by Uri Avnery
GENERALS AND secret police chiefs get together for an attack on the politicians.
In some countries, they arrest the president, occupy government offices and TV stations and annul the constitution. They then publish Communique No. 1, explaining the dire need to save the nation from perdition and promising democracy, elections etc.
In other countries, they do it more quietly. They just inform the elected leaders that, if they don’t desist from their disastrous policies, the officers will make their views public and precipitate their downfall.
Such officers are generally called a “junta”, the Spanish word for “committee” used by South American generals. Their method is usually called a “putsch”, a German-Swiss term for a sudden blow. (Yes, the Swiss actually had revolts some 170 years ago.)
What almost all such coups have in common is that their instigators thrive on the demagoguery of war. The politicians are invariably accused of cowardice in face of the enemy, failure to defend national honor, and such.
Not in Israel. In our country we are now seeing a kind of verbal uprising against the elected politicians by a group of current and former army generals, foreign intelligence and internal security chiefs. All of them condemn the government’s threat to start a war against Iran, and some of them condemn the government’s failure to negotiate with the Palestinians for peace.
Only in Israel.
IT STARTED with the most unlikely candidate to lead such a rebellion: the ex-Mossad chief, Meir Dagan.
For eight years, longer than most of his predecessors, Dagan led the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, comparable to the British MI6. (“Mossad” means “institute”. The official name is “The Institute for intelligence and Special Operations”.)
Nobody ever accused Dagan of pacifism. During his term, the Mossad carried out many assassinations, several against Iranian scientists, as well as cyber[ ]attacks. A protégé of Ariel Sharon, he was considered a champion of the most aggressive policies.
And here, after leaving office, he speaks out in the harshest terms against the government’s plans for an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. Not mincing words, he said: “This is the stupidest idea I have heard in my life.”
This week he was overshadowed by the recently relieved chief of the Shin Bet. (Shin Bet and Shabak are different ways of pronouncing the initials of the official Hebrew name “General Security Service.”) It is equivalent to the British MI5, but deals mostly with the Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories.
For six years, Yuval Diskin was the silent chief of the silent service. His shaved head could be seen entering and leaving meetings of secret committees. He is considered the real father of “targeted eliminations”, and his service has been widely accused of extensive use of torture. Nobody ever accused him of being soft on Arabs.
And now he has spoken out. Choosing a most unusual venue – a get together of some two dozen pensioners in a small-town cafe – he let fly.
According to Diskin – and who would know better? – Israel is now led by two incompetent politicians with messianic delusions and a poor grasp of reality. Their plan to attack Iran is leading to a world-wide catastrophe. Not only will it fail to prevent the production of an Iranian atom bomb, but, on the contrary, it will hasten this effort, this time with the support of the world community.
Going further than Dagan, he stated that the only factor preventing peace negotiations with the Palestinians is Netanyahu himself. Israel can make peace with Mahmoud Abbas at any time, and missing this historic opportunity will bring disaster upon Israel.
As chief of the Shin Bet, Diskin was the No. 1 official government expert on Palestinians. His agency receives and collates all the evidence, spy reports, interrogation results and information gathered from listening devices.
Leaving no room for doubt, Diskin said that he knew Netanyahu and Barak from close up, did not trust them and thought they were unfit to lead the nation in a crisis. He also said that they are deliberately deceiving the people. He did not omit to mention that they live in extreme luxury.
Anyone who thought that these accusers were lone voices, and that the whole choir of current and past security chiefs would rise and condemn them unanimously, was disappointed. One after another these experts were quoted by the media as agreeing with the two in substance, though not necessarily on their style. Not a single one questioned their assertions or denied what they said.
The current Chief of Staff and the Mossad and Shin Bet chiefs let it be known that they share the views of the two on Iran. Almost all their predecessors, including all the recent military Chiefs of Staff, told the media that they agree, too. Suddenly there was a united front of experienced security leaders against a war with Iran.
THE COUNTER-ATTACK was not late in coming. The entire battery of politicians and media hacks went into action.
They did what Israelis almost always do: when faced with serious problems or serious arguments, they don’t get to grips with the matter itself, but select some minor detail and belabor it endlessly.
Practically no one tried to disprove the assertions of the officers, neither concerning the proposed attack on Iran nor concerning the Palestinian issue. They focused on the speakers, not on what they said.
Both Dagan and Diskin, it was asserted, were embittered because their terms of office were not extended. They felt humiliated. They are venting their personal frustration. They are speaking out of sheer spite.
If they did not trust the Prime Minister, why did they not get up and resign while they were in office? Why didn’t they speak out before? If this was a matter of life and death, why did they wait?
