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Israel Is Voting Apartheid Gideon Levy


A man walks past electoral campaign posters in Tel Aviv on April 3, 2019.JACK GUEZ / AFP

There will be one certain result from Tuesday’s election: Around 100 members of the next Knesset will be supporters of apartheid. This has no precedent in any democracy. A hundred out of 120 legislators, an absolute of absolute majorities, one that supports maintaining the current situation, which is apartheid.
With such a majority, it will be possible in the next Knesset to officially declare Israel an apartheid state. With such support for apartheid and considering the durability of the occupation, no propaganda will be able to refute the simple truth: Nearly all Israelis want the apartheid to continue. In the height of chutzpah, they call this democracy, even though more than 4 million people who live alongside them and under their control have no right to vote in the election.
Of course, no one is talking about this, but in no other regime around the world is there one community next to another where the residents of one, referred to as a West Bank settlement, have the right to vote, while the residents of the other, a Palestinian village, don’t. This is apartheid in all its splendor, whose existence nearly all the country’s Jewish citizens want to continue.

read on here

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Gideon Levy at the National Press Club

LOOTED & HIDDEN – Palestinian Archives in Israel

click on vimeo link

Main Credits:

Director: Rona Sela
Script: Rona Sela
Main Editors: Ran Slavin, Lev Goltser
Additional Editors: Thalia Hoffman, Iris Refaeli
Original Music: Ran Slavin
Sound Mix: Itzik Cohen – Jungle Studio, Yuri Primenko

Participants: Khadijeh Habashneh, Sabri Jiryis, Former IDF Soldier, Rona Sela
Narration: Sheikha Helawy, Shadi Khalilian, Ran Slavin, Dalia Tsahor
Graphic Design: Yanek Iontef
Translation: Ilona Merber

The film was made possible through the generous support of Sally Stein in memory of Allan Sekula, and additional foundations

© Rona Sela, 2017

If being Jewish means catastrophe to the other


Children were the irrepressible vanguard of the first intifada, December 1987. Photo from World Bulletin. It lasted from 1987 to  1993

Trust Me, I Was Once a First-Year Jewish Student Too

By Robert A. H. Cohen, Writing from the Edge,
September 09, 2017

This month a new generation of Jewish students will begin their first term at University. Here’s my advice to them.

Congratulations/Mazel tov!

You’re off to university. First time away from home. First time away from your synagogue community. Or perhaps you’ve had a year out after school and have been in Israel soaking up your Jewish heritage. Maybe you’ve been on a Jewish leadership trip organised by your youth movement or a Birthright tour. But now it’s back to reality and you’re about to discover what it means to have your ideas challenged, your prejudices pointed out and your Jewish identity undermined.

But don’t worry. This is all to the good. It’s exactly what you need. Trust me, I was once a first-year Jewish university student too.

Your baggage

You may realise this already, but the baggage you’re taking with you to university is considerably more than what’s in your rucksack. It’s been accumulating throughout your life, it’s the stuff that’s made you who you are. Now you have the opportunity to unpack it, examine it, and decide if it’s still useful for the journey ahead.

Union of Jewish Students’ stall in Freshers’ week, Manchester Metropolitan University. Any UJS group is likely to support ‘the 2-state solution’ while doing nothing to bring it about.

I’m talking about that sense of being Jewish, the way you relate to your family history, the Jewish community where you grew up, what you think about Israel. In short, your Jewish identity. In an age where identity politics have become so central to our culture your Jewish identity has become almost sacrosanct, untouchable, beyond criticism. But is that how it should be? I’ll come back to this at the end.

I realise my credentials for offering advice about Jewish university life are now pretty thin. It was 1985 when my parents drove me from our home in Bromley, South London, to Manchester University in the north of England, then the institution of choice for a large slice of young Jews who’d grown up in the capital.

Before I pass on the little wisdom I’ve accumulated, let me provide some personal history and reflect on an event that set me on a path to Palestinian solidarity and Zionist dissent.

Ill at ease

Before starting at Manchester I had just come back from a long trip to Israel, my first, and I was already struggling with what the Jewish State meant to me. I didn’t have the words to articulate it at the time but something about my experience in Israel had left me confused and ill at ease.

