The Other Israel _ April/May 1998, Issue No. 83/84
Crumbs -- Editorial Overview, January-April 1998
The False War
The Open-Secret Plan (for additional Israeli redeployments)
Food -- not Bombs (the Gulf crisis)
[The Gulf Committee]
Comment by Ari Shama'i in Z'MAN Tel-Aviv
Visiting the Families (after the Tarkumiya Checkpoint killings)
Wholesome Tactlessness (concerning Robin Cook)
Comment by Haim Bar'am in KOL HA'IR
Peace Movements to Clinton and Blair:
"Israel to Blame for Peace Process Deadlock"
[April 8 statement by: Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), Dor
Shalom, Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc), Bat Shalom
(Women's Joint Venture for Peace), Tandi (Movement of
Democratic Women), Rabbis for Human Rights, Physicians
for Human Rights, The East for Peace, Ossim Shalom
(Social Workers for Peace and Social Welfare)]
Land Robbery Confronted
Salfit and Kadum
[Committee against House Demolitions (CAHD), Peace Now,
Reports of Demolition of Palestinian Houses
[Peace Now, Be'tselem, Bat Shalom]
One Courageous Family's Story: the Al-Atrash Family of Hebron
[Christian Peacemakers Team, CAHD, Gush Shalom, Rabbis
for Human Rights]
Thou Shalt not Destroy" Petition [CAHD]
Jahalin Struggle Not Over Yet
[Rabbis for Human Rights, Bat Shalom, Physicians for
Human Rights, Defence of Children International]
From the Ground to the Court -- and Back
The Ka'adan Family and Katzir
Transfer of State Lands to Jewish Agency
[ACRI (Civil Rights Association)]
The Officers' Letter Revisited
Officers' Letter to the Prime Minister, March 8, 1998
Mothers and Ministers -- Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon?
by Adam Keller
First Step Towards Freedom
[The Israeli Vanunu Commitee]
Do-it-Yourself Inspection, by Charles Lenchner
(Citizen inspection of Israeli nuclear facilities)
More News of Peace Activities and Organizations
[Gush Shalom, Peace Now, Bat Shalom, Open Doors]
*Protests Against Start of Israel's 50th Anniversary Celebrations
in Settler Enclave in Hebron
[Peace Movements Coordination Committee]
It is Netanyahu Who Violates Oslo!"
[Gush Shalom report]
A Terrible Secret, by Uri Avnery
Facts Which Won't Go Away, by Beate Zilversmidt
Articles from THE OTHER ISRAEL may be reprinted, provided they
include the address: The Other Israel, POB 2542, Holon 58125,Israel.
THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for
Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.
Phone/Fax: (03) 5565804
Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: Beate Zilversmidt
For subscription information and a free copy of this issue, please
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THE OTHER ISRAEL
April/May 1998, Issue No. 83/84
On January 4, Labor youths were handing out stickers in the streets of Tel-Aviv: 1998 -- Barak for PM. Enormous
newspaper headlines told of all parties preparing for early elections.
Just one day earlier, Foreign Minister David Levy had at long last tendered his resignation. In a fiery speech
he had lashed out against the Prime Minister accusing him of both the deadlock in the peace process and the government's
"anti-social economic policies." The just presented state budget had been the last straw. Without Levy
and his Gesher faction, the government's parliamentary majority was reduced to a bare 61 out of 120, leaving the
government hanging on a thread.
Labor leader Barak, who had a constant lead in the opinion polls and who reportedly made some kind of deal with
Levy, was confident that the terminal defection from the government camp was only a question of time. With its
seven mutually-hostile coalition partners and the fierce faction fighting riddling Netanyahu's own Likud party,
the government had barely survived a whole series of fiascoes and unsavoury scandals. On top of that, the country
was sliding into economic recession hurting especially the government's own electoral base -- low-paid workers,
small shopkeepers, etc... Indeed, the last months of 1997 had seen an enormous upsurge in oppositional activity,
including both the largest rally in Israeli history and an unprecedented week-long general strike by the unions.
But Netanyhau still had a winning card which already saved him at several past crises: the new electoral law, mandating
that the government's fall would automatically entail the dissolution of the Knesset and the holding of parliamentary
elections. In a dramatic all-night 'pep talk session', Netanyahu confronted his coalition partners with the choice
of toeing the line or facing immediate new elections. Since many Knesset Members had doubts about being reelected,
they chose to pass the budget through its final vote, giving Netanyahu a breathing spell on the internal front.
Thus the Prime Minister narrowly escaped the need to wage two major fights at once -- since immediately ahead on
his agenda loomed a crucial appointment in Washington. President Clinton expected to hear at last a clear answer
on the issue of the already long-delayed military redeployment on the West Bank.
Rather than bringing down the government, as Levy had expected, the Foreign Minister's resignation had the result
of isolating the other leading cabinet dove, Defence Minister Mordechai. The cabinet resolution setting out guidelines
for talks with the US President was drawn up by the sinister Ariel Sharon, increasingly assuming a dominant role
in the Netanyahu Government.
Couched in terms of 'preserving vital national and security interests' the resolution boiled down to staking an
absolute Israeli claim over some 65% of the West Bank; since about 27% have already been handed over to full or
partial Palestinian control, no more than eight or nine percent were left to give to the Palestinians. As Tourism
Minister Katzav put it openly: 'We have only a few last crumbs to give, no more.' And for these few crumbs, the
Palestinians were expected to pay dearly, by strict adherence to a long list of Israeli demands, some of them very
As Netanyahu prepared to set out for Washington, it was generally assumed that the U.S. President would pressure
him to soften his position. Clinton and Albright resorted to 'snub diplomacy', expressing their displeasure with
Netanyahu by administering small calculated insults -- which were immediately reported in banner headlines on the
Israeli press. As reported at the time, Clinton's plan was to host Netanyahu for two days of intensive talks, followed
by a similar two days with Arafat -- after which the president would deliver judgment in a public speech and set
out the way forward for the Middle East Peace Process. There is no knowing if the US President seriously intended
to follow this course; the question became moot when, even while Netanyahu and Clinton were closeted in the Oval
Office, the Lewinski sex scandal burst out.
In the next weeks, President Clinton had no time or energy to spare for peace in the Middle East, nor was he in
a position to put pressure on anybody; and the Lewinski Affair was immediately followed by the prolonged confrontation
with Iraq, which meant a further delay of months.
It is hardly surprising that newspapers throughout
the Arab World regarded the entire Lewinski Affair as being deliberately engineered by Netanyahu -- particularly
since the Republicans on Capitol Hill, who pushed the investigation of Clinton's alleged sex scandals, were also
Netanyahu's main allies in America.
'Food -- not bombs'
As the wider peace movement had come to pin on Clinton their last hope against Netanyahu, it was not easy to shift
gears in the face of the new Gulf Crisis. Like in 1991, the initiative for protest came from groups such as the
Hadash Communists and the Hebron Solidarity Committee. Yet the weekly vigils at the US Embassy in Tel-Aviv got
surprisingly friendly reactions from by-passers, nor were there hostile reactions to the mostly-Arab Ibna El-Balad
vigil with some sharp formulated slogans.
-- On February 19, at the height of the tension, a Ha'aretz ad featured 234 signatures -- among them well-known
artists and academics -- on a petition calling for a diplomatic solution for the crisis and for liquidation of
all weapons of mass destruction throughout the Middle East. The signatories included also several public figures
from the Palestinian Territories, such as the respected Dr. Haidar Abd-el-Shafi.
-- Human rights organizations lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court against the exclusion of foreign workers and
Palestinians under Israeli rule from the distribution of gas masks, and peace activists organised to give back
their own masks in protest -- both actions cut short by the news of Kofi Annan's successful mission to Baghdad.
Gulf Committee, POB 33076, Tel-Aviv 61330.
It is also hardly surprising that Netanyahu's victorious return from Washington, having budged not the slightest
from his tough positions and being none the worse for it, won to his side the elusive 'center' of the Israeli electorate.
Barak's edge in the polls was wiped out overnight -- mainly because a great chunk of the former 'undecided' swung
over to the side of Netanyahu -- with the added result that internal opposition inside the government camp became
almost completely silent. The Prime Minister's already existent reputation as 'a magician', capable of overcoming
any crisis, was greatly enhanced.
Meanwhile, Ehud Barak -- never a profound thinker or an astute statesman, but rather an ex-general chosen to head
Labor solely on the strength of his supposed electability -- came to be regarded more and more as a loser. In the
peace movement, as throughout the opposition camp, the upbeat mood generated by last year's giant rally was replaced
by growing despair, reflected in and intensified by a series of bleak articles published by columnists identified
with the peace camp. The feeling of gloom was completed by growing apprehension over the looming Iraqi crisis.
The false war
Throughout the months of growing tension between the United States and Iraq, all commentators agreed that -- unlike
in 1991 -- Saddam Hussein had little interest in shooting missiles at Israel, even if he still had some in operational
condition. Doing so would have proven the falsity of the Iraqis' claims to have destroyed all their missiles, and
would have thus played into the American hands and helped prolong the crippling economic sanctions against Iraq.
It was still less likely that, in Iraq's weakened condition, Saddam would fire non-conventional weapons -- as he
had not dared to do in 1991. Yet in the minds of the general Israeli public, all these considerations failed to
outweigh a single utterance by Richard Butler, American head of the UN inspection team in Iraq, who aired in public
his estimate that Saddam Hussein was in possession of 'enough anthrax to destroy Tel-Aviv.'
The Israeli public, rather indifferent to the developing crisis until then, was thrown by Butler's pronouncement
into a state of continuing panic which lasted until the very moment Secretary-General Kofi Annan finally defused
the crisis. One by one, various measures were suggested to the public by the government, 'despite the low probability
that they would be needed': obtaining vaccine against anthrax; renewing the outworn gas masks distributed to the
public in 1990; buying adhesive tapes and nylon sheets to make rooms supposedly gas-proof... And despite the 'low
probability,' each pronouncement produced a mad rush to get the required item.
Netanyahu may have had an interest in promoting that panic: not only did it further distract attention from the
unresolved issues with the Palestinians, but it also helped to create the feeling that Israelis
are living in 'a dangerous environment, full of dangerous predators,' a far cry from Shimon Peres' vision of the
peaceful 'New Middle East.' On the other hand, the shouting disorderly crowds at the Gas Mask Distribution Centers
made manifest the fragility of the Israeli home front -- hardly an encouraging message to a Prime Minister whose
policy towards the Palestinians seemed destined to lead to an armed confrontation, with the certainty that such
a confrontation would be unpopular with large parts of the population...
Moreover, the crisis with Iraq made clear to the Clinton Administration decision-makers the extent to which Netanyahu's
intransigence constituted a threat to American vital interests in the Middle East. Saddam had been able to get
out of the crisis on relatively favorable terms -- due, among other factors, to the United States' failure in its
efforts to reconstitute the anti-Iraq coalition of 1991, failure to gain the support even of staunch allies such
as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In turn, this manifest lack of Arab support could be traced, at least in part, to the
Arab World's prevalent grievance concerning an American double standard -- administering a severe punishment to
Iraq for its defiance of UN resolutions, and turning a blind eye to similar behaviour on the part of Israel. Thus,
even while the confrontation with Iraq was going on, State Department officials were becoming more and more convinced
of the urgent need to tackle Netanyahu immediately afterwards.
(...) Mr. Olmart has sharply condemned the Palestinians for demonstrating in support of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Olmart
is very often present at football matches of the Betar Jerusalem team. Of course he comes there -- he needs the
fans of this team for his mayoral reelection campaign. I never heard him comment on these fans' habit of shouting
'Death to the Arabs!' whenever they get excited. He must have heard them. Anybody who is not totally deaf could
hear it, even a long distance from the stadium...
Living in the midst of the area which Saddam's missiles targeted in '91, I can hardly feel any sympathy for this
aggressive dictator. But I can understand the Palestinians who demonstrate in his support. If I had been trodden
on for thirty years by a foreign occupier who deprived me of nearly everything, I too might have been tempted to
cheer anyone who stood up to my oppressor.
(Ari Shama'i in Z'man Tel-Aviv, 20.2)
Nowhere was the feeling of 'an American double standard' stronger than among the Palestinians, suffering daily
from land confiscation and settlement expansion -- activities in contravention of countless UN resolutions, which
Netanyahu nevertheless felt free to pursue with impunity. Throughout the Palestinian territories demonstrations
broke out with Iraqi flags held aloft, while those of Israel and the US were burned. Many of the demonstrations
ended at clashes with Israeli soldiers at the accustomed 'hot spots,' such as armed settlement enclaves in the
midst of Arab cities.
