The Other Israel _ February 2000, Issue No. 92
Peace of the Suspicious, an Editorial Overview
Jerusalem on and off
Power stations are civilian targets
B'Tselem position paper on Lebanon Feb. 8
Why don't they trust us?
The Israeli government's cavalier treatment of solemn undertakings
Gush Shalom ad, Ha'aretz, Jan. 21
Golan or peace -- uphill struggle
We are all rags
An analysis of developments in Lebanon
How many more will have to die?
Israeli mothers protest continuing military presence in Lebanon
Nuclear out of the closet
Updates on house demolitions:
Defending the Sultan home
Thy neighbour's cave
at least two sets of **** break up this long story (p.28 ,30 ,31, 33)
Shabak's unsavory interrogation methods
abandoned in wake of Israeli Supreme Court decision
Like fish in Lebanon
translated from Ma'ariv, Feb. 14
The Other Israel
February 2000, Issue No. 92
PEACE OF THE SUSPICIOUS
At the weeks of euphoria in November 1977, when President Sadat of Egypt arrived in Jerusalem, the first breach
in the wall of hostility, Israeli society might have been willing to accept a comprehensive peace deal with the
Palestinians and the entire Arab World -- and pay the territorial price for it.
But then-Prime Minister Begin's gave up Sinai only in order to facilitate the spreading of Israeli settlement throughout
the West Bank; and the final handing over of Sinai to Egypt was immediately followed by Israel's invasion of Lebanon...
Israeli-Egyptian peace survived Sabra and Shatila and also the Intifada -- but the spirit had gone quite out of
it, and the psychological walls, which for a moment vanished, soon reappeared all the higher.
Much the same happened on the Israeli-Palestinian track opened at Oslo. Rather then the big and decisive step which
could have gotten a clear majority in the immediate aftermath of the historic Arafat-Rabin handshake, the process
was cut down into innumerable slices, with the clear intention of giving the Palestinians "as little and late
as possible." And so, after decades of Peace Process, Palestinians still face land-grabbing operations by
Israeli settlers and daily humiliations by Israeli soldiers; and Israelis are acutely aware of continuing Arab
hostility manifested in newspaper editorials, school curricula -- or for that matter, in lethal armed attacks.
Arabs further afield, who never actually saw an Israeli soldier, are far from happy at hearing from Israeli prime
ministers that permanent Israeli military superiority is the precondition for peace in the region, with US presidents
concurring and solemnly promising to maintain that superiority.
The Israeli-Syrian peace talks, held this January under U.S. auspices bore the full weight of long-accumulated
mutual suspicion. The upswell of popular enthusiasm, which might have been expected to follow such a reopening
of long- blocked channels, was entirely absent on both sides of the border.
In theory, there was no big gulf to be bridged between the Israeli and Syrian positions. The "Golan Heights
in Return for Peace" deal had been the subject of innumerable open and secret contacts during the 1990's.
Differences are limited to the exact demarcation of the border, an issue of a few hundred metres. True, a few hundred
metres which have important implications to the vital issue of water sources, but still something which could have
been worked out with a modicum of trust and goodwill.
But the fact is that neither side really believed in the other's willingness to carry through the deal. The extremely
dour manner of Syrian Foreign Minister A-Shara, and his demonstrative refusal to shake PM Barak's hand, had a significant
effect on the Israeli polls, where the percentage supporting peace with Syria steadily plummeted. (Only professional
commentators bothered to read thoroughly the actual text of what A-Shara said, and come to the conclusion that
it was about the most moderate speech ever made by a Syrian official.) For their part, the Syrians were offended
by Barak's procedural manoeuvres, designed to have the issues of peaceful relations and normalization discussed
first, leaving the demarcation of the border to later stages; offended, indeed, to the point of breaking up the
The Syrian decision in mid-January was also influenced by the massive right-wing rally against withdrawal from
the Golan, estimated at 150,000 participants, and conspicuously attended by two hawkish members of Barak's own
cabinet. Moreover, Barak's ability to get a referendum majority for a peace deal was further cast in doubt by the
sudden -- and far from coincidental -- flaring up of corruption scandals.
Evidence of President Ezer Weitzman having received large sums of money from a French millionaire during the 1980's
suddenly surfaced, having probably been saved against the day in some drawer or another. The revelation followed
directly upon Weitzman's announcement that he would resign if the people do not approve peace with Syria in a referendum.
Then, a second scandal was whipped up about Barak's alleged abuse of non-profit associations in the 1999 elections
in order to circumvent the campaign funding laws. At minimum, the scandal already had the effect of neutralizing
some of the PM's most trusted aides, and of seriously damaging
the campaigning machinery he would need in order to win a referendum.
Jerusalem on and off
Being for the moment stymied on the Syrian track, Barak turned to the Palestinian track in an effort to meet the
Feb.13 deadline for a "Framework Agreement." The chief obstacle here was Barak's own demand for major
annexations of "settlement blocs" and "security zones" altogether amounting to nearly half
of the West Bank -- and from that he was not willing to budge. But the Prime Minister did produce one interesting
tidbit: an offer to hand over to Arafat civilian control in some Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.
Only civil control and only in some neighbourhoods -- but still, it was the first time since 1967 that a chink,
however narrow, appeared in the hitherto ironclad formula of "United Jerusalem" being the "Eternal,
Indivisible Capital of Israel." Moreover, when it leaked out that the Israeli chief negotiator did pass along
such a proposal, Barak's bureau pointedly neglected to issue the denial customary in such cases.
At the same time Prof. Shlomo Gazit, academic and former head of Military Intelligence who in the past acted as
informal negotiator on behalf of several Labour PMs, came out militantly in favour of giving up Israeli rule in
East Jerusalem -- applying to Jerusalem the classical left-Zionist argument that giving up rule over Arabs safeguards
Israel's Jewish majority (Jerusalem Post, Feb.2).
Gazit was also instrumental in having a whole group of Israeli and Palestinian academics -- some of the Israelis,
like himself, quite close to the mainstream -- sign under auspices of the University of Oklahoma a joint document
advocating Two Capitals in Jerusalem. And in a separate development, 300 prominent American Rabbis signed a document
on Jerusalem reaching the same conclusions, initiated by the Washington-based Jewish Peace Lobby.
Arafat, who was interested, asked for what should have been a fairly easy test of Barak's true intentions: to hand
over to complete Palestinian control, as part of the last West Bank redeployment stipulated by the Wye Agreement,
the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis.
In fact, Abu Dis is already under effective Palestinian control -- with a Palestinian Governor in charge, a large
contingent of Palestinian Police patrolling the streets, and a conspicuous newly-built structure rumoured to be
the future Palestinian Parliament; the handover would have consisted of pulling out a small symbolic Israeli unit
still present in the town. Barak originally considered making this gesture, and several of his ministers enthusiastically
supported it. But... the right-wing threatened to open a campaign of demonstrations.
In fact, the public seemed far less moved by this issue than by the Golan ("Our polls prove: the average Israeli
couldn't care less about who rules some Arab neighbourhood he never heard of", said Mossi Raz of Peace Now
at a public meeting in January). Nevertheless, Barak backed down. Instead of Abu Dis or anything else in the Jerusalem
area, Barak presented to the Palestinians a "Non-Negotiable Redeployment Map" consisting of remote areas
in the extreme north and south of the West Bank, which action he justified by "Israel's right to decide at
its own discretion the territories from which it will or will not redeploy its military forces."
The Palestinians strongly disagreed about Israel having such a right. A Barak-Arafat Summit broke up in angry recriminations,
and Feb. 13 passed without anything remotely resembling an agreement with the Palestinians. Having tried to play
Arafat and Assad off against each other, Barak for the moment seems on bad terms with both. And to his chagrin,
Arafat went on to sign a joint statement with the Pope in Rome -- taking, with regard to Jerusalem, a position
not so different from that of Gazit and his fellows in Oklahoma. A sequel can be expected when the Holy Father
arrives in person at the Holy City, in the end of March...
For five months, the Israeli armed forces suffered no fatalities in South Lebanon, driving military commanders
to boastful complacency. As at previous such times, the still unfinished guerrilla war dropped out of public consciousness.
Also Lebanon-oriented peace organizations, such as the "Four Mothers" group of soldiers' parents, became
largely inactive -- trusting in Barak's promise of getting the troops out by July 2000.
Shortly after the Syrians walked out of the Shepherdstown talks, there was a rude awakening. The Hizbullah guerrillas,
now equipped with sophisticated anti-tank missiles, succeeded in penetrating the defences of the heavily fortified
outposts in which the Israeli occupation forces had entrenched themselves.
With military funerals following each other, the Israeli public reacted in two strong but opposite ways: with
calls, stronger than ever, to "Bring the Boys Home" -- and with shrill demands for "tough retaliation."
Soon, it became clear that the army's high command was taking part in the debate, trying to pressure the cabinet
into unleashing a massive air strike on Lebanon.
On Feb. 1, a cabinet meeting rejected the army's plans for an offensive in Lebanon -- reportedly because Barak
did not want to jeopardize the ongoing efforts to renew talks with Syria. The following day's issue of Ma'ariv
carried a startling banner headline: A senior officer: the government is crawling down before the Syrians and puts
us in danger. The officer quoted was not identified. But on the following week, after several more deadly guerrilla
attacks, the cabinet gave in and on the night of Feb. 7, Israeli Air Force bombers hit power stations throughout
Lebanon, cutting off electricity to all the main population centres.
Power stations are civilian targets
The following position paper was released to the press by human rights organization B'tselem (Feb.8).
-- 'Israel and those cooperating with it will not fire any kind of weapon at civilians or civilian targets in Lebanon.'