Alternatively, why don’t they continue to shut up? Where is their sense of responsibility? Why do they help the enemy? Why don’t they speak only behind closed doors?
Diskin, it was added, has no idea about Iran. It was not in his area of responsibility at all. Dagan knew about Iran, but had a limited view. Only Netanyahu and Barak knew all the facts and the entire spectrum of opportunities and risks.
Sources “close to the Prime Minister’s office” also had another explanation: Dagan and Diskin, as well as their predecessors, were just stupid. Taken together with Dagan’s and Diskin’s assertion that Netanyahu and Barak are not rational (and perhaps not quite mentally balanced) this means that our national security depends entirely on a group of irrational and stupid leaders – and that this has been the case for years.
A frightening thought: what if everything they say about each other is true?
THE MAN accused by his security advisers of messianic tendencies was exposed to personal scrutiny by another event this week.
His father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, died at age 102, having remained of clear mind to the end. At the public funeral, he was eulogized by Binyamin. As could be expected, it was a kitschy speech. The son addressed his dead father in the second person – (“You taught me”…”You formed my character” etc) – a vulgar practice I find particularly distasteful. He also shed tears on camera.
There is no doubt that the father had a huge influence on his son. He was a professor of history, whose whole intellectual life was centered on one topic: the Spanish inquisition – a traumatic chapter in Jewish history comparable only to the Holocaust.
Ben-Zion Netanyahu was an extreme rightist, obsessed by the idea that Jews might be exterminated at any moment, and therefore cannot trust any Goy. He held Menachem Begin in contempt, considering him a softy, and never joined his party. His intellectual attitude was reinforced by a personal trauma: his eldest son, Yoni, the commander of the spectacular Entebbe raid, was the only soldier killed in this operation.
It seems that he didn’t have such a high opinion of his second son. He once remarked publicly that Binyamin was unfit to be prime minister, but would make a good foreign minister – an uncannily accurate judgment, if one sees the job of the foreign minister as marketing.
The home in which “Bibi” grew up was not a very happy one. The father was a deeply embittered man. As a historian, he was never accepted by the academic world in Jerusalem, who disavowed his theories. (Mainly, that the Inquisition did not persecuted the Marranos – Jews who had accepted Christianity rather than leave Spain – because they practiced Judaism in secret, but out of pure anti-Semitism. This was an attack on one of the most cherished tenets of Jewish mythology: that these Jews had remained true to their faith to the point of sacrificing their lives at the stake.) Not getting a professorship in Jerusalem, the father emigrated to the US, where Binyamin grew up. The father never forgave the Israeli establishment.
The myth of the Great Historian laboring at his titanic task was a daily reality at home, in America and, later, back in Jerusalem. The three sons had to walk on tiptoe, not being allowed to make any noise that could disturb the great man, nor to bring their friends home.
All this shaped the character and world view of “Bibi” – the specter of imminent national annihilation, the role model of the fiercely rightist father, the shadow of the older and much more admired brother. When Binyamin now speaks endlessly about the coming Second Holocaust and his historical role in preventing it, this need not be just a ploy to divert attention from the Palestinian issue or to safeguard his political survival. He may – frightening thought!!! – actually believe it.
The picture that emerges is exactly that painted by Yuval Diskin: a Holocaust-obsessed fantasist, out of contact with reality, distrusting all Goyim, trying to follow in the footsteps of a rigid and extremist father – altogether a dangerous person to lead a nation in a real crisis.
Yet this is the man who, according to all opinion polls, is going to win the upcoming elections, just four months from now.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour. ~ William Blake: Auguries of Innocence
According to IDF Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, a missile flies from Tehran to Tel Aviv in seven minutes. That is substantially more time that it takes to recognize the propagandistic statements made by him, Dennis Ross—formerly U.S. President Barack Obama’s senior Middle East adviser—and Jamie Fly—a former adviser to the George W. Bush administration—at a panel discussion at the Washington Institute’s 2012 Weinberg Founders Conference in Virginia on May 5, 2012. “I don’t agree that we have time, diplomacy is unlikely to work given the record of the Iranians,” said Fly, blatantly ignoring the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran had never attacked any other country while both Israel and the USA had not refrained from wild attacks on others in even one single year of their entire histories (see American Led Apocalypse). Joseph Goebbels—Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany—was watching the event from hell in absolute delight.