These demonstrations were featured prominently on Israeli TV, an unpleasant sight for Israeli eyes when demonstrators
carried Scud missiles (made of carton) and chanted slogans urging Saddam to attack Tel-Aviv. Yet Netanyahu did
not gain as many propaganda points over this as he had hoped, nor did the pro-Iraqi demonstrations open an abyss
between Israeli peace activists and the Palestinians, as had happened in 1990. The dominant reaction in the peace
camp was that this kind of reprehensible demonstration was an expression of the deep Palestinian frustrations (see
For its part, the Palestinian Authority, pressed by the Americans, issued a decree forbidding the pro-Iraq demonstrations
and even closing down private TV stations which gave them a sympathetic coverage. Yet the demonstrations persisted;
Arafat could not have completely repressed them without a severe clash -- not only with a big part of his own people
but even with central activists of his own political party, Fatah, who took a central part in organizing the demonstrations.
The Gulf Crisis brought about an open cleavage between two structures, both having Yasser Arafat at the top of
their respective hierarchies: on the one hand the Palestinian Authority with its police and armed forces, and on
the other -- the Fatah Movement, now acting in a more and more independent and militant way.
The open-secret plan
Already during the confrontation with Iraq, a detailed plan had been formulated at the State Department, with the
aim of bridging over the differences and achieving at last the long-delayed Second Redeployment (combined with
the even longer-delayed First). Though not officially published, its details were soon available on the pages of
the Israeli press, and especially the central element: an evacuation of about 13% of the West Bank, compared with
Netanyahu's offer of 9%. Further, the Americans offered to divide this redeployment -- itself originally intended
as a single stage in an ongoing process -- into several sub-stages, spread over three months, and linked to Palestinian
fulfillment of many of the Israeli cabinet's demands. However, the Americans were to be the final arbiters in the
verification of Palestinian compliance -- under the reasonable assumption that, were the final judgment to rest
with Netanyahu, he would never declare himself satisfied with the Palestinian performance.
By any objective standard, the US proposal was far closer to Netanyahu's positions than to Arafat's; yet it soon
became clear that the Israeli Government was going to fight it tooth and nail, while Arafat seemed grudgingly willing
to accept it -- less for what it concretely offered him, and more for the sake of creating the precedent of a united
American-Palestinian diplomatic front. Such a precedent could prove of enormous significance for the next, more
crucial parts of the process -- particularly for the increasingly concrete option of a unilateral Palestinian Declaration
Netanyahu, too, was aware of the ominous implica
tions of the American plan being accepted by the Palestinians and rejected by Israel, for all the world to see.
To forestall that possibility, he bent all his efforts to mobilizing a counter-pressure inside the US -- so as
to prevent the administration from officially publishing the already well-known plan, and saving Netanyahu from
the need to say an official 'No'. As always, the two main agencies of Netanyahu's attack upon Clinton and Albright
were the US congress and the organized US Jewish Community -- to which were added pressures through Vice President
Al Gore, whose hopes to win the 2000 presidential race seem bound up with contributions from Netanyahu-supporting
Of these, the US Jews proved less than completely apt to Netanyahu's hand. Divisions within their official leadership,
the Conference of Presidents, more and more often found their way into the press. At least some of the Jewish leaders
seemed influenced by Secretary of State Albright, who spoke to them of her anxiety at the imminent collapse of
the peace process. Also, Israeli Labor Party KM Ephraim Sneh warned the US Jewish leaders of the grave responsibility
they would assume by blocking President Clinton's peace efforts (Ha'aretz, 13.3).
For their part, Clinton and Albright resorted to close coordination with the Europeans, a significant departure
after many years in which the US actively discouraged European involvement in the Middle East peace process; the
new policy was facilitated by the coincidence of the European Union Presidency being held by Britain, Washington's
single faithful ally against Iraq. With tacit US backing, British Foreign Secretary Cook undertook his visit to
Jerusalem, which ended in a major diplomatic incident over Cook's insistence upon visiting the Har Homa/Jebl Abu
Ghneim settlement site and his outspoken support for Jerusalem being the capital of two states.
Some commentators remarked that the Cook visit ended the possibility of Europe being accepted as the mediator between
Israelis and Palestinians. But Netanyahu had long since made clear his total objection to giving Europe such a
role, however suave and tactful its diplomatic representatives may be. Rather, Cook seemed to have played his part
in a 'good cop/bad cop' division of labor decided upon between Clinton and Blair.
By mid-March, the Americans seemed determined to publish officially their plan. Netanyahu first reacted by getting
his cabinet to express a unanimous opposition (without a formal resolution); then he held transatlantic phone calls
with the angry Clinton, in which he sounded conciliatory and offered a compromise redeployment of 11%; and finally,
after several days of talks with US Special Envoy Dennis Ross, he reverted to his total insistence upon 9% and
send Ross away empty handed -- due to pressure from Sharon and the settlers which many suspected Netanyahu of having
And meanwhile, Netanyahu's emissaries in Washington succeeded, despite reservations in the Jewish community, in
mobilizing the AIPAC lobby -- which stretched its powerful muscles and obtained for Netanyahu's the public support
of no less than 81 US Senators.
While all these diplomatic maneuvers and feints went on, tensions steadily increased in the territories under discussion.
On March 10, they boiled over into violence after soldiers shot and killed three Palestinian labourers at the Tarkumiya
Checkpoint, west of Hebron. In an effort to appease the Palestinians, the government ordered the soldiers arrested;
and in an effort to appease the army command, the soldiers were released on the same day. (The Palestinian Authority,
in its 'revolving door policy' much condemned by Netanyahu, usually takes a bit longer between the detaining of
Hamas members and their release.) The official convoluted version of the incident was that the killed Palestinians
had been completely innocent, yet the soldiers were blameless too, since they thought the Palestinians were about
to attack them.
The general Palestinian population had little interest in such sophisms; from the moment the news broke out, there
were several days of rioting and clashes with settlers and soldiers -- particularly in the Hebron area, where the
three victims had lived, and where the life of a fourth one -- a 10-year old child -- was claimed by an Israeli
'rubber bullet.' Once again, the Fatah movement was conspicuous in organizing the demonstrations and confrontations.
Visiting the families
On March 13, three days after the Tarkumiya Checkpoint killings, a group of twenty Gush Shalom members set out
to visit the families of the victims -- a rather risky enterprise, since the area was in turmoil, with enraged
Palestinian youths throwing stones at cars with Israeli license plates. The Palestinian Police helped, providing
an escort in the area under its control. As they alighted at Dura, hometown of the dead workers, the Israelis found
their path lined on both sides with thousands of townspeople, and many welcomes (in Hebrew) were heard. Uri Avnery
was invited to speak on behalf of the Israelis -- not just to the families, but to virtually the whole town gathered
in the central plaza. 'In fact, Netanyahu should have been addressing you from this podium' he said. 'The Prime
Minister of Israel should have come to face you and offer apology for what the soldiers of his army had done --
as king Hussein did last year, when the victims were Israeli. He is not here, but we have come to share with you
this difficult time -- on behalf of the people in Israel, if not of the government.'
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv; ph: 972-3-5221732
Despite many apprehensions, the Tarkumiya killings did not touch off a general conflagration; things calmed down
-- only to be soon stirred up again by a new stimulus, the death in a mysterious Ramallah explosion of Muhai A-Din
Sharif, a Hamas military leader and explosives expert. At first, the killing was blamed on Israel -- which in the
past assassinated several other Hamas leaders in similar circumstances. Demonstrations, confrontations and clashes
(...) Since Robin Cook swept this country by tornado last week, political debate in our mainstream seemed a throwback
to the Golda Meir period, consisting mainly of an effort to confront a hostile world and of trying to push away
hard realities. Cook has succeeded in bringing home to our bipartisan establishment the unpalatable fact of a worldwide
consensus against Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. It was exactly Cook's tactlessness and Scottish Calvinism
which helped to make his message crystal clear.(...)
It is a pity that Robin Cook is not standing as a candidate for the Knesset. My vote, at least, he could have counted
(Haim Bar'am in Kol Ha'ir, 27.3)
out -- more prolonged, widespread and violent than on the previous occasion. And in the meantime, Hamas threatened
to renew its campaign of suicide attacks inside Israel, in revenge for Sharif -- no idle threat, to judge from
past experience, and one which could have provided Netanyahu with the perfect excuse to wriggle out of the whole
tiresome negotiations. But it is a fact that Netanyahu issued vehement denials, stating that Israel had 'absolutely
no part' in the killing of Sharif, thereby implicitly conveying that the assassination method -- used by Israel
over decades -- was no longer considered legitimate.
In an astounding development, the Palestinian Authority blamed Sharif's death upon other Hamas members -- with
the killing allegedly being part of a power struggle within the Islamic organization -- and precipitated a confrontation
with the Hamas...
It is still a matter of conjecture whether or not the Americans would, after all, succeed in cobbling together
some kind of temporary compromise and achieve the withdrawal of Israeli troops from some portion of the West Bank.
In a slightly longer range, that is hardly significant. The maximum which the Netanyahu Government is capable of
giving is so much below the most bare minimum of Palestinian aspirations that, as long as this government remains
in power in Israel, an eventual widespread armed clash between Israelis and Palestinians seems inevitable.
Arafat would clearly like to delay this eventuality as much as possible, and to reach May 1999 -- the end of the
Oslo Interim Period, during which both sides are obliged to avoid unilateral steps -- with the largest possible
territorial base. These would be the most auspicious conditions for a unilateral Palestinian Declaration of Independence,
an event whose coming is more and more taken for granted on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides -- since
Netanyahu is highly unlikely to reach, within the remaining year and a month, a definite agreement with the Palestinians.
In the meantime, the Palestinian leadership would like to prevent a total collapse, to gain what still could be
gained by diplomatic means, and to contain violent outbreaks and keep them 'within limits'. But events could well
get beyond anybody's control, hastening the moment of the Big Clash.
During the Kibbutz Movement Conference in March, Knesset Member Hagai Merom of the mainstream Labor Party made
an interesting statement:
"If the Palestinians declare independence unilaterally, I will support their step and urge the whole Labor
Party to do the same. It is their right, and it will be also good for us when they have at last their state"
(Israel Radio, 5.3).
Though getting surprisingly little attention, that may have been the most important political statement recently
made in Israel.
Peace Movements to Clinton and Blair:
+++ Yediot Aharonot, Israel's biggest mass-circulation newspaper, bore a sensational main headline on April 8,
Peace Movements to Clinton: Israel to blame for peace process deadlock. The full-page story of an unprecedented
letter by Israeli peace movements to the American and European leaders, asking them to take a firm stand towards
the Netanyahu Government, reverberated throughout the political system: a stormy session of the Knesset; endless
acrimonious debates on all radio and TV channels; and a stream of furious editorials, commentaries and counter-commentaries.
The two senior peace activists who initiated the whole thing did not dream of such a wide impact. The original
idea for the letter came up following the controversial visit of British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and his head-on
confrontation with the Netanyahu Government. The Israeli peace camp felt that Cook had been completely right, in
visiting the settlement site at Har Homa/Jebl Abu Ghneim and also in escaping from his official Israeli escort
and shaking hands -- on that symbolic site -- with a senior Palestinian representative.
Therefore, a draft letter addressed to Cook was produced. In the course of getting the widest spectrum of signatories
and roughing out a commonly-agreed text, the idea changed into a more general letter sent to both President Clinton
and prime Minister Blair. The final text gained support throughout the spectrum of the peace movement -- a rare
display of unanimity between radicals and moderates.
Prime Minister Tony Blair
President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union
We are writing to you, as Israeli Peace and Human Rights Organizations and Activists in support of increased European
and United States involvement in advancing the Middle East Peace Process.
We are committed to a strong and democratic Israel in which Jews -- as well as all its other citizens -- can live
in freedom and safety. Yet living in constant warfare with our neighbors is not true safety, and oppressing another
people is not true freedom.
Sadly we must note that the current impasse results from the policies of the Netanyahu government -- which prefers
continued colonization of the occupied territories to advancement of the peace process begun by Messrs. Rabin,
Arafat and Peres.