Article 2, 'Grapes of Wrath' Cease-Fire Understandings
-- Attacks on civilian targets, including power stations and other infrastructure, contravene international humanitarian
law and the 'Grapes of Wrath Understandings', which Israel signed.
-- 'The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and
between civilian objects and military objectives' (Article 48, Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949)
-- 'It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the
civilian population," unless the objects are clearly being used for military purposes. (Article 54, idem)
B'tselem, 43 Emek Refaim, J'lem; www.btselem.org
The scenario prepared by Military Intelligence confidently predicted that Hizbullah would retaliate by Katyusha
rocket attacks on the communities of northern Israel -- which would give the pretext for weeks-long, systematic
destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure, eventually bringing both Lebanon and Syria (which has a major stake in
the Lebanese economy) to their knees.
"If a single rocket falls in Israeli territory, the very soil of Lebanon will burn" threatened Foreign
Minister David Levy. Hizbullah, however, managed to upset the Israeli generals' best calculations. It did not shoot
rockets at the civilians in north Israel; instead, it continued unperturbed its deadly attacks on the military
outposts on occupied Lebanese territory.
The pendulum of public opinion now swung fast in the opposite direction. "Operation Steadfast Torch",
as the army code-named it, had to be ignominiously wound up after 250,000 inhabitants of the border communities
spent three days cooped up in their air- raid shelters, waiting for the rockets which never came. Critical articles
snowballed in the same papers which just a few days before propagated the jingoist hysteria, with author David
Grossman getting it into the front pages:
'(...) It was an unnecessary and dangerous act of revenge, the automatic reflex of generals and of politicians
who are ex-generals, who can conceive of nothing better. Ehud Barak can win his first and greatest victory by leading
us out of there, by recognizing and saying the truth, that we lost that war, that miserable war which we should
never have begun' (Yediot Aharonot, 8.2).
The protests of soldiers' parents -- especially soldiers' mothers -- mushroomed, being seen day after day on prime
time TV. And this time some of the most vocal protests came from front-line soldiers themselves -- on the radio.
Military correspondent Carmela Menashe, who made it her habit to report from the private soldier's point of view,
met on Feb. 9 with several conscripts on their way into Lebanon. Their outcry -- how sick and tired they were of
having to risk their lives when the government already decided to leave Lebanon -- was broadcast over and again.
On the following day, the papers carried similar interviews.
Once more, Ma'ariv published conspicuously on its front page a quotation from an officer, but in quite a different
vein from the one published ten days before: It is difficult to explain to my soldiers why they have to enter Lebanon.
They are desperate. Their parents pressure them to pretend to be ill. Nobody wants to be the last one killed there.
Catching the prevailing atmosphere, politicians vied with each other in demanding an immediate withdrawal from
Lebanon; Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, a serious candidate to step into Barak's place should the PM's career suffer
a premature demise, made a fiery speech at a soldier's funeral. Barak, however, sticks to his guns, reiterating
again and again his position that withdrawal as part of a comprehensive deal with Syria and Lebanon would be much
safer then a unilateral pull-out, and that for this to be achieved he must have some more time.
Meanwhile, however, the shockwaves of the bombings continue to reverberate throughout the Arab World which is understandably
full of angry agitation and manifestations of sympathy with Lebanon
Lebanese youths themselves went out on the streets of Beirut in their thousands, to protest against the United
States taking Israel's side during the bombings; and on the Golan Heights, four forgotten Arab villages -- all
that were left when the Israeli Army expelled their fellow Golan Syrians, back in 1967 -- burst out in a day of
Intifada- like protests and violence.
At the moment, the chances seem dim of at any time soon renewing the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, getting the Lebanese
involved as well, concluding it all with a neat peace agreement -- and getting it approved by a referendum majority.
Even more dim are the chances
of completing the outstanding stages of the interim agreement with the Palestinians and getting at last to the
Yet, two deadlines loom on the horizon: July 7, by which time Ehud Barak seems determined to pull out of Lebanon,
with or without an agreement with the Syrians and Lebanese; and September 13, when Yasser Arafat is equally determined
to finally declare the independence of Palestine, with or without Israeli consent. Quite a lot may happen, in the
run-up to these two crucial dates.
Gush Shalom ad, Ha'aretz, Jan. 21
Why don't they trust us?
Before even starting to negotiate, President Assad demands ironclad assurances guaranteed by the United States,
that Israel will withdraw from the Golan heights. He does not trust the Israeli government. Why?
'There are no sacred dates', Ehud Barak told the Palestinians this week and postponed the date set for the framework
'There are no sacred dates' means, of course, that there are no sacred obligations. Every agreement can be violated.
And indeed, since the Oslo Agreement of 1993, successive Israeli governments have treated rather lightly most of
the solemn undertakings. Many of them have not been fulfilled at all, some have been fulfilled only partly, others
have been fulfilled years after the fixed deadline. For every undertaking the Palestinians had to pay three times:
when it was signed, when the implementation was agreed upon, and when it was implemented - if indeed it was.
A glaring example: the "safe passages" were agreed upon in September 1993. The detailed maps of four
(!) safe passages were agreed upon in May 1994. Only some months ago was one passage opened, (at least partly),
another one is now being negotiated.
So why should Assad believe us?
Checks to help us publish ads to:
Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
North-American Friends of <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Golan or peace -- uphill struggle
January 3 -- the evening before Barak's departure to the talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shara in Shepherdstown.
About a thousand five hundred people gathered on the Rabin Square in Tel- Aviv, defying heavy rain.
Peace Now had called a demonstration in support of the peace talks. Banners, torches and chanting youths made clear
that Peace is Greater than the Golan. But gradually the feeling spread that this demonstration did not catch. If
the government decisions would depend on the strength of it, there was not much to be hoped for.
Those who campaigned against giving up the Golan could mobilize a far bigger part of their constituency: all the
settlers, for whom the prospect of having to leave their settlement is really a burning question. Especially after
so many years in which they had believed, and been made to believe (by all sorts of governments) that they were
engaged in creating "irreversible facts on the ground."
Most of those who had come at the call of Peace Now were actually the hardcore members of other groups, who came
to see what it looked like and were disappointed. They were accompanied by a few busloads of rather enthusiastic
(loud) Labor Party youths, who were brought to Tel Aviv for the occasion and could be recognized form their blue
The peace camp as a whole remained rather silent on this subject. Some out of disgust that Barak used the Syrian
track in order to avoid the Palestinian one; others just because it is not easy to demand that the settlers make
an enormous sacrifice for a peace which nobody really sees, yet.
Among the speakers was a courageous settler woman, Sara Levy, herself from the Katzrin settlement on the Golan
and representing the organization Golan settlers for Peace -- who pledged her willingness to give up her home for
It is sad to contemplate the possibility that once again we will miss the chance for peace. Especially sad when
I see before me this crowd, with so many young people who will soon have to go to the army. From here, from this
peace rally, I would like to address the people on the Golan - my people, my friends, my neighbours. I know how
difficult it is for you, how difficult it is to abandon homes, gardens, the places where our children grew up,
the whole enormous enterprise which we have built up. It is difficult for me, too. But we have to take responsibility
for the future of this country. We must not let the Dove of Peace die. Let us go forward to implement Yitzchak
Rabin's vision, the vision of peace, whatever the price we must pay.
In another speech, Peace Now's Mossi Raz made fun of the settlers' decision to delay their intended mass rally
for reasons of weather (We aren't fair-weather demonstrators!). But also this irony did not succeed in lifting
the mood. The following day, the papers played things even further down; they spoke of only hundreds.
A week later, on Jan. 10, the settlers really turned out in huge numbers, filling the same Rabin square -- occupying
so to say the location which per tradition is used for peace camp events, and which since the Rabin murder there,
became the weekly (Friday afternoon's) place of "pilgrimage" for a circle of respectable but militant
mourners. Some tried to console themselves that the settlers had not managed to rally other sections of the Israeli
public. True, nearly everybody was seen wearing the knitted skullcap. But then, also peace demonstrations are in
general socially-homogeneous; efforts to explain away the big difference in bare numbers just sounded lame.
Nobody of the Tel-Avivian inner peace circle had
even dared to suggest that at the same time and on the same spot, a counter demonstration take place. But there
was one. A very small one, and still very impressive.
Some twenty five people, men and women organized by Yitzchak Frankenthal, were seen by the whole nation on television
holding slogans: We buried our sons -- for peace no sacrifice is too big. Former businessman Frankenthal became
a full-time peace activist after his soldier son Arik was kidnapped and killed by a Hamas squad. The other parents
also lost their loved ones -- in Lebanon, or in terrorist attacks. All of them feel it as their duty to use their
moral authority for the sake of peace. Not only do they stand up with slogans at this kind of occasion, but they
also maintain a dialogue with Palestinian bereaved families. Every few years such meetings are broadcast. It all
started in the time of the Oslo process, and the famous handshake on the White House Lawn.
Israelis are always again touched to the bone by the sight of those who have more reason than anybody else to hate
-- but who turned their grief into devotion for reconciliation.
Peace Now, pob 8159 J'lem 91081; email@example.com
Settlers for Peace, c/o Yigal Kipnis, Ma'ale Gamla, Golan.
Bereaved Parents for Peace, pob 33, Moshav Gamzu;
fax: +972-8-9285060; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are all rags
During a few months, nothing much seemed to happen in the occupied South-Lebanese "security-zone" and
at moments it even looked like something positive was to happen soon. Barak had set July 7 as the date for withdrawal
of the army. There were rumours of contacts -- via Germany -- about the whereabouts of missing Israeli soldiers,
and it happened that a newsreader referred to the Hizbullah not in the usual terminology -- not as a terrorist
organization, but as just another army.
