voters accepted this abandonment of once-sancrosanct principles with surprising ease, to the chagrin of Begin
and the other diehards. The "not an inch" principle had been quietly dying during the years of the Intifada
and of Oslo, and Netanyahu merely delivered the coup de grace.
Netanyahu's new line took him quite close to the traditional positions of the Labor party, whose leaders ever since
1967 produced various schemes for cutting up the West Bank, annexing considerable parts to Israel while giving
over the remainder to some kind of Arab rule. The mood of ambiguity and uncertainty presently prevalent among most
of the Israeli population certainly owes much to this blurring of political differences.
Netanyhu's plan, announced semi-officially in an interview to Ma'ariv on March 21, is to divide the West Bank more
or less in half between Israel and the Palestinians; the fifty percent given to the Palestinians would lack continuity
and consist of several enclaves cut off from each other and from the outside world by settlements and military
For his part Ehud Barak, the man most likely to suceed Shimon Peres as Labor Party leader, outlined several months
ago an extensive program of annexations, according to which some thirty to forty percent of the West Bank would
be annexed to Israel and the remainder given to the Palestinians. 'The great ideological debate of our generation
has been reduced to a question of ten percent of the West Bank' concluded commentator Ben Kaspit of Ma'ariv. This
summation, however, leaves outside calculation the standpoint of the Palestinians -- for whom the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, territories which in their entirety constitute but 18% of historical Palestine, are but a bare minimum.
The convergence between Likud and Labor positions on the Palestinian issue has made increasingly feasible the option
of a "national unity" government embracing both parties -- all the more since their socio-economic policies
have been practically identical for over a decade (neo-liberalism somewhat tempered by the presence of "populist"
factions in both parties). For Shimon Peres, due to end his tenure as Labor Party leader in June, a portfolio in
a national unity government would offer one last chance of entering the corridors of power. He leads the Labor
faction which supports the idea of entering the government, in order "to free Netanyhu of pressures from the
extreme right"; but the idea is also embraced by many of these same rightwingers -- who understand that such
a cabinet, with a broader political base, would have a stronger position against the Palestinians in the remaining
stages of negotiations.
Ironically, it is the hawkish Barak -- whose basic positions are not too different from those of Netanyahu -- is
steadfastly opposed to "saving a rotten incompetent government which must be brought down."
For his part Yossi Beilin, long considered the most dovish of Labor leaders, now watered down his views in order
to produce a joint document with Likud KM Michael Eitan, clearly intended to serve as the unofficial draft program
for a Likud-Labor government -- and at considerable variance with the promises which Beilin reportedly made to
the Palestinians during the Rabin Government's tenure, of a state comprising some 90% of the West Bank.
From corruption to extremism
For some time, Peres' constant courting of Netanyahu served the Prime Minister well. Rather than actually taking
Labor into his cabinet, Netanyahu used the threat of doing so in order to neutralise the pressures of the extreme
right; and at the same time, he could rely on a rather mild parliamentary opposition. But this delicate balance
was disrupted by a sudden bombshell dropped on the political scene by Ayalah Hasson, star reporter of the Israeli
First Channell TV: a corruption scandal involving some of Netanyahu's senior ministers and advisers, and possibly
The report concerned Netanyahu's recent abortive attempt to have one of his loyal supporters -- a lawyer named
Roni Bar'on -- appointed to the key position of Attorney-General. The Bar'on candidature had foundered under scathing
public criticism -- not only is Bar'on far from a brilliant lawyer, but he was revealed to be involved in large-scale
gambling. At the time there was, however, no suspicion that anything beyond a breach of good taste was involved
in the affair.
Only several weeks later did the TV reporter come across evidence that Bar'on may have promised -- in return for
being appointed -- to help Aryeh Der'i, a prominent religious politician who is undergoing a prolonged corruption
trial and still retains a key position as the unquestioned kingmaker of Israeli politics. As head of the country's
criminal prosecution, Bar'on would have been in a position to suborn the Der'i trial in various ways. In return,
Der'i supposedly promised to have his Shas Party support the Hebron deal. If proven true the affair would constitute,
under Israeli law, a criminal conspiracy carrying heavy penalties for all involved.
The reporter, refusing to disclose her source, could not provide evidence which would stand in court. Nevertheless,
Netanyahu had no choice but to approve the appointment of a Special Police Investigating Team with wide powers.
The affair quickly snowballed, with Justice Minister Hanegbi being subjected to prolonged police interrogation
-- followed by none other than Netanyahu himself, the first Israeli Prime Minister to undergo such humiliation.
In the press, comparisons were frequently made with Watergate and the ignomious end of the Nixon Presidency.
With the downfall of the Netanyahu Govenment suddenly seeming a very concrete possibility, the idea of Labor joining
the cabinet was momentarily shelved, as the party leaders fell into sweet dreams of ousting Netanyahu altogether.
And with the government under constant attack from that direction, an enormously strong bargaining position was
handed to the parliamentary ultra-nationalists, now officially organised in the "Eretz Yisrael Front"
which included no less than seventeen out of the sixty-six Knesset Members on whose support Netanyahu relies.
By joining with the opposition in a vote of no confidence, this group could bring down the government -- and to
show the seriousness of their threat,
they failed to appear at several major legislative votes, handing Labor a string of easy victories on the Knesset
In exchange for restoring their support to the government, the nationalists presented Netanyahu with a long list
of demands for the creation of "facts on the ground" throughout the West Bank: construction of houses
and roads for settlers, and demolition of Palestinian homes declared "illegal"; creation of "territorial
continuity" between various Israeli settlements, and breaking up the continuity between neighboring Palestinian
villages or towns. The main strategic aim of the group was to preserve and consolidate Israeli rule in the "C"
areas, the 70% of the West Bank still under complete Israeli rule, and prevent any more of it being handed over
to the Palestinians.
In fact, the government has already been taking some steps in this direction: new construction was authorised in
some settlements; Palestinian land was confiscated; in other cases, confiscations made on paper in the 1970's and
1980's were now implemented and the land, hitherto still held by Palestinian villagers, was taken over by settlers;
the demolition of Palestinian houses, suspended after "The Tunnel Riots" of September 1996, was resumed;
Beduins, the weakest and most marginalised group within Palestinian society, were altogether evicted from several
points -- the case of the Jahalin being the biggest but not the only one.
These cases of dispossesion, most of them getting no mention in the Israeli or international media, spelled disaster
for the families and communities involved, and spread feelings of anger and frustration throughout the Palestinian
society -- even while, to outside observers, the peace process seemed to prosper. But it all fell far short of
the designs of the settlers and their parliamentary allies, who before the elections expected a Likud governemnt
to embark on an extensive, concerted settlement expansion project.
The nationalist pressure campaign on Netanyahu reached its peak in February, drawing in larger and larger parts
of the fragile ruling coalition. For several weeks, The PM used delaying tactics, again and again making solemn
promises for settlement extention without doing anything to implement them. Netanyahu blamed "bureacratic
red tape" for the delays -- but the sceptical hardliners and settlers guessed that the real reason was Netanyahu's
apprehension of the Israeli opposition and of international pressure.
It was the so-called "Third Way Party", a split-off group of Labor hawks and one of Netanyahu's coalition
partners, which came up with the idea of focusing on projects falling within "Greater Jerusalem". It
was correctly assumed that the Labor Party opposition would find it difficult to oppose such projects, which were
initiated by Labor governments in the first place, and in defence of which the government could cite the magic
word "Jerusalem". The move was enthusiastically endorsed by Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmart, a key Netahyahu
supporter and a man facing a corruption trial of his own (in connection with his handling of funds during his previous
job as Likud treasurer) from which he would like to distract public attention.
Thus was introduced into the center stage of Israeli political life a name which would all too soon gain worldwide
notoriety: Har Homa, the Bastion Mountain.
One hill too far
Activists of the Israeli peace movement have known for many years the name Har Homa, as a distant threat hanging
on the horizon. It came up occasionally in meetings with Palestinians, during international conferences, and especially
at the annual proccessions of Israelis and Palestinians held each December in the town of Beit Sahour. We have
always known that this struggle, if and when it came, would be a major one. But most members of the general public
were not at all aware of the issue. (Indeed, even now -- with the name conspicious in every news broadcast -- many
inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem itself hardly know where the place is).
Until 1967, nobody considered Jebl Abu Ghneim -- the name of this Arab hill -- to be part of Jerusalem. It was
just a hill located between the town of Beit Sahour and the villages of Umm Tuba and Sur Baher, on top of which
the Jordanian army established a (not particularly important) outpost. Then came the war of 1967, and the victorious
state of Israel extended the boundaries of Jerusalem enormously in all directions, and declared all of the territory
taken in to be part of the sancrosanct "United Jerusalem, Indivisable Capital of Israel". Jebl Abu Ghneim
was engulfed, together with the villages of Umm Tuba and Sur Baher; the new Jerusalem municipal boundary -- which
serves also as the dividing line between 'annexed territory under Israeli law' and 'occupied territory under military
law and administration' -- was drawn just south of Abu Ghneim, seperating the landowners in Beit Sahour to the
south from their property on the slopes of the hill.
The 1970's and early 1980's saw a concerted move to establish a solid Jewish presence in the new "parts of
Jerusalem". Great blocks of land were confiscated "for public purposes". Under Israeli law, "public
purposes" are whatever the government defines them to be; in this case, "public purposes" meant
constructing tens of thousands of houses for Israeli Jews, and not a single one for the original Palestinian inhabitants.
Thus, a wide ring of Jewish "new neighborhoods" was established, seperating the Arab neighborhoods of
East Jerusalem from the adjacant Palestinian towns of the West Bank.
But to the south, a single link was missing from this chain: at Jebl Abu Ghneim. Even in the 1970's, the government
planners had not overlooked this site; the Palestinian landowners were forbidden to construct anything on their
lands, under the pretext of keeping the wooded hill "green". At that time, then Defence Minister Moshe
Dayan vetoed any further moves; construction on the site might have hindered plans which Dayan had -- to cultivate
the Christian population of Beit Sahour and its neighbor Bethlehem, and play them off against the Muslims.
But Dayan fell from power, and the gambit of
sowing divisions between Christians and Muslims with him and, in the 1980s, the planners started giving serious
attention to this overlooked hill.
Land ownership on the hill was found to be divided into three categories. A big part consisted of several dozen
plots owned by Palestinian families from Beit Sahour and Umm Tuba; a second part had been purchased in 1970 by
the Israeli building contractor David Myr, in a rather shady deal (the Palestinians who supposedly sold him the
land went immediately afterwards to the United states and disappeared); still a third part of Jebl Abu Ghneim was
recorded as having been owned by the Jewish National Fund before the Jordanian army conquered the area in 1948,
and the courts ruled this ownership to be still valid (Palestinian ownership of lands which were conquered by the
Israeli army in 1948 is invariably denied).
Both the Palestinian plots and the one in possession of David Myr were confiscated "for public purposes",
thus giving the government legal possession of the entire hill (JNF lands are automatically administered by the
government). Plans were drawn up to establish on the spot a large Jewish neighborhood; from the big number of synagogues
and other religious institutions provided for in these plans, the new neighborhood seems to be mainly intended
for ultra-Orthodox inhabitants, though this was never openly stated.
