The Other Israel _ Issue No. 95/96 November 2000
Because of recent events, this issue is structured very differently from past issues. It includes an editorial
overview entitled The Predictable War and an article by Uri Avnery entitled Olives,
Stones & Bullets. The bulk of the issue, however, is devoted to a "diary" of the "terrible
days" that stretched from Ariel Sharon's visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount on September 28 to the rally in
Tel-Aviv on November 4 to commemorate the death of Yitzhak Rabin. An "Epilogue" continues the story as
far as November 18th.
The Predictable War, An Editorial Overview
Diary of Terrible Days, by Adam Keller
The events of September 28 through November 4
Olives, Stones & Bullets, by Uri Avnery
Efforts of Israeli peace activists to assist the beleaguered residents of the Palestinian community of Hares
Dear Readers (apology from editor for largest and late Issue of The Other Israel)
THE OTHER ISRAEL
Issue 95/96 November 2000
THE PREDICTABLE WAR
In retrospect, the outbreak of Palestinian fury might be traced back three and a half years, to the time when the
government of Israel started to build Har Homa -- another "Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem" separated
by several kilometres from any other part of Jerusalem and on the Abu Ghneim hill confiscated from Palestinians
who live next to it in Beit Sahur.
This was done with worldwide publicity and in spite of a virtually unanimous condemnation by the international
At that time, the Palestinian leadership made a conscious, sustained effort to confront the Israeli provocation
by peaceful, non-violent means. Those of us who were there at the time remember the protest camp established near
the settlement site, from which Israelis and Palestinians went out together for repeated protest marches. We remember
how the organizers firmly and strictly enjoined the participating Palestinian youths not to pick up a single stone
-- and how the youths obeyed the rule, however much it galled them to see, just in front of them, the Israeli bulldozers
tearing up the trees on what had been the green and beautiful Jebl Abu-Ghneim. We remember the Israeli and Palestinian
children sitting together in the natural amity of the very young and making beautiful paintings of peace doves
and of handshakes between Arabs and Jews.
This had absolutely no effect. The bulldozers continued their work, undisturbed behind the heavy police and military
guard. After three months, attendance at the Har Homa protest tent dwindled and the whole effort folded up in despondence
and frustration. The Israeli participants who remained to the end could hardly bear to look their Palestinian partners
in the eye. To add insult to injury learned commentators in the Israeli media at that time interpreted the absence
of Palestinian riots as "tacit acceptance."
Nowadays, that stretch of land is a battlefield. Young Palestinians (the same ones?) come to the site of that earlier
tent. They come with stones, sometimes guns. Some of them are being killed there. And on the Israeli side it is
necessary to postpone indefinitely the joyous entry of the new, all-Jewish tenants, into the gleaming new buildings
of Har Homa. The authorities ruled that it would be too dangerous "under present conditions."
At first, the media called it 'riots.' Then 'incidents' or 'confrontations.' After the third week, the term 'battles'
became increasingly common in news broadcasts. It is happening simultaneously, in many forms and on innumerable
fronts. Demonstrations of youths clashing with soldiers, in the manner of the earlier Intifada; trench warfare,
with the guardians of fortified Israeli settlements digging in and exchanging fire with the Palestinian positions
opposite; a guerrilla war of fast-moving Palestinian fighters ambushing military and settler convoys.
Everywhere it is fought between manifestly unequal forces. In some places bare chests, stones and molotov cocktails
against the high-velocity ammunition of sniper rifles; on other occasions handguns against tanks and missile-carrying
This is a persistent struggle -- the struggle of a people determined to be free and willing to make untold sacrifices,
a people embittered by seven years of disappointment and erosion of hope. Seven years of a peace process during
which houses continued to be demolished, additional lands were confiscated, the settlements doubled in size, and
the Palestinians found themselves sinking deeper into poverty. Seven years which started with Palestinian enthusiasm
for the handshake on the White House lawn, and ended with Palestinians of all factions deeply convinced that only
what the world terms "violence" can get their grievances on the agenda.
The Palestinians remain undeterred, with nearly two hundred of their people, many of them children, dead, and with
thousands wounded, many crippled for life. Less publicity is given to the hundreds of thousands who remain locked
in their homes, terrified by the constant siege of their towns and villages. Little is heard of the workers who
are cut off from their jobs in Israel, and on whose salaries big families depend. The situation is further aggravated
by the wide destruction of olive and orange groves, "to deny cover to terrorists" as the IDF put it.
But, the more the Israeli strategists tighten the
screw the more rebellious the Palestinian spirit seems to become.
Meanwhile, inside Israel the dehumanization of the Palestinians, and of their leader Arafat is orchestrated by
a media which has rarely in recent decades been so compliant with a warmongering government. The policy which the
United Nations' Security Council described as 'overreaction' is considered 'restraint' by most of the Israeli opinion
makers. Calls are made to go even beyond the bombarding of single houses to eradicating whole streets, neighborhoods
Even those who speak against it, rarely use any humanitarian argument but rather speak of "the negative propaganda
effect of killing too many", of the scenes which should be avoided on international TV screens or of the destabilizing
effect on pro-Western Arab regimes whose populations are passionately demonstrating their solidarity with the Palestinian
However, the strongest constraint upon Barak is the need to keep Israeli casualties to a minimum; nothing makes
war so unpopular as daily funerals of soldiers. This dictates a policy of keeping soldiers in fortified positions
and armored vehicles, as much as possible, and conducting offensive operations mainly from the air. It certainly
rules out a repeat conquest of the Palestinian cities evacuated in the course of the Oslo Process. By all estimates
this would create a bloodbath in which hundreds of Israelis would also get killed.
Meanwhile, the number of Israeli casualties is creeping up, though bearing no comparison even to the huge number
of dead and wounded Palestinians. And already there is an incipient protest movement of soldiers' mothers, crystallizing
around the radical element of the "Four Mothers" movement which was so crucial in getting Israeli troops
out of Lebanon.
And the Israeli economy, while not nearly as damaged as the Palestinian, did suffer some severe blows. Tourism
to Israel is in shambles; Israeli farmers watch their harvests rot for lack of Palestinian workers; and foreign
investors in high-tech have become leery of Israeli investments. It is also a rude awakening for the "non-political"
settlers -- those who had come only for the attractive and heavily-subsidized suburban houses. They used to commute
to work in Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv via special "bypass roads", which further chopped up Palestinian land.
Now they find the meaning of living in Occupied Territory driven home to them when these bypass roads are suddenly
rendered impassable by stones or bullets. And totally surprised building contractors who had just finished a new
block in the settlement of Ariel, told Ha'aretz: "The market is dead. Not a single apartment sold."
In principle, it might go on like this for quite a long time, more or less unchanged except for new names in each
day's obituaries. "At least a year" was one estimate by the Israeli military intelligence: a prolonged
war of attrition and prolonged bloodletting. And while Israel would no doubt inflict far more severe blows on the
Palestinians than the latter could possibly reciprocate, the situation could eventually become too much to bear
for an affluent consumer society in which only an extremist minority feels any real affinity to "Judea and
Samaria." That is why many of the generals consider a war of attrition the worst option. And indeed, the atmosphere
of "national unity" which prevailed in the first weeks is already dissipating, as supporters of the peace
camp overcome the initial shock and depression, while the doves inside Barak's own cabinet become increasingly
restive. Ministers such as Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres are now speaking out boldly and Labor Party leaders almost
openly speculate about who will come after Barak.
Still, there are many ways in which the conflict may get out of hand and escalate far beyond the present proportions.
The vicious cycle of revenge could be further triggered by the pressure of Israeli generals; the right-wing hunger
for more aggressive policies; another suicide bomber in an Israeli city; another murderous act by settlers; an
intervention by Hizbullah, poised across the Lebanese border...
And there is certainly enough tinder lying around: the large and volatile Palestinian refugee populations in Lebanon
and Jordan; the ongoing struggle between the Mubarak regime in Egypt and its Islamic opposition; Syria, with a
young and inexperienced president at the helm; Saddam Hussein, striving to break the net of international sanctions
Yemen, where an American warship was already attacked; the Gulf states, richest nations in the whole region --
all of them could become enmeshed in a growing whirlpool of violence.
Even in countries as distant as France, expatriate Arab and Muslim communities already vent their anger at Jewish
institutions -- with local anti-Semites cynically climbing on the Palestinian bandwagon, though they are virulently
And there is no assurance that the outbreak of riots among Israel's Arab citizens, in early October, was the last
one of its kind -- especially since the problems that brought it about have not been dealt with. In fact, many
of those problems have actually been exacerbated.
Still and all, the core of the present conflict remains the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, determined
to at last shake off 33 years of occupation and establish their independent state. Determined to establish it de
jure with the diplomatic recognition of the international community, as well as de facto with full control of its
borders and territorial continuity unbroken by settlement enclaves.
So far, the option of unilaterally declaring the independence of Palestine is hampered by the continuing hostility
of the United States to the idea -- and by the timid attitude of the European states. The Europeans seem simply
unable to implement their own policy as embodied in the Berlin Declaration of 1999, in which was pledged recognition
of the independence of Palestine. But with a war going on and an agreement by which Israel would recognize Palestinian
independence unlikely to come about soon -- the Palestinians may well declare independence unilaterally in the
not so far away future.
*Our articles may be reprinted, provided they include the address The Other Israel POB 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
Sooner or later, negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians will resume. Even doom scenarios of the Middle
East being dragged into a regional war, (several of which were recently published in the Israeli press and were
reportedly the subject of "war games" conducted by the army,) almost invariably end with such negotiations.
At the moment, one can hardly predict when it will take place and how many horrors will precede it. Will the mediator
still be Bill Clinton, the "lame duck" president, who no longer needs to subject Middle East negotiations
to Hillary's electoral considerations in New York? Or will the role fall to Clinton's successor -- whoever that
might turn out to be at the end of the post-electoral imbroglio?
Nor is it inconceivable that, for the first time in decades, the US would be forced to give up its monopoly on
Middle East peacemaking, and let other international players -- some, perhaps, with a better claim to impartiality
-- take part.
One thing can be predicted with some conviction, however: when negotiations resume, their format will be considerably
different from those of the past seven years. The Palestinian side might well turn out to be more assertive than
before, and the Israeli negotiator Barak, or his successor, would have to shed at least some of the arrogance which
characterized past talks, some of the attitude of "doing the Palestinians a favor" and "throwing
them a few crumbs."
The day will come that Israelis realize it would be much better for Israel, too.
Diary of Terrible Days
by Adam Keller
A whole cluster of activities which we intended to include in this issue became outdated overnight. Events from
before the explosion now seem almost irrelevant. These included the campaign launched by Gush Shalom for "Jerusalem
-- Capital of Two States", with big ads in the papers and an impressive vigil at the foot of the Old City
walls attended by Israelis and Palestinians and accompanied by a large contingent of visiting Italian peaceniks;
the follow-up in the form of a Peace Now march under a not so different slogan; the mobilization of the Committee
Against House Demolitions, whose activists were ready to come at any hour of the day or night to protect the threatened
home of the El-Araj Family in Wallaje (this eventually deterred Jerusalem Mayor Olmart from carrying out the demolition
order); the well-publicized protest of B'tselem at the debilitating conditions endured by East Jerusalem Palestinians
at the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, each time they go to obtain one of the many documents required of them
for virtually every step.
All these, and much more, that demanded our time and energy seem now to belong to a different era -- an era from
which we are irrevocably separated by the storm of aroused passions, flying bullets and spilled blood that began
after that fateful morning when Ariel Sharon managed to pull off the supreme provocation.
And so, the bulk of this issue will try to relate how we went through this time of trouble and sorrow which is
far from over and about our share in the woefully inadequate protest which a battered peace movement was
able to muster inside the Israeli society. This will be a chronicle culled partly from what was written at the
moment itself, partly in retrospect and partly from the accounts of others.
Could it really be just a few weeks since hundreds of activists marched along Rothschild Street in the business
district of downtown Tel-Aviv, for a cause no more urgent than to express solidarity with the anti-IMF demonstrators
in Prague? Tuesday it was, September 26, a bright and sunny
day. Most of the demonstrators were young (teens to mid-twenties); there
were lots of costumes, signs and performances, not all coherent, but very colourful. About thirty groups sold pins
and distributed stickers or leaflets and brochures -- they were radical and moderate peace groups, trade
unionists, the Communists, several shades of Greens and Anarchists.
Banners were raised for and against everything imaginable: support for the imprisoned Nuclear Whistleblower Mordechai
Vanunu, now in his fifteenth year of incarceration; sharp protest at PM Barak's instruction to the police to increase
deportation of "illegal foreign workers" (the Colombian Sandra Sanchez fell to her death from a fourth
floor balcony in her desperate escape from the police who broke into her apartment in a Tel-Aviv slum); calls for
resurrection of the Fourth International; vivid descriptions of the horrible treatment geese undergo so that gourmets
may eat their livers...
Among all this it did not occur to anybody to use the opportunity and mobilize the enthusiastic youths present
to confront Sharon at the entrance to the mosques of Jerusalem. The impending "visit" of the arch-provocateur
had actually been announced quite conspicuously in that day's morning papers -- giving two days notice.
Of course, getting an Israeli group to demonstrate at the mosques would not have been that simple. We could not
have come without being expressly invited by the Palestinians (or we would have been no better than Sharon ourselves).
Chaim Hanegbi of Gush Shalom did speak to Feisal Husseini, Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, offering
support. He received a non-committal answer which could be interpreted as a polite declination of the offer, and
did not press the matter further.
Should we have been more insistent? If Sharon had been met with Jews and Arabs standing together, shoulder to shoulder,
would it have significantly affected what came later? We will never know. We may be haunted by the thought, for
years to come.
We sent an official letter from Gush Shalom to Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, the renowned liberal Minister of Police
and of Foreign Affairs, with faxed copies to all the newspapers. None published it, and that was about it. The
letter was as follows "Mr. Minister! Ariel Sharon seeks to make a provocation on the Temple Mount, a provocation
which could lead to bloodshed and set the whole region on fire, attempting to bolster his position as leader of
the right-wing and preempting a Netanyahu comeback. In both your ministerial capacities -- as the Minister in charge
of the police and public order, and as Foreign Minister responsible for the moribund peace process, it is your
duty to act swiftly and forcefully to stop this provocation, before it is too late."
Perhaps we were not worried enough. After all we thought that Ben Ami's and Barak's advisers, or their own common
sense, would tell them the same. How much expertise is needed, in order to predict what would happen when you drop
a lighted match into a barrel of gasoline?
"Did you hear? Five shot dead at the mosques!" said the frantic voice of a Palestinian friend on the
phone. Despite our own warnings, it took us totally by surprise. A reaction was obviously needed. An immediate
reaction -- even though many people were away from their homes on this long weekend of Rosh Hashana, the holiday
marking the beginning of the Jewish New Year. So activists from different groups started phoning each other.
Against whom to demonstrate? Sharon, said some. Let's take some cars and go to his farm in the Negev. This had
been done during the Lebanon War. Peace Now suggested waiting until the end of the holiday and then holding a large
picket at his office in Likud headquarters in Tel-Aviv.
Putting the blame on Sharon is too easy, said others. It was not Sharon who shot and killed five people. He was
not even there when it happened. It was the police, and the police are answerable to Barak and Ben-Ami. News of
confrontations spreading across the Palestinian Territories and more Palestinian demonstrators killed -- by the
army this time -- determined the issue. At noon on September 30, the quiet residential street in front of Israel's
Prime Minister's official home sees the first in what would prove a long series of vigils and protests. Rabbi Arik
Asherman, Uri Avnery and Prof. Jeff Halper are conspicuous in the picket line; the slogans still refer to the original
flashpoint: "Hands off Temple Mount"; "Police out of Temple Mount"; "Don't shoot worshipers!"
One remarkable event: a conversation with a middle-aged bypasser, religious and a supporter of the Shas Party,
who complained: "Why did Sharon have to do it exactly on the day before Rosh Hashana? Now I can't go to the
Wailing Wall for the Holiday prayers."
Our own dire warnings notwithstanding, we still regarded all this as a one-off outburst, a Palestinian response
to a particular provocation, maybe also a reminder of what the explosion would be like if the peace talks would
come to naught. On the way back from the demo, we listen to the incessant special radio bulletins on the growing
conflagration, with urgent reports from the different fronts: Bethlehem, Netzarin near Gaza, Nablus, Ramallah,
everywhere stones and shooting and Molotov cocktails and mounting casualties. We begin to realize that the big
explosion is happening right now.
News of the general strike proclaimed for the following day by the Monitoring Committee, leadership of the Palestinians
who are Israeli citizens, is drowned out by all the dispatches. Its full impact would become evident only on the
Sunday evening, Oct. 1 -- on the way from Holon to Tel-Aviv as soon as public transportation restarted after the
two-day Holiday, and after another day of violence and bloodshed. The bus driver turns on the radio. The hot news
now is not from the Occupied Territories but from the Galilee and the Triangle -- where it is Israeli citizens
who are being shot at by "their" police. Just as the bus rounds the curve into Dizengoff Street, an official
communique announces that an inhabitant of Umm El Fahm had been shot dead -- a fact the police earlier had tried
On the pavement in front of Dizengoff Centre, Tel-
Aviv's main shopping mall, as central a place as can be found to address the metropolitan public at the end of
a long weekend.
Several activists are already gathered. Some are holding out signs still relevant from earlier actions. Others
are sitting on the sidewalk, improvising new slogans with their marking pens. More people arrive in ones and twos,
until we are about forty -- mostly known faces, though some have not been seen for years.
Different groups are represented: Gush Shalom, Committee Against House Demolitions, Hadash, Women for Political
Prisoners, Nuclear Whistleblowers... in fact, many participants have different organizational affiliations. Some
veterans of Matzpen, still militant thirty-three years after they first took up the slogan "Down With the
Occupation" right after the 1967 war, have also come.
Soon, two ragged lines form on both sides of the intersection. Sign after sign is displayed to the passers by and
the motorists halted at the traffic light: Stop shooting! -- Down with the Occupation -- Stop the murder of demonstrators!
-- We have no children for unnecessary wars! -- Get out of the Territories now! -- Killing Palestinians is not
the way to peace -- Sharon sets the fire, Barak kills -- Enough blood has been shed -- Yes to the 1967 borders!
-- Happy New Year -- 29 Palestinians dead!
We have come with some trepidation to this site. During the Intifada (the First Intifada we should now say), peace
demonstrators were violently assaulted more than once on this very spot. But this evening there is nothing of the
kind. There are, in fact, astonishingly few reactions of any kind. Most passers by just glance at the signs and
continue on their way. How are we to interpret this indifference? As lack of support for what the army and police
are doing? As lack of moral concern? Probably a bit of both. And what does that say about Israeli society at the
start of the Third Millennium? A police patrol car stops nearby, then another one.
A mild-mannered officer approaches the protesters.
"Who is your leader?" -- "We have no leader." -- "Who is responsible for this demonstration?"
-- "We all are." -- "Who organized it?" -- "The Internet." He scratches his head.
For a moment he seems about to arrest us, or at least some of us. Then he goes back to the patrol car.
