The Nightmare In Israel

Let’s start with Baruch Kimmering, a sociologist at Hebrew University. Here’s what he sent to the Jerusalem Weekly Kol Ha’Ir last month, which duly published it:

“I accuse Ariel Sharon of creating a process in which he will not only intensify the reciprocal bloodshed, but is liable to instigate a regional war and partial or nearly complete ethnic cleansing of the Arabs in the “Land of Israel.”

“I accuse every Labor Party minister in this government of cooperating for implementation the right wing’s extremist, fascist ‘vision’ for Israel.

“I accuse the Palestinian leadership, and primarily Yasir Arafat, of shortsightedness so extreme that it has become a collaborator in Sharon’s plans. If there is a second Naqba (Palestinian Holocaust), this leadership, too, will be among the causes.

“I accuse the military leadership, spurred by the national leadership, of inciting public opinion, under a cloak of supposed military professionalism, against the Palestinians. Never before in Israel have so many generals in uniform, former generals, and past members of the military intelligence, sometimes disguised as “academics,” taken part in public brainwashing

“I accuse the administrators of Israel’s electronic media of giving various military spokespeople the access needed for an aggressive, bellicose, almost complete takeover of the public discourse

“I accuse everyone who sees and knows all of this of doing nothing to prevent the emerging catastrophe. Sabra and Shatila events were nothing compared to what has happened and what is going to happen to us. We have to go out not only to the town squares, but also to the checkpoints. We have to speak to the soldiers in the tanks and the troop carriers And I accuse myself of knowing all of this, yet crying little and keeping quiet too often.”

From the press here we learn all the time of the pressure of public opinion on Sharon and his government to bear down even harder on the Palestinians. We just listened to NPR’s Linda Gradstein quoting one “expert” after another in Israel to this effect. But if public opinion here is crucial in pressuring US administrations to some measure of constructive intervention (as opposed to carte blanche for Sharon) then we should be hearing everyday of the passionate opposition to Sharon of people like Kimmering.

There are many others you don’t read about. Take the extraordinarily courageous people in the movement known Ta’ayush. On its site first you’ll see the words “Arab-Jewish Partnership”, and then you’ll be able to scroll through one action after another in which these folk have braved police and army beatings, march to beleagured and often bulldozed Palestinian villages to stand shoulder to shoulder with the victims.

Here’s what Professor Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University wrote March 6: ” As to the situation here, it is getting unbearable by the day We tried to dismantle a roadblock the other day near Hebrew U and were beaten by the police. Three women had their hands broken, one had her head opened. I was beaten while in custody with my hands handcuffed behind my back. Sharon bombed Gaza this morning”

There are plenty of people in Israel who see well enough that repression is not going to work. At the end of last year Ami Ayalon, a former head of Shabak, Israel’s security service, told Le Monde, “We say the Palestinians behave like ‘madmen,’ but it is not madness but a bottomless despair… Yasser Arafat neither prepared nor triggered the Intifada. The explosion was spontaneous, against Israel, as all hope for the end of occupation disappeared, and against the Palestinian authority, its corruption, its impotence.”

“I favor unconditional withdrawal from the Territories — preferably in the context of an agreement, but not necessarily: what needs to be done, urgently, is to withdraw from the TerritoriesAnd a true withdrawalIf they proclaim their own state, Israel should be the first to recognize it and to propose state to state negotiations, without conditions.”

There have been other public statements from other Israeli security personnel bearing on the same general theme that the present strategy of extreme repression is doomed to fail and that some form of phased withdrawal is in order.

Is there anything to the Saudi proposal? After all, its suggested bargain of unconditional recognition for Israel from the Arab countries in return for Israel’s unconditional withdrawal to pre-1967 borders is over 30 years old.

The Israeli journalist Meron Benvenisti had the right angle in his Ha’aretz column on February 28: No illusion is more dangerous than the idea being sold that ‘the conflict with the Palestinians is small and incidental. We can solve the conflict with the entire Arab world.’ It was long ago proven that there is no solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict without a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians–and that is what the Saudi initiative is all about.”

The Bush Administration, criminally negligent in its cowardice to engage with this crisis, lets it be known that the Saudi proposal has merit, by which it knows well enough what the standard operating procedure is for such proposals. As summed up by Uri Avneri, head of the peace group Gush Shalom, ” In Israel, every international initiative designed tio put an end to the conflict passes through three stages: (a) denial, (b) misrepresentation, (c) liquidation. That’s how the Sharon-Peres government will deal with this one, too.”

The press here has been as criminally negligent as the Bush administration for decades. No US administration will ever exert itself positively without some popular pressure, and the role of most of the press has been to avert such pressure but suppressing voices of opposition.

Here’s one thing you can do. Right now Jewish Voices Against Occupation is calling for the evacuation of all settlements, a return to pre-1967 borders, the suspension of US military aid till the end of the occupation, the estasblishmdent of an international peraqcekeeping force.

JVAO’s Bluma Goldstein tells me that 450 has signed it and $30,000 raised towards the necessary $37,750. Mail them at JVAO, PO Box 11606, Berkeley, Ca 94712. Their email is jvao@jvao.org. Remember Kimmerling’s line, “And I accuse myself of knowing all of this, yet crying little and keeping quiet too often.”

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