Much of this took place under the aegis of Labor governments and in the municipal administration presided over
by the affable Teddy Kollek, who continued to enjoy the international reputation of being a liberal and a moderate.
By the time the Har Homa plans were drawn up, the Intifada was already in full swing. The inhabitants of Beit Sahour,
who had impressed the world with their persistent refusal to pay Israeli taxes, alerted their contacts in the Israeli
peace movement to the impending settlement plans for Jebl Abu Ghneim. First to be involved was the Rapprochement
group, which is in constant contact with the Beit Sahurians, then Gush Shalom and Peace Now.
It was the Ir Shalem association, linked to Peace Now, which took up the struggle on the judicial level. For years
its lawyer Danny Seidmann, representing the Palestinian landowners, managed to postpone the project, skilfully
opposing each step of the building plans' approval through the zoning committees' apparatus. He managed to get
several injunctions from the Supreme Court on procedural grounds (the planners, in their haste to get the plans
approved, cut quite a few corners). A parallel judicial struggle was waged by the dispossesed Israeli contractor
David Myr, who asked for all the confiscations to be cancelled and for both himself and the Palestinian landowners
to be allowed to build on their respective plots. Ir Shalem and the Palestinian land owners cautiously accepted
him as "a tactical partner".
All the appeals were ultimately rejected, but they and the public campaign associated with them succeeded in halting
the project for several years, and in making it politically controversial as no similar project in "Greater
Jerusalem" had been before.
In all the appeals, the Supreme Court refused to deal directly with the principal issue raised by Adv. Seidman:
Is it acceptable, by basic democratic norms, to confiscate lands "for public purposes" from persons belonging
to one ethnic group and then use the land to construct housing intended exclusively for members of another ethnicity?
Seeds of war
The Jerusalem-based Alternative Information Center is distributing Marty Rosenbluth's 20-minute video film Seeds
of War in Jerusalem.
The video illustrates the settlement policy in general, and in particular the strategic plan of encircling Palestinian
East Jerusalem, with its devastating effects on the Palestinian community development. It shows the wooded AbuGhneim
hill in its unspoiled state before the coming of the bulldozers, and the ruins of ancient Christian churches on
its top -- ignored by the settlement planners. The history of the 'Har Homa' project is documented in detail: the
struggle waged for years by the Palestinian landowners and their communities, supported by Israeli peace and human
rights activists -- including footage of the dramatic session of the Jerusalem City Council in which Mayor Ehud
Olmart ruthlessly rushed the Har Homa Project through, ignoring all opposition.
PAL-VHS cassettes -- AIC, POB 31417, J'lem ($15 or equivalent);
NTSC-PAL copies -- Marty Rosenbluth (US)1-919-732-5864.
Going seriously into this could have led the court to conclusions with fundamental consequences, not only with
regard to Har Homa but concerning the land policies enacted throughout Israel by all governments since 1948. Instead,
the judges dropped the hot potato by proclaiming the issue of the future Har Homa inhabitants to be "still
hypothetical" and offering to the appellants an option of "appealing again, after the plan gained ministerial
approval" -- an option which was, in the event, to prove illusory.
By mid-1996 all legal hurdles were removed, and work on the project could have started -- but the public campaign,
though not very intensive, was enough to make both Rabin and Peres cautious, particularly after having experienced
the Jerusalem land confiscations fiasco in 1995. Thus, they prefered to let the Har Homa project hang in limbo,
without the Interior Minister's signature which is legally required before work on the ground could begin.
Netanyahu, during his first months in power, did not seem eager to change the status quo regarding the Har Homa
Project. At the end of 1996, a senior official at the Housing Ministry told to Kol Ha'Ir weekly: "We have
made all the technical preparations, but it is in vain. The Har Homa Plan is dead. Netanyahu does not want to touch
it, he is even more apprehensive than the Laborites".
Was it all a charade, just designed to lull us into letting down our guard? Looking back on the past weeks, as
this crisis was inexorably building up, it still
does not seem so. In the early weeks, Netanyahu seemed ill at ease: trying to buy time, delaying the crucial cabinet
meetings, talking about a symbolic Har Homa decision without a timetable, offering the hardliners other concessions
such as the "settlement linkage" between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim to the east -- potentially much
bigger and far more devastating to Palestinians then Har Homa, but with an implementation date far in the future.
Also, it seemed quite obvious that Netanyahu would have liked the Supreme Court to get him off the hook and issue
an injunction which would prevent work on Har Homa from actually starting -- but the judges seemed to have no desire
to pull the Prime Minister's chestnuts out of the fire.
On the other hand, several press items published in January, based on semi-official leaks to well-connected newspaper
commentators, mentioned Netanyahu as having told his aides that a major confrontation with the Palestinian Authority
was likely to erupt sooner or later. But it seems that he did not expect it so soon; in those newspaper articles
it was expectated that 1997 would pass more or less smoothly in Israel's relations with the Palestinians, that
the momentum of the Hebron Agreement would last at least that much.
Last minute appeal
Stop the bulldozers!
The above single sentence was made by Gush Shalom into the text of a petition, published on March 17 as a paid
ad in Ha'aretz. On this first appearance it bore the signatures of 350 prominent Israelis of all walks of life,
among them internationally known writers such as Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman and Yehoshua Sobol (see
sep. article). Two more ads, with an additional 500 names, appeared on March 19 and 26. A fourth ad with a thousand
signatures is due to be published on the day of the Netanyahu-Clinton summit.
A campaign was launched for funds to publish such ads in the more expensive mass circulation papers.
Contributions to: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
The next crisis was not expected before mid-1998, the scheduled time for the third and last West Bank redeployment
which -- as all commentators agreed -- could not pass without trouble, given the great gap between what Netanyahu
intended to offer and what the Palestinians expected to get. Meanwhile, 1997 was expected to be, in the first place,
a year of negotiations on the Syrian track.
The logical conclusion seems to be that the timing of the crisis was not chosen by Netanyahu but by his hardcore
rebels, who wanted to derail the process before any more territory gets into Palestinian hands. And at some moment
in the past weeks Netanyahu had apparently come to the decision to brazen it out, right here and now, and resolve
his domestic crisis by creating an external one.
Possibly it happened on his visit to Russia, at which he by chance witnessed Yeltsin flexing his muscles and firing
his entire cabinet. When Netanyahu went to Moscow, there was still much talk of delaying the start of work on Har
Homa by some technical or legalistic pretext; when he came back he stated right in the airport "If we give
in on this we have lost the Battle of Jerusalem" -- burning the bridges behind him.
Certainly, the right wing was correct in its estimate that the Labor Party opposition would fare badly in this
crisis, being torn right down the middle and taking agonising weeks before they came to the conclusion of voting
against the government in the Knesset debate on Har Homa. The zigzagging Labor position was finally worked out
into an unconvincing formula: "It is Israel's right to build anywhere in United Jerusalem, but this is the
wrong timing". It was easy for Netanyahu to comment that "if 'right timing' means a time when the Arabs
would consent, then it will never be."
Adding insult to injury
President Clinton of the United States has much to answer for. Certainly, he did not want this crisis -- but he
also did not exert all his power to prevent it. On the contrary, the U.S. mobilised its U.N. veto power on behalf
of Netanyahu, and the President could only repeat again and again the impotent words: "I wish Netanyahu had
not taken that decision" -- as if the whims of the Prime Minister of a small Middle East country and those
of a hardliner nationalist faction in that country were a law of nature which the world's single remaining superpower
was powerless to change. Was it the lukewarm attitude of the Labor Party which paralysed the President of the United
States? At that time, Ha'aretz reported Netanyahu as telling Clinton of his sincere wish to continue the peace
process, but asking for his "understanding" that "some concessions have to be made in order to appease
Instead of blocking Har Homa, the U.S. bent its ingenuity in attempts to devise some "fitting compensation"
which Arafat might be expected to accept. At his Washington visit in the first week of March, the Palestinian leader
was received with great warmth and an outward show of cordiality, getting the reception of a de-facto head of state
and having the Palestinian Authority's relations with Washington conspiciously upgraded -- but denied any concrete
help with regard to Netanyahu's settlement plans.
The first stage of redeployment, on the scheduled day of March 7, was supposed to do the trick. Netanyahu promised
the Americans to be "generous"; he trumpeted the fact that he was going to give the Palestinians ten
percent of the West Bank; the supposed enormity of the act was underlined by the outcry of the hardliners, and
by Netanyahu's highly publicised struggle to get the redeployment approved in the cabinet (by ten votes to seven).
It did seem to impress the general Israeli public, including many supporters of the peace movement. Surely, after
such magnanimity the Palestinians would not make too much trouble over that little hill in Jerusalem, right?
Wrong. Very wrong. The Palestinians were not even tempted. In fact, they were very angry and insulted by the offer.
The Palestinians noticed what the Israeli press overlooked -- that most of the territory Netanyahu offered them
was already in their hands: they were parts of the "B" area, which is under Palestinian Authority control.
True, in such areas the Israeli Army reserves the privilege of making occasional raids, a privilege greatly resented
by the Palestinians, and which Netanyahu was now ready to give up. Neverhtheless, this could in no way compensate
for the fact that Netanyahu offered a mere 2% of the "C" area which is still under total Israeli occupation.
At present, "C" includes some 70% of the entire West Bank; simple arithmetic clearly indicates that a
government which gives up only 2% of this territory in the first of three scheduled redeployments probably has
no intention of ever disgorging the bulk of it.
The decision to go ahead with the Har Homa project, the meagre size of the proposed redeployment and the fact that
both decisions were taken unilaterally by Israel all added up to one forceful conclusion: Netanyahu had no intention
of giving the Palestinians something coming even close to their most minimal demands.
The arrogant manner of the Israeli negotiators, coming not to negotiate but to "inform" the Palestinians
of the decisions taken unilaterally and unalterably by the Israeli cabinet, was infuriating -- leading the chief
Palestinian negotiator Abu-Mazen, known for his moderation, to resign and refuse to participate in any further
meeting. And for good measure, Netanyhu had his Police Minister, Kahalani, issue orders for the closing of four
Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem. (These orders were later suspended and not implemented; Netanyahu might,
indeed, have issued them just so as to be able to make a small concession.)
The refrain of the Gush Shalom petitions was taken up by Peace Now in its own ads (several papers on March 20/21
-- here reprinted from Jerusalem Post).
Stop the bulldozers!
* They threaten the fragile peace.
* They endanger our security.
* They build for one sector of Jerusalem's population
at the expanse of the other.
Join us in a demonstration near Har Homa.
Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297
(Description of the demonstration in separate article.)
With the Palestinians rejecting scornfully Netanyahu's meager offer for redeployment, the idea of offering the
Palestinans concessions in return for aquiescence in Har Homa was nearly killed; nevertheless, the Americans tried
to put together a "package of confidence-building measures" which they still hoped might do the trick.