Add to that the news that 25 Lebanese prisoners were released from the South-Lebanese Khiam prison (13 Jan). Were
all these not signs that with Israeli-Syrian talks restarted things were really moving forward?
Whether it was so or wasn't soon stopped being relevant. Another news broadcast, coming out of the blue, signalled
the end of whatever pause there had been. Army chiefs got a lengthy opportunity to explain on prime time TV how
successful they had become against Hizbullah. "Already several months, Hizbullah didn't succeed in killing
Israeli soldiers" which they claimed was "due to a method" about which some secrecy was kept. It
was connected with soldiers never any more being exposed, but being able to do their work without patrolling, just
sitting in outposts which are practically immune from attacks, using electro-optics. The army spokesmen were really
very happy to announce how they had at last outsmarted the guerrilla fighters.
As was reported later, some conscript soldiers and officers saw the broadcast and felt it was a provocation endangering
their lives. Could it have been a cynical manoeuvre? To have a reason to get out of the peace track after the huge
mass rally of the Golan Lobby? Or, on the contrary, to more strongly motivate Israelis into voting for peace with
Syria at whatever price? Or -- one hesitates to say it loud -- was it perhaps to distract attention from the election
campaign financing scandal?
On Jan. 30 came the assassination of Col. Akel Hashem, second in command of the collaborating (with Israel) South
Lebanese Army. We were telling each other: Hizbullah felt they had to show something; maybe they have their men
among the SLA mercenaries; maybe while the Israeli army has its new method these are their new ways? Only days
later followed an attempted but failed counter- assassination of Hizbullah leader Ibrahim Akil (Feb. 4) and to
the IDF generals' total surprise, the Hizbullah fighters -- as if there existed no method -- just restarted the
old recipe of killing a soldier a day.
It turned out that it was them who had the secret weapon: a missile which can all on its own find its way to the
little hole in the wall from where a human is watching. It may even be that they got it from the Iranians who once
bought it from Israel, an old model or so. One commentator called it "unfair" when guerrillas have such
smart weapons at their avail. Where is then the advantage which the regular army -- being much more vulnerable
-- just cannot do without?
The bombing of the whole Lebanese infrastructure did not come as a surprise, though some had hoped a bit that the
surprise would be Barak refraining from it. Though no dead were reported, it wasn't a pleasant idea that a whole
population was now suffering lack of electricity in the cold winter.
Photographs in Israeli papers of Lebanese electricians trying to repair the damage resulted in a remarkable sympathy
among average Israelis. They usually don't show the same compassion when people are killed. In that case the victims
"for sure were terrorists." But the pylons on which the electricians had to climb looked exactly like
the ones in use in Israel and the destruction of the electricity provision in the whole of Lebanon didn't look
like war against an enemy, but more like bad behaviour towards neighbours.
The morning after the bombings, there were consultations -- via telephone, and email -- on the left, whether or
not to organize something against the air attack on innocent Lebanese. Before a concrete decision was taken came
the news of another soldier killed in the not-at-all-safe newly-equipped outpost. And as the Four Mothers organization
is extremely successful in mobilizing public opinion at a time that soldiers get killed, it was generally accepted
to just join them, and make their protest stronger.
At the Feb. 1 vigil in front of the Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv many women met again after many months of slumber.
They quickly updated their address books and indeed, the grim routine of repeated vigils at 4.30 PM on the day
after a soldier got killed -- continued to be in the spotlight and
succeeded in provoking a public debate. Certain academics expressed frustration (in chat groups) that there
was not even one petition published in the paper condemning the brutality of plunging Lebanese women and children
into darkness and cold, but most heard in the call of the women, mothers of soldiers, an outcry against the destructive
warfare in all its aspects.
This was definitely what Col. Shmuel Zakai of the Golani brigade had in mind when he spoke to a group of infantry
on their way to Lebanon, referring to the Four Mothers as rags -- a way of implying that they are undermining army
'Was my son, Lieutenant Eyal Shim'oni, who fell in Lebanon a year ago, a rag too?' asked his mother when interviewed
by the TV crew while participating in the now-started day and night vigil in front of the Prime Minister's Residence.
Orna Shim'oni with her talent for speaking in public was one of the two bereaved mothers who a year ago contributed
a lot of momentum to the anti-war movement by going on bicycle from town to town, and in many places succeeding
in involving the mayors of the cities on their route.
When on Friday, Feb. 11 Tzachi Itach (19) got killed, his father Arye -- himself a reserve colonel -- burst out
that his son had been used as cannon fodder and, in the middle of his grief, used the spotlight to appeal to Barak,
demanding the immediate evacuation of the soldiers from the quagmire: Let my son at least have been the last!
How many more will have to die?
Leaflet distributed on Feb. 6 by Four Mothers at the Defence Ministry gate, Tel-Aviv
The escalation of fighting in Lebanon continues. Today another Israeli soldier died, the fourth in five days. We
of the Four Mothers Movement to Leave Lebanon ask our government:
When is this insanity going to stop? When is the State of Israel going to make good on its commitment to withdraw
from Southern Lebanon? If we have no reason to remain, why are we still there? Why are air attacks occurring daily?
Why are civilians and soldiers being killed?
The war in Lebanon has gone on for eighteen years. Attacks have always been met with counter attacks. Deaths with
death. Until this cycle stops and Israeli leaders have the courage to leave Lebanon, the terrible loss of life
The occupation of Lebanon does not provide security for Israel; it only provides death. It must stop -- and now!
Four Mothers pob 23630, Tel-Aviv; email@example.com
Nuclear out of the closet
Back in 1987 the trial of nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was held in camera, and the minutes of the months-long
proceedings were kept classified.
The only thing published was the final verdict, in which the judges sentenced Vanunu to an eighteen-year term and
made the ruling (disputed by more than one jurist) that giving classified information to a newspaper was just as
much "an act of espionage" as giving it to an enemy agent. Vanunu repeatedly demanded publication of
the minutes, particularly of his own testimony, which he said would vindicate him in the eyes of public opinion.
For more than ten years, efforts in this direction by Vanunu's lawyer or by the Vanunu Solidarity Committee, were
of no avail -- until 1999 when the powerful, scoop-hungry Yediot Aharonot, Israel's biggest daily newspaper, entered
the fray. Following a joint appeal by Vanunu's lawyer and the paper's, the Supreme Court ruled that a blanket classification
was unacceptable, and ordered the authorities to reexamine the court proceedings and find which of them could be
released into the public domain. Eventually some 1200 pages of testimonies, about 40% of the total, were declassified.
On Nov. 24, Yediot Aharonot published a full eight pages of excerpts, taking up the bulk of the news section for
that day -- a complete surprise to both rival papers and the veteran group of anti-nuclear activists.
Vanunu's lawyer Avigdor Feldman, one of the few to have access to the full material, claimed that the selection
of what had been released "gives Vanunu's voice in a punctuated and distorted manner." Also in the presentation
of the material by Yediot some bias seemed evident. The testimony of one Shabak interrogator who claimed that Vanunu
was "motivated by the British newspaper's promise of a 100,000 Dollars" was put on the front page, while
the testimony by another interrogator who stated that he was "impressed by the accused's sincerity and idealistic
motives" was pushed to the inner pages.
To top it all, Yediot Aharonot published a sensational story which turned out to be nothing but a malicious fabrication
-- claiming that "in prison, Vanunu provided bomb-making instructions to Hamas prisoners", a claim which
was immediately denounced by none other than the prison's warden.
Nevertheless Vanunu himself, who got a copy in his cell, was reportedly pleased with the publication. Whatever
the paper's motivation, it for the first time enabled the Israeli public to read in Vanunu's own words about his
life and the motivation for his actions -- his childhood in Morocco, his immigration to Israel and the crisis of
the family finding itself at a Be'er Sheba shantytown, his military service and the gradual break with his father's
strict religion, his studies of nuclear physics and his increasing awareness of social injustice and the discrimination
of Arabs. The published part breaks off abruptly, with a key portion still classified -- the part in which Vanunu
tells of how he came to the decision to tell the world of the nuclear bomb production he had witnessed; still,
his sensitivity and strong commitment come through in the published part.
Another section of the revealed material tells the dramatic story of Vanunu's interrogation. Having been kidnapped,
beaten and kicked by his captors and taken secretly from country to country, he was originally disoriented and
greatly apprehensive of
being summarily put to death, with nobody ever knowing his fate. Later, he rallied and made a concerted effort
to convert his captors and warn them of the dangers of nuclear arms. An interrogator's testimony of the same events
gives the clear impression of a standard good cop/bad cop routine developing into reluctant sympathy and respect
for the defiant, idealistic prisoner.
There were many other interesting tidbits of information. The testimony of Abba Eban -- senior Labour Party parliamentarian
and ex-foreign minister includes his admission of having headed for many years a select, secret parliamentary sub-committee
charged with "thoroughly overseeing the Dimona Pile" (the first-ever publication about this committee's
existence) and to have often visited the Pile on regular inspection tours. Yet he had been, to cite his own words,
"completely surprised" by Vanunu's revelation that the pile's main function is the mass production of
Indeed, Yediot Aharonot came under attack, not only from the predictable nationalist right-wingers, but also from
Shimon Peres -- the "nuclear dove" who had founded the Dimona Pile in the first place, who as Prime Minister
in 1986 ordered Vanunu's kidnapping, and who claimed that publishing the minutes was "greatly damaging"
and that "there are things the public doesn't want to know."