I’d spent time on both religious and secular kibbutzim and at a project in the northern Galilee town of Safed that aimed to inspire young diaspora Jews to become modern orthodox in their religious practice and firmly Zionist in their politics.

While I could relate easily to the Jews of my age I’d met from America, South Africa and Europe, I found Israelis themselves difficult to get along with. As for the idea that I had somehow returned to my ancestral home – that feeling never kicked in. It turned out to be easier to take the boy out of Bromley than Bromley out of the boy.

Back home in the UK, two of my new flat mates in our student hall of residence had no such angst, no such dilemmas.

Phil and Andy had returned from Jewish leadership programmes in Israel ready to take up positions in the student union and advocate on behalf of Israel whenever the need was required. I recall being slightly in awe of their self-confidence and their self-belief as leaders and as advocates. It would be a long time before I found my own voice on the issue of Jews, Judaism and Israel.

During my first two years I went along to the Wednesday lunchtime political debates in the recently re-named ‘Steve Biko’ student union building. And when Israel came up I voted the way the Jewish Society (J-Soc) advised. Phil and Andy were good at their job.

Intifada


Children run from Israeli soldiers, 1st Intifada. Photo by Coutausse.

Then in my final year at Manchester (exactly thirty years ago) my understanding of Israel began to take a decisive turn.

With my exams approaching I should have been getting down to some academic work. John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, J.S. Mill and Karl Marx were all demanding my serious attention. But instead I was using the university library to follow, and attempt to fathom, the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada.

The uprising that began in Gaza in December 1987 quickly spread to the West Bank. It was an uprising from the streets of occupied Palestine provoked by frustration and disillusionment and it was characterised by strikes. boycotts, civil disobedience and, most notably, children and young people throwing stones at armed Israeli soldiers. The Israeli response from on high (Yitzhak Rabin, then Defence Minister) was to “break their bones”.

The first Intifada was a modern day re-working of David and Goliath from the bible. In fact the tale of the future Jewish king slaying the Philistine giant with just a sling and a stone was my favourite bible story, the one I’d ask my father to read to me again and again. Maybe that’s why this stone throwing rebellion caught my imagination in the first place.

But this time the Palestinian children were David and the Jewish soldiers were Goliath. It was an unsettling role reversal. After all, surely we had ‘written the book’ on what it meant to be the victims of oppressive power? How could this be happening?

Fathoming

You have to remember that in 1987 the internet, Facebook, Twitter and even email were still a long way off. To find out what was going on in Israel and the Occupied Territories I based myself in the first floor periodicals section of the John Rylands Student Library when I should have been one floor up in Politics & Philosophy.

On the shelves of the periodicals section there were current and back copies of the Guardian Weekly and the New York Review of Books, Commentary magazine and Foreign Affairs. I read articles by Americans and Israelis from the left and the right and in particular was hooked by the words of David Grossman and Amos Oz the two most well known Israeli liberal Zionists and opponents of the Israeli Occupation.

Until the first intifada I had little sense of the Palestinians as a community with a heritage and history as close to them as mine was to me. Now they were no longer just terrorists pursuing a militant cause I didn’t fully understand. My sense of unease about Israel that had begun during my first visit to the country was beginning to find its articulation. Here was a people suffering in the West Bank and Gaza because of what my people were doing.

Maybe if I’d walked up to the next floor Locke, Rousseau, Mill and Marx could have shed some light on the reasons for the Intifada too. Rights, liberty, freedom. Hadn’t I spent three years studying these things?

The first Intifada was for me the start of a long journey of reading, reflection and finally encounters and conversations with Palestinians that’s taken me to the place where I now stand.

The two-state fiction

So what’s changed between my leaving university and your arriving?

Well, for a while, the Palestinians were allowed to become a people rather than merely the creators of terror. But the ‘peace process’ that emerged directly from the first Intifada didn’t last long. Israel’s idea of Palestinian autonomy turned out to fall well short of rights, liberty and freedom. And all the time the Settlements expanded, the Jewish only roads grew longer and the checkpoints multiplied. The occupier continued to occupy.