Half an hour later, he returns, accompanied by a female colleague. "Listen, you guys! Do you know that the
whole of Jaffa has exploded in violence? More than half our force is over there, and here you are tying up two
patrol cars." We find it difficult not to laugh. We have a quick consultation and decide to go to Jaffa so
as to stand in the way of the police who had reportedly started shooting the (not so innocuous) "rubber bullets."
Could the outbreak of spontaneous anger of Arabs in one of the most miserable slums in Israel be combined with
the more measured protest of middle-class leftist Jews? After we pile into taxis and private cars and arrive in
the Ajami Quarter of Jaffa, a short distance yet worlds away from downtown Tel-Aviv, we find Yeffet Street, the
main thoroughfare of Arab Jaffa, completely empty. The pavement is strewn with stones and blotted by scorchmarks,
many windows are smashed, but no demonstrators.
At home later we hear -- among news reports about other places -- a report about "a new outbreak in Jaffa,
ending the shaky cease-fire agreed upon by the police and the Jaffa Arab leadership." Of our own action, not
a word. On such a day, editors do not seem to consider a demonstration without violence as news.
Another twenty-four hours passed. It is late afternoon on Monday, Oct. 2. Yesterday's sign with 29 dead is already
obsolete. We are somewhat more than a hundred, outside the Defence Ministry. From the outside not much can be seen
of the nerve center for all that is going on in the Territories. But as soon as we take up positions in the parking
lot opposite the main gate, an armed soldier in full battle gear crosses the street and approaches us while talking
rapidly into a small communications device. It is an unusual sight. We demonstrate here quite often, and in general
only unarmed office staff can be seen here going out to grab a quick lunch.
As before, the responses are surprisingly mild. There are not many pedestrians here, but the traffic on narrow
Kaplan Street is heavy and congested. Civilian and military drivers pass slowly and get a full view of our slogans,
especially of the giant banners prepared by Gush Shalom and Hadash; they could hear the loud chanting Peace --
Yes! Occupation -- No! and How many children did you kill today? Yet the heckling or reactions of any kind, seem
no worse than in vigils held here on normal days.
Suddenly, there is a commotion at one side. Shouting: "Did you hear?, now on the radio? Seven Arabs killed
by the police in the Galilee. Seven! Israeli citizens! Let's block the road -- we can't just stand here as nice
and law- abiding citizens on a day like this! Two or three people step spontaneously into the road, waving signs
in front of the confused drivers; but they are not followed and are eventually pushed back onto the pavement by
It takes a moment for the news to sink in. Seven Israeli citizens killed by the police in a single day. That is
more than on Land Day in 1976, the day which has been commemorated every year ever since.
At the very end, just as we are about to pack up, a lone TV crew appears at last. We discover that it is from the
Japanese Television. For the mainstream Israeli media, our protest is still non-existent.
The human rights groups insist on holding the rally in solidarity with the foreign workers, immediately afterwards.
That rally was planned weeks in advance, before anybody could guess what was going to happen. "Whatever happens
with the Palestinians, the foreign workers are victims too, victims of the same government and the same police.
They count on
us not to abandon them." Many go off to join this action, at the Cinemat`que Plaza.
Meanwhile, there is a phone call from Jerusalem: some 170 people, mostly youths, had turned up for the simultaneous
demo outside the Prime Minister's residence. That event had quite a complicated history. It was originally called
by Peace Now -- a movement that is now in a deep dilemma about whether or not to criticize Barak, the Labour Prime
Minister whom practically all of us supported in last year's elections and who was so recently praised for his
willingness to place Jerusalem on the negotiating table. The different factions finally agreed to demonstrate --
but on the basis of a manifesto apportioning blame for the violent outbreak to Sharon and to the Palestinians,
effectively clearing Barak of any responsibility.
A few hours before it was to take place, Peace Now called off the action, apprehensive lest "radicals"
like ourselves would appear with their own slogans and turn the protest towards an "unwanted" direction.
Still, a dissident faction, mainly from among the more militant youths, decided to hold the demonstration anyway,
though not under the Peace Now name -- and did it quite well, with help from Meretz youths as well as the Jerusalem
activists of Hadash, the Bat Shalom women and Gush Shalom.
Another phone call -- from Lili Traubman, Bat Shalom activist at Kibbutz Megiddo in the north. They had their own
women's vigil -- right there, very near the eye of the storm of the riots inside Israel. The Arab women who had
planned to join could not arrive as roads were blocked by police. But they expressed support on the phone and told
of shootings and police brutality at their doorstep. Ten Bat Shalom women stood on the highway, with signs reading
Peace will win and Jewish-Arab partnership. They did get many reactions; there was no indifference at that part
of the country. Some were positive reactions, many were hostile. Ironically, some Jews and some Arabs had the same
reaction: "Peace? What peace? There can never be peace with THEM!"
Late at night, talking to Iris Bar in Haifa.
She just got home after a long day. She and Yoav had been at the demonstration in the Arab neighborhood Wadi Nisnas.
"A huge crowd was blocking the Zionism Boulevard ('United Nations Boulevard' until 1975, year of the Zionism
is Racism resolution [AK]).
Everything seemed to pass quietly; Amram Mitzna, the Mayor, mediated between the Arab leadership and the police.
And then, all of a sudden, the police burst out. They didn't actually kill anybody here, but they were so brutal.
I saw them dragging Yoav into the entrance of a house and just systematically beating him up. Then they took him
into the patrol car and drove off with him.
They wanted to remand him in custody. But Orna, the lawyer, was very insistent. She obtained bail for him and for
an Arab guy who was also wounded. Yoav came out with a broken arm and two cracked ribs."
Tuesday, Oct. 3. Talking with our contacts in Peace Now, there is a clearer idea of the fierce power struggle going
on within the movement, as well as between it and its parliamentary sibling, the Meretz Party. It seems that the
dissident youths are allowed to use some of the material of Peace Now in their 'unofficial' actions -- but cannot
mobilize the larger crowds which the name of Peace Now used to attract in better days...
There is a lot of confusion and disappointment in the mainstream peace movement, evident in the public pronouncements
of dovish political leaders and the articles of like minded columnists, as well as in conversations with quite
a few activists and supporters. The printed and electronic media -- increasingly acting as an instrument of war
propaganda -- pounce upon the phenomenon, repeatedly publishing "confessions of left-wingers admitting they
had been wrong."
Meanwhile our demonstrations remain unreported. In fact, this started months ago, in the immediate aftermath of
Camp David, when writer Amos Oz, a guru in Meretz circles, led a vicious attack on Arafat, putting the entire blame
for the summit failure upon the Palestinian leader and making him responsible in advance "for any violence
which may break out." Turncoat "doves" of this kind are now having a field day with their denunciations
What makes it worse is that many of them are probably sincere, and they really can't understand why the Palestinians
have been driven to take up arms against the occupation. There is yet another aspect to the confusion: the outburst
of Israel's Arab citizens has genuinely alarmed many of the people who occasionally turn up at peace rallies.
Angry Arab crowds blocking highways in the Galilee which Tel-Avivians habitually use on their way to a holiday
picnic. "Intifada scenes" on Yeffet Street, Tel-Aviv's own backyard are quite different from a violent
outbreak in the reaches of the West Bank, where most Israelis never go unless the army sends them. Such scenes
are quite alarming to a yuppie Tel-Aviv liberal.
For years, we have felt ourselves to be part of a wider peace camp -- a distinct, radical part, but a part nevertheless.
In the annual Rabin Memorial rallies, at the beginning of each November, we felt quite at home distributing leaflets
and stickers to the hundreds of thousands filling the Rabin Square.
Still, we were always aware that many of the crowd there regarded withdrawal from occupied territory not as the
beginning of a new common future but as "getting rid of Arabs" so as to preserve the Jewish majority
in Israel, and/or as an act of generosity for which the Palestinians must be eternally grateful. We knew that they
perceived Jewish-Arab coexistence as manifested mainly in frequenting the famed Arab restaurants of Jaffa, and
knew little of the slums and the squalor just around the corner. We realized that we could not count upon them
in times of extreme
tension and nationalist polarization, when passions run high and fragile bridges across the national and ethnic
divide are stretched to the breaking point and beyond.
For the time being we are on our own again, the hardcore of the peace camp, counting ourselves lucky when attendance
at a protest action can be measured in hundreds rather than in dozens. On the Jewish Israeli side, that is. In
Nazareth and Umm' El Fahm we see on the TV screen giant processions with participants in the tens of thousands.
But that is hardly the case in Tel-Aviv or West Jerusalem.
There were times like this before: the first week of June 1982, when the Lebanon War just started and seemed, to
most Israelis, a brilliant victory and "delivery of the northern communities from the terrorist threat."
Or the period of the Gulf War, when solid Israeli liberals were completely unable to understand how embittered
Palestinians could see a hope of deliverance in the despicable Saddam. But the moment came, as it always does,
when public opinion swung and we again found the fickle liberals more or less at our side.
With the self-transformation of the Israeli media into an instrument of war propaganda, the term "Hasbara"
which seemed obsolete) is suddenly revived. "Hasbara" -- a word of Israeli Hebrew which defies an exact
translation. Literally it means "explanation", but it also has the connotation that whatever the state
of Israel chooses to do is right by definition, and that one need only "explain" it to the world until
the world is also convinced. The self-proclaimed experts on TV, including some of the renegade doves, are now bemoaning
the failures of Hasbara -- as if a master propagandist, perfectly fluent in English, could indeed have convinced
the world why it was right and justified to kill the 12-year old Muhammad Al-Dura, and all the other kids...
The evening news on the commercial Channel 2 (slightly less slanted and biased than the state-run Channel 1) presents
footage from Nazareth: six or seven police were filmed beating two Arab women and, having shoved them down on the
pavement, kicking at their sprawled forms. This is by no means the only case of its kind, from what we hear of
our friends over there, but a rare instance of hard evidence. This time it is not just an Arab's word against a
An official statement from the police: The case is being viewed with severity and will be thoroughly investigated.
A phone call came from Nazareth: the two young women, it turns out, are the daughters of Sameera Khouri. Sameera
Khouri, who runs the Movement of Democratic Women, who organized many discussions and dialogue meetings and always
led the chant "Jewish-Arab Brotherhood" at Hadash demonstrations.
Wed., 4/10. Cease fire talk. Yesterday Barak met with the Monitoring Committee, the leadership of the Palestinian
citizens of Israel. He expressed his "sympathy for the mourning families" and spoke of his wish "to
address the Arab sector's grievances" -- promising an end to lethal shooting by the police, an inquiry into
the police conduct and a four-year plan to invest a billion dollars of government funds towards improving the long-neglected
public facilities in the Arab sector. (This plan, the PM insists, was prepared long before the riots.)
The Arab leaders and KM's are rather skeptical. During Israel's fifty-two years history, Arab citizens have been
given plenty of government promises, and far fewer implementations. Still, being citizens of a country with some
stake in its political institutions does act as a break against starting an open-ended rebellion.
Barak has a much harder time of it at Paris, in his meeting with Arafat and Albright trying to negotiate a cease
fire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile we are at the park on Yeffet Street in Jaffa. The local Arab leadership has scheduled a protest rally
against the police brutality. It is intended to be strictly non-violent. There is to be no stone throwing. The
police promised to stay away in order not inflame the situation, and Jewish activists have been expressly invited
by phone and email. Several dozens turn up, a few from Jaffa itself, the others from all over the Tel-Aviv area.
The rally begins with a moment of silence for all those killed. Immediately afterwards, a note is passed and a
young Arab woman makes an announcement that another Arab Israeli citizen was just killed at the village of Qualansawa.
A murmur went through the crowd. It seems the PM's promises are worth very little.
Still, the rally proceeds quietly enough, with alternating Jewish and Arab speakers, condemnations of the police
and of government policies, calls for peaceful coexistence in Jaffa and for peace between Israel and Palestine.
Michael Ro'eh of the Meretz Party, Deputy Mayor of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, takes the podium. "Fellow citizens of my
city! Amram Mitzna, the Mayor of Haifa, took pride in having gone into the midst of Arab demonstrators in his city,
unaccompanied by bodyguards. It would be ridiculous for me to boast of the same. I take it for granted. After all,
I live here in Jaffa, I know many of you personally. Nobody needs to have bodyguards in order to walk among his
neighbors." Applause. "You all know how, on that bitter night, I tried to reason with the police, how
I begged them not to provoke the people of Jaffa. Their brutal behavior was inexcusable, here in Jaffa and all
over the country." More applause. "But there is one point I must make. On that night, the shops owned
by Jews were the ones to have their windows broken. That is unacceptable, that is not the way for neighbors to
behave." Confused reactions, some applause, some heckling -- especially from one side of the crowd.
Adv. Nassim Shaker, head of the Jaffa Residents' League, takes the podium to call for quiet. "Dear Friends,
Please! Michael is our friend, we all know him. We should be able to take some friendly criticism!" But the
muttering on that side of the rally
continues during the next speech, and suddenly the cry rings out: "Get the journalists, they take photos for
the police!" The next moment a riot starts, youths grab TV cameras and smash them on the pavement. A moment
later, stones start flying at the cars on the street.
It is obviously impossible to continue the rally. Most participants just leave in frustration. We Jews are not
assaulted by the stone-throwers, but nor are we now in a mood to try to interpose ourselves between them and the
police, who are surely soon to arrive.
Later, we call Adv. Shaker. He says that the people who started the riot are not known in the Jaffa community.
They are probably the sons of collaborators from Gaza, whom the Security Services resettled in Jaffa after the
withdrawal in 1994.
Are they still collaborators, ordered by someone to break up a rally attempting to reconcile the two communities?
Or were they trying to redeem themselves by appearing ultra-nationalist? It may also be that they were just frustrated
by their exile in a city where they are welcomed by neither Jews nor Arabs? Whatever the cause, the result was
an evening news report emphasizing "the renewal of the Jaffa riots, on an otherwise relatively calm day."
No mention on the news of any fatal incident in Qualansawa. Inquiries at the Arab daily Al-Ithiahad in Haifa finally
produce an explanation. A youth from Qualansawa went to visit his mother's relatives in Tul-Karm, across the line
in the West Bank, and along with his cousins became fatally involved in a confrontation with the army.
Meanwhile, the Al-Itiahad deputy editor asks for our help. "We have a horrifying eyewitness testimony of how
the two youths from Arrabeh were killed. They were lying on the floor, no threat to anybody, and the police just
shot them. But no Hebrew language paper is willing to publish this!" We recommend Aviv Lavi of Ha'aretz, one
of the few critical voices left in the self-gagged Israeli press.
Thursday, Oct. 5. The Arrabeh horror did eventually get some publicity, though mostly as "Arab allegations"
from which the reporter distances himself. And some "human interest" was generated by a journalistic
disclosure that one of the youths, the 17-year old Aseel Hassan Assalih, had been a dedicated peace activist. (Still,
the story receives nothing like the attention given to Muhammad Al-Dura who had the sad luck of having a TV camera
present at the scene of his death.)
Hava Cohen, coordinator of Women for Political Prisoners, was in one of the delegations that went on a condolence
visit to Arrabeh. The two bereaved families very warmly received them, but it was far from easy to get there. They
had to use an unpaved side road, because the police manning the checkpoint at the main entrance would not let them
in. The police had been instructed not to admit Jews into Arrabeh, "for their own safety." Incidentally,
the police also identified the two Haifa Arabs who were in the same car as Jewish...
Nardine Assalih, sister of Aseel, was eager to tell them what a bright and warm-hearted person her brother had
been and how enthusiastic he was about the Seeds of Peace program which attempts to bring Jewish and Arab youth
together. A strong believer in non-violent struggle and the possibility of peaceful co-existence between Israelis
and Palestinians, he had participated in the group for several years, going to bi-national youth camps in the United
States and Switzerland.
On Monday, when a large number of policemen stormed his hometown, Aseel had tried to escape into an olive grove.
But several police chased him and caught him there. As eyewitnesses told human rights field workers(here quoted
from the report of Defence of Children International), he was severely beaten and then shot with one bullet in
the neck. With the ambulance held up at police roadblocks, the heavily bleeding boy arrived at the hospital in
a hopeless condition. At the time of he was killed, Aseel was still wearing a Seeds of Peace T-shirt.
A whole contingent of Seeds of Peace members, Jewish and Arab, attended the funeral and visited the grieving family's
And now we hear of another idealistic young man. The 19-year old conscript Noam Kuzar has been in prison since
Tuesday. When his unit was informed of a interruption of its training program intended to have them reinforce IDF
troops engaged in fighting the Palestinian revolt, Kuzar told his commanding officer that he could not in good
conscience participate in such actions, and simply refused to get on the bus.
He was immediately subjected to "disciplinary proceedings", an instant trial lasting no more than five
minutes, with no lawyer or witnesses, and sent to 28 days behind bars. (That is the maximum punishment allowed
in this kind of trial, but the procedure can be repeated again and again, indefinitely, as long as Noam persists
in refusing to take part in oppression.)
The young prisoner called his parents from prison today. He was in good spirits. When informed about plans for
a demonstration on his behalf, he asked that it include not only slogans about himself, but also ones against the
occupation in general. He is certainly fortunate to have supportive parents!
Friday, 6/10. No cease fire. The Paris talks collapsed, and the killings continue in the Territories. But in the
Arab areas inside Israel things seem to have settled down since the middle of the week.
The Women in Black/Yesh Gvul vigil in north Tel-Aviv was founded in 1988, soon after the outbreak of that earlier
Intifada, under the slogan "Down With the Occupation." It has been ongoing every Friday at noon since
then, but in the past year or two it lost many regular participants, and only few were left to hold the post. Today
the prodigals are back, and new ones have come in response to the email call circulated by Gush Shalom and others.
The full length of this long and narrow triangle of pavement, wedged between the streams of noon traffic at the
junction of three major roads, is lined with demonstrators holding a variety of hand-written signs and maintaining
a brief dialogue with the drivers of cars stopped at the traffic lights.
The parallel Women in Black vigil, in Jerusalem's Paris Square, is also swollen far beyond its normal dimensions.
Later in the afternoon, some sixty Yesh Gvul activists arrive at the Hebron Road in southern Jerusalem, near the
checkpoint leading into the West Bank, and sit down in the middle of the road, raising signs expressing solidarity
with Ron Kuzar. Nine people are detained by the police -- acting "with force, but no brutality" as a
participant put it. These demonstrators are Jewish, after all.
No word about any of it on the radio. News from Jerusalem concentrates on the new round of riots in the Old City
-- admittedly a far more serious event (two Palestinians were killed, dozens wounded, and an Israeli police station
The phone rings: a request for help from the CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team), the group of North American pacifists
based in Hebron. The part of divided Hebron under direct Israeli occupation is under curfew and has been so for
an entire week; about thirty thousand Palestinians are imprisoned in their homes, while the 450 Israeli settlers
from the settler enclave are free to roam the streets and wave their guns. For four days there has been no letup
of the curfew, not even for a few hours, giving the Palestinians no chance to buy food.
The CPTers -- whose U.S. and Canadian citizenship gives them the privilege of walking the streets -- have tried
to help the Palestinians in their immediate vicinity, but five activists can hardly provide for a whole neighborhood.