We see a reversal in Jewish-Arab roles concerning peaceful partition, from 1947 when the Jewish leadership accepted
partition but the Palestinian leadership rejected it, to the current situation wherein the Palestinian leadership
is calling for compromise and the Government of Israel in fact rejects it.*
Mr. Netanyahu calls for allowing the two parties to settle the problem by themselves, but this really means allowing
the stronger of the two to force its own solution on the weaker. Israel, which has consistently ignored United
Nations resolutions opposing Jewish settlement of occupied lands and seeking to safeguard Palestinian rights, can
hardly be expected to serve as the protector of the rights of the Palestinians. Only firm action -- by the United
States, the Europeans and the United Nations -- can lead to a just solution.
Cognizant as we are of our country's security needs, we believe that Israel is strong enough to allow a viable
Palestinian state to replace the occupation. We applaud your efforts to help us achieve these ends.
Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), Dor Shalom, Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc), Bat Shalom (Women's joint venture
for Peace), Tandi (Movement of Democratic Women), Rabbis for Human Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, The East
for Peace, Ossim Shalom (Social Workers for Peace and Social Welfare)
Contact: Hillel Bardin, 19 Kfar Etzion St., Arnona, Jerusalem, Israel 93392, ph/fax: 972-2-6732936
* In the otherwise similar letter to President Bill Clinton were inserted the following two sentences:
We can well understand Secretary Albright's frustration at the ongoing disintegration of the Peace Process. But
for the U.S. to pull out now would be to abandon the Palestinians to hopelessness, with all the dangers that that
Land robbery confronted
Inhabitants of Salfit -- a sizeable Palestinian town in the northern part of the West Bank -- contacted the Committee
Against House Demolitions (CAHD) after a new military decree had greatly extended at their expense the area included
in the municipal boundaries of the Israeli settlement Ariel. Past experience had taught the Palestinians that the
next step would be extension of the settlement perimeter fence to include the new part -- whereupon the Palestinians
would be denied access to their land inside the new fence 'for security reasons.'
To forestall that possibility, the villagers started planting olive saplings on their threatened plots; though
Palestinian ownership of those lands was not disputed, several of the plantings led to confrontations with the
army and confiscation of the saplings (in one case, a Palestinian tractor was confiscated as well). CAHD was asked
to participate in a new planting -- and the initiative was joined by the Ra'anana Peace Now group which interested
activists from other northern Tel-Aviv suburbs, to come as well.
On the morning of February 21, some sixty people -- most of them from Peace Now, together with a few CAHD kibbutzniks
and Gush Shalom activists -- arrived at Salfit. After an extremely cordial reception by the mayor and councillors
at the town hall, the Israelis were conducted by local activists in a long car convoy, through the winding hill
tracks to the threatened land. Splitting into teams each numbering about five Israelis and five Palestinians, holding
saplings and agricultural tools, they spread out among the terraces. To the Israelis -- most of them city people
with little agricultural experience -- the scene of planting trees with hand tools was incongruously reminiscent
of old photos from the time of the early Zionist pioneers...
In most of the spots, the planting proceeded without incident, Israelis and Palestinians smiling amicably at each
other and communicating even where they didn't have a common language. But in the two sites nearest the settlement
houses, military and police forces soon arrived on the scene. Initially, the lieutenant-colonel in command of this
force seemed reasonable; a quarter of an hour of negotiations produced a compromise, whereby the military authorised
plantings on one of the hills where it was scheduled, but forbade it on the other.
The planting was almost over when the settler mayor Ron Nachman arrived on the spot, surrounded by his security
men, and began upbraiding the colonel: 'Throw out the trespassers! At once! Blood will flow here, blood!' In a
striking demonstration of the true chain of command prevailing on the West Bank, the soldiers immediately and roughly
began pushing back the tree planters, and for good measure detained the 60-year old Palestinian owner of the plot
where the planting had taken place.
Some of the Israeli demonstrators followed the arrested Palestinian, to make sure that he would not be harmed (he
was released a few hours later). The others boarded their cars and bus, setting off for a Gush Shalom action in
Kadum, several kilometres to the north. On their way there, they could already hear at the top of the Israeli radio
news a sensational account of "a violent confrontation of leftists and Arabs with settlers."
CAHD c/o Amos Gvirtz, Kibbutz Sh'fayim
Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel Aviv 61297
+++ Since more than half of the West Bank lands have never been officially registered, Palestinian peasants usually
find it impossible to provide the Military Land Commissions with proof of their ownership -- even when the land
in question had been in possession of their families from time immemorial.
The village of Kadum experienced a rare exception to this rule in early 1997. After the village lands at the Jebl
Muhammad area had been declared "state lands" they were given by the army to the nearby Israeli settlement
of K'dumim. The Da'as family, however, appealed the decision -- and succeeded in providing proof of its ownership
which the Israeli officers on the Military Land Commission could not ignore. In July 1997, the military authorities
officially recognized the family's ownership of the land in question and the Defence Minister's assistant promised
on Israeli TV that the settlers would vacate the land 'within two weeks.' But the settlers, with
their powerful lobby in the Netanyahu Government, were not impressed; instead of vacating the land, they erected
on it six mobile homes.
Several months later, when members of the Da'as family with fellow-villagers attempted to enter the land of which
they had been declared owners, soldiers (charged with protecting settlers wherever they are) opened fire -- wounding
six of the Palestinians. And in January 1998, the military suddenly produced 'a new map' which purported to prove
that, after all, the takeover by the settlers had been legally in order. At this stage an Israeli friend of the
Da'as family advised to approach Gush Shalom.
During a visit of a Gush Shalom delegation it was decided to start a media campaign and Feb. 21 was fixed as the
date for a joint Israel-Palestinian protest demonstration. Soon, Gush Shalom and CAHD became aware of each other's
plans for the same Saturday; thus the timetables were coordinated so as to enable activists to participate in both.
On the day itself, it turned out that the army also made the link and closed off the road from Salfit to Kadum,
creating an enormous traffic jam along one of the West Bank's main thoroughfares. But the two Gush Shalom buses
from Tel-Aviv, taking bypass roads, arrived on schedule at the central plaza of Kadum Village and the hundred Israelis
joined the crowd of Kadum inhabitants and neighboring villages who had gathered there. A rally was held, addressed
by the Palestinian Authority's regional governor ('the struggle for peace and against the land robbers is common
to both peoples'), Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom ('Netanyahu is raising an artificial panic about Iraq, and takes over
lands') and Adli Da'as for the land owners ('Ten thousand dunams were already taken, this month the army took another
From the plaza, Israelis and Palestinians marched together in the direction of the settler-occupied land, chanting
Peace -- Yes, Settlements -- No! in alternating languages. At the head of the march was carried a giant replica
of the Biblical Tables of the Covenant, painstakingly prepared by the Gush Shalom youths, with a single quotation:
'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's field!'
It was not possible to get anywhere near Jebl Muhammad itself; large military and police forces barred the way.
For half an hour there was an increasingly tense stand-off; village youths edged closer and closer to the soldiers,
shouting 'with our lives will we defend our land!' and also hurling Hebrew insults, learned while working in Israel.
When a violent confrontation seemed about to burst out, Da'as family members picked up megaphones and called for
the crowd to turn back. The demonstrators showed discipline and turned away with no more than some waving of fists
back at the soldiers.
There was a banquet for the Israeli guests, back at the Da'as family home, and a lot of handshaking and warm greetings.
And on that evening's TV news the action was featured prominently, with the gleaming white 'Tables of the Covenant'
-- and their clear message -- getting a good prime time exposure.
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
s The latest Peace Now report on house demolitions (quoted on Ma'ariv, 26.3) gave the grim statistics of 154 Palestinian
homes and a schoolhouse demolished in 1997, as well as ten graves dug up -- all this not counting the numerous
expulsions of Bedouins who lived in tents; in the first three months of 1998, the number of demolished houses reached
A more extensive report, published as a brochure by Be'tselem, gave a thorough analysis of the bureaucratic and
quasi-legal mechanisms by which the same Military Planning Commissions which facilitate settlement expansion make
it next to impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, forcing them to build illegally. In conclusion
Be'tselem pointed out that according to article 27 of the Oslo Agreement Israel should have dismantled these commissions
and handed over their powers to the Palestinian Authority; their continued existence is in itself a violation of
Israel's international obligations.
Contact: Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv 61297, www.peace-now.org; Be'tselem, 43 Emek Refaim St., J'lem 93141, www.btselem.org
+++ On Dec. 29, 1997, Yediot Aharonot reported the formation of a special police unit, numbering several dozen
specially-trained officers with the specific purpose of 'protecting municipal workers engaged in the demolition
of illegal Arab houses in East Jerusalem' and patrolling 'to deter Arabs from constructing new such houses'. The
new unit was to become fully operational at the end of January. To the question of Meretz councillor Anat Hoffman,
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmart confirmed that such a unit had indeed been formed, since 'it is necessary to enforce
the law.' The news followed earlier press reports in which Olmart was mentioned as planning a 'demolitions festival,'
to include dozens of demolitions within a few days, and which was to be carried out as 'a semi-military operation'
On the evening of Jan. 27, several dozen activists of the Committee Against House Demolitions (CAHD) and the Jerusalem
Meretz branch entered the giant meeting hall of the Jerusalem Municipal Council taking up all of the public spectator
benches. As soon as Olmart banged the gavel to declare the meeting open, they rose and unfurled banners which had
been hidden in their clothing: Build peace -- don't destroy homes! Veteran peace activist Ya'akov Manor read out
a prepared statement: "We are here to protest against a municipality which destroys homes in East Jerusalem.
People are forced to build without permits because you don't give them permits. Destroying homes is a crime against
humanity!" Olmart had been caught by surprise, only at the end of the speech bursting out with an order to
the municipal marshals: "Throw these ruffians out of here!"
There were, however, no more than four marshals present in the hall, and the police which was called was very slow
in arriving. The protesters did not offer resistance and allowed themselves to be dragged by twos and threes along
the length of the hall, calling out "Racist! Oppressor!" when they passed Olmart' place at the head of
the council table, but it took a
very long while before the mayor finally got rid of 'the disturbance'...
A few days later, many of the same demonstrators together with the Bat Shalom women came to disturb Olmart a second
time, when he delivered at the Van Leer institute a lecture on the subject 'How I encourage tolerance' (sic!).
Whether due to these acts of protest or to pressure from other quarters, Olmart's new police unit had not yet seen
the major action planned for it; speaking with obvious frustration the mayor, in a newspaper interview, admitted
that 'in the first quarter of 1998, thirty-six demolition orders had been issued against houses in East Jerusalem,
but only two were actually implemented' (Ha'aretz, 9.4).
CAHD c/o Amos Gvirtz, Kibbutz Sh'fayim
Bat Shalom, POB 8083, Jerusalem 91080.
One courageous family's story
Most cases of West Bank Palestinians losing their homes to Israeli army demolition crews receive no more than a
terse note in the newspaper back pages, the families involved remaining completely anonymous to the Israeli public
-- but the story of the Al-Atrash family of Hebron did find its way to the forefront.
For many years, the family had no permanent home, moving from one rented apartment to another. They did possess
a small plot of land, 26 dunams, on the southern outskirts of Hebron -- but it lay outside the area where Palestinian
construction is permitted. Several requests for a permit to build on the land were of no avail. In 1988, Yusuf
al-Atrash nevertheless started building a house for his family; he received a demolition order, an appeal to the
Israeli Supreme Court was rejected, and in 1992 the house was destroyed. In the meantime, a new settlement (Beit
Hagai) was established on the nearby hill -- making all Arab houses in the vicinity into 'a security risk,' to
be dealt with by the military.
The signing of the Oslo Agreements, with the promise of imminent Israeli withdrawal, encouraged the family to rebuild
their house in 1995. They saved penny to penny, crowded in the homes of the extended family, till they finished
building for the second time. However, the line demarking the area of Hebron handed over to Palestinian rule was
placed 300 metres north of the Al-Atrash home, leaving them still under full Israeli military control with its
building restrictions. And the Beit-Hagai settlers started pressing the military to destroy 'the illegal Arab houses'
-- those of the Al-Atrash family and of six other Palestinian families in their vicinity.
At noon on March 3, while the men of the family were at work, the soldiers arrived. They broke down the door and
ordered Zuhoor Al-Atrash and her ten children out, giving them only a single hour to vacate the house. Thereupon,
it was torn down, burying toys, clothes and furniture under the ruins. But the family, undeterred, started reconstruction
at once, meanwhile living on the site in tents provided by the Red Cross.