In response, the paper took the lofty editorial position that "(...) Some consider Vanunu a traitor, others
-- a highly moral person. In the view of some he must be released immediately, while others demand that he be returned
to the solitary confinement where he spent more than ten years. Yediot Aharonot does not presume to judge him,
we content ourselves with bringing the facts before our readers" (editorial of Nov. 25). Quite a change from
earlier editorials of the same paper, which did presume to judge Vanunu, and which rendered a very harsh verdict
In the wake of the publication, Labour Knesset Member Yossi Katz called for Vanunu's release -- the first member
of Israel's ruling party to make such a call, albeit the designated enfant terrible of the club. Katz had to conduct
a prolonged struggle before the Prison Authority granted permission for him to visit the famous whistleblower;
since the Yediot publication, the authorities seem to have become even more nervous than usual about Vanunu's contacts
with the outside world.
When the American couple Nick and Mary Eoloff, Vanunu's devoted "adoptive parents", arrived in Israel
in December, they were denied permission to visit him. The prison visit was finally approved only ten hours before
their flight back home, after intensive lobbying by the Vanunu Solidarity Committee. Meanwhile, a very sympathetic
extensive interview with the Eoloffs -- long-time activists for peace and human rights in their native Minnesota
-- appeared on Dec. 24 in the weekend supplement of Ha'aretz.
On Jan. 20, artist Micky Tropher opened his new exhibition at a downtown Tel-Aviv art gallery. At the entrance,
visitors were met with a huge cloth banner reading: Mordechai Vanunu, languishing in prison for 4,853 days. Free
him now! Behind were Tropher's unusual sculptures: life-size figures constructed entirely of barbed wire and enclosed
in a maze-like structure crisscrossed with barbed wire, expressing the artist's long-standing concern with the
plight of political prisoners.
Members of the Vanunu Solidarity Committee, invited to attend the ceremony, excitedly announced a forthcoming event:
the Knesset was to hold an open debate on the country's nuclear policy. Previous attempts to get the issue on the
parliamentary agenda had been foiled by successive Speakers, who used the tactic of shunting the debate from the
plenum to a select committee, whose deliberations are held in camera. It took Hadash (Communists) KM Issam Makhoul
a Supreme Court appeal to force the Speaker's hand and make the open debate possible.
On the appointed day, the Knesset visitors' gallery was crowded with local and foreign journalists, TV cameras
and numerous anti-nuclear activists -- Israelis of the Committee for Mordechai Vanunu and for a Middle East Free
of Atomic, Biological and Chemical Weapons (to cite its cumbersome official name) and specially-arrived internationals
from such organizations as Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War; also present was Dr. Ray Kidder, a leading
U.S. nuclear scientist.
It was not a long debate -- 52 minutes in all, less than the discussion of prostitution in Israel which immediately
preceded it -- but very stormy.
At the start, Speaker Avraham Burg spoke amidst heckling from the right-wing, apologizing for having authorized
the debate "so as not to give the Supreme Court a chance to interfere in the Knesset procedures" and
pointing out that "the government is in charge of national security and it found no danger in holding this
The heckling reached a crescendo when Makhoul got up to speak; many of the right-wingers walked out rather than
listen, and he was also confronted by angry reactions of Labourites such KM Ophir Paz.
Makhoul started out with a historical anecdote: back in the 1950's, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion invited Albert
Einstein to become President of Israel, right after Einstein and Bertrand Russell sharply denounced nuclear arms
and called for their abolition; yet at the very same time Ben-Gurion authorized a secret crash program to create
Israeli nuclear arms. 'Einstein knew what he was doing when he refused Ben Gurion's offer' he remarked.
From there, Makhoul traced the decades-long developments, all carried out without any democratic parliamentary
control, up to the 200-300 nuclear warheads estimated to be presently stockpiled by the Israeli military. Then
he pointed to the Israeli Navy's two new German-built submarines, reportedly carrying nuclear missiles so as to
emulate the Americans and give Israel a "second strike" capacity -- which proved that the General Staff
was seriously considering scenarios of a devastating nuclear attack upon Israel. This, Makoul argued, made it all
the more urgent to
render the Middle East completely free of mass-destruction weapons, before such nightmare scenarios become reality.
It was the "dovish minister" Haim Ramon who got the task of answering on behalf of the government. He
chided Makhoul for "intruding into areas which, for the sake of National Security, should remain dark",
asserting that parliamentary control of the nuclear issue did exist, referring to that famous secret and select
subcommittee. Having implicitly admitted that the Israeli nuclear arsenal did indeed exist, Ramon went on to repeat
the hoary official formula: "Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear arms into the Middle East",
and ended by making a pious wish that the region be made free indeed of weapons of mass destruction -- but only
at some faraway future date, after all states in the region will have signed peace treaties with Israel and after
the peace would have become stable.
Ramon's speech, too, was punctuated by heckling; six KM's were removed from the hall -- all of them, as it happened,
Arabs. Commentators of the live broadcast debate started treating it as an affair of Jews vs. Arabs. But Meretz
KM Zehava Gal'on broke the stereotype: "What is all the fuss about?" she exclaimed standing utterly relaxed
behind the lectern: "All the "secrets" he revealed here are available on the internet, to be found
by any high school pupil in two minutes!"
Ran Cohen, Minister of Trade and Industry, said much the same to the anti-nuclear activists which he later met
in the Knesset restaurant -- but declined their challenge to repeat it for the many journalists and TV crews hanging
In Ha'aretz there was a remark by Avner Cohen, the controversial independent researcher who had gotten into trouble
with the military censorship over his book "Israel and the Bomb" (all based on material from archives
open to the public!): "Very good that this vital issue was at last taken up in the Knesset -- but it is a
pity that it was initiated by Knesset Member Makhoul, who is both an Arab and a Communist, rather than by somebody
closer to the mainstream." Undeniable -- but that's the game in town; the more mainstream doves would not
touch the issue; most of them in one way or another support an Israeli "Nuclear Deterrence", so as to
"ensure security after withdrawal from the Territories.'
While the policy of Nuclear Deterrence is still challenged only by a radical minority in Israeli society, the issue
of environmental dangers -- also addressed by Makhoul -- is fast becoming a more general concern. On Feb. 6, a
few days after the Knesset debate, another Yediot Aharonot front page: Dimona Reactor old and dangerous; should
be closed. Followed the translation of an article published the previous day in the London Sunday Times (the paper
which originally published Vanunu's revelations). The speaker quoted was Prof. Uzi Even, formerly a senior scientist
at the Dimona Pile and currently a leading member of the Meretz party, who may soon become Knesset Member.
On the Second Channel TV news, Prof. Even reiterated: "The reactor in Dimona has been active for 36 years.
In the US and other Western countries, reactors of that age are considered dangerous." He emphasized that
the structural material weakens as a result of the radiation. The closure of the Dimona reactor should begin soon.
A reactor is not like an ordinary factory, that you close and go home. Even when a reactor ceases to operate, there
are chemical processes that continue for many years and which cannot be stopped. The planning and monitoring of
the closure of a reactor may take years.
In the Yediot article, mention actually made of two accidents that had occurred in the reactor, the details of
which are kept secret. In one of them, a laboratory worker was killed. The second, which happened in 1991, seriously
damaged the health of a senior employee -- who threatened to sue the reactor's administration and got generous
compensations in exchange for keeping his mouth shut.
The Atomic Energy Commission -- the secrecy-shrouded, misnamed organization responsible for Israel's nuclear arsenal
-- reacted with angry rebuttals and assurances that the reactor is "perfectly safe." Rather then being
interviewed themselves, the AEC heads pushed forward Gaby Laluche, Mayor of the town of Dimona who expressed himself
"completely satisfied and calm" with the explanations and assurances given about the nearby nuclear pile.
The mayor did, however, admit in a radio interview to apprehensions among many of the townspeople, which "the
town administration is doing its best to calm down."
Mordechai Vanunu, Ashkelon prison, pob 17, Ashkelon, Israel; Vanunu Solidarity Committee, pob 7323, J'lem; email
Defending the Sultan home
In the last week of the old Millennium, we did not have very much time to think of the Y2K Crisis which was so
widely predicted and feared. Rather, for us that week was a time of very concrete anxiety for the fate of one particular
Palestinian family, an anxiety which had us commuting back and forth between Tel-Aviv and an isolated house on
the outskirts of Hebron, and spending many exhausting hours making endless telephone calls and sending out furious
floods of press releases, email action alerts and firm letters to ministers and government officials.
Gush Shalom had gotten involved at the urgent request of our friends of the CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team) --
North American religious pacifists based in the heart of Hebron since 1995 and doing all that a few individuals,
with a lot of good will and a total commitment to the idea of non- violence, can do to alleviate the situation
of that unhappy city.
Already for some time the CPT had been in contact with the Sultan Family, living in the half-rural, half-urban
area northeast of Hebron. The Sultan home
had been served with a demolition order back in 1995; during the years the family -- like so many others --
learned to live with this constant threat. However, since the end of November the Sultan home was singled out by
the notorious settlers of nearby "Kiryat Arba." Day after day, night after night, armed settlers held
provocative demonstrations around the house, damaging terraces and plants and shouting abuse.
A brief look into the website of the settler pirate radio station "Arutz 7" -- an unpalatable task which
must be occasionally undertaken in the line of duty -- revealed a completely unequivocal Statement of Purpose by
settler leader Mal'achi Levinger, son of the infamous Shooting Rabbi: "We are demanding two things -- that
illegal Palestinian construction on hills adjacent to Kiryat Arba be stopped and the buildings razed, and that
the city of Kiryat Arba be granted permission to expand and build new neighbourhoods on the northern hilltops numbered
22, 26, and 29." (The place designated "Hilltop 29" is what the Sultan family calls Home).