It turns out to be quite easy to get Colonel Noam Tibon, commander of the Israeli military forces in Hebron, on
the phone. This man, whom the state of Israel appointed lord and master over the daily life of tens of thousands
of men, women and children, has a surprisingly young voice. Are you going to let the people get food? He would,
provided there was no shooting. But even if somebody would shoot, that is no reason to starve thirty thousand people.
"Okay, okay, we will make a break in the curfew." A quick call to Peace Now, to ask them also to phone
Saturday, Oct. 7. The day begins with startling news. During the night, the army evacuated Joseph's Tomb, the isolated
outpost in the heart of Palestinian Nablus, around which a fierce battle had raged over the past week.
It was not completely unexpected. A week ago, a soldier literally bled to death there, with the army unable to
extract him. Any attempt to do so would have resulted in many more casualties.
It caused much bitterness, and demoralized soldiers and officers manning dozens of isolated outposts. Not unreasonably,
they started being apprehensive of being abandoned to die, in turn. And relatives of the dead soldier, Madhat Yusef,
told the Army Chief-of-Staff of their refusal to go on serving in the army. (Much later, we would hear that the
final decision on the evacuation was taken after General Yom Tov Samiya threatened to resign.)
Joseph's Tomb. So often since the the 1980's have we demanded its evacuation, in protest after protest against
this band of particularly vicious settlers, led by the notorious Rabbi Ginzburg with his outspoken Jewish Supremacist
ideology. They have located themselves in the midst of a major Palestinian city, with soldiers to constantly guard
them, in place very questionably identified as the resting place of the Biblical Josep;h, and prevented the entry
of Muslims to whom site is also sacred.
At long last, the place is evacuated -- not as a goodwill gesture in agreement with the Palestinians, as we long
urged, but as the result of a battle which could not be won.
The political system is undergoing turmoil. The settlers and their right-wing allies are thundering at Barak --
while Peace Now, together with the kibbutz movement, intends to hold a support demonstration in front of the PM's
home in Kochav Ya'ir, endorsing Barak's decision and calling upon him to evacuate other settlement outposts such
as Netzarim in the Gaza Strip, around which a battle has been raging for the past week.
Can we participate in a demonstration of support for Barak -- even critical support on a specific issue -- while
the daily killing of Palestinians is still going on? We hardly have time to consider, for events follow each other
in rapid sequence. First, news comes from Nablus of a Palestinian crowd ransacking the abandoned outpost, around
which at least seven Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded in the past week. There is even a reported attempt,
not very effective, to demolish it with chisels.
The government propaganda, aimed both at the home front and internationally, hungrily seizes upon the footage coming
in from Nablus, hoping to "counterbalance" the photos of killed Palestinian children which had such devastating
effect on Israel's image as "the only democracy in the Middle East." Even Shimon Peres joins in the chorus
Hard upon it comes the news from Lebanon -- the first shooting since the army withdrew in May, followed by the
cross-border kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah. The Lebanese militia demands the release of nineteen
men kept prisoner in Israel following the withdrawal, and in addition on the release of Palestinian prisoners so
as to express their solidarity. Barak had insisted upon "special legislation", making it legal to keep
them indefinitely in Israeli custody, without either putting them on trial or giving them POW status. The PM's
hope of separating Lebanon from other issues, by completely withdrawing on that front while keeping Syrian and
Palestinian occupied territories under Israeli rule, has proven short-lived. But for many Israelis, the kidnapping
would seem one more proof of "Arab perfidy" -- a theme which the official media already expounded upon
during the past week.
The radio and TV reach a fever pitch of accusations, denunciations and speculations about imminent revenge against
both Palestinians and Lebanese,
intimations of bombing both Nablus and Beirut. The cabinet is convening for an emergency meeting at the Defense
Ministry in Tel-Aviv. Later in the evening, Barak is due to meet at the same place with Likud leader Ariel Sharon.
The possibility of Sharon joining a "National Emergency Cabinet" has suddenly become concrete and immediate,
the dominating topic in all news broadcasts.
Peace Now announces the cancellation of its now embarrassing "support demonstration for Barak", but offers
nothing in its place. It is up to "the fringe" to try to do something -- if not stem this ugly tide,
at least to register some kind of protest. A decision is reached after urgent phone consultations, to call everybody
who can be mobilized in the space of two and half hours to the Defense Ministry gates, and to Jerusalem's Paris
Square near the Prime Minister's official residence. And then phoning, phoning, phoning, one activist after another.
"You heard the news, they want to bomb Beirut and put Sharon in the government, they are discussing it in
the cabinet meeting right now at the Defense Ministry."
(In the midst of it all, a call from Hebron. The curfew was lifted in the morning, but there was some shooting
and it was reimposed after ten minutes.)
8.30 PM at the Defense Ministry. Our regular place, directly in front of the gates, is occupied by some 200 right-wingers.
They exultantly shout Barak -- Out!, clearly feeling the wind blowing in their sails. Some of them sport Arafat
is Amalek stickers.
(According to the Bible, about 3000 years ago the Amalekites were sworn enemies of the Sons of Israel, and God
-- or those speaking in His name -- commanded the Jews to "totally destroy and extirpate" them).
We hesitate for a moment. How many are we? How far can we rely on police protection, on a night like this? Then
we take the plunge, take up an unoccupied stretch of sidewalk, unfurl our banners and chant out an old refrain:
One, Two, Three, Four -- We don't want another war! Rarely did it seem so appropriate and immediate.
We are about thirty or forty people -- enough to hold our own, enough to at least try to compete with them in noise
volume. Orna Lavie, who is a little bit of a poet, proposes a new slogan: Exchange prisoners -- Save lives! It
is enthusiastically taken up by everybody.
Trapped in between is a group of Barak loyalists, with the banner: Ehud, we are behind you -- in peace and in war!
Some of them approach and start arguing. They are completely caught up in the jingoistic mood. The debate turns
bitter, precisely because some of the people know each other. A young supporter of the Labor Party, who just two
months ago was involved in the preparations for a giant peace rally in the hope of an agreement achieved at Camp
David, is particularly vehement: "This whole peace business is over, dead. We have to teach Arafat a lesson."
"Let's talk again a few months from now. You will then be ashamed of what you are saying now."
The radio keeps us informed of what is going on inside the locked gates. Barak apparently decided not to bomb Beirut.
That could open a second front, bring retaliatory rockets down upon Northern Israel, and get him no closer to recovering
the kidnapped soldiers. Instead, he issues an ultimatum to Arafat, to stop the uprising within forty-eight hours
or "no longer be considered a
partner for peace." What that would imply in practical terms is left to the imagination.
Several of the youthful Peace Now dissidents arrive. They have the idea of starting a hunger strike, calling upon
Barak to remember the commitment to peace that he made in his election campaign. They think of beginning the strike
tomorrow morning in the Rabin Square. They would need a lot of logistical support, which we try to arrange.
The vigil drags on into the wee hours of the morning. Contrary to our expectations, the right-wingers did not try
to attack. Not to attack us, that is.
The radio news broadcasts start mentioning anti-Arab riots in the hometowns of the kidnapped soldiers, which soon
spread to other parts of the country. In Tiberias, a mob set the mosque in the center of the town on fire. It has
been there since before 1948, when most inhabitants of Tiberias were Muslim Palestinians who now live in refugee
Sunday, Oct. 8 -- Getting up after a night of uneasy sleep to hear the news.
During the night, the soldiers stationed at Netzarim Junction near Gaza blew up three Palestinian buildings and
uprooted dozens of acres of orchards. This was done to provide a clear "line of fire" to the soldiers
in the embattled outpost. (The now world-famous concrete block, behind which the 12-year old Muhammad Al-Dura and
his father vainly tried to hide from the shooting, has also been demolished and completely obliterated).
The phone rings. It is an old friend, N., a West Bank Palestinian who works at a Tel-Aviv restaurant. Usually optimistic
and easy-going, his voice today is very anxious. "Did you hear? Mobs in the streets are looking for Arabs!
I dare not go to work, I dare not leave the apartment at all! Can you get me some food?"
The area where N. stays when he is in Israel is a respectable residential neighborhood. The street looks perfectly
normal. Probably he could have risked going to the local grocery store. Probably. But what kind of country are
we living in?
A small item in the paper informs us that Yossi Sarid -- leader of the Meretz Party, the mainstay of the parliamentary
peace camp -- "does not exclude" the possibility of his party joining an "emergency cabinet"
of which Sharon will be a member.
We need to reread several times before actually believing that this is what is written.
At least there are still the youths of the hunger strike initiative. They have gathered at Rabin Square, and attracted
the support of some veteran activists. Intensive discussions are going on, pressure and counter-pressure, mobile
phone consultations with
some who are not there. Yom Kippur is going to begin in a few hours. Who will notice a few more people fasting
and calling it a hunger strike?
Finally, a decision is reached to call for as many people -- and from as many organizations -- as possible, to
gather here on the following evening. It would be the end of both the Yom Kippur fast and of Barak's ultimatum.
One point of light: CPT tells us that today the inhabitants of occupied Hebron had three hours to go out on the
streets and stock up with food. A good thing they did, as by all signs the curfew over there is going to last for
a long time.
In normal years, Yom Kippur is a time of the year when Israel puts urgent political issues on the back burner.
This is not a normal year. The media blackout -- no radio or TV for 24 hours -- is really irresponsible at a time
like this. There is much they could -- and should -- have reported. Email messages from Palestinian organizations
tell of villages attacked by settlers. In
the village of Bidia, they shot and killed a villager.
Not all Israelis fast on Yom Kippur, but the practice of treating it as a no-car day has developed as an accepted
custom. Even in the present circumstances, families stroll on the car-free tarmac in their Sunday best, and children
frolic gaily on bicycles and roller skates. Superficially, it looks like every other year.
Then one notices the abnormal number of police cars and ambulances cruising through the streets. Prepared for violence
or terrorist attacks?
We return from a stroll in the Yom Kippur streets of Holon to find a message on the answering machine. A woman's
voice: "Please, please call immediately, please..." Dr. Nabila Espanyoli, psychologist and political
activist from Nazareth. Although we are already apprehensive, we cannot immediately comprehend the full implication
of the events she describes: a brutal attack on a whole city.
The following is the text of the Gush Shalom email
Communique, sent out on the night of Yom Kippur.
Pogrom in Nazareth
Police helping the right-wing mobs
One inhabitant killed
Mon, 9 Oct 2000 00:21:42
Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc) received the following information from our Arab contacts, inhabitants of
Nazareth: At about 7.00 PM today, a mob of about 1,000 left the Jewish town Upper Nazareth and descended upon the
neighboring Arab town of Nazareth, some holding clubs and others with firearms.
They broke into the Eastern Neighborhood of Nazareth and started hitting and shooting indiscriminately at its inhabitants.
The police stood aside and did not interfere, but when inhabitants of Nazareth rallied to defend themselves, the
police attacked them -- first with tear gas and later with live ammunition. There are many wounded, and at least
one Arab inhabitant was killed. [Later, it turned out that two were killed. Ed.] At the time of writing, the police
are still shooting at inhabitants of Nazareth.
Today's attack followed an earlier attack, yesterday, upon the Arabs who live in Upper Nazareth itself. This included
an attack upon the home of Knesset Member Azmi Bishara. During that attack too, the police stood aside.
What is happening in Nazareth today is a pogrom, bearing all the characteristics well known to Jews in Czarist
Russia -- primarily the collusion between the racist attackers and the police. This is a day of shame for the State
of Israel -- and it is a warning sign for the disaster in store, if the country does not rid itself of this scourge.
Gush Shalom calls for the immediate dismissal of Alik Ron, the blatantly racist commander of the Northern Sector
Police, under whose aegis this crime took place. Gush Shalom also warns Prime Minister Barak to abandon the mad
idea of inviting arch-provocateur Ariel Sharon into his government. The mere rumor of Sharon's imminent entry into
the government has already roused extremist groups to violence all over the country; his actual participation in
the government will spell disaster, which the country may not survive.
Nazareth seems not to be an isolated case. Similar reports are coming from different places: from the Occupied
Territories where armed settlers are reported to be making simultaneous attacks on Palestinian villages and towns
in different regions, as well as on Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The simultaneity and the similarity in
tactics suggests preplanning and coordination.
Further details: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson 972-(0)3-5565804
First hand information from Nazareth: Dr. Nabila Espanyoli 972-(0)50-581709 or Samira Khouri 972-(0)6-6570650
Gush Shalom -- pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
firstname.lastname@example.org -- www.gush-shalom.org
Thank God for the email. During the Gulf War, nine years ago, it had taken us a whole night to send messages by
fax to some two hundred foreign journalists. Now we have at least been able to let the world know what was happening
in the dark. We sent it to all the addresses we have (thousands) and apparently among them were the relevant ones.
A bit after midnight the BBC World Service first mentions the pogrom in Nazareth, quoting our press release. BBC
television follows, and a bit later also CNN.
Monday, Oct. 9. In spite of the Yom Kippur media blackout, the news from Nazareth began to spread also inside Israel.
Some Tel-Avivan activists decide not to wait for the evening gathering on Rabin Square. At noon some fifty gather
at the southern end of Ibn Gvirol Street and start marching with the signs Stop the Pogrom!, Barak & Ben Ami
are to blame! and Atonement Now!
A police patrol car tries to block their way, but Ibn
Gvirol is wide. They bypass it and kept walking quite a long way along one of the city's longest streets, finally
turning at the corner of Basel Street and then westwards to Dizengoff and southward again up to the shopping mall.
In the final stages there was an escort of no fewer than four police patrol cars -- some verbal harassment from
the police but no real attempt anymore to stop them. All in all, a route of some four kilometers along which passers
by started wondering what this Atonement Day procession is about. The people in the street had no idea -- and many
were really shocked when they heard what had happened in Nazareth.
In the evening the Rabin Memorial -- a place associated with the leading martyr of the Israeli peace movement and
always a rallying point in times of trouble -- draws a crowd of hundreds, the largest group assembled in Tel-Aviv
since the whole mess started. There are cheers and clapping at the rousing speeches of KM Tamar Gozanski of Hadash
and Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.
KM Anat Ma'or of Meretz makes known her dissatisfaction with her party leader Sarid leading towards a government
with Sharon -- but herself draws dissatisfaction from the crowd when talking of "the violence on both sides"
and of "strengthening Barak." As always, Yitzchak Frankenthal speaks movingly on behalf of bereaved families
who lost their loved ones but nevertheless seek peace rather than revenge. The veteran Naftali Raz would, too weeks
later, pay for his emotional but moderate address here by being dismissed from his job. Raz had been employed by...
the World Zionist Organization, a workplace which evidently frowns at peace activism by its employees, even if
it is conducted in their free time).
A multitude of signs and banners face the flowing post-Yom Kippur traffic, and when the two-hour rally is over
some hundred and fifty people go over to the Defense Ministry, to stand another vigil late into the night, while
behind the barred gates Barak holds another of his emergency cabinet meetings. (Later it would come out that he
told his ministers, a bit sheepishly, of his decision to shelve the ultimatum "for a few more days.")
Reports come in from Jerusalem -- Paris Square lit by dozens of memorial candles in a silent vigil of mourning.
And in Haifa, a group of university lecturers who usually immure themselves in the ivory tower, suddenly turned
up for the protest on Mount Carmel. "Like in 1983, the night that Emil Grunzweig was murdered" said Iris
Bar from Haifa.
Altogether, one would think, a satisfying night's work -- except that the pogroms were far from over. In fact,
they were only now spreading to many neighborhoods and towns all over the country -- a specific kind of towns and
neighborhoods, impoverished and unemployment-ridden places which never shared in the hi-tech economic boom of which
Barak boasted so much and which now seems over, anyway. Mobs shouting "Death to the Arabs!", composed
mostly of those who are just one rung above the Arabs in the cruel socioeconomic pecking order of Israeli society.
(In some places, where no Arabs live, the same kind of mobs relieved their anger by random acts of violence against
Metropolitan Tel-Aviv was not spared. In the Hatikva Neighborhood, the Awazi Restaurant was plundered for the sole
reason that it employs Arabs, and the two apartments where the hapless workers stayed were set on fire. They barely
escaped with their lives. On the Bat Yam waterfront an ice-cream store, owned by an Arab from neighboring Jaffa,
was looted and totally destroyed. A mob tried to break into Jaffa itself -- where the Arab inhabitants had been
mobilized to defend their homes. (Here, at least, the police did a more or less creditable job of creating an effective
Could we have removed ourselves from our familiar haunts and tried to get to these places and interpose ourselves?
Possibly, but probably we would have been late. And what could we have achieved anyhow, as a small number of peace
activists mostly from middle class origin, who even in the best of times never managed to establish a foothold
in these slums, so near -- and so far from our homes?
Later that night, in the Pat Junction at the southern approaches to Jerusalem, a mob was beating up an Arab passer
by who fell into their hands. Not the peace activists but two Likud voters, neighbors of the attackers, extracted
him and got him to safety.
Tuesday, Oct. 10. Towards civil war? is the banner headline in Ma'ariv, reporting the events of the past two nights.
Reporter Tzadok Yehezkeli did an excellent job of investigating the Nazareth pogrom. He tells of how the rumor
of the impending attack on the Arab neighbors spread like wildfire in the synagogues of Upper Nazareth, during
the first Yom Kippur prayer (a sacrilege if ever there was one!). Out of these synagogues poured hundreds of inflamed
youths, directly onto the path of destruction and pillage, later returning to their homes laden with loot from
the raided Arab shops.
The nationalists seem to have overreached themselves. The politicians and commentators of the center and the left-of-center,
who had shifted so much to the right in the past week, seem to become alarmed. The papers are full of official
condemnations by all and sundry, and calls for stopping the violence "on both sides" and for Jewish-Arab
coexistence. (But coexistence on which basis? Real equality or a return to the status-quo?)
There are no more incidents of racist mob violence, though arson attacks on Arab properties in the middle of the
night are still reported. And far more dangerous than any misguided slum dweller, Alik Ron still commands the police
of the Northern District, where most of Israel's Arab citizens live, and showing no sign of regret or remorse for
the actions of his subordinates. Quite the reverse: "The government issued no directives on how to deal with
the riots. I had to make my own decisions to end the emergency, and I think I made the right decisions."
The Police Minister, the great liberal professor Ben
Ami, gives Ron his "full backing." To think that just a few months ago we pinned hopes on this man and
considered him a highly desirable alternative to Barak!
Wednesday, Oct.11. A clear shift in the public sentiment is felt, at least as reflected in the media. Today's Ha'aretz
is full of ads and petitions by different groups calling for peace and coexistence, and each time we open the email
we find news of yet another initiative in that direction. Members of the Peace Now secretariat went to the Orient
House, Palestinian headquarters in East Jerusalem, to hold a meeting -- the first since the outbreak -- with the
Palestinian leadership. Many condolence visits to the families of the Galilee victims are organized, by New Profile
and Hadash and the Rabbis for Human Rights. Especially, hundreds of youths come to family of Aseel in Arrabeh.
The most highly publicized is the delegation of distinguished writers which met with families of the Nazareth pogrom
victims. On the front page of Yediot Aharonot there is a photo of A.B. Yehoshua shaking the hands of a solemn old
man in a traditional Arab headdress -- the same Yehoshua who was and still is in the front line of the anti-Arafat
In the afternoon the Meretz Youths hold a small rally in the Rabin Square: Peace Yes -- Occupation No! and Peace
Yes -- Sharon No! They listen to speeches by their own young leaders and by KM Anat Maor, all speaking out against
the entry of Meretz into one cabinet with Sharon. Then they line up along the road. The Peace Drummers are there,
too, with their hypnotic rhythms. Could Yossi Sarid afford alienating his party's young generation?