These included opening the Palestinian International Airport and Sea Port in Gaza and allowing "safe passage"
for Palestinians between The West Bank and Gaza Strip -- all of them matters of great importance which were already
promised to the Palestinians in Oslo, but which Arafat could not possibly accept in return for what amounted to
endorsement of Israeli settlement activities.
The Palestinians were even less impressed by Netanyahu's offer to "counterbalance" Har Homa by permitting
3,000 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem to build houses on their own land, a permission which was hitherto
denied and which even now Netanyahu promised to grant "within the coming years".
Countdown to B-Day
Israeli administrative law mandates that two weeks must pass between the Interior Minister's signature on a construction
project and the moment when work on the ground may actually begin. The circumstances of the Har Homa affair transformed
this administrative waiting period of two weeks into something very similar to an ultimatum preceding war.
As "Bulldozer Day" drew nearer, Palestinian leaders -- including many of the most well-known moderates
-- sharpened their tone, as did Netanyahu and his ministers. Justice Minister Hanegbi openly threatened that "Arafat
and his wife might soon be refugees again". (Hanegbi made the threat in a period when he was undergoing repeated
police interrogation. He might just have sought public attention for something else than the ongoing corruption
At the same time, a fast reconciliation was taking place between Arafat and the Palestinian opposition, both Islamic
and Nationalistic, forming joint plans for mass protests against Har Homa. Some 150 Hamas prisoners were freed
from the PA jails -- including some members of the organization's military wing -- with Arafat waving aside the
Meanwhile, the Palestinians were scoring successes on the international diplomatic and media fronts. As far as
public relations were conserned, Arafat's visit to the U.S. seemed "a victory procession", as alarmed
Israeli diplomats wrote to the Foreign Ministry, also complaining that the American media was more than ever receptive
to the Palestinian case. Articles and news items showing sympathy to Netanyahu were so rare that the Foreign Ministry's
monitoring service made special notice of each.
At the U.N. Security Council, the United States cast its veto vote, alone against all other fourteen members --
lamely explaining that, though it too was against Har Homa, Washington did not regard the U.N. as being "the
proper forum". Thereupon, the issue went into the General Assembly where there are no vetos, and the resolution
was passed by an overwhelming vote of 130 nations against two (Israel and the U.S) -- and with members of the European
Union conspicious in their denounciation.
The United Nations Organization has never been very popular in Israel, and Israeli governments have a long record
of ignoring its resolutions and engaging in a bit of UN bashing to gain domestic popularity. Nevertheless, Israel
has not experienced such international isolation for many years, and since the
peace process started many Israelis had begun to hope it will never occur again. Moreover, a country so universally
condemned does not become more attractive to foreign investment; the Wall Street brokers and entrepreneurs, who
were very favorably impressed by Netanyahu during his first visit to the U.S., expressed growing misgivings about
the idea of investing in Israel (Yediot Aharonot, March 21).
To give the Palestinians some compensation for its U.N. veto, Washington sent a representative to the "Last
Minute International Conference" convened by Arafat in Gaza. The step was taken in spite of sharp protests
by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which attempted to mobilise AIPAC, the Israeli Lobby on Capitol Hill -- with,
to say the least, mixed results: AIPAC managed to obtain no more than twenty senatorial signatures on a letter
supporting Netanyahu, a record low for a lobby which for many years used to have sixty to seventy U.S. Senators
practically at its beck and call.
'God Save Us!'
The Har Homa issue divided the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Jerusalem. The internationally-controversial
housing is earmarked for members of this community, with its high birth-rate, and the actual work is carried out
by the Housing Ministry which in the present cabinet is controlled by Agudat Yisrael, one of the main Haredi parties.
However, Rabbi Yishchar Dov Rokach -- charismatic leader of the Belzer Hassidim -- made an impassioned last-moment
appeal to Netanyahu to desist from sending the bulldozers.
Another dissenting Haredi voice which is the following text which appeared in a poster, extensively glued to walls
in the ultra-Orthdox north Jerusalem neighborhoods and signed by "Ha'edah Ha'haredit" (Community of Those
Who Fear God), here translated from Kol Ha'ir, March 21.
The authorities have again raised their heads in pride, to plunge the community in danger and provoke the nations
and arouse the flames of hatred against the inhabitants of the country, by declaring to build in Har Homa and placing
in danger us and our children and our babies, G-d forbid. And also the representatives of Agudat Yisrael have banded
together with them, and declared themselves to have a share in the treachery and they uphold the building plans
to place a sword in their hands.
We cry out against the conspirators and their helpers.
Our G-d will defend the wall of our Holy Torah. Let it not be broken and defiled in the streets!
And what have we, the Israeli peace movement, done during these critical weeks of growing tensions? Certainly many
of us made enormous efforts, spent sleepless nights in organising protest actions -- but the result was wholly
inadequate to the need of such a crucial time.
It began well enough, with dozens of activists arriving to various preperatory actions by Gush Shalom and Meretz,
at the very beginning of the crisis; this should have been the spark which would start much bigger actions -- only
this time, the spark did not catch.
Gush Shalom did succeed to let hundreds of well-known Israelis sign a last minute appeal to stop the bulldozers,
published as paid ad. But when Peace Now tried to mobilise a wider circle, they did not succeed to bring to the
streets the thousands or tens of thousands who should have been there in such a situation, as the Palestinians
had a right to expect of us at such a time.
Why did so many people who on other occasions turned up stay home this time? It seems that the Jerusalem taboo,
though considerably weakened, still has the power te prevent people from being actively involved. 'This Har Homa
is stupid but what does it matter, a bare hill on which nobody lives. The Palestinians are going to have their
state anyhow.' All in all, the Israeli peace movement remained largely demobilised at a very critical turning point
-- a failure on which we will long have to ponder.
A few days before the bulldozer deadline expired, the center of diplomatic activity shifted to Jordan -- whose
King Hussein has maintained semi-official relations with Israel many years before peace was officially signed,
and is the only Arab leader who is popular among the general Israeli population. The unprecedented sharp letter
sent by the King to Netanyahu, and the PM's equally sharp rebuttal quickly found their way to the newspaper headlines
-- bringing Israeli-Jordanian relations to one of their lowest points ever.
On the following day, a Jordanian soldier who was later said to be mentally deranged went on a shooting spree and
shot to death seven Israeli school girls -- the first blood shed over Har Homa. By a cruel irony, the tragedy occurred
on a small island in the Jordan River which in more optimistic days had been named "The Island of Peace."
And on the day following that, the Israeli cabinet met and adopted unanimously a resolution to start work on Har
Homa within a week, disregarding the dire predictions presented to them by the security services.
The Jordanian assailant had been apprehended and imprisoned by fellow soldiers. This was far from enough for King
Hussein; determined to wipe what he regarded as a stain on his kingdom's honor, he personally arrived in Israel
and visited in person the homes of all the seven mourning families.
Casting aside his royal dignity, he knelt down to speak with the grieving familiy members, who were sitting on
the floor in accordance with traditional Jewish mourning customs. The king's dramatic gesture, broadcast on Israeli
as well as Jordanian TV, was highly appreciated by Israelis -- but critised by many of his own subjects and even
more by the Palestinians, who pointed out that no Israeli leader ever did something remotely similar, on any of
the occasions when Palestinian civilians were killed by members of the Israeli armed forces.
The king's visit certainly had more purposes than
just condolences. With his magnanimous gesture, which certainly no other Arab leader could or would have made,
he hoped to be able to gain from Netanyahu a counter gesture -- one large enough to appease the Palestinian anger
and bring the peace process back on track.
Watching the king's smiling, confident face on TV that Sunday night, many of us thought he had gotten something
substantial from Netanyahu. As it turned out, he thought he did -- in their private conversation, the prime Minister
seemed to promise that Har Homa would be the very last settlement project undertaken by Israel.
That idea did interest Arafat, to whom it was conveyed on the following morning. But Netanyahu's bureau quickly
denied that any such promise was ever made, and instead offered to the Palestinians the same pathetic "package
of confidence-building measures" as before. As a kind of special favor, the right of landing in the already-completed
Gaza International Airport was granted to Arafat's personal airplane, but to nobody else. Such a ludicrous small
bribe amounted to an additional insult; on that night, contacts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were
officially severed by the Palestinians.
The Contractor's Plea
On March 28, the Israeli contractor David Myr, whose lands on Abu Ghneim were confiscated together with those of
the Palestinians, placed large ads in Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Post. Under the title 'Har Homa -- a Last Minute Plea
to the Prime Minister,' he meticulously set out a long list of objections to the government's Har Homa Project,
on all possible grounds: moral (the expropriation is contary to Jewish ethics, as exempified in the Biblical story
of the evil King Ahab who stole Naboth's Vineyard); political (Israel's growing international isolation and the
grave damage to relations with the Arab World); military (the danger of riots and terrorism, and the need to tie
up 2,000 troops permanently guarding the site); economic (private land is confiscated from its owners and 'nationalised'
by a government which claims to be a champion of privatization and free enterprise); ecological (according to the
plan, sewage produced by the neighborhood's intended population of 35,000 will be pumped 25 m up by three pumps,
one of which will be located in the school and kindergarten area); and procedural (agreements were signed with
architects, engineers, surveyors and an earth-work contractor, without publishing public tenders).
The ad concludes with the question: Why didn't any minister check what would happen if the owners -- Jewish and
Arab -- get back their land and the right to build on it, with the accord of the Palestinians and in line with
Contact: David Myr, Makor Ltd., 32 Yehuda St., J'lem 93467, fax 972-2-6734859, internet www.harhoma.com.
On the following day -- Tuesday, March 18 -- Netanyahu seemed to have some final doubts. He called several meetings
with advisers and security experts, and the radio teemed with contradicting rumors about whether or not the bulldozers
would indeed start. Sometime by mid-day he had finally made up his mind; around 2.30 P.M., the bulldozers started
work on Har Homa -- the only building project in the world to have live coverage by several dozen TV camers.
We have visualised this moment years ago, with Har Homa always a looming threat in the uncertain future; always,
with fine dramatic flourish, we imagined Israelis and Palestinians lying down together to block the bulldozers'
way. Nothing of the kind was remotely possible; the whole area, kilometres around the working site in all directions,
was guarded by a thick cordon of police and army; there must have at least 2,000 of them massed around this little
A bit off this cordoned area was the tent camp established by the Palestinians; there was a protest march of Palestinians
and some Israelis, among them Uri and Rachel Avnery, in the direction of the bulldozers, a scuffle when it encountered
the cordon, some people thrown into the mud -- and the Palestinian leaders firmly forbade any closer confrontation,
forbade the youngsters to pick up stones and returned to the tent to register a frustrated protest to the waiting
For those who were there, or those who watched it on TV, or those who participated in the small Hadash vigil outside
the Defence Ministry and endured unusually hostile reactions from by-passers, it was a bleak and bitter day --
like the day after the last elections, or the deportations in December 1992, or the invasion of Lebanon in June
There was no immediate repetition of the armed confrontations which followed The Tunnel in September 1996. On the
next morning, the newspapers reported only a few scattered Palestinian protests, and Israeli newspaper commentators
claimed, with typical arrogance, that "the Palestinians had tacitly accepted Har Homa".
