The Other Israel _ August 1999, Issue No. 89/90
*Is This the Man?, an Editorial Overview
Israeli "Kulturkampf" -- background to Barak's victory
Barak's games and a peace with Syria
But what about the Palestinians?
The two roads
An appeal for fair representation of Arab citizens of Israel
They will never vote!
An appeal against keeping Israeli soldiers in Lebanon
Golan the peace way
Golan settlers appeal for peace with Syria
*Abstract Ideas into News Items, A Conversation with Uri Avnery
The peace movement cannot yet retire
The Man in the Iron Mask
Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu
Barak Can -- If He So Wishes, by Haim Bar'am
Protests against new Jewish housing at Ras el-Amud
Vigil in support of Palestinian women prisoners
Of Rage and Hope, by Adam Keller
Israelis and Palestinians jointly protest West Bank settlements
Peacemaking on the Ground
...and in Conferences
Fraud Against Racism
the Qatzir House controversy
The Anti-militarist Dawn
A Combat Soldier's Conscience
*Stone By Stone
Campaign against demolition of Palestinian housing
**Don't Destroy Any More Houses!
Ad by Association for Civil Rights in Israel
*Ehud Barak, Shalom!
Ad by Gush Shalom
**Included in posting "Stone by Stone"
[THE OTHER ISRAEL is the newsletter of the Israeli Council
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Editor: Adam Keller
Coeditor: Beate Zilversmidt
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The Other Israel
August 1999, Issue No. 89/90
IS THIS THE MAN?
In Israel's 51 years of existence, no prime minister has ever failed to solemnly express at some point of the inauguration
speech to the Knesset "the hope for peace." But Ehud Barak's predecessors didn't talk of "ending
the century-old Israeli-Arab conflict" in such concrete political terms -- as a task to be fully achieved
within the four years' term of the new government. The question remains: is this man -- not particularly visionary,
a hard-nosed realist; a general intending to wage peace as he had waged war -- capable of doing what is needed
to achieve real peace?
Is Barak prepared to make the necessary territorial concessions? And can he bring his people -- and himself --
to the more fundamental concessions which territorial changes imply: the definite breaking of nationalist taboos
and prejudices, which was barely begun at Oslo; coming at last to terms with both the ingrained arrogance of power
resulting from decades of military and economic superiority, and the even more ingrained feeling of insecurity,
heritage of the preceding centuries of persecution? Or will he go down in history as one more failed candidate
to the role of 'Israeli De Gaulle', leaving the country and the region mired in anachronistic nationalism also
into the 21st century?
In fact, it was not a foregone conclusion that the Barak Government would make the achievement of peace its highest
priority. On election night, Barak's victory speech to the thousands of exuberant youths who converged upon the
Rabin Square certainly included a dose of nationalist verbiage, especially concerning "United Jerusalem, Eternal
Capital of Israel."
To his listeners at that moment of euphoria -- waving a curious mixture of peace signs, Israeli national flags,
emblems of football clubs, Gay "rainbow flags" and pictures of the martyred Yitzhak Rabin -- the New
Dawn seemed to promise everything at once: peace, a secular state, a constitution, prosperity...
A particular focus for the crowd's feelings was hostility to the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. In the same elections
which sealed Netanyahu's fate, Shas had registered a phenomenal electoral rise, from 10 to 17 Knesset seats --
a result achieved in spite of, or perhaps due to, the Jerusalem District Court convicting the party's leader Aryeh
Deri on grave corruption charges shortly before the elections. Again and again, strident voices punctuated Barak's
victory speech with the shout Keep Shas out! Keep Shas out!
But this should not have been surprising. Though the elections were a clear-cut defeat for the settlers and the
extreme right, whose various parties were all trounced and some of which were wiped out altogether, the Barak victory
was far from being a simple matter of a "peace majority" emerging. The deepening division between the
secular part of Israeli society and the ultra-Orthodox (towards whom Netanyahu was seen as leaning) can lay a good
claim to being the decisive issue on which these elections were fought and won.
In retrospect, what some observers termed "the Israeli Kulturkampf" seems to have begun a year before
the May 1999 elections, when ultra- Orthodox pressure had effectively censored the official 1998 Independence Day
Celebrations, forbidding well-known artists from appearing in "immodest garb" on stage, and provoking
an outburst of secularist anger.
The "Underwear Incident" was followed by the widespread university student demonstrations -- which got
much of their energy from the obvious discrimination between secular students and those of Yeshivas (religious
seminaries), and which met with police brutality of the kind usually reserved for Palestinian protesters.
In February 1999, with elections already on the agenda, the ultra-Orthodox rally in Jerusalem against "the
heretical Supreme Court" provoked another round of secularist counter-mobilization. Then came the conviction
of Deri -- and his Shas party's winning election campaign, presenting him as an innocent victim of discrimination.
True, the spectacular success owed less to Deri being Orthodox, and far more to his turning into the symbol of
the Oriental Jews who -- fifty years after arriving as emigrants from the Arab countries -- did not yet find their
rightful place in Israeli society.
At all events, the Deri Campaign aroused yet another backlash -- the meteoric rise of the Shinuy
party, headed by TV demagogue Tommy Lapid with his rabid yet shallow secularism (lambasting "The Orthodox
parasites" but opposing a separation of religion and state).
The decisive moment in the entire campaign came with the adhesion to the secularist camp of the Russian immigrants
-- a community with predominantly nationalist tendencies which had supported Netanyahu in 1996, but which had long
suffered from the State Rabbinate's refusal to recognize many of them as "kosher Jews", creating problems
of marriage, burial, and discrimination in general.
Nathan Sharansky, leader of the Russian immigrants' party, focused a whirlwind campaign on his demand to get hold
of the Interior Ministry -- which Shas had controlled for 15 years, widely abusing its control of immigration and
population registry. His constituency reacted with great enthusiasm -- and incidentally, a decisive block of them
shifted their support from Netanyahu to Barak.
In the direct election for Prime Minister, Ehud Barak gained an overwhelming majority -- but in the parliamentary
elections, his Labor Party garnered only 26 of the 120 Knesset seats, making necessary a multi-party coalition.
The choice of coalition partners would to a considerable degree predetermine the policies of the new government,
the Prime Minister's freedom of action -- or lack thereof -- on different issues. With such a loud part of Barak's
voters demanding of him to give secularism precedence over peace, and include in his government "everybody
except Shas", there started a bitter controversy among activists who had but days before been united in the
arduous anti-Netanyahu campaign; the division cut especially through the ranks of the Meretz party.
The two principles need not have clashed so hard -- had Barak been willing to include in his parliamentary base
the three parties representing Israel's Arab citizens, forming together a block of 10 Knesset seats. In theory,
they should have been among Barak's first choices -- after all, about 95% of the Arabs voted for Barak, more than
any other community among Israeli citizens. But to their chagrin, Barak sought a parliamentary majority composed
of Jewish Knesset Members -- in effect accepting the right-wing's racist maxim a government without a Jewish majority
is illegitimate which had been used to devastating effect against Rabin.
Under the pressure of mounting protest, Barak decided to do something: Arab Knesset Members were admitted to the
prestigious and hitherto exclusive Knesset Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee. KM Hashem Mahameed (United Arab
Party) duly took his seat -- under angry howls from the right.
The Jewish-Arab Center for Economic Development initiated the following appeal which appeared as an ad on the front
page of Ha'aretz (17.6), co-sponsored by other organizations concerned with civil rights.
(...) In 1948 The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel contained an explicit pledge to grant the
Arab citizens of Israel 'fitting representation on all governing bodies.' There can be different interpretations
of 'fitting' -- but certainly zero representation is not one of them.
Mr. Prime Minister, isn't fifty-one years long enough to wait for the implementation of such a basic democratic
With the Arabs declared ineligible as coalition partners, the only way for Barak to leave Shas out was to bring
the just-defeated Likud in. For a time, during the tense weeks of inter-party negotiations, this seemed quite a
realistic possibility. But, a week of televised speeches by the "new" Likud leader, the notorious settler
friend Ariel Sharon who seemed poised to become Barak's Foreign Minister, turned out to be enough (fortunately!)
to cure all but the most rabid secularists.
For all that could be said against Shas, it is a dovish party, bound by the ruling of its spiritual leader Rabbi
Ovadiayh Yosef that Sanctity of Human Life has precedence over Sanctity of Land. Once in the government, Shas could
be expected to support a peace deal involving territorial concessions -- and just as important, to promote such
a deal on its own grassroots level, among the impoverished Oriental Jewish community long dominated by Likud-style
Being assured that Deri would resign from his leadership position in Shas and that this party would be excluded
from the Interior Ministry, the Meretz
council finally voted by a large majority to enter a coalition with Shas -- though some Meretz youths shouted their
protest outside the hall.
Commentators and foreign diplomats, monitoring Barak's exhaustive rounds of negotiations with the Israeli parties
and factions in the hope of gleaning useful hints, noticed in particular his penchant for conducting simultaneous
negotiations with several partners at once, playing them off against each other, alternately encouraging and discouraging...
And in fact, even before assuming power Barak started the same kind of game on the regional level.
The visit to Israel of British writer and journalist Patrick Seale, authorized biographer and confidant of Syrian
President Hafez Asad, resulted in an unprecedented public exchange of compliments between Barak and Asad, with
the two leaders praising each other's "courage and commitment to peace." Thereafter, the Barak-Asad rapprochement
went energetically on, through the offices of numerous mediators -- not only the US State Department but also King
Abdullah of Jordan and Prime Minister Aznar of Spain. For weeks on end, there was no comparable approach to Arafat;
Barak virtually ignored him -- and Asad flatly refused an offer to hold a summit of Israel's Arab neighbors to
coordinate the coming negotiations.
Arafat was indeed visited by senior Labor members of the old "Oslo Team" such as Shimon Peres and Yossi
Beilin, and their fellow dove Shlomo Ben-Ami; but they could not pretend to speak on behalf of the new boss, and
in fact were very much in the dark concerning their own status in the cabinet to be formed. And when Barak did
finally meet with Arafat, he was cordial enough -- but avoided issues of substance...
Without saying it in so many words, Barak has given a clear impression of his willingness to give up the Golan
Heights, occupied in 1967 -- which is the basic precondition for peace with Syria. What remains are issues such
as the exact demarcation of the border, the extent of demilitarized zones, the location of early-warning stations,
and the rather thorny issue of water sources.
All of these might still require many months of tough negotiations. Still, they are all minor issues compared with
what Barak wants the Palestinians to swallow: his so-called "red lines." These include the preservation
of exclusive Israeli rule in "United Jerusalem"; the annexation of an unspecified but considerable part
of the West Bank -- as much as 30%, according to the well-informed commentator Ben Kaspit (Ma'ariv 2.7); the dismantling
only of the smaller, more inaccessible settlements while the bigger ones would form "settlement blocs",
implying new huge confiscations of Palestinian-owned lands.
In a press interview, Barak has given a very down to earth reason for giving preference to the Syrian track over
the Palestinian one: Syria has a powerful conventional army, as well as missiles carrying chemical weapons; the
Palestinians have nothing of the kind. To a general's way of thinking, a higher price clearly deserves to be paid
for neutralizing a major military threat than in case of a minor one.
A second consideration, which must be on Barak's mind, is his election pledge to "bring back the boys from
Lebanon within a year", and the prohibitive political price of failing to do so, with merchants in the Tel-Aviv
vegetable market counting the days, marking them on a placard placed among the tomatoes (TV News 18.6).
The pledge already had a profound effect on the ground in Lebanon, with soldiers increasingly asking 'If anyway
we are going to withdraw within a year, why should I still get killed?' (Ma'ariv, 2.7).
They will never vote!
