The Other Israel _ May 1999, Issue No. 88
*The Avoidance Contest, an Editorial Overview
The long election campaign winds down
The Lebanon campaign issue
The Palestinian campaign issue
The ethnic/cultural/religious campaign issue
A multitude of candidates
West Bank land grabs as usual
The May 4 independence "deadline"
Facing the future
The Battle for East Jerusalem
Response to threatened closing of Orient House and to
confiscation of ID cards of Palestinian Jerusalemites
Rebuilding Against the Odds
Israelis join Palestinians to rebuild West Bank homes
demolished by Israeli Army
Protests of Israeli Presence in Lebanon
by parents of soldiers, bereaved parents, and supporters
Bereaved Israelis and Palestinians Unite to Seek Peace
Oleg Baron, Conscientious Objector
Tomorrow Will be Better, by Beate Zilversmidt
Joint Israeli-Palestinian protests against land confiscation
Trouble at Herodion
A settler-Palestinian confrontation in which settler youths
sic dogs on Palestinian farmers
The Hebron Campaign
The Shadow of Kosovo, by Adam Keller
Hope Flowers School in Danger
*Yehudi Menuhin: Man of Peace, by Uri Avnery
Response to capture of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan
*Indicates articles that are being posted separately in this conference
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for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, P.O.Box 2542, 58125 Holon, Israel.
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Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: Beate Zilversmidt
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The Other Israel
May 1999, Issue No. 88
THE AVOIDANCE CONTEST
At last, an elections campaign strechted out unnecessarily over half a year is drawing to its conclusion. The government
emerging from it will be the one facing square-on the issue of Palestinian national aspirations which Israel avoided
for most of its fifty-one years of existence; which Oslo dealt with only very partially; and for which a real answer
seems no longer avoidable. The coming elections will determine whether or not Israel will be led at such a point
by an unscrupulous demagogue -- considered to be a charlatan and con-man even by senior members of his own party.
On both sides of the political spectrum, specific activist groups mobilize their forces for this crucial contest;
efforts are made, by left and right alike, to get groups of expatriate Israelis to fly in from Europe and the US
on elections day.
Yet in the general public, even with V-day finally approaching, there is hardly a feeling of high-strung tension.
The campaign which has been dragging on since last December was quite diffuse and unfocused; the main candidates
deliberately avoided many of the most important issues; and there are persistent rumors that whoever wins the Prime
Ministerial race is likely to invite the loser to join a "national unity government"...
Originally, none of the main contenders for power intended to make Lebanon a major issue in these elections. However,
growing grassroots movement of soldiers' parents, demanding an immediate withdrawal from "the Lebanese quagmire,"
and the perception that all parts of the electorate are sick and tired of the futile guerilla war, forced the issue
upon the mainstream candidates. Labor candidate Ehud Barak, in what seemed a rare spontaneous reaction, made a
public pledge to "bring the boys home within a year." The public response signaled an upturn in what
had seemed until then a badly flagging Labor campaign.
Vainly did Netanyahu try to riposte by a demonstrative step of "reducing the military presence in Lebanon"
even before the elections; the generals pointed out to Defence Minister Arens that the present garrison of South
Lebanon is already at the minimum strength necessary if the territory is to be held at all. And the Syrians responded
with great suspicion to Israeli proposals, passed via the Russians and French, in which Netanyahu seemed to promise
far-reaching future concessions in return for an immediate agreement on Lebanon which he could show right now to
the Israeli electorate.
The tangible net result was to give the impression that, whatever government is formed after the elections, the
Syrians will get back the Golan Heights -- in return for their guaranteeing that an evacuated South Lebanon would
not be used for attacks on North Israel. But it served the interest of neither Barak nor Netanyahu to say this
too explicitly; rather, both let the Lebanon issue sink back into the background, and returned to their original
With regard to the Palestinians an outspoken dovishness is still considered by the mainstream pundits to be an
electoral demerit -- on the assumption that the swing vote is mostly composed of voters who seek to see "a
tough negotiator" at the helm.
Netanyahu's campaign is fully based on this assumption -- essentially, it is a remake of his 1996 success, with
an enormous dose of nationalist rhetoric and a lot of Jerusalem mystique, constantly insinuating that "Barak
and the Labour leftists" will "sell out to Arafat."
In 1996, however, that line drew a fiery, irresistible force from the terrible series of suicide bombings in Israel's
main cities. The present campaign's dire predictions of "Iranian and Iraqi soldiers" (which an independent
Palestine would supposedly call into its territory) seem a dim and unreal threat in comparison.
Barak's answer is in short a "me too" -- presenting on TV propaganda films glorifying his military past,
from commando officer and "killer of terrorists" to army chief of staff. Barak also makes repeated oaths
of loyalty to "United Jerusalem, Eternal Capital of Israel"; in this he got a surprising helping hand
from Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmart -- senior Likud member and Netanyahu rival -- who gave a televised "character
testimony" as to Barak's nationalist bona fides.
The one dovish element in Barak's campaign is his pledge to divert government budgets from settlement creation
to education, health and social welfare. But even that is hedged by the promise that such cuts
would not effect all settlers, but only "the extremist ones."
In any case, Barak's main strategy is to try and and divert the campaign to a completely different ground -- the
ailing Israeli economy, and particularly the alarming increase in unemployment. (A 100,000 Israelis lost their
jobs -- why should Netanyahu keep his?) Past Israeli elections, unlike those in other countries, were rarely decided
on economic issues -- but Barak's American advisers, fresh from the successful campaigns they had conducted for
Clinton and Blair, are confident that a new trend could be set. There are some indications they may be right. For
example, a Netanyahu elections tour of the Likud strongholds in the Negev towns, especially hard-hit by unemployment,
went badly; the party's grassroots activists complained that the PM's speeches referred only to his ongoing campaign
against the Palestinian Orient House in East Jerusalem and paid no attention to their daily hardships (Ha'aretz,
Still and all, most commentators expect the 1999 elections to be decided mainly by the same factor which decided
Israeli elections in the past two decades: the division of the Israeli society into ethnic/cultural/religious "tribes"
which tend to vote as a block.
This was underlined by an event which -- coincidentally or not -- overlapped with the elections campaign: a dramatic
conclusion to the long-lasting corruption trial of Aryeh Der'i, leader of the Shass Party, whom the Jerusalem District
Court found guilty of systematic bribe-taking during his term as Minister of the Interior and who was sentenced
to four years' imprisonment.
Other politicians would have been broken by such a verdict. But Der'i is the leader of a religious party of Oriental
Jews, a community which fifty years after its immigrating from the Arab countries into Israel is still far from
taking its rightful place in the Israeli society; it was easy enough for such a party to portray its convicted
leader as a martyr and victim of discriminatory conspiracy.
An elections video cassette entitled "J'accuse!" was issued and distributed in hundreds of thousands,
in which the charismatic Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef pronounced the court's verdict null and void, declared Der'i to be
a righteous and upright man and cast in doubt the honesty of his judges. He also condemned the judicial system
in general for "representing the Old Elites" and "judging by man's law rather than by God's."
But in the same period, the Shas Party itself was accused of enacting discriminatory policies through the Ministry
of the Interior which was under its control since 1984. At the instruction of the same Rabbi Ovadaya Yosef, the
SHass minister introduced increasingly tight criteria with the declared purpose of allowing "the smallest
possible number of non-Jews" inside the country.