Closer to home the Jewish leadership in the UK, including the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), adopted the two-state solution but then spent 25 years doing nothing to help bring it about.

There was never any serious public pressure on Israel from the Jewish community in Britain and never any attempt to prepare Jews here for the obvious compromises involved in making a Palestinian state, worthy of the name, a reality. Instead, our leaders, both religious and communal, did Israel’s bidding which became ever more right wing and intransigent as the years went by.

And where are we today?

When you get to your university you’ll see that UJS is keen to talk up its commitment to “peace” and “two-states for two peoples”. Through its campaign for “Bridges not Boycotts” it hopes to show itself as a liberal, compassionate defender of free speech. But in practice UJS behaves just like its elders in our Jewish leadership. It pursues tactics that define and constrict the parameters of acceptable student debate on Israel/Palestine; it dictates what antisemitism looks like; and attempts to ‘own’ the definition of modern Jewish identity by locking it into Zionism.

As for discussing one secular democratic state or some kind of federal constitution, no way folks. That’s all off limits. Because ultimately such thinking calls into question the privileged discrimination enjoyed by Jews in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank and indeed for you and me as Jews with the ‘Right of Return’.

calling  for “two-states”, when it’s  clear it will never happen, becomes no more than an excuse for ethical passivity

By parroting “two-states” UJS kicks every moral consideration down the road and into the long grass.

Why worry about today’s land and water theft? Why be concerned about the pauperisation of Palestinian farmers? Or arrests without charge. Or children in prisons. All will be resolved when the moon and the stars are finally aligned and the requirements of Jewish security are satisfied beyond all possible doubt. So that means sometime never.

The truth is that the longer we cling to the fiction of two-states and the belief that Zionism is not merely an ideology but a part of our faith and identity, the longer it will take to bring anything approaching peace with justice to the land.

Making the call for “two-states”, when it’s become clear it will never happen, becomes no more than an excuse for ethical passivity. It allows you to wrap yourself in a banner with with the words “peace/shalom” painted across it and feel secure in your denial of Jewish culpability in the on-going destruction of the Palestinian people.

I know this is tough to hear for young Jews when you’ve been schooled on the innate goodness of all things Israeli. But now is the moment to confront the reality of the Jewish relationship with the Palestinian people – our defining Jewish relationship for the last 70 years.

Advice

So if you’re a Jewish student starting university this month here’s my advice:

Don’t confuse “peace” and “two-states” for justice and equal rights.

Don’t mistake Jewish nationalism for Jewish self-determination.

Don’t wait for the Chief Rabbi or the Board of Deputies to ever say anything remotely ethical about the treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

Don’t wait for Trump, or May, or Macron or Trudeau to say or do anything useful about this.

Don’t wait for another massacre in Gaza.

And don’t take as long as I did to work things out.

Instead, take the opportunity of being away from home to hear other voices and other opinions. Allow yourself to listen with an open mind and an open heart to Palestinian experiences. Check out the history of 1948 especially the last thirty years of Israeli academic writing including the expulsion of the Palestinians from Safed which nobody mentioned while I was living there.

And don’t allow people to tell you you should feel scared or vulnerable if other students talk about boycotts and sanctions against Israel. If you took modern history at school you should be able to work out the difference between Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s and a campaign for human rights in 2017. And if you hear things said that make you upset or confused or angry that doesn’t make it antisemitism.

Jewish identity has never been static and has always been questioned and challenged by Jews themselves in every age and every place where we have lived. Zionism itself is an example of just that tradition of challenging our own understanding of who we are and what our future should be.

You have the same right to challenge today’s received wisdom; to ask the difficult questions; and create a way to be proud of being Jewish that isn’t trapped in an ideology that’s long passed its sell-by date.

So be bold, be courageous and decide where you want to stand and who you want to stand with.

Finally, to return to the start, let me leave you this (exam) question to ponder:

What happens to your sacrosanct understanding of ‘being Jewish’ when it becomes another people’s catastrophe?

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Have a great first term.