Peace Now supporters showed even less inclination than before to join the protests still planned for the coming
days. The right wing was exultant, with the settlers choosing this day to fulfill a long-planned design -- to occupy
five more houses in the heart of East Jerusalem's Silwan Village.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in high spirits, asked his helicopter pilot to hover for several minutes over Har Homa
so that he could watch the bulldozers at work. And he was not quite joking when later on the same day he told CNN:
"Israel is the only real superpower, you know, we are the only ones who can defy te whole world and win".
Netanyau's euphoria lasted about forty-eight hours; it ended when the suicide bomber exploded himself in Tel-Aviv's
Apropos Cafe, taking three young Israeli women with him.
The Apropos building is part of my childhood scene, very near to the apartment where my parents still live. As
a child I played in the boulevard in front of it, and passed it countless times on my way to school. I know many
people who go on Friday
afternoon to Apropos to meet friends, most of them a kind of intellectuals, yuppies with atleast a general inclination
towards the peace movement. I could have been there myself, had I not been demonstrating at that time in Har Homa.
It was a terrible murder of three totally innocent women in the prime of life. And still, I cannot really blame
the Palestinians who had condemned past terrorist attacks and failed to condemn this one. I cannot even blame the
Palestinian Legislative Council for adopting by acclamation a resolution offering condolences to the suicide bomber's
family, while ignoring the families of his victims.
The preordained crime
+++ The statement, issued by Gush Shalom in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, was taken up in the opinion
pages of several weekly papers.
Today's murderous terrorist attack in Tel-Aviv was a preordained crime. This tragedy is a direct result of the
government's provocative and unilateral action in Har Homa. After the clear warnings made by the security services
of the State of Israel and ignored by the governemnt, nobody can pretend to be surprised by the terrible result.
The Netanyahu Government seems determined to destroy the peace process, for which purpose it is willing even to
harm the personal security of its citizens. Nothing can justify a brutal and undiscriminating act of murder, such
as was perpetrated today in Tel-Aviv - but those who woke the monster of terrorism from its slumber cannot claim
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
+++¢ The following was prominently published on March 28 in Davar Lashalom ('A Word of Peace'), the magazine
published by The Peace Guards and disributed to participants in the weekly gatherings near the Rabin Memorial in
Seventeen ministers sat in the cabinet meeting, two weeks ago. Seventeen ministers heard the Director of the Shabak
warn about the moment when the bulldozers go on the slopes of Har Homa, warn that at that moment riots and confrontations
would break out, that we will face a wave of terrorism inside the cities of Israel. Seventeen ministers listened,
heard every word, every warning - and decided unanimously to send in the bulldozers, decided unanimously to pass
a sentence of death on three Tel-Aviv women.
Where have they been on that evening: Yael Gil'ad, Anat Rosen and Michal Avrahami? Did they spend a quiet evening
with their families? Did they watch the evening news on TV? Did they realise that that cabinet meeting had passed
on them a sentence of death, which would be carried out a week later in the Apropos Cafe?
And on who else was passed a sentence of death in that same cabinet meeting? How many of us are at this moment
going around, alive and well, without knowing that they, too, are destined to die for Har Homa?
Peace Guards c/o Rosenblatt, 7 Bilu St., Kfar Saba.
The Tel-Aviv bombing did not leave the government with many options for action. They of course imposed a closure
on the territories, again depriving Palestinian workers of their livelihood -- the automatic, knee-jerk response.
They declared the talks with the Palestinians suspended -- forgetting that the Palestinians already suspended them
on the day the bulldozers went in; they suspended the act of handing the Palestinians the lands promised in the
"further redeployment" -- forgetting that the Palestinians already refused to accept that small pittance.
They started a systematic campaign to accuse Arafat of having "given a green light to terrorism" and
an acrimonious debate with the Americans, who were far more cautious about accusing the Palestinian leader. And
for all the accusations of Arafat, they made shrill demands that he help out against the same terrorists to whom
he supposedly gave that infamous "green light".
Meanwhile, the popular Palestinian protests against Har Homa mounted, giving the final lie to that "tacit
consent" and amounting to a new Intifada. A new kind of Intifada, at the all too numerous confrontation lines
strewn throughout the West Bank: the dividing line bisecting the long-suffering city of Hebron, Rachel's Tomb left
as a fortified Israeli enclave in the middle of Bethlehem, the military roadblock at the southern approaches of
Ramallah (where the bloody confrontations of last September started). At these, and many other spots, daily confrontations
became the rule -- confrontations between stone-throwing Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers, which on TV looked
nearly indistinguishable from the visions of 1987-1991.
Yet there were significant differences. For one, this time, unlike in the original Intifada, the Israeli soldiers
made a considerable -- and mostly succesful -- effort not to kill anybody; they were strickly enjoined to use tear
gas and rubber bullets, and reserve live ammunition for "real emergencies". This was clearly the army's
lesson from last September; it is far too dangerous to shoot and kill unarmed demonstrators, when just behind them
are Palestinian police who might, under pressure, start shooting back...
As long as the soldiers did not shoot to kill but merely to wound, the Palestinian Police were willing to play
their part, and from time to time stop the enthusiastic youths -- stop them, but always partially, always letting
some new confrontation break through and provide fresh "Intifada footage" for CNN. Already for more than
a week, Palestinian Security Chief Jibril Rajub plays a fine game of brinkmanship, keeping tensions alive and yet
preventing a total explosion. And meanwhile Arafat went on a long world tour, mobilising Islamic and Arab diplomacy
on behalf of the Palestinian cause and letting Israelis and Americans implore him to come back and take things
Meanwhile, the daily cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services, on which the former had
become increasingly dependant as a shield against Hamas terrorism, has been suspended
as long as bulldozers work on Har Homa -- possibly the sharpest sanction against Israel which the Palestinians
could find in their arsenal.
So far have we come. This is being written in the night of March 29 - the day on which a Palestinian demonstrator
was, for the first time in "The New Intifada", killed by Israeli soldiers; the day on which U.S. mediator
Dennis Ross arrived and reportedly tried to reconcile the Netanyahu's demand for "an end to terrorism and
violence" with the Palestinian definition which includes bulldozers among the most agressive forms of violence;
one day before "Land Day", when widespread demonstrations are expected by both Palestinians in the Territories
and their compatriots who are Israeli citizens...
Tel Aviv, 29.3.97
To Netanyahu's chagrin, the linkage between terrorism and bulldozers has become well established -- in the international
public opinion as well as in a significnt part of the Israeli one. (Just yesterday, the writer S. Yizhar, 'The
Conscience of Israel', published in Yediot Ahronot an article entitled: Har Homa is Terrorism, too!.) Netanyahu
seems likely to meet the same linkage between settlements and terrorism in his encounter with President Clinton
later today. Will the Americans this time put real pressure on our Prime Minister? So many times since 1967 did
we ask ourselves this question, with so many presidents and so many prime ministers, and the answer turned out
to be 'no' far more often than 'yes'. Will Clinton break the pattern, this time? And if not him, will the Europeans
dare, for once, to use their economic leverage?
In a confrontation with the White House, if any, Netanyahu can no longer rely with certainty on the support of
the organised American Jewish Community. In the middle of the Har Homa crisis, the PM yielded to his Orthodox coalition
partners and rammed through the Knesset a bill giving their rabbis a monopoly on conversions to Judaism. The Reformed
and Conservative communities, which form the majority of U.S. Jewry, came up in arms -- which might make them less
than eager to engage in lobbying on behalf of an Israeli government with whose policies they already for a long
time can hardly identify.
In the meantime, the situation on the ground seems to settle into the routine of a war of attrition.
The army had been prepared for a resumption of direct armed confrontations between its troops and the Palestinian
Police, and made detailed plans to use its full force and avenge the humiliations of last Septmber.
The Palestinians have so far given no pretext -- opting instead for the far more diffuse and elusive struggle of
stone-throwers, which they could maintain for years on end. After all, they already did it once, and a new generation
of Palestinians -- little kids during the first Intifada -- seem eager to pick up the torch, or rather: the stone.
Israeli tanks were placed in the entrances to Palestinian cities -- but the Palestinians, expert at making Molotov
Cocktails and reputed to possess secret stockpiles of anti-tank missiles, refuse to be intimidated. And on international
TV screens, the Israeli tanks and bulldozers, with their equally heavy threads cutting the earth, once more display
the ugly image of the Israeli Goliath...
A war of attrition it is, with many fronts -- on the hills of the West Bank; in the halls of diplomatic conferences
(the Arab foreign ministers threatening to end all normalisation with Israel); even in the board rooms of major
companies (two directors of Israel's biggest concerns, Benny Ga'on of 'Koor' and Aharon Dovrat of 'Klal', made
dire predictions on the economy and the peace process, linking the two...).
In the short term, it is Israel which wields the most effective economic whip -- the closure. The Palestinian population
faces the specter of hunger, or of life at a bare subsistance level -- which can but increase the militancy of
desperate youths. But meanwhile, among Israelis there is an atmosphere of confusion and fear, as long as the Palestinian
Security Services remain 'on strike'. 'Our security cooperation with Israel was buried under the bulldozers', was
how Palestinian Security Chief Jibril Rajoub put it in one of his many interviews on Israeli TV
It is not the best of times for mass peace activity. Yet at last we had a peace rally in Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square
-- initiated by Dor Shalom, the organization which we had more or or less given up after it started to put all
its energy only in 'dialogue' with the most extreme settlers and in organising such activities as 'a salute to
the army' (after the February helicopter crash in which 73 soldiers got killed).
The April 5 rally was badly organised, and far smaller than the rallies at the same square in the past -- and still,
it was heart-warming to come home and see it on TV screens and newspaper front pages, rank behind rank of youths
with the green signs A whole Generation demands Peace!.
There is no way of knowing how long this war of attrition will last. And in such a war, the Palestinians -- a people
united in a struggle for bare survival -- have a better chance than Netanyahu, a Prime Minister who led his divided
country into a struggle which it does not really believe in. (The Labor Party chose this moment to come out dramatically
in favor of a Palestinian state -- albeit 'with a limited sovreignty'; polls indicate a majority of the Israeli
Jewish population concurring.)
Weighing all of these factors together, one finds still reasons for hope in the long run. But the whole setup does
not bode well for the immediate future. And then we come up with a jerk, remembering that not so long ago we hoped
to be within handreach of an end to the times of confrontation and conflict, that we expected the rest of the road
to peace between Israel and Palestine to be traversed under somewhat more civilized conditions. That was not to
We can only grit our teeth and do our best, in the days ahead.
Save the peace!
Text of ad published on April 2 and 3 in all papers:
It is as plain and simple as that: Where there is no peace, there will be war. A whole generation refuses to accept
this. A whole generation will not allow anybody to bury the peace process. We have no other process, we have no
other peace, we have no other future. We must go back to the road of peace, to the road of Yithzhak Rabin.