This immigration and residence policy hit hard at East Jerusalem Palestinians, migrant workers, mixed married couples,
immigrants from Ethiopia and other marginalized and disenfranchized groups. But what matters in these elections
is that the victims also include the immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a community which numbers more than
ten percent of Israel's citizens, with fast-rising levels of political organizaton and articulation.
Many of these immigrants have non-Jewish partners, or are themselves the issue of such a marriage. The bureacratic
policies of the Shass-controlled immigration authorities subject such families to humiliating investigations and
interrogations, creating a whole series of appalling tragedies. (A recently published case concerned a young immigrant
from Moscow who -- while on military service in Lebanon -- heard that his mother had been expelled from the country
by the Interior Ministry.)
Trade Minister Nathan Sharanski -- the former Soviet dissident who heads the Russsian immigrants' party and was
alienated by Netanyahu's decision to sponsor a rival Russian electoral list -- tapped into a highly-charged issue
when he issued a direct challenge to Shass and demanded the Minisry of the Interior.
After some hesitation, Barak chimed in with this demand, definitely vowing that, if elected, he would oust Shass
from the Interior Ministry and transfer it to Sharanski. In fact, the Labor leader had little to lose and nuch
to gain from such a move; the experience of the last elections proved that -- despite the politicallly dovish positions
of both Der'i and Rabbi Yosef -- their constituency votes overwhelmingly for Netanyahu.
Thus, a new alignment is becoming discernable. The religious parties, which for decades held the balance in Israeli
politics, have become identified with the right-wing camp; indeed, to a great degree
they have become its hardcore. The position of holding the balance seems to be taken by the Russian-Israeli community.
Being confirmed secularists, who opened non-Kosher butcheries in many a town and yet also strongly influenced by
the spirit of ethnic nationalism, the Russian immigrants have interests in common with both big camps of the Israeli
society. They already had a great share in both the victory of Rabin in 1992 and Netanyahu in 1996, and are likely
to be of profound importance for this year's outcome, as well.
In 1996, there was a straightforward Prime Ministerial contest between two candidates: Netanyahu and Peres. This
time, there are five -- practically ensuring that on May 17 no candidate will get the required fifty percent, and
that the decisive vote will be the second round, to be held on June 1 between the two scoring highest.
Binyamin Begin -- son of the late Menachem Begin, and leader of the extreme right "Nationalist Union"
-- has been reduced to a quixotic candidate, likely to get no more than a handful of votes; Netanyahu's policies
in the past half year, his "freezing" of the Wye Agreement and "heating up" of settlement construction,
have drained away most of Begin's potential voters.
The candidature of Dr. Azmi Bishara, on the opposite side of the spectrum, is more significant -- not because he
expects to win or even get very many votes, but because he is the first Arab citizen of Israel to challenge an
entrenched prejudice by presenting himself as a Prime Ministerial candidate. It is, in fact, a logical outcome
of the concept introduced by this academic-turned-politician into the Israeli discourse: Israel -- the state of
all its citizens. And he can be expected to catch some of the voters alienated by Barak's display of nationalism
What makes the present elections really complicated and unpredictable is a candidate who, though having the support
of neither big party, aspires in all seriousness to be elected Prime Minister -- Yitzchak Mordechai.
A native of Iraqi Kurdistan, who had risen through the military hierarchy from private to general he became Netanyahu's
Defence Minister. As such he distinguished himself as a moderate, the architect of Wye, finally breaking with the
PM over the latter's intransigent stance. Yitzchak Mordechai, the first Oriental Jew in Israeli history to present
himself as prime ministerial candidate, seems the best placed to break through the pattern of "tribal"
loyalties and put together a winning coalition.
Mordechai has the potential to draw a significant number of the Likud's traditional voters, people who are very
unlikely to vote for Barak. And tough many of the Laborite voters frown at Mordechai's veneration of rabbies, were
he placed at the head of the entire anti-Netanyahu camp, Mordechai could expect to get also the support of practically
all Barak voters and sweep to power with a considerable majority -- which would make it easier for him to make
concessions in subsequent peace negotiations.
But by all indications, this attractive scenario is not to be. All opinion polls indicate that in the first round
Barak and Netanyahu will get the highest scores, with Mordechai trailing behind, and thus it will be Barak who
will get to face Netanyahu in the decisive second round.
Under such circumstances, no one can predict how many of Mordechai's voters would shift their vote to the Labor
candidate -- even were Mordechai to call upon them to do so. Were Barak a disinterested idealist, he may have performed
a grand self-denying gesture of giving up his candidature in favor of Mordechai. But that's not the way politicians
are built and Barak seems determined to go ahead. So, one can only hope that he will not fail.
Land grab as usual
What is getting little mention in these elections is the ongoing campaign of creating "facts on the ground"
all over the West Bank. Settlements are extended at the expense of their Palestinian neighbors, and ever-new special
roads are created for the settlers' use. At the same time Palestinian homes are demolished and their trees uprooted.
Day by day, settlers occupy hill-tops kilometres away from their own settlement, creating what are effectively
new settlements though always declared "extensions"to an existing one.
Though regularly the settlers are acting against the already biased military law prevailing on the West Bank --
they in practice enjoy complete immunity for their brazen behavior. They also can be sure that at any spot where
they choose to plant themselves, a military platoon will be immediately stationed to defend them day and night
against infuriated landowners.
The media rarely report on these land-grabbing operations, except when they burst into violent confrontations --
and not always even then. And though the intention is clearly to create as many obstacles for whichever new government
emerges from the elections, the subject is virtually absent from the elections speeches and debates of the principal
candidates. It is left mainly to extraparliamentary peace groups with limited resources to document the settler
activity and confront it to their best ability.
But though inside the country the issue had been marginalised by the elections, on the international level Netanyahu
is paying dearly for the ongoing West Bank rampage. Relations with Washington, already icy since the Israeli unilateral
breaking of the Wye Agreement, plunged into a series of public rows over the settlement extention; Secretary of
State Albright mentioned no less than eighteen new settlement clusters observed by US satellites since Wye, waved
aside the claim that this was a "private initiative" by the settlers, and accused Netanyahu of breaking
an explicit undertaking that "new houses in settlements be erected, if at all, only adjacent to the existing
While turning a cold shoulder to the Prime Minister of Israel, Clinton has taken pains to give a red carpet treatment
to Yasser Arafat on the latter's visits to Washington, of which several took place within a few
months. For his part Netanyahu, unwelcome in the White House, had to content himself with a visit to the Kremlin
-- a startling reversal of historic Israeli and Palestinian roles on the international arena.
Playing the Russian card was the brainchild of Foreign Minister Sharon, aimed at gaining a greater freedom of manoeuver
towards the US (and incidentally, helping capture the votes of Russian Israelis, many of whom feel affection to
their former homeland). Sharon went as far as going along with Moscow's position about the Kossovo War, the first
time since before the Korean War that an Israeli government failed to support the US during a major international
crisis. (Sharon explained that he compares Israel to Serbia and the Kossovars to the Palestinians, and is consequently
apprehensive of the anti-Serbian alliance serving as a precendent for future international pressures upon Israel.)