Yours

Robert

 

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Miko Peled : It’s Personal.

Miko Peled

As thousands of Palestinian political prisoners jailed by Israel are going through a hunger strike, we would do well to delve into the deeper, more personal and historical aspects of Palestine.  Though the politics and violence of settler colonialism have determined its fate for almost one hundred years, Palestine is not just a “case” or an “issue,” it’s personal. My dear, dear friend Nader Elbanna said to me a long time ago, “The Palestinian tragedy is more than just losing the house and the land.”  None of us will ever fully understand Palestine, none of us who are not Palestinian, that is, because it is personal. But there are ways to learn. Visiting Palestine is a good start. Living in Palestine is good too and learning Arabic affords a glimpse. Reading Ghassan Kanafani’s stories is moving and enlightening.

 

Ghassan Kanafani, in his short stories presents an intensely personal narrative and paints a picture that is painfully detailed. In one of his short stories, a young man asks, “would you like to hear about my life?” and he proceeds to describe a mother who died under the ruins of a house in Safed, the house that was built for her by her husband. He describes the father, now working in another part of the Arab World and unable to see his children, and a brother “learning humiliation” in an UNRWA school. In another short story Kanafani describes a father who is standing in the rain leaning on a broken shovel, taking a break from the back- breaking work of digging a ditch in the rain. He is digging in an effort to stop the rain water from flooding a tent where his family, now refugees, must live. He is cold, tired and hungry but avoids going inside the tent, not wanting to see his wife’s glare, knowing she blames him for the inevitable state of being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Seeing his child wear a torn, old shirt he contemplates taking part in a scam operation, stealing bags of rice from the UNRWA storage facility and selling them on the black market. “The guard is in on it and for a small fee he will look the other way,” he is told by a man of whose morals he does not approve, and whose very presence makes him uneasy.

The occupation of Palestine is not only about the brutality that is inherent in settler colonialism but the daily, painful existence of a nation that is denied the right to live in the land to which it belongs. A nation forced to live in abject poverty in camps that are unfit for humans and which exist just hours away from the land and the homes from which they were kicked out. A land for which they have the deeds, and homes for which they still hold the keys now inhabited by Jewish settlers. “For us, to liberate our country is as essential as life itself” Kanafani says to an Australian reporter in a rare interview in English. He is fierce and forthright, sitting in his office, with photos of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh behind him.

But Palestinians are permitted only to be victims or terrorists, never freedom fighters or heroes. If Palestinians wrote “Live Free or Die” on a license plate they will be accused of terrorism and locked up, deported or simply killed, though in New Hampshire it is the official motto. Ironically, Israeli children learn about a legendary Jewish hero who, having been killed in battle in Palestine said, “it is good to die for one’s country” though clearly, he was fighting to take the country of others. Kanafani was brutally murdered, along with his young niece Lamees who was only seventeen, for saying and doing just that – fighting to liberate his country. Since his assassination by Israel almost half a century ago, countless Palestinians were killed by Israel, some fighting, most while sleeping in their beds or trying to flee.

Kanafani talks about “them,” the “Yahud” the Zionists who colonized Palestine and exiled his people, turning them into “people with no rights, with no voice.” “They have put enormous efforts into trying to melt me,” he writes, “Like a sugar cube in cup of tea.” And he talks about “You” the Arab authorities under whom Palestinians are now forced to live. “You had managed to melt millions of people and lump them into one lump, into a single thing you can now call ‘a case.’” And, he continues, “now that we are all ‘a case’” there is no personal attachment to any single person or story. How convenient. That is what allows for the ease with which the world treats the Palestinian tragedy. That is how the West can sell Israel the weapons and technology with which it slaughters Palestinians by the thousands and maintains the oppression.

One wonders what Kanafani would say about the horrific, large scale massacres endured by the people in Gaza since 2008. What would he say if he knew that since his death things have become worse now that Israel’s army of terror has access to more “modern” weapons that allow it to murder and maim thousands in a single “operation.” How would Kanafani react if he heard about entire families that were wiped out by mortars and missiles fired at them and others, incinerated by millions of tons of bombs dropped from war planes? One wonders what stories he might write about children burned and mutilated with such ease in the twenty first century? “We are a small, brave nation” Kanafani said in 1970, “who will fight to last drop of blood.”