There are young men who didn't vote in the elections. They didn't vote for Barak and also not for Bibi. They will
never vote in elections. They will never love, marry, have children. For my son it is too late. For me it is too
late - I will never get out of Lebanon, my heart will stay there forever. But for the soldiers who are still breathing,
who still have a whole life in front of them, it is not too late.
And I tell you, Mr. Barak: a year, that is too long! Up to now there were every year twenty, or twenty five soldiers
killed in Lebanon. That is too many. One soldier killed is too many. You have to bring them back -- now!'
Orna Shimoni at the June 5 rally organized by Four Mothers and Red Line, Tel-Aviv Cinematique Square.
Four Mothers, pb 23630 Tel Aviv; Red Line, pb 23600 Tel Aviv
The so-called South Lebanon Army, Israel's locally-recruited militia, starts to disintegrate. More and more of
its Lebanese soldiers try to take care of their future by providing the Hizbullah guerrillas with information on
the movements of IDF convoys -- leading Israeli commanders to distrust their erstwhile allies. Already, defections
and low morale in the SLA ranks forced that militia to evacuate the Jezzine Enclave, which could no longer be defended
against the guerrillas.
An unnamed general, quoted on Israeli radio, compared the Israeli rule in Lebanon to "a corporation in liquidation,
which must be maintained in good order until the arrival of the receiver." And the only way for Barak to achieve
an orderly withdrawal and make sure the evacuated territory would not be used for rocket attacks on the communities
of northern Israel is to make the withdrawal part of a comprehensive deal with Syria, which holds the strings in
It is a fact that the Israeli public seems ready for the concessions needed for peace with Syria. The realization
that Israeli soldiers in Lebanon are effectively shedding their blood for the sake of Israeli rule on the Golan
caused a startling change of heart. Until recently, the Golan was considered an easy asset: a beautiful landscape
with hardly any hostile Arab population (most were expelled in 1967); the Golan settlers never got the stigma of
But over the past six months succeeding opinion polls started indicating an ever-increasing percentage supporting
evacuation of the Golan in return for
peace. As was revealed after the elections, Netanyahu had during his last months already started to conduct negotiations
with Asad on the basis of withdrawal from the Golan -- though getting cold feet at the moment when the Syrians
asked for an exact map reference.
Netanyahu simply couldn't afford a confrontation with the so-called Third Way Party, whose main slogan was "The
Golan forever" and which had become indispensable in his crumbling coalition. Ironically, that party was completely
wiped out by the voters -- deserted even by the Golan settlers themselves.
Golan the peace way
After the murder of Rabin, some eighty Golan settlers dissociated themselves from the right-wing Golan Communities
Association and started what has become known as the Golan Peace Way circle'.
(...) The people here are not naive. They know that an agreement means our evacuation. But the government should
inform us of what to expect. A farmer has to know whether it is worthwhile to plant a mango which bears fruit only
after four years. (...) Paradoxical as it may sound, many of us would see an evacuation for the sake of real peace
as the continuation of our act of settling. Under conditions of war with Syria, certain strategic interests should
be safeguarded by Israeli presence here. A peace agreement will abolish the reason for that presence. (Yigal Kipnis,
Ma'aleh Gamla settlement on the Golan, in Yediot Aharonot, 23.7.)
Actually, Barak won on the Golan by a majority greater than among Israelis as a whole. The once-marginal group
of settlers who for years proclaimed bravely their willingness to be evacuated for the sake of peace, has grown
to the point of being able to challenge the official settler leadership.
So, an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement seems a reasonable possibility for the near future. Could it be that Barak
has set his eyes upon peace with Syria, and with Syria alone? And could it be that Asad is at this point willing
to give up his role as Conscience of the Pan-Arab Nation? An Israeli-Syrian peace agreement not combined with an
Israeli-Palestinian peace deal? A sheer repetition of Camp David, the agreement in which Menachem Begin sought
to isolate the Palestinians by making peace with Egypt and of which Asad was at that time such a fierce opponent?
It may be that, deep in his heart, this is what Barak would have liked best. Still, exactly such a realist as Barak
must be aware that in the two decades since Camp David the Palestinians have immensely increased their international
standing, anchoring it in a network of agreements to which the United States is a guarantor.
Moreover, the situation on the ground created by the Oslo process -- territories broken into a bewildering patchwork
of enclaves, with Israeli soldiers, Palestinian policemen, armed settlers and Palestinian militias all in close
proximity -- cannot be maintained indefinitely. And wasn't it also one of Barak's election pledges to draw a clear
physical border between Israelis and Palestinians? He did not even scruple to express it in a slogan originally
used by the extreme right: We will be here, they will be there, and there will be peace.
The drawing of a border which both sides can find more or less acceptable may end hostilities, though it will not
in itself bring reconciliation. And still, this mediocre goal is bound to be the issue of ceaseless struggle in
the coming year -- diplomatic and political struggle, quite possible bursting into occasional violence on the ground,
and with success far from assured.
The first round already began: Barak's effort to delay the implementation of the Wye Agreement, so as to leave
himself the maximum of negotiating counters for the final status negotiations, provoked what might become the first
of many negotiations crises -- with the Palestinians refusing to budge from the firm ground of a binding, minutely
detailed international agreement.
A related issue which Barak simply cannot avoid for very long is settlement construction and extension, an issue
hotly contested not only between Barak and Arafat, but also within the Barak cabinet itself.
The clause on settlements in the new government's program is deliberately phrased so vaguely as to give no practical
guide for action. Under their interpretation of it, the Meretz ministers demand the removal of the 40 "hilltop
settlements" hastily established during the last six months of Netanyahu, many of which are manifestly illegal
even according to the biased Israeli military law which still prevails in 71% of the West Bank. The demand is strongly
opposed by the settler-friendly National Religious Party, which Barak took into his cabinet so as to provide "a
counter-balance" and to which he even entrusted the Ministry of Housing, with its key influence on settlement
While so far this dispute remains unresolved, the Minister of Trade and Industry -- Ran Cohen of Meretz -- took
a policy decision on his own, instructing his officials to freeze all plans for new industrial zones in the settlements
and calling upon Israeli industrialists "not to invest a single Shekel over there" -- echoing the very
wording of the weekly Gush Shalom Settlement Boycott ads.
For his part, Labor's rising star Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami -- a committed socialist as well as a dove -- took several
energetic initiatives within days of being appointed Minister of Police. He laid to rest Netanyahu's closure order
against the Orient House, Palestinian Headquarters in East Jerusalem, in a very cordial televised meeting with
Feisal Husseini. Then Ben-Ami directed the police not to demolish any more Palestinian houses without his personal
approval; at the cabinet meeting he voiced a sharp denunciation of the discriminatory housing policies enacted
in East Jerusalem by past governments -- Labor as
well as Likud -- in terms hitherto used only in the brochures of radical peace organizations.
Another cabinet dove -- peace process old timer Yossi Beilin, now Minister of Justice -- declared his firm opposition
to the practice of "administrative detention" (i.e. without trial), and drew up plans to at last end
the legal State of Emergency which had lasted continuously since the foundation of the state in 1948, and which
gives the government wide powers of ruling by decree (used, on occasion, not only against Palestinians but also
against striking workers).
In yet another taboo-breaking initiative, Beilin and Ben-Ami together started working on lifting the emotionally-loaded
prohibition on the release of Palestinian prisoners "with blood on their hands" -- an official Israeli
definition bitterly resented by the Palestinians, given that Israeli soldiers with Palestinian blood on their hands
rarely get into prison, and often get promoted.
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
Even Interior Ministry Nathan Sharansky -- definitely not a dove despite his past as a dissident in the Soviet
Union -- embarked upon an intensive liberalisation of the hitherto repressive and racist policies of the immigration
and population registration departments. This seems to impact not only upon the Russian immigrants, Sharansky's
direct constituency, who were among the chief victims; the new minister also pledged to abolish his predecessor's
policy of massively confiscating the residency permits of East Jerusalem Palestinians.
And last but not least, Labor's Dalia Itzik started her job as Minister of Environment by meeting with her Palestinian
colleague in Gaza, proposing a program of cooperation on environmental issues and pointing out that pollution has
a way of crossing whatever borders are drawn by human beings. (The criticism over Itzik's being the only woman
in Barak's cabinet overshadowed initially the good news of having at last a serious appointment for the Environment
Yet, as against such positive indications from some of the Barak's ministers, one should weigh the clear absence
of change in the spheres under Barak's own responsibility, in his second role as Defence Minister. There is no
sign of new policy directives coming down to the military bureaucracy which -- six years after Oslo -- still has
the power to blight the daily life of Palestinian villagers.
In just the few days before this issue goes into print, TOI got news of soldiers rampaging through the village
of Akaba in the Jenin District, systematically demolishing the village's entire electricity system, which some
official declared to be "illegal"; of the demolition of the shack at Sawahreh, east of Jerusalem, where
the Mashhour family with their seven children had lived since their home had been demolished (a 65-year old cripple
and a 15-year old girl were detained for offering futile resistance to the soldiers); of six new demolition orders
issued simultaneously at the tiny village of Izbit Tabib, which altogether consists of some 20 houses...
The two roads
In the election campaign and later, the hope was often voiced that "Barak will continue in the way of Rabin,"
and it was as the presumptive New Rabin that Barak got his red-carpet reception in the White House. But the pessimists,
holding that Barak is "just a new Netanyahu" can find a considerable body of evidence, too... Certainly
, it is doubtful whether the mantle of Rabin the Peace Martyr already fits Ehud Barak in his role as the new Prime
Minister. One can only hope that Barak will go through his own process of growth -- as was the case with Yitzchak
Yet his time is strictly limited. Each for his own reasons, all the main actors in the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process have bound themselves to a deadline a year -- or slightly more than a year -- ahead. During his whirlwind
visit to Washington, Barak had expanded his "Lebanon Pledge" into a promise to achieve a breakthrough
on all tracks within 15 months. Arafat agreed to delay the Palestinian Declaration of Independence for about the
same period (in return for an explicit European promise and a more vague American promise to recognise the independent
Palestine by mid-2000.) It may not be a coincidence that this happens to be also the period left until the end
of Clinton's term.
So it all converges on the new Prime Minister of Israel facing quite soon the choice between making far-reaching
concessions he did not originally intend -- or accepting his failure in what he formulated so boldly: bringing
to an end the century-old conflict. Such a failure, as Barak must be aware, would surely bring about a new round
of bloodshed and sorrow.
The choice will be Barak's own -- but one should give careful attention to the factors which would motivate his
Barak is going to be confronted with a more mature Israeli civil society. Since the formation of the Rabin Government
seven years ago, it seems Israelis have learned one thing: not to sit back and wait for "our government"
to do the job on its own. Left and right experienced it each in their own way: governments can never be taken for
granted, but need to be reminded constantly; only the continued pressure from below, exerted by a convinced and
untiring part of its supporters, can make a government strong enough to take difficult decisions and confront --
if need be -- another part of the public.
An encouraging indication can be found in the wide spectrum of public figures which answered the call of Israel's
Civil Rights Association and cried out against the demolition of Palestinian houses. And on a quite different level,
but no less significant, the army published statistics indicating a rise in the number of parents objecting to
their conscript sons serving in
combat units... And at the moment this gets to you, two Israeli youngsters -- from the Candle Kids generation --
may already be incarcerated in the military prison for their refusal to take part in the occupation (they will
probably spend much of their time behind bars debating with guards and fellow-prisoners, patiently explaining why
such civil disobedience is necessary even with Barak at the helm).
Those -- in Israel and outside -- who sincerely want to achieve peace, need to send periodic reminders to Barak:
Mr. Prime Minister, you may see two roads to go from here -- but only on one of them can you expect to find us
at your side.