Thursday, Oct.12. The small luxury of turning off the radio for a few hours can be dangerous in this mad country.
Shortly after noon, the phone rings. An unfamiliar woman's voice, hysterical and malicious: "You dirty traitor,
a pity it was not you who you who was lynched there in Ramallah!"
Special news bulletins on all TV channels. Gut-wrenching photos, repeated over and over and over again. Commentators
whip each other into greater and greater frenzy. One word is repeated all the time, by all the speakers on the
air waves: Lynch. Lynch. Lynch. Lynch. Lynch. Lynch.
What about our friend N.? After Yom Kippur, he had decided to stay on in Tel-Aviv, in the hope that things would
blow over and that he could go back to his job. How will he get home safely now?
"I have to get to the restaurant one last time. I must risk it. My boss agreed to give me an advance. Who
knows when I can get back to work? Tomorrow morning I will go home." "We will go with you in a taxi,
as far as the dividing line. When you cross to the Palestinian side you should be safe."
The e-mails about cancelled events came in immediately: the Reut/Sadaka youth rally in Haifa; the Hadash Jewish-Arab
The image of the televised lynch stamped in the mind; the unthinking identification with those reservists; the
sympathy for their family members who will have to get over a loss so horrifying; and last but not least, the awareness
that this day may for many years overshadow any efforts to rebuild trust and progress on the way to peace; not
even to speak of the brutal Israeli retribution which is coming, and the effect it will have on the Palestinian
But this day's solidarity vigil for imprisoned refuser Noam Kuzar goes on as scheduled. A special effort was made
by Yesh Gvul and the anti-militarist 'New Profile' to bring sympathizers from all over the country. Time and place
of action: 4 o'clock, at the gates of the Defence Ministry, in Tel-Aviv.
On the radio: Barak calls an emergency cabinet meeting, same afternoon, same place (inside the building).
While new placards are improvised - Killing breeds killing! and Let's get out of there! - the helicopter gunships
are already on their way to Ramallah and Gaza, and the radio carries the voice of Yossi Sarid, giving the bombardments
his 'dovish' blessings.
Quite a turnout for the vigil under the circumstances - some fifty people, each one with a heavy heart, and trying
to derive some confidence from seeing the others. The old-timers of Yesh Gvul, some active since the 1982 invasion
of Lebanon, together with the fresh forces of New Profile, with its mostly women core. They are feminists but foremost
mothers worried that their own children would soon be swallowed up by the conscription machine; this motivation
is, if anything, only intensified by today's dreadful events.
'I am simply not able to take part in preserving the immoral situation in the Occupied Territories, Israel's colony.
That is why I have been put behind bars.' (From Noam Kuzar's letter read out at the vigil.)
A report from our friends in Jerusalem, who are taking part in the non-stop vigil on Paris Square.
At noon, soon after the news came out, they were attacked by right-wingers.Then the police came with an appeal
which could not be resisted: "We are trying to protect the East Jerusalem Arabs from possible mob attacks.
We can't spare a force to protect you, too." Some of the Jerusalemites who left the square went on to join
the "Human Rights Patrol Cars", a new initiative of Physicians for Human Rights: cars going around the
"hot spots", their occupants armed with video cameras to get direct evidence of whatever might happen.
But contrary to foreboding, there were no anti-Arab mobs tonight. (Perhaps Barak launched the bombings with such
haste and dramatic flourish in order to satisfy the hunger for revenge among Israelis - but of course not taking
into consideration the same hunger on the other side...)
The right-wing would have at this very day a demonstration in front of the Haifa Town Hall -- close to Wadi Nisnas,
an Arab slum neighborhood. Upon the news of what had happened in Ramallah,
activists made sure that the Arabs would not stand alone. We got the following account from Irit Katriel of the
"Quite a few people came. Don't know how many because we spread out to different places. Most were inside
the neighborhood, others in look out teams which were supposed to give warning by phone if they came. Most of the
Nisnas residents were out on the street, very anxious. Especially since the deputy commander of the Haifa police
had been hurt by a stone thrown in the demo a while ago, and they were afraid he would want revenge.
It was good that we came. Even if we are not a lot of added power, it shows we are with them in times of danger
too, that we don't demonstrate only in the Carmel Center.
The rightwing demo was about 120 people. Their official main slogan We give up land and get bullets! (might this
not be a suitable Palestinian slogan?). They added, orally the creative Death to the Arabs! slogan. The police
did bring many cops and blocked the road leading to the Wadi. I suppose they also warned the right-wingers that
we were there.
Are the Haifa right-wingers very civilized? ( They call for death to Arabs but wait for the divine to fulfill these
wishes)? Or did our publicized presence give the police some extra motivation?"
Later in the evening, a surprise call from N. He is already back home in his village, safe and sound (or as safe
as a Palestinian can be these days in his own home). "One of my neighbors, who also works in Tel-Aviv, got
a van and collected ten of us workers. We got through all the checkpoints with no trouble. Say, I just saw the
lynch on TV. It was really terrible. How could Palestinians do such a thing?"
Sitting late at night at the word processor. Trying and discarding various texts. We have a network of people around
the world who would expect to hear what we have to say. More important, we need to address what happened today
for our own peace of mind.
A lynch and a pogrom
Tel-Aviv, October 12, 2000
Four days ago, there was a pogrom in Nazareth, perpetrated by a Jewish mob upon Arabs and costing two lives. It
was quite clearly a pogrom. Anybody living in Czarist Russia would have recognized it as such.
Yesterday, there was a lynching in Ramallah, perpetrated by a Palestinian mob upon Israelis and costing two lives.
It was quite clearly a lynching. Anybody living in "The Old South" would have recognized it as such.
Clearly, among both Israelis and Palestinians there is now an enormous hatred and wish to hurt the other side,
two hatreds built up over a long period, despite the years of an official Peace Process which dismally failed in
building up any real confidence or trust. Hatreds which are now erupting and swelling and feeding upon each other.
So far for the similarities and the symmetry - so far, and no further. For Israelis and Palestinians are two manifestly
unequal entities. There is a weak side and an enormously stronger one, oppressor and oppressed. There is a country
possessing the strongest military force in the Middle East, tanks and helicopter gunships and a full arsenal of
nuclear bombs; and there is a people whose armament consisted until recently of stones and which has now acquired
some handguns. One country has been sovereign for fifty-two years and has made itself rich and prosperous, a full
member of the rich industrialized West.
Facing it is a poor Third World people who have been dispossessed and oppressed and pushed down again and again
for the whole of these fifty-two years, who are striving with enormous persistence and unimaginable sacrifice for
the right to be free in at least a fragment of their original homeland. There is an occupation - an ugly, brutal
occupation which is very much alive and well more than seven years after that historic handshake on the White House
lawn, and which on this very day manifests itself in helicopter gunships bombing towns which have no means of defending
themselves, and in tanks besieging helpless civilian populations.
The occupation is the culprit, which breeds the hatred and the conflict. The victims - the Israelis and the much
more numerous Palestinians - are all victims of the occupation. There is no assurance that the hatred will automatically
disappear with the end of the occupation. There is every assurance that continuation of the occupation will lead
to the continuation and growth of the hatred.
+++ Friday, Oct. 13. At the Central Bus Station of Jerusalem soldiers on weekend leave are sitting, reading the
papers, waiting for the bus home. The front pages all show full-page, full-color gory photos from the lynch. Editorials
call upon Barak to bring Sharon immediately into an 'Emergency Cabinet.'
'Happy New Year, soldier, we have something for you.' Yesh Gvul activists go around, politely offering the soldiers
alternative reading material: brochures which tell about what it means to be a soldier of an occupation, the moral
and practical issues involved, and what the Geneva Convention has to say about it. One or two soldiers are hostile,
others politely decline the offered material, but quite a few take it and start looking into it. One soldier tells
the activists: "No, I can't read such things. As a soldier I must not become involved in politics." A
fellow soldier tells him: "You better listen to these guys. If you happen to shoot the wrong person at the
wrong time, and the press makes a stink about it, who do you think will go to prison? The generals?"
+++ On the same week, reservist CO Shmulik Szeintuch appeared before the army's "Conscience Board" to
request exemption. The board, solely composed of high rank military, found it hard to understand how somebody who
as a conscript was a successful tank commander could have come to reject military service. But Szeintuch patiently
answered all their questions and described cogently and at length the course of political and spiritual development
which made him, at the age of 29, a Conscientious Objector.
The remarkable thing: that he got the discharge which is so rarely granted. Maybe after 11 years he spoke their
+++ In the afternoon, a big group of Tel-Avivan activists go on a solidarity visit to Jaffa. A guided tour of the
sites of recent confrontation with the police, some already part of local mythology. "Here is where they beat
the blind boy with their batons. Could they not see that he was blind? How could they accuse him of stone-throwing?"
The visitors also hear of the general conditions in the Arab quarter of Jaffa: crime, drugs, underdevelopment,
discrimination, hopelessness. "As long as we live like this, every spark could start a new wave of riots."
A phone call from D.: "Could I come over and see the evening TV news together with you? It is so sickening,
I can't stand to see it alone!"
We sit over a good vegetarian meal when the news starts. It would be funny if it wasn't serious.
A victim's brother at one of the funerals (screaming): They are monsters, the spawn of Satan!
Prime Minister (mock Churchillian): Fellow Israelis, we face a long and hard struggle, but we will prevail, indeed
we will prevail!
Political commentator (calm and authoritative): Take it from me, world leaders have had enough of Arafat.
Air Force commander (supremely confident): Our chopper boys can deliver a missile right on target, anywhere in
the Palestinian cities.
Veteran TV anchor (professional smile): As you know, the Palestinian TV has become an instrument of pure war propaganda.
The monitoring station here in Jerusalem has put at our disposal some revealing sequences, which we are going to
show you in a moment...
A curious message from Naftali Raz. It seems that this morning Justice Minister Yossi Beilin called the representatives
of several mainstream peace groups to his bureau, to discuss starting a public campaign in favor of peace. They
consider reviving the "Peace Headquarters" which was active during the Camp David summit (not quite a
success, even then).
Beilin? How much can one expect of this initiative, at such an unlikely time? True, Beilin did not disgrace himself
as many other prominent 'doves' had done in the past two weeks, but neither did he speak out. In fact, since the
whole mess started, one could scarcely notice his existence. Is he going to do something meaningful, now?
Meanwhile, a more reliable initiative is gaining momentum via email. Some activists, displeased with the cancellation
of the Hadash demo, insisted upon holding an anti-war vigil in Tel-Aviv tomorrow night. Now the initiative seems
to gather more support by the hour. The atmosphere of stepped-up war propaganda apparently alarmed quite a few,
to judge from the volume of messages in the Alef Discussion Forum. Quite a lot of people feel an urgent need to
find expression for their dissent.
Saturday, Oct. 14: Morning. Breaking News on the CNN. It is definite and official: a summit will indeed take place.
(Last night, the commentators were still highly skeptical about it). Barak and Arafat and Clinton will all be hosted
by Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, at the resort of Sharm-A-Sheikh on the Red Sea; a summit with not only the Camp David
Three but the Europeans, the Russians, the UN, the Jordanians and the Egyptians as well.
"Arafat wants to internationalize the peace process. He does not trust the American mediation any more"
says the political analyst on the radio. At least now they are talking of diplomatic stratagems, rather than military
And there will be an anti-war rally tonight, not just a vigil. Discussion of the best venue settles on the plaza
in front of the Tel-Aviv Municipal Art Museum -- not the biggest open space in town, but certainly not the smallest.
Dr. Lev Greenberg of Be'er Sheba University, radical social science researcher, suddenly finds himself in a key
organizing position. The Jerusalem Meretz branch is involved, offering help in tangible things such as renting
loudspeakers. (In the past weeks radical groups were invited to use their premises on King George St for coordination
Dear Peace Activists
I am happy to inform you that many groups, activists and organizations are joining efforts to organize a demonstration
this Saturday at the Tel Aviv Museum at 8.00 PM. I don't want to detail all the groups because I may forget some.
I want to ask everyone who receives this message to forward it to every person and list that you think can join
us. (Also do phone calls!!!)
In the afternoon we hear that the speakers' list for tonight will include Knesset Members Mossi Raz of Meretz and
Ya'el Dayan of Labor, as well as the more radical KM Amir Makhoul of Hadash and (ex-)KM Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom
-- all under the mutually-agreed slogans Stop the war!, End the occupation!, and Yes to a Just Peace -- No to Violence!
(The last is a variant on an old Peace Now slogan -- but with the "Just Peace" concept inserted, addressing
often-heard Palestinian concerns.)
Evening. Some 600 people turn up, not enough to fill the whole plaza but nonetheless a respectable showing. Various
leaflets are distributed. Keep the Fascist Sharon out of the cabinet! clashes with Barak & Sharon -- two sides
of the same coin! Some heated debates between firm adherents of the two-state solution and those who advocate "a
single democratic republic". The old Gush Shalom signs, reading There is a solution -- get out of Lebanon!
had been taken out of storage, and the word 'Lebanon' covered up by slips of paper with 'The Territories.'
Uri Avnery mounts the Public Library steps, which are now an improvised podium. "We are few here, tonight,
the unbending, true peace camp. We are few, but we are the nucleus from which the big wave will
start again, as it did during the Lebanon War. Mark the names of those supposed doves who now disgrace themselves
in the media. A year from now, when the shame of the dirty war will be exposed for all to see, they will all try
to claim that they had been here with us tonight."
KM Yael Dayan, the next speaker, objects: "We are not a small fragment. We speak also for very many who are
not here at this moment. There is a big peace camp, the majority. Even now every opinion poll shows sixty to seventy
percent in favor of continuing the peace process. We have a Prime Minister who still wants to get to peace...".
At this point, KM Dayan's speech is interrupted by the loud protest of angry participants. She answers, also angrily:
"I will not bow to anybody in my struggle for peace. And Barak IS going to meet Arafat at Sharm A Sheikh...".
"More heckling and shouting: "Yes, he goes to meet Arafat with helicopter gunships and sniper rifles!"
It takes about five minutes before the activists heed Greenberg's plea: "Please, remember that Yael Dayan
came here while so many others stayed away!". Later, Dayan gets applause when she strongly denounces the killing
of Palestinian children.
KM Mossi Raz of Meretz, the other "mainstream dove" to speak here, has no problem with the audience.
His speech is a trenchant attack upon Barak, nearly as sharp as that of KM Makhoul of Hadash -- concentrating especially
upon Barak's extension of settlements: "It's worse than under Netanyahu!".
Prof. Yehuda Shenhav of The Oriental Democratic Rainbow, who is fast developing into one of the most eloquent critical
voices, sums up: "We hear that the Israeli Left is confused. Really? Some writers might be confused. A few
columnists, perhaps. But the left? Well, there are some firm principles, about which there is no confusion. You
should not occupy another people -- there is no confusion about that, no way. You should not shoot civilian demonstrators
-- no time, no way, under no circumstances. There is no confusion about that, either...
The rally ends. The people mill about, restarting the discussions and debates. KM Dayan confronts some of the hecklers:
"What is your alternative? Do you want Netanyahu to return to power?" "When Netanyahu was killing
Palestinians, at least there were tens of thousands in the streets to protest it!
Asher Davidy takes up a mobile megaphone. "We are not finished yet! Who is coming with us to the Defense Ministry?".
A procession is fast forming, of people picking up their signs again. Uri Avnery, with his conspicuous white beard,
walks at the head. It is not far -- the huge military compound is right there, just across the Art museum.
The procession snakes around the fences. At the chanting One, Two, Three, Four -- we don't want another war! (which
also rhymes in Hebrew) a startled sentry looks up from behind the high fence. What does he make of it?
We reach the gate which had become so familiar in these weeks, but this time there are many more of us. The line
of demonstrators stretches far along Kaplan Street. A driver shouts Dirty fucking traitors! The one behind him
waves and calls out Keep up the good work! Many more reactions, positive and negative both, than we had previously
-- even though the evening is getting late. Did the public atmosphere change, or is it simply that our greater
number this time makes us more noticeable to friend and foe alike?
Sunday, Oct. 17. The Oasis of Peace -- Neve Shalom in Hebrew, Wahat A-Salam in Arabic, the unique community where
idealistic Jews and Arabs have been living together for decades in what was no-man's land before 1967. In these
days, it has not escaped tensions and inner conflicts -- but takes pride in the fact that each of the two struggling
factions is composed of both Jews and Arabs. It is the natural venue for a coordinating meeting on organizing a
joint Jewish-Arab rally. (At least the natural venue from the point of view of political correctness; but it is
nearly inaccessible by public transportation.)
Some fifty organizations are either represented or have pledged support, a wide spectrum of associations promoting
coexistence and Jewish-Arab dialogue, as well as straightforward peace groups and movements (Peace Now, Yesh Gvul,
Gush Shalom, Committee Against House Demolitions, Hadash, Alternative Information Center).
Still, such a wide coalition that includes moderate and radical groups, some very outspoken and others who usually
avoid clear political commitments could not avoid some disagreement. Issues such as whose representative will get
to speak at the rally (17 scheduled speakers, though a lot for a single rally, cannot fully represent 50 organizations).
Despite the jockeying for position, the action is launched, with two main slogans: A Just Peace and Equality for
All. The obvious place to do it is Haifa -- the biggest mixed city in Israel, a place where Jews and Arabs both
can feel at home. For its part the Arab Monitoring Committee -- the leadership of Israel's Palestinian Citizens
-- which is itself a loose coordinating body of many factions and parties -- meets at Kufr Manda, and decides to
join the initiative.
Monday, Oct.16. On TV, President Clinton dramatically announces a cease fire agreement at the Sharm A-Sheikh Summit.
This is a surprise, after all press predictions of failure and the reports of Israeli and Palestinian diplomats
engaged in shouting matches and recriminations. Some activists actually had tears in their eyes upon hearing of
But will the cease fire hold? And why is there such widespread opposition to it on the Palestinian side? Superficially,
it seems a paradox. Our daily life, here in metropolitan Tel-Aviv, has not been seriously disrupted in the past
weeks. The same is true of most other parts of Israel. It is the Palestinians who suffer daily. They who are besieged,
thrown out of jobs, shot at, bombed, wounded, killed, day after day. It is they who should have been longing to
end it and return to a more quiet life. Or should they?
"Stopping the Intifada now would be a surrender" says A., whom we first met ten years ago -- a former
political prisoner trying to earn a living in Tel-Aviv as a manual worker. Today he is a middle-ranking official
of the Palestinian Authority and a staunch supporter of Arafat's policies. "Go back to how it was? To having
the settlers taking our land, and making futile negotiations which lead nowhere? We are not going to surrender.
Other Palestinians, all of them moderates, say more or less the same. "Today, right when they made that agreement
in Sharm A-Sheikh, the settlers from Ithamar killed a farmer who was just harvesting his olive trees. Are they
going to keep a cease fire?" "Stop the violence? What violence? Confiscating our land, is that not violence?