Israel – the name that was given to the Zionist state which occupies Palestine – is indignant at the very mention of Palestine and at the idea that as a state it should respect the rights of Palestinians. People who support Israel are offended when they hear accusations of racism, indiscriminate violence and genocide. But these same people have no problem with the actual ongoing campaigns of genocide, ethnic cleansing and the reality of racist apartheid perpetuated by Israel. Because for them Palestine is not personal, it is just a “case,” just a “problem.” But Palestine is not a problem, it is personal, it has a beating heat, and that is why the fight for justice in Palestine is gaining momentum all over the world. As the Palestinian leader and political prisoner Marwan Barghouthi wrote recently from a cell in an Israeli jail, “The chains that bind us will break before our captors can break our resilience.”

 

AIPAC speakers say the enemy is BDS, while ‘biggest Jewish-led protest’ surges outside

Young Jewish demonstrators from IfNotNow outside AIPAC conference yesterday

Young Jewish demonstrators from IfNotNow outside AIPAC conference yesterday

This morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by video to the Israel lobby group AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in Washington. He bragged about his warm relationship with President Trump to great applause, and said that many states in his region were turning to Israel in the fight of modernism against medievalism. He said it was time for Palestinian Authority to “above all, once and for all, recognize the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu also addressed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement aimed at Israel, saying Israel will defend itself on the “moral battlefield… We’ll defend ourselves against slander and boycotts.”

Last night Vice President Mike Pence was introduced as an enemy of BDS. He told the AIPAC conference, “The president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv,” to huge applause. He then called on the next ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a supporter of settlements, to stand. He also got a warm reception.

Martin Indyk took a jaundiced view of Pence’s promise, saying that George W. Bush had seriously considered the move for eight years, and Trump will still be seriously considering in another four years. “We’re freiers [suckers] to think otherwise.”

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog called on AIPAC’s followers to opposed the BDS movement. While former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper said that BDS was the most serious threat to Israel and merely the latest form of classical anti-Semitism.

“The third threat to Israel is the one we actually need to take the most seriously as Canadians and Americans, and that is the BDS movement… One can disagree with the Israeli government’s policies in this aspect or that, but the BDS is not about that. The BDS movement is about translating the old ideology of anti-Semitism into something acceptable to a new generation.”

The theme was echoed by AIPAC officials.

Democratic political consultant Paul Begala said this morning on the AIPAC stage that he was thinking of making “aliyah” to Israel because of political developments in Washington but affirmed: “I have never worked for someone who is anti-Israel and I never will… How could I and be true to my progressive values?”

As for progressive values: there was a large demonstration yesterday outside the Washington convention center by the “Jewish resistance,” led by IfNotNow. A few demonstrators from IfNotNow managed to get inside the hall and drop a banner protesting the occupation. While hundreds of others in the resistance group led a march to the convention center in an effort to stop the conference. Ben Norton said it’s the “biggest-ever Jewish-led protest” of AIPAC. Bigger than Neturei Karta.

Here’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin’s thorough video coverage of the demonstration for AJ+.

One organizer says what makes this anti-AIPAC demonstration different is that it’s the 50th year of occupation, and these young people are not going to let AIPAC speak for the Jewish community anymore. Others emphasized the crisis inside the Jewish community. Among the soundbites:

Fifty years is too long. It’s a moral crisis for the Palestinians, it’s eroding our community. AIPAC does not speak for American Jews.

The Trump administration is forcing the American Jewish community to pick.

AIPAC stands for endless occupation. We are the Jewish Resistance.

I’m here fighting for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians, and a Jewish community that stands up for those things.

Jews can’t have liberation if Palestinians don’t.

We refuse as Jews and humans to be part of the American Jewish establishment…. I feel heartbroken that it’s taken our community so much to move…. We have a long way to go.

At Minute 20 you can see a dozen demonstrators forming a human chain outside the convention doors.