Sharon visited Russia again and again within weeks -- but the limits of this policy were soon reached. Not only
is post-communist Russia far from strong enough to provide Israel with a real counter-balannce to the United States,
but also the Russians have no real intention of sacrificing old friendships in the Arab world for the sake of a
volatile new alliance with a problematic Netanyahu government.
Premier Yevgeni Primakov, an astute diplomat who speaks fluent Arabic and knows personally many of the Arab and
Islamic leaders, was happy to welcome the Israeli PM -- without having any intention of stopping Russian involvement
in the Iranian nuclear program, nor of halting the shipments of Russian arms to Syria.
For more than a year, Middle East diplomacy (and to some degree, internal politics in Israel) had been dominated
by the approaching specter of May 4, 1999: the date when the five-year interim period of Oslo would end, and when
-- in the absence of an agreement on the definite status of the Territories -- the Palestinians would be legally
free to declare independence unilaterally. But upon it being discovered that May 4 would fall within the Israeli
elections campaign, the apprehension arose that such a declaration may become the centerpiece of Netanyahu's nationalist,
rabble-rousing elections campaign.
Furthermore, there was the hope that the elections may produce a more reasonable Israeli government with which
the Palestinians could conclude a deal, obviating the need for unilateral action. Thus, Arafat came under considerable
pressure to delay the declaration -- emanating from such varied sources as the Israeli Labour Party, the Europeans
and Americans, as well as the Egyptians and Jordanians.
In truth there was an even more compelling reason for delay: Netayahu's refusal to implement Wye has left the Palestinians
with a collection of disconnected enclaves -- far below the minimum territorial base for maintaining a state; it
would be better to wait at least until Wye is implemented -- which is likely to take place after the elections,
whoever wins them. Since the end of March, a third reason for delaying the Declaration was added: the Balkan Crisis,
devouring nearly all the attention and energy of international diplomacy and international media. A Palestinian
Declaration of Independence, to be effective, must have the world's attention.
As against all these arguments, Arafat had to contend with the expectations which he had created among his own
people. Having held out the expected Declaration of Statehood as a beacon of hope to people groaning under the
daily exactions of Israeli occupation, he had to show strong reasons for a further appeal for patience.
Arafat in fact spent the last months in endless shuttling from one foreign capital to another, seeking the highest
possible diplomatic and political gain in return for delaying the Declaration.
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
Arafat's price consisted of two elements: a not too distant new date -- clearly-defined and internationally-guaranteed
-- by which the extended interim period must end, and the negotiations with Israel reach their definite conclusion;
and an international promise to recognise Palestine on that date, should the Israeli side remain intransigent and
the Palestinians be forced after all to resort to a unilateral move.
From the Europeans, Arafat got practically all that he wanted. The Berlin Declaration adopted by the EU Summit
on March 26 began by urging the parties "to agree on an extension of the transitional period" with the
final status negotiations to be "resumed on an accelerated basis" and brought to "a prompt conclusion"
within "a target period of one year." In the meantime, both parties are asked to refrain from "any
activity contrary to international law, including all settlement activity" and "to fight incitement and
The biggest Palestinian achievement lay in what came afterwards: "The European Union reaffirms the continuing
and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination, including the option of a state, and looks forward to
the early fulfilment of this right (...), which is not subject to any veto. The European Union is convinced that
the creation of a democratic, viable and peaceful sovereign Palestinian State on the basis of existing agreements
and through negotiations, would be the best guarantee of Israel's security and Israel's acceptance as an equal
partner in the region. The European Union declares its readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian State
in due course (...)."
The United States was reportedly involved behind the scenes in the drafting of this document, and gave it tacit
support. But in proclaiming the position of the US itself, Clinton had to take into account many constraints which
his European colleagues do not face, such as Netanyahu's continuing domination of Capitol Hill, via the AIPAC lobby.
An anti-Palestinian state resolution recently passed with great majority in both houses.
The letter of President Clinton sent to the Palestinians on the eve of the May 4 deadline was a great deal
more vague then the European position -- avoiding the words "state" or "self-determination";
giving only a hint by referring to the Palestinians' right to be "free on their own soil." With this
-- plus the plentiful warmth which Clinton had been pouring over them in the past half year -- the Palestinians
will have to make do for the moment.
As we go into print, the PLO Central Council, convened in Gaza, has just given its grudging assent to a postponement
of the Declaration of Independence; taking the difficult decision was made somewhat easier by Hamas leader Sheikh
Ahmad Yassin's participation in the session.
And so, we face the near future with double uncertainty -- the identity of the winner in the coming elections,
and the relationship to develop between that winner and the Palestinians. A bone-deep desire to see the last of
Netanyahu, a disgust going far beyond opposition to the man's politics -- coupled with the calm realization that
his successor may not prove equal to the crucial decisions which the coming year is likely to necessitate.
At some moment in its term, the new government -- and the whole country with it -- would be faced with the stark
choice which its predecessors avoided. Ironically, it is the settlers -- by their mad greed -- who created a situation
where the decision cannot be put off much longer. Already, any further interim agreement -- and much more, so the
long-awaited permanent solution -- would inevitably have to include evacuating settler enclaves, so as to restore
the Palestinians' territorial continuity which the settlements were designed to break.
What lies ahead is the choice: confrontation with the settler movement -- a powerful, fanatic minority which built
up material and human resources over three decades; or giving up all hope for peace, and accepting a future as
a pariah state involved in endless conflict. The toughest part -- for the society, and for the peace movement --
is still ahead.
The editors - Tel-Aviv, 2.5.99
The battle for East Jerusalem
It started on Monday, March 28, as an Israeli governmental defiance to the EU Berlin Summit Declaration of the
day before. The Europeans, probably expressing what the Americans don't say explicitly, had recognized the Palestinian
right to conclude the peace talks with statehood within a year.
Netanyahu's caretaker government reacted swiftly with a decision to close down three Palestinian offices in East
Jerusalem. The main target of the ministers' rhetoric was already then the Orient House -- where Feisal Husseini's
receives foreign diplomats and whose de-facto extraterritorial status and the Palestinian flag flying from its
roof are a constant challenge to the claims of exclusive Israeli rule.
+++ On the morning of April 3, some hundred activists, at the invitation of Gush Shalom, marched from the American
Colony Hotel to the Orient House, with signs reading: Jerusalem -- Capital of Two States. Welcomed inside the building
by Palestinian leaders Faisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi, the Israelis ceremoniously handed them a copy of the
Manifesto supporting the right of the Palestinian nation to proclaim its state in all the occupied territories
-- together with a huge scroll of signatories.
Husseini addressed the Israelis: 'I am a native Jerusalemite, and I love my city. I don't want Jerusalem to be
divided. At present, Jerusalem is divided -- it is a city of which one part is militarily occupied by the other.'
Ruth Dayan, former wife of Moshe Dayan and an energetic peace activist in her own right, replied: 'I also am a
veteran Jerusalemite, which by government propaganda should have made me oppose any recognition of Palestinian
rights in this city. But in fact, I think this recognition is a precondition for peace.' The poet Nathan Zach,
Israel Prize laureate and among the signatories, read to the assembled Israelis and Palestinians his poem "Orient
House" written for the occasion. Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom summed up: "If ever the Orient House is threatened,
we of the Israeli peace camp shall be here, at your side."
Such a clear stance in a period where because of the elections those who should represent the peace camp seem to
favor ambiguity above all, did not fail to make an impression. It is quite unusual that an action of this size
-- without even the slightest violent confrontation -- makes headlines in all the media.
Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel Aviv 61033;
fx: +972-3-5271108; http://www.gush-shalom.org
+++ The 'creeping transfer' of turning ordinary Palestinian Jerusalemites into "illegal aliens" by confiscating
their ID-cards, has become the subject of concerted action. The Campaign to End ID Card Confiscation unites an
impressive number of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations. The joint campaign culminated on April
14, in a demonstrative street gathering near the New Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. Many of the speakers were
Palestinian legislators, such as Hannan Ashrawi, and also some Israeli Knesset members -- among them Prime Ministerial
Candidate Azmi Bishara and Communist KM Tamar Gozanski. Although a fewer number of Palestinians than expected did
attend (50 out of 150), the demonstration received worldwide press coverage and the organizers felt encouraged.
The demonstration was followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court. The court's deliberations, observed by seven
distinguished international jurists who travelled to Israel especially for this event, turned on one main question:
does the intensive confiscation of ID cards from Arab Jerusalemites constitute a new governmental policy? The state
claimed it does not, but found it difficult to explain how the number of confiscations had jumped from only 20
cases in 1991 to 2083 cases in the 1996-98 period. The court ordered the state to provide detailed information,
by which it could be determined whether or not the Ministry of the Interior had made an unannounced change in its
BADIL, pob 278, Bethlehem, Palestine;
fx +972-2-2747346; firstname.lastname@example.org
+++ Flares of optimism don't last long in Jerusalem. On April 18, Netanyahu held an inflammatory elections rally
in the Citadel of Jerusalem's Old City, declaring: "All Jerusalem is ours and only ours. We will not allow
any flag here but the Israeli flag!" On the following morning, two more Palestinian houses were razed to the
ground, in the village of Issawiya which "isn't occupied" but (unilaterally) annexed as part of "Greater
Jerusalem" -- and on Thursday of that same week, April 22, Netanyahu at last got around to make true on his
1996 elections pledge: to issue orders for the closing of the symbol of the Palestinians' participation in the
peace talks, their Jerusalem Headquarters, the Orient House.
That it took Netanyahu three years is indicative of the strong opposition to such an act. And the timing made sure
that Clinton would be too involved elsewhere to pay much attention. Even so, there was an immediate presidential
condemnation - by none other than our own President Ezer Weitzmann (not the first time for him to choose the role
of "prophet against king"). Weitzmann condemned the government move, stating "the problem of Jerusalem
is too weighty to let everything explode over the Orient House" - speaking out of his experience as the architect
of the Camp David Accord.
+++ April 26, thirty Peace Nowers visited the Orient House, to express protest at the government provocation. Among
them was former KM Mordechai Bar-On who spoke of reaching peace by 'allowing Jerusalem to be a united city -- but
one in which the Palestinians will have a presence.' During his speech on the Orient House lawn a young woman who
had sneeked in among the Peace Now people, suddenly started to climb the wall in an effort to take down the Palestinian
flag; she was quickly removed by agile Israelis and Palestinian Security Guards.
Peace Now, pob 8159, J'lem; email@example.com.
s On the following afternoon (27.4), Husseini received a group of hundred Israelis mobilized by Gush Shalom. Upon
entering (through a now carefully guarded side gate) a chain surrounding the building was formed of Israelis and
Palestinians holding hands. This was to symbolize the common struggle of Israelis and Palestinians. We Want Peace!
they chanted in Arabic, Hebrew and English long enough to leave some with a soar throat.
In speeches Husseini, and Avnery rephrased what they had said only weeks ago, about the role of this building in
the history of Israeli-Palestinian peace-making, and about the dream of Jerusalem -- Capital of Two States. The
following performance of Arab boy scouts playing their bagpipes, trumpets and drums was a touching show of confidence
-- with an amusing reference to the years of British rule.
A satirical sketch by two actors of the East-Jerusalem El-Hakawati theater -- who played a not so successful dialogue
between a Palestinian traveler and a Ben-Gurion Airport security guard. For non-Arabic speakers the body language
of the actors was still quite informative.
Probably all this kind of public attention, which day after day brought the Orient House in the news, resulted
in the implementing echelon becoming less and less enthusiastic. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein declared that
there hardly could be made a legal case of the PM's demand to close Orient House altogether. He brought the planned
closure down to only three institutions which have their premises there. Meanwhile Minister Avigdor Kahalani of
Police seems to make every effort possible to let the whole matter drag on until after the elections. Whether Netanyahu
has truly gained from this election ploy is doubtful. According to Tom Segev (Ha'aretz, 30.4) it may, however,
have strengthened Husseini: 'Ironically [Husseini's] own status is influenced to a large extent by what Israeli
politicians do in Jerusalem. When the situation heats up he gets stronger.'
Rebuilding against the odds
The most effective way so far found of challenging Netanyahu's policy of "creeping annexation" is to
have Israeli peace activists and Palestinian inhabitants jointly rebuild homes demolished by the army. Such actions
had already taken place several times -- but never on the scale undertaken on the weekend of March 12-13 by ICAHD
(Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), a coalition comprising Gush Shalom, the Bat Shalom women, and the
Rabbis for Human Rights and which was recently swelled by the adhesion of no less than nine additional peace groups
On the appointed day, several hundred Israelis -- joined by a similar number of Palestinians, mobilized by the
Land Defense Committee -- simultaneously rebuilt houses at three different spots on the West Bank: the home of
Salim al-Shawamreh, his wife Arabia and their six children in the village of Anata, which was already several times
rebuilt only to be redestroyed by the army (see TOI-85,p.7); the home of Husam Abu Yakub and his family at Kifl
Harith, whose forcible eviction from the house and its subsequent demolition last December were captured by TV
cameras and broadcast all over the world (see TOI-87. p.9); and the house of 60 year-old Hassan Dahoud, his wife
and their twelve children at a small village in the extreme south end of the West Bank. In addition, 300 olive
seedlings were planted at the village of Beit Dajan, on a spot where trees had been a week previously uprooted
by the army.
With the help of local Palestinian guides who pointed out side roads, the buses and cars bearing the Israeli activists
were able to evade the military roadblocks and reach the building sites. There was no effort to hide what, in the
present situation, constituted massive law breaking. On the contrary -- the Israeli, Palestinian and international
media had been massively alerted several days in advance, and they did show a considerable interest. Scenes of
smiling Israelis and Palestinians forming a chain to pass cinder blocks to the builders, figured prominently on
that night's TV news and in the next day's mass-
circulation papers. At least for a few days the issue was placed on the public agenda, with activists Uri Avnery,
Yoav Hass and Jeff Halper invited to speak at length on TV talk shows.
This public attention apparently served to impress the military authorities. Up to the time of writing, the three
houses were not redemolished, though the army tried to intimidate the families. Work on them continued undisturbed
over the next month, with smaller contingents of Israelis and Palestinians coming every weekend until the new homes
became ready for the three families' entry. (This de-facto immunity was not, however, granted to the seedlings
planted at Beit Dajan, which were all uprooted by the army within a few days).