Are they going to stop it, if we don't throw stones?"
Historian on trial
A year ago, researcher Teddy Katz of Haifa University came across evidence of a massacre perpetrated on May 23,
1948, when the Alexandroni Brigade of the newly-created Israeli Army conquered the Palestinian village of Tantura.
Katz collected no less than 135 eye-witness testimonies, from both surviving villagers and former Alexandroni soldiers.
Following the publication of extensive excerpts in Ma'ariv, the Alexandroni Veterans' Association presented a libel
suit against Katz, which is due to be heard by a Tel-Aviv court from December 13, 2000 on.
It is the first time that an Israeli historian is facing trial for his academic work, and Katz's losing the case
may well deter other historians from digging into the dark pages of the country's history.
As chance would have it, the trial is going to take place at a crucial time, a time of deep conflict between Israelis
and Palestinians which is overshadowed by the memories and traumas of 1948. There is no way of definitely ending
that conflict without the state of Israel facing up to the terrible pain and dispossession that its creation caused
to the Palestinians. The Katz Trial can be an important part of that process.
The well-known Adv. Avigdor Feldman has agreed to take up the case, and a broad coalition has been formed to support
Teddy Katz, with a spectrum including both radical Arab activists and staunch Zionists. It will be officially launched
at a public meeting, scheduled for the evening of Nov. 26, at Tel-Aviv's Tzavta Club (8.00, for those who can make
Speakers will include Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avnery, Salem Jubran, Dov Yirmiya, Me'ir Pa'il, Ilan Pappe and Maya Rosenfeld.
The campaign, both inside the courtroom and in public opinion, is going to be very expensive, and your help would
be highly appreciated.
Donations (clearly earmarked 'Teddy Katz Defence') to Gush Shalom, POB 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033.
Calling N., now in his village. "Would you not prefer a cease fire. Then the closure would end, and you could
go back to your job in Tel-Aviv." -- "Not a cease fire at any price. Now, at last, with this Intifada
we can hold our heads up. We have had enough of soldiers and settlers shoving us around. Sure, there are rough
times ahead. But there have been three quiet years without closures. I have accumulated some savings. Also, I talked
with my boss, a really good man. He will send some advance payments, to help tide us over."
Tuesday, Oct. 17. Still very many incidents in the Occupied Territories. Many, but there is a bit of easing in
the political atmosphere. Barak still seeks to bring Sharon into the cabinet, but it is now more of a normal wheeling-dealing
between party hacks, a rather mundane debate on portfolios and cabinet position. No longer as it seemed a few days
ago, a wave of nationalist public passion leading to the creation of an instant "emergency cabinet" to
wage relentless war upon the Palestinians. And this makes it possible for the doves to start reasserting themselves.
Yossi Beilin now makes his dissenting views increasingly public, trying his best to block the arch-provocateur's
way to power. This is tied up with the mushrooming of Peace Tabernacles and Peace Tents and Dialogue Tents and
Coexistence Tents all over the country, which Beilin seems to visit systematically, from north to south.
There is not one single organizing agency. Some of these tents were set up by existing peace movements, some by
ad-hoc grassroots initiatives in different regions, quite a few by establishment politicians, especially Labor
Some are regarded with suspicion by Arabs. (F., a resident of Sakhnin in the Galilee: "The Misgav Regional
council composed of Jewish villages, surrounds Sakhnin on all sides. We are suffocating, no place to develop our
town. Just now they unilaterally 'froze' proceedings to transfer a small parcel of land to our jurisdiction, land
which had been originally ours. And at the same time they invite us to their Peace Tent, to talk about being good
Whatever insincerity or ulterior motives might be behind some of these initiatives, it is a big relief to hear
of so many activities promoting Jewish- Arab coexistence and good neighborliness, a bare week after the rampaging
of the anti-Arab mobs.
Compiling a comprehensive list of the tents, to be sent out over the email, is a difficult task -- collecting and
comparing very many different messages. There is the Jaffa Peace Tent, built by Jewish and Arab inhabitants; The
Peace Tabernacle in Jerusalem, organized by the religious "Netivot Shalom" movement; Sukkat Shalom in
Kfar Saba, started by the town's Meretz branch; the women's Peace Sukkah at Meggido Junction, organised by Bat
Shalom; a tent established at Barkai Junction by Peace Now, the Kibbutz Movement and Palestinian peace activists;
a tent near the Arab village of Beit Zarzir in the north, where hundreds of Arab and Jewish families had a peace
picnic; a Peace and Coexistence Tent at Shoket Junction in the Negev, with programs for children, lectures, art
and speakers; a tent on the road between Jewish Kochav Yair and Arab Taibe, established by local activists from
both communities who organized
an impressive children's dialogue; even a tent in London, established by British supporters of Peace Now in solidarity
with the Israeli peace movement...
s 'We knew that this year's Women's Peace Tabernacle, a Bat Shalom tradition, would be more important than ever
because of it's location at Megiddo Junction, just up the road from Umm El Fahm where some of the worst confrontations
occurred. But we were also apprehensive. A local paper in Upper Nazareth wrote that 'angry young people' intended
to 'blow up' our Tabernacle, and the tone of the article implied that this was exactly what we deserved. Our Arab
partners were particularly intimidated and on the first day there were mostly Jews present, but the Arabs started
coming in increasing numbers on the following days. At a certain moment some ten or fifteen teenagers appeared
from the nearby Arab village of Zalafe. They were hanging around outside, a bit shy, but we convinced them to come
It was not an easy time. We had some sharp debates, even among those who all in one way or another stand for peace
and coexistence, for example when we displayed the photos of all the Israeli Palestinian citizens who were killed
by the police. We felt it was an essential element of being a partnership of Jews and Palestinians within Israel,
not to let the victims remain nameless and faceless as they mostly are in the media. But not everybody liked it.
Some visitors said you should not have all these photos, they only increase the hatred. And there was an incident
when Arabiya Manzur was speaking. She had been monitoring what happens in the West Bank, traveled to several places
to see for herself, and she told of many things which did not appear in the media. Some Jewish women could not
stand it and walked out.
A group of Upper Nazareth women objected to the sign we had outside Had they been Jews, the police would not have
killed them. But you should know that these same Upper Nazareth women did take the initiative, right after the
pogrom, to approach Arab women from Nazareth and suggest having a joint vigil against racism. They did it and consider
doing it regularly every week.' [Lily Traubman of Kibbutz Megiddo.]
Wed., Oct. 18. More initiatives for Jewish-Arab reconciliation within Israel. Two women, Ivtisam Mahmud and Yael
Agmon -- an Arab and a Jew who are fellow-activists and personal friends -- complete a "Walk for Peace"
from Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border to Jerusalem. Jerusalem activists give them a warm welcome and join them
on the last leg of their journey, to the Rose Garden near the Knesset. An ad in Ha'aretz is signed by 85 Israeli
Jewish and Arabic "prominent persons", pledging to work together for an end to violence, for peace and
for equal rights.
And New Profile activists hold another condolence visit to recently-bereaved Arab families at the towns of Umm
El Fahm and Jatt. Shlomi Lahiani, a well-known local politician in Bat Yam, took the initiative of calling prominent
Arabs in nearby Jaffa to organize a reconciliation meeting between the leaderships of the two cities. Both Jews
and Arabs declare it an enormous success. Municipal councillors, religious leaders and other local VIP's were present
-- including several from religious and right-wing parties; rabbis and sheiks were seated beside each other and
seemed to be getting along famously. (One skeptic remarked: "The hotheaded youths of both sides were not there!")
There is the uncomfortable feeling that in the Occupied Territories an ordeal is going on, and that the peace movement
is unable to address it. In Jerusalem's Paris Square, the sit-in initiated last week is ongoing, every day from
Noon to 8.00 PM, "to express horror at the killings and the extreme expression of racism and brutality within
the Israeli society and its police force" and to demand an end to the occupation. Not much else on that agenda,
anywhere else in the country. Amira Hass in Ha'aretz exposes the fact that, contrary to the Israeli obligation
in Sharm-A-Sheikh to remove the closure of the Palestinian cities and towns, the army is actually imposing a tighter
siege; numerous roads are being systematically blocked with big rocks or concrete blocks. The rest of the media
ignores this revelation and continues to insist that it is the Palestinians, and they alone, who are responsible
for violating the agreements.
Thursday Oct. 19. If there had been any meager chance of a stable cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it
was apparently shattered by what happened today: a large-scale provocative "hike" by armed settlers into
Palestinian-held territory near Nablus. This developed into a fire fight with residents of the local refugee camp
and soon the Israeli Army was brought in for a pitched battle, lasting several hours and resulting in one settler
and one Palestinian dead and several injured.
The settlers had clearly behaved in a provocative and highly irresponsible manner, especially considering that
some of them brought their little children along for the adventure. Still, they spit out wild accusations against
the army, which they claim should have used more drastic means to extract them from their self-made predicament.
The affair also had the effect of restoring to a high place on the public agenda the issue of settlements, their
legitimacy or otherwise, and the provocative behavior of their people. The effect is immediately visible in the
opinion pages of the weekend papers. Some of the "confused leftists" who bemoaned "Palestinian perfidy"
during the past two weeks now turn their fire at the settler provocateurs.
An invitation arrives:
For coexistence and equality
Enough of violence -- yes to peace!
We, Jews and Arabs, inhabitants of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa,
who want to live in peace and good neighborliness, invite you to the Reconciliation Tent, Ha'shnaim Park, Jaffa
Friday, Oct. 20. Noon in Jaffa. The same park of the fiasco of two weeks ago. Now it houses the local Reconciliation
Tent. Today, on its third and last day, Yossi Beilin is coming to visit. Some forty people sit in a circle of plastic
folding chairs. Activists and leaders of the Jaffa Arab community, a few Jewish residents of Jaffa, activists of
Peace Now who participated in erecting this tent.
The minister arrives, shakes hands, takes one chair. The Security Service bodyguard remains standing behind him.
It is mostly the Arabs who speak, one by one.
- "One thing should be clear. We respect you, personally. We believe you when you say you are our friend.
We appreciate your efforts to keep Sharon out of the cabinet. But we have no confidence in the cabinet you are
part of, none whatsoever. Especially not in your Prime Minister."
- "Whenever we talk about discrimination, government officials start speaking of the famous Four Billion Shekels
Plan. But at the Finance Ministry I was told that none of this money is included in the 2001 budget. Are you toying
- "What about our detainees? Hundreds of our young people are in detention and refused bail. Our lawyers visited
the 11 Jaffans at Abu Kbir Detention Center. They told us that anti-Arab rioters had been in the cell opposite
them, but were released."
- "How long are we going to be second-class citizens? We mobilized for Barak in the elections campaign, massively
voted for him. He spat in our face. Spat? He kicked us where it hurts most. We are 20% of the population here.
What do you expect us to feel when the Knesset majority votes for a bill implying that our votes will not count
if a referendum should be held,? When are you going to recognize that this is not the state of the Jews, that is
it is the state of all its citizens?"
The minister answers carefully, measuring each word. "It is a difficult time, the most difficult I can remember.
I have been travelling all over the country, visiting tents like this, talking with people. Even with bereaved
parents; with all their anger and bitterness, they were willing to talk with me, and I appreciate it very much.
One good thing which came out of this bad time is that we can now talk frankly to each other, that we are no longer
bottling up unsaid grievances. We have been skating on very thin ice and only now can we assess how thin, how narrowly
we avoided drowning.
About the four billion: this is absolutely serious. It is a comprehensive plan which was made months ago by a commission
of professionals, to substantially improve conditions in the Arab Sector. It was made long before we dreamed there
would be riots. Yes, I know, nobody believes me when I say that. The day after tomorrow, the plan will be officially
adopted by the cabinet and become government policy.
I don't expect you to take it on trust. When the effects become visible in your daily life, you will remember what
I told you. About the character of the state: I always said it must be both the state of the Jews and the state
of all its citizens. I still say there is no contradiction whatsoever. About the detainees: do you really want
to be in a state where a minister can, at his own discretion, order the release of detainees? We have courts of
law, we have a professional public prosecution. The Minister of Justice can't just bypass everything and impose
- "But your public prosecution is openly biased. They grant bail to extreme- right Jews and ask for Arabs
to be remanded in custody."
The minister solemnly promises to look into the State Prosecutor's policy, shakes hands and goes back to his car.
At the side of the park, members of the Sawaf Family hold a small protest vigil, supported by activists of the
Democratic Action Committees. "We are victims of the gentrification of Jaffa. We lost our home because of
a crooked business deal. Middle class Jews are coming in, buying the renovated homes of poor Arabs. We now live
here in the park, and the winter is approaching" reads a leaflet.
- "Why did you not try to talk to Beilin?"
- "The minister? Do you really think he would have helped us?"
Sat., Oct. 21. A day packed with action. In the morning, Jewish activists come to help with the olive harvest of
the Yunes Family at Ar'ara. The family suffers the misfortune of having a military training base adjacent to their
land. They are Israeli citizens who at the present time have reason to be apprehensive of approaching the barbed
wire of a military camp. So, Jews and Arabs approach the troubling zone together, go from tree to tree, work in
an amicable atmosphere, fill bucket after bucket with raw olives.
No incident occurs, soldiers are seen only at a distance inside the fenced-off area. At the very end, when some
of the harvesters already go back to their cars, one of the Yunes Family children finds a piece of unexploded ammunition
under a tree. Fortunately, he has the presence of mind not to touch it and to call the grown-ups.
The undaunted kibbutznik and historian Teddy Katz, who organized the solidarity, goes directly to the camp gate
and hollers for the duty officer. When that worthy officer arrives, Teddy browbeats him into sending a team to
immediately dispose of the dangerous object.
Meanwhile, the convoy from Neve Shalom has set out, a string of cars decorated with colorful placards winding its
slow way from junction to junction, an action designed to "wake up the Israeli society to the dangers of racism
and intolerance", on their way to the Haifa rally.
In Tel-Aviv, two buses chartered by Peace Now are filling up. A cross-section of the Israeli left: veteran anti-Zionists
rubbing shoulders with those who insist that "racism mars the state which Herzl envisioned." Jacob Reche,
a French activist with experience in
"unofficial peacemaking" in Bosnia and Algeria, had landed two hours ago at Ben-Gurion Airport and came
directly from there to join the action.
The buses get to Haifa in time to meet the march of the Hadash Communists halfway through its route along the streets
of Haifa. An impressive crowd of marchers, banners, red flags, chanted slogans, loud singing.
"Why should I march under the Red Flag? I am no Communist." "Do you realize that the Red Flag is
the only flag with which Jews and Arabs -- at least, some Jews and some Arabs -- can jointly identify in this country?"
An old friend from Haifa tells a bit about the background of this march, which makes it easier to understand why
it was delayed from last week. "The Communists had some difficulty mobilizing their grassroots even before
the news of the Ramallah lynch. After the killing of 13 Arab demonstrators, many of their supporters were not in
the appropriate mood for a joint Jewish-Arab event and chanting slogans in Hebrew." With this in mind, the
size of the march is even more impressive.
Listening to the chanted slogans: Prime Minister Barak: how many kids did you kill today? -- Yalla, yalla, get
out of Ramallah! -- Jerusalem for two peoples! Long live free Palestine!, No whitewash -- investigate police crimes!
What is missing tonight is 'Jewish-Arab Brotherhood', a slogan which for decades held a place of pride in the repertoire
of Hadash demonstrations.
The procession winds up at the foot of the Haifa Town Hall -- the very spot where a week ago the fascists had been
shouting 'Death to the Arabs!' No sign of them tonight. It is quite a big crowd. Five thousand, estimates an old
hand. Roughly two thirds Arabs and one third Jews, very heterogeneous, quite volatile. Most probably there had
not been this number of Jews and Arabs freely intermingling anywhere in the country, since the whole mess started,
and even with the best intentions the mix is not always harmonious.
Amram Mitzna, Mayor of Haifa: "Welcome, all of you, to Haifa, city of Jews and Arabs, city of coexistence,
city of peace. What has happened in the past weeks is unbelievable. It is totally, absolutely unacceptable that
citizens be shot to death by the police. (Cheers). It must be investigated thoroughly, by a judicial commission
of inquiry. (Increased Cheers). We must not lose the hope of peace. There is a partner for peace, and his name
is Yasser Arafat. (Cheers). I am speaking to you as a member of the Labor Party. (Muttering). Despite the difficult
situation, the Barak Government is still committed to peace. (Boos). We will not let a noisy minority... (Boos
growing to crescendo. Chorus: How many kids did you kill today!). In Italy, the government changed the elections
date because of a Jewish holiday, and the Jews there are less than half of one percent. How much consideration
did the state of Israel give to the Arabs, who are twenty percent? (Loud cheers)."
The podium is not a harmonious place. There is an odd jumble of speakers -- Jews and Arabs, respectable establishment
figures and firebrands from radical groups. Some of the speakers contradict each other.
"We have to maintain the fragile tissue of Jewish-Arab coexistence. All of us must work to relax the tensions,
to locate trouble spots and defuse them before they explode."
"Let me tell the previous speaker, let me frankly tell all of you, coexistence has become a dirty word in
the Arab community. It means the continuation of oppression and discrimination, the coexistence between a horse
and a rider. Yes, we should live together, Jews and Arabs -- but on a new basis, not the rotten old one!"
Near the podium, a group from the radical Ibna El Balad (Sons of the Country), is sporting large Palestinian flags.
A Meretz member, holding aloft an Israeli national flag, is pushed towards them by the pressure of the crowd. "What
is this dirty flag you are holding?" "It is the flag of this country." "Do you know that 13
of our brothers were murdered on behalf of this flag?" "I came here to mourn them, together with you,
and this is my flag." "Why are you all shouting about flags? Don't you remember Leibovitz, how he said
all flags are colored rags?"
The Mayor of Ilabun: "If Four Mothers got the army out of Lebanon, a Thousand Mothers should demand they get
out of the Territories!"
Shulamit Aloni: "They have the right to declare a state. All settlements are illegal, even when approved by
the government. Graves are not holy, human life is."
Ayda Suliman: "Thirteen people were murdered by the fascist police. We live in a state which murders its own
Yehuda Shenhav: "We see the helicopter gunships attacking Palestinians cities. That's the kind of Palestinian
state Barak wants -- weak, dependent, a hostage to Israeli military power. If that's the choice, I prefer a bi-national
Zehava Barkani: "We must have a complete overhaul of the educational system. Thorough teaching of Arab language
and culture in all Jewish schools, and vice versa."
Muhammad Ali Taha: "The state of Israel has pushed me 52 years back. Am I a citizen? What am I?"
Meir Vieseltier: "How come that in Tel-Aviv I have to tune in to foreign TV stations to hear what goes on
in my own country? The Israeli police behaved like an ethnic militia, and the Israeli media behaved like the ethnic
propaganda machine of that militia."
Gabi Laski: "In the name of Peace Now I call upon PM Barak to dismantle all settlements and to accept the
Arabs as full partners in the decision-making process."
A musical interlude. Ya'ir Dalal and his band, Jews playing traditional Arab instruments like the darbuka. A serious
miscalculation, as it turned out. Their tune is far too merry, unfit for the occasion. Angry mutterings.