The settlers appear to base their claims on a double promise: once by God, several thousand years ago, and a second
-- by officials of the military government in the 1980's who earmarked it for future settlement expansion.
Things came to a head on the night of Saturday, Dec. 25. For hours, hundreds of skullcapped hooligans rampaged
around the house, carrying torches, jeering, and while singing loudly tore down the rock fence at the north side
of the house -- all this under the eye of impassive police and soldiers. As a parting shot, one of the settlers
shouted: "We will be back on Tuesday -- with bulldozers!"
Had a Palestinian taken up a stone, the evening might have ended with bloodshed. As it was, the twenty-five Palestinians
present -- Sultan Family members and their neighbours -- kept themselves under tight control, as long as the settlers
did not approach the house itself. Art Gish, the CPTer who had been in the house throughout this siege, sat immediately
down at his mobile word processor, sending out the Sultan family's urgent plea for help -- to people of goodwill
anywhere, and specifically to peace-minded Israelis.
Immediately when it appeared on the screen in our overcrowded office, Gush Shalom went into frenzied activity,
calling up the activists on our snowball alert system and contacting other peace groups as well. There was no way
of knowing how serious the settlers' "Tuesday threat" could be taken -- "if they really meant it,
they would not give a warning" argued some -- but still we felt we had to be there.
On Monday night Beate and myself set out as the advance guard; in Jerusalem we were joined by Ira Gruper, former
president of New Jewish Agenda in the US, and a Canadian Jewish activist. Alighting from the taxi at the centre
of Hebron, we were taken by a CPTer to the scene. There were no settlers present at the moment of our arrival;
under the stars, the Sultan house and its surrounding orchard looked quiet and serene. But after being warmly greeted
and offered cups of bitter Arab coffee, we were taken by family members to see, by a small flashlight, the remnants
of the settler rampage: scattered rocks where the fence had been, burned out torches, nasty graffiti in Hebrew...
For hours we kept a companionable watch on the porch, a quite large and very mixed bunch huddled around the wood
fire blazing inside an old metal barrel and drinking cup after cup of coffee: members of the extended family and
their neighbours, Israeli activists, American Jews and Christians, Palestinian politicians from Hebron...
Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
Suddenly, the house was brightly illuminated by a strong searchlight; an army jeep stopped in front. I introduced
myself to the sergeant in command. "The command post got a report of Israelis coming here. We were sent to
check if it is settlers" he said. In the following conversation, he made no secret of his dislike of the settlers
-- particularly of the fact that he was being day after day assigned to protect them "even when they get themselves
into stupid troubles." His men seemed to share this attitude, except for one -- an immigrant from Russia who
evidently brought from his original homeland a strong anti-Muslim bias, to judge from how he spoke about the ongoing
war in Chechnia.
Suddenly, Omar Sultan approached the jeep with a tray full of steaming coffee cups. All the soldiers gratefully
accepted the coffee -- also the Russian...
The morning came with no bulldozers. We were sitting on the porch, discussing possible scenarios -- particularly
those which might have involved getting arrested -- when a small group of soldiers appeared below the house; several
of us hastily went down. No chance for a casual chat this time; to my question, a soldier said curtly "We
are here to safeguard him" and kept silent for the rest of the confrontation. "Him" was the young
man wearing the characteristic knitted skull-cap of nationalist-religious settlers -- who, whatever the official
chain of command, was obviously in charge of the soldiers.
For his part, the settler was willing enough to talk -- but there did not seem a real basis for dialogue. The way
he said "I am an inhabitant of Kiryat Arba" seemed to imply that that made him lord and master of all
he surveyed. A second-generation settler, his fierce Jewish Nationalism was mingled with a curious kind of "local
patriotism" ("I don't interfere with what you do in Tel- Aviv, why did you come to mess up our affairs
Evidently, there was little point in talking to him about democracy, or peace, or International Law -- just as
he soon gave up attempting to convince us that legally, as he understood the law, we were standing on a piece of
Kiryat Arba land wrongfully "invaded and seized" by the Sultan Family.
There was, in fact, only one thing to tell him:
"We are not going to let you touch this house! Get that into your head."
We left him there on the road in front of the house,
surrounded by the four taciturn soldiers, and reaching for his mobile phone. (Afterwards we found out that he
had been none other than Levinger Jr. in person).
Half an hour later, the police captain arrived. Fat and jovial he strode up to the porch. His message was quite
clear: this has been declared a closed military zone, and all non-residents must depart immediately. Did that also
include the settlers? He was not quite clear on this point. I looked at my watch: a bit before eleven. The Gush
Shalom bus from Tel-Aviv was due in about two hours -- maybe we can stall a bit; there are not yet enough of them
to actually lift and carry off eight passively resisting activists. Indeed, the captain, with a voice of sweet
reason, asked us to "take some time and think about it."
He came back several times, each time becoming more peremptory and demanding -- though still maintaining the polite,
smiling facade. On one occasion he took Omar Sultan's elder son aside, for a conversation from which we were pointedly
As we later heard, the policeman argued "If you let the leftists stay, we will have to let the settlers in,
too" -- to which the Palestinian answered "I don't turn guests away from my home." A call to Uri
Avnery's mobile on the Gush bus: they had already passed Kiryat Gat, more than half-way. And there did not seem
to be army road-blocks being set up.
By half past twelve, there were already quite a lot of police and soldiers congregated on the road. But an experienced
activist calmed us down: This is not yet it. There are no women police or soldiers down there, and they aren't
allowed to have male police handle women. When you see the policewomen arrive, get ready.
Actually, the women never came; the Tel-Aviv bus won the race, arriving on time and taking the police and army
by surprise. When the dozens of activists spilled out and spread along the road with their huge banners, our captain
evidently gave up all thought of forcible eviction, contenting himself by asking that we stay off the road.
For a time we seemed in control of the situation. Most of the army and police departed. There were no settlers
in evidence, except for two youths yelling incoherently from the hilltop on the other side of the road. And the
passing Palestinian drivers smiled and waved at the sight of our slogans : Hands Off The Sultan Family -- There
Is No Such Thing As A Legal Settlement -- Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour's House!
But we could not maintain this posture forever -- all of us were volunteers with jobs and private lives to attend
to, some with other political commitments as well. Within a few hours at most we would have to depart. How far
could we trust the police captain's suave promises that he would not allow the settlers to come near the house?
Meanwhile, a copy of Ha'aretz, which somebody brought from Tel-Aviv, contained a short account by Amira Hass (whom
we had kept up to date by phone) of the Sultan House situation -- including a startling official promise which
she got from the military government's Civil Administration: "The house would not be demolished despite its
Still, it was with some trepidation that we bade goodbye to the Sultans and to the CPTers who remained with them.
Back at the office on the afternoon of the following day, an urgent phone call from CPT seemed to justify our apprehensions:
the settlers had come back, and several dozen of them were seen approaching the house.
Even if we were to rush right back, it would have taken several hours -- and there was no way of mobilizing enough
people in time to be of any use. It seemed more important to try and alert the media...
Later reports from the beleaguered house were less panicking: the settlers were much fewer than on previous occasions,
and the army and police more firm in blocking them; when they attempted to place a mobile home on the vacant lot
near the Sultan House, it was immediately seized and towed away by the army; with sundown, the settlers all went
Meanwhile, there was another call -- this time from Azmi Shuyuki, a long-time Palestinian contact in Hebron. In
the early 1990's, he used to head a local Palestinian Peace Group, together with which we held several demonstrations
and marches. Now he works with Abbas Zaki, Member of the Palestinian Legislature who is also the PLO official in
charge of Hebron. We were asked to join in a Palestinian March of Solidarity with the Sultan Family, the following
Going over the already-familiar terrain as an Israeli contingent in a joint demonstration with militant Palestinians
was quite different. For one thing, this time they did put up road-blocks. Near Beit Anun Village, two kilometres
from the Sultan home -- where we had passed unhindered on the previous occasions -- the road was blocked by six
or seven young soldiers (paratroopers, to judge from their red berets) with the usual proclamation of a closed
They were not enough to block several hundred determined demonstrators. The VIP's at the front rank broke through,
the 76-year old Uri Avnery locking arms with Abbas Zaki, Knesset Member Dahamshe of the Israeli Islamic Movement,
and Sheikh Taysir Bayud, Deputy Mufti of Jerusalem. As all of us followed closely behind, there was some scuffling
and much angry and confused shouting -- and suddenly the paratroopers were left behind, their rifles still on their
shoulders. "Had we tried to do this without your group, they would have opened fire" a young Palestinian
told me in a matter-of-fact tone.
There was a feeling of exhilaration, though we were sweating heavily -- walking as fast as we could on an exposed
asphalt road under the blazing midday sun. Noticing a road sign written only in Hebrew and listing only the names
of settlements, I pasted on it one of the Gush Shalom two-flag stickers. Up ahead, a much bigger replica of the
same insignia was conspicuously raised aloft by Avnery.
During the melee at the roadblock we Israelis, originally walking in one contingent, became well mixed among the
Palestinians. Only now was there
some leisure to take a real look at our fellow-marchers: some Palestinians in traditional garb, a few in expensive-looking
suits on which they seemed willing to risk a few stains, with most of the others appearing to be workers.
Just at the bend behind which the Sultan House stands, a whole infantry company -- far too many to break through
or circumvent. This was another moment that the action could have dissolved into violence, stone-throwing and shooting
-- or alternatively, degenerated into nothing, in a feeling of impotence. But this time the Sheikh, standing just
in front of the foremost rank of soldiers, took a look at the position of the sun, called out something -- and
suddenly all the Muslims in the crowd knelt down as one for the noon prayer, an impressive move taking the army
(and us) completely by surprise...