For the moment, the focus in the demolition of Palestinian houses seems to have shifted from the West Bank to annexed
East Jerusalem -- apparently in line with Netanyhau making Jerusalem the focus of nationalist propaganda in his
ICAHD c/o Halper, 37 Tveria St., J'lem, firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents in uproar
On Feb. 23, three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hizbullah ambush at the so-called "security zone"
of South Lebanon; a few days later, another ambush claimed four more Israeli lives -- one of them Brigadier Erez
Gerstein, the military governor of South Lebanon (euphemistically dubbed "Chief Liaison Officer"). For
two weeks, Lebanon was again in the spotlight, with statements by politicians and action groups filling the media.
The Four Mothers movement swung into action, holding "vigils of mourning and protest" at road junctions
all over the country. And a newly-organised, more radical group under the name Red Line emerged -- advocating withdrawal
from Lebanon by such actions of civil disobedience as blocking the road in front of the Defence Ministry, lighting
old tires and spraying red paint. (TOI editor Adam Keller was one of those arrested; he spent a night at the Abu
Kabir Detention Center, talking politics with three young thieves.)
Chain of outcries
We have no children for unnecessary wars / End the bloodshed! / Lebanon = Vietnam / Every passing day makes it
worse / Your son might be next!Wake up! / How long shall we sacrifice our sons? / We can and we should get out
of Lebanon -- now! / Parents! Don't send your sons to kill and die in vain! / We have reached the Red Line / Stop
the Death Roulette! / Parents -- we are responsible! / How long will it go on? / Our sons shall no longer be sitting
ducks! / Get out of the swamp! / The Insecurity Zone endangers us / Yes to unilateral withdrawal! / Leave Lebanon
to the Lebanese / 1245 soldiers already left Lebanon -- in coffins / The only solution: out of Lebanon!
(Noted down at the Defence Ministry pickets on Feb. 28 and March 1.)
+++ In Tel-Aviv, the last week of March was devoted at the Tzavta Hall to theatrical performances dealing with
Lebanon. Code Word: Cream Pie, written and performed by Ya'akov Yacobson, told of a soldier falling in love with
a Lebanese girl whose brother is a guerrilla leader; Roi Rachkas' Catch 82 was composed entirely of authentic soldiers'
testimonies from Lebanon, woven together into a dramatic monogue; Walkman by Igal Even-Or depicted three discharged
soldiers who can't forget the war...
+++" In defiance of the media and the political system's habit of paying attention to Lebanon only in the
immediate wake of soldiers getting killed there, two bereaved mothers -- Orna Shimoni and Lala Parnas -- undertook
a five-day bicycle journey from the northern border to Jerusalem. This "physical and emotional effort",
as Shimoni put it, got enormous media coverage, and all along their route the two mothers were greeted with supporting
honking by passing motorists; dozens and sometimes hundreds of local activists joined them for a stretch of cycling.
At eleven towns along the way, they stopped for rallies, mostly addressed by the local mayor, and several of these
mayors declared the formation of a Mayors' Forum for withrawal from Lebanon.
+++ The two mothers' intensive journey ended in Jerusalem on April 1 -- a whole year to the day since the Netanyahu
Cabinet adopted a solemn resolution to withdraw Israeli forces from South Lebanon, which was never implemented,
and had been evidently no more than a propaganda ploy. (Fools' Day Resolution read one of the placards at the protest
outside Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem).
+++ On April 3, hundreds of the supporters of Four Mothers participated in a special kind of Passover ceremony
at an abandoned military strongpoint on the Lebanese border, with the ritual words changed to express the hope
for a new kind of Exodus -- of soldiers out of Lebanon.
+++ The death of Sergeant-Major Noam Barne'a, a sapper killed while defusing a bomb in South Lebanon on April 14,
was especially poignant: he died just five days before the intended date of his discharge from the army; according
to his girlfriend, he regarded the army presence in Lebanon as stupid and futile; he stayed on out of a feeling
of duty to his fellow soldiers; in the last weeks of his life, he defied military regulation by wearing a Four
Mothers button on the lapel of his military uniform...
A condolences visit by Defence Minister Arens to the Barne'a family home at Holon turned into a sharp debate. Aharon
Barne'a, the father, said on the evening TV news: 'I refuse to listen to excuses. The life of my son, and of many
others, was thrown away for nothing by irresponsible idiots -- and they are still at it.' Barne'a decided to leave
his job and devote himself totally to the protest movement, going from one demonstration to another and speaking
frequently and sharply in the media.
+++ On April 23, retired Brigadier General Giora Inbar, former military governor of South Lebanon, suddenly spoke
out in favor of an immediate withdrawal -- a startling move, considering that he
had a strong reputation as a hawk and an advocate of "tough action" in Lebanon. "I was wrong"
he told in an extensive interview to Ha'aretz. "I thought we could win by daring commando raids deep into
Lebanon. But they always make counter-raids, you can never win decisively, and it is just not worth it."
Some of the bereaved parents were angry at Inbar for having kept his silence until now, after having commanded
so many actions in which soldiers got killed. The Four Mothers movement, however, chose to embrace him, and its
activists copied his Ha'aretz interviews in many thousands of copies which were distributed to motorists stopping
at road junctions.
Four Mothers, pob 26330, Tel-Aviv; email@example.com
Red Line, pob 23600, Tel-Aviv; firstname.lastname@example.org
+++ The Presidential Mansion in Jerusalem was on March 16 the scene of a public meeting between fifty Israeli bereaved
families, victim to Palestinian terrorist attacks and a simililar number of Palestinian families which suffered
loss to the fire of Israeli soldiers or settlers. It was the successful conclusion to months of delicate and often
highly emotional contacts, undertaken by the newly-founded Forum of Bereaved Families Supporting Peace - in particular
by that body's founder Yitzhak Frankental, whose own son Aryeh had been killed by Hamas militants. 'All of us here,
Jews and Arabs, have a bond of pain and loss. We share the wish to be the last, to have no more families join our
sad club, to achieve a real peace between our two peoples' said Farnakenthal after two mothers, an Israeli and
a Palestinian, together lighted a single memorial candle.
Dr. Jawad Tibi, whose four brothers were all killed during the intifada, replied: 'We have to overcome our pain
and grief. The best revenge is to create a happy and secure life for our children and grandchildren.' There were
more speeches - by family members as well as by the host, President Ezer Weitzmann, and by VIP's such as Shimon
Peres. There was also a time for the families to mingle and talk freely. Yehuda Waxman - father of the soldier
Nachshon who was kidnapped and got killed during a failed Israeli rescue attempt in 1994 -- was photographed warmly
smiling, even joking with an elderly Palestinian, Salman Hafez of Beit Lahiya whose son Jamil was shot down by
an Israeli soldier in 1996.
Outside there was a small demonstration of other bereaved, who support the extreme right, calling "No dialogue
with the parents of terrorists!" and shouting abuse at the president. "This makes me sad, but I hope
that sooner or later we will succeed in having a dialogue with them, too" reacted Frankenthal.
Frankenthal, POB 33, Moshav Gamzu; fx 972-8-9285060
As we go to print Oleg Baron, a 21-year old conscientious objector, is serving a term at the Tzrifin Military Prison
-- the fourth time he was imprisoned since last September, when he informed the military authorities of his pacifist
convictions and of his refusal -- due to these convictions -- to become a soldier. In all that time, the special
Military Commission which is supposed to deal with such cases has not yet found time on its busy schedule to let
Baron state his case. Instead, lower echelons in the army were given a free hand to impose repeated terms of imprisonment
on Baron -- one month at a time, each term ending with a new order to put on a uniform, a new refusal and a new
term of imprisonment.