It is difficult to comprehend how someone who achieved the rank of major general, was Chief of Staff of the Israeli Air Force and led AMAN, the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, keeps saying obviously false statements in front of a respectable, supposedly well-educated public and is applauded for that. Amos Yadlin also said: “If they can’t be contained when they don’t have a nuclear weapon, how can they be contained when they do?” In its style, this sentence was typical of Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels was second in the Nazi movement only to Hitler as a public speaker of the Nazi Party. Hitler’s was hoarse and passionate; Goebbels was cool, sarcastic and humorous. He was a master of insinuation, as Amos Yadlin obviously is. After all, what did he mean when he said: “they can’t be contained when they don’t have a nuclear weapon…?” After all, Israel is the one occupying others’ lands and attacking innocents, as pointed out clearly by the UN Council of Human Rights. Yet, Yadlin insinuated the opposite. His Western crowd applauded blindly.
“You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.”
George W. Bush, President of the USA in an interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric, September 6, 2006.
Clear (and common) example of Western false rhetoric.
Yadlin kept openly laughing at his audience. “I am sure they won’t launch a nuclear bomb the moment they get it, but the possibility that as a result of miscalculations and lack of stability they will launch a nuclear missile is not a possibility you can ignore,” he said. I was glad to see Yadlin recognizing—as the CIA and all other involved sides did—that Iran is not planning to attack anybody. This statement already renders all Western belligerent rhetoric useless. But Yadlin shoot both his feet with a single bullet. He claimed that an unstable country should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons due to the danger of miscalculations. Mr. Yadlin, my dear major general, did you check out how many of Israel’s governments reached their timely end? Did you notice that due to his lack of capability to govern, Mr. Netanyahu has called for early elections this year? If you are unaware of that, you can read Netanyahu’s Night of the Long Knives. Israel is orders of magnitude less stable than Iran, a country with a continuous history spanning several millennia. Considering this, could you please rephrase your false statement?
I was about to dismiss the entire event, but Yadlin kept firing his Goebbels-style missiles. “If you really want all options on the table, you need to be very credible with the military option,” Yadlin said. I commented in Isra-bluff that Israel is conducting a sophisticated disinformation campaign on its intentions toward a war on Iran. Here is another example. A Hebrew speaker as he is, Yadlin intentions behind the sentence are clear: you need to be very credible, because this is a false statement. Israel is not planning an attack on Iran; it prefers Uncle Obama to carry it out. Yadlin is part of the Israeli disinformation operation. I want to emphasize another implied untruth in Yadlin’s words: “they can’t be contained when they don’t have a nuclear weapon” What? Since when is the role of a society to contain others? Why a nuclear Israel thinks it has the right to block the right of other people to self-defense from Israel’s unquestioned aggression? Mr. Yadlin, are you aware of the principle of reciprocity in diplomacy and other equally respected disciplines? Do you think your people are better than the Iranians are, and thus should be given an unfair advantage while they shamelessly pursue the systematic destruction of other civilizations?
Dennis Ross attacked along similar lines. He said that diplomacy might succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclear program: “Why would it work now? Now the Iranians are under pressure they’ve never been before. They are isolated internationally; the power balance in region has shifted against them…” Mr. Ross assumed his audience doesn’t read newspapers. Days before his ridiculous claim, it was announced India and Iran had began trading oil—Iran’s main export—in local currencies, abandoning the battered American dollar. That’s true all over Asia. Mr. Ross, it is the USA the one becoming increasingly isolated. A day may come in which international banks won’t dare giving you Indian rupees in exchange for your unreliable, cotton-paper American dollars. If you want to fight along this line of rhetoric, I recommend you to study carefully Joseph Goebbels’ speeches. I am sure General Yadlin will be glad to join such a study group.
While this nonsense, propagandistic panel took place, Israel kept reinforcing its nuclear second strike capabilities (see Six Million Submarines). This means that Israel will be able to strike with nuclear weapons from submarines at hidden locations at sea even if its nuclear weapons stored on land are harmed in an enemy strike. However, why does one need a second strike option, if there are no real options of an initial attack taking place? As said, not even the CIA claims that Iran is militarily offensive. Not even General Yadlin says that. Israel is spending so much money on this that we must be witnessing something else. How would Israeli leaders continue to be leaders if the state changes for good? How would they stay in power if it becomes a true democracy also for its non-Jewish citizens? The time of choices is approaching. The Jewish leadership will not renounce its powers regardless of the cost. In order to stay in power during the next (and final) Diaspora, they need a new narrative to sell to their badly beaten sheep. Here is where the massive investment in nuclear technologies begins to make sense. It seems this time the narrative would be Samson’s Option, a nuclear holocaust. It may begin as a false flag attack; in order for this to work, the Jewish leaders must be able to claim “we were attacked; the entire world is still against us!” Following the false flag attack, or a surgical Israeli strike on Iranian installations, the latter would be forced to make a defensive strike on Israel. The initiating excuse matters little; Israel must force a cataclysmic attack on itself. Damage so heavy the State of Israel would not be viable anymore. Then, the culprit would be destroyed with the second strike capability acquired with the help of the state-of-the-art German submarines. This last step is necessary in order to destroy all proofs of the scheme, so that history would be written (again) by Zionist forces abroad.