After the prayer, there were the kind of negotiations usual in such demonstrations, ending with the usual kind
of compromise: the VIPs were allowed to pass through and visit the Sultan house, while the rest of us had to stay
where we were. It seemed rather boring and all but over, when the most violent part suddenly happened: a scuffle
suddenly broke out, and there was our friend Azmi Shuyuki lying doubled on the hot asphalt, his face distorted
with pain, with everybody shouting all at once. He had apparently been kicked in the belly by a soldier, though
we never found out exactly why or how; it happened so fast.
Somehow we got through this, too, without a general outbreak of violence. A Palestinian ambulance arrived to take
Shuyuki to hospital, and meanwhile Avnery and the other VIP's returned. They had gotten a reiterated promise that
the army and police would keep the settlers away from the Sultan house.
Dubious as we were, it seems that our efforts did have an effect. From then until the day this goes into print,
nearly two months, anxious phone calls from
the Gush Shalom office elicited again and again confirmation of no further settler manifestation at the Sultan
house. The "closed military zone" is still in force, but for a change it is the settlers who are kept
Gush Shalom, pob 3322 Tel-Aviv; firstname.lastname@example.org
A kilometre south of the Sultan house -- that is, a kilometre closer to the expanding edge of the Kiryat Arba settlement
-- other Palestinian families are already living the nightmare. The house of Abdel Jawad Jaber, existing precariously
under a demolition order, is fast becoming a narrow enclave: wedged between a settler-operated gas station on one
side and a ten-metre retaining wall on the other hand -- where the family's olive trees used to be, now uprooted
to make place for a fast-building new settler "neighbourhood."
On Feb. 11, some 70 demonstrators gathered near the Jaber home -- Palestinian farmers and Israelis from the Committee
Against House Demolitions, as well as CPTers reinforced by activists of Rebuilders Against Bulldozers arrived from
The idea for the day's action, inspired by Christian Scriptures, was "When Occupation forces take your land
to expand and build new settlements, bring them a few buckets more" -- that is, all participants took up buckets
full of earth and set out across the bulldozer-scarred hillside towards the gates of the settlement, with the declared
intention presenting The Gift of Earth to Kiryat' Arba's leaders.
Somehow, the settlers and the army forces protecting them failed to appreciate the gesture. In fact, long before
the procession could approach the fence surrounding Kiryat Arba army and police barred their way and presented
one of the ubiquitous "closed military zone" orders.
Unperturbed, the demonstrators proceeded, one at a time, to dump their buckets out onto the ground where they stood
-- former Palestinian farmland now confiscated in favour of the settlers. When all of the buckets had been emptied,
Abdel Jawad planted the remains of one of his olive trees into the pile of soil at the feet of the soldiers.
CPT and ICAHD plan to follow up the action by having supporters -- both in Israel and throughout the world -- send
packets of earth to Tzvi Katzover, mayor of Kiryat Arba settlement, with the note: Since you seem to have an insatiable
hunger for land, please have some more. The packets could also be sent to him c/o The Israeli Embassy at your country.
CPT, pob 126, Hebron, West Bank; email@example.com
ICAHD c/o Halper, 37 Tveria St, J'lem; firstname.lastname@example.org
Thy neighbour's cave
In November 1999, the demolition of "illegal" Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem reached a new peak.
Again and again, bulldozer crews would arrive at a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, accompanied by
huge forces of police and the semi-military "Border Guards", and embark on their work of destruction.
The dispossessed families' stories, heard by Israeli activists who arrived on the spot, were depressingly repetitious:
Their unavailing efforts to get a building permit for their plots of land; years of entanglement in the alien Israeli
governmental and municipal bureaucracy -- often spending large sums on preliminary stages which failed to yield
the desired permit; finally, the decision to build without a permit.
It was unbearable to watch whole families made homeless overnight, and there started a hectic time for ICAHD (Committee
Against House Demolitions) and the other Israeli groups involved, such as Gush Shalom and the Rabbis for Human
Rights. Teams of Israeli and Palestinian volunteers were organized, to work together on rebuilding the demolished
houses; European diplomats were convinced to pay humanitarian visits to the demolition sites and write notes to
the Israeli government; in some cases, advance warning was obtained of impending demolitions, and persistent activists
such as Me'ir Margalit, Jerusalem City Councillor for Meretz -- arrived on the spot to register their protest;
the more dovish ministers within the Barak Government were approached, to take concerted action backing their declared
opposition to house demolitions....
On the night of Nov. 14, ICAHD got the information
that a house demolition was being planned for the following morning at Issawiya Neighbourhood, and prepared
an emergency mobilization -- but in the middle of the night the municipal officials changed their plans and sent
the bulldozers to Jabl Mukabr Neighbourhood instead (so as to attack "the enemy" where he expects it
A stream of protests poured by fax and email into offices of the governmental and municipal decision-makers, from
such disparate sources as Rabbi Brian Walt of Philadelphia reminding Interior Minister Sharansky of his (the minister's)
past as a dissident and human rights activist in the Soviet Union -- and the People's Watch, at Tamilnadu in South
India, citing to Barak examples from the experience of their own human rights work.
And inside the country, ACRI (Civil Rights Assoc.) published once again their 'Don't Destroy any More Houses' petition
(see TOI-89, p.19), with hundreds of new names (Ha'aretz, Nov. 2). At the end of November, several impending demolitions
of which ICAHD got advance warnings did not take place, and the group's "source" within the Jerusalem
Municipal bureaucracy reported a confusion of demolition orders repeatedly issued and cancelled at the last moment.
The dovish ministers pointed to the approach of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, the time when Muslims congregate
in Jerusalem in their hundreds of thousands and when -- in the Security Services' considered opinion -- the government
should thread softly. For that time, an unofficial moratorium on demolitions was effected -- and the cabinet doves
hinted that it may continue even after Ramadan is over. However, the ministerial trio -- Ben Ami of Police, Beilin
of Justice and Ramon of Jerusalem Affairs -- who had already long before drafted a Policy Paper recommending a
complete halt to demolitions and a "pardon" to thousands of "illegal" Palestinian homes --
failed to have this paper officially published, or to press hard for it to become official government policy.
In the midst of all this, on Nov. 16, the radio news carried a short item: the army, so it was announced, had evacuated
several Bedouin families camping illegally in a military training zone at the extreme south of the West Bank. The
Bedouins were "removed painlessly, for their own safety"; end of message. The radio broadcast the military
communique only once, at the tail end of a news broadcast; on the following day's papers there was hardly any mention
The true magnitude of what really happened might have remained unknown -- to the general public and even to committed
peace activists -- but for the intrepid Gideon Levy of Ha'aretz, incomparable expert at penetrating dark corners
and exposing unpalatable truths. Having visited the site to see for himself, Levy's findings -- published in Ha'aretz
on Nov. 21 -- put, to say it mildly, a different complexion on the issue.
"Several families" turned out to mean several extended families or clans, numbering altogether no less
than 300 persons. Rather than the "shiftless nomads" described in the official communique, it turned
out that these people had been born in the place from which they had been expelled, that they lived there all their
lives and were descendants of families who had continuously inhabited the area since Ottoman times. And having
a pastoral way of life, augmented by such agriculture as is possible with the meagre rainfall on the edge of the
desert, they had not lived in tents as the authorities' term "Bedouin encampment" suggested, but in --
Strange as it may seem, at the beginning of the Third Millennium, the members of this community -- the hamlet of
Mufkara -- had been living for at least a century, and probably much longer, in the caves which abound in this
area, east of the town of Yatta. With the patient work of generations they had extended the natural caves, to make
them roomier and more comfortable; some of them added modern touches, such as clocks hanging on the cave walls.
"Our caves are good homes, none better; thy are warm in winter and cool in the summer" asserted the miserable
deportees which Levy met, huddling in the temporary refuge offered by another cave-dwelling community a few kilometres
away. "Just let us go back. We don't ask anything but to be left alone" they told him, and several other
journalists who followed him. This community, which had so long lived in welcome obscurity, had had the misfortune
of being "in the way" of one of the most fanatic groups of nationalist-religious settlers to be found
anywhere on the West Bank.
A few years ago, the settler "Maon Farm" had been established in the close vicinity of the cave-dwelling
community. Its inhabitants -- young settlers, some of them the sons of well-known settler leaders eager to "get
their spurs" -- consciously modelled their lifestyle upon the cowboys of the old American West, complete with
wildly galloping on their horses and setting fire to the Palestinian fields.
In early 1998, one of the settler confrontations with the Palestinian shepherds -- on whose grazing lands they
encroached -- ended with the shooting to death of settler Dov Dribben, in circumstances which were never completely
clarified. (The Arab shepherds had no firearms of their own. According to one version, a Palestinian somehow seized
a settler's gun and used it; another version was that the fatal shot was mistakenly fired by a fellow settler).
In any case, the settlers declared Dribben a martyr and following the incident drove the Palestinians completely
away from their fields, which had been providing them with forage for the sheep and goats, as well as with some
wheat and olives.
In establishing their farm, the settlers had paid no heed to the area being officially defined a "military
firing range"; no military training had taken place there for many years, and during the tenure of the Netanyahu
Government the military authorities turned a blind eye to their activities as to the creation of dozens of other
"unauthorized" settler outposts all over the West Bank.
But when Barak came to power, dovish ministers began pressing for the removal of the outposts -- illegal even
under the occupation regime's legal code which is designed to facilitate settlement extension (see TOI-91, p.4).
Of all these "outposts" the settlers of Maon Farm were the most intransigent, rejecting out of hand the
generous "compromise" which Barak held out -- a "symbolic dismantling" consisting in fact of
being moved no more than half a kilometre or so from their original location. Instead, the settlers let themselves
be dragged away from the spot by considerable military and police forces, to the blaze of worldwide publicity.