The editors -- Tel-Aviv, 30.7.1999
Abstract ideas into news items,
a conversation with Uri Avnery
After the 1992 elections, which brought about the Rabin Government, there was a rather widespread mood of: The
struggle is over! Now the peace movement can go home -- the work will be done on government level alone. And we
do remember two or three letters from TOI readers canceling their subscription at that time for comparable reasons...
The TOI-staff decided to take the initiative of letting Uri Avnery -- with his broad parliamentary and extra-parliamentary
experience -- answer possible questions. Beate Zilversmidt reports.
On the way to the seventh floor in the shaky elevator of a run-down flat building towering over the supermarket
of Ben Yehuda Street, I realized how different Tel Aviv must have looked at the time when Uri Avnery -- a young
discharged combat soldier turned journalist -- took residence here. Upon entering the three-room apartment I got
a clue to things which change, and others which don't: on the west side of the living room a gorgeous view on sunset
over the sea -- to the east a not less fascinating Tel Aviv skyline, with old and new creating an illusion of beauty
which one wouldn't imagine while walking on the ground.
Half past six was the hour he had given me. Uri Avnery (76) is still a hard working publicist and activist. While
I was waiting for him to come from his study, Rachel his partner in life and work showed me her last photographs
of Gush Shalom in action. When I praised the artistic value of one specific picture -- showing Israelis and Palestinians
exchanging smiles on the roof of a rebuilt house, with others watching it from below as in the theatre -- she laughed
and said: "I have given up artistic photographing long ago."
-- So, with this new government peace fighters like you can at last retire?
Are you serious? Of course not. On the contrary. This is a time to redouble our efforts. [He takes a deap breath
and continues in a more pensive tone:] We are in a position of an army which won victory on the battlefield and
now it all depends on the vigor in which we exploit victory to achieve peace. Elections have shown that the great
majority of the people have come to accept what we have been saying for decades. There exists a Palestinian people
and we must come to terms with it; there should be created a State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.
It is up to us now to convince the Israeli public that we must cede to the state of Palestine all the territory
occupied in 1967; that the settlements must be dismantled, and that Jerusalem must become the capital of two states.
Anything less will not bring real peace.
-- But the Israeli electorate has chosen Barak for Prime Minister, not Uri Avnery. Does that not mean that most
Israelis see it differently?
The people have accepted nine tenths of what we have been saying -- all of which was considered crazy or treasonous
once. Now we must convince them to accept also the last tenth. The last part may prove to be the most difficult
and the most crucial, because if this historic opportunity is missed and we settle for less than real peace it
will not be the end of the conflict, just a new stage of it.
Of course, the peace that Barak has in mind is an immense step forward compared to what Mr. Netanyahu could offer
and maybe even Yitzchak Rabin -- but it still is only a "permanent settlement" and not final peace. It
hopefully will lead to a coexistence of two states but not to a real peace between the peoples. Between the two
states there will remain an ongoing dispute. All this can be avoided if we really solve all the problems now in
one bold step.
-- All the problems, you say: how about the refugees?
I am talking of the definite borders, Jerusalem, settlements and, last but far from least, the refugees. It is
a complete illusion that we can make full peace with only half of the Palestinian people.
The refugee problem must be solved in a way acceptable to both peoples. Mr Barak seems not to know better than
repeating once more what Ben Gurion said fifty years ago [the refugee problem should be solved in the countries
where they are -- Barak on NBC]. No Arab has ever accepted this. The solution I believe in will be composed of
1) Those who for personal reasons do not want to come back must receive generous compensations on the lines of
the compensations paid by Germany to Jews which were compelled to leave Germany, my own family included.
2) Most of the others must be repatriated to the state of Palestine, which by the way proves that it is in our
interest that Palestine will be big enough and prosperous and that the settlements must be emptied and turned over
to the refugees.
3) A fixed number must be allowed to come back to Israeli territory in the framework of family unification. I know
that this third point is the most unpopular even in the peace camp but it has immense symbolic value. And symbols
play a big role in achieving real peace. We must get rid of antiquated concepts which go back to the early 1950s,
when there were a million Jews in
Israel. Now we have five million Jews and one million Arab citizens. I don't see any disaster in adding, let's
say another 200 000 to this number.
-- But you say this is a minority view even in the peace camp. How are you and a few others of Gush Shalom going
to convince the majority of this?
Gush Shalom and the people who compose it have shown already that they do have an impact. What they have been alone
in saying has become the national consensus. The way to do it: we have to state our positions clearly, not making
any compromise with the temporary interest of political parties, and to address constantly the actual facts on
the ground and the common sense of people. Those of us who remember the endless debates about whether there exists
a Palestinian people and whether we should negotiate with the "PLO terrorists" do not fear temporary
unpopularity. We must confront public opinion in every possible way: by seeking publicity for our ideas, and by
-- How can Gush Shalom raise public attention with relatively small demonstrations?
Very often it is small demonstrations which touch the hearts and change the views of people. Demonstrations are
a modern way of translating abstract ideas into news events, which are transmitted to the general public by the
mass media, TV, radio and newspapers. To give one single example, when in January 1983 three members of the ICIPP
-- not more -- were for the first time publicly photographed in a meeting with Arafat, somehow the perception of
millions changed overnight and unconsciously; here was Yasser Arafat, the arch-terrorist sitting between a Major
General (ret.) of the Israeli army, Matti Peled; Yakov Arnon, former Director General of the most important Israeli
ministry and a Member of Knesset -- myself. Obviously such a man cannot really want to throw the Jews into the
sea. And the same effect occurred on the other side: the picture shows to Palestinians that their beloved leader
can sit with important Zionist Israelis, so not all Israelis are bad.
Hundreds of such actions eventually caused a turnaround in public opinion -- and that is the way. Take also today's
example of the pictures of rebuilding houses. The rebuilding of one house is one concrete step for the people involved,
but -- if accompanied by the proper publicity campaign -- it is also a much bigger symbolic step for peace. If
a house, demolished by the evil occupation is rebuilt by Israelis and Palestinians together "in the sweat
of their brow" (literally!), millions who see a glimpse of it on TV, especially Palestinians, are deeply touched.
That is the way to create the spirit of peace.
-- Who is financing such publicity campaigns?
Money is important. Of course, Gush Shalom has no salaried employees, and all small and big actions are planned
in a tiny office. Activists pay their own bus fares to the often far-away places of our demonstrations but we need
money to publish our views and announce our actions.
We do get some grants from international peace foundations but we could do much more if we would have available
a bigger budget. For example: mostly we can only publish our ads in Ha'aretz which is a respectable but medium
circulation daily. We would like to publish them also in the two mass circulation papers and in Israel's English
and Russian press. For the Russian public, composed of a million new citizens, we are completely nonexistent.
Unfortunately most big donors abroad have a very strict definition of "Human Rights" and "Pro-Democracy"
action, with our political fight in fact laying the ground for any progress in human rights and democracy.
While we get no money at all from the big American foundations, there are several very devoted individuals -- "friends
of Gush Shalom" -- in North America but also in Europe who collect for us and the sums which they succeed
to gather are tremendously important in keeping us going, both for their moral and their practical value.
-- How is Gush Shalom's cooperation with Palestinians?
We are most eager to work closely with Palestinians. In the last six years we had about 450 events and the majority
were joint Israeli-Palestinian actions and we have many contacts with village and regional committees. Whatever
their political affiliation, when something happens in their area -- land confiscation, house demolition, uprooting
of trees -- they know they can call on us. We have good relations both with the mainstream Palestinian leadership
of Yasser Arafat, Feisal Husseini, Hanan Ashrawi and others, and with the Palestinian opposition groups such as
the left-wing People's Party. And at one time, in 1993, we were even invited by the Hamas to a mass meeting in
Gaza -- after we lead the protest against the deportation of 415 Islamic activists by the Rabin government.
The Man in the Iron Mask
On the morning of June 6, activists of the Israeli Vanunu Committee were joined, on a vigil outside the gates of
Ashkelon Prison, by three recipients of the Right Livelihood Award ('Alternative Nobel Prize') who arrived in Israel
as part of a campaign for the release of Nuclear Whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. Later, they travelled to the town
of Dimona -- whose inhabitants would be directly endangered in case of an accident at the nearby nuclear pile,
Vanunu's former workplace.
A week earlier, the London-based Foreign Report told of secret preparations by the government to evacuate all Dimona
residents to a tent city, for fear of a disaster in the reactor as a result of the "Year 2000 Bug." This
report, hotly denied by the prime minister's bureau, was the latest and most dramatic in a a series of speculations
and supposed revelations on the deteriorating situation of the Dimona Pile, constructed in the early 1960's. So
far, Israel's Atomic Energy Commission which runs the pile refused to release any information beyond broad statements
to the effect that "the pile is in perfect order and all malicious rumors are false."
On June 21, Vanunu himself appeared at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem -- or rather, he faced the judges in camera,
and strict measures were taken to prevent the many waiting journalists from seeing him. "It is absurd"
said Adv. Avigdor Feldman, Vanunu's attorney. "Vanunu was for nearly twelve years in solitary confinement,
and we were authoritatively told that it was too big a security risk to let him talk to anybody at all. But it
is a year since this policy was changed, and Vanunu has been allowed to mingle freely with other prisoners. Had
he wanted, he could have revealed to them any number of secrets. But he did not, and indeed he has no more secrets
to tell. Yet the authorities are still in panic that, were press photographers allowed to see him for a brief second,
he would blurt out such terrible revelations that the whole structure of state security would collapse... The time
has come for Vanunu to stop being the Man in the Iron Mask" (Israeli Radio, 21.6).
At this court session Vanunu had lodged two appeals. In the first, he asked the court to order his return to Italy,
from where he was kidnapped by Israeli agents in 1986; in the other, he asked the court to permit publication of
the minutes of his original trial, which was held in camera. After 13 years, these minutes are still totally classified,
as is most of the verdict. The only document so far published was the portion of the verdict in which the court
ruled that revealing information about Israel's nuclear arsenal to a newspaper (the British Sunday Times) was as
much "an act of espionage" as handing the information to an enemy agent -- a conclusion disputed by many
international jurists and some Israeli ones. Vanunu's supporters often claim that this blanket secrecy is designed,
not to preserve state secrets but to hide the arguments which Vanunu brought in his own defence.
Both of Vanunu's appeals were rejected by the court. Nevertheless, the state exhibited a certain willingness to
compromise, absent in his previous appeals: the State Prosecutor's representative said the state is considering
the release of "some of the minutes, in consultation with security officials."
Vanunu is also awaiting a Supreme Court appeal on a District Court ruling that prohibits two British lawyers from
visiting him in prison. Vanunu needs the services of these attorneys in order to sue the Israeli government in
the British court system, for actions which Israeli secret agents took against him on British soil.
In the Ashkelon Prison Vanunu was returned to solitary confinement as a punishment -- following an altercation
with other prisoners who had tried to coerce him into participating in a religious ceremony. Vanunu, who is classified
as "a security prisoner" has repeatedly asked to be held together with other prisoners of the same category,
rather than with criminals. The Prison Authorities refuse; these others are Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Vanunu's supporters in the United States scored some successes in the ongoing lobbying efforts. No less
than 36 Democrat Members of Congress signed a letter, initiated by Rep. Lynn Rivers, calling upon President Clinton
to intervene on behalf of Vanunu -- who, they wrote, "lingers in prison simply for his belief in global peace."
They went on to state that "Mr. Vanunu told his story as an act of conscience... not for personal financial
gain" and asked Clinton to persuade the government of Israel to release him on humanitarian grounds, noting
that the prolonged isolation which Vanunu already underwent had been described by Amnesty International as "cruel,
inhumane and degrading." A similar initiative was taken in the Senate by Senator Paul Wellstone.