A young Arab, shouting "The Martyrs' blood, the martyrs' blood!" jumps to the podium, runs berserk, is
restrained with great difficulty by a group of his friends. "Please, it was an honest mistake, they came here
to express solidarity." Shouting continues. Aida Suliman seizes the microphone: "Friends, we did not
yet have a moment of silence for our martyrs. Let's have it now." It works. Calm is restored.
As the rally ends, a group of Arab youths furl the Palestinian flags they have been waving, and start walking along
the darkened street. Suddenly, a police car stops. Two plainclothes police jump out, grab one of the youths with
his flag, push him into the car and drive off -- all in no more than a few seconds. Arab youths start running after
the police car. A Peace Now group, who were about to board their bus, joins in. Jews and Arab together besiege
the nearby police station. A hastily-called lawyer comes and gets the detainee released in less than half an hour.
"That was the best part of the whole evening. Had we gotten solidarity like this two weeks ago, people would
not have been so bitter" says one of the Arabs.
Dialogue with the street
(Barbara Schmutzler's observations during a month of daily protest)
A week after the outbreak of the 'Al Aqsa Intifadah', Jerusalem activists initiated a vigil to protest Israel's
brutal attempts to crush the uprising and the underlying reason for the unrest -- the continued subjugation of
the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Signs displayed at the vigil include Down with the occupation, Settlers
out!, No to Apartheid!, Occupation = Violence, Stop bombing Palestine. The vigil has been held at France Square
every weekday since then, while the duration has been reduced from all-day events to two hours in the afternoon.
One of the most striking impressions at the vigil has been the indifference with which much of the broader public
relates to us. Those who do feel a need to react, in their overwhelming majority do so in the form of curses (calling
us traitors, fifth column, Nazis etc.). Many of those whose reactions are more elaborate are settlers who often
try to assure us that the living conditions of the Palestinians in their vicinity are excellent.
The majority of the people who talk to us, however, are recent immigrants, foreign visitors and young Jews from
abroad on one-year programs in Israel.
There have been positive reactions, too (though on a far lesser scale), and occasionally we have been joined by
Palestinians, both from inside Israel and from the occupied territories.
The level of aggression in reaction to the vigil corresponds to a certain degree with current events. The moment
there are Israeli casualties there is a noticeable increase in the quantity of verbal abuse and in the degree of
its viciousness. On several occasions the aggression went beyond the verbal, including tearing up signs, throwing
gravel at the demonstrators and attacking them physically.
Even though most of the regular participants are seasoned members of the peace movement, for most of us the situation
of being exposed on a daily basis to direct contact with the right for hours on end poses a new kind of challenge.
Predictably, it has been the discussions with religious fundamentalists which have caused the greatest degree of
frustration. One has to free oneself of the shackles of reason in order to follow these peoples' line of arguing.
How is it that they are so entirely unperturbed by the fact that the reality of occupation blatantly violates the
ethical precepts of the very Judaism they claim to be defending?
But there also were sympathetic reactions from the Haredi side - on various occasions ultra-religious passers-by
expressed their dismay with a situation where Israel forcibly imposes its will on another people.
Two of the most popular misconceptions we have come across are the notion that Oslo (culminating in Camp David
II) was a tremendously generous offer which only a megalomaniac madman could reject and the conviction that it
was precisely this tremendous Israeli generosity which generated the Palestinian insatiable desire for more. No
less widely spread is the opinion that the most recent outburst of Palestinian anger has its roots in a genetic
defect rather than in Israeli wrongdoing, this making territorial compromise a dangerous risk. Interestingly, another
phrase often repeated by rightist passers-by contends that all of Israel is occupied territory. On the basis of
this insight, perhaps it will be possible to build the understanding that the Palestinians' willingness to put
up with a state based on the '67 borders means a major concession on their part.
The weeks of bloody clashes have not increased the willingness to undertake the most basic step in conflict resolution
- stepping into the shoes of the adversary and trying to see the conflict from the other side. It is this total
lack of empathy that generates the feeling rampant among much of the Israeli public that violence broke out just
weeks ago rather than having been part and parcel of the occupation all along.
Despite this bleak impression, we will not tire in our efforts to disseminate information and at least keep trying
to sow the seeds of doubt.
Sunday, Oct. 22. Unusual news on the radio: the first time since long that dovish ministers stand up to Barak.
One by one, they get up at the cabinet meeting to sharply criticize the PM's declaration of a timeout in the peace
process, which was announced to the media without prior cabinet consultation -- and with the obvious purpose of
enticing the Likud. The ministers had to hear it on the radio, which in the same broadcast reported the relatively
moderate resolutions of the Arab Cairo Summit.
"The world sees the Arabs sticking to the way of peace while Israel is closing the door" was a point
made by the cabinet doves.
The leader of the rebellion: Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, who is determined to keep Sharon out of the government.
A meeting against an Emergency Cabinet is scheduled for tomorrow, to which the Labor doves are invited, along with
representatives of extra-parliamentary movements, and also the Meretz Knesset members. (Meretz leader Yossi Sarid
seemed to have given up his earlier idea of joining a government which includes Sharon.)
Meanwhile, the cabinet approves the long-delayed government plan to ease the situation of Arabs in Israel. The
right wing is incensed by the allocation of four billion Shekels for improved services in the Arab sector. The
Likud calls it "a bribe to inciters of violence". But, as KM Muhammad Barake of Hadash points out, nearly
half of the alleged four billions are already-existent projects, repackaged and presented as something new. In
practice the new government plan comes down to 2.4 billions in four years, 600 million per year, which is no more
than half a percent of the annual state budget. Not enough, not by far, to overtake the results of 52 years of
deliberate discrimination. And will that amount really be given?
A more immediate problem is investigation of the events which led to the killing of 13 Palestinian citizens of
Israel by the police. Barak promised an investigation two weeks ago. It was one of the promises which ended the
Arab demonstrations in the Galilee. But the police are very much opposed to any such investigation, and the right-wing
backs them. Barak finds a shaky compromise: an investigation -- yes! But not a fully authorized Judicial Commission
of Inquiry, appointed by the President of the Supreme Court. Instead, a "fact-finding team" is to be
appointed by the government itself, with powers far more limited and ill-defined.
The Arab Monitoring Committee rejects this out of hand. "The Arab Population will boycott this whitewashing
effort, and will continue demanding a full-fledged Judicial Commission, the only body with the independence and
prestige to get to the bottom of things" states their unanimously-adopted resolution. Radical Arab students
in Tel-Aviv capture it in a short slogan: "A second-class investigation for second-class citizens."
The mood of reconciliation engendered by the Peace Tents, seems to have dissipated already. (The one Peace Tent
still in operation, at the Dolphinarium on the border between Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, nevertheless reports continuing
good attendance and a generally good mood.)
Evening -- on the TV screen another exchange of fire between Israeli Gilo and Palestinian Beit Jala, on the southern
outskirts of Jerusalem. Palestinian rifles against Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships. The suffering of Israeli
civilians, which is real enough, is enormously magnified on Israeli TV, with a cloying outpouring of patriotic
solidarity; the suffering of Palestinian civilians is barely mentioned.
Gilo is a Jewish neighborhood which was built in the 1970's, on land which had belonged to Beit Jala residents
and was conquered, annexed and confiscated in 1967. For Palestinians that makes it a settlement. But Israelis forgot
all about its origin and regard it as part of Jerusalem -- quite a few supporters of the peace movement actually
live there, too.
Suddenly, on the computer screen, an email appeal from M. who lives right there under the blaze of fireworks which
the helicopters produce for our patriotic entertainment on the TV news. "(...) We spent the night awake...
For myself, I have spent the night vomiting and praying. We could hear everything... So please, since you are the
only Israeli organization to whom I have access and since you are for peace... Do something, I don't know, you
can talk to the IDF, tell them there is no use scaring us, we are already scared to death (...).
How to answer this appeal. How to tactfully tell this woman that our influence on IDF is no greater then hers,
even if we sometimes stand with signs on the doorstep of the supreme military headquarters. But she must know that,
anyway. The only thing we can think of is giving her the phone number of Meir Margalit, Jerusalem City Councillor
for Meretz -- who is himself an inhabitant of Gilo. Three days later, we hear from Meir that she phoned him during
a bombardment. Margalit did confront Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmart over the latter's call for disproportionate fire
(sic!) on Beit Jala.
Monday, Oct. 23. The police continue to hold midnight raids on Arab villages and arrest "suspected rioters",
many of them minors.
The public prosecution maintains a strict "no bail" policy and appeals to a higher court whenever an
Arab detainee is granted bail. The civil authorities come up with plans for arming and providing military training
to inhabitants of Jewish communities located near Arab villages, and to entice more Jewish inhabitants to these
communities so as "to change the demographic balance" -- measures similar (and not accidentally so) to
those enacted for West Bank settlements.
Meanwhile, the water and electricity companies fail to repair the damages caused during the confrontations with
the police, and many Arab villages and towns face grave economic difficulties, due to the absence of those Jews
who, until a months ago, comprised much of the clientele of Arab shops and restaurants. The Jews stay away. Mostly
out of genuine apprehension, distrusting the information that the riots have truly ended. Partly because of deliberate
anti-Arab boycotts organized by right-wing groups.
And meanwhile Arab students find it a sheer impossibility to rent a room in the Jewish cities where all the universities
are located (it was never easy). The academic year is due to open next week, and there are fears of demonstrations
by Arab students sparking off a new wave of riots. Matan Vilna'i, the Minister for Arab Affairs (of course a Jew
himself, like all previous holders of the position) attempts to get the heads of the Arab Students' Association
and those of the General Union of Students in Israel to
hold a handshaking "reconciliation ceremony" in front of TV cameras. But the Arab student leadership
refuses to participate in "a hollow gesture which does not address the real problems."
In what seems a panic reaction, the University heads convene and declare a total ban upon political activity on
campus at all universities -- to be enforced for at least the first week of the academic year and perhaps longer.
Students breaking the ban would face disciplinary proceedings, and the police might be called in "if student
demonstrations get out of hand."
The Student Unions backs the measure. The Arab students reject it. So do groups of liberal Jews, holding out for
the freedom of speech. But can these two elements unite forces effectively? What is going to happen next week on
the university campuses? One more source of worry.
Tuesday, Oct. 24. For the first time in a month, the headlines are caught up by something other than clashes with
Palestinians. Sudden heavy rains flood the Tel-Aviv metropolitan region. Mainly effected are the poor neighborhoods,
Jewish and Arab alike, which were also the scenes of the confrontations two weeks ago: Jaffa, Bat Yam, Hatikva...
Now they are all victims of the municipalities and central government who are supposed to repair the inadequate
drainage system. This problem repeats itself, however, every winter.
On the TV screen, a woman from a Jaffa slum recounts a harrowing experience: "The water rose higher and higher.
We could not open the door, the windows were jammed. We climbed higher and higher. My little boy fell out of my
hands into the raging water, I could not hold him. The police did not come, the fire department did not come. It
was the Arabs who broke the windows in the last moment, my neighbors. The Arabs, they saved me and two of my kids.
We were already on top of the cupboard."
The floods seem to effect a change in the media. War news items no longer take up each and every page of the newspaper,
each and every minute of the TV news. The tone is just a shade less patriotic. Crime news, sports and social gossip
make their hesitant reappearance. Perhaps the editors noted the army's prediction that the present confrontation
may last "a year or more" and decided they can't stay strung up for that long. The atmosphere of "national
emergency" without which Barak can't cement public support for his alliance with Sharon is slipping away.
Inside the Likud Netanyahu is starting his own campaign to sabotage Sharon's entry into the cabinet. The former
PM's calculation is obvious -- he wants quick new elections, which according to the polls he has excellent chances
of winning. Once, and not so long ago, the prospect of a Netanyahu comeback would have been horrifying. As compared
to the prospects of a Barak-Sharon combo, a Government of War Unlimited, many of us have come to perceive Bibi
as the lesser evil.
Wednesday, Oct. 25. Torrential rains still go on in the morning. Some thirty Peace Nowers brave the elements to
go to a remote corner of the West Bank. It is the "settlement outpost" Mitzpeh Hagit, established illegally
in 1998 (illegally even under the military government's own interpretation of the law). Barak evacuated it in 1999
as a reluctant gesture to his then coalition partner Meretz, and this week he restored it as a down payment to
Arrival and disembarkation from the cars. Signs with the red and black Peace Now logo are held up. The single settler
family, whose entry into this "outpost" was yesterday trumpeted as a great victory by the Settlers Council,
remains inside the mobile home erected on the hill. There is no media present. Knesset Member Mossi Raz, veteran
campaigner against the settlements makes his speech. The soldiers detailed to guard the settlers listen listlessly,
huddled in their raincoats.
"Why are we here? What about the settlements which have existed for a very long time and cost lives every
day?" asks somebody.
A few days later, Raz and his fellow Meretz KM Ran Cohen present a Knesset bill by which the eleven hottest of
the hot spot settlements would be evacuated within sixty days and compensations granted to their inhabitants. "More
settlements than these need to be evacuated, and this is a matter for peace negotiations. But these eleven are
located so as to be sources of constant friction, a clear and present danger to the lives of civilians and soldiers.
Evacuating them cannot wait" explains Cohen.
The idea turns up more and more in the public debate. Also much-respected military commentators take it up. From
the pure military point of view isolated small settlements with long and exposed access roads are a pain in the
neck, and the generals would have much preferred to "shorten the lines."
On the Wednesday afternoon, a group of protesters gather outside the US embassy on Hayarkon Street, near the Tel
Aviv seashore. Calling for a UN international force to give protection to the Palestinians and protesting the US
veto in the Security Council, which is the main stumbling block. The action was initiated by Ibna El-Balad (Sons
of the Country), a predominantly Arab group from the north, but it is joined by quite a few radical Tel-Avivians
-- altogether some forty people. Placards are raised: Stop the carnage -- The Children of Palestine deserve protection.
Leaflets distributed to passers-by give some facts which the Israeli media did not publish.
Fortunately, the rain stopped.
Thursday, Oct. 26. Soldiers who served in Lebanon now afraid of Gaza declares a headline in Ma'ariv. According
to Itzik Saban's article, soldiers who survived Lebanon show signs of extreme anxiety since they were transferred
to the Gaza Strip. This is manifested in psychosomatic complaints and losing consciousness while on guard duty.
An officer told the paper: "In Lebanon, the soldiers knew more or less where Hizbullah was. Here, you live
together with the Gaza equivalent, you travel with them on the same roads. A total chaos. Any child, any woman,
any Palestinian police with whom you talked a minute ago can suddenly pull a knife or a
gun on you. At any time your jeep can be hit by a grenade, without any warning. It causes soldiers to worry, no
doubt about that."
The anti-Sharon campaign gathers momentum. In Ha'aretz, a petition is published for the third consecutive time,
always with new signatures: The very creation of a cabinet with Sharon will be a signal for an end to negotiations
and escalation to bloodshed and war. In the afternoon, a small group of Peace Now and Gush Shalom activists picket
the Labor Party Headquarters with signs reading Sharon = War and Sharon = Disaster, exchanging shouts and insults
with members of the racist Kach movement, on the opposite pavement. But the real show is inside the building.
Beilin is at last holding his doves' convention, after several days of uncertainty, delay and power struggles inside
the Labor Party. Beilin has agreed to invite Barak to address the meeting, in what was presented as a conciliatory
meeting and which the PM realizes too late was a trap. Beilin's followers packed the hall and subjected Barak to
constant heckling. Then they burst into wild applause when their own leader takes the podium and chides the Prime
Minister to his face: "You were elected to follow in the way of one who was assassinated at a peace rally,
and whose lifeblood flowed over the text of the Peace Song. You have nothing do with the architect of the disastrous
Friday, Oct. 27. In the weekend Ha'aretz, an excellent cartoon of a Palestinian "Little David" facing
a Goliath in Israeli paratrooper uniform. This could not have appeared two weeks ago. It is an illustration to
Rogel Alper's article making fun of the government propagandists abroad, trying to explain away the footage of
the dead Palestinian children. ("It's not what you think, let me explain...") The inner pages, op-eds
and analysis, contain several critical articles. Common sense is making its reappearance.
In Ma'ariv Meir Pa'il, reserve colonel and veteran of the pre-state Jewish militia, is not very shocked by the
Palestinian violence "It's more or less what we did in the last years of British rule." And Yediot Aharonot's
Yigal Sarna was invited by the Palestinians to visit Nablus and see the renovated Joseph's Tomb, gleaming white.
"Jewish pilgrims are welcome -- but without guns" says the mayor. However, all this is reaching only
a limited milieu; the general atmosphere is determined by the news sections (TV footage, frontpage news) which
remain heavily biased. "Two soldiers lightly wounded" get a bigger headline than "Five Palestinians
Sunday, Oct. 29. The Academic year begins with the "Gagging Ordinance" forbidding political activity
on campus, and with heavy security checks of anybody entering.
At Tel-Aviv University, fifty Jewish and Arab students, with some sympathizing lecturers, circumvent the order
by standing on the pavement in front of the main entrance, just outside area of university jurisdiction. A petition
is circulated : "In a democratic state, the maintenance of public order cannot be cited as an excuse to completely
curtail the freedom of speech and assembly. Only a free campus, where students and staff can freely express themselves,
can bring forth civic involvement and independent thinking."
Success can be very unpredictable: the following day's Yediot Ahoronot publishes a beautiful and enormous photo,
covering nearly a page, of a girl with the sign: "All around, corpses are counted -- and the university engages
At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, protesters did their act on the forbidden territory -- a group standing
with blank signs and gags of colorful cloth covering their mouths. Non-amused university security guards took their
names, for charges to be presented before the Disciplinary Board, which is empowered to suspend or altogether expel
a student for "infraction of university ordinances."
Outside the gates, Arab students distribute black arm bands as a sign of mourning, while right-wingers distribute
Israeli national flags. Much tension, but no real confrontation.
At Haifa University, the leader of the Arab students (more numerous here than in any other university) declares:
We were told that the Gagging Ordinance will stay in force only one week. Very well. Next week we demonstrate,
with or without permission."
On the front page of Ha'aretz, a big ad:
Sharon Cabinet or Peace Cabinet
Mr. Prime Minister! We, who elected you in order to achieve peace with our neighbors, today call upon you.
* Don't establish an Emergency Cabinet, with Sharon at its heart. The formation of such a cabinet will be a clear
signal to the whole world that Israel is headed towards confrontation, rather then peace.
* Go back to the negotiation table with the Palestinians.
* Establish immediately a judicial commission of inquiry, to investigate the events which led to the killing of
13 Arab citizens of Israel.
Those who agree with the above are asked to attend an Emergency Meeting to save the peace, addressed by Justice
Minister Beilin, tonight, October 29, at 7.00 PM in the Journalist's Association Building.
[was signed Peace Headquarters & Peace Now]
The hundreds who arrive all pass the Gush Shalom activists who distribute Get out of the territories material.
The organizers hadn't expected to mobilize many grassroots at such short a notice. The hall is far too small but
then, a bigger one opens.