The army way of treating this young immigrant from the Ukraine is in sharp contrast to the ease by which it grants
exemptions to literally tens of thousands of religious students who are in no way pacifists (quite the opposite)
but who do possess a powerful political lobby.
Letters of support to: Oleg Baron, Serial Nr. 6441654, Military Post 02507, IDF;
Letters of protest to: Mr. Moshe Arens, Minister of Defence, Kaplan St., Tel Aviv; fx: 972-3-6916940; email:email@example.com
Copies to: Conscientious Objectors, POB 4090, Haifa
Tomorrow will be better
The long-awaited rain started exactly when we got off the bus in Tulkarm in order to join the already present Palestinians
who had invited us for a joint protest of the umptieth case of land robbery. Peace Now and Gush Shalom activists
armed with signs and (some) with umbrellas walked to the side of the field where Palestinian men and, more than
usual, also women were holding banners, filmed by a Palestinian TV crew.
From the place of the gathering we had a good view on the nearby hill: an absurd straight line of identical villas
stretching alongside the hill slope -- only settlements are created that way.
The Palestinians brought with them their governor -- the newly-appointed representative of the Palestinian Authority
for the Tulkarm Region. Father (Abu) Ziad he was called by everybody, a vivid personality with a certain aristocratic
charm. In a sarcastic tone he clarified the problem: the valley in between had recently been confiscated and added
to the already confiscated area of the Jewish villas.
He used the opportunity to mention that notorious Israeli factory which could not get a permit to establish itself
near population centers but in occupied territory got permission to pollute Tulkarm. There were more Tulkarm speakers,
and two Israelis also took the microphone. The Peace Now speaker, Yakov Manor emphasized the bad influence of the
present right-wing government; Uri Avnery (Gush Shalom) spoke of the military post which we had passed on the way
to Tulkarm: 'That is exactly where the Green Line was (pre-'67 border); that is where the border between Israel
and Palestine should be, the only border which can bring peace.'
It was received by the Palestinians with clapping and smiles. The atmosphere of this meeting wasn't a bitter one.
There were many friendly exchanges and Palestinians didn't hesitate to use for that their knowledge of Hebrew.
During a walk through the colourful streets of Tulkarm it was startling how much effort had been made, with modest
means, to make things look better: new paint on an old door; a broken wall repaired, and everything kept clean
and tidy. In the
restaurant where we sat down the governor remarked that the Palestinian Self-Rule had inherited the neglect of
many, many years...
On the way back, people were talking about the good mooded atmosphere which was really a bit surprising in this
period of increased land grabbing. Could it be that Palestinians count on a change for the better soon to come?
Could it be they expect that after the elections everything will turn to the better? It was an embarassing thought
how deeply we may disappoint them if we will not even get rid of Netanyahu...
Trouble at Herodion
+++ On Feb. 27, a busload of Gush Shalom activists toured the Bethlehem District of the West Bank at the invitation
of Palestinian Parliamentarian Salah Ta'amri: witnessing new settler roads torn though the Palestinian fields and
new barbed wire fences barring entrance to those whose land it was.
Sudden news of a confrontation between Palestinians and settlers near the 2,000-year old fortress of the Herodion
brought the activists rushing to the spot. They arrived to find a tense stand-off: angry Palestinian villagers
on one side, settlers protected by soldiers on the other. In the middle, an elderly Palestinian lying unconscious
on the ground, tended by an army medic.
The story came out in bits and pieces: on the land of this small Palestinian village, several settler mobile homes
had been set up. Though Palestinian ownership of the land had been admitted by the authorities, nevertheless a
military detachment was stationed to protect the settlers, who (yes!) brought in juvenile delinquents to be "rehabilitated"
by life at this spot.
On that very day, the misguided youths had set dogs on Palestinians working their land nearby; more and more villagers
came running. The unplanned arrival of peace activists defused what may have developed into a bloody confrontation.
As it was, a joint Israeli-Palestinian rally was improvised on the spot. Speeches were made and hands warmly shaken,
and even the unconscious man -- a landowner who had collapsed while shouting at the settlers -- slowly revived.
Meanwhile, the soldiers formed a cordon, behind which the settlers and their young proteges retreated into the
mobile homes. The activists went home with mixed feelings.
Contact: Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv.
The Hebron campaign
+++ February 25: the anniversary of the massacre, perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein five years ago in Hebron. The
suicidal shooting spree by a settler -- taking the lives of 29 praying Muslims in one of their holiest places --
should have meant the end of the provocative Israeli settlement in the heart of Hebron. This is one of the few
things everybody in the peace movement agrees about, from the most cautious to the intransigent radical. But the
(then) Rabin government didn't act accordingly, and the settlers are still there...
The plan of Peace Now to hold a protest at Goldstein's grave came in reaction to the settlers turning the site
into a virtual shrine and place of pilgrimage, with the shamefull tomb bearing an inscription of Goldstein the
"pure-hearted martyr" and (sic!) "saviour of the Jews." In 1998, the Knesset passed by a big
majority a bill introduced by Meretz Knesset Member Ran Cohen, mandating the removal of this offensive inscription;
but so far, the authorities failed to implement the new law.
s On the morning of Feb. 25, the Peace Now convoy was blocked by police near the settlement of Neveh Daniel on
the Jerusalem-Hebron Highway. At first, the activists were told they were being stopped because there had been
a road accident. But when other cars were allowed to pass as usual, the demonstrators found out that the area had
been declared "a closed military zone" and that they would not be allowed to proceed at all. "If
you want to demonstrate, you can do it here" said the officer in charge, pointing to a parking lot at the
side of the road.
That was the sign for the actvists to get off the bus and sit down on the road, effectively blocking all traffic.
The police proceeded to drag them off, using considerable force. Ten were detained, including Peace Now leader
Mossi Raz; and several of the activists' cars confiscated and towed away. Others remained, however, sitting on
the road while the dramatic news of the confrontation became the main radio and TV news. In the end, a compromise
was reached -- the detainees were released, and a small group was allowed to reach the Goldstein grave and hold
a vigil for half an hour, surrounded on all sides by big police forces.
Peace Now, 6 Lloyd George St., Jerusalem.
ph +972-2-5660648; firstname.lastname@example.org
+++ A day later, Feb. 26, when activists of the more radical Hebron Solidarity Committee set out to Hebron, they
were permitted by the authorities to reach the city and hold their memorial and protest.
Some fifteen activists arrived from Jerusalem to the small park in front of the ancient building, site of Goldstein's
crime -- a place considered holy by both Judaism and Islam because of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, venerated
by both, whose burial place it is supposed to be.
Immediately upon the HSC members' arrival they were funneled, by an enormous contingent of police and soldiers,
into an enclosure of metal barricades. The American members of CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team), based in Hebron,
joined them. But several dozen Palestinian Hebronites, who also wanted to join the action, were firmly stopped
by the army some distance away, lending credence to the demonstrators' main slogan: Stop Apartheid in Hebron. Only
a single Palestinian, who had brought his two small children with him, managed to mingle with the Israelis and
slip into the enclosure.
On the metal bars at the front of the enclosure, big banners in Hebrew, Arabic and English were spread out: IDF
and Settlers out of Hebron -- Now! On the other side were soldiers, journalists, international
observers -- and some of the Hebron settlers.