Shortly after, a group said to be part of the Jewish Defense League attacked the demonstration.

Some shouted at IfNotNow, “sharmouta,” Arabic for prostitute.

Shihab-Eldin asked why no one from JDL was arrested.

Thanks to Annie Robbins. 

 

Shimon Peres and the nuclear world

Shimon Peres.

Shimon Peres.

As the world media eulogizes former Israeli Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres, there are three key moments that won’t get much press.

Israel’s Nuclear Program

The recently leaked email written by Colin Powell in 2015 has confirmed the estimate that Israel has 200 nuclear weapons. But how did Israel get a nuclear weapons program in the first place?

The story begins in an unlikely place. In 1956, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal: an event that, seemingly, has nothing to do with Israel developing nuclear weapons. But it does. In response to Nasser’s move, Britain and France planned an invasion of Egypt. But Britain’s Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, was concerned about Britain’s reputation in the Middle East and was determined not to look like the aggressor. So the French asked Israel to invade and conquer the Sinai.

Peres, then the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, met with the French General Staff and, in response to their query, assured them that Israel was capable of taking the Sanai in two weeks. The plan was that Israel would invade, Egypt would respond, and France and Britain would demand that they both withdraw from the Sinai. Israel, as planned, would agree, while Egypt would not. Now Britain and France had a pretext to invade, and Britain would not appear the aggressor.

But in exchange for invading Egypt and touching off the Suez War, Peres set Israel’s price at a nuclear reactor. Peres insisted, and France agreed: they promised to finance the construction of a nuclear reactor in Israel.

Israel invaded on October 29, 1956. Things didn’t go as planned, but Israel had France’s word. Perez fiercely lobbied the French to honour the agreement, and, in 1957, France inked the deal and financed the construction of a 24 megawatt nuclear reactor. According to Sasha Polakow-Suransky, “both parties knew [it] was not going to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes”.

Peres is sometimes called the “architect of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.” But, he was more than its architect: he was its father.

South Africa

When, in 1990, South Africa became the first country in history to terminate its nuclear weapons program, the world found out that South Africa had developed the bomb. What the world did not know was that Israel was deeply engaged in helping her.

Israel actively helped South Africa with technology for systems to deliver the warheads, provided her with tritium and cooperated in testing. South Africa brought Israeli atomic scientists into the country and the two countries exchanged secret scientific intelligence. Importantly, Israel helped South Africa to build the longer range missiles she desired to deliver nuclear warheads. Israel also provided South Africa with thirty grams of tritium, a radioactive substance that increases the explosive power of thermonuclear weapons. The thirty grams–enough to boost several atomic bombs–was delivered to South Africa in batches between 1977 and 1979, during the UN weapons embargo on South Africa.

It was Peres who, in November of 1974, opened the secret meetings with South Africa leaders that would lead to the April 3, 1975 signing of SECMENT, an extremely secret security and secrecy agreement that governed every aspect of this new military agreement. And it was Shimon Peres who, on April 3, 1975, signed it.

So, Peres is not only the father of Israel’s nuclear weapons program: he also midwifed South Africa’s.

Peres also helped South Africa in other ways. In 1976, Defense Minister Peres dispatched Colonel Amos Baram to the apartheid regime to act as an advisor to the South African military. His function was to advise on “security problems,” and not just on South Africa’s borders, but “internal problems too”: a clear reference to Israel’s helping South Africa to maintain apartheid. Polakow-Suransky quotes Colonel Baram’s admission years later that “I was advising them on how to defend it”.

Peres also nursed South Africa’s invasion of Angola. The Israeli Defense Forces welcomed South African officials and trained South Africans in airspace control techniques. Peres sent Admiral Binyamin Telem, commander of the Israeli navy, to South Africa where, together with Baram, he would advise the Chief of South Africa’s army, General Constand Viljoen “on everything,” according to Telem, on South Africa’s Angolan invasion.