The two Yossis shake hands in front of the clicking cameras -- Yossi Beilin and Yossi Sarid. Meretz leader Sarid
is given the first slot, stating officially what is already known -- that Meretz will
The Frankenthal letter
On the first day of the new Intifada David Biri, a 19-year old Israel soldier, was killed in a Palestinian ambush
on a convoy heading to the Netzarim settlement enclave, in the heart of the Gaza Strip. Two weeks later El'ad Hirshenson,
Biri's best friend, committed suicide -- leaving a letter saying that he could no longer bear to live in a country
that sends youngsters to needless deaths.
Following these bitter events, peace activist Yitzhak Frankenthal -- a friend of the Hirshenson family whose own
soldier son was killed by a Hamas squad in 1994 -- wrote an open letter to the Netzarim settlers, which was published
in Yediot Aharonot on November 24, and generated an enormous public debate.
(...) Any sane individual knows that Netzarim, where you live, is going to be evacuated when peace is reached with
the Palestinians, just as the settlements in Sinai were evacuated. Why then, in the name of God the Compassionate,
do you continue to inhabit this cursed place that has claimed so many lives? Where is your mercy on the children
who are in peril? Where is your mercy for a mother who buried two of her children? Is God's spirit within you?
Is your God the belief in a messianic settlement that has nothing to do with the security of Israel? (...)
I beg you, please, take your belongings and come back to Israel. Come back and help build a democratic society
that will address the terrible social hardships we face. You have an enormous potential to become leaders of brotherhood
and friendship in the country, but today you act as Angels of Death to our children. Please wake up before, God
forbid, we will bury more children.
With heartache and terrible disappointment at you.
Yitzhak Frankenthal -- Moshav Gimzo.
not join a cabinet with Sharon. Yossi Beilin takes it on from there, laying out a concrete program for the Cabinet
Without Sharon -- to use the last months of Clinton in order to achieve the agreement which eluded the sides in
Both Yossis get applause, but the audience seems not really satisfied. KM Yael Dayan, so cautious at the rally
two weeks ago, gives tonight a passionate speech, which is very well received. "They say the Palestinians
are sending their children to die. What kind of rotten excuse! Perhaps they are sending them, but who is killing
them? We are killing them, we, our army." And further: "Barak calls Israel 'a villa in the jungle.' This
is a very very wrong way of thinking. We are not a villa, and the Arabs are not a jungle. When we talk this way,
we will all become predatory beasts."
Hadash KM Tamar Gozanski was not among the original speakers list -- but at the express demand of the audience,
she is invited to the rostrum. "Barak and the public prosecution are conducting a campaign against the Arab
population in Israel and it's leadership. Hundreds of detainees, police interrogations of Arab Knesset Members
on trumped-up charges, demagogic incitement, this is the preparation for new killings. 95% of the Arabs voted for
Barak, more than any other community in Israel, and he paid them with bullets. Get it into your heads, you Laborites
-- without the Arabs you will not get reelected -- not now, not in ten years, not ever. And the fact that you did
not invite a single Arab speaker to this meeting means you have not learned anything!" Prolonged applause.
Monday, Oct. 30. The Knesset comes back from its recess. Dramatic speculations in the press about possible fistfights
between Jewish and Arab Knesset Members. The news tell of an Israeli security guard just killed in a Palestinian
raid on a government office in East Jerusalem, and a civilian killed in the no-man's-land between Gilo and Beit
Jala. Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg turns down a request to open the session with a moment of silence "for
all Israeli citizens killed in the confrontations of the past month", apprehensive that right-wing KM's would
not be willing to honor the memory of "Arabs rioters." Hearing of it, Yesh Gvul mobilizes the other Jerusalem
peace groups to hold a protest vigil outside the Knesset. Thirty activists, holding placards with the word "Shame!"
hold their own moment of silence amid the passing VIP cars.
From there to the Jerusalem Meretz office. A coordinating meeting about a delegation to Palestinian Beit Sahur,
later in the week. Now, it is feasible though still difficult, after several weeks when travelling to Palestinian
cities had seemed out of the question. Technical details. The army strictly forbids Israeli citizens from entering
the Palestinian cities. Those with double citizenship can use their foreign passports. Others will have to go around.
A rendezvous has been fixed with the Palestinian partners. A message is drafted, to be read out to the Palestinian
press in Beit Sahur. And how to get into the Israeli press?
Dramatic news from the Knesset: Beilin, on behalf of Barak, had just concluded an agreement with the religious
Shas Party. The Barak Government will get a month's worth of "parliamentary safety net", a breathing
spell in which (perhaps, perhaps) negotiations with the Palestinians can be restarted. In return, Barak's famed
plan for a "Secular Reform" will be shelved, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs will not be abolished.
(It is a notoriously corrupt institution, having hundreds of Shas party hacks on its payroll -- but having it around
a little longer seems not too high a price for seeing on the screen the angry frustrated look on the face of Sharon.)
Late at night, an emergency cabinet meeting. The Government without Sharon decides, and soon afterwards helicopter
gunships embark upon another punitive raid on Palestinian cities, retaliation for this morning's killings. Beilin,
it is reported, voted "reluctantly" -- in favor.
Tuesday, Nov. 31. An early morning phone call from Neta, one of the Jerusalem organizers. She went yesterday to
Beit Sahur to prepare for the delegation and stayed the night -- becoming thus a witness to the bombing. We decide
to sent out a press release as widely as possible.
"The ongoing bombings by helicopter gunships create an atmosphere of fear among Palestinian civilians. Children
are waking up with nightmares, night after night" says Neta G., an Israeli peace activist from Jerusalem who
spent last night in the house of Palestinian friends at the town of Beit Sahur, south of Jerusalem.
"The town was subjected to prolonged bombings. I could hear the explosions, all too clearly. In the morning
I visited the bombed site together with my friends. One house had burned down completely, and two others were severely
damaged and rendered uninhabitable -- all of them the abodes of civilian families who had nothing to do with any
Amira Hass in Ha'aretz publishes an extensive article on the severe effect of the curfew in Hebron: 30,000 people
imprisoned in their own homes, for a whole month already; children unable to go to school; hunger; brutal behaviour
by soldiers. On the same day the army lifts the curfew. A short-lived victory for the peace activist turned journalist;
it would be reimposed two days later.
Tuesday, Oct. 31. We are nearing November 4, the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. It is the
fifth anniversary this year. It became a major red-letter day for the Israeli peace camp. But what meaning does
it have, under the present circumstances? Yesterday the Working and Studying Youths, affiliated with the Histadrut
Trade Unions, held vigils all over the country with the slogan Yitzchak, we have not given up on peace, with altogether
some 2000 participants.
On TV, you could see the youths standing, very solemnly, near the monument on the spot where the murder took place.
Today, a Peace Tent was erected on Rabin Square, where Shimon Peres -- speaking to a mixed audience of activists
and dignitaries -- declared: Oslo is not dead. The Peace Process will go on. The papers are full of big ads, reminding
and calling us to attend the Memorial Rally on Saturday night. Remembering together, continuing together! is the
slogan printed beside the already traditional photo of the Martyr of Peace.
There appear enormous billboards with the same text on inter-city highways, and radio commercials, every hour:
Memorial rally on the Rabin Square. Five years since the murder. You must be there, especially now! Obviously,
quite a lot of money is being invested.
We phoned Peace Now. No, they are not the organizers, though they were asked to mobilize their people. It is in
the hands of the "Shalom, Chaver" association, which essentially means the Rabin family and their friends.
The list of speakers was not yet finalized, but it is certain that Barak will speak -- as he did last year and
the year before (but then he was not actively conducting war!).
The protest groups discuss what to do about it. Some are in favor of a boycott. "Rabin was a racist and his
peace was an apartheid peace. Barak is just continuing in his way, and the whole affair is nothing to do with us"
runs an email from Yoram Bar-Haim of Haifa -- but it is definitely a minority position.
However disgusted we are with the set-up of this commemoration, it is probably going to be the biggest gathering
of peace-minded Israelis this year. An event in which we have the best chance of being heard and influencing people
at the grassroots. And if it fails, the public would not attribute the failure to a boycott by ultra-leftists,
but to a turning away from the way of peace.
How can several dozen activists best leave their mark on a such a giant rally? Some suggest organizing a chorus
which should arrive early, take up a position in the forefront and start booing as soon as Barak gets on the podium.
Although an attractive idea, this would mean that they would have to stay in one spot for much of the rally, and
not be free to circulate through the crowd and distribute material. On second thought, distribution seems the highest
Wednesday, Nov. 1. In the Israeli media, "a day of escalation" is a day on which Israelis are killed.
A day in which Palestinians are killed is routine. Today is definitely a day of escalation. Two soldiers killed
in battle at El-Khader Village. (A place which we remember well, from a whole series of demonstrations against
the confiscation of its land on behalf of the nearby settlement of Efrat.) Later in the day, a reserve officer
was killed near Jericho.
"It is unacceptable. We have to take firm steps" says PM Barak on TV. An emergency cabinet meeting is
called for the 8.00 PM, in Jerusalem this time. Participation at the Jerusalem ongoing picket had been dwindling
in the past days -- keeping a vigil going every day is an enormous effort for an all-volunteer group -- but at
the news Na'amah Farjun and other organizers manage to recruit some fifty people within two hours time. Standing
silent in the Jerusalem night, watching the lights still on in the Prime Minister's Bureau, following the reports
on the radio.
In Hebron, the army broadcasts a warning to inhabitants of Harat A-Sheikh Neighborhood to leave their homes. There
had been shooting from there on the settler enclave, now the air force will bomb. Members of CPT go to stay the
night with Palestinian families at Harat A-Sheikh. They inform Colonel Tibon, the Military commander, that they
will be there. Will the Air Force risk harming American citizens?
And then: Shimon Peres who just arrived in Gaza for his special meeting with Arafat called Barak asking him to
hold back the helicopters. Cease fire agreed. Can it really be true?
Thursday, Nov. 2. At noon, Barak and Arafat are to make simultaneous public statements announcing the cease fire.
Shimon Peres on the radio. The minister speaks with unusual empathy: "You have to understand, it is a totally
different world over there. They have so many dead, so many wounded, so much misery. They don't feel that they
are attacking us; they feel that we are attacking them. You don't have to agree with the
way they see things, of course not, but still try to understand..."
The announcements are delayed, and delayed again. In the meantime, confrontations continue; a young Palestinian
is killed at a West Bank village.
Differences over wording, which cover up differences of substance. Does a cease fire include stone-throwing? What
about Molotov cocktails?
Suddenly, a car bomb explodes in a side street of the marketplace of Jerusalem. The first terrorist attack inside
Israel since long. Two Israeli civilians killed. Arafat had very emphatically tried to prevent this kind of thing,
but it seems the Islamic Jihad decided to sabotage the cease fire. At the blast site, some fifty Kahanists arrive
and start shouting: Death to the Arabs! Yoni, a leftist who happens to live on the street where the bomb exploded,
calls from his balcony: Death to the racists! The Kahanists who try to break into the house are stopped by the
police. Meanwhile, the police detain dozens of Arabs found in the marketplace -- customers, workers and stall owners.
One of them is (by mistake?) shown in a short flash on the TV news among the wounded from the blast; he is lying
with a neck protector after being beaten by the police, as the commentator explains. As B'tzelem would reveal a
week later, all of them were one by one beaten up at the Mahane Yehuda Police Station.
Friday, Nov. 3. The situation of the cease fire still not clear. At least, Barak did not order any retaliation
for the Jerusalem bombing. Meanwhile, the delegation to Beit Sahur leaves as scheduled. With the help of Palestinian
guides getting around the army roadblocks seems not so difficult. Handshakes, talking about the situation, comparing
experiences from the two sides of the front. The Palestinian TV arrives and the statement read: "We, a group
of Israelis, have come this morning to Beit Sahur to express out solidarity with the Palestinian people. We call
for immediate withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from the Occupied Territories and accelerated evacuation of
settlements in these territories. We call upon the IDF to refrain from shooting children and unarmed civilians.."
A message arrives:
Women, not generals, make peace
Today at 10.15 AM, a demonstration of Mothers and Women for Peace will take place opposite the Givatayim Theater
during a speech by the Prime Minister inside. We will call upon Barak to leave Gaza, Judea and Samaria peacefully.
We didn't get our sons out of the war in Lebanon for them to kill or be killed in another unnecessary war!
The soldiers' mothers, who had such a conspicuous part in getting Israeli troops out of Lebanon, make their come
back to the political scene. Barak is due to arrive soon, for a Labor Party memorial to Rabin. The thirty women
spread along the pavement: Children should not kill children -- Violence breeds violence -- When the blood flows,
emotion calls revenge, reason demands dialogue -- Barak remember, restraint is power -- Dismantle Netzarim, dismantle
the dangerous settlements. Knesset Members Yael Dayan and Uzi Bar'am, on their way to the ceremony, join the vigil.
A woman living nearby offers cool drinks. The demonstrators don't get to see Barak, who was hustled in through
a back door, but they have made their impact.
Meanwhile, in the hall itself the ceremony begins. A film with highlights of Rabin's life is shown -- the same
that was shown last year, but with one small difference: the famous handshake on the White House lawn was censored
out. "We did not want to show Arafat this year" said a local party official. What would Rabin himself
have said about this reediting of his life? Arafat is certainly not censored out of the string of militant and
outspoken press interviews by Leah Rabin.
Despite her frequent hospitalizations for cancer treatment, she seems more active and energetic than many young
and healthy people. "The whole idea of Oslo was to create an atmosphere where problems can be solved in trust
and mutual respect" she says in today's Ma'ariv. "The idea was to evacuate the territories in three distinct
stages. When Yitzchak was murdered we were in the middle of the second stage. Then the elections were lost, and
Netanyahu did not keep the agreement. We complain that Arafat did not keep his obligations, but did we keep ours?
We did not even complete the second phase of withdrawal, not to mention the third one. Before Barak went to Camp
David, he came to visit me. I told him: Ehud, I am disappointed in you. I expected you to rebuild the relations
of trust with the Palestinians, and you didn't. (...)
I was not surprised when the riots broke out. We always said that if there will be no agreement, then there will
be war. And I must say -- there is only one thing on which I disagreed with Yitzchak, and that was when he said
that violence achieves nothing. I have some reservations about that. The violence did light some spark, focused
attention on the need to solve the problem. You can't avoid the fact that this Intifada -- however horrendous its
use of children -- had a trigger. You simply can't say that it hasn't. I do believe that it will intensify the
need for finding a solution."
Saturday, Nov. 4. A phone call from the Ga'aley Tzahal radio station, which is formally affiliated to the Israeli
Army but is paradoxically more liberal and dovish than its civilian competitor. "Is it true what I read in
your press release? Uri Avnery really said that Ehud Barak is no follower of Rabin; that Barak destroyed in days
what Rabin had built over years? That inviting Barak to tonight's rally is a desecration of Rabin's memory?"
Yes, that is precisely what Avnery said. The young news editor seems satisfied. Avnery's words are broadcast in
three consecutive news flashes, and he is interviewed on the noon news magazine.
From the interview with KM Daliah Rabin, the daughter, it seems that Barak's participation in tonight's event had
indeed not been a foregone conclusion.
Originally the Rabin Family was inclined to veto him, especially when he declared a "time-out" in the
peace process and boasted that "unlike my predecessors" he had made no concessions to the Arabs. Barak
only gained admittance to the rally when he promised "to continue on the way of peace" and to prepare
his speech at the rally accordingly.
Late afternoon. News reports of "relatively low levels of violence" in the Occupied Territories. That
still includes the 14-year old girl Ghazala Jradat being hit by an Israeli rubber-coated metal bullet and left
clinically dead. In a few hours we will be in a rally addressed by the Prime Minister/Defense Minister who is conducting
this whole war. Can this be called, by any stretch of the imagination, a peace rally? Could President Lyndon B.
Johnson have been a keynote speaker at a peace rally in the United states of 1968?
Still, the atmosphere at and around the Rabin Square seems, at least superficially, what it was on previous years.
The streets all around blocked to traffic, the stream of people making their way by foot long before the official
opening hour of 7.30 PM, the crowds of youngsters -- Blue Shirts, Meretz Youth, Labor Youth, Peace Now Youth, the
candles already lit on the pavements here and there. It is difficult not to warm to them -- our kind of people,
our part of the Israeli society even if we have disagreements with them.
Or is this pure self-deception? Where do these people stand, on the issues which really matter at this critical
time? An eye to the signs and banners already held aloft: Barak, go in the way of peace! -- Yitzchak, our hope
for peace is not lost! -- Yitzchak Rabin, we do remember you! -- Peace is NOT dead! The Labor Party had prepared
for its youths two standard signs, of which several hundred copies are piled, gradually picked up by the youths
as they arrive. One reads United for Peace, the other Struggling against violence, marching towards Peace.
Five years ago, condemnation of "violence" was mainly a reference to the violence of the extreme right
which culminated with the murder of a Prime Minister. The same slogans, resurrected today, could be construed as
referring to the violence of the Palestinian uprising. In that context, "Struggling against violence"
could mean lending moral support to the soldiers who shoot live ammunition at the Palestinian contemporaries of
Whoever designed the signs, somewhere in the Labor Party apparatus, may well have had this in mind. But the youngsters
who raise them aloft also are very greedily picking up the stickers offered by Gush Shalom, putting them on their
shirt fronts: Bring the soldiers back from the Territories -- No settler can be a brother of mine -- Yes to the
Green Line -- Jerusalem, Capital of the Two States. Israeli youths like to make of themselves a walking billboard,
putting stickers on their backs, thighs, and shoulders -- one even on his forehead.
Suddenly, Eli Zeichner appears on the scene -- engineer and peace activist, known for his skill in making enormous
banners which are lightweight and easy to fold and unfold. His new creation is a ten-meter monster with the words
There is no alternative to Oslo. Four others join him in raising it high in the air, at the end of specially-designed
The square is filling up by the minute. Many groups are distributing leaflets and stickers: Meretz, Yesh Gvul's
"Letter to a soldier", The Hadash Communists and their split-off rival The Communist Forum, the Solidarity
Committee with Historian Teddy Katz who faces a libel suit for revelations about the 1948 war. The stall where
T-shirts are sold with the slogan We have no children for unnecessary wars is doing excellent business. The children's
magazine "Windows", bilingual in Hebrew and Arabic, is offering sample copies and trial subscriptions.
Most interesting are the many different kinds of leaflets distributed by youth groups, which seem -- unlike the
standardized printed signs -- to have been written by the youths themselves. The thread running through them all
is a great devotion to the heroic figure of Rabin, and a determination to hold on to Peace, come what may.
+++ Yitzchak Rabin said:
'We fought you, the Palestinians, but today I tell you in a clear and loud voice: enough of blood and tears! Enough!
We have no hatred against you. We are like you -- human beings who want to build a house, to plant a tree, to love
and live at your side, respectfully, as human beings.'
In times when division in the Israeli society is growing and war has become a routine, when frustration is translated
into force, we call upon everybody -- regardless of religion, race or gender -- to stop for a moment and search
for the human essence which is inside all of us. [Ashram Youth Group]
s The Peace Process is dead; Oslo collapsed; the Left was wrong! Such things we hear from politicians and journalists.
But does anybody know a better way? What future do we see for the Middle East? Shall we forever solve problems
by force? It is time to learn from Rabin, a leader who looked beyond immediate interests and tried to turn a situation
of conflict to one of agreement.