Allegra Paccecho, spokesperson for the HSC, read a statement: We don't believe in separation. There is no reason
why Jews could not live in Hebron, if they are willing to live in a democracy that gives equal rights to Palestinians.
But the settlers live here by their guns alone, with an ideology like the KKK in America.
When a moment of silence for the victims of the massacre was declared, the settlers punctuated it with angry heckling.
The rest of the hour-long vigil turned into a shouting match: Fascists! -- Terrorists! -- Racists! -- Arab-Lovers!
-- Get out of here! -- You get out of here!
HSC pob 234, J'lem; email@example.com
+++ The Hebron settlers succeeded in getting permit from the Netanyahu government to build another house inside
one of their highly-guarded enclaves; the settlers made it a festive occasion in which thousands of their supporters
were on April 4 bussed in from all over the country, addressed by various right-wing politicians including Defence
On that day, Gush Shalom issued a call for a new kind of protest: a boycott on the "Hebron Stamp", issued
shortly before at the initiative of Communications Minister Limor Livnat. The 1.80-Shekel postage stamp features
a colourful idealised picture of exotic-looking houses with the wording 'Hevron -- an ancient Jewish city', completely
ignoring the fact that the city is home to nearly 200,000 Palestinians. 'This stamp is a tool of political propaganda,
on a highly controversial issue, and it is unacceptable that a citizen who just needs a stamp is forced to help
spread this propaganda' Ma'ariv (5.4) quoted Gush Shalom. The Ministry of Communications seemed quite alarmed by
the prospect of peace activists picketing post offices, and denied that there had been any attempt at propaganda;
on the following days it turned out the controversial stamp had been quietly withdrawn from circulation.
Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv; fx: +972-3-5271108
+++ Following the settler festival, Peace Now made a formal request to hold a rally in Hebron. The military authorities
at first refused, but gave in after Peace Now threatened to appeal to the Supreme Court.
On the morning of April 9, military vehicles escorted the Peace Now convoy all the way from Jerusalem, to make
sure it followed exactly the route defined. The surprised demonstrators found themselves driving through the Kiryat
Arba settlement, which with its well-maintained Israeli-styled streets has been implanted east of Hebron.
In Hebron, the 150 demonstrators were funneled into a metal enclosure, and the customary bickering with the settlers
started almost immediately. But soon, most participants turned away from this futile exchange and faced the mobile
podium, mounted upon a truck. The powerful sound system made all speeches audible to settlers, soldiers and Palestinian
inhabitants throughout the Israeli-held part of Hebron.
The first speaker in this theater of the absurd was the mayor of Hebron Mustapha Natshe -- who for the purpose
had entered the occupied part of his city, the only Palestinian Hebronite allowed to the scene by the Israeli army.
Labor KM Yael Dayan -- in her characteristic way -- lashed out at the settlers, calling by name some of those present,
accusing them of seeking to destroy the lifework of Rabin. Meretz KM Haim Oron spoke about the thirty-one years
of struggle against the settler enclave. 'Now at last we approach the moment of truth. After the elections, the
new government will have to deal with this problem once and for all.' His speech was punctuated by shouting Settlers
out -- peace back to power!
The most dramatic was the speach of radical activist and publicist Haim Hanegbi to whom the audience, inside as
well as outside the fences listened attentively: 'I myself am a Hebronite, though I was born in Tel-Aviv. My ancestors
lived here for five hundred years; my grandfather was the Chief Rabbi of Hebron. I feel much more close to Mustapha
Natshe here than to those racist fellow-Jews who have intruded. These settlers talk so much about the massacre
of 1929 -- but never mention that most of the Hebron Jews were saved by their Arab neighbors. These settlers, not
one of them from the old Hebron families, do not want coexistence. They want to dominate by force. Their being
here is making it impossible for me to return here, to the city of my ancestors.'
+++ On April 26, a Supreme Court appeal was lodged by Dr. Avi Ofer, one of Israel's foremost archaeologists, asking
the court to halt the archaeological diggings started by the military authorities at Tel-Rumeida in Hebron. Dr.
Ofer claimed that the diggings are conducted in haste and without adherence to basic professional criteria, with
the intention of extending the settler enclave on that spot. "Tel Rumeida is the site of Biblical Hebron --
one of the most important archaeological sites in the whole country. These settlers who claim to venerate our Biblical
ancestors are in fact causing an irrepairable damage to the material remnants of these ancestors" he said.
The Shadow of Kosovo
For weeks, all our normal concerns -- the elections, the guerrilla war in Lebanon, the extension of West Bank settlements
-- seemed pale in comparison. As in other countries, the Kosovo War provoked different and contradicting reactions
within the Israeli peace movement. It is not so long ago that we had the experience of protesting and opposing
the brutal use of air power, the blind juggranaut which the government of Israel turned upon Lebanon in 1993 and
again in 1996. But for many in the peace movement, the primary concern was with the hundreds of thousands of Kossovars
brutally expelled from their homeland - the very "solution" which the Israeli extreme right would like
to perpetrate upon the Palestinians.
Solidarity with oppressed people and opposition to massive military interventions -- two principles which
are often complemetary -- proved highly difficult to reconcile in the case of Kosovo. Thus, the Communist Hadash
and left-Zionist Meretz parties, often together, found themselves taking diametrically opposite positions -- the
first picketing the U.S. Embassy and calling for 'an end to the barbaric bombing'; the others being arrested after
attempting to break into the Yugoslav Embassy while shouting 'Stop the genocide -- expell the ambassador!' Members
of Amnesty International Tel-Aviv branch followed, spraying the walls of the Yugoslav embassy with red paint. For
its part, the Islamic Movement in Israel held several demonstrations on the same spot in solidarity with their
Kossovar fellow-Muslims, and in the West Bank Hamas supporters -- used to the burning of American flags -- decided
to destroy Serb flags instead.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the settler pirate radio Arutz 7 gave a heavy dose of identification
with Milosevic, settler leader El'yakim Ha'etzny stating "We and the Serbians are in one boat... I wish our
own politicians in Israel would be as firm about Jerusalem as the Serbs are about Kosovo." The position was
reflected on the ministerial level, by Foreign Minister Sharon who claimed that "an independent Kossovo would
become a base for Islamic terrorism." The rightists were reinforced by Iraelis of Serb origin -- a sizable
and well-established community -- some of whom turned out to be Serb nationalists still, demonstrating with the
flags of their former homeland and photos of Milosevic. They were joined by Serb migrant workers, recently arrived
All of these were minority currents. The overwhelming response of the general Israeli public was a very emotional
identification with the Kossovar refugees' plight, with the memories of the Jewish Holocaust coming up again and
again. Within a single day, the Kibbutz Movement collected thousands of blankets from private citizens, which were
flown to the refugee camps in Macedonia. A daylong radiothon raised more than $600,000 for the refugees, and tens
of thousands packed the Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv for a fund-raising rock concert dubbed We, of all People,
Cannot Remain Silent!
Faced with this tide of public opinion, the government authorised the sending of humanitarian aid to the refugees,
including a field hospital in Macedonia. Originally, the government did not intend to accept any of the refugees
in Israel; following numerous articles and a petition campaign in Ha'aretz, Netanyahu changed his position, though
in a rather niggardly way. (The Ma'ariv headline: Nato estimates a million refugees -- Netanyahu: we take hundred).