Throughout the televised confrontation, they had stuck carefully to passive resistance, even claiming to be "Disciples
of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King" (sic!). But after the international TV crews departed the scene,
some sixty settlers quietly crept back, on the morning of Nov. 13 ambushing and assaulting with sticks five Palestinians,
who had to be hospitalized; a soldier who tried to help a wounded Palestinian was himself assaulted by the settlers.
(At the time, the Palestinian Land Defence Committee and Christian Peacemakers Team vainly tried to get media attention
to this incident.)
The settler leadership used their pirate radio station to campaign against "the discrimination of Jews by
the Barak Government" and inside the cabinet, the ministers of the National Religious Party pressured the
Prime Minister to order the removal of the Palestinians from the former area of the Maon Farm, so as to "counterbalance"
the removal of the settlers. The appropriate orders had gone out.
On Nov. 14, an area of several square kilometres including Mufkara and several other cave-hamlets was sealed
by the army and cut off from the outside world. Two days later, on the 16th, the army arrived in great force, to
serve wholesale eviction orders upon the dwellers. Some of them attempted to barricade themselves within their
caves -- from where the army would have had quite a task to winkle them out. But when the soldiers systematically
destroyed the sheds and cattle-pens and scattered the herds into the mountains, the inhabitants had no choice but
to go out or lose the base of their livelihood.
As it was, many of the sheep died in the shepherd families' long trek over the mountains, in the coldest time of
the year -- until they finally found a temporary refuge with a kindred cave community, whose own cave dwellings
and grazing grounds now became almost intolerably overcrowded. At the emptied site, shiny new signs were put up,
reading: "DANGER! Firing Range. Entrance Forbidden!"
Many details of this history were only pieced together gradually in the coming months, as peace activists and more
journalists followed Levy and talked with the dispossessed shepherds. But in the last week of November the need
for urgent action was already quite evident, the first task being just to make the Israeli public aware of what
happened. (Originally, even most cabinet ministers had no idea; Yossi Sarid, Minister of Education and leader of
the Meretz Party, was quoted on TV as saying 'It is inconceivable that members of the Inner Cabinet need to learn
from the media about outrageous things which the army had done').
As it turned out, the army did offer a concession of a kind -- the displaced shepherds would be allowed to reenter
their former land on Friday and Saturday and cultivate them, though strictly forbidden to take residence in the
caves, many of which had been sealed or filled with earth. But even this, it turned out, was purely illusory; when
the shepherds tried to enter the area on a weekend, they were immediately assaulted by armed settlers and driven
away, with the army standing aside.
At the beginning of December, the affair started to get attention in the media and the political system, through
several extensive and sympathetic newspaper articles, and particularly following the outcry of the well-known author
(...) Last Friday I saw a woman sitting on a pile of mattresses under the open sky, the cold penetrating to bone
marrow, a listless look in her eyes. There were several children and babies clinging to her. She clearly had no
idea who we were. But something gave her the feeling we may be people with power, people who might condescend to
do something for her and her children if only she could arouse our pity. Without very much hope she nudged one
of the children, about nine years old, trying to get him to cough in our presence. The child did not cooperate.
He just sat there, sullenly, refusing to look at us. On that moment, this child had much more dignity and self-respect
than I, an Israeli -- looking at this sight, knowing what our army, our army called 'The Israeli Defence Forces'
has done to these people at the order of our government, of Mr. Barak (Yediot Aharonot, Dec. 6).
On the evening of Nov. 9, International Human Rights Day, several dozen activists picketed the Defence Ministry
in Tel-Aviv. It was a militant vigil, bringing together members of various groups -- Gush Shalom, Peace Now, Rabbis
for Human Rights and of course ICAHD. There were a lot of young people, tirelessly chanting Shame! Shame! and Bring
Them Back! Bring Them Back! and fiery speeches by Knesset Members Ilan Gil'on (Meretz) and Tamar Gozanski (Hadash
Communists); a leaflet distributed to bypassers pointed out the incongruity of a government declaring its intention
to enter negotiations on solving the Palestinian Refugee Problem and at the same time creating still more refugees.
On the following morning, many of the activists traveled to the scene of the crime, with the intention of accompanying
the shepherds and protecting them from the settlers, as they tried once more to enter their lands for the weekend.
Military road-blocks barred their way, with the Israeli activists denied entry into the forbidden zone -- but after
some negotiations, the commander on the spot agreed to keep the settlers away, too, so that the sheep may safely
graze for the weekend. The main aim had been achieved.
None of this got into the press. It happened to be
the day when President Clinton made his surprise announcement of the resumption of Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations,
and for the next couple of weeks the media scarcely gave attention to anything but these negotiations and the heating
debate on withdrawal from the Golan. The activists had to rest content, for the moment, with the promise of Meretz
leaders to "work behind the scenes".
In the meantime, an effort was made to organize what relief could be provided to the dispossessed by the donations
-- in money and in kind -- of Israelis: blankets, warm clothes and shoes, cooking and heating stoves; the Kibbutz
Movement turned out to be particularly helpful and generous in many of these. Also, the sum of 8,000 Dollars was
collected to provide fodder for the herds, trapped now with no adequate grazing grounds; and the owner of a big
Jerusalem bakery agreed, at the ICAHD activists' request, to provide huge quantities of dry bread -- which, as
it turned out, could be mixed with hay and provide some 30% of the fodder needed to sustain sheep and goats. In
the process, some of the Israeli activists -- city people born and bred -- became quite expert at the daily problems
of managing a herd...
At the end of January, with the now deadlocked Syrian negotiations off the headlines, and the quiet lobbying by
the cabinet doves providing no results, the campaign was resumed. A new protest petition found its way to the pages
of Ha'aretz with several hundred signatures collected by the veteran activist Amos Gvirtz of Kibbutz Shfa'im.
But what really did it was the open letter to the Prime Minister -- again Grossman, but co-signed by six more prominent
writers and poets (Haim Guri, Sami Michael, Amos Oz, Daliah Rabikovitz, A.B. Yehoshua and S. Yiz'har). Citing the
Biblical Parable of the Poor Man's Ewe Lamb, with which the Prophet Nathan is said to have reproved King David
for the king's tyrannical behaviour and which is a fixed part of the curriculum in all Israeli schools, the seven
(...) Hitting the weak does not add to the glory of the army. This is not the way you, sir, have educated soldiers
when you said that a military commander should also teach those under his command. We wish to believe that you
did not know what was done to these hundreds of people -- but now you do know. So little is required of you in
order to correct this manifest injustice. Nor is there any need for you to consult with experts on this issue.
What you need to do should be self-evident to any decent person (Ha'aretz, 21.1).
On Tu Bishvat, the Jewish Tree Holiday, which fell on Jan. 21, the B'tselem human rights organization took the
imitative of holding a joint tree planting by Israeli peace-seekers and Palestinian deportees, at the entrance
to the "forbidden caves". Columnist Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, who was among the participants, gave the
following description in Ma'ariv (25.1):
Two hundred peace and human rights activists came, in the extreme cold, to plant olive trees together with the
Palestinians who were evicted from their homes -- from their cave homes, where for generations the poorest of the
poor have been living; their cave homes, of which they had now been deprived and left to live in tents, in the
cold and the rain.
We went there in order to lift their spirits, bringing with us olive saplings and also some warm clothes. On the
way, we were stopped by the army. As usual, we were informed that the area has been declared a 'closed military
area' and that we were forbidden to enter. After a long palaver we were allowed to go to Taweni Village, where
some of the evicted are staying, but on one condition: we were not to bring with us any saplings. Policemen and
soldiers searched our cars meticulously. An activist who tried to smuggle in one single sapling was caught and
the sapling confiscated. A lieutenant-colonel supervised the action. Thus we learned an important lesson: the planting
of an olive tree is a dangerous terrorist activity. At least, it is when Israelis and Palestinians want to do it
On the morning of Jan. 23, dozens of activists picketed the cabinet meeting at Jerusalem -- while inside, Agriculture
Minister Haim Oron (Meretz) officially placed the issue of the 300 deportees on the government agenda. On the following
day, Ma'ariv's editorial bore the headline Bring them back!, reading:
(...) Our best authors and thinkers are crying out in protest at the injustice done to hundreds of Bedouins expelled
from their homes by the army, who are living for two months already in the open field, exposed to wind and rain
-- men, women and children. (...) This act is neither human nor Jewish -- nor is it wise, at a time when we seek
to create lasting relations of peace with the Palestinians.
Commentator Chemi Shalev pointed out, in the same paper, the double standard of Israel conducting a major campaign
against the Austrian xenophobe Haider, while itself perpetrating such a brutal and callous act against people of
different ethnic origin (Ma'ariv, 28.1).
For a moment, Barak seemed to waver and consider authorizing the deportees' return. However, at the news the settlers
and their friends in the cabinet went up in arms, demanding that such a move be "counterbalanced" by
restoration of the settlers to the Ma'on Farm. On Feb. 15, David Grossman and his fellow writers met with the army
general in command of the West Bank, and heard from him a firm and intransigent refusal to restore the deportees.
Lobbying and pressuring the government having failed, at least for the moment, there is still left the option of
the Supreme Court. Two appeals were lodged -- one by Advocate Neta Amar of ACRI (Civil Rights Assoc.) and the other
by Adv. Shlomo Leker, who earlier represented -- with at least some results -- the Jahalin Bedouins expelled for
the sake of expanding the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement.