General Yadlin, it is you and your allies that must be contained. You are the violent ones. Enough! We don’t want your demagogy. We don’t want your lies. We don’t want your bombs. Opening old books and reading Joseph Goebbels speeches is enthralling enough for all of us when in the mood for that. General Yadlin, you have a short memory. In November 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, shot a German diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, in revenge for the deportation of his family to Poland. Goebbels following incitement resulted in the Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” during which the SA and Nazi Party went on a rampage of anti-Jewish violence and destruction. “This is one dead man who is costing the Jews dear. Our darling Jews will think twice in future before gunning down German diplomats,” wrote Goebbels about the event. General Yadlin, are you—and the Israeli leadership in general—trying to provoke with your demagogy a new Herschel Grynszpan to begin an unnecessary war with Iran?
“Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour” wrote William Blake in the text brought at the beginning of this article. Mr. Yadlin, for all eternity humanity will remember the seven minutes it took to get rid of evil. At least, don’t forget that.
The mounting public criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by past and present members of the Zionist state’s defense and intelligence establishments triggered the recall of a comment made to me by one of its former Directors of Military Intelligence. The comment was: “If we had a government consisting of only former DMI’s, we’d have had peace with the Palestinians long ago.”
I must confess (and do so cheerfully) that I can’t remember which of two former Israeli DMI’s said that to me. It was either General Chaim Herzog, one of the founding fathers of Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence who went on to become the Zionist state’s ambassador to the UN and then its president, or General Shlomo Gazit, the best and the brightest of them all. In private conversations with me both men were refreshingly honest.
Herzog, for example, said the following to me on the second day of the June 1967 war:
If Nasser had not been stupid enough to give us a pretext for war, we would have created one in a year to 18 months.
But it was Gazit who hit the nail of truth most squarely and firmly on the head in one of our conversations.
For about two decades he was the head of research at the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Then, in 1973, he was called upon to become DMI, with a brief to overhaul the agency to make sure there could never again be an intelligence failure of the kind that had occurred in the countdown to the Yom Kippur war. He was, in short, the man to whom the government of Israel turned for salvation in the aftermath of what it had perceived at the time, wrongly, to be a real threat to the Zionist state’s existence.
Over coffee one morning in early 1980 I took a deep breath and said to Shlomo (then Major General Retired): “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all a myth. Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger.”
Through a sad smile he replied: “The trouble with us Israelis is that we’ve become the victims of our own propaganda.”
The latest and widely reported public criticism of Netanyahu (and all of his leadership colleagues, Defense Minister Ehud Barak in particular), was voiced by Yuval Diskin, who retired last year as the director of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, the equivalent of America’s FBI and Britain’s MI5.
Diskin told an audience in the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba that he had “no faith” in the ability of the current leadership to handle the Iranian nuclear threat.
I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings… I have observed them from up close… I fear very much that these are not the people I’d want at the wheel.
Diskin was even more explicit and damning in his criticism of the Netanyahu government’s dealings with the Palestinians. In response to Netanyahu’s assertion that the peace process is stalled because he does not have a willing Palestinian partner, Diskin said:
This government has no interest in talking with the Palestinians, period. It certainly has no interest in resolving anything with the Palestinians, period.
The bad news for past and present members of Israel’s defense and intelligence establishments who are aware that Netanyahu is leading Israel and quite possibly the region and the world to disaster is that all the signs are that he, the deluded Netanyahu, will win Israel’s next election and remain prime minister. As the Ha’aretz headline put it, Netanyahu the clear favourite heading into Israel’s upcoming elections.
The analysis and comment under that headline was written by Yossi Verter. As he put it:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can rest easy after reading the results of the latest Ha’aretz-Dialog poll. Not only does he trounce all his rivals on the question of who is most fit to lead the country, but an absolute majority of Israelis reject the aspersions cast on him last week by former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin. Judging by this poll, Netanyahu is the only candidate with a realistic slot of becoming prime minister after the election slated to take place in another four months. Asked which candidate is most suited to hold the job, 48 percent of respondents said Netanyahu. That is considerably more support than the other three candidates received put together.” Shelly Yacimovich, Labour’s leader. got only 15 percent support; Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader, only nine percent; and Shaul Mofaz, who recently replaced Tzipi Livni as Kadima’s leader, only six percent.
Also worth noting are some of the statements Livni made in her resignation speech.