The family's struggle got the attention of the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT), a group of American volunteers
based in Hebron, who started coming to the site and helping in the reconstruction of the house. Through CPT, contact
was made with Israeli peace groups. On Friday, March 20, some twenty Israelis arrived on the site and worked for
several hours together with family members on rebuilding the house. On the following day, the Palestinian Jerusalem
daily Al-Quds published the unusual photograph of a Rabbi climbing a ladder in the half-built house, bearing a
load of stones.
This joint action itself passed without incident -- but two days later, in the afternoon of March 22, a large convoy
of military and police vehicles arrived to halt the construction and confiscate the cement mixer used by the family.
Family members resisted and were kicked and beaten up by the soldiers; the mother, father and their two eldest
children, the 18-year old son Ra'ed and the 16-year old daughter Manar, were taken off to detention. Ha'aretz journalist
Gideon Levy, who was there, described it as 'one of the most brutal scenes I have ever seen' (27.3).
Usually, in such confrontations there are no outside witnesses. In this case there were plenty: aside from Levy,
there were the Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid, and -- most important of all -- an international TV
crew. That evening, the scene of the soldiers dragging the bound Zuhoor Al-Atrash over the ground was exposed to
an Israeli and worldwide TV audience.
A few hours later, during the night, the women were released from custody and transferred to a Hebron hospital.
The daughter Manal, who had been kicked in the belly by soldiers, started coughing blood, and lost consciousness
on the way to hospital -- apparently suffering from internal injuries.
Yusuf Al-Atrash and his son remained in custody, having refused an offer to be released in exchange for a promise
to stop rebuilding the home.
Thou shalt not destroy
The following petition, with 300 signatures, was published as an ad in Ha'aretz, on Feb. 22.
Thousands of families live in constant fear. More than a thousand families got demolition orders. About 11,000
men, women and children lost their homes in the past ten years. It is for many years already that the state of
Israel is freezing by administrative means the possibility of Palestinians to build legally in the West Bank and
East Jerusalem, leaving many Palestinians with no choice but to build homes on their own land, but without a permit.
All of these houses are threatened with destruction.
We, the undersigned, do not regard the demolition of such houses as legitimate law enforcement, but as implementation
of a clearly immoral and discriminatory policy, which must be abolished forthwith.
CAHD c/o Amos Gvirtz, Kibbutz Sh'fayim
Meanwhile, Gideon Levy published extensive articles on the affair in Ha'aretz, and members of CAHD and Gush Shalom
held a vigil outside the Jerusalem Larom Hotel during the lecture there of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. (Uri
who was among those privileged to get an invitation to the lecture, succeeded in raising the issue directly
to the Secretary General). And on the morning of March 27, CAHD and Rabbis for Human Rights activists once again
arrived to work on the Al-Atrash home -- where rebuilding had proceeded intensively during the past week by friends,
neighbors and CPT volunteers. They were joined by some fifty Peace Now members, coming straight from the Prime
Minister's office in Jerusalem, where they had demonstrated during the cabinet meeting in favor of a speedy military
redeployment on the West Bank.
While working they heard that on the previous day, Yusuf Al-Atrash and his son Ra'ed had been subjected to an 'instant
trial' at a military court, which sentenced them to a fine of 3000 Shekels -- about 900 Dollars. Since that sum
is three times Yusuf's monthly salary at his job in a Hebron shoe factory, the two were unable to pay the fine
and remained in custody. On the spot, Gush Shalom activist Oren Medicks started collecting contributions; and an
appeal for financial support to help free the Al-Atrash prisoners was also placed on the Gush Shalom internet website.
Within days the full sum was collected; Gideon Levy and Bassam Eid immediately went to fetch the two from the Adorayim
Military Prison. Upon their release Yusuf and Ra'ed warmly shook the hand of a soldier named Dudu -- who, they
told Levy, had treated them with great decency and eased the time of their incarceration (Ha'aretz, 3.4).
At the time of writing, several rooms of the Al-Artash family home are complete, and work is proceeding, slowly
but steadily, on the rest of the house. A Jerusalem lawyer was found to present, on behalf of the family, a new
request for a building permit. Meanwhile, members of CPT keep a constant presence at the house -- armed with a
video camera, to record any future confrontation.
For the time being, the military authorities seem to leave this now-famous house alone. However, the Palestinian
Land Defence Committee alerted the American and Israeli activists to eviction orders issued against a hundred Palestinian
inhabitants at Yata, south of Hebron -- opening a new chapter in the never ending struggle.
Contact: Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, www.gush-shalom.org
CPT, Box 326, Bethlehem, West Bank 972-50-397506
Rabbis for Human Rights 972-2-6799006
Jahalin struggle not over yet
On the evening of February 5, a mixed crowd of veteran peace activists and well-to-do yuppies gathered at 'Habustan'
-- a fashionable Jerusalem Gallery/Restaurant. They came to participate in an auction of no less than forty-five
works, some of them by the biggest names in the world of Israeli art -- the proceeds to be used for the benefit
of the Jahalin Bedouins, expelled from their West Bank homes in the previous year to make place for expansion of
Israeli settlement-city Ma'aleh Adumim (see TOI-77, p 18). Since their expulsion, the Bedouins had been living
in makeshift housing, on a windswept hill near the Jerusalem garbage dump -- the site which was designated for
them by the military authorities.
The initiative for the auction had come from Racheli Shahar, a Jerusalem art student and peace activist, who had
spent months getting artists and gallery owners to donate their works (nearly all who were approached did so without
hesitation). Anne-Marie Friedlander, owner of 'Habustan,' donated the use of her premises, and auctioneer Phillippe
Loudmer gave free his professional services -- which greatly helped the success of the auction. Altogether, the
sum of 37,000 Shekels was collected -- enough for setting up a kindergarten and a children's playground at the
+++ On February 16, large police and military forces raided further encampments of the Jahalin tribe, not included
in the 1997 expulsion, destroyed more than fifty huts, and forcibly transported some 140 persons to the already
overcrowded site where victims of the earlier expulsions live. The raid was instigated by the settler leaders,
who -- having gotten rid in 1997 of the Bedouins living near the settlement houses -- pressured the army into also
expelling those living on more distant plots earmarked for future extension of the giant Ma'aleh Adumim settlement.
Faced with overwhelming odds, the Jahalin had not resisted the expulsion -- but in the night they came back. They
lived in tents donated by UNRWA and the Red Cross -- and when the tents were confiscated in a new military raid,
they steadfastly remained on the spot under the open sky, lighting fires against the cold desert nights.
The Rabbis for Human Rights succeeded in getting them a considerable amount of donations (blankets, clothes and
food) by handing out leaflets (It is cold in the desert...) at different synagogues, Orthodox and non-Orthodox.
They were especially successful at the more affluent congregations of immigrants from the West.
The plight of the Jahalin got considerable attention on the pages of Ha'aretz and Kol Ha'Ir. There was a constant
stream of solidarity delegations, coordinated from the Jerusalem offices of Bat Shalom; when the Jahalin got new
tents, there were Israeli activists staying with them at night to prevent these from being confiscated as well.
The Physicians for Human Rights came to conduct free medical checks and published a report; members of Defence
of Children International were photographed playing with the Jahalin children (Jerusalem Post, 25.3). There were
also high-ranking visitors from the Palestinian Authority, who brought 25,000 Dollars given on the personal instructions
of Arafat, and from Palestinian NGO's and human rights organizations.
On Friday, Feb. 27, a support rally by several hundred Israelis and Palestinians took place on the spot, addressed
by several Knesset Members and by the Palestinian Minister of Agriculture, and followed by Jewish and Muslim prayers.
Two days later, the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction maintaining the status-quo: the authorities were
forbidden to remove the Jahalin tents, but the Bedouins were to erect any permanent
structures or even add more tents. The court proposed that 'the sides appoint a mutually-agreed arbiter, to
rule on the definite disposition of the case.' The military authorities refused, instead appointing a former general
as 'special investigator' to check the Jahalin grievances. And thus the situation remains at the moment, in which
the Jahalin can just barely hold on with the help of their supporters.
Rabbis for Human Rights, 2 Yitz. Elhanan St., J'lem 92141, fax 972-2-5663865, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
Bat Shalom, POB 8083, J'lem 91080; Physicians, POB 592, Tel-Aviv 61004; Defence of Children, POB 8028, J'lem 91080
From the ground to the court
It all began with a couple of Israeli citizens, Adel and Eeman Ka'adan, inhabitants of Baka'h-el-Garbiya, who wanted
to buy a house at the new middle-class suburb Katzir being built a few kilometres from their present home. But
the two happened to be Arabs, and the Katzir Building Association replied -- quite openly, no vague excuses --
that Katzir is to be a Jewish-only town. In itself, there was nothing new in the case; such policies had been implemented
in Israel since its creation; but the Ka'adans seem to be the first Arabs who went to court over it.
ACRI (Civil Rights Association), acting on behalf of the couple, asked the Supreme Court to rule the discriminatory
practice illegal -- as it certainly would be considered in any country of the Democratic West of which Israel claims
to be a part. The state, to the contrary, defended the decades-old bureaucratic mechanism involved: state lands
are transferred to the Jewish Agency, which is in theory 'just a voluntary association,' and which is therefore
regarded as free to lease the lands on a purely ethnic basis. This, the state affirmed in its affidavit, is needed
for 'implementing the values of Zionism.' Thus, in effect, the Supreme Court was asked to choose between Zionism
Supreme Court President Aharon Barak -- normally assertive and even aggressive in his judicial rulings -- was very
reluctant to rule on this case. 'This is one of the hardest decisions of my life. Israel is not yet ripe for such
a decision' he said, and pleaded with the sides to reach a compromise out of court (Yediot, 18/2).
Contact: ACRI, 12 Bialik St., Tel-Aviv.
While the Supreme Court continued to dither, journalist Gidon Eshet revealed the wider dimensions of the same issue
in an extensive expose of a hitherto secret plan hatched between Ariel Sharon, Minister of National Infrastructure,
and Avraham Burg, Head of the Jewish Agency -- under which millions of dunams of state lands in the Galilee and
the Negev would be transferred to the Jewish Agency, for the purpose of making sure that they would be leased to
Jews and to Jews only (Yediot Aharonot 3.3).
Following the publication, Arab supporters of Ibna el Balad picketed on March 11 the Jewish Agency headquarters
in Tel-Aviv, together with local Jewish activists (Apartheid is alive and well -- in Israel!); on March 24, more
than seventy Jewish and Arab volunteer associations published a joint condemnation of the Sharon-Burg Plan, at
the initiative of Shatil; on March 29, the Ha'aretz editorial sharply condemned the 'ethnic discrimination plan',
as did former minister Shulamit Aloni and the respected Labor MK Shevach Weiss...
Jewish Agency Head Burg was highly vulnerable to criticism from that quarter. He had started his career as a Peace
Now activist, and despite his present job still likes to be considered a part of the peace and human rights community
-- as was expressed in his furious and confused rejoinder (Jewish Agency Ad, Ha'aretz, 27.3.98). So far, the controversial
deal has not been actually implemented.
The debate was overshadowed by the approach of Land Day, March 30, annually marked by Israel's Arab citizens. News
of the Burg-Sharon Plan caused the Monitoring Committee (Arab leadership body) to declare this year a general strike
throughout the Arab sector in Israel -- after several years in which Land Day was marked in more mild ways. And
this year's demonstrations in the Arab towns and villages were the biggest and most numerous since the 1980's.
Yet the violent outbreaks predicted in the press failed to materialize -- on that day.
The following eyewitness report TOI got from Haifa peace activist Iris Bar.
At Thursday, April 1, huge police forces attacked the small non-recognized village of Um-el-Sahaly, destroying
three out of its seven houses. The houses, like another 16,000 homes in the Arab sector, were built without permit.
In a lot of Arab towns and villages it is extremely difficult to acquire building permits -- and in the 'unrecognized
villages,' it is just not possible at all. Since 1948, development maps don't include Arab development, and lots
of lands, owned by private Arab citizens, were included in Jewish towns and communal units. (It is important to
note that this situation exists not just in the occupied territories but also inside the '67 borders of the state
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
The houses of Um-el-Sahali were build in 1959. The families, all of them with at least four children, tried in
the last years to get registered as either part of the nearby Arab town Shefa'amr, or failing that -- of the (Jewish)
communal unit Adi, but the authorities were not willing to give in this way any kind of recognition to their existence
on the spot.