Come to the rally
Do all in your power to save the peace
Dor Shalom, POB 23090, Tel-Aviv -- ph:972-3-5755454
No easy way forward
The following was written down on February 26, by Beate Zilversmidt after talking with inhabitants of Tulkarm during
a demonstration organized at the West Bank town and in which a Gush Shalom delegation participated. The town, which
has become part of 'free Palestine' (A-area), was facing the confiscation of its fields which are still under Israeli
rule, and on which an Israeli company got a concession from the government to dig a stone quarry.
The people of Tulkarm seemed more grim and somber than ever before. It all had become such a disappointment. Okay,
Israeli soldiers stopped roaming the streets of Tulkarm, but near the town they still stood, denying the Palestinian
workers access to Israel; business people couldn't do business anymore; and now on top of it this land robbery.
Politically things went wrong, and private affairs weren't doing any better, without expectations of getting better
soon. The people had no doubts about it: Netanyahu just doesn't mean well by the Palestinians. The Israeli side
makes small concessions every now and then, only to use them as a smokescreen for its intensified expansion policy.
The fact that the majority of Israelis voted for Netanyahu in spite of the peace proces is leaving the Palestinians
with bitter feelings: Netanyahu does not even understand what the word peace means; he seems only to understand
the language of violence. Oh, for sure the Palestinians would teach him another lesson, but they are so fed up
with it all and it had looked as if these kind of things already belonged to the past.
Speaking with the people of Tulkarm worked as an eye-opener for the Israelis present. In their weekly meetings
they had been engaged in a debate on whether it was not better, after all, to keep the Netanyahu government and
have concessions be squeezed out of it. There is an advantage, from the point of view of the peace movement: when
the concessions are made by a right-wing government they meet less resistance.
The easy way for the peace movement, however, leaves it all to the willingness of the Palestinians to fight and
sacrifice for their cause. The faces of those people in Tulkarm, on which no smiles broke through: these people
realised that their peaceminded visitors represented a movement which had failed to bring about a real change among
their own people -- and that the tenacious struggle for every step forward would continue to cost Palestinian lives.
A long caravan of cars went to the site, each of them waving a Palestinian flag, with members of all layers of
the Tulkarm society and representatives of the Palestinian Authority. On this particular day, there were no digging
works and the army did let go. There was a rally on the hillside with a big rock serving as an improvised podium,
from which all Palestinian factions expressed their united protest. On behalf of Gush Shalom spoke Adam Keller,
who did receive a warm applause when he mentioned the Israeli soldiers/reservists who refuse to serve the occupation
and prefer to go to jail.
Diary of the struggle
Everybody knew that a major crisis would erupt with the beginning of Israeli construction work on the mountain
known to Palestinians as Jebl Abu Ghneim ('Hill of the Father of Goats'). Everybody knew it, for years -- yet nobody
made concrete plans for it, perhaps because the plans for a "Jewish neighborhood" on Har Homa had been
successfully delayed so many times that nobody really believed it would come.
At several meetings of Israelis and Palestinians, held in 1995 and 1996 in the Orient House -- Palestinian Headquarters
in East Jerusalem -- Uri Avnery suggested drawing up in advance detailed plans for counter-action; the idea was
approved but not implemented. When the moment came, it was necessary to improvise in a hurry -- which seems characteristic
of both Israelis and Palestinians.
+++ On February 18, the Rabbis for Human Rights picketed the Labor Party Headquarters in Jerusalem, with a big
sign reading: Labor! Do not share in the racist land robbery on Har Homa! (At that time, Labor hawks were pressing
to present a motion of no confidence if Netanyahu does not start construction on Har Homa...)
Rabbi Asherman, 22 Agnon St, J'lem, fx:(0)2-6796289
+++ On February 25, the Israeli cabinet approved the Har Homa Plan (still without a definite timetable). Outside,
in a pouring rain, activists of Meretz and Peace Now were joined by a Gush Shalom contingent, shouting 'No, No,
No to Har Homa! Yes, Yes, Yes to Peace!
+++ On the same day, a group of Israeli Rapprochement members took part in the Palestinian protest demonstration
at Manger Square, Bethlehem, and there was some Israeli participation at a march to the site from Beit Sahour (Feb.
26) and in a demonstration of Umm Tuba villagers (Feb. 28).
+++ At noon on February 28, thousands of people -- ranging from mainstream Laborites to radical peace activists
-- gathered for the Rabin Memorial Rally, held on the spot where the late PM was murdered ourside the Tel-Aviv
None of the VIP's invited to speak mentioned Har Homa, but it was much on the mind of many
participants. The youngsters of Peace Guards walked among the audience, with leaflets entitled Har Homa = Explosion!;
Gush Shalom members distributed invitations to participate in the following day's demo. In debates which broke
out, both sides based themselves on Rabin: 'Rabin was the one who started with Har Homa!' -- 'Maybe, but he was
at least wise enough not to go through with it!'
+++ On March 1, a quick telephone mobilization by Gush Shalom brought a busload of Israeli peace activists (and
several private cars) to join a procession of 1,500 Beit Sahour and Bethlehem Palestinians. The Israelis were warmly
greeted by the organisers and invited to mingle freely among the Palestinian marchers. After walking several kilometres
through the hills, in territory under Palestinian control ("A"), Israeli soldiers were encountered at
a hill overlooking the contested site. It turned out that the demonstrators had crossed the invisible borderline
into "C" territory. Due to Palestianian self-restraint a clash was avoided and a rally held on the spot
-- addressed by Feisal Husseini and Uri Avnery.
On the following day the Israeli papers reported Husseini's words: 'We still give Netanyahu a chance to turn back,
but if the bulldozers come here it will be the end of the peace process and the beginning of a different process,
a retrograde one of which both peoples will suffer.' An unnamed government official was quoted as saying 'Just
+++ On March 3, as the Knesset prepared to hear a Meretz motion of no confidence in the government because of its
decision to build Har Homa, several dozen activists of the same party and of Peace Now demonstrated outside. Particiapants
felt depressed at the lower than expected turnout, but were encouraged when in mid-vigil came the news of the Labor
Party parliamentarians deciding to join the vote against Har Homa.
The Labor turnaround had come after a stormy debate, with the usually mild MK Shevach Weiss, former Speaker of
the Knesset, outspoken in his condemantion of 'Netanyahu's disastrous policies.' The vote in the Labor Caucus was
narrow, 13 to 11, but the defeated hawks adhered to party discipline and voted in the Knesset Plenum against their
+++ In the afternoon of March 7, a second procession from Beit Sahour to the threatened site took place, with both
the same route and the same strict avoidance of a clash as on March 1, but with a far bigger Palestinian participation
-- with buses arriving from various parts of the West Bank as far as they could avoid Israeli Army roadblocks.
Some of these newcomers expressed themselves as hostile to all Israelis, and were suspicous of the Gush Shalom
contingent; the Palestinian organisers took great pains to calm down such incidents. It was at this demonstration
that Palestinian anger at the minute size of Israeli 'further redeployment' -- decided upon at an all-night cabinet
meeting, a few hours earlier -- first became manifest.
+++ On the night of March 8, Peace Now held a torchlight march on the opposite side, starting from the Mar Elias
Monastery and getting to a point at one kilometre from the contested hill (the route was defined after prolonged
negotiations with the police). The number of participants -- a few hundreds -- was a dissapointment, as the organisers
had placed several ads and the issue had already become the main topic of the news. Nevertheless they put a brave
face on it, marching with the placards Har Homa -- The Next Tunnel held high, and concluding with a short rally
addressed by several Knesset Members.
+++ On the morning of March 10, Hadash activists -- led by their party's Knesset Members -- held a protest demonstration
in which they succeeded in getting quite near to the slopes of Jebl Abu Ghneim, without incident and also without
getting media attention. But an hour later, in the street outside the Orient House where they had come to meet
Feisal Husseini, they were suddenly assailed by a handful of right-wingers. Quickly recovering, the young Communists
held a second, unplanned and quite militant demonstration, shouting Fascists -- out of here! which became a main
item on that evening's news.
+++ On the evening of March 12, a meeting was held at a large hall in Tel-Aviv University under the deliberately
provocative title 'How to Divide Jerusalem', organised by the newly-established group of students and faculty known
as The Campus is Not Silent! In this milieu, opposition to Har Homa was taken for granted, as was objection to
the entire official concept of 'United Jerusalem, Capital of Israel'. But there were various divergent views and
nuances of the alternatives to be proposed: Shulamit Aloni ('There is nothing to divide, Jerusalem was never united');
Feisal Husseini ('United Jerusalem -- Capitalof Two States'); Ron Pundak, an architect of the original Oslo agreement
('Of course East Jerusalem is occupied territory, but we must move slowly and cautiously in the Israeli public
opinion'); Sari Nusseibeh ('Reasonably, it is quite easy to reach a solution on Jerusalem, but people don't behave
reasonably') and Meron Benvenisti ('Jerusalem must belong to both peoples, but you can't draw geographical dividing
Contact: Dr. Anat Biletzky, Sharett Blg. # 247, Tel Aviv University, Levanon St. Tel-Aviv.
+++ On March 15, some 2,000 Hadash supporters -- most of them Arabs from the Galilee but with a sizeable contingent
of Jewish Israelis who arrived from Tel-Aviv and Haifa -- gathered in Nazareth for a protest march in the city's
main street, followed by a rally at 'Friendship House'. The march passed quietly, with a police permit, and only
at its end did a few youths throw stones and bottles at the police.
A few days later, a similar march (but without Jewish particiaption) was held in Nazareth by the Islamic Movement
-- again with thousands marching quietly and youths (some of them, it seems, the same youths) throwing stones at
the very end.
Contact: Hadash, POB 46081, Haifa.
(Diary continued on p.17)
The last moment petition
The idea for a manifesto arose when Gush Shalom activists took part in several joint Israeli-Palestinian demonstrations
at the protest encampment opposite Jebl Abu Gn'eim ('Har Homa') on the eve of Netanyahu's fateful decision. The
purpose was to ring the alarm and try at the last moment to prevent the bloodshed -- and the breakdown of the peace
talks -- which we knew would inevitably follow the start of construction work. In order to dramatize the appeal,
it was decided to have the shortest possible text: At the last moment: STOP THE BULLDOZERS! It was also decided
not to identify the appeal officially with Gush Shalom, so as to enable members of all organizations or parties
and personalities of different views to join the effort and sign. (And indeed, the petition got the support of
prominent members in Peace Now and in the Meretz, Communist and Arab Democratic parties, as well as in the dovish
wing of Labor.)
The work of gathering signatures, mostly by phone, was done by volunteers under hectic conditions, between demonstrations
-- and would have become hopelessly mired in chaos but for the enormous efforts of Rachel Avnery who coordinated
The response was generally positive, refusal to sign very rare, and many of those approached made an effort themselves
to get additional names -- in marked and puzzling contrast to the disappointing low turnout in demonstrations held
in the same period.
The three lists of signatures, published in the respected Ha'aretz, on March 17, 19 and 26, included altogether
788 signatures. At the time of writing, a fourth ad including a thousand signatures is being prepared, which is
due to appear on April 9.