The White House response to the letter was above expectation: an unprecedented personal letter from President Clinton
stating "we have closely followed the matter of Mr. Vanunu's imprisonment", expressing particular concern
over "the conditions under which he is held", and promising that the administration will continue to
raise Vanunu's case in discussions with the Israeli government. Moreover, Clinton's letter went on to state: "I
also share your concerns about the Israeli nuclear program" -- though, in fact, the 36 Representatives had
avoided explicit mention of that issue.
The letter marks a clear departure from earlier statements by U.S. officials, who hitherto dismissed the Vanunu
case as "an internal Israeli affair." In part, the turnabout may be attributed to the highly strained
relations between President Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu at the time the letter was written (May 5, just
two weeks before the Israeli elections). Also, in the wake of the Indian and Pakistani open acquisition of nuclear
arms, the administration has become more sensitive on the issue of nuclear proliferation.
According to well-informed Ha'aretz commentator Ze'ev Schiff, Clinton has been pressing the Netanyahu government
to sign the proposed new Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), which would halt the production of fissile materials,
the basic raw material needed for producing nuclear weapons. Signing this treaty would in effect legitimize Israel's
possession of a nuclear arsenal but prohibit the construction of new bombs; also, Israel would be obliged to open
the Dimona Pile to international inspection, so as to prove that no more fissionable materials are produced there.
According to Schiff, an intense though mostly secret debate on this issue is raging among the high political and
military echelons in Israel (Ha'aretz, 18.6). Netanyahu agreed to no more than "the formation of international
ad-hoc committees to study the issue of the FMCT." It seems that Ehud Barak, at some point during his tenure,
will be the one facing the crucial decision. Rejecting the FMCT, as Israel for decades rejected the earlier Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), could result in total international isolation -- since India and Pakistan seem
inclined to sign it. (The only other "FMCT-Problematic" state may turn out to be North Korea -- not exactly
the company which Israel would like to keep).
On the other hand, Barak's election promise to "change Israel" does not seem to have implied a
profound change in its nuclear policies, essentially unchanged since the 1950's...
Israeli Vanunu Committee, pb 7323, J'lem 92073; email@example.com
U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, 110 Maryland Avenue, NE, Suite 102, Washington, DC 20002.
Barak can -- if he so wishes
by Haim Bar'am
Adapted from Kol Ha'Ir, July 16
The first Barak-Arafat summit produced some gestures of reconciliation, if not a substantial advance. Barak did
make an effort to treat the Palestinian leader with respect, and some warmth was evident -- which had been conspicuously
absent during Netanyahu's meetings with Arafat.
Still, it is far too early to start celebrating. Should Barak persist in his declared commitment to maintain Israeli
rule over "settlement blocs", comprising a substantial part of the West Bank -- not to mention his demand
for an exclusively-Israeli Jerusalem -- negotiations with the Palestinians may turn out to be stillborn. In that
case, there remains for Barak the option of throwing Meretz out of the cabinet and taking in the super-hawk Sharon
-- who still waits in the wings after his first attempt to enter the Barak cabinet was foiled. Barak is, however,
also bound by regional and international constraints -- the same which had acted upon his mentor Yitzchak Rabin.
Nowadays, it is not often remembered how much of a hawk Rabin was in his role as Defence Minister at the National
Unity Government headed by Shamir. At that time, he was in fact far closer to the Likud than to Meretz or even
to the doves in his own Labor Party.
Yet the dynamics of both the international arena and the (relatively) dovish environment where he found himself
after being elected Prime Minister in 1992 have had a profound influence on Rabin. It brought him to the point
of singing the Peace Song at a giant peace rally, of asserting hotly the right of Israel's Arab citizens to have
a share in the decision-making process -- and of being shot down by a fanatic nationalist assassin.
Among Barak's ministers can be counted at least five who are favorably inclined to the Palestinian Authority: Yossi
Sarid and Ran Cohen of Meretz, as well as Labor Doves Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and Shlomo Ben-Ami. Every peace
seeker can be happy that they are in the government and that Sharon, Hanegbi and the rest of their gang no longer
hold ministerial positions.
Still, one must not forget that the Barak government does include three declared supporters of the settler cause:
Yitzchak Levy of the National Religious Party, the Russian Immigrants' leader Natan Sharanski and Eliyahu Suissa,
hardliner of the Shas party. In between are to be counted four pragmatic hawks, Barak himself and Labor ministers
Fuad Ben-Eliezer, Dalya Itzik and Avraham Shohat; and the remaining six ministers -- Haim Ramon, David Levy, Yitzchak
Mordechai and three of the Shas ministers -- can be expected to follow any course set by Barak, be it dovish or
hawkish. Altogether, Barak has virtually a free hand to define the policy of his government -- a freedom for which
all his predecessors would have envied him.
Like Rabin before him, Barak is torn between his innate hawkishness, deeply rooted in the traditions of the Israeli
Labor Movement, the movement which created Israel at the cost of making hundreds of thousands of refugees -- and
the increasing dovishness of the Israeli middle class, which constitutes Barak's main base of support, as it was
Not that the middle class is a great believer in the justness of Palestinian aspirations or in equality and the
right of self-determination -- rather, the need to ensure "a favorable environment for business investment"
and to develop Israel's touristic potential to the full leads to a search for peace, and a narrow insular nationalism
is incompatible with the worldwide tendency towards "globalisation."
Yitzchak Rabin had gone a long way: from being a youthful disciple of Benny Marshak, the ascetic visionary of Zionist
Labor Nationalism; through the "high society circle" maintained by his wife Leah; and up to embracing
the punk pacifist singer Aviv Gefen, on the podium of the rally at whose end he was murdered. The same kind of
social forces are now at work on the ex-kibbutznik Ehud Barak...
It is relatively easy for Barak to reach peace with both Syrians and Palestinians, which would have the blessings
of Egypt, the Gulf States, the North African Arab states, Europe and of course the United States. He enjoys freedom
of manoeuvre inside the cabinet and an enormous parliamentary majority -- and any move towards peace would also
get support from the Hadash Communists on the left and the two Arab parties.
The Likud, reduced to 19 seats, is demoralised and divided into mutually-hostile factions; the same is true of
the electorally-decimated extreme right. Should Barak's correct decision to make Meretz and Shas the two pillars
of his cabinet lead to a breakthrough towards peace, Barak could back it up both in the Knesset and on the streets.
Only Barak himself can let the little hawk, still nestling in his own breast, break out and destroy the favorable
political structure which he constructed, change strategy and form a rejectionist government in partnership with
Sharon. Shas would be very likely to stay on in such a government; the Shas electorate, while willing to accept
a peace compromise endorsed by the venerated rabbi Ovadya Yosef, would actually find a hawkish government more
The only effective barrier to a rightward move by Barak would be a firm stand by the Labor doves, and a willingness
to include Meretz and the Arabs in their rebellion. It is to be hoped that the independence exhibited by the senior
Laborites, who rejected Barak's candidate for Knesset Speaker and chose the independently-minded Avraham Burg,
was more than a one-time show.
A left-wing observer -- even one disgusted by the new Prime Minister's callous attitude to his fellow party members,
and by his decision to have only a single woman minister and no Arab minister at all -- has no reason to wish for
Barak's downfall. Having sharply criticized Rabin, in his time, we can now afford to give Barak a chance, to wait
and see which of the many options open to him he will actually take.
+++ On the morning after the elections, May 18 -- just hours after the dramatic news of the Barak victory -- earth-moving
and rock-crushing machines suddenly appeared at the settler compound at the Palestinian Ras el-Amud Neighborhood
of East Jerusalem. Financed by the millionaire Erwin Moscowitz of Miami Beach (see TOI-87, p.12), settlers had
chosen that day for starting the construction of about 130 Jews-only housing units in the midst of Arab Jerusalem.
Over the preceding two years, Netanyahu had held up the Ras el-Amud project, having personally promised Secretary
of State Albright that the status-quo on the spot (the settlers restricted to a limited number in a single house)
would not change. But having been defeated in the elections, the outgoing Prime Minister apparently felt himself
absolved of that obligation.
The papers, with their pages mostly devoted to news of the electoral bombshell, gave little attention to the settler
antics. A group of Peace Now activists -- who had spent the previous weeks in intensive campaign work and had been
out in the streets all night celebrating victory -- went straight away to protest at the site. A vigil of sleepwalkers
was how a participant described it, and its impact was minimal. Two days later, another small protest was held
by a group of Palestinians led by Feisal Husseini. In its wake, Israelis and Palestinians got together to organise
a joint protest.
On May 27 some 100 demonstrators arrived at the spot. There were more or less equal numbers of East Jerusalem Palestinians
and Israeli Peace Nowers. Also present were were Palestinian leaders Feisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi, as well
as two Arab Knesset Members.
Originally, a sit-in was planned outside the settler 16-dunam (four-acre) compound -- but finding the gate open,
many of the demonstrators burst in with the aim of flinging themselves in front of the constantly-working settler
machinery. The police reacted with massive force. Some on foot and the others on horseback, policemen charged the
crowd -- using fists as well as nightsticks. In the melee, seven demonstrators and three policemen were injured;
several press reporters got beaten up as well; and four people were detained.
A large part of the demonstrators remained just outside the compound, loudly demanding the release of their imprisoned
fellows; this provoked a fresh confrontation with the police. Finally the detainees were released, via the mediation
of KM Abdul-Malek Dahamshe (United Arab Party). Demonstrators then left the site arm-in-arm, singing and promising
Jerusalem police chief Yair Yitzhaki claimed that the use of force had been "unavoidable", because "the
demonstrators were trespassing on private property" (Jerusalem Post, 28.5) . Feisal Husseini reacted: 'If
Moskovitz and the settlers claim to own this site because it was Jewish property a hundred years ago, what about
the many properties in West Jerusalem whose Palestinian owners were chased away in 1948? Would the Israeli police
defend also their proprietary rights?'
Upon the formation of the Barak cabinet, Jerusalem issues were entrusted to Labor stalwart Haim Ramon. He was quick
to denounce the Ras el-Amud construction, declaring on the Knesset floor: "It is a clear, terrible discrimination
against the Arab residents of Ras el-Amud, who are suffering from a terrible building shortage and are not allowed
to build." Up to the time of writing, however, no concrete action was taken by the new government.
Peace Now, POB 8159, J'lem; firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday morning, May 28. We gather at the Tel-Aviv Central Station and board the fixed-line "Sherut" taxi
to Ramla, en route to the vigil at the Neve Tirtza Women's Prison.
On the way we get a briefing from veteran Hava Keller, who had been monitoring the condition of imprisoned Palestinian
women ever since the Intifada: "There are six Palestinian political prisoners, isolated among the total of
150 prisoners. They are discriminated against in many ways. The other prisoners get four hours of exercise a day,
the politicals -- only two; the politicals are not allowed to phone, and their letters usually never get to their
destination; they can get visits only from direct relatives, and their visitors are regularly humiliated by the
The problem is that WOFPP (Women For Political Prisoners) has hardly any funds left to provide these girls with
legal support and what other help is needed; the little stream there was has dried up after the official release
of women prisoners as part of the Oslo-2 Accord. But the stream of ever new women who get into conflict with the
occupation didn't stop..."
Since the beginning of the week, the six women had been on a limited hunger strike -- each subsisting on one egg
and one tomato per day -- and refusing to leave their cells. We, a group of Jewish and Arab women (and one man)
disembark outside the prison wall -- grim despite having been recently painted in bright colors -- and form a short
picket line. Vigils outside the prison must follow particular rules: we must stick to a narrow unpaved strip of
land, beside the Ramla-Lydda Highway, and not step on the gravelled area behind us. "The gravel is owned by
the Prison Authority, if we step on it we can be accused of trespassing" warns one of the organizers. Also,
photographers must not have the prison wall in the background -- it is forbidden to photograph prisons.