Instead, there came bulldozers -- just three days after the annual Land Day marked by the Arabs in Israel as a
day of strikes and demonstrations about the lands question, which this year were big and powerful; bulldozers which
came to erase houses which had been there for almost 40 years, and which the inhabitants expected to be there always...
Unfortunately, destroying houses in unrecognized villages has been for decades a normal event. The
special thing, in this case, was that neighbours came and immediately began to help rebuild the houses. The Committee
of the Unrecognized Villages organized a donation of building blocks, sand, cement and tools; a demonstration was
scheduled for the following Saturday.
It became much larger than expected, almost a thousand people turned up, and spirits were not quenched by the pouring
rain. Mostly Arabs, though with the usual adhesion of some Jewish activists, most of them from Haifa, they walked
up to the nearby Adi, with its government-subsidized villas, and in unmistakable language shouted No to Judaization!
No to our expulsion! We will never leave our lands! The leaders of all the Arab parties and movements, as well
as the Communist Party, made speeches promising not to leave Um-el-Sahali alone. And when we got back to the village,
we found the houses almost completely rebuilt, some young men were already fixing the roofs...
On the evening of the same day, at about ten o'clock, more than five hundred police and Border Guards with helicopters,
guns and tear gas canisters staged a raid on the village, trying once more to destroy the houses. This time, the
people got out to fight and push the police out of their village, meanwhile calling for help on their mobile phones.
Activists from the nearby Shefa'amr left their homes and came, phoning more friends in other towns and villages.
From ten o'clock until the early morning there were riots going on. After midnight when the police was more or
less pushed out of Um-el-Sahali, confrontations went on for another two hours on the main road which was totally
blocked for traffic and in the streets of Shefa'amr. People from all over the Galilee took part -- as far afield
as Haifa and Nazareth.
The police used tear gas, plastic bullets and fire. Dozens of people were wounded, including one Jewish journalist.
More than twenty people were arrested, all of them being beaten up upon detention; most of the wounded avoided
going to hospital for fear of being arrested as well. Eighteen policeman were wounded too....
At three in the morning, when the police forces withdrew it was clear that the masses had won this battle... 'They
came as if they wanted to occupy the village' -- a friend told me -- 'but this time they didn't succeed...'
Postscript: On March 6, a general strike was again proclaimed among the Arabs in Israel, 'a Second Land Day.' A
long procession marched from Shefa'amr to Um-el-Sahaly -- this time without any confrontation with the police.
There was an enormous profusion of flags of all kinds -- black flags of mourning, red flags of the Communists,
green flags of the Islamists, Palestinian flags -- and in the big crowd, supporters of all factions melted together
as happens only in times of strong feeling. There were also Jewish participants, some who came especially all the
way from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, and some from the nearby communal units who felt that their Arab neighbors 'had
really been treated badly' -- as one of them said on the radio.
Representatives of the state establishment, apparently surprised and shaken by the outbreak, seemed anxious to
avoid further confrontations and took a conciliatory attitude -- especially exemplified in a visit by President
Weitzman to Um-el-Sahaly, interpreted by friend and foe as giving ultimate legitimacy to the three rebuilt houses.
The officers' letter revisited
The impetus for creation of the Peace Now movement in early 1978 grew out of a letter, sent to then Prime Minister
Menachem Begin and signed by several hundred IDF reservists. (It came to be known as 'The Officers Letter,' though
in fact not all signatories were officers.) The letter reflected a widespread anxiety at the fate of the Middle
East peace process -- started just a few months earlier with the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat
to Jerusalem, and already threatened by a wave of settlement creation.
Precisely twenty years later, the idea arose among veterans of the struggle of collecting new signatures on the
historic text -- which upon examination turned out to be all too relevant and applicable to the reality of 1998.
A month of intensive lobbying by phone, letter and newspaper ads produced a total of 1554 signatories -- far beyond
the organizers' initial target of getting a thousand, and including Tzvi Tzur, former Commander-in-Chief of the
Israeli armed forces, and no less than sixty-nine other reserve generals and brigadiers.
Following is the text of the 1998 Officers' Letter, published as a full-page ad in Yediot Aharonot on March 8,
and financed solely from the signatories' own contributions. Two amendments introduced to the original text are
To the Prime Minister
This letter is sent to you by citizens who serve as reserve soldiers and officers in the Israeli Defence Forces.
It is not lightly that we took the decision to write you the following words. Once again [org: 'For the first time'],
new horizons are opening for the state of Israel, possibilities for life of peace and coexistence in our region.
At such a time, we regard it as our duty to call upon you to avoid taking steps which future generations of our
people would rue.
We write to you out of a feeling of deep anxiety.
A government preferring to maintain the 'Greater Israel' borders rather than pursuing the possibility of a peaceful
Israel living in good neighborliness would cause us to feel severe doubts.
A government preferring the existence of settlements beyond the Green Line to the ending of the historical conflict
and the creation of normal relations in our region would cause us to doubt the justice of our way. A governmental
policy leading to continued rule over two and a half
million Palestinians [org. 'a million Arabs'] could damage the Jewish-Democratic character of the state and make
it difficult for us to identify with the way of the state of Israel.
We are aware of Israel's security needs and of the difficulties on the way to peace, but we know that only peace
can give true security.
The strength of the IDF comes from the soldiers' identification with the way of the state of Israel.
We call upon you to choose for the path of peace and strengthen our identification with the justice of our way.
Mothers and Ministers
So, now Netanyahu wants to withdraw from Lebanon. It is now the official government policy. It is the Prime Minister's
fondest dream and wish -- if you believe what Netanyahu says, which is a big if.
What, then, should peace activists think about it -- those who for years stood in forlorn small vigils at street
corners and held up the signs 'Get out of Lebanon!' and 'Insecurity Zone'?.
Should we cheer and line up behind our wonderful peacemaking Prime Minister? Or dismiss the whole thing as a rather
transparent attempt to distract attention from the open wound of the West Bank, a cheap way of being dovish with
a territory over which even the most rabid nationalist would not make a Biblical claim? Or should we, rather, regard
the change in Netanyahu's stance as an example that pressure from below is beginning to be felt at the top -- but
In fact, it had all happened before. During the years of the invasion deep into Lebanon we had Parents Against
Silence, a movement of soldiers' parents (mostly soldiers' mothers). Soldiers' parents who as such had an enormous
moral authority and knew how to use it effectively, whose demonstrations had a political impact no government could
ignore -- and who disbanded themselves in complete satisfaction on June 1985, when the newspaper headlines read
'Lebanon Withdrawal Completed Today.'
It took years for the wider Israeli society -- even for most of the peace movement -- to realize how we have been
cheated. Instead of a complete withdrawal from Lebanon -- which some ministers and some generals did advocate --
The 'National Unity' cabinet decided to keep the Lebanese adventure going on a modest scale. Just a 'Security Zone,'
a strip of Lebanese territory immediately north of the border. And we would not need to keep too many of our own
soldiers there. We would have our own pet Lebanese militia, 'The South Lebanon Army,' with just a few Israeli military
advisers; after all, all of Lebanon was just a patchwork of militia enclaves, so why not have our own -- just a
small security zone to protect the communities of the north?
And so we have nearly forgotten Lebanon. After 1987, we had the Intifada to demand our full attention and more,
and we talked of 'The Lebanon War' as being an event of the past. Israeli casualties in Lebanon were few, and about
SLA casualties Israelis did not care. Even when some obscure group tried to raise the subject of Lebanon, very
And while Israel was looking elsewhere, the Syrians were very busy in Lebanon: patching up an agreement between
the factions, disarming the militias, getting an effective central government set up which embarked on reconstruction
and economic recovery... and most Lebanese accepted Syrian domination as the lesser evil, compared with civil war
and carnage. The same could not be said of Israeli rule in South Lebanon -- which was now the only part with an
active war front.
The pro-Iranian Hizbullah -- the only militia which escaped disarming, due to its recognized role in opposing the
Israeli occupation -- embarked seriously on a guerrilla campaign. It was, in fact, 'a war by proxy' between Israel
and Syria -- but with a clear advantage to the Syrians, who had no need to involve their own soldiers. The Hizbullah
could do very well on their own, as long as Damascus did not interfere with the flow of munitions from Iran --
while the SLA could not cope without a massive presence of Israeli soldiers, which meant Israeli casualties.
Thus we again began to receive painful reminders of the unfinished Lebanese muddle. And thus the establishment
started to get it through its collective thick head that the brilliant gambit had backfired, that the 'Security
Zone' had become a liability, a major Syrian lever with which to pressure Israel about another forgotten issue
-- the occupied Golan Heights.
That still did not bring the establishment to opt for withdrawal. Rather the contrary, in fact: the Labor government
(perhaps needing a cheap proof of hawkishness to compensate for Oslo) attempted to break out of the Lebanese deadlock
by main force. Not a ground invasion (the memory of 1982 was too traumatic) but massive use of the total Israeli
superiority in airplanes and artillery. But the two massive bombing offensives (1993 and 1996) failed to bring
the Lebanese to their knees, and drew upon the communities of northern Israel the very retaliation which Israeli
presence in Lebanon was supposed to prevent. And 'Operation Grapes of Wrath' in 1996 ended in a bloody fiasco,
when a single Israeli artillery shell killed more than a hundred Lebanese civilians -- and greatly contributed
to Shimon Peres' electoral defeat a few months later.
The nationalist Binyamin Netanyahu, who came to power, inherited a decades-old guerrilla war in which the options
of a military solution were practically exhausted.
(...) All military means have been exhausted. In the past three decades, the state of Israel tried everything in
Lebanon: small-scale attacks and large-scale ones, retaliatory raids and raids in depth, the Litany Operation ,
The Lebanon War, Operation Accountability , Operation Grapes of Wrath . The terrorists were hit, the
Lebanese suffered, and Israel paid a heavy price in blood.(...) (Avi Bnayahu, Defence Ministry Spokesperson, in
Yediot Aharonot, 26.9.97).
Thus, the circle had come a full turn, and the time was ripe for a new Lebanon protest movement to burst out. First,
the Women in Black local groups in the Galilee started holding vigils at Rosh Hanikra Border Crossing on the international
border between Israel and Lebanon, with leaflets expressing 'protest against the continuing war which claims lives
on both sides, an endless, futile war which could be ended only by withdrawal to the international border.' These
little trickles of protest grew to a sudden flood after a tragic event in February 1997: two helicopters, carrying
seventy-three soldiers en route to a tour of duty in a south Lebanon outpost, collided in mid-air and crashed.
There were no survivors.
The government talked of 'national unity in mourning' and tried to disconnect the disaster from the army's presence
in Lebanon ('accidents can happen everywhere'). But they could not hide that the soldiers had been transported
by air because guerrilla activities had made ground convoys in Lebanon too dangerous; that the helicopters had
to travel at night with their lights extinguished due to the danger of Hizbullah anti-aircraft missiles; and that
this flying in the dark was the direct cause of the fatal collision.
It was the Helicopter Disaster which pushed four women -- all of them mothers of soldiers serving in Lebanon, and
all living at communities along the north border for whose sake the army was supposedly fighting in Lebanon --
to write to Knesset Members and urge them to get the army out of Lebanon. Without intending it, the four -- none
of whom had been politically active previously -- found themselves at the head of a new grassroots movement, which
took up where Parents Against Silence left off eleven years previously.
Their first newspaper interview, in a kibbutz movement weekly, was entitled Four Mothers -- a name reminiscent
of the Four Matriarchs of Jewish tradition. That soon became the new movement's official name -- a name made familiar
in newspaper headlines and extensive TV prime time coverage, and retained also when the new movement became a general
organization aimed at all female and male supporters of quitting Lebanon (see TOI-79/80, p.18). Tens of thousands
signed their petitions, and among the participants in their demonstrations appeared many of the bereaved parents
left by two decades of fighting in Lebanon -- people who had never before been in a peace demonstration.
Politicians throughout the spectrum soon came to treat the new movement as a substantial political force -- and
to regard withdrawal from Lebanon as a powerful new popular cause. In particular, Labor's Yossi Beilin soon made
himself identified with that cause, setting up a parallel movement known as Leaving Lebanon in Peace which published
detailed military and diplomatic blueprints for the withdrawal, arranged a public 'withdrawal simulation game'
and engaged in 'alternative diplomacy' of numerous meetings with high ranking foreign diplomats (reportedly including
Lebanese ones). For their part, the Mothers agreed to cooperate with Beilin -- yet took care not to be taken over
The Mothers certainly also had to cope with opposition -- ranging from crude insults hurled at them as they stood
in roadside vigils, to long newspaper articles full of inflammatory arguments ('Woe betide the day when the army
lets the feelings of mothers dictate operational decisions!' -- Defence Ministry official reaction, Yediot Aharonot,
26/9/97). The army arranged extensive press interviews with soldiers in Lebanon who all declared themselves utterly
convinced of the need 'to get on with our job, fight the terrorists and protect the communities of the north.'