+++ Nearly half of the signatories are members of the academic community: 91 professors, 105 doctors and many lecturers
+++ The list includes 15 laureates of the Israel Prize, the highest civil distinction in Israel: writers (S. Yizhar,
A.B.Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Yehoshua Sobol); poets (Nathan Sach, Yehuda Amichai); sculptors (Danny Karavan, Menashe
Kadishman); actress (Hannah Meron, herself severely wounded in a terrorist attack); composer (Arik Shapira); stage
director (Ram Levi) and professors (Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Yehoshua Arieli, Yehudit Shuval, Dan Meron).
+++ Among the signatories are three former ministers (Shulamit Aloni, Victor Shem-Tov and Ya'ir Tzaban), four former
Knesset Members (Uri Avnery, Charlie Biton, Mordechai Bar-on, Me'ir Pa'il) and eighteen present KMs (former Speaker
Shevach Weiss, Ya'el Dayan, Ran Cohen, Haim Oron, Taleb A-Sana, Naomi Hazan, Azmi Bishara, Abd-el-Malek Dahamshe,
Tamar Gozanski, Abd-el-Wahab Darawshe, Walid Tzadek, Anat Ma'or, Taufik Hatib, Hashem Mahamid, Nawaf Masalha, Dedi
Zucker, Salah Salim and Ahmed Saad).
+++ Other well-known Israelis: veteran peace-activist Ruth Dayan, former wife of Moshe Dayan; the religious feminist
Alice Shalvi; Rabbis David Foreman, Arik Asherman, Jeremy Milgrom, Binyamin Hollander; the peace hero Abie Nathan,
joining the action despite frail health; professors Ze'ev Sternhell, Moshe Zimmermann, Benny Moris, Michael Harsegor,
Elihu Katz, Menachem Brinker, Moshe Zuckerman, Ariel Hirshfeld, Moshe Maoz, Avishai Margalit, Gershon Shaked, Avraham
Oz; musicoligist Michal Smora; the heart surgeon Daniel Gur; writers David Grossman, Yoram Kaniuk, Sammy Michael,
Amos Kenan, Yehoshua Knaz, Nathan Shacham, Yitzchak Ben-Ner, Amos Aricha, Orli Kastel-Blum; poets Dalia Ravikovich,
Siham Daoud, Dan Almagor, Yitzhak Llaor, Maya Bajerano; painters and sculptors Dan Kedar, Ig'al Tumarkin, Zion
Shimshi, David Rib, Ruth Schloss; stage directors Sinai Peter, Shmuel Bunim, Benny Horowitz, Benny Barabash, Vardit
Shalfi; Dr.Ruchama Marton, founder of Physicians for Human Rights; Israel's no. 1 television personality, Yaron
London; lawyers Amnon Zichroni and Leah Tzemel; sea captain Nimrod Eshel; Jerusalem town planner and former city
councillor Sarah Kaminker; veteran social worker Thea Nathan, a long-time 'Honor Citizen of Jerusalem'; Beduin
activist Nuri al-Ukbi; the widely respected Oriental Jewish scholar, Prof. Shlomo Elbaz; historical researcher
Ya'akov Sharett, son of the late prime minister; actors and singers Oded Te'omi, Gila Almagor, Yossi Banai, Asher
Tzarfati, Elisheva Michaeli, Israel Gurion, Hannah Roth; journalists Haim Baram, Haim Hanegbi, Silvie Keshet, Meir
Shnitzer, Boaz Evron, Avi Katzman, Ziva Yariv and Yoram Sadeh (son of the famous 1948 general Yitzhak Sadeh and
himself a peace activist since 1967); kibbutz movement general secretaries Amiram Efrati and Avshalom ('Abu') Vilan.
(The above listing does not do justice to the hundreds of other signatories of equal importance.)
Because of a severe lack of funds, the lists were published only in Ha'aretz. There were no funds to publish in
an English-languague paper, nor for placing ads in the (far more expensive) mass-circulation papers Yediot Aharonot
and Ma'ariv, which would have brought the message to hundreds of thousands exposed almost exclusively to the official
propaganda. As it were, the Ha'aretz ads were more or less covered by contributions from the signatories, but there
was no surplus left for further actions -- while the reason for them remains as urgent.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel Aviv 61033 -- fax: 972-3-5271108
On Friday evening January 14 the commentator of the Israeli TV news got red in the face and nearly rose from his
chair while reporting the government decision to go ahead, in spite of everything, with Har Homa and to give within
days the green light to the bulldozers. The Shabak warnings had been crystal clear: this would cause another crisis,
Intifada with firearms, terrorist attacks. And this time, the whole world was going to be treated in full colour
to a provocative scene of land robbery which should not have been true, which should have existed "only in
minds indoctrinated with antizionist propaganda."
A week later, Peace Now brought a few busloads of Stop the Bulldozers! demonstrators to the site. From there, one
had a good view of the traces left by one and a half days of digging works, as well as of the huge amount of police
and army busy patrolling the environment of the kidnapped hill. The spirit among the peace activists was depressed.
All felt that "we were so few." "What do you expect?" somebody remarked: "When the Labor
Party only disagrees with the timing of Har Homa, people feel that it's a lost struggle anyhow!" Here and
there people chatted among themselves, others used the opportunity to watch the landscape.
The hill between Beit Sahur and Tsur Bahr is the only one with pine trees. All other hills are barren or covered
with the less intense green olive orchards. Until 1967, nobody would have thought of this hill as being part of
Jerusalem. But when, in the euphoria after the Six Day War East Jerusalem was annexed, its borders were extended
as well -- and then Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek inspired the tree planting by the Jewish National Fund. Ever since,
the requests by inhabitants from the two neighboring Palestinian villages for building permits were rejected, since
"this should remain a green area." And it was the Rabin government which (after the Oslo handshake) initiated
plans for building a "new Jewish neighborhood on Har Homa" -- on that hill which had of course only been
The Peace Now movement which started twenty years ago (after the late Egyptian President Sadat and Menachem Begin
began peace talks) needed long years to come at last to terms with the Palestinian right to have their own independent
state. Still, on the question of Jerusalem this mainstream peace organization had continued to be very cautious
and careful not to express a clear position. This very caution seemed now to weaken its ability to mobilize a significant
protest against the destructive policy of the Netanyahu Government.
It was surely the unintended result of the most recent government policy that Peace Now leaders at this Jan. 21
demonstration spoke for the first time of Jerusalem as "being not only ours", with the most explicit
speaker being KM Haim Oron of the left-Zionist Meretz Party, who spoke of "the need for the state of Israel
and the state-to-be of Palestine to find a way to share Jerusalem," an idea hitherto identified with the more
radical Gush Shalom. He received a warm applause from the few hundred who had made it to the site (students, pensioners,
and others who could afford to come during working hours) -- as did guest speaker Fares Kadura, Member of the Palestinian
The mood did warm up further as it was announced that a delegation including Feisal Husseini and Egyptian writer
Lutfi al-Huli was expected to arrive any moment. Then came the sudden news of the blast in the Tel Aviv cafe. Peace
Now leader Tzali Reshef started hastily whispering to Palestinian representative Kadura, who was heard answering
"I want first to know more details." From several mobile phones anxious calls were made to family members
in Tel-Aviv, while Reshef improvised a speech condemning the violence but, at the same time, placing it in its
context: "Look at the hill! Is that Jerusalem? It is so much more close to the two neighboring Arab villages
whose only potential of growth it constitutes."
Meanwhile a never ending caravan of police cars was passing, in only one direction. The organizers declared the
demonstration to be over since "the car with the Palestinian and Egyptian guests might be stuck for hours"
and started, as the Peace Now tradition has it, to hum with sad, soft voices the national anthem. Then, just before
people wanted to embark upon the buses, Feisal Husseini, Abu Ala and the Egyptians did arrive.
The relaxed sphere of "some people standing together and chatting in the countryside" was all gone; now
everybody crowded near the stage from where the guests were to make their speeches. Feisal Husseini spoke of his
deep pain at what had happened in Tel-Aviv*. "That is exactly what I have been warning about, and what I hoped
we could prevent by expressing strong criticism in a non-violent way from our protest tent. But the Israeli government's
violence of the bulldozers makes it so difficult for us to contain the fanatics on our side. (...) Still I have
a dream of Our Jerusalem in the future -- Our Jerusalem in the sense of our common Jerusalem being of Israelis
and Palestinians together."
The unprecedented visit to Israel by the Egyptian Lutfi al-Huli and his participation in the Peace Now protest
over the building on Har Homa was another breakthrough on this dramatic day. In his strong and warm address --
translated from Arabic by Meretz KM Walid Tzadiq -- the writer made clear that he, as an Egyptian intellectual,
no longer thought of Israel as one united block, but that at this very critical moment in the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict he was stretching his hand to the Israeli peace forces.
* Part of the speech of Feisal Husseini during the Peace Now protest was broadcast amidst the TV news of the terrorist
I have known Yakov for quite a long time. A technician on pension, he has become a writer. He writes the surrealistic
story Towers to Nowhere, of the decay of East European Jewry -- a world populated, in his tale, not at all by nostalgically
sweetened figures, but by very real, and from time to time quite ugly people, people who in the desperate struggle
for individual survival behave much like you could expect from types who today walk the Israeli streets.
Yakov is living in a neighborhood built under British rule. He once told me how, when he arrived as a child escaping
from Nazi-ruled Europe, there had been a library in the neighboring building, a library which also had a shelf
with children's books in Polish. But the books were old, and sometimes the last pages were missing. The librarian
took care to write in his own handwriting a new end to those amputated books, without always finding time to read
the whole story. So,
the happy end of one of the books was how the hero on the last page married... his own grandmother.
Yakov is not exactly a peace activist though his wife and son are. On March 21, I visited him right after the cafe
bombing which happened to take place around the corner of where he lives.
'I was doing some carpenting on my balcony, when I suddenly heard an explosion; it was an enormous blast, and when
I saw people running I knew that this was it, what we had been afraid of, the revenge for Har Homa. I went there
right away to see whether I could help, but the ambulances had arrived within minutes. I saw wounded people being
put on stretchers, and after a while I went back home. Since then, the telephone is ringing; everybody wants to
hear whether I am alright and what I have seen.
My family went today to the battlefield of Har Homa, to the protest tent of the Palestinians; but the battle was
here; I wish they were already back home.' [BZ]
Land Day in Jaffa
The Arab community of Jaffa had never before organized its own manifestation on "Land Day". Since 1976
(when six were killed in one day, in what some call "the first Intifada") March 30 has remained the yearly
focus of the Israeli Arabs' struggle against the confiscation of their lands, and on behalf of their rights as
Israeli citizens. The reason why Jaffa had never been part of it was not that its Arab community had nothing to
complain about. Many of the city's population became refugees in 1948 and those who remained don't live in its
historic heart, which the State of Israel made into the scene of artists and souvenir shops.
Jaffa became part of the municipal unit Tel-Aviv-Jaffa which for decades neglected its Arabs. Today, the Arabs
of Jaffa live in what has become an Arab slum in the Tel-Aviv cosmopolis, its community suffering from drugs and
crime, as is so typical for the have-nots of big cities.