As was remarked by some columnists: at the very time that these token hundred Kossovar refugees disembarked in
Israel in a blaze of TV cameras, the army was involved in the act of demolishing Palestinian houses. And for the
more perceptive, the comparison invited itself with the circumstances by which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians
became refugees in 1948. Gideon Levy's article "Kossovo was here" ignited a prolonged debate on the pages
of Ha'aretz, with some writers accepting -- and others hotly rejecting -- the equation.
By coincidence, April 9 -- anniversary of the Dir Yassin Massacre -- fell in the middle of this debate. The Israeli
media reported on the ceremony held by survivors of the massacre, who came from their refugee camp to the site
of their former village, now used as an Israeli mental hospital. Ha'aretz published a detailed account of the 1948
massacre perpetrated by Jewish militias -- while other pages of the same paper described the Serb paramilitaries
For Israelis, the Kosovo War presents a disturbing distant mirror. The question "who are we, Serbs or Kossovars"
remains a troubling one.
s The Hope Flowers School in Al Khader, south of Jerusalem, succeeded for more than a decade by enormous devotion
of its team, to wheather all storms and with the help only of some donations to continue educating children for
peace and coexistence. Weekly meetings with Israeli pupils are part of the curriculum. But it all may be over soon:
the Israeli military threaten to destroy the building for having been built "illegally." Israeli peace
groups launched a "Save the Hope Flowers School" campaign and you are invited to send protests to:
General Mandi Or, Head of Civil Administration, Beit El, West Bank; fx: +972-2-9977356
Hope Flowers Secondary School and Al Amal Child Care Center, pob 732, Bethlehem, West Bank, via Israel; fx: +972-2-274-7084;
Yehudi Menuhin-man of peace
by Uri Avnery
Three years ago, when we gathered signatures from prominent personalities on a manifesto in support of a United
Jerusalem as a common capital for both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, I approached Yehudi Menuhin
with great reverence, to ask him whether he would be willing to sign the proclamation, even though he did not know
me. His response was prompt and generous: "Your name is familiar to me and I hasten to add my name to your
statement... May we be prepared to give with a full heart what we would expect to receive. Let us be prepared for
reverses on the way, but let us pursue our goal, unhesitatingly." I was impressed by the signature, spanning
the entire width of the page.
I was reminded of this in February this year, when once again we were gathering signatures from prominent personalities
on a manifesto which stated, "We Support the right of the Palestinian nation to declare the establishment
of the State of Palestine in all the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with united Jerusalem serving
as the capital for both states -- West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of
Palestine. The co-existence of Israel and Palestine, side by side, is the basis of peace, security and reconciliation
between the two nations."
Again I turned to him and again his response was prompt: "Dear Mr. Avnery... I have allowed myself to suggest
a slightly different wording... I do not know if you agree. I fully realize that at the present time the feelings
of fear, of hate, of mistrust, an 'independent' Palestine would at least momentarily satisfy the cravings of the
Palestinian people and would no doubt spell a relief in Israel.
"My own very personal feeling is that the establishment of two states is, in fact, a recipe for a postponed
war. I know the euphoria that accompanies a declaration of independence, whether in Senegal, India, Israel and
so many smaller states, but within a few years the hard reality asserts itself. Jerusalem would be, as you indicate,
the first bone of contention, an outlet to the sea is a second, the sharing of waters is a third; another is Israel's
constant determination to keep the neighboring rival state weak. All these conditions will provide sufficient ground
for lasting enmity.
"You are right in stressing that a united Jerusalem must serve as capital for both states. On the other hand,
the Jewish population, many of whom would like to get rid of the Palestinian problem, will be the very ones that
hope to do so by excluding the Palestinians permanently from Jerusalem. I would like to know what you feel, but
of course I subscribe to the United Jerusalem.
"The following is the wording I would suggest:
"We Support the right of the Palestinian people to a United Jerusalem serving as the capital of both and all
people dwelling in the Holy Land. The coexistence and friendly cooperation of Jewish and Muslim peoples is the
only basis for peace, security and the sorely needed reconciliation between the two cultures."
This time too, he signed with a broad and confident full signature.
I replied to him in a lengthy letter. It was, of course, not possible to change the wording of the manifesto after
440 Israelis had already signed it. "The vision of a common state in Palestine, bi-national, multi-national
or supra-national, is indeed very appealing...(But) it seems to me that a dramatic change from a total 100-years-old
conflict to a state of total peace is impossible. It would demand too much of human nature as its present state
of development. A great prophet, a new Moses, Jesus or Muhammed, could perhaps achieve this, but rare spiritual
leaders of this stature do not come on order."
I added that "there must be an interim stage, perhaps lasting for a generation, in which the craving for national
symbols, pride and dignity must be satisfied. Without those, the Palestinian people would feel that they have been
robbed of something every other nation has been granted. Also, with the present immense preponderance of Israel
in all economic, technological and social fields, a joint state may well turn, at this stage, into a new replica
of the old South Africa.
"The two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side-by-side, with an intimate relationship imposed on them
by geography and economics, might slowly create a feeling of equality and confidence which is a necessary foundation
for any step forward. The sheer necessity of working together, in order to create new water resources, for example,
might be beneficial. I hope that the two states will quickly grow together, on the European model..."
Menuhin replied to this in a short message by fax: "I do agree with what you say, but how are we going to
handle the interim period with two states? One Jerusalem, however, would already be a blessing."
The signature was different this time: "Yehudi Menuhin. Dictated by Lord Menuhin and signed in his absence."
The letter was dated March 2, 1999. Maybe it was his last letter. Ten days later the great Jew passed away. (Translated
from Ma'ariv, 15.3.99)
+++ The kidnapping of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan by Turkey -- followed by the wave of Kurdish protests -- got
an Israeli dimension because of the allegations of involvement by the Mosad.
On Feb. 18, upon hearing the news of Israeli security guards opening fire at Kurdish demonstrators in the Berlin
consulate, the staff of The Other Israel took the initiative of calling for an immediate vigil.
At very short notice, a few dozen people turned up outside the intensively-guarded Turkish Embassy compound on
the Tel-Aviv waterfront: Gush Shalom activists, Hadash members including KM Tamar Gozanski, anarchists, young environmentalists...
Hastily-made placards were raised: 'We mourn the three killed in Berlin' and 'No to Israeli-Turkish military cooperation
against the Kurds'; the veteran Uri Avnery, holding a sign reading 'Ana Kurdi' (I am a Kurd), had been in earlier
Kurdish solidarity struggles during the 1970s.
This small vigil got wide media attention, in Israel and internationally; Kurdish activists in Europe took notice,
and regular contacts were established. One of the results was Avnery's invitation to address a rally of Kurds,
gathering by many tens of thousands from all over Europe to Bonn, Germany, on April 17.
Avnery was cheered when he declared his solidarity with the Kurdish aspirations "as a human being, Israeli
and Jew" and recalled that Kurds and Jews had lived together for thousands of years.
"Seeing that enormous crowd, so militant and assertive of its national identity yet so disciplined and peaceful,
I wondered how the Turkish leaders can entertain the illusion that it is possible to deny the existence of the
Kurdish nation" Avnery later wrote in Ma'ariv (25.4), comparing the Turkish attitude to Golda Meir's assertion
that "there is no such thing as a Palestinian people."