A short-lived counter-movement was formed by a group of fathers who supported continued military presence in Lebanon
and claimed to represent the voice of 'rational fathers who oppose the emotional mothers' (in fact, many soldiers'
fathers joined the Four Mothers movement).
Four Mothers succeeded in gaining support even in such places as Kiryat Shmona -- a traditionally Likud-supporting
town on the Lebanese border, which had long been a nationalist symbol for having endured innumerable rocket attacks
from Lebanon. Initial hostile reactions in the streets of the town were gradually replaced by support, and at the
end of 1997 the newly-installed mayor of Kiryat Shmona declared himself in favor of withdrawal from Lebanon --
in marked contrast to his predecessor (Ha'aretz, 14.12.97).
In general, public opinion shifted more and more strongly towards withdrawal from Lebanon -- particularly after
two more fatal incidents: the wiping out in a Hizbullah ambush of an entire squad of the elite Naval Commandos,
and the death of four soldiers in a fire started by the Israeli artillery's own incendiary shells (see TOI-81,
Almost overnight, withdrawal from Lebanon had turned into a declared desirable goal shared by practically the entire
Israeli political spectrum -- at least verbally. But this apparent unanimity masked a deep division, between the
advocates of 'a negotiated withdrawal' and those of a 'unilateral' one.
For a negotiated withdrawal, giving an assurance that the evacuated territory would not become a base for attacks
on northern Israel, some kind of agreement with the Lebanese government is necessary. An agreement is also necessary
in order to provide some kind of guarantee to the SLA soldiers after an Israeli withdrawal -- failing which, Israel
may find itself compelled to give refuge to them and their families, about 20,000 people in all. But given the
Syrian domination of Lebanon, an agreement with Beirut would never be signed without at least the tacit consent
of Damascus -- and such consent would not be forthcoming without an Israeli move with regard to the Golan Heights.
In the negotiations between Israel and Syria carried out at Washington between 1992 and 1996, the Labor government
apparently gave an unofficial undertaking to withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace -- though substantial
differences over the exact demarcation of the border and the details of future peaceful relations between the two
states prevented an agreement up to the 1996 elections. The talks have
been deadlocked ever since the change of government in Israel, over Netanyahu's refusal to resume negotiations
on the same basis.
Failing an agreement with the Syrians and Lebanese, an alternative possibility is a unilateral withdrawal, carried
out without any agreement, and coupled (by many of the proposers) with dire threats of retaliation for any post-withdrawal
attack from Lebanon.
The debate cut across the normal divisions of Israeli politics, creating odd bedfellows. Supporters of unilateral
withdrawal from Lebanon included hawks seeking to entrench Israeli rule over the annexed Golan -- but also genuine
peace seekers apprehensive that a linkage between Lebanon and Golan can only end in perpetuating the Lebanese carnage
for many more years. Conversely, among those holding out for a negotiated withdrawal could be found those wanting
peace with both Syria and Lebanon -- and those just seeking an excuse to maintain the status quo on both fronts.
In the media, The Four Mothers movement was from its inception identified with the unilateral withdrawal option
-- yet they carefully avoided saying so explicitly, and instead made clear that they just expect to see from the
government a concrete result -- an actual withdrawal, by whatever way, rather than talk about withdrawal.
By the last months of 1997, the pious wish for withdrawal from Lebanon had already become a cliche of Israeli
politics, repeated ad nauseam by everybody -- without the slightest difference felt at the Lebanese guerrilla front
itself. A long-delayed meeting between the Mothers and Defence Minister Mordechai ended in confrontation -- with
the minister agreeing that no military options were left for Israel and that only a political solution was possible,
but giving only the most vague hints as to when such a solution may be achieved.
In the end of November, a leak from a senior officers' meeting caught the headlines: General Amiram Levin, commanding
Israeli forces in Lebanon, reportedly expressed himself in favor of unilateral withdrawal. On the following day,
the army flatly denied the report. However, a month later Levin's wife Rachel officially joined the protest movement.
(The article in Yediot Aharonot of Jan. 8 was entitled Four Mothers and a General's Wife.)
On the same day, a TV crew accompanied the Defence Minister on his routine meeting with soldiers at the Bint Jbeil
Base in South Lebanon. As was his habit at such meetings, the minister asked: 'Does any of you support unilateral
withdrawal?' A junior lieutenant -- the 20-year old Sagi Dagan of Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim -- got up and answered:
'I do, sir. It is my considered opinion as a combat officer that we can defend the northern communities from inside
the boundaries of Israel.'
It was at the time of this embarrassment that the minister authorised intensified operation of the army's specially-trained
'anti-guerrilla unit,' which was supposed to 'meet the guerrillas on their own terrain.' This last-ditch military
effort did succeed in reducing the number of Hizbullah ambushes of Israeli convoys -- but it could not prevent
all casualties, and the Israeli public was no longer willing to tolerate any more killing of soldiers in Lebanon.
The anniversary of the Helicopter Disaster, February 4, was the occasion of a strong demonstration by the Four
Mothers at the Defence Ministry gates, with huge banners reading Remember the Dead -- Save the Living! The same
demonstrators returned to the same place three weeks later, with the news of three more killed in Lebanon...
And thus we have come to that cabinet meeting, adopting an official resolution purporting to mandate withdrawal
from Lebanon as a government policy. (The press photographers, waiting for the ministers to come out, took photos
of Kazamel Sharaban from the Druze village of Beit Jann, who carried the picture of her son killed in the helicopter
disaster, and a sign reading: Netanyahu, take us out of the Lebanese swamp!)
The ministers chose for a variant of the 'negotiated withdrawal' option. (Sharon's proposal -- a rather shady version
of the 'unilateral' option which many suspected of just providing an excuse to reenter Lebanon soon after leaving
-- was for the time being rejected.) The main new element is an official Israeli acceptance of UN Resolution 425,
a resolution which as long ago as 1978 called for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and whose implementation Lebanon
had demanded -- and Israel had refused -- over the past twenty years.
But as with previous UN resolutions such as the well-known 242 and 338, the acceptance of 425 by the Government
of Israel carries a sting. As adopted by the Security Council on March 19, 1978 -- in the wake of Israel's first
big military incursion into Lebanon -- the text of the resolution calls upon Israel to 'withdraw forthwith its
forces from all Lebanese territory.' This seems straightforward enough, even after the passage of twenty years.
Grounds for a different interpretation were found, however, in the further section where the resolution mandates
a United Nations Interim Force to enter the evacuated territory, with one of its aims being 'to restore international
peace and security.' This, under Netanyhau's new-found interpretation, means that Lebanon should negotiate with
Israel the terms for implementation of the resolution, and that the Israeli army will stay in place pending a successful
conclusion of such talks.
The interpretation was promptly rejected by the Lebanese -- according to whom, the plain text of 425 requires unconditional
Israeli withdrawal, after which Lebanon will settle its own affairs with the UN force stationed on its territory
at its own request.
Had that been the real problem, a face-saving formula could have been worked out -- for example, having the negotiations
take place, officially, between Lebanon and the UN. (Secretary-General Kofi Annan, fresh from his success in Iraq,
seemed ready enough to have an active role in Lebanon; at the Ben Gurion Airport, he was greeted by enthusiastic
Four Mothers demonstrators, with the sign Make a miracle
for us, too!) However, the real problem which official acceptance of 425 does not address is continued Israeli
refusal to withdraw from the Golan, and continued Syrian refusal to give up the linkage between Lebanon and the
Golan. Thus, while the move gives Netanyahu some propaganda points at home and internationally, it does not seem
to herald a near end to the agony of south Lebanon -- at best, it may turn out to be the beginning of a long and
tortuous process, in the course of which much violence and bloodshed could still occur.
The Four Mothers are not deceived. Following the new Cabinet resolution, their representatives met with Deputy
Defence Minister Silvan Shalom, afterwards telling the press that -- while satisfied with the government's declared
commitment to withdrawal from Lebanon -- they still expected deeds and not just words.
In earnest of their determination to struggle on until the soldiers actually come back from Lebanon, a mass rally
in Tel-Aviv is already scheduled for June 6, anniversary of the Lebanon War.
Contact: Four Mothers, POB 23630, Tel-Aviv 61231
First step towards freedom
For more than eleven years, nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu had been incarcerated in total isolation. Israeli
and international activists struggling to end this cruel treatment often felt themselves up against the impenetrable
stone wall of the political and security establishment. Yet as it turns out, the wall was after all not completely
The decisive breakthrough came when Labor Knesset Member Yossi Katz took up Vanunu's case. But the adhesion of
Katz -- a politician from a mainstream party who fully expects to get his party's nomination in the next elections,
too -- is itself an indication of how far Vanunu's case had progressed.
Katz undertook to mediate between Vanunu and the shadowy man known only as 'R', Commissioner of Security Department
at the Defence Ministry -- the man who, it seems, was for eleven years the source of the most intransigent opposition
to ameliorating Vanunu's conditions of imprisonment. In talking with Katz, 'R' at long last agreed to drop what
had been the main stumbling block: the demand that, if allowed to consort with others, Vanunu undertake to keep
silent about anything connected with the Dimona Nuclear Pile and about the circumstances of his kidnapping by Mossad
agents in Italy. Instead, the specific stipulation was made that he not reveal the names of Dimona Pile employees;
this Vanunu readily agreed to, saying he respected the privacy of his former colleagues.
Nevertheless, there was more than a month of uncertainty between the announcement of Vanunu's impending release
from isolation and its actual implementation. During this period there arrived in Israel Mary and Nicholas Eoloff
of St.Paul, Minnesota -- Catholic American anti-nuclear activists who had long corresponded with the imprisoned
Vanunu and decided to adopt him, as is possible under Minnesota law. The Israeli authorities did not officially
recognize the two as the prisoner's adoptive parents -- but to their surprise, they were permitted to visit him,
the first visitors he got in eleven years, other than his brothers, his lawyer and often hostile government officials.
Meeting Vanunu face to face, after so many years, was for them an intensely moving experience, as they later told
in an extensive interview to the Yerushalayim weekly: 'He looks physically well, but much older than 43. His hair
is white and he looks tired, but his commitment to his mission is firm. When he is released we want to take him
to the Center for Torture Victims in Minneapolis. Over there they could help him recover' (20.1).
The visit, again bringing home to the authorities the width of international support for Vanunu, may have have
given the last push for actually ending his isolation (especially in a period where the government needs to score
some international points!).
'It was very exciting. Finally I saw that there were other people in the prison. I spoke with them and I had a
certain sense of freedom' -- so was Vanunu quoted on Yediot Aharonot on March 15. A prison guard who was with him
during his first steps in the general prison courtyard added: 'He looked like a child on the street for the first
time: excited and curious as he approached the people.' A few days later the brother Asher Vanunu told the same
paper: 'For the first time in twelve years I could meet him without bars between us, to embrace him and give him
the human touch. He has now been walking around the jail for several days, speaking with other prisoners, and the
sky didn't fall. Nothing happened to the security of the state' (Yediot, 18/3).
Vanunu is, however, still a prisoner with six full years of his term still to run, albeit in less inhuman conditions;
reports filtering out of Ashkelon Prison show that his initial elation did not last long. The hurdle to be crossed
now is getting him altogether free.
President Weitzman has announced that, to mark Israel's fiftieth year, more clemency will be shown to prisoners
than in other years; but the president had also vehemently rejected the idea of pardoning 'the traitor Vanunu'
(see TOI-74/75, p.20). An alternate route open to Vanunu, having completed on April 24 twelve out of the eighteen
years of his term, is to ask for remittance of the last third for good behaviour. In that case, the decision will
officially rest with a Prison Authority commission -- and as things now stand, his chances there seem to be a bit
A major campaign is presently building up for Vanunu's release. An Israeli petition with hundreds of signatures
appeared in Ha'aretz; Dr. Gadi Elgazi of Tel-Aviv University, who collected signatures among his colleagues, told
TOI: 'People were eager to sign in support of Vanunu. Times have changed. After the Gulf Crisis, the panic about
non-conventional weapons in Iraq, the hints in the press that Netanyhau was going to use The Bomb if war breaks
out -- it all made the issue real in a way it had not been before.'