The first protest of Jaffa Arabs took place in the 1980s and focused around the Hasan Beck Mosque. The mosque is
actually situated north of Jaffa, as the only remnant of the Arab past surrounded by Tel-Aviv's rapidly developing
hotel and business area. The years-long struggle was a hard one but in the end the mosque remained a place of Muslim
worship, instead of being transformed into a shopping mall -- as had been the intention of building contractor
Gershon Peres (yes, the brother of Shimon).
After the Hebron massacre of 1994 by the settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein, spontaneous riots broke out among Arabs
inside Israel -- and also in Jaffa.
In its ten years of existence, the Association for the Arabs of Jaffa, Al-Rabita, has succeeded to get the housing
problems in Jaffa at least on the agenda of Tel-Aviv Mayor Ronni Milo, though so far plans for cheap housing which
would serve the inhabitants of the neglected neighborhoods are not implemented, while the luxurious appartments
which do arise are bought by Jews, rich ones, who have set their sights upon living in romantic Jaffa.
The Har Homa crisis in the month of March made Land Day 1997 into the event par excellence of Palestinian solidarity
on the two sides of the Green Line and was a further step in the politization of Arab Jaffa, which for the first
time organized its own manifestation.
All traffic was barred from the streets through which the protest march would pass. From balconies and rooftops
the thousand chanting marchers, with in the first row several Knesset Members (Communists, together with Islamists)
were cheered. Some dozen Jewish Israelis, from Hadash and Gush Shalom had come to join as well and felt a kind
of jealousy at the harmony here and the acceptance by a whole community of the so familiar slogans. Apart from
old ones like No to occupation, Yes to Peace, there were also newly-invented ones coming from a loudspeaker or
written on placards: against building on Har Homa; against the introduction of Palestinian collaborators into Jaffa;
against the government. The chanting was loud, and the speed of walking slow so as not to let the marching through
just a few little streets be over too soon.
The calm rally which followed drew in more people. All speakers, of which Al-Rabita leader Adv. Nasim Shakr was
the first, emphasized the local cause and referred to the Har Homa crisis only in very general terms. But when
the continued riots on the West Bank towns were shown on the news together with Land Day crowds all over Israel,
even in Jaffa, it did send a warning to the Israeli public.
Where are they now, your Israeli friends?
On the evening of March 30, Land Day, we got a call from Naif Alarjub, our long-time friend and contact person
in the town of Dura, near Hebron. He was quite exhausted from what he had been through, but also very excited and
full of things which he had to share.
"I know I should have had an onion in my pocket, that breathing an onion helps against tear gas. But today
at Fawar Refugee Camp I didn't have one when a tear gas canister exploded right in front of me. I woke up in Aliya
Hospital. The doctors gave me oxygen and told me to avoid coming even near to demonstrations for the rest of the
day. I still have a strong headache.
Fawar was the fourth or fifth place I had been. I and my friends from Fatah had been going from one place to another,
to see what is going on, to report. The army had blocked the roads between the towns and did not let Palestinians
travel, but we always find backroads, or just walk through the fields.
Things did not turn out as bad as we feared last night, after the news of the student who was killed in Ramallah.
Nobody got killed today, though there were many wounded. People came out on the streets everywhere, really everywhere.
Here in Dura we had a big demonstration, about 2,500 people, everybody, no distinction of political faction. In
Beit Umar there
was curfew, and still the people went out of their houses to demonstrate and clash with the soldiers.
In Hebron itself I saw the biggest procession I have ever seen. It went on and on, for kilometres, all over from
the university until close to the settler enclave. There we were stopped by Palestinian Police. They were quite
firm today, only a few succeeded to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers. There were some shouts, but most of the
people weren't really angry with the Palestinian Police. They are part of us. And if this enormous crowd would
have directly clashed with the soldiers and settlers, for sure it would have become a bloodbath.
People here feel rather abandoned by the Israeli peace movement. Where are the four hundred thousand who demonstrated
in Tel-Aviv during the Lebanon war? Why are there no continuous demonstrations, day and night? Where are Peace
Now, the Labor Party, the moderates in the Likud? I don't blame you guys in Gush Shalom, I know you do your best,
but it is not enough.
I have no doubts that Hamas is to blame for that. Why do we need terrorism. We have other ways to fight, honorable
ways. Without this bombing, there would have been demonstrations in Tel-Aviv. I tell this to people who ask me
'where are your Israeli friends'. These people call the bombing 'Jihad', but that is a perversion of Islam. Jihad
is a fight between two armies, man to man, not killing women who cannot defend themselves. I grieve for the victims
on both sides.
At this moment things look terribly bad. All hope to start at last living normal lives is gone; once more we are
thrown back into the past. Perhaps that is what they wanted all the time, the extremists, the crazy people on both
sides, that the people would despair, lose hope. There is a closure again, people cut off from their work and nobody
can say how long it will last -- I myself got a permit to work in Tel-Aviv just two weeks ago, just before those
bulldozers destroyed everything.
This Prime Minister who was democratically elected, he is a liar. Before the elections he said he will continue
the peace process. I don't know if he ever meant it, or just wanted to deceive. Anyway now the whole world sees
this deception. A promise to Arab leaders or to his own ministers, doesn't matter, he breaks them all. He cheats
his own voters who believed him when he promised "peace and security." What a mistake! But I think his
game is over. At least we, the Palestinians, will not let this man play with us any longer.
I still can't believe that the Israelis really will let this man who is their Prime Minister succeed with what
he is doing. Peace is also in their interest. We are making peace for the next generations, for the children of
both peoples -- not to please this or that leader. The leaders change, the peoples stay, and we are all cousins
-- the sons of Abraham.
(Continuation from p.13)
+++ On March 16, supporters of A Jewish Voice for Peace, together with Palestinian-Americans, picketed the Israeli
consulate in San Francisco. The group's representative Rachel Eisner, interviewed on Israeli Radio, criticised
those who object to Har Homa only on grounds of 'timing': 'This project is basically and inherently wrong, morally
and politically. There will never be a right time for it'.
+++ On March 16, when it became obvious that the entry of Israeli bulldozers to Jebl Abu Ghnneim was imminent,
Palestinian activists established a tent camp on the hill overlooking the well-guarded site, the same where their
marches had ended. It was announced that the encampment would remain, manned day and night, until the end of the
On the evening of March 17, the whole area was declared 'a close military zone'; nevertheless, during the night
and early morning of March 18, some Israeli peace activists succeeded in various ways to reach the spot and reinforce
the Palestinians in the tents, headed by Feisal Husseini and Salah Ta'amri. Uri and Rachel Avnery came during the
dark hours after midnight from Tel-Aviv with a car full of Gush Shalom signs and the intention to stay; members
of Rapprochement arrived, making use of their knowledge of the terrain from many joint activities with inhabitants
of Beit Sahour; a Peace Now group paid a visit coming from the opposite direction; later arrived the Rabbis for
Human Rights; and KMs of Meretz, Hadash and Arab Democratic Party showed up for a short visit. The Palestinian
encampment became a focus for all who tensely followed the conflicting rumors on the radio and awaited the coming
of the bulldozers.
Originally, the army intended to demolish the tents and evict the Palestinian and Israeli protesters, in order
to 'make the site safe for bulldozers'. They desisted when Feisal Husseini told the waiting TV crews 'If they evict
us from here, it will amount to Israel telling the Palestinians that peaceful and non-violent protest is not possible.'
Later, when the demonstrators led by Husseini and Avnery moved towards the arriving bulldozers and the soldiers
barred their way, both sides exercised restraint and the confrontation did not escalate beyond mutual shoving.
+++ On the same 'Bulldozer Day' Yuval Rabin -- son of the martyred PM and leader of Dor Shalom - arrived at Arafat's
bureau in Gaza, to express opposition to Har Homa but also call upon the Palestinians 'not to react violently'.
Dor Shalom's position, a variation upon Labor's declared building on Har Homa to be 'legitimate but not clever.'
Another visitor to Gaza was Meretz leader Yossi Sarid, who told Arafat that 'Har Homa can be stopped without violence'
-- probably reflecting an exagerrated confidence in the Israeli Supreme Court.
+++ On March 19, the women's organization Bat Shalom attempted to set up 'an Israeli protest tent' at the opposite
side of the hill, but were immediately stopped by the police, and forced to leave the spot after holding a short
vigil among the rocks. (Some days later, they joined the Palestinian encampment.)
+++ The main Israeli action on that day took place at
the Supreme Court, where the appeals of Ir Shalem, of Meretz and of the contractor David Myr were heard, in a hall
crowded with peace activists and Knesset Members. But as was predicted, the judges refused to issue an injunction
to stop the work, contenting themselves with asking that the state provide within sixty days information on the
housing it claimed to be planning for Arabs in East Jerusalem.
+++ At noon on March 20, three simultaneous actions took place on different sides of the well-guarded Abu Ghneim/Har
Homa compound: On the western side, a Peace Now rally (see sep. article); on the eastern side, an 'intifada riot'
with dozens of youths from Umm Tuba clashing with police (some of them managed to slip through, climb on Abu-Ghneim
and roll burning tyres down the slopes); and to the south -- the protest encampment, where Palestinians and Israelis
were holding out. In the midst of it all came news of the blast in Tel-Aviv...
+++ In the evening of the same day, some 15 young activists came spontaneously to the Apropos Cafe, holding signs:
Har Homa -- Green Light for Violence; No More Victims -- We Want Peace and Bibi Go Home! One of them, Nir Eyal,
told TOI: 'There were some hostile reactions, as we expected, but nothing which we couldn't have handled. But the
police were very nervous, pushing us further and further away 'for our own good'.
+++ On March 4, there was at the encampment a gathering of Palestinian and Israeli boys and girls (aged 7 to 14)
who prepared drawings of Jebel Abu-Ghneim. It is intended to make these drawings into a roving exhibition touring
Palestine, Israel, Europe and America.
At the press conference held simultaneously was presented the following manifesto:
We, a group of Palestinians and Israelis, who believe in peace, justice and co-existence, are camping together
in tents on the hill facing Abu-Ghneim Mountain, where the Israeli government bulldozers are uprooting, together
with the green trees, the future of our children and destroying our hopes for co-existence based on peace, justice
and mutual respect.
We cannot do as did many people who believe in peace and who nevertheless stay silent and allow bulldozers, oppression,
bombs and violence to dictate to each and every one of us when to die, suffer, go to war.
We believe that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians are for peace and justice and against the settlement
projects, which are dictated by the extreme-right minority, using the present Israeli government to destroy the
fragile but vital peace process. Therefore we are jointly campaigning on a twenty-four hour basis, calling for
the still silent majority in both nations to join us in establishing an alliance for life and peace, an alliance
based on real Israeli-Palestinian partnership, to demonstrate that the voice of the peace camp is the strongest
We call on all people, organizations and parties to join us in our non-violent struggle to achieve a humane and
just peace, and to defeat the strident minority which still believes in and practices a dangerous policy of expansion
Join us before it is too late!