A uniformed prison guard, carrying a sub-machine gun, comes in a hurry. He takes a long look at the
signs (Stop the arbitrary searches! -- Where are the letters?) and finding nothing irregular turns back. Later,
a patrol car comes around the corner, parking a short distance away.
The motorists on the bustling road notice our signs. You have only a short time to try and make eye contact with
those in the passing cars, and respond to their gestures -- then a new car comes along. Several women with children,
who have apparently come to visit a prisoner at another part of the prison complex further up the road, are puzzled
by the sign Release the Political Prisoners! We explain that they are the ones officially termed Security Prisoners.
"Ah, the Arabs!"
After an hour we fold our signs. The press did not show up -- they are too busy with the formation of the new government,
and this is in truth a minor news item. But a report on the event will be soon lying on the warden's desk, and
the knowledge that the striking prisoners have Israeli friends outside may gain their demands some more weight.
Several weeks later the prisoners did achieve a compromise -- which was then not implemented. A new strategy is
in preparation. [AK]
Contact: WOFPP, pb 31811 Tel Aviv;
fx +972-3-5278202; email@example.com
Of rage and hope
by Adam Keller
June 3, 1999: a small group of Gush Shalom activists, we enter the gates of Government House, Nablus.
Some of us had been here before, when this British-built fortress was the headquarters of an Israeli military governor.
In the early 1980's the nationalist-religious settlers had just started penetrating into the northern region of
the West Bank, with the help of then Prime Minister Begin. We had demonstrated at a nearby village, one of the
first in this region to have its fields declared "state land" and taken over; we had refused to budge
when the site was declared "a closed military zone", and were detained and taken in a jeep, to spend
several hours of detention in the Nablus HQ.
Now, the building is the local center of the Palestinian National Authority, the Palestinian Red-Green-Black-White
flutters proudly from the flagpole, and the young armed Palestinians who fill the courtyard smile broadly at the
sight of our t-shirts, bearing the two-flag symbol.
But the settlers are still very much around, just beyond the two high mountains which ring Nablus to the north
and the south; in the intervening period they had increased, in number and especially in the extent of land grabbed.
It is because of them that we are here, having come to take part in the 'Day of Rage Against the Settlements' proclaimed
by the Palestinian leadership in reaction to Netanyahu's last-minute land-grabbing rage carried out after he already
lost the elections -- and at the same time, a message to Barak.
A genial middle-aged Palestinian leads us to the office of Mahmud Alul, Palestinian Governor of Nablus, where we
get a short briefing. In fact, the two maps on the wall tell the whole story. There is the map of the Nablus District
-- an extensive, well-established geographical and administrative unit whose boundaries changed little since Ottoman
and British times, dotted with a network of towns and villages; for more than fifty years, the building where we
are has been its center.
The other map shows the chaotic present situation: the district, like the rest of the West Bank, has become a patchwork
of enclaves. Within the city of Nablus, Alul is an important government official, wielding considerable power and
commanding a disciplined armed force. But outside the narrow confines of the city, the Israeli occupation still
reigns supreme, using its might on behalf of the ever-expanding settlers.
Asked for help by the villagers beyond the mountain, the only thing Governor Alul can do is to leave behind his
uniform and weapons, and go as the leader of unarmed protesters. We are joining him.
We board one of the buses waiting in the street outside. Reports in the Israeli media this morning claimed that
"Arafat is unable to rouse the masses." Still, the people who go with us to the village of Burin seem
a cross-section of Palestinian society.
Doctors and lawyers in neat tailored suits are followed by young laborers -- some of whom banter good-naturedly
with us, in colloquial Hebrew acquired while working in the marketplace of Tel-Aviv. There are quite a few women,
some in traditional clothes, others in Western garb, but both mixed in among the men; there is none of the gender
segregation evident in more conservative parts of the West Bank.
We start off -- a convoy of buses and private cars winding through the streets of Nablus, crossing without incident
the Israeli Army checkpoint at the outskirts and rounding the mountain. At Burin we find several hundred villagers
already gathered. Meretz activist Latif Dori, whose fluent Arabic (he was born in Baghdad) gives him a big advantage
on such occasions, is deep in conversation with a village elder.
We join, to hear the kind of grievances which have become all too familiar all over the West Bank. "The settlement
on that mountain is Yitzhar. They are especially nasty, threatening the people who work in the olive groves. And
the settlement on the other mountain is Bracha. Until recently you could not see both from the same spot. But they
are expanding, both of them. They take more land, they build roads on our land. If it goes on they will connect
with each other right here in the valley, and what will become of us?"
The march begins. We unfurl the big Gush Shalom banner -- Dismantle the Settlements in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Latif volunteers to translate the shouted slogans. 'Settlers, Invaders, we are here!' -- 'We are olive trees, our
roots deep in the soil!' We notice a considerable proportion of red flags among the Palestinian national ones;
in Burin there are
many members of the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; one of its leaders, Taysir Khaled,
lives here and is present in this march. 'United Front of Struggle -- Workers, Peasants and Intelligentsia' chant
the marchers; it would have seemed old-fashioned in other circumstances, but in fact this is a good description
of the social background of the participants in this march...
After some three kilometres of energetic marching and chanting along the road, we follow the organisers who turn
off to the left -- to the mountainside at whose top the Bracha Settlement perches. "Bracha" in Hebrew
means "Blessing"; the joke -- if any joke was intended -- is lost upon the Palestinians.
At first it is a narrow path, then it dwindles to a goat track, hardly visible among the rocks. The mountain gets
steeper and steeper. A young Palestinian helps Uri Avnery (who after all is 76) over the most difficult patches.
There is no more chanting, we need our wind -- but the banners and flags are still held out defiantly. At the top
we can already discern a gleaming new guard tower, with a fluttering Israeli flag. We can see tiny khaki-coloured
figures scrambling, quite a few of them.
Another quarter of an hour of climbing. We round a bend -- and freeze. Just above us, there is a soldier behind
every rock. Each one has his gun drawn, pointing directly at us. Tear gas canisters or live bullets? We are just
too far to see with what they are loaded.
Governor Alul strides confidently into no-man's-land, his empty hands held aloft. Two other Palestinians follow
him. From among the rocks above the Israeli commander approaches. He comes near enough for his shoulder insignia
to become readable: lieutenant-colonel.
We watch intently, but from where we stand we can't hear the parley. Suddenly, one sentence of the officer rings
clear -- 'But I don't want them to shoot, please don't force me.' Then a few minutes more of inaudible negotiations
-- and suddenly a watershed has been crossed. There is a visible lessening of tensions. The colonel turns back,
and a moment later the soldiers turn down their guns. A megaphone is pulled out around which Palestinian and Israeli
demonstrators congregate. Within moments an improvised protest rally begins, and everybody takes care -- without
being told -- not to go too near the still watchful soldiers.
It is quite a long affair. The governor speaks, and the representatives of various unions and professional organizations,
and local dignitaries. Latif Dori speaks, giving an Israeli message of peace in full-blooded Arabic. The young
Palestinians clap and cheer, whenever the words "land", "Palestine" or "Jerusalem"
are heard. Are they relieved or frustrated that we did no go more far?
In his turn, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom turns to the soldiers in a direct address: 'Soldiers, fellow Israelis! Remember
the elections! Remember that the people rejected Netanyahu, that they trounced the settlers and their parties.
The people voted for peace. The people decided that this settlement behind you, Bracha, is no blessing but a curse,
an obstacle on the way to peace which must be removed. Soldiers, remember! You represent the people, not the settlers!'
The soldiers stand impassively. What do they think?
Then comes the land owner, brandishing documents and title deeds: 'This is my land. That is where I had my olive
trees. But they don't recognize my ownership.' He points beyond the crouching soldiers, beyond the guard tower
which is all we can see of the newly-expanded settlement. Some of the good Tel-Aviv liberals, who so like to extol
"The Rule of Law in Israel", should have been here!
Finally the speeches are over, and we turn back. This is another moment of danger, when somebody could still fling
a stone as a parting gift to the soldiers. But the crowd turns back without incident, and there seems nothing more
left than making the long way back down the mountain, under the blazing sun.
Then, halfway down, we see some of the last Palestinians bending among the clumps of brown bushes dotting the slope.
A moment later, tongues of fire burst out. We hurry on downwards. At the foot of the mountain, where the organizers
have thoughtfully provided a store of cool drinks, we look back: the whole mountainside seems one solid mass of
flames and smoke.
Contact: Gush Shalom; www.gush-shalom.org
+++ A week later, on June 12, in the fields of Azun Atmeh Village, Kalkilia District -- some twenty-five kilometres
south-east of that embattled mountain -- things at first develop according to the same script: Arrival (this time,
sizeable Israeli contingents from both Gush Shalom and Peace Now); warm greetings by local villagers -- men, women
and quite a lot of children; the protest march, with flags and banners -- this time no climbing; the tense moment
of confrontation with the soldiers protecting the settlers in their newly-grabbed piece of land; the negotiations;
the rally and then the speeches, full of contained rage; another direct Avnery appeal to the surrounding soldiers...
Here, the landowner who lost his olive trees did succeed in obtaining a favorable verdict from the Supreme Court,
but... on the Wild West Bank even that is of no avail.
Oranit, the name of this local nemesis which swallows ever more of Azun Atmeh's fields and olive groves, is inhabited
not by nationalist-religious fanatics but by yuppies who daily commute to work in Tel-Aviv -- just an hour's drive
to the west, across the nearby pre-'67 border. The Oranit settlers don't carry arms -- preferring to employ private
security guards to supplement the military protection they get. But to the plagued Palestinian villagers it doesn't
make much of a difference...
On the way back (no outburst of arson this time) we have a prolonged conversation with M., a veteran trade unionist
and member of the local Land Defence Committee. We hear about the region's local history and geography, and anecdotes
of struggle and imprisonment.
"But, let's not only speak of the past: right now there is new hope. Let's really hope that with Barak it
will be different. If need be we can wait another year -- as long as there is hope. Without hope, there will be
things happening here which I don't want to imagine."
Gush Shalom, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace Now Ra'anana, ph: +972-9-7678457 (Yakov Manor)
Peace making on the ground
+++ On May 19, the embattled encampment of the Jahalin Bedouin in the semi-arid area east of Jerusalem saw an unusual
activity: a Solidarity Jazz Concert, with a heterogeneous audience including te Jahalin themselves, peace activists
from Jerusalem, international volunteers, and a few Bedouins from the Negev (where the Jahalin themselves had lived
until being deported by the Israeli army in 1950).
The event was initiated by Bob Meyer, an American volunteer with the Rabbis for Human Rights, who had been tutoring
the Jahalin children over the past year and who happens to be a world-class drummer.
This expression of solidarity came at a crucial moment in the Jahalin history; after a years-long struggle against
the military government's plans to expel them a second time, their devoted lawyer Shlomo Leker was at least able
to obtain some sort of "reasonable deal." In return for agreeing to move to a site near the Jerusalem
garbage dump, the Jahalin are at least to receive some very elementary things such as the state of Israel was until
unwilling to waste on West Bank Bedouins. The Jahalin are to receive official title to their new plots; and not
only will they get building permits, each family will receive a sum of about 30,000 Shekels to enable them to buy
building materials; in addition they will receive some parcels of grazing land, quite far from their new homes
but where at least their herds will no longer be subject to expulsion or confiscation by the army. The authorities
agreed to provide a water hookup at the residential site -- but their generosity stopped short of providing such
luxuries as telephone lines or a sewage system.