The chances of such appeals hang on proving that the 300 did, indeed, live on the spot long before it had been
declared a military firing range. An interesting piece of evidence turned up: Ya'akov Havakuk, an
anthropologist employed by none other than the military government itself, had researched for years the cave
dwellers' way of life. His findings, collected in a book published under the army's own imprimatur, confirm unequivocally
that they had been living there for centuries...
Throughout January, the halt in actual house demolitions continued, even after the end of the Muslim Ramadan
-- though the authorities continued to issue dozens of new demolition orders to Palestinian families. When ICAHD
volunteers (plus a group of Americans and one Japanese) helped put the roof on the reconstructed Fakiya Family
home at Katana Village on the West Bank, their Palestinian hosts told them of continuing harassment by the military
government official in charge of implementing the "zoning laws" of the region. Apparently barred by his
superiors from re-demolishing the Fakiya home (destroyed by the military authorities and reconstructed with the
help of Israeli volunteers) this officer -- himself living in a nearby settlement -- seems to vent his frustration
by regular "visits" to the house, accompanied by dozens of soldiers, shouting abuse at the family members
and occasionally throwing out their furniture.
Meanwhile, ICAHD Coordinator Jeff Halper and Salim Shawamreh, whose house at Anata Village was rebuilt by the Israeli
group, held a month-long joint lecture tour in the United States. Despite concerted efforts of right-wing Jewish
groups to disrupt it, the tour was highly successful, with considerable sums collected for the 300 deportees, as
well as for a new project of building a second floor onto the "illegal" Shawamreh home, and house in
it a Center for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the authorities forbade the presentation of an exhibition of photos of demolished
Palestinian homes, prepared by the Adam group of peace-minded students; despite many protests, the University administration
held to its position, citing a controversial university ordinance against "exhibits on controversial subjects."
The debate helped keep the issue on the public agenda, perhaps more than the exhibition itself would have done.
And then, on Feb. 1, the municipal demolition crews went into action again, making a sudden early-morning raid
on the long-suffering Issawiyah Neighbourhood, less than a kilometre from the University Campus where this debate
was raging. Within half an hour, the home of Abdel Rizak Sheikh Omar and his family was a pile of rubble; it was
the second time within two years that it was done to them. This move was apparently connected with a "Campaign
for United Jerusalem" which the Likud Party had been trying to whip up; Jerusalem's Mayor Ehud Olmart, accused
of "laxness" by party rivals, sought to prove his nationalist credentials -- at the Sheikh Omar Family's
expanse. The house was chosen at random; at least 20% of the houses in this neighborhood are under demolition orders.
This time, peace activists had no advance warning whatsoever; still, the indefatigable City Councillor Meir Margalit
was on the spot within minutes, as were European diplomats. The dovish ministers were called and themselves made
angry phone calls to Mayor Olmart; and a second Issawiyah house, also slated for destruction that morning, was
saved at the last moment. Within a few days, ICAHD volunteers were again involved in their sad routine of clearing
up the rubble, in preparation for rebuilding Sheikh Omar home.
Meanwhile, the dovish ministers succeeded in getting a new moratorium on demolitions established since "the
impending visit by the Pope requires special caution in Jerusalem". This gives the threatened Palestinian
homes another reprieve, at least until the end of March. And that is where things remain at the time of writing.
ACRI, pob 35401, J'lem 91352; email@example.com
B'tselem, 43 Emek Refaim, J'lem; www.btselem.org
Gush Shalom; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.gush-shalom.org
ICAHD, c/o Halper, 37 Tveria St, J'lem; email@example.com
Rabbis for Human Rights, pob 32225 J'lem; firstname.lastname@example.org
+++ On Sept. 6, 1999, the Supreme Court rendered its historic verdict, ruling illegal the various interrogation
methods hitherto used by the Shabak Security Service (see TOI-91, p.7). While apparently adhering to the new restrictions,
the Shabak complained of being "unable to fight terrorism" and started lobbying politicians; a bill was
introduced by Likud KM Reuven Rivlin to legalize the use of "physical force" in interrogations. The Committee
Against Torture (PCATI) immediately started an intensive counter-lobbying together with other HR groups. They also
got the volunteer help of Menachem Shezaf, a lobbyist by profession.
There were some successes: KM Genadi Rieger, who originally co-authored the Rivlin Bill, took away his signature;
another co-signatory, KM Victor Breilowski, seemed to waver when a PCATI representative reminded him of his past
as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, a long-suppressed State Comptroller's Report on Shabak torture during the Intifada was finally de-classified,
bringing the issue to the headlines again. More publicity which the Security Service did not welcome came from
two of its own former agents, who started court proceedings against Ya'akov Peri, former Shabak Director and now
a successful businessman. Peri, they claimed, induced them to take full blame for the death of a Palestinian prisoner
during interrogation in 1989, though in fact they had acted under Peri's orders and according to what were the
Shabak's common procedures...
Suddenly, in mid-September the Shabak announced that it was giving up its demand for a law permitting torture.
But... that doesn't yet mean they have given up torture itself. A series of testimonies collected by PCATI indicates
that some interrogators are simply ignoring the Supreme Court prohibitions; others circumvent them by using methods
somewhat different from those explicitly forbidden by the judges; and still others take the way of placing their
prisoner in a cell
with Palestinian collaborators -- letting these perform the interrogation... An extensive article in Yediot
Aharonot's weekend supplement (Feb.4) made the new evidence known to the general public. (Admiral Ami Ayalon, the
Shabak Director, was quick to issue a flat denial.)
So all in all: the standardized system of torture, used in the past on practically every Palestinian prisoner,
has been eliminated; still, in order to prevent relapse, the pressure on the Shabak must always be maintained -
i.e. collecting affidavits from victims of torture, lodging official complaints, going to court and continuing
to make noise.
PCATI, pob 8588, Jerusalem, email@example.com
Like fish in Lebanon
Two fish in one aquarium. Both are of the same kind, both are aggressive, they are equal in size and strength.
One of them (let's call him Alpha) lives on the left side of the container, the other one (call him Beta) on the
right. Between the two territories there is an invisible border. They know exactly where it is. What happens?
In a fit of courage, Alpha invades the territory of Beta. The deeper he penetrates, the less courageous he becomes.
He hesitates. Beta, on the other hand, becomes a hero. He attacks Alpha, who escapes to his own territory. Beta
crosses the border in hot pursuit, but the further he gets in his rival's realm, the more his courage evaporates.
Now Alpha becomes heroic, attacking Beta and chasing him back home. And so on and on.
This is a scientific experiment, well known to students of ethology, the science of animal behavior. The pattern
seems to be common to all territorial animals, be they mammals, fish or birds. It certainly is typical for the
animal called man.
Our own history is full of examples. The legend of David and Goliath is a very typical case: the Philistines invaded
the territory of ancient Israel, Goliath had absolute military superiority, yet little David won. In another era
the Maccabees, a small guerrilla band, vanquished the mighty Greek-Syrian empire, elephants and all.
Human history knows innumerable instances. One of the most remarkable happened in 1939: Stalin launched an attack
on little Finland, hoping to subdue it within days. But the world witnessed with awe how the Finnish forces trounced
the giant Red Army, which needed several months to gain the upper hand. Hitler was impressed, and after a year
he invaded the Soviet Union. But -- lo and behold -- the same Red Army that was beaten in the snow of Finland smashed
the invincible Nazi Wehrmacht in the snows of its own homeland.
Lately this happened to the Americans. The primitive Vietnamese had chased the modern French colonialists out of
their country. Since nobody ever learns from the experience of others, the Americans joined the fray, full of contempt
for the "little yellow bastards." But the big white supermen, who had the most advanced weapons on earth,
were soundly beaten. The last of them fled by helicopter from the roof of their embassy in Saigon.
The same happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan. Gangs of fanatical Muslims with black beards, clad in rags, made
piecemeal of the army that had beaten Hitler. The Soviets, too, escaped with their tails between their legs.
What do Little David and the Vietnam fighters, Judah Maccabaeus and the Finnish Marshal Mannerheim, the Partisans
in the Russian birch forests and the gangs in the Afghan mountains all have in common? Only one thing: They fought
for the liberation of their homeland from foreign invaders. In such a struggle, there are more important things
than superiority in numbers and firepower.
The commanders of the invading army cannot understand this. Generals Rafael Ethan and Ariel Sharon who led Israel
into Lebanon in 1982, and General Saul Mofaz who at present commands the armed forces of Israel, are but the latest
addition to a long and undistinguished row of military commanders who were ingloriously trashed by ill-equipped
The very word "guerrilla" ("little war") was born in Spain, when Napoleon's army failed to
crush the local freedom fighters. This may have been among the factors which led Napoleon to assert that "In
war, moral considerations account for three-quarters, and the balance of physical forces -- only for the other
Hizbullah is a classic guerrilla force. It is supported by foreign countries -- Iran and Syria -- which exploit
it for their own purposes. But basically it is an authentic resistance movement, which came into being in order
to fight a foreign occupation (ours) and flourishes all the more, the longer the occupation goes on.
Commanders of occupation forces are chronically unable to understand such a reality, regardless of how many historical
precedents already exist from which they should have learned. From this point of view, there is little difference
between the Biblical "Lords of the Philistines" who had confidently sent the armoured Goliath into the
battlefield, and Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who began his career with establishing the so-called
"Security Zone" in South Lebanon. From the officers of the Hellenistic King Antiochus, to General Shaul
Mofaz, all commanders of occupation forces behave exactly the same: brag of their victory every second week, promise
the final liquidation of the bandits every month, threaten every now and then to put fire to the guerrillas' hinterland.
But their fate is foreordained: in the end, they will have to leave. See under "Fish."
(Translated from Ma'ariv, Feb. 14.)