For March 12, a collective visit at the encampment by all signatories of the Stop the Bulldozers petition is due.
Contact: Center for Rapprochement Between Peoples, POB 24, Beit Sahour, West Bank; Rapprochement -- Jerusalem c/o
Hillel Bardin, 19 Kfar Etzion St.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
+++ On March 28, Meretz held two simultaneos vigils -- outside the Prime minister's Office in Jerusalem, where
the cabinet was holding its weekly meeting, and at the Gaza Strip entrance, to deliver a double message: a call
upon Arafat to stop terrorism, and upon Netanyahu -- to stop Har Homa.
Both demonstrations ended with the release of a big baloon, shaped like a dove, into the sky.
+++ On March 28, the evening news on First Channel TV showed soldiers defending the Har Homa bulldozers against
a mixed crowd shouting (in Hebrew) Down With Occupation! One soldier told: 'This is a difficult job, very difficult.
They tell you not to shoot, that if you kill somebody it will create an international incident. But the trouble
is not so much the Arabs. Here come your Jewish brothers, demonstrating with their signs. How are you supposed
to deal with that?'
+++ With the press once more discussing the imminence of war, the army released statistics indicating, for the
first time in many years, a rise in the number of draftees joining combat units. The effect was rather spoiled
when a TV crew was allowed (1.4) to roam free in the base camp and talk to newly drafted youths: 'Combat unit?
Not me. I will look for the most soft and easy job I can find in this army. Motivation? What Motivation?'
Jahalin's last stand
In January and February 1997, the years-long struggle of the Jahalin Beduins came to its unhappy end, as in a series
of raids they were evicted to make place for the extension of the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement -- what seems in retrospect
the brutal prelude to Har Homa. It was impossible to stop it -- the best which could be done was to make it difficult
for the army, and force Netanyahu to pay the highest political price. The government was obliged to send -- not
once but four times -- a police force many times the Jahalin's own number, to pick up each and every one of them
(and of the handful of Israeli and foreign activists sharing their struggle to the last). And they had to do with
the world watching, with the brutal pictures shown in full color in the Israeli media. (The police tried to come
by surprise, but you can't hide hundreds of police coming through a desert full of Beduin encampments, whose inhabitants
-- whatever else they lack of modern civilization -- do possess some mobile telephones...)
And now, all that is left is to demand that the Jahalin be allowed to build houses and live as normal a life as
possible, in the miserable site designated for them and to which they were all taken by force.
The Hebron Agreement signed, after prolonged discussions, highpitched crises and repeated trials of mediations
by other powers -- had finally been reached and even implemented and hailed as the first of its kind signed by
the new Likud government. As seen through the eyes of the optimists, all seemed to be going well as no urgent sticking
points with regard to the Israeli-Palestinians track could be foreseen in the near future.
The nearest on the agenda, the staged Israeli withdrawal, "redeployment" of its armed forces (called
so after M. Begin's refusal in 1978 at the Camp David Summit "to withdraw" but his consent
to "redeploy" the IDF did not list the exact amount of the withdrawal at each stage ("pulses"
according to another Israeli philological innovation). But, for sure, a too restricted withdrawal by Israel would
be interpreted as expressing its intention to annex vast parts of the conquered terrorities -- which is exactly
what happened. The Palestinians had expected to be at least consulted before an official decision would be reached,
but nothing of this kind happened. The Israeli government did declare openly that its policy, after achieving the
definite agreement, was to keep 52% of the conquered West Bank.
The Oslo Agreement had been rejected by the more extreme and militant Palestinians. However, their scepticism was
not justified. The mutual recognition did lead to meaningful negotiations and resulted in some real progress. But
the moment has been reached of the last round, which should lead to a final agreement ensuring lasting peace. Arafat
cannot anymore postpone major issues -- as he had to do up to now because of a dictat, imposed by the Israeli government
irrespective of its composition.
Israel's policy towards that peace settlement is utterly negative on major issues; on most of them the two mainstream
parties are not far apart:
1) Opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state. (On this point there did occur recently a certain shift
within Labor towards reconciliation with such an option.) One wonders what, then, is the meaning of the recognition
by Menahem Begin of "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people" -- to which he obliged the State
of Israel at Camp David 1978, as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement.
2) Total rejection of any repatriation of Palestinian refugees. With regard to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian
"displaced persons" from the 1967 war, the negotiations for their repatriation should have started as
part of the Oslo Agreement already some time ago -- but except for one formal session no such negotiations have
taken place. As for the 1948 war refugees, their main solution could be found within the frame of an independent
Palestinian state while Israel's contribution could be mainly of humanitarian and symbolic nature.
But the most difficult problem is to be
3) The annexation of conquered territories. Yossi Beilin, one of the pioneers of the Oslo Accord, claims to have
reached an understanding with Abu Mazen, Arafat's deputy, that most of the Jewish settlers would be able to stay
under Israeli sovereignty, by Israel annexing vast territories in the West Bank, including the Ariel and Gush Etzion
settlement blocs. On cannot but be highly sceptical about the sheer possibility of such an understanding having
4) The case of Jerusalem is just a particular example of annexing occupied territiories, but highly loaded with
emotions and mysticism. Again does Y. Beilin claim that Jerusalem could remain purely Israeli while a new Arab
Jerusalem (Al Quds) would be built outside the present municipal borders (perhaps in the adjacent southern village
of Abu Dis).
Beilin does predict that the Palestinians wouldn't accept such a solution, that they would continue to protest
but would be unable to reverse that process. That is simply nonsense. Israel's continuous rule in all of Jerusalem
will inevitably lead to continuous animosity, protest and armed clashes. Generally, we have to understand that
extreme dissatisfaction, from either side, will necessarily undermine the "lasting peace" and renew the
armed struggle. The "Al Quds Plan" is an interesting one with regard to the geographical direction of
development of the two capitals, but only if the Palestinian city could be based on the existing Arab quarters,
within Jerusalem's Old City and outside it.
To sign a formal peace treaty, an agreement between two political authorities is of necessity; but to maintain
peace between two peoples, so intertwined, geographically, economically and historically -- such an agreement is
not enough. "Peace between the peoples" is obligatory. But the policy and the deeds of the present Israeli
government (as well as those of the previous ones, especially as far as Jerusalem is concerned) has only strengthened
the hatred between the two sides.
The idea to build an additional Jewish quarter at Har Homa/Jebl Abu-Ghneim, which is the main cause for the present
clashes, has been originated with the Labor Party. As this present wedge is intended to separate Jerusalem from
the Arab areas south of the city (in the direction of Bethlehem and the Shepherds' Field), so the next stage is
to cut off Jerusalem from Arab areas also in the north, and to unite it with the Ma'alei Adumim settlement which
is outside the already vast municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. This massive project only adds to the deeprooted
Palestinian perception of Israeli expansionism.
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
It is difficult to know, at the time of writing, whether Prime Minister Netanyahu had indeed promised Jordan's
King Hussein (in a "private conversation") that Har Homa would be the last Israeli settlement. It is
extremely doubtful whether this is the case. But that is exactly what is needed to secure the peace: a clear cut
statement (followed by deeds) that the era of the Jewish resettlement in our times in the Holy Land has come to
an end. Such a political statement is much more important than a historisophical discussion whether the Jewish
immigration to Israel (or Falasteen or Palestine) had been a realization of the right for self-determination of
the Jewish people or an act of colonization. Probably both tendencies could be identified in that single movement.
In any case the self-determination of the Jewish people is secured by now, provided Israel will be wise enough
to find the way to live in peace with its neighbors
Onward to disaster!
Translated from Ma'ariv, March 17.
"For three transgressions and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof..."
For the terrible bloodshed on its way, which will bring bereavement to mothers and fathers on both sides.
For renewal of a tragic century-long conflict, so near to historic reconciliation.
For burning the bridges which have begun to go up between Israel and the entire Arab world.
For turning Israel into a despised villain in the eyes of the world, isolated among the community of nations.
All of this, for what purpose?
Let it be said with the brutal honesty called for at a time like this: It is for the sole self-interest of one
man, an ignoramus in all matters Arab, an arrogant, brutal man, an egocentric and egomaniac, fearing only for the
fall of his government.
Netanyahu's partners in crime:
-- The whole collection of two-bit politicians seated around his table, a few of whom had seen handwriting on the
wall, but none of whom had the guts to stand up, to protest, to cry out, to vote against building at "Har
Homa." Each and every member of Netanyahu's cabinet is culpable. Every drop of blood spilled will be on their
-- All of the parties in this miserable coalition -- the Likud, Shas, the National Religious Party, Agudat Yisrael,
Degel Hatorah, Yisrael Ba'aliyah, the Third Way -- each of which has made its own calculation about its potential
gains from the approaching catastrophe, the hundreds of millions of dollars from building contractors, the rabbinic
support, settlers' votes, popularity with the right wing.
-- The heads of the intelligence services, who have superficially done their duty by explaining and sounding warnings,
but who did not have the guts to fulfill their real duty by resigning on the spot.
-- The Labor Party, which is longing for a so-called national unity government, which has agreed in principle to
construct at Har Homa, which instead of raising heaven and earth in protest, merely mumbled something about "bad
-- President Clinton, who sent confusing signals to Israel, who came out with a weak objection to the Har Homa
plan yet vetoed the U.N. vote condemning it, thus affirming Netanyahu and his cohorts in their belief that "it
will go through without a hitch."
When a future historian comes along to research this affair, he will undoubtedly be dumbfounded in the face of
such sheer ignorance, arrogance, brute force, contempt of one's fellow human, and machismo, which propelled Israel
toward this disaster -- a disaster whose consequences could have been foreseen by anyone with a pair of eyes.
There is no national interest, of any kind, of any ideology, that would justify this step. Even the greatest champion
of Greater Israel, the greatest supporter of a "United" Jerusalem, could have no interest in the imminent
bloodshed. The entire world will be involved and Jerusalem will ultimately be divided -- but out of mutual contempt
and hatred, instead of peace and reconciliation.
All for the self-interest of one man: Binyamin Netanyahu.
His entire talent lies in his ability to take over the leadership of an impotent party and a confused nation, using
false slogans about "Secure Peace", aided by millions of dollars from Jewish tycoons living securely
in the United States.
He believes that one can fool the whole world all of the time, that every problem can be solved by sweet-talking,
that one can tell everyone anything they want to hear and then do the opposite.
He finds himself caught in a trap of his own making, faced with an unequivocal choice from which he cannot extricate
himself with sweet talk: to save Israel or to save his government. And he has made his choice.
Let it be recorded for eternal shame.
The way of violence
'In this conflict, one side is a sovereign state with a strong army -- us, the Israelis. The other side, the Palestinians,
are not strong. When they are provoked, when they feel angry, they have only one way to express themselves -- the
way of violence. They have no other means.
I would like to remind Netanyahu and his comrades of one thing: when they were in opposition to the government
headed by my late husband, when they didn't like his policies, they also reacted with violence'.
(Leah Rabin, widow of the murdered Prime Minister, in Yediot Aharonot, March 31.)