So far, the agreement has not been implemented, and the Jahalin -- with a whole life of experience to make them
suspicious -- stay put in their encampment. The Rabbis For Human Rights and other Israeli groups, campaign to let
the same conditions apply also to other Jahalin families which two years ago were already forcibly removed to the
"alternative site" (see TOI-77, p. 18) and who live ever since in a legal limbo.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ordered the military authorities to stop their persecution of the Bedouin families
at Frush Beit Dajan in the Jordan Valley (TOI-87, p. 3), to whom no alternative site whatsoever had been offered.
Rabbis For Human Rights, pob 32225, J'lem 91999
+++ Peace Now has a long relationship with a group of Palestinians from Idna Village (Hebron District). The idea
was born for a joint barbecue on the Israeli side of the Green Line, and the needed entry permits obtained. On
the afternoon of Friday, April 30, several hundred people of all ages gathered. Palestinians from other villages
also participated, among them the Al-Atrash and Jabber families -- who paradoxically became close with quite some
Israelis after the demolition of their respective homes by Israeli soldiers.
Palestinian women dressed in traditional clothing were baking bread and giving it to whoever passed by. Each piece
was large enough for an army but there was no army there, only lots of dancing and singing men, women, and children.
Older children, both Israeli and Palestinian, painted on a huge canvas or had their faces painted while the toddlers
toddled between families tasting each other's goodies.
As the festivities were winding down, the dubka dancers and drummers moved to a larger opening and were encircled
by the crowd. Two youths took the Israeli and Palestinian flags to the center of the circle so that from a distance
it appeared that the flags themselves were dancing [based on a report by Dianne Roe].
Peace Now, pob 29828, Tel-Aviv email@example.com
+++ On the morning of July 3, the sight on the entrance to Nablus -- seen that evening on TV screens around the
country -- was far from usual: a long long line of Israeli motorcyclists about 400 of them, streaming into the
Palestinian city and being received with cheers and clapping. 'It is so much nicer than coming here in uniform'
one of the participants told Ma'ariv (4.7.99).
'We hope this will be the first of many visits and contacts, here and in the other Palestinian towns and villages'
said Tuvyah Leibovitz, head of the Israeli Motorcycle Club and initiator of the Peace Cavalcade, at the reception
in the Nablus Town Hall. 'We would be happy to organize a return tour of Palestinian Motorcyclists to Tel-Aviv,
but most of us can't get a permit to enter Israel' replied Nablus Mayor Rassan Shak'a...
...and in conferences
+++ A few hundred joined in a conference on Conflict Resolution from June 28 to 30, organized by IFLAC (International
Friends of Literature and Culture) and chaired by Dr. Ada Aharoni of the Haifa Technion. The participants came
from over twenty different countries, and -- what turned out to be most significant -- included a delegation from
Gaza headed by Professor Riyad Agha.
Most other participants were peace researchers, scholars, writers, and lawyers from Israel and the European countries
but some came from such countries as Egypt and Mexico.
The topic: The Creation of Cultural Bridges between Israelis and Arabs / Palestinians -- as an additional perspective
to peacemaking and the building of the climate of peace in the region.
The conference's high point was a panel discussion of Bereaved Israeli and Palestinian Parents for Peace. The panel
was headed by Zehava and Zvi Rosen, who lost their daughter Anat in the A Propos Cafe suicide bombing at Tel Aviv.
Louisa Hadid, a Druze widow whose husband got killed as Israeli soldier in Lebanon was another impressive participant
with her outcry against war. Furthermore, there were workshops on the Encouragement of Peace Research and its Representation
in the Media and MK Naomi Hazan was the keynote speaker in a section about Women and Peace. The participants were
also invited for an official reception by Haifa's Mayor Amram Mitzna.
The concrete outcome of all this was a preliminary decision to open an IFLAC chapter in Gaza. A delegation of twelve
people from the IFLAC-board is preparing to go to Gaza to discuss the setting up of the branch -- for which the
main obstacle seems to be: lack of funds...
Ada Aharoni, 57 Horev Street, Haifa 34343;
ph: +972-4-8243230; fx: -8261288; firstname.lastname@example.org
+++ Three conferences took place at short intervals in the beginning of July, all dealing with the future economic
relations between Israelis and Palestinians. First, the Israeli Directors's Forum organized in Tel-Aviv a conference
of Israeli and Palestinian business directors, entitled Peace Business ("Politicians get out of the way --
the business community can do it better" was how Oren Most, Deputy Director of Cellcom Corporation, put it);
next, the Tel-Aviv College and the Economics Quarterly organized a conference of economists; and a few days later
a third event was held, this time in Beit Jala in Palestinian territory -- the founding conference of the Middle
East Peace Studies Foundation, held under auspices of the World Bank and attended by its Deputy Director, the Turkish
economist Prof. Kamal Darwish.
According to Ephraim Davidi of Zu Ha'derech who attended all three events, there was a clear continuity between
them: an ongoing debate concerning Palestinian economic dependence on Israel and whether or not it should continue
after the end of military occupation and the achievement of political independence.
The dimensions of that dependence were sketched out by Palestinian Minister Nabil Sha'at: "Every year we buy
Israeli products, and foreign products imported via Israel, at between 2.5 and 3 billion Dollars... The Palestinian
economy is just 7% the size of the Israeli one, and still we are the second- largest market for Israeli products."
Most Israeli participants saw nothing wrong with such relations continuing also after Palestinian independence.
Industrialist Dov Lautmann proposed to adopt in the Middle East the model of the North American NAFTA treaty, with
Israel cast in the role of the US and the Palestinians -- as Mexico. Lautmann himself has already opened textile
factories in Egypt and Jordan, to take advantage of the cheap labor available in these countries.
Palestinians were disappointed to have Prof. Darwish of the World Bank declaring himself in favor of the Palestinians
giving up economic aspects of their sovereignty "as France and Germany did" -- protesting that France
and Germany have gone into economic union from a more or less equal starting point, which is not the case for Israel
A refreshing Israeli point of view was presented by Prof. Aryeh Arnon of Be'er Sheba University -- a prominent
economist and senior member of Peace Now. On the basis of his research, Prof. Arnon argued that the deteriorating
state of the Palestinian economy is attributable to dependence on Israel and could only be healed by the end of
that dependence, whereas the Palestinian economy's viability is an indispensable prerequisite for stable peace
(Zu Haderech 14.7).
Fraud against racism
The first what we saw of the Qatzir House Controversy was on May 27, as one more issue on prime time TV: it was
revealed that Uri Davis had built a house in the Jewish-only Galilee community and was going to hand the key to
an Arab. We phoned him immediately, to congratulate him for doing what others only speak of. It turned out he was
not so pleased with this publicity; he guessed -- rightly as it turned out -- that now that it was no more a scoop
Yediot (biggest daily) would back down from publishing it on its next day's front page. Four years the secrecy
had been kept; now, one day before the housewarming-keyhanding party it had burst out. Never mind, the issue got
through anyhow. In Ha'aretz, June 25, appeared a lengthy article, and the Qatzir community (or those who claim
to speak for it) was helpful as well -- by going to court.
Uri Davis -- one of few Israelis who sometime in the Seventies joined the ranks of the PLO -- lived many years
in England. But after the Oslo Agreement -- when the PLO stopped being considered "terrorist" -- Davis
returned from this voluntary-involuntary exile. Once an outcast, Dr. Uri Davis is nowadays a quite respected member
of Israel's post-Zionist academic scene.
Beautiful Qatzir was already once before in the news for Arabs trying to acquire a cottage. It so happens that
in Israel, the neighborhoods which fit status and pocket of the better-off are generally built for Jews-only. The
case of the Qaadan family was put before the Supreme Court by ACRI (Association for Civil Rights Israel) four years
ago. Chief Justice Aharon Barak (no relative of the PM) expressed feelings of embarrassment, decided more time
was needed to look into this "most difficult case" and until this day has still not ruled on the case.
The Qadaans were not the only Arabs rejected by the Qatzir selection committee. The same happened to Fathi Mahamid
-- a young successful building contractor from the nearby Umm el-Fahm, whose eye had also fallen upon Qatzir's
"quality of life." He decided to turn to Al-Beit (The House, in Arabic) was then newly-founded by Uri
Davis together with Jewish and Arab human rights activists as a foundation against the discrimination of Arabs
in housing policy.
It was decided not to duplicate the other case but to have Uri Davis as a Kosher Jew appear before the Qatzir Committee
and acquire the house as if for himself. The legal aspects were worked out carefully by Adv. Tawfiq Jabarin. Based
on the Law of Delegation of 1965 the case could be made that Davis acted as Mahamid's "undeclared delegate."
worked: the selection committee, faced with a distinguished looking Jewish Dr. Uriel Davis, made no connection
with the (in)famous radical.
The meticulous legal preparation turned out to be not in vain. The Qatzir Committee resorted to both a civil and
a criminal suit. On July 14, Davis and Mahamid had to appear before the Haderah Magistrate's Court where "deliberations"
on which is illegal: the Qatzir by-laws or the purchase of a house in contravention with them. And on July 25,
Davis was interrogated by police on suspicion of "fraud."
But one thing has already been achieved: the Mahamid family -- with two young children -- is now living in Qatzir.
And, when the judicial mills are as slow as in the Qadaan's case, there should be plenty of time to build up some
Uri Davis, pb 99, Sakhnin 20173; ph: +972 6 674 7016
The anti-militarist dawn
A recent article in Yediot Aharonot, telling of a new Army-sponsored program to let organised groups of high school
pupils take part in the training exercises of military units, was taboo-breaking. For the first time a mass-circulation
paper treats such a project as controversial -- giving not only the glowing account of the army and the Education
Ministry project coordinators, but also the protest by a group of parents opposed to having their children undergo
The parents are part of a recently-founded movement known as New Profile -- a name confronting the classification
of recruits according to their "medical profile": from "Profile 97", denoting perfect fitness
for combat service, down to "Profile 21" which means discharge on medical or psychiatric grounds -- a
lifelong punishment with social stigma and difficulties in getting a job or obtaining a driving license.
The New Profile activists (most of them women) reflect an attitude prevailing among a particular generation: those
who were born in the 1950s, who in their own lifetime saw Israel changing from the Spartan state of the pioneers
into an Americanized consumer society; who saw the concept of peace transformed from utopian dream into a central
theme of politics. As they themselves formulate:
The Israel of today is capable of a determined policy of peace. It need not be a militarized society. Having been
taught to believe that the country is faced by threats beyond its control, we now realize that the words "national
security" often mask a calculated choice for military action in the service of political goals.
We are no longer willing to take part in such choices, to be the uncritical suppliers of the soldiers needed to
carry them out. We will no longer let ourselves be mobilized, nor raise our children to the duty.
In their declared aim of changing a militaristic society into a civil one, the founders consider themselves as
representing far more then the hundreds who explicitly joined them. A large part of society is implicitly against
militarism, even if it did not yet find organizational expression: the young who try to avoid military service,
or desert their units and find themselves behind bars; reservists who engage in semi-legal "gray refusal",
wriggling themselves out of the annual term of reserve service; wives and mothers who reject the role of loyally
and passively caring for their mobilized dear ones; bereaved parents who refuse to accept the army's explanations
for the training accidents in which their soldier sons were killed...
Ironically, much of the statistics showing that such phenomena are indeed widespread in the Israeli society come
from the army itself. The most recent batch of statistics by the IDF Unit of Behavioral Science pointed proudly
to a significant drop in the percentage of draftees refusing to be moved from Induction Base to their assigned
combat units' but had to admit a rise in the percentage of parents opposing the assignment of their sons to such
units (interview with the Induction Base Commander, Channel-2 TV, 21.7).
Aside from monitoring the school curriculum and voicing objection to such items as "an intensive program of
school hikes to the old battlefields of Israel's wars", the group also contacted the Association of Conscientious
Objectors. Together, they take up the cases of those caught up in the wheels of the military machine and end up
in prison: not only conscientious objectors of different kinds, but also -- for example -- immigrants who had lived
only briefly in Israel but who, even after leaving and living many years in another country, are considered "deserters"
or "draft evaders" at the moment that they set foot here.