Meanwhile the Australian Senate has passed a resolution, proposed by Senator Margaret Reynolds, and urging the
government of Israel to consider
Vanunu's early release on humanitarian grounds. And two senior members of the British Parliament are due to arrive
in Israel and present to President Weitzman an international petition including among its signatories Bishop Desmond
Tutu, Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka, Playwright Harold Pinter and numerous other VIP's from all over the world
-- artists, scientists, Nobel Prize laureates, and parliamentarians.
As this goes into print, members of the Israeli Vanunu Committee prepare to celebrate outside the walls of Ashkelon
Prison the Passover Holiday -- the holiday marking the release of the ancient Hebrews from slavery, and the release
of all unjustly held prisoners.
Contact: Israeli Vanunu Committee, POB 956, Tel-Aviv 61008, ph. 972-3-6882587; Israeli Nuclear Whistleblowers,
c/o Blueweiss, Zofit 44925, ph. 972-9-7486728; UK Vanunu Campaign, 89 Borough High St., London SE1 1Nl, ph.44-171-3789324;
US Vanunu Campaign, 2206 Fox Av., Madison, WI 53711, ph. 1-608-2574764 (contact addresses available for many other
In the recent Gulf Crisis, the United States was prepared to bomb Iraq in order to enforce the right of UN verification
teams to inspect sites suspected of harboring weapons of mass destruction; and during the same crisis, the government
of Israel reportedly considered -- more concretely than ever before -- the option of using Israel's nuclear arsenal,
should war break out. Shortly after the crisis ended and the inspection teams resumed their work in Iraq, a group
of Israeli peace, anti-nuclear, and environmental activists formed themselves into the Israeli Citizens' Verification
The group informed police in advance about its intended inspection. In widely-distributed press releases the ICVT
declared that development, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons is not only a violation of international
law but also a direct threat to human life and the environment -- which made it incumbent upon team members to
investigate reports of such activity in Israel. Therefore, the group intended to inspect the site where, according
to several publications in the foreign press the Israeli air force keeps nuclear armed missiles -- in the Ela Valley
west of Jerusalem.
On the afternoon of April 4, we set out from Jerusalem -- a number of private cars filled with members of the Vanunu
Committee, Nuclear Whistleblowers, Young Communist League as well as some unattached individuals. Some distance
from the base, three police cars were parked, conspicuous in the sleepy weekend afternoon of the countryside --
but made no move to block our way.
We arrived unimpeded at the locked gate of the base -- a spot left blank on even the most detailed maps published
in Israel, in between the small communities of Revadim, Kfar Menachem, and Zachariya. The main entrance is located
at the end of a short access road -- which also leads to a nature preserve where tourists may stop for a picnic.
Unlike the normal practice in Israeli military bases, the gate has no welcoming sign with the name of the base
-- but to judge from a casual conversation with our taxi driver, the name 'Egozi Air Force Base' is quite well
known to local people.
One member of the team had brought a Geiger counter to check radiation levels in the vicinity. While the readings
varied (17.00 -- 70.00), it was obvious that they were more than 100 times the levels recorded in Jerusalem (.17).
I and Smadar, who held the Geiger counter, approached the gate to speak to the guard. We showed the soldier, who
told us he was a reservist, the radiation levels we were reading. He was surprised and interested. We asked to
see the commanding officer and present our request for the team to go inside and investigate the rumors of nuclear
at this location.
When the guard asked what we would do if allowed inside I told him we would take notes for the UN and other international
bodies, just as the inspection teams were doing in Iraq. I also explained why we felt it necessary for Israel to
give up nuclear weapons and avert the risk of a nuclear war devastating the entire region. The other members of
the team lined up opposite the gate, effectively blocking it to traffic -- not that there was much at this time.
They held up signs and banners calling for nuclear disarmament, for public debate on Israel's nuclear policy, and
for the release of Mordechai Vanunu.
The duty officer arrived and asked what we wanted. I told him that nuclear weapons kill indiscriminately, destroying
all life within a particular radius while permanently damaging the environment -- and that, should the weapons
whose existence in the base we suspected ever be used, he personally may be charged with war crimes. I reminded
him that 'just following orders' was not considered a legitimate defense in international humanitarian law. Finally,
I remarked that even if the weapons are never used on purpose, an accident in this base may pose a grave risk to
the area, to the soldiers serving there as well as to the inhabitants of the local communities who were never consulted
or informed by the government. His main reaction was 'You have no idea what is going on here, and it is none of
He refused to accept our letter, entitled 'A warning to those who hold nuclear death in their hands,' and informed
us that the police had been called. They were not in a hurry, however. Though we had seen them waiting just behind
the corner, it took them an hour to arrive on the scene -- and even then, only one of the police vehicles. And
the two police officers in it clearly did not have have instructions to arrest any of us. Local men, they were
quite interested and a bit concerned when we pointed to them our findings with the Geiger counter.
The base duty officer was clearly frustrated at the police's lack of aggressiveness. He accused one of us -- an
American tourist who had joined at the last minute -- of photographing the base. The police were on the point of
'doing their duty' and detaining him -- but our friendly taxi driver, who had been watching from the side suddenly
intervened, expostulating with the
police and convincing them that it would be enough to write down the tourist's personal details. (In fact, the
duty officer made a mistaken identification -- the photos had been taken by another member of our group.)
The authorities' main move against us was made far from the actual spot: as we heard from friendly journalists,
the military censorship sent in advance a clear warning to the Israeli printed and electronic media, not to publish
anything about our action. Of course, the censorship cannot prevent the Israeli papers from quoting the foreign
press, when it reports about our actions and our findings -- but in the short term, no news of our action reached
the Israeli public.
The next move indicated is to alert the inhabitants of the nearby communities to the abnormal radiation levels,
and try to get some of them to come with us on our next inspection visit to the site.
+++ On Feb. 23 a hundred people attended the monthly Gush Shalom meeting at the Tzavta Club in Tel-Aviv and got
a rare glimpse behind the scenes of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Guest speakers were the senior Palestinian
negotiator Sa'eb Arekat, and retired Israeli general Oren Shahor -- who had been Arekat's negotiating partner under
the Labor government, as well as in the early part of Netanyhau's reign.
The audience was surprised at the warmth of Arekat and Shahor's greeting. Arekat explained: 'Shahor is a hard bargainer.
He and I had sometimes very big confrontations across the negotiations table, whole tense nights -- but when we
finally made a deal it was a deal. I would back it to Arafat, and he -- to Rabin, and we would both convince our
bosses that this was the best we could get on the particular issue. With Netanyahu this is impossible. We can't
rely on him to keep anything agreed upon. When it is just us and the Israelis, he would renege on what was agreed,
and the Congress in Washington would always take his word against ours. So now we must insist that in every negotiation
and every discussion there will be American representatives taking notes. Under Netanyahu, the bilateral negotiations
Gush Shalom, ph 3322 Tel-Aviv, fax: 972-3-5271108
+++ On February 4, in the midst of the Iraq panic, the Peace Now Settlement Watch discovered that the Jerusalem
Municipality secretly granted the settler group established at the Arab neighborhood Ras-el-Amud in East Jerusalem
a permit to build a whole apartment block -- completely counter to the compromise reached in September 1997 (see
TOI-81, p.8) under which the number of settlers at Ras-el-Amud is restricted to ten bachelors at a single fortified
house. Peace Now got several dozen demonstrators to the spot within hours of the discovery which made headline
news. There was, however, no confrontation and the furor died out when it became clear that for the time being
the government would not let the settlers implement their new permit. On the following day, Peace Now got unexpected
tribute from the settler group's spokesperson Matti Dan: 'Were it not for Peace Now and their demonstrations, we
would now be in the midst of construction.'
Peace Now, POB 29828, Tel-Aviv; www.peace-now.org
+++ On Friday, March 6, Jerusalem's France Square was filled with women dressed in black and holding up signs reading
The Occupation still goes on -- enough! It was the tenth anniversary of Women in Black. In those ten years, the
Women have gone through many vicissitudes: phenomenal fast growth during the Intifada, and becoming a recognized
feature of the Israeli scene; inspiring similar women's groups in other countries -- especially in the broken pieces
of the former Yugoslavia; a sharp decline after Oslo, when many felt it was no longer needed; gradual renewal and
rebuilding of what turned out to be a still very needed framework... At present, women's peace vigils are once
again taking place every Friday at nearly fifty road junctions around the country. Now, however, only a minority
of them are in the name and with the original format of Women in Black -- others being held under a variety of
names and partially overlapping groupings: Mothers and Women for Peace, Bat Shalom (the best set up logistically,
with an office and paid workers), Women in White, Religious Women for the Sanctity of Life, and in some places
a cooperating male organization Fathers against Son-Sacrifice (actually, in many of the vigils men and women both
participate). According to Ya'alah Cohen of Bat Shalom, two distinct 'generations' of activists can be distinguished
-- those influenced by the Intifada, who focus on the occupation and the injustice to the Palestinians, and those
politicized during the Netanyahu Government's term -- who are concerned with the distortion of Israeli society
and the unnecessary sacrifice of soldiers.
Contact: Bat Shalom POB 8083, J'lem 91080
+++ Back on Jan. 7, Defence Minister Mordechai -- striving to maintain his reputation as a the leading Dove of
the Netanyahu Cabinet -- made a rather rash public pledge. When asked on Second Channel TV: 'If redeployment [on
the West Bank] does not take place in three months, would you resign?', the minister answered simply 'Yes'. Starting
on March 4, Peace Now acted to remind Mordechai of his pledge; a tent was erected outside the Defence Ministry
gates, bearing the banner: Redeployment or Resignation. Another sign, changed daily, gave the number of days left
until Mordechai's April 7 deadline. In the tents a constant day and night presence was maintained; on Tuesday every
week, dozens of mostly-youthful demonstrators gathered, advancing towards the ministry gates and chanting: Mordechai,
make your choice: redeployment or resignation!. The weekly demonstrations also referred to other issues -- for
example, the settler rampage at Hebron in the end of March.
To nobody's surprise, on April 7 Mordechai did not resign, though negotiations on the redeployment seemed bogged
down. At the concluding rally of the month-long action, Meretz KM Yossi Sarid addressed the minister via megaphone:
'Mr. Defence Minister, we are generous. We are not insisting that you keep your
pledge exactly on time. You can take another week or two, even another three months. Eventually you will see that
this government, under this Prime Minister, cannot and does not want to make peace.'
+++ Ra'ash is the Hebrew acronym of 'Want Peace? Make Peace!', but it also means 'Noise.' The student group using
this name started as a conspicuous minority group at the mostly religious-nationalist Bar Ilan University, which
organised a 'Drumming for Peace' event on Campus. Another original idea was the April 8 vigil outside the Knesset,
where Ra'ash members wore doctors' clothing and held up a giant paper dove bound with bandages and a sign reading
We must resuscitate the dove (Ma'ariv, 9.4).
+++ The government's decision to start Israel's 50th anniversary celebrations in the settler enclave at Hebron
angered many people and robbed the anniversary ceremonies of any remaining claim to be 'a unifying national event.'
On the morning of April 12, in preparation for the settler festivities, large military forces entered the Hebron
enclave to intimidate the Palestinian population; government-chartered buses, transporting settlers and their supporters,
started converging on the city. But police on the Jerusalem-Hebron Highway noticed a different kind of convoy:
eleven buses, each bearing an enormous banner: Stop the infamy! Settlers out of Hebron -- Now! and the well-known
Black-and-Red logo of Peace Now; behind the buses came dozens of private cars covered with a profusion of similar
At a junction halfway to Hebron, the peace convoy was blocked; the police explained that the road to Hebron was
now 'a closed military zone,' and invited Peace Now to hold their demonstration at a nearby parking lot. They may
have accepted the generous offer -- except that the settler buses continued moving towards Hebron, completely uninterrupted.
As it was, dozens of youths -- shouting 'We don't pass -- they don't pass!' run down into the road and blocked
it, holding aloft their signs. The stalled settlers reacted furiously, shouting 'leftist traitors!' from their
windows and being answered with 'fascist pigs!' -- but the main confrontation was with the police. Riot police
and Border Guards, wielding their batons, picked up the struggling peace demonstrators one by one and carried them
off; but new demonstrators took their place, lying down on asphalt with linked arms, and some of the youths managed
to open the doors of the police cars and free those who had been detained. With every new assault, the police became
more violent; Meretz Knesset Member Dedi Zucker was dragged dozens of metres, despite his parliamentary immunity.