Israel’s leaders, she warned, are putting the country’s existence at risk by choosing to ignore the mounting impatience on the part of the international community. She said: “Israel is on a volcano, the international clock is ticking, and the existence of a Jewish, democratic state is in mortal danger. The real danger is a politics that buries its head in the sand, and it doesn’t take a Shin Bet chief to know that.” (In my view the fact that Israel is neither a Jewish nor a democratic state does not rob Livni’s warning of all of its significance. And I imagine she is in complete agreement with Verter who wrote in an April article for Ha’aretz that “Israel is becoming a pariah state because the extreme right has taken it over almost entirely.”)
It is possible, even probable, that Livni was forced to stand down by Mofaz because of her unwillingness “to sell the country to the ultra-Orthodox” (her words). She was not sorry, she said, for her refusal to give in to “political blackmail” on that account.
She also said: “And I’m definitely not sorry for the main issue I promoted – even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t in vogue right now, there’s an urgent need to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians as well as with the Arab world,”
A good and necessary question is the one posed by Yoel Marcus in his latest article for Ha’aretz. He wrote:
“The big riddle is what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was thinking when he decided to move up the elections. Why not elections at the scheduled time? After all, another year and a half in a safe government is nothing to sneeze at. In addition, he is running the country with a solid majority of 65 seats. Nobody can bring him down.”
Marcus’s conclusion was this:
“As we approach the last minute to decide on Israel’s character, Netanyahu is aiming at a resounding victory in the elections to be in a better position to do nothing.”
Doing nothing will mean, among other things, letting Zionism’s colonization and slow but sure ethnic cleansing of the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem continue.
Netanyahu knows that to do that he will need to be in the strongest possible political position at home to tell a second-term Obama to go to hell if he dares to use (or even thinks about using) the leverage he has to oblige Israel to be serious about peace with the Palestinians. And that, I think, is the key to understanding the real reason why Netanyahu is going for early elections.
As Ari Shavit put it in his article for Ha’aretz, “The prime minister of Israel is determined to get to the Israeli election booth before the president of the United States gets to the American election booth in November.” Shavit told his readers that it’s not unknown for American presidents to use their influence during Israeli election campaigns to improve the prospects for an uncompromising rightwing prime minister being replaced by a more pragmatic one. Netanyahu knew that he could be exposing himself to that risk if he did not seek a new mandate until months after Obama had been re-elected.
The question that takes me back to my headline is this.
Given the apparent certainty of a Netanyahu election victory, and if a second-term Obama won’t or can’t use the leverage he has to oblige Israel to be serious about peace, is there nothing that can be done to stop the countdown to a Zionist-made catastrophe for the region and possibly the world? (The question would still be relevant in the unlikely event of Mitt Romney defeating Obama). In other words, is there anything that could be done to change the dynamics of what is happening in Israel?
My answer is determined by my understanding of what the real problem in Israel is.
The shortest possible description of it (the real problem) is in Shlomo Gazit’s response to me 32 years ago -
The trouble with us Israelis is that we have become the victims of our own propaganda.
From the best and the brightest of Israel’s former Directors of Military Intelligence that was and remains a statement of awesome significance, verbal “shock and awe” one might say, but it needs some unpacking.
The expanded main point is that the vast majority of Israeli Jews have been brainwashed by their political leaders and, as a consequence, believe a version of history about the making and sustaining of what used to be called the Arab-Israeli conflict that is simply not true.
The two biggest of the many propaganda lies Israel’s political leaders have told their people are
(1) that they have lived (and still live) in constant danger of annihilation; and
(2) that Israel has never had (and still doesn’t have) a Palestinian partner for peace.
It follows, surely, that what the vast majority of Israeli Jews need if their brains are to be unwashed, something that must happen if they are to be equipped to play their necessary part in giving real peace a real chance, is the truth. The question is – Who could tell them the truth with a reasonable chance of being believed?
In my opinion it is most unlikely that there will ever be an Israeli politician in government, or aspiring to be in government, who will tell the truth. In my opinion there is only one power on earth which could tell it – Israel’s military in association with the state’s various security agencies. And that in summary and principle is why I believe that what Israel needs most of all is a military coup, to put in place for a limited period, not more than one year at the most, a military administration which would be committed to telling Israeli Jews the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict, and what their real options are. Essentially there are two. Peace on terms acceptable to the vast majority of Palestinians or catastrophe for all.
This truth-telling exercise and the informed and honest great debate it would make possible would set the stage for a referendum, after which the military would hand power back to the politicians who would be obliged to formulate policy in accordance with the wishes of the majority of voters as expressed in the referendum.