A case in point is that of Aaron Mordechayev, who had emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel in 1979 but departed
a year later for the United States, where he married and had four children. Happening this year to pass Ben Gurion
Airport, he was detained as a deserter from the IDF and sentenced by a court-martial to two years' detention. New
Profile got the attention of Ha'aretz to this and similar cases, and the paper published their statement: "Such
persons, who had lived here only briefly and went elsewhere, should not be suddenly plucked out of their civilian
life and subjected to military discipline and to the narrow legal notions of the military officers who serve as
Court Martial judges. Fortunately, the appeal reduced Mordechayev's term to a single year, but it still is a shame"
Contact was also established with the Druze Initiative Committee, which calls for abolition of the conscription
of members of the Druze community. This is part of the committee's campaign to get recognition for the Arab identity
of the Druze (government speakers always describe the two as separate identities). Though exact statistics are
not available, a considerable number of Druze get imprisoned each year for their refusal to serve in the army.
Young Druze feel bitter at getting both ends of the stick -- being conscripted like the Jews, and upon discharge
being as much the target of discrimination as are other Arabs.
The most well-known of the Druze prisoners is Walid Nafaa, first arrested in November 1997 and since then serving
no less than eleven consecutive
prison terms, the latest being a five-month term handed down on June 1 this year. His father Muhammad Nafaa had
gone through the same experience some twenty years ago, later becoming a Hadash Knesset Member.
The situation of the Druze prisoners is hardly known in the general Israeli society -- which makes it easier to
treat them harshly. The academics of New Profile, with their excellent public relations, may well rectify this
The coalition agreement signed by Ehud Barak with the ultra-Orthodox parties obliges the new Prime Minister to
pass legislation exempting from military service the students of Yeshivas (religious seminaries) who wish to spend
all their time in holy studies. This gives a new impetus to all those in Israel who seek legal recognition of the
right to conscientious objection. (Present Israeli law grants that right to women only.)
Already, the three organizations sent to Barak a letter entitled 'Not every conscience is religious', formally
requesting that their representatives be included in the special commission, composed of governmental lawyers and
religious leaders, which is due to draft the new military exemptions law. Should the Prime Minister turn down their
request, the anti-militarists have a good chance of winning an appeal to the Supreme court, on grounds of manifest
New Profile, pob 48005 Tel Aviv; email@example.com
Assoc. of CO's, pob 4090, Haifa; firstname.lastname@example.org
Druze Initiative Com., pob 117 Beit Jan 24990
A combat soldier's conscience
The following is the text of a letter sent to Ehud Barak in his double capacity as Prime Minister and Minister
My name is Dan Shohet, and I am a combat soldier at the Nachshon Battalion. I have just completed successfully
my basic training. Soon, my company is to be posted to the Qalqilia Region of the West Bank. The company will go
there -- but without me. However important the military chain of command, there are things which no order will
make me do. Things such as fighting in an unnecessary war, or being part of a system of military rule over another
people. I am fully willing to endanger myself in order to defend my family and the rest of the people who live
here. But at present, the main enemy against whom we must defend ourselves is the militarism and aggressiveness
of our own country.
I have undergone combat training, so that in case of need I would be able to take part in war and defend those
who live here. If ever it will be the Palestinians who rule over us, I will take part in fighting for freedom and
independence; if they take away our lands and demolish our houses, I will volunteer to help my people break the
chains of occupation; if we are subject to interrogations by torture and detentions without trial, I will have
the ability and the training to take part in resisting; if our freedom and human rights are threatened, I will
put myself at the disposal of the Israeli society in its self-defence.
But as you know, reality is different. In the present reality, my conscience does not allow me to take part in
the system of rule over the Palestinian people. I will not take part in military service outside the Green Line,
Israel's border, or in any other manifestation of aggression or human rights violation. The change-over of governments,
through which Israel had just gone, does not take away the basic injustice of military rule over the Territories.
Human Rights violations are Human Rights violations, regardless of which party is in power. My refusal to be part
of the occupation is a matter of conscience, not of party politics; I am unwilling to serve in the Territories,
whoever is Prime Minister. If that means I must go to prison, I accept that.
Private Dan Shohet
Nachshon Battalion, Israeli Defence Forces
Dan Shohet's unit is due to go into occupied territory in the second week of August, at which time he expects to
be imprisoned for refusing the order to go.
At about the same time, another young man -- Lotan Raz of Jerusalem -- is due to be conscripted. He decided to
refuse military service altogether, because of his opposition to occupation and violation of human rights; he informed
the military authorities, and also expects to be imprisoned. The two met during one of Shohet's leaves, decided
to work together and fixed a rendezvous at prison.
Messages to both can be sent via the Raz family's email: email@example.com
On July 11, pacifist Oleg Baron was finally discharged from military service, on grounds of "incompatibility",
after having gone through several consecutive terms of imprisonment together amounting to five months (see TOI-88,
p.8) -- a result owing something to the campaign launched on his behalf by Amnesty International and the many letters
sent by, among others, TOI readers.
Baron's place behind bars was, however, immediately taken by another conscientious objector, the 23-year old Dmitry
Sokolic -- like Baron an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. In between his second and third term of imprisonment
(14 and 28 days respectively) Sokolic managed to give an extensive interview to Ha'aretz (30.7), from which the
following is excerpted.
"During my childhood in the Ukraine, I dreamed of being a soldier and doing heroic things. I still felt this
way when we came to Israel after the Chernobyl disaster. At the age of 18, I underwent basic military training,
which I liked and enjoyed. Then the army granted my request to defer service and let me study engineering at the
Haifa Technion. About a year later, I went through a personal crisis. I started reading the Sages of the East and
practicing Integral Yoga, and my perception of the world changed totally. I realised that all human beings are
equal, that the basis of the world is in Love, Equality and Brotherhood, that war releases negative energies in
every sense of the word.
Still, I did go when the army summoned me to a term of service at Jenin, on the West Bank. This convinced me that
I will never be able to destroy any living and breathing being. I am not the one who
created him, how can I then destroy him? I became a strict vegetarian. I gave my commanding officer a poem which
I wrote: 'Is this a Palestinian soldier in front of you? No, what you see is a fellow creation of the Divine Power...'
I felt that I must be fair to the army, and tell them already that they will never get my services as a military
engineer. I was arrested immediately. I went before the Military Commission on Conscientious Objection, but it
was no use. These officers were just not able to listen to what I told them. On the other hand, in prison I met
some really wonderful people, and I don't mind spending some more time with them."
+++ On June 3, several dozen recently-discharged combat soldiers fresh from Lebanon published an open letter to
Prime Minister Barak, calling upon him to accelerate the process of withdrawal. 'We have served for years on that
cursed soil, and lost friends and comrades. We were told that this was the only way to defend northern Israel.
We no longer believe that, and neither do the officers who told us so. We could see that our commanding officers,
those on whom soldiers have to rely for their lives, are themselves confused, that they no longer understand what
is the sense of their mission. It is extremely difficult for soldiers to go out on a commando raid behind enemy
lines under such conditions.' The initiative for the letter was taken by soldiers from the unit of sapper Noam
Barne'a, killed a few days before he was to be discharged (see TOI 88, p.7). Reserve Sergeant Tzvi Tal, interviewed
on the radio on behalf of the group, said: "We are the lucky ones, the ones who got out alive. We feel that
the soldiers who are still over there are our younger brothers, and we must help them to get out alive, too"
(Israel Radio, 3.6).
+++ Micky Alexander is a 36-year old Tel-Aviv town planner and environmentalist, especially involved in an action
group seeking to make the city more bicycle-friendly. In the beginning of June he was called up and informed that
he would spend this year's term of reserve service as a prison guard at Megiddo Prison in northern Israel. Several
hundred Palestinians are imprisoned there -- among them more than 70 Administrative Detainees, held without trial.
"I'd rather be a prisoner than a guard, sir" was what Alexander told the commanding officer. Thereupon,
he underwent disciplinary proceedings -- i.e. an "instant trial" lasting less than five minutes, at whose
end he was packed off and sent to spend the next month in Military Prison 4 at Tzrifin.
A tale of two prisons was the name given by Yesh Gvul, the refusers' support group, to the action it initiated
on July 3. In the morning, several dozen of its activists -- together with local Women in Black and academics from
the Open Doors group -- arrived at the four-way Megiddo Junction, spreading in all directions their banners: Free
Michael Alexander! -- Free the Administrative Detainees! -- Bring the soldiers home! -- Administrative Detention
is punishment without trial! -- Silence makes accomplices! Just behind them, at the side of the gate with its barbed
wire, a military-issue wooden sign said 'Welcome to Megiddo Prison' (not even a sick joke, just routine).
There was quite a lot of weekend traffic passing, and an encouraging lot of positive reactions from motorists;
many of the cars still bore "Vote Barak" stickers. Does Barak know what his voters expect of him? And
after an hour, the whole demonstration -- persons and banners -- was folded into the waiting cars and transported
80 kilometres southward, to the junction outside the giant Tzrifin Military Base, of which Military Prison 4 is
only a small part. Again spreading out with signs and banners, this time highly visible on top of the pedestrian
bridge which spans the Old Jerusalem Highway...
Yesh Gvul, pb 6953, J'lem firstname.lastname@example.org; Women In Black c/o Lili Traubmann, Kibbutz Megiddo 19230
Perhaps, meeting each other while demonstrating for Micky Alexander helped revive the campaign against Administrative
Detentions, waged for years by Open Doors, a group of academics from Tel-Aviv University. They had been successful
a year and half ago, when the number of detainees dropped from several hundreds to around seventy during months
of intensive campaigning. At that point, however, the Shabak Security Service seemed to dig in its heels, determined
to hold on to the remaining detainees; their terms of detention continued to be renewed every half a year, on the
basis of "secret evidence" which the detainees and their lawyers were not allowed to see.
Open Doors decided to focus on Ossama Barham, the longest-serving Administrative Detainee; arrested in September
1993, he was since then served with no less than thirteen consecutive detention orders; the Shabak assertion that
Barham was "a dangerous Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist, active even from within the prison (sic!)"
was accepted again and again, without a shred of evidence being presented. During his long incarceration, Barham
engaged in extensive correspondence with Israeli peace activists, in particular with Dr. Anat Matar of Tel-Aviv
University who became his personal friend. Also for devoted Human Rights lawyer Tamar Peleg, Barham became more
than just a case.
Several times his letters, in which he declared himself opposed to violence, were published in Ha'aretz -- bringing
no change in the situation. Barham's appeal in the Supreme Court against his latest detention order was fixed for
July 18; towards that date, Open Doors initiated a coalition of all the Israeli human rights organizations, and
started a campaign of newspaper ads with the headline Administrative Life Imprisonment? Columnists of the liberal
Ha'aretz took up the issue in their articles.
Immediately following the formation of the Barak government, eleven Knesset Members of the government coalition
signed a petition, initiated by new Meretz Knesset Member Zehava Gal'on -- former director of the B'tselem human
rights organization -- calling for the abolition of Administrative Detention.