The road remained blocked for two hours, thirty-two demonstrators were detained, four demonstrators and two police
were wounded -- all of them scores unprecedented in Israeli peace demonstrations. And even while the mayhem was
going on, the Peace Now organizers negotiated with the police, which first offered to let 200 of the demonstrators
go to Hebron and finally gave in and let all of them pass; at Hebron, however, they were directed to a forsaken
corner outside the settler perimeter wall, holding their rally far from the settler festivities. Later, several
dozen activists picketed the Etzion Police Station, where the detainees were held. By the evening, they were all
released except for Efri Shirman -- friend of the TOI-staff whom we supported during his refusal to serve in the
army and who was improbably accused of... having beaten a policeman with a stick. But after an unpleasant night
in detention, he too was set free with the help of the Peace Now lawyer.
+++ Meanwhile, the newly-founded Peace Movements Coordination Committee lodged a Supreme Court appeal -- stating
that since the governmental '50 Years Committee' found it fitting to finance the settlers' political event out
of the public purse, it must for the sake of equality finance also the peace movements' Peace and Independence
Festival, scheduled for Independence Day on April 30. Other initiatives of the Coordinating Committee include a
Motorcycle Peace Cavalcade from the Rabin Square in Tel-Aviv to the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem; a
Peace Caravan of Negev inhabitants from Be'er Sheba to David Ben Gurion's grave at Sdeh Boker, emphasizing the
dovish positions which Israel's Founding Father took in his last years; and coordinating 'peace stalls' -- at five
central locations throughout the country.
Peace Mov. Coord. C-tee, POB 3509, Mevaseret Tzion
+++ The issue of Administrative Detentions, in which the prisoner is not informed of the charges and evidence against
him, and which can be renewed every half a year indefinitely, is gaining more and more critical attention -- in
particular since September 1997, when the Open Doors association was founded, mostly by Tel-Aviv academics, to
deal with that particular subject. There were numerous vigils at the Defence Ministry and outside prison gates,
a well-attended exhibition in Tel-Aviv which opened on the International Human Rights Day, and a petition signed
by twelve of Israel's most respected jurists (Ha'aretz, 5\2). Open Doors decided to 'adopt' eleven detainees --
those who had been held for more than three years, with each activist corresponding with one the prisoners, taking
up his case with the authorities and meeting with his family members. Special attention was given to Ahmed Qatamesh
-- with five years behind bars, the longest-serving detainee; Open Doors started publishing daily small ads in
Ha'aretz, giving the exact updated number of years, months and days he had been imprisoned without charge. Also,
since Qatamesh's prison writings turned out to have a considerable literary merit, a full page in Ha'aretz Literary
Supplement was devoted to them (30.1).
Surveying the past half year, a definite softening of the official attitude to administrative detentions is noticeable:
of Open Doors' original eleven 'adoptees', only five remain behind bars; and the general number, more than three
hundred half a year ago, has gone below two hundred.
Open Doors, c/o Dr. Anat Biletzky, Tel-Aviv University
It is Netanyahu who violates Oslo
In February, Gush Shalom published a research paper showing in detail -- citing article after article of the various
Oslo Agreements, as compared with the actual situation -- that it was Prime Minister Netanyahu who was responsible
for grave and fundamental breaches of Oslo, a blame his propaganda tried to place on the Palestinians.
The document -- originally published as a giant ad in Ha'aretz - was extensively quoted in and outside the country,
and even got the doubtful honor of an official 'refutation' issued by the Prime Minister's bureau and published
in the right-wing paper Makor Rishon.
Available from: Gush Shalom POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
(Could you include a check?) www.gush-shalom.org
+++ For quite a long time, the Supreme Court found ways to avoid dealing with the Shabak interrogation methods.
Now, at last, the court -- having the recalcitrant problem thrust on it again and again by the diligent lawyers
of PCATI (Committee Against Torture) -- had to pass it to a special nine-judge bench. The court will have to decide
for example whether covering a prisoner's head for days on end is a form of torture or just 'a legitimate method
of preventing him from seeing other prisoners,' and whether forcing him meanwhile to hear blaring music is torture,
or 'preventing him from hearing other prisoners.' Not an easy choice for the judges: legitimizing what all the
world calls torture, or becoming scapegoats for the next terrorist attack because of 'having tied the hands of
PCATI, POB 8588, J'lem 91083, fax: 972-2-5630073
A terrible secret
Two boys opened fire, killing four girls and a teacher. It was a carefully planned crime whose victims were selected
ahead of time. The grandfather of the main perpetrator keeps nine fire arms in his home. He had taught his grandson
to target-shoot in his own backyard.
But even after this heinous crime, the American public has failed to stand up and demand a prohibition on firearms.
An antiquated paragraph in the Constitution, from the days of the early pioneers, states that every American has
the right to bear arms. Aside from the Jewish lobby, the gun lobby is the most powerful interest group in the United
States. Like the Jewish lobby it buys members of Congress and terrorizes the President.
On what kind of spiritual nourishment has this young criminal been raised? It is impossible to channel-surf on
American TV (or Israeli TV, for that matter) without seeing people blow each other's heads off, on all channels,
at all hours. What is amazing is that such a crime -- a boy opening fire -- happens in America only once every
several months, rather than every day.
The power of violence on American TV is a sick phenomenon. A society that nurtures such phenomena while its crime
rate rockets is seriously ill.
Many books and articles have been written about the roots of this derangement, penned by scholars and scientists.
Who am I to compare with them? And yet, I have a theory.
Not long ago I was present when the writer Savion Liebrecht recounted her childhood, in a home of holocaust survivors.
The parents never spoke of their time in the concentration camp. The child knew that the family kept a terrible
secret which could not be discussed. The mysterious secret terrified the girl and filled her childhood with fear.
The entire United States resembles such a household. It is keeping a terrible secret: it has been founded on genocide.
Millions of Native Americans were exterminated in order to make room for a democratic society which serves as an
example to the entire world. Some of the natives were wiped out by the cavalry in carefully orchestrated murderous
operation, some were abandoned to starvation and illness, and the rest died from repeated forced death-marches.
This is a subject hardly ever spoken of in America. Everything is repressed into the national subconscious. there
is a semi-awareness. And to justify the annihilation, the myth of "the Wild West" was born. In it, the
wild and evil Indians always slaughter the innocent whites. This central myth of the American culture is founded
entirely on violence. Books and movies idolize the violent man, the fastest draw, the one who solves all problems
with his six-shooter Colt.
Those unconscious and unresolved feelings of guilt are the source of the society's derangement, the very society
which has contributed so many positive values to the rest of the world. There is only one means of healing: Let
the terrible secret be dredged up from the depths of the nation's collective memory and exposed to the light of
day. One cannot right past wrongs, but one can acknowledge and confront them.
The truth has to be sounded: "The American Way" was born out of a process where the beautiful and the
ugly were intertwined, where there was much light but also much darkness, with acts of supreme bravery of pioneers
along with heinous crimes against the "natives." In short, the myths must be smashed and the truth must
The Zionist experience has a lot in common with the American experience, hence the deep affinity of the American
public for Israel.
We have not exterminated a people, nor have we engaged in mass-slaughter; nevertheless our magnificent creation
is, in large measure, founded on the tragedy -- at our hands -- of another people, half of whom have become wretched
refugees and the other half of whom live under conditions of occupation, suppression and deprivation. Our national
myth paints the Palestinians as blood-thirsty savages, gangs of murderers, incorrigible terrorists who threatened
the pure pioneers. As in America, ours is the absolute truth, the truth of the pure and the beautiful, which stands
firm against the absolute evil of the "natives", whose sole aim was to push us into the sea. We had no
choice but to expel them, to confiscate their lands and to oppress them.
The brutalization of Israeli society, the insane fanaticism, the monstrous perversion of the Jewish religion in
Israel -- all stem from the oppression of historical truth.
As in America, there is no other way to bring back the beautiful values except by confronting our past with honesty,
by seeing both the light and the darkness, by destroying the myths and revealing the truth.
The TV series "T'kuma" (Resurrection) has begun this task (see next article). Not surprisingly, it has
been viciously attacked. Breaking down myths and revealing the truth is always a painful process. But the terrible
secret must be expunged from the house.
(Translated from Ma'ariv, 30.3)
Facts which won't go away
The governmental campaign to make the 50th anniversary of the State into something magnificent failed to make a
deep impression among Israeli citizens. With the growing fury over social issues and the evaporating hope for peace,
people do not seem especially in the mood for grand celebrations. And the ongoing quarrels in the Jubilee Committee
-- with twice a change of chairperson -- are only adding to the feeling that 'it's just a waste of money.'
Unlike the government, Israel's TV makers seemed
aware of this reality, understanding that under the circumstances they couldn't treat the public to a round of
During the months preceding the state's 50th, a weekly series 'Tekuma' (Resurrection) was started, altogether
22 broadcasts of an hour each, which include the well-known heroic pictures of Israel's history -- accompanied
by the obligatory sentimental tones -- but mixes them with critical comments and interviews showing every now and
then the other (the Palestinian) side. Thus are integrated into Israel's Proud Resurrection Story moments of second
thought, of bad conscience, as are the sad memories of Palestinians, some of them Israeli citizens, others living
under occupation or in exile. They tell what happened to them, how they had to flee, how whole villages were destroyed
and about the instances of civilians being killed brutally (Deir Yasin, Qafr Qasem). Everything which was shown,
had been known in some way or another. Already for some years we hear from time to time about the 'new historians'
who got hold of long-classified material and confront with it certain national myths. So far it had been a dispute
among intellectuals. Through 'Tekuma,' however, the general Israeli public is confronted with versions of history
which it had always been taught to deny.
From the first 'Tekuma' broadcast there started a debate. But only after March 10, when the weekly Tekuma was solely
devoted to the period of military rule over the 'Israeli Arabs' (1948-1966) did debate turn into storm.
Israel's Minister of Communication, the sharp-tongued Limor Livnat from the Likud, pushed for stopping the series
'because it is unjust to present as wrong what was right then.' Yehoram Gaon, the popular singer who had opened
every broadcast with a fitting anecdote from his personal life, decided to quit. But there were also opposite reactions
and not only from the circles of 'post-zionist intellectuals.' 'We are by now strong enough to face those facts
which don't go away just by us denying them' said Likud MK Re'uven Rivlin who is in general not to be counted among
the doves. Labor Party leader and former army chief Ehud Barak even went as far, during one of the many heated
debates, as to state that he himself, if he would have grown up a Palestinian, would most probably have joined
a terrorist organization -- which failed to bring the temperature down. But Yair Stern, the First Channel director,
continued to back the program: 'A lot of troubles had to be overcome in order to produce this program, and ratings
are fine' (Yediot Aharonot, 20.3).
On Sunday, April 6, practically a whole nation was watching TV, expecting to be shocked again: 'The Path of Terrorism:
Biladi, biladi' ('my country, my country', in Arabic). It was a bloody history, with attack and counter-attack,
shown again -- not only from the viewpoint of Israel's innocent victims, but with some understanding for the 'terrorist
side.' 'The terrorists' were shown to be people fighting for their own national cause, very shocking indeed but...
anticipated, and there did not follow another scandal.
Meanwhile, the press is in general dealing more than before with versions of history. Ha'aretz (3.3) tackled the
absurd phenomenon of the obligatory Zionist version of history which also has to be taught in Arab schools. Later
that month (29.3) appeared an extensive critic of the way history in general is taught in Israeli schools. A cautiously
critical three-page article in the April 3, Jerusalem Post Friday supplement dug into 'The Ghosts of Deir Yassin.'
At the time of writing the 50th Independence Day draws near. This National Holiday was never in the past half century
a popular one among Israel's Arab citizens. In Tekuma we saw a few weeks ago, how in the past fifty years Arab
schoolchildren were compelled to sing and dance Zionist songs and dances on that day... Shortly after, the Coordinating
Committee of Israeli Arabs decided officially that they don't intend to participate in this year's Independence
Day festivities planned for April 30 and May 1 (the anniversary according to the Jewish calendar). On May 15 however,
they intend to commemorate 'Naqba' ('disaster' in Arabic). 'The expression of what the defeated side, now integrated
as a minority in the State of Israel, feels on this date must be possible without the state feeling threatened'
they stated. It seems that, after 50 years, Israeli society is, in spite of all the still existing barriers, definitely
involved in a process of change [BZ].