Iran

Surprisingly, Israel’s relationship with Iran did not immediately sour after the Islamic Revolution. In 1977, the Israeli’s even began working with Iran to modify an Israeli missile so that Iran could have a missile with the longer range of two hundred miles. But–and here’s the incredible part–these weapons were capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads. According to Iranian expert Trita Parsi, though the two countries did not exploit this possibility at the time, Iran read Israel’s signals “as indications that this possibility could be explored down the road”. According to General Hassan Toufanian, then in charge of Iran’s military procurement, secret Israeli documents left “no doubt about it”.

It was Peres who was largely responsible for the change in policy that turned Iran into the archenemy of Israel and the Western world.

In 1992, the Labour Party won a landslide election that brought first Rabin and then Peres into power. Peres was first the Foreign Minister and then the Prime Minister. Several important geopolitical changes brought about by the Intifada, alterations in demographics and shifts in regional powers led Peres to see the doctrine of the periphery in a new way.

The doctrine of the periphery can be traced back to two leaders of Mossad: Reuven Shiloah and Isser Harel. But its central premise, that political compromise with the Arabs is impossible, may be traced back even further to Vladimir Jabotinsky. According to this perspective, Israelis look out from a tiny island to find themselves surrounded by a sea of hostile Arab nations whose differences with Israel are so essential that compromise and friendship are impossible. This impossibility of political ties with her neighbours drives Israel to reach for alliances with non-Arab states just beyond the circumference of her neighbours: to the periphery.

This local world view was adopted by David Ben-Gurion and became his doctrine of the periphery. It has been a dominant piece in the Israeli foreign policy puzzle ever since. The doctrine of the periphery had made allies of Israel and Iran for quite some time.

But Peres pushed the pendulum. For him and Rabin, the threat no longer came from the Arab vicinity, but from the Iranian periphery. In Peres’ “New Middle East,” Israel would move closer politically and economically to the Arabs and push Iran out of the neighbourhood.

It was Peres, to the total shock of the Iranians, who first cast Iran in the role of Israeli enemy and international threat. This bold move as casting director produced a total shift in Israel’s foreign policy and world view. It represented a complete realignment of the periphery doctrine. Rabin and Peres, who had until recently been pushing the Americans to improve relations with Iran, would now attempt to make friends with the Arab vicinity and vilify the Iranian periphery.

It was this reorientation by Peres that first severed relations with Iran and sought to cast the Islamic Republic as a world threat. It was this reorienting and casting decision by Peres and Rabin that set in motion the push for conflict with Iran. It was now, for the first time—with obvious implications for today—that Israel began to accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and warning the world that Iran would have a nuclear bomb before the millennium: a script still being read by Netanyahu.

Though none of these three key moments will be mentioned as the press remembers Shimon Peres, they all played important roles in the story of the nuclear threat faced by the world.

 

We’re American Jewish Historians. This Is Why We’ve Left Zionism Behind

Our connections to Israel flourished, faltered and finally ended even though we grew up, live and work in the heart of the American Jewish community.

Hasia Diner and Marjorie N. Feld Aug 01, 2016 4:45 PM

Hasia Diner: The Israel I once loved was a naïve delusion When I was asked to run as a delegate on the progressive Hatikva platform to the 2010 World Zionist Congress, I encountered my personal rubicon, the line I could not cross. I was required to sign the “Jerusalem Program.” This statement of principles asked me to affirm that I believed in “the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem as capital” for the Jewish people. It encouraged “Aliyah to Israel,” that is, the classic negation of the diaspora and as such the ending of Jewish life outside a homeland in Israel.

The “Jerusalem Program” also asked me to declare that I wanted to see the “strengthening [of] Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state.” As to democratic, I had no problem, but the singular insistence on Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state made me realize that, at least in light of this document, I could not call myself a Zionist, any longer. Does Jewish constitute a race or ethnicity? Does a Jewish state mean a racial state?

The death of vast numbers of Jewish communities as a result of Zionist activity has impoverished the Jewish people, robbing us of these many cultures that have fallen into the maw of Israeli homogenization. The ideal of a religiously neutral state worked amazingly well for the millions of Jews who came to America.