Thereupon, Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin lashed out against Administrative Detention as "a badge of infamy
unacceptable in a democratic state" and declared his intention to abolish the practice; Police
Minister Shlomo Ben Ami spoke in a similar vein. Under such circumstances, the Security Services had no alternative
but consenting to Ossama Barham release; the bail of 20,000 Shekels was collected by human rights organizations
Barham was given a hero's welcome at his home village of Ramin, and was prominently -- and quite fairly -- interviewed
on the Israeli printed and electronic media. Yediot Aharonot published a commentary calling for the abolition of
Administrative Detention -- an unprecedented statement for this mainstream paper. Beilin's position is heartening,
but meanwhile there are still 63 Administrative Detainees behind bars, still with no trial or charges. One of the
activists, talking to TOI, warned: "Barak has so far kept silent on this, and the final decision must go through
Open Doors, pb 903, Givatayim; email@example.com
Stone by stone
Under Ottoman rule the law was that a house, whether or not its construction had been legal, may not be demolished
once there is a roof on it. This is something every school kid in Israel knows, since the story of how the pioneers
used to start with constructing four pillars bearing a roof, before building the walls of a house, has become part
of the national mythology.
The State of Israel keeps quite a few Ottoman laws, but not this one. It is no big news for TOI-readers that in
modern, enlightened Israel, and especially in the Territories under its rule, houses are demolished even when for
years a whole family has been living there. If it is Arabs.
David Ben Gurion -- pioneer turned nation-builder -- knew all too well how much can be achieved with such an innocent
act as the construction of a house, how big a part the construction of one house after another played in the success
of the Zionist movement, in changing the demographic character of a country which had been Arab and which was made
As a result of this, Ben Gurion and his fellows could never see the construction of a house by Arabs as just the
innocent act of people needing a roof over their heads; it was always considered a conspiracy, to be nipped in
the bud. This attitude is still ingrained in the bureaucracy dealing with building policies in areas where Arabs
live under Israeli rule, no matter if it is a civil system or a military apparatus, whether it's governmental or
municipal -- and it also makes no big difference whether the Arabs in question are subject to military rule in
occupied territory or supposedly equal citizens of democratic Israel itself. But, as it turns out, such bureaucratic
fixations are less and less in tune with Israeli society on the brink of the Twenty-First Century.
In the Galilee, the demolition of "illegal" Arab houses used to be as frequent and as brutal as on the
West Bank. No more. The Arab citizens of Israel are beginning to see results from using their potential as citizens
of a state which does have democratic institutions, however imperfect; after all, they are a solid block of voters
which can make or break the career of a Prime Minister. Last year, the demolition of three houses in Shfar'amer
caused a whole community to burst out in three days of angry rioting; and the President of the State of Israel
came running, conciliatory and "acknowledging the grievances"; the three houses were swiftly rebuilt,
and nobody dared demolish them again (see TOI-83, p. 10).
Since then, destruction of houses in the Galilee ceased; the police simply refused to give any more protection
to governmental demolition crews. But sometime in the interregnum when Barak had already been elected and Netanyahu
was still Prime Minister, somebody decided to try a supposedly easier target: the Arab community of Lydda. A thriving
Arab town until 1948, in present-day Lydda the Arab presence is restricted to a few overcrowded slums -- populated
by the remnants of the original population, plus Bedouins from the Negev whose lands had been confiscated.
A few Lyddan Arabs trying to improve their lot drew the ire of a new mayor, elected in a municipal campaign full
of nationalist rhetoric and pledges to "stop Arab takeover of Lydda" (sic!). A large police force was
brought into Lydda at night, surprise was achieved, and a family's "illegal" life work razed to the ground
with no resistance by the dazed inhabitants. But it did not end with that. All throughout the day angry people
were gathering at the pile of rubble, and in the evening a full-scale riot broke out, and the notorious Border
Guards were shooting "rubber bullets" (actually, rubber-coated metal bullets) in the midst of an Israeli
city a short drive away from Tel-Aviv, and one of those wounded was Knesset Member Azmi Bishara...
Once again the well-known script was repeated. It was front page news and the hottest item of political debate
for several days, and again there was a visit by a conciliatory representative of the establishment (Shimon Peres
this time, in his role as temporary Knesset Speaker), and Arabs from other towns and progressive Jews came to express
support and solidarity, and there was a protest march along the street called Israeli Defence Forces Avenue which
has terribly neglected Arab houses on its left side while its right side is made up of neat apartment buildings
inhabited by Jewish lower middle class. And the house was rebuilt, swiftly. And the mayor threatens to destroy
it again, but it is doubtful if he would or could.
It is not so easy on the Wild West Bank, where there is no pretense at democracy and the military governor's decree
is the law. Still, years of an intensive campaign spearheaded by ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions)
have done their part.
It makes a real difference to have a band of tireless activists rushing to the scene of every new demolition, helping
clear the debris, writing angry letters to newspapers, throwing piles of broken masonry outside the Knesset for
the legislators to see it with
their own eyes, drawing in other organizations, Gush Shalom and the Bat Shalom women and the whole spectrum of
human rights organizations, writers, poets and newspaper columnists...
It was more than political action. It was a reworking and reshaping of well-known images. The myth had gone full
circle. As in the old days, idealistic intellectuals lay down their books and take up the trowel -- but this time,
not to found a new outpost in the midst of a hostile Arab population, as in these grainy black-and-white photos
of the pioneers; the new pioneers go unarmed into the Arab village, to rebuild a cruelly destroyed home and lay
the foundations of peace. A seventy-year old retired teacher from Tel-Aviv and a young Palestinian villager --
smiling as they together lift a heavy building block -- are an image which a bored news editor can consider well
worth its prominent place on the pages of Yediot Aharonot. Via the mass media, the images spread to social circles
far from those in which ICAHD is rooted. Chance encounters with taxi drivers and shop keepers show how many people
noticed; 'when we destroy their homes we make them into terrorists' is an argument clear, concise -- and quite
The house of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh at Anata, twice destroyed by the army, has been rebuilt for the third
time with the weekend help of Israelis and international volunteers (TOI-88, p. 6). The idea arose of making a
public house-warming party, so as to let the new government show its mettle.
Ads were placed in the Hebrew and English editions of Ha'aretz, with a big photo of a demolished home and the invitation
to celebrate 'both the dedication of the house that peace built and the resumption of the peace process.' And it
was truly a festive occasion, at the rebuilt Shawamreh home on the afternoon of July 10. Everybody knew that legally,
there was nothing to stop the army from swooping in and destroying the house all over again. And still, it seemed
a very distant and unreal possibility in this atmosphere of strength and solidarity and hope, in this very friendly
and excited and cosmopolitan crowd of three hundred, Israeli peace activists and international friends and journalists
and TV crews and Palestinian neighbours and Palestinian dignitaries, all talking excitedly and shaking hands and
going in and out of the new door with the elegantly-drawn House of Peace in three languages and eating of the excellent
traditional Palestinian dish of maq'lube which the family prepared in such enormous quantities... As they got on
their bus, the Gush Shalom group decided to leave on the new house the banner which they brought: And they shall
build houses, and dwell securely (Ezekhiel).
At that time, ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel) must have already been preparing its bombshell. It
takes a lot of time and effort to muster the signatures of no less then 34 Laureates of the prestigious Israel
Prize, some of the most well-known names in the world of Israeli science, arts and letters, and of quite a variety
of political opinions. And then there it was -- an enormous ad in Ha'aretz of July 13, with all these famous names
endorsing its full text.
Don't destroy any more houses!
-- They were denied the right to housing, because they had built without permits
-- They built without permits because they are not given permits
-- They are not given permits because their requests do not fit the zoning plans
-- Their requests do not fit the zoning plans, because the existing zoning plans do not fit the needs of the natural
growth of this population.
This is a consistent policy, which continues unchanged for decades. This policy is in direct contradiction to the
state of Israel's most basic responsibility for the welfare of all people living under its responsibility. It infringes
upon a very basic human right of thousands of people, the right to have a tolerable dwelling place to live in.
This must not be a subject of political debate. A humanist society, which feels bound to preserve human rights,
must oppose such a policy!
Association for Civil Rights In Israel POB 35401, Jerusalem
Prof. Eliezer Shweid got into trouble with his political friends for signing, but stuck it out: "I don't agree
that you can't be both a humanist and an adherent of Greater Israel, and I don't like blatant injustice to be perpetrated
in my name."
Two weeks later Prof. Shlomo Ben Ami, Minister of Police, at a cabinet meeting: 'In the past thirty years, some
35,000 housing units for Jews were built in East Jerusalem at the expense of the government. For Arabs, not a single
one was built. The enormous housing shortage has led to the construction of illegal homes, and one must be sensitive
to the reasons that led to this. I have instructed the police not to demolish any Arab house without my authorisation'
To take Ben Ami at his word, the East Jerusalem Palestinians could expect at least a long respite. Unfortunately
Barak, as Defence Minister, neglected to give similar instructions to the army. True, he was quoted as saying that
house demolitions should be "reduced as much as possible" (Yediot Aharonot, 21.7). But that did not prevent
the Civil Administration from four days later demolishing a tin shack on a barren hillside in the Judean Desert
-- only home of the Halaseh family -- father, mother and eleven children. (It was the fourth such "visit"
in two years -- first destroying the family's real house, later the increasingly simpler shacks they built.
ICAHD activists, alerted to the scene by the Palestinian Land Defence Committee, saw as their first task to get
free the father, 65-year old, half-paralysed Ibrahim Halaseh and the 16-year old daughter Aliyah, both arrested
On Sunday, August 1, some thirty-five activists descended upon the small Military Court at Beit El Settlement.
As we heard just before going into print: when the prosecutor remarked "This is a dangerous person, she kicked
a policeman" the judge remarked 'What do you expect her to do when her home is destroyed?' and reduced the
10,000 Shekel bail which the prosecutor demanded to 750 -- which was collected on the spot.
ICAHD c/o Halper, 37 Tveria St., J'lem; firstname.lastname@example.org
Published as a full page ad in Ha'aretz on Friday, July 30.
Ehud Barak, Shalom,
We have voted for you, and we are glad we did.
You promised to bring a comprehensive peace with all our neighbors -- Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese -- and
we believe that you really want that.
You promised to achieve the decisive breakthrough on all these tracks within a year and a half, and this proves
that you have drawn the lesson from the experience of your predecessors. You have taken to heart the rule that
says 'an abyss cannot be crossed in two jumps.'
We are convinced that you will apply yourself to this task with energy, courage and logic.
But, Mr. Prime Minister, we are worried by the peace plan that you have in mind, and that is reflected in the 'red
lines' proclaimed by you. Even if you do succeed to impose a plan like that on the Palestinians, by exploiting
the present superiority of Israel, such a peace will not last 'for generations.'
Not only the political attitudes of the Palestinian people must be taken into account, but also their feelings,
anxieties and hopes. To ignore these would be a serious mistake.
We do not need a 'permanent settlement', we need real peace.
Real peace cannot be based on a border that tears away further territory from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
which together amount for only 22% of mandatory Palestine. The Green Line must be the basis of peace.
Real peace cannot come into being, if 'settlement blocs' will be stuck like daggers into the body of the Palestinian
state. The settlements, situated as they are on the land and water reserves of the State of Palestine, will serve
as a daily reminder of a diktat imposed by force.
Either peace or settlements. You can't have both.
Real peace cannot be created while the occupation of the Palestinian part of Jerusalem continues, cutting the inhabitants
of the West Bank off from their economic, social and religious center. Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel
Moreover, the fate of Jerusalem does not concern the inhabitants of this country only. Hundreds of millions of
Arabs, a billion Muslims will never reconcile themselves to Israeli rule over the holy mosques. Jerusalem has also
a unique importance for hundred of millions of Christians, members of dozens of different churches on five continents.
Trying to maintain exclusive Israeli rule over Jerusalem is a provocation to the whole world.
Peace is real if the great majority on both sides accepts it wholeheartedly as a fair compromise. The logic of
the brain is not enough, the logic of the heart is needed too.
Mr. Prime Minister, you are now making history. Do not miss the opportunity!
If you like to see this in your paper, please help us cover the expense
Gush Shalom, pb 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
ph: +972-3-5221732; fx: +972-3-5271108
website: www.gush-shalom.org; email: email@example.com