If the referendum indicated that a majority of Israel’s Jews had allowed the truth to open their minds and hearts and enabled them to understand that justice for the Palestinians had to be their government’s policy priority, there would be peace. (Initially, and for reasons of realpolitik, it would have to be in the form of a two-state solution made possible by the ending of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the lifting of its siege of the Gaza Strip. But it’s not impossible that, as Arafat hoped, a generation or two of peace based on two states could lead by mutual consent to one state for all, perhaps in a confederation with Jordan).
If a majority of Israel’s Jews wanted to cling on to Zionist mythology and continue down the path laid out by Netanyahu, there could only be catastrophe for all at some point, triggered, probably, by a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
As I have outlined it, the merit of the military coup approach to changing the dynamics of what is happening in Israel is that it would give Israel’s Jews the opportunity to save themselves from their deluded political leaders.
What I have suggested makes good sense to me in principle, but I am not presuming that it has a practical application.
Below is a piece by Susan Abulhawa about Jeff Halper. Susan is a Palestinian currently exiled in the USA and a member of the Deir Yassin Remembered Board of Advisers. Susan’s piece struck a particular resonance with me because once upon a time Jeff Halper too was on the DYR Board of Advisers. But one night in 2005 Jeff resigned and, I’m sure not at all by accident, he took most (not all!) of the Jewish members with him.
It was a major blow and a terrible night.
I picked up the publicly emailed resignation letter at about 1.30 in the morning (London time); skimmed it and then tried to sleep but I couldn’t. Resignations were flying all over the place and the time gap between London, the U.S.and Israel/|Palestine making it all the more gruelling.
Sleepless and distressed I began to think of the trip Dan McGowan and I made to Israel/Palestine in April 2004 and particularly of the times we spent with Jeff Halper.
I thought of the solidarity visit he organized to Beit Arabiya – the ‘Peace House’ – ‘once’ Salim Sharamwa’s house in the village of Anata. The original house was built by Salim, demolished by the occupation forces and then rebuilt by Halper and ICAHD. Three times they bulldozed the house and three times Halper rebuilt it. Marvelous work. But I also recall at the solidarity visit, being served Palestinian food by Salim’s silent and nameless wife.
I was also reminded of the Friday night when he invited Dan and myself, with many others, to his home in Jerusalem. It was an unforgettable evening, a wonderful occasion – pasta and wine followed by chocolate cake. The room was jam-packed with activists – Jews, non-Jews, Christians and others and the conversation was loud, raucous and very stimulating. I had a great time.
But not a single Palestinian was in that room. Everyone – all us activists doing all that fine work – from Israel, the US and the UK– colonizers, all of us. From the young woman, once an American called Deborah now an Israeli called Dvorah, to the former North London Jew once called Ruth but now called Ruti – all the way to Dan and myself (also in our own ways colonizers), and finally to Halper himself. .
Above, I wrote that Beit Arabiyah was “once” Salim Sharamwa’s house. I included the quotation marks because that house, no matter whose name is on the title deeds, is no longer Salim’s house. It is no longer Salim’s house more than if the IDF had, as they intended, bulldozed it to the ground. Salim’s house is now, by courtesy of the IDF and of Jeff Halper, a Jewish house.
Salim’s house is no longer Salim’s house as surely as the land that Jeff Halper shows to solidarity visitors is no longer Salim’s land. As the IDF with its bulldozers has turned it into Israeli land so Jeff Halper, by his good works, has turned it into Jewish land.
At the end of his resignation letter, Jeff Halper urged us at DYR to search our souls and that in leaving the organization he would “find other ways to pursue the lessons of Deir Yassin.” It may be that, in the short term, Palestinians may be better off for Halper’s solidarity work but of one thing I am sure: It is not we at Deir Yassin Remembered who needed to search our souls for the true meaning of Deir Yassin, – it is Jeff Halper.