It is easy to say They don't want peace. Do we? Do we understand that the way to peace is hard, that you need courage
in order to make peace? And still, peace is our future. [Working and Studying Youth]
+++ We must not forget the man who fell at the altar of peace. We must not keep silent. We must not let his life
work go up in flames.
'We can go on fighting. We can go on killing -- and go on getting killed. But we can also try and break this unending
cycle of bloodshed. We can give peace a chance.' (Yitzchak Rabin, 5/10/95.) [Meretz Youth]
8.00 PM. The first speech: Knesset Member Daliah Rabin reads a message from her mother Leah, forbidden by the doctors
to come in person. Obviously, the Rabin Family decided to keep their criticism of Barak out of this rally. Mostly
expressions of longing for the dead Yitzchak, nothing political beyond the known peace cliches, nothing of the
sharp tone of her press interviews.
Following her is Moshe Katzav, President of the State of Israel and a rather mediocre right-winger. His speech
does not mention peace at all. Instead, he talks about National Unity, his favorite subject ("Everybody shares
in the grief for the death of Rabin, there is today neither Right not Left." ) Polite applause. He heaps more
elaborate praise on Rabin, still without mentioning peace, and does get some more applause. It seems some people
here forgot exactly how Katzav, not yet a president, spoke while Rabin was still alive.
There is a prolonged musical interlude, with some of Israel's best singers.
Some did boo, here and there. Several Meretz youths raised a sign which they prepared for this moment Barak! We
kill, we are killed -- for what? A certain part of the crowd did clap. But it was visible and audible that many
didn't; the prevailing mood among these 150,000 people was expressed by standing silently.
The Prime Minister may have noticed it, too, from the high podium. His face -- enlarged on the giant screens scattered
throughout the square -- is just a bit nervous. He does not say anything particularly new; it all had been said
on other occasions. It is what he omits for this occasion which is most interesting. No hint of Arafat having ceased
to be a partner for peace, not the slightest doubt as to the viability of the peace process, certainly not a hint
about Ariel Sharon being a possible candidate for inclusion in the cabinet. Not here, to this audience.
No, here before us is a perfect peacemaker. What a wonderful, what a perfect peace there could have been, if only
Arafat had accepted his terms.
And it could still happen, surely it will still happen. And how regretful and distasteful that in the meantime
"we must take measures" (he does not go into details) in order to "confront the violence which was
imposed upon us."
Only once does he manage to really arouse his listeners -- when holding out the hope that "the peace process
may already get back on track next week, when I go to Washington."
A comment made as a kind of footnote in the end conveys what he really thinks about the need to appear before this
audience and make this speech: "It is inconceivable that an event like this, a rally pressing the leadership
to make peace, could take place in Gaza."
The next speaker is announced: Shimon Peres. Standing ovation. Prolonged clapping, cheering, continued clapping.
Peres was always popular in this crowd, and after his peace mission to Arafat two days ago, his credit here is
sky-high. Peres is in his element: imaginative, far-seeing, holding out the vision of the time after the present
confrontation is over, the era of peace to come. "The voyage is not over, we are still in stormy seas -- yet
from afar we can see the longed-for shore. Our beloved captain was murdered, but the voyage goes on." No word
on Barak's performance as a replacement captain.
In the audience, a man distributes stickers with the slogan "Shimon, save the country!" He made them
at his own initiative and paid for them from his own pocket, he says. Meanwhile, the Gush Shalom stickers are taken
up by the thousands, and an activist rushes to the Gush office on a motorcycle, to get more.
Some singers mount the podium. Then Feisal Azeizeh, Mayor of Daburiyeh in the Galilee and spokesperson of the Arab
Monitoring Committee. A surprise. He had not appeared on the original list of speakers, published in the ads yesterday.
Azeizeh's speech is a neat feat of acrobatics seemingly designed not to offend the mostly-Jewish audience yet convey
the message of an Arab population in ferment.
The key is in the specific praise which Azeizeh gives to Rabin -- "The first Prime Minister to give political
legitimacy to the Arab minority in Israel." A reference to Rabin accepting Arab Knesset members as part of
his parliamentary majority -- a part of the Rabin heritage which most have forgotten.
It is also an implied criticism of the present Prime Minister, the one who got 95% of the Arab vote but refused
to include the Arab parties in his government coalition.
But all this is implied only, which is a pity. Most of the audience did not get the critical part of the speech.
This should have been the last political statement, followed only by singing.
But David Broza, singer and peace activist, has designed on his own a powerful last statement. "Yihye Tov"
("It will be all right") was the song he chose -- a song written in the late 1970's, shortly after President
Saddat of Egypt came on his historic visit to Jerusalem.
I look out of my window/and it makes me rather sad/spring is gone/who knows when it will come back. -- The clown
has become a king/and the prophet -- a clown/ and we lost our way/but here I still am. -- A government of generals/divides
the landscape/into 'ours' and 'yours'/ and there is no end sight. -- Here comes the President of Egypt/how happy
we were to see him/pyramids twinkling in his eyes/and the smoke of his pipe. -- And so we asked him how/ can we
live as brothers/and he said go ahead/ just get out of the Territories!
At this moment Broza departs from the text of the song and -- half singing, half shouting -- addresses the crowd
directly: So, that's it, folks! You know it, that's why you came here, after all! So join me in the refrain, let's
hear you! and thousands of voices join in singing Its' going to be all right.
For at least a moment, it was indeed a proper peace rally, as a peace rally should be.
Late at night, N. calls from Hebron. The city is being shelled and bombarded by machine guns and tanks and helicopter
gunships. "It is the heaviest attack since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada" he says. When did it
start? "Exactly at 7.30 PM this evening, that's when they opened fire. Why do you ask?"
This diary had grown in the writing, added to again and again in hours snatched from the activities described (and
many not described). Never was it really possible to keep up with the flow of events. The days seemed to blend
into each other, no longer distinct and clear as they were in the beginning. And now we are already on November
18, and evidently even a double issue cannot contain all that deserves to be told. We have run out of time and
space (and possibly of your patience, too). So, the events of the two weeks after that rally will need to be foreshortened
and mentioned only briefly.
There was the speech of KM Muhammad Barake, who dared say openly that he supports the Palestinian struggle for
liberation, the witch-hunt by the right-wing and the public prosecution, and the petition of solidarity with him.
At the very same time, there was the burgeoning campaign for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the police shootings,
which came to be supported by eminent jurists, and even the Bar Association, eventually forcing Barak to grant
In Tel-Aviv University, some of the Galilee Arab families left bereaved by the police bullets spoke out to a packed
hall, and footage was shown which was never seen on Israeli TV.
There was the increase in contacts with beleaguered Palestinians, the intensification of solidarity and relief
actions. The guilt feeling of hearing, in calm Holon, an extremely tired and desperate voice on the phone telling
of a house constantly besieged by army and settlers; the satisfaction of being able to gather some food and have
activists deliver it to that family within half a day; the knowledge that thousands of others with whom we have
no contact must be in the same conditions, and that anyway we have no resources to help all of them.
The soldiers at the Tul-Karm Checkpoint who looked the other way when Tel-Aviv activists of the Windows Center
met for an hour with Palestinian friends and delivered sorely-needed supplies. Also Yitzhak Magrafta, an apolitical
Israeli who was years ago helped by Hebron inhabitants in a time of personal crisis and who now throws himself
into the organizing of food relief for Hebron.
And the developing campaign for Hares village, especially hard-hit by the army and settlers - the contacts and
visits and food convoys and getting the foreign media's attention and activists interposing themselves between
the soldiers and the villagers. And now an effort is beginning, at the initiative of the new "November 29
Coalition", to organize an "international presence from below."
Private Noam Kuzar has been released from prison, where his refusal to participate in oppression landed him - only
to be set to the "special duty" of sweeping floors and cleaning toilets for an indefinite period. In
prison he had met two other CO's which until then nobody knew about, and who had conducted their struggle all by
The new Four Mothers, with their clear demand for settlement evacuation and return of the soldiers guarding them,
already succeeded in breaking into the public agenda - being regularly interviewed and invited to TV talk shows,
and generating a whole string of pro and con articles in the press. From the angry settler reactions it seems that
the Mothers' campaign is hitting a sensitive spot.
Gush Shalom is not any more the only group to publish ads which point out that peace requires dismantling the settlements.
Now, there is also the string of Peace Now ads, entitled "No future with the settlements", which to the
fury of the right wing was published in both the Israeli and the Palestinian press.
And the petition signed by A.B. Yehoshua and 23 other prominent writers, no longer apologetic, boldly declaring
that "The great majority of settlements must be removed." The growing number of Israeli casualties, and
the transformation of settlements into fortified positions of the kind the army erected in Lebanon leads to a growing
turmoil among soldiers and their families -- spreading far beyond the organized groups with clearly-defined programs.
Half a year ago, a soldier became a living symbol, when in front of TV cameras he said into his mobile phone "Mother,
it's over! I'm out of Lebanon!" This week he was killed while guarding a settlement enclave in the Gaza Strip.
Leah Rabin survived for only a few days longer, after the mass memorial to her husband. Her coffin was laid at
precisely the place he was murdered, five years ago. Among the crowd which came to pay last respects, we met S.
- a soldier who, before his conscription, used to take part in Gush Shalom demonstrations. He had gotten a 24-hour
pass out of the West Bank cauldron, and chose to spend part of his leave here on the Rabin Square. His eyes lighted
when he saw the Gush stickers with the slogan "Bring back the soldiers from the Territories." Can I have
some of them?" he asked. "After all, its' about us."
Olives, Stones & Bullets
Suddenly I noticed that we were quite alone on the road. A wonderful road, six lanes wide, parts of it still in
the building stage. Completely empty.
This is a bypass-bypass road, an invention of the occupation. First, they built the cross-Samaria road, from Kafr-Kassem
to Ariel and beyond, so as to by-pass the Palestinian villages. But the Palestinian village of Bidia, which, on
Saturdays, has become a shopping mall for Israelis, slowly crept up to the road. In anticipation of the next intifada,
Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak (each in his turn) decided on an even more sterile, bypass-the-bypass road. Again
great stretches of Palestinian land were expropriated, again we demonstrated together with the Palestinian villagers
(November '98), again we were tear-gassed (one does not shoot at Israelis), again to no avail.
But now the road is empty. Only from time to time we meet groups of cars. The settlers are driving in convoys for
fear of stone-throwing children. But we were lucky. Here and there we saw stones lying around on the road, remnants
of previous stone-showers, but we passed unmolested.
On the previous evening we received a SOS call from the villagers of Hares to please come there. This Palestinian
village, near the big Ariel settlement, is cut off from the world. The army is blockading it, no one is allowed
to enter or leave. The olives, the only product of the village, are going to rot on the trees, especially in the
orchard bordering the Revava settlement. Anyone trying to harvest there is in mortal danger. A 14-year old boy
was shot and killed there only three days ago, when he was alone in the orchard with his father. The villagers
hope that the presence of Israelis will restrain the settlers and soldiers, allowing them to harvest the olives
on which their livelihood depends.
A woman from the village also called. She cried excitedly that at that moment the soldiers had opened fire on the
village and on her. She begged us to come the next morning. Until darkness, she promised, there is generally no
Hares is situated on a hill, 100 meters away from the road, at a stretch where the bypass-bypass joins the bypass
road. The stretch is an ideal place for throwing stones, and therefore the settlers are angry. We know the landscape
well, because in March, 1999 we helped a family in the next village, Kiffel-Hares, to build a house demolished
by the army.
It was not easy for us to decide what to do. It was clear that this is a war zone. In order to get to the place,
we had to risk being stoned or shot at by Palestinians, who would think that we are settlers. On the other hand,
our presence would be like a red rag to the settlers. The army would consider us breakers of the occupation laws.
All this in order to pick olives a few dozen yards from a settlement.
Gush Shalom activists who can come on a workday include youngsters in their teens and elderly people. Men and women.
Was it responsible to advise them to enter a war-zone?
On the other hand, in these difficult days, in the middle of the Palestinian war of liberation, it is very important
that the threads still connecting Israelis and Palestinians are not broken, as extremists on both sides would wish.
It is also important to show the Palestinians that there are peace forces in Israel who want to display solidarity
during their hardest hour.
These arguments won. It was decided to mobilize by phone the activists who were ready to leave their work on a
and to take part in the action. Within two hours, 20 volunteered. And so, on Friday, we were on our way from Tel-Aviv
in a minibus driven by an Arab-Israeli. From Jerusalem, another contingent, led by the "Rabbis for Human Rights"
group, were also on their way.
We arrived at Hares without mishap. On the way we did not encounter any army checkpoint. Even the checkpoint which
was located for years on the green Line, near Kafr Kassem, had mysteriously disappeared.
We entered the village by foot, climbing the hill, crossing a field of desolation -- old olive trees cut down,
ancient terraces destroyed, apparently to enable the army to shoot without hindrance. [continued] From
the direction of the mosque we heard the Friday prayers as we crossed the quiet village by foot and left it by
the western entrance, on the way to the olive groves. There the army stopped us with armored jeeps and heavily
armed soldiers. A tough major (or perhaps lieutenant-colonel, the bullet-proof vest made it difficult to be sure)
quickly filled out a prepared form, signed in advance by the C/O Central Command for all occasions, declaring the
Hares plantations a "closed military area." We were requested to leave.
We refused, of course. We pointed out that the settlers, who were shouting slogans and cursing us, were allowed
to pass freely in their cars. Then a superior officer, a lieutenant-colonel or perhaps colonel (as above) appeared.
We were told that he was the brigade commander.
We argued with him. He was a sympathetic, intelligent officer, with a sense of humor, one of those who are called
"regular fellows", which made what he said sound even more objectionable. Why the discrimination between
the settlers and the Palestinian villagers? Well, it's because the villagers throw stones. Why punish a whole village
for the deeds of a minority? "I am not sure it's a minority." It was quite clear that his heart is with
the settlers, whose life, as he said, "had become hell." For him, the Palestinians were enemies, no sentiments
Why does he not permit us to harvest olives? "Because you came here to provoke the settlers." We answered
honestly that we had no such intention.
While this argument went on, our activists started to infiltrate into the groves one by one. The brigade commander
had to choose between several alternatives: he could call for reinforcements to get us out by force, or he could
allow us to harvest olives. Wisely, he chose the latter course.
The next six hours where an experience taken straight out of an old Zionist propaganda film. We picked olives,
one by one, from the trees nearest the settlement. We used our hats as containers, until buckets were brought.
We climbed trees in order to get at the higher branches. Hard work, but really enjoyable. On the hill, opposite
us, at a distance of some fifty meters, a cluster of angry, bearded, scull-cap-wearing settlers had gathered, but
soldiers prevented them from approaching us.
When the villagers saw us working, families of the tree-owners dared to come and harvest too. Friendships developed
quickly. Everything was done at a hectic speed. The Palestinians knew that they could work there only as long as
we were there. They chose work methods that were damaging to the trees, hitting the branches, gathering the olives
on nylon sheets spread on the ground, in order to gather as many olives as possible in a few hours.
At 3 p.m., when we were about to finish, we received a call on the mobile phone. We were asked to come as quickly
as possible to the other side of the village, where a confrontation was developing with the army. The villagers
wanted to use the presence of Israelis (those who had come from Jerusalem) in order to remove the roadblock put
up by the army to prevent them having contact with the neighboring village and the world at large. The Palestinians
calculated that the army would not open fire in the presence of Israelis and foreign TV crews. Since the situation
was deteriorating rapidly, we were asked to come and try to prevent a fatal clash.
We boarded the minibus and drove into the village. Along the main street, a lot of children were standing around.
At some distance, children were playing (training?) throwing stones at each other. Some local youngsters volunteered
to walk in front of our bus and tell the children that we were not settlers. Proceeding this way we were nearing
the place of the clash when we were stopped by the village head and a very authoritative looking young man. The
head said that the confrontation had ended and that he would show us the place. The young man said that the confrontation
was still going on and that we should not go on any further. It was clear that he was the boss. He strongly suggested
that we go by the way we had come. But first he gave as a short, passionate speech, in which he called Ehud Barak
some highly uncomplimentary names from the animal kingdom.
The village head volunteered to show us the way, so that we could view the site of the clash from the army side,
from the main road. But as we were leaving the village, we encountered an army jeep. A sergeant with Russian features
stopped us with a movement of his hand generally reserved for Arabs. One of us asked him to be polite. He became
very angry and told us that we could not leave the village. A blockade was in force; no one comes in, no one goes
out. He doesn't give a damn whether we are Israelis or not. Orders are orders.
Only with great difficulty did we convince him to call his superior, who told him, of course, to let us pass. We
reached the main road (the cross-Samaria) and had to drive behind a convoy of settlers, when suddenly we were hit
by a shower of stones. At some distance we saw a group of small children. Fortunately, only the body of our bus
was hit. At lightning speed police and army jeeps appeared on the scene and took up firing positions opposite the
village. But the children had already disappeared.
In the meantime, we were told over the phone that the confrontation was really over, so we decided to make for
home. On the way, the village head (a renovation contractor active in the Tel-Aviv area) alighted. We waited for
a few minutes, to make sure that he got home safely. He started to climb the hill, but before he had gone no further
than a few meters, soldiers ran after him, rifles ready to shoot. We got down from the bus and convinced the soldiers
that the man was not a dangerous terrorist, but a villager who had been kind enough to show us the way. They let
him return to his village.
Over the phone we heard that two activists from the Jerusalem group had been arrested during the clash at the roadblock.
(Neither of the two belonged to Peace Now, as was erroneously reported on the Israeli Channel 1. Peace Now had
taken no part in the events of the day.)
This is how the reality of the occupation, November 2000, looks.
We returned home tired but content, as they say. The time was 4 p.m., the hour shooting usually starts.
For me it was a long day. An old friend of mine had invited me to a dinner-party in Ceasarea. The elite of the
elite was there, financiers, doctors, senior bureaucrats, media people, artists. Wonderful food, excellent wines.
I had no strength left to get into arguments. So I just sat aside, looked and wondered about what was happening
at the time in Hares, some light-years away.
At midnight, on the long way home, I heard on the news that a settler woman had been slightly wounded by stones
near Hares village.
*final portion p.32*
Dear readers of The Other Israel
This issue comes out later than we planned for a multitude of reasons. Of course the TOI-staff was intensively
involved in the not always effective, but definitely very hectic efforts of the peace movement to find an answer
to the overwhelming situation. There were weeks that we were daily out on the streets, and the remaining hours
there were very intensive consultations by email or phone. We also sent out press releases from this Holon office,
in Hebrew -- to get certain facts into the heads of the journalists and through them to the wider public; and in
English so as to let the world know. And meanwhile we were thinking about what we were going to write in the next
newsletter. We knew that it had to be different. It would not be enough to have as usual a rational political analysis
combined with short chronicles on actions taken by the peace movement. The result is this 32-page issue, the biggest
in all the seventeen years.
With a huge telephone bill, and this extra-large issue we have to turn to you, and ask you: could you make a one
time emergency donation to the shrinking coffers of TOI?
If you can, then please send a check to The Other Israel (donation 2000), pob 2542, Holon 58125, Israel. (NB: US
residents should send their check to AICIPP, 224 Lake Drive, Kensington, CA 94708-1132; donations via AICIPP are