Now, over to Susan
Solidarity and Realpolitik: My Response to Jeff HalperBy Susan AbulhawaSome years ago, I was on a panel with three men, Jeff Halper among them, at a Sabeel conference in Pennsylvania. Each panelist was asked to give their vision for a solution to the ‘Palestine/Israel conflict’. Because I was sitting at the end of the table, I was the last to speak. I listened to each one of my fellow participants lay out different versions of a two-state solution, each more depressing than the other, each with irrelevant nuances (all previously articulated by Israel, by the way) on how to make the refugee problem just go away. They spoke the tired talk of land swaps, compromise, several surreal highways that bypass humanity for miles on end, and more creative solutions designed to circumvent the application of human rights where Palestinians are concerned.When my turn came, I spoke of Palestinians being accorded the same basic rights that apply to the rest of humanity, including the right to return to one’s home after fleeing a conflict. I spoke of equality under the law regardless of religion. I spoke of a construct that would prevent one group from systematically oppressing another. I spoke of human dignity and the universal right to it. I spoke of equal access to resources, including water, regardless of religion.I will never forget Jeff Halper’s response, which he was eager to voice even before I had finished speaking. He began with a smile, the way an adult might smile at the naive remarks of a small child. He needed to give me a lesson in reality, and proceed to tell me, in the patronizing way of someone who knows best, that my vision lacked “how shall I say it…Realpolitik”.I did not waiver then, nor have I since, on my position that Palestinians are not a lesser species who should be required to aspire to compromised human dignity in order to accommodate someone else’s racist notions of divine entitlement.That said, I do not consider Jeff Halper racist and I acknowledge the mostly positive impact he has had in bringing attention to one of Israel’s enduring cruelties, namely the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes as a tool to effectuate ethnic cleansing of the native non-Jewish population. But in my view, that does not entitle him to speak of what Palestinians should or shouldn’t do. I also don’t think it qualifies him as an anti-zionist when he clearly accepts the privilege accorded to Jews only. After all, Jeff Halper is an American from Minnesota who made aliyah (Israel’s entitlement program that allows Jews from all over the world to take up residence in my homeland, ultimately in place of the expelled natives). Perhaps is it my lack of Realpolitik, but I cannot reconcile embracing the very foundation of zionism on one hand, and calling oneself an anti-zionist on the other.In a recent interview on Al Jazeera’s website with Frank Barat, he did just that. He also laid out a dismal scenario for the future of Palestinians, based on what Israel is very likely plotting, namely the annexation of Area C and the pacifying of the Palestinian Authority (also likely) with economic incentives and mini Bantustans they can call a state. But he missed the mark, repeatedly, when it came to Palestinians themselves, as if he sized us all up with a glance and decided he was not impressed. Despite the burgeoning nonviolent resistance taking place all over Palestine, in various forms ranging from demonstrations, significant solidarity campaigns, hunger strikes, and more, he says that “[Palestinian] resistance is impossible” now. At best, he trivializes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is the first coordinated nonviolent movement of Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine that has also managed to inspire and capture imaginations of individuals and organizations all over the world to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Again, my lack of Realpolitik here, but to me, creating a situation where it is possible to force the implementation of human rights and restore dignity to Palestinian society is in itself an end. Jeff Halper seems unable to consider anything other than a negotiated agreement to be an end.He enumerates all that is wrong with internal Palestinian issues. Of course there are problems. We know our leadership is doing little more than pick up the trash and keep people in line while Israel steals more and more of our land. We are not happy about it either. But he seems to suggest that he, along with other Israelis I presume, have been carrying the burden of resolving this conflict. In one instance he says:“We’ve (I assume Israeli leftists?) brought this to governments, we’ve raised public awareness, we’ve had campaigns, we’ve done this for decades, we’ve made this collectively, one of two or three really global issues. But without Palestinians we can only take it so far.”Then he adds:“I am trying to challenge a little bit my Palestinian counterparts. Where are you guys?”If I read this correctly (and I will grant the benefit of the doubt that it was not meant as it reads), then he clearly sees himself at the forefront of the Palestinian struggle where his Palestinians counterparts are disorganized, haphazard, or not present. He even suggests that at this crucial time, “Palestinians have to take over,” further supporting the suggestion that Palestinians are not at the helm of the resistance.He also asserts that importing Jews from all over the world to live in colonies built on land confiscated from private Palestinian owners is “not settler colonialism”. What is it then?But back to his strange assertion that Palestinians “should take over” (from whom?), he describes an instance where he refused to participate in the global march to Jerusalem because the Palestinian organizers (who took over?) did not want to include the world “Israel,” the name of the country that denies our very existence and seeks in every way to eradicate us. Is it that Jeff Halper wants “Palestinians to take over” as long as Palestinians do so in a way that does not offend the sensitivities of the very people deriving privilege at their expense? That is not how solidarity works.I don’t presume to tell Israelis what they should or should not do but I would like to see Israelis concentrate on their own failures rather than ours. I would sure like to hear those who have made aliyah acknowledge that it was not their right to do so; that making aliyah is a crime against the native people who have been and continue to be forcibly expelled to make way for those making aliyah. I would like to hear an apology. The trauma that Palestinians feel is very much part of the Realpolitik and it is not unlike the trauma in the Jewish psyche. It comes from the same humiliation and anguish of not being considered fully human. Of being treated like vermin by those with the guns. If Halper truly understood that, perhaps dropping the word “Israel” – a word that hovers over the rubble of our destroyed homes and suffuses the pain at our collective core – would have been a no brainer expression of solidarity.- Susan Abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010) and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine (www.playgroundsforpalestine.org). She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Geert Wilders and Usama Hasan, two men from very different backgrounds but both are making a lucrative career out of the “War on Islam”. The former attacks Islam from the outside while the latter attacks it from within.
Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician and founder of the far right Freedom Party. He claims his war is not with Muslims but with Islam itself. Here is an interesting paragraph from his Wikipedia profile
Wilders’ goal after he graduated from secondary school was to see the world. Because he did not have enough money to travel to Australia, his preferred destination, he went to Israel instead. For several years he volunteered in a moshav and worked for several firms, becoming, in his own words “a true friend of Israel“. With the money he saved, he travelled to the neighbouring Arab countries, and was moved by the lack of democracy in the region. When he returned to the Netherlands, he retained Israeli ideas about counter-terrorism and a “special feeling of solidarity” for the country.
Amazing how support of Israel goes hand in glove with Islamophobia. Now, I agree with his observation that Muslims and Arabs are oppressed in Arab lands, but I disagree with his view that Islam is the reason. In reality, Western-backed dictators and general Western meddling is the cause of Arabs having to suffer their terrible leaders.
But now Geert Wilders has come up with a solution to liberate Muslims. In a recent speech in New York while promoting his new book “Marked for Death” he called on Muslims to leave Islam. According to Wilders, Islam is a totalitarian ideology and so he calls on us to turn our backs on Islam completely. Of course with such things to say about Islam it seems inevitable that Wilders would also be invited to speak on Fox News. Read about Wilders latest appearences in the media on the website Islamophobia Watch. There is the suggestion that Wilders might find a lucrative international career as a professional Islam-hater, although at present he denies that.
A number of media suggested last week that Wilders might be considering an international career because his role in the Loer Hose appears to have been played out for the coming period. Former VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also a fighter against Islam, moved to the US in 2005 and was subsequently named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential persons.
Clearly the opportunities are out there for those willing to be soldiers in the War on Islam - in reality a war against Allah s.w.t.
Here is another man who has taken the Queen’s shilling to join the army against Islam – this time from a completely different background. He is Usama Hasan. Usama Hasan comes from a very Islamic and scholarly family, his father Suhaib Hasan is head of the U.K. Shariah Council.
Usama Hasan has a very impressive academic background but he has been led astray, his knowledge of Islam and his intelligence are being used, not to benefit Muslims but to undermine fundamental tenets of Islam. Whilst the attack on Islam by Geert Wilders is being waged from the outside and therefore his secular ideology is obvious to Muslims, a Muslim like Usama Hasan attacking Islam from the inside is much more dangerous. The reason being that he can speak using Islamic sources whilst at the same time adding in his reformist and modernist agenda. Less knowledgeable Muslims can be easily led astray, especially where Usama Hasan attempts to use his intellect to come up new rulings which suit his desire to reform Islam, see here an example on his rendering of gender equality.
Usama Hasan is a part time Imam in Leyton mosque where the congregation have been trying to have him removed for years due to his acceptance of Darwins Theory of Evolution. Usama Hasan is very controversial, not just because of his support of Darwinism but also such ideas as he expressed in my own mosque including “Muslims need Halal pubs” and “Muslim women who don’t wear hijab are as equally good as ones who do”. Just to clarify these two points – the idea of a pub-type recreational place which, although it may have no alcohol is still likely to have music and free mixing of the sexes, can hardly be called Halal and a woman who disobeys Allah s.w.t. by refusing to wear what He commanded, even though she may pray and fast as does her sister who does wear hijab is still rebelling against her Creator and in a way that is clear for all to see. Many of the congregation of Finchley mosque wanted to prevent Usama Hasan from having a platform to address local Muslims but despite a clear vote against, the President unilateraly took the decision to ignore our views and allow Usama Hasan to come. The resulting schisms and loss of faith in the management committee in our mosque community have not healed to this day.
The latest news is that Usama Hasan has accepted to work full time for the Quilliam Foundation, a so-called think-tank on Islamic extremism. Hasan joins other extremists who were once self-proclaimed jihadists but who then made 180 degree career changes - a choice perhaps of the wages in this life or in the next. Wearing a suit to work and having a nice salary whilst cosying up to Western governments must be very tempting for those who are prone to go to extremes and can brush aside the fact that Muslims are being killed and imprisoned by non-Muslims in so many places and on a daily basis.
It is not my wish to argue on Darwinism or Usama Hasan’s other deviations from Islam, I write this only to expose those who have perhaps been tempted by the initial attention that their controversial views brought them, but who then were pulled further and further from the mainstream and eventually made a career out of being the enemies of not just Muslims, but the real enemies of Allah s.w.t.
Surat Mohammed 47 – 29
Or do those in whose hearts is disease think that Allah would never expose their [feelings of] hatred?