The socialist Zionism of the Habonim youth movement was central to my early years, providing my base during the 1970s when the Jewish settlement of the Occupied Territories began. I need not belabor the point that from that date on, the Palestinian land that has been expropriated for Jews has grown by leaps and bounds and that the tactics used by the State of Israel to suppress the Palestinians have grown harsher and harsher.

Nor do I need to say that the exponential growth of far right political parties and the increasing Haredization of Israel, makes it a place that I abhor visiting, and to which I will contribute no money, whose products I will not buy, nor will I expend my limited but still to me, meaningful, political clout to support it.

I have read too much about colonialism and racism to maintain what I now see as a naïve view, that only the events of June 1967 changed everything. The Israel that I loved, the one my parents embraced as the closest approximation to Eden on earth, itself had depended well before 1967 upon the expropriation of Arab lands and the expulsion of Arab populations. The Law of Return can no longer look to me as anything other than racism. I abhor violence, bombings, stabbings, or whatever hurtful means oppressed individuals resort to out of anger and frustration. And yet, I am not surprised when they do so, after so many decades of occupation, with no evidence of progress.
I feel a sense of repulsion when I enter a synagogue in front of which the congregation has planted a sign reading, “We Stand With Israel.” I just do not go and avoid many Jewish settings where I know Israel will loom large as an icon of identity.

Marjorie N. Feld: The moment I began my reeducation

In all facets of my very Jewish upbringing I was immersed in Holocaust education. It was made absolutely clear to me that only Israel could prevent the concentration camps, right-wing anti-Semitism and genocide, from reappearing. Friends and I travelled throughout Israel on a summer high school program in 1988, hitting the Jewish tourist spots (Masada, the Western Wall) that reinforced both Jewish nationalist triumphalism and the co-constitutive invisibility of Palestinians, their history, the violence and ethnic cleansing that created the Jewish state.

I now call it my propaganda tour, but I learned this language only later. From non-Jews I met in liberal and left organizations in college, I first heard strong critiques of Zionism as Western colonialism, as a militarist project, as racism. Very smart friends of mine were articulating these critiques, and they made me terrifically uncomfortable.

A feminist scholar I met at a conference asked me directly if I considered myself a Zionist, and I gave an indirect answer. Her anger became palpable. She nearly shouted: “You’ve read Chomsky, haven’t you?” I had not yet read Noam Chomsky’s writings on Israel, I confessed. As I recall she turned away and didn’t speak to me again that evening. That might be hyperbole, or more likely my own sense of shame.
I reeducated myself, stopping to look at all of the facts that I had bumped up against for years. The 1948 radio broadcast of the votes at the UN that declared the Jewish people had a home and would never face genocide again: I had listened to this recording and this interpretation dozens of times in the sites of my Jewish education. Now I interpreted it anew. The founding of Israel was the Nakba, the great catastrophe, for Palestinians, with ethnic cleansing, destruction, and no right of return.

In short, I no longer found common ground with those who saw an anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist bent, or even conspiracy, on the left. I saw that that Israel fit neatly into my broader understanding of Western colonialism. How could Israel be the antidote to genocide when it was the product of imperialism and ethnic cleansing?

Like Hasia, I often feel marginalized. I travel across several towns, driving past many other synagogues, to my synagogue precisely because I too refuse to enter to any institution that flies the “We Stand with Israel” banner.

‘Before’ and ‘after’ Zionism in the U.S. Jewish community
Our journeys from “before” to “after” identifying with Zionism have been painful, and we’ve searched for allies and institutions. We have both found Jewish Studies a difficult space in which to criticize Israel, to stand against the Occupation or even Zionism. Though we certainly do not claim to speak for all American Jews, as scholars we know we are a part of something much larger, something that, we assert, should be shaking the foundation of American Jewish leaders. Closing down all conversations on Israel/Palestine, demonizing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, marginalizing or silencing those who dissent from the Zionist “consensus”: there is a growing gap between these leaders and the people for whom they claim to speak.

Hasia Diner is a professor of American Jewish history at New York University. She is the author of “We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust” (NYUP, 2010).
Marjorie N. Feld is professor of history at Babson College and the author of “Nations Divided: American Jews and the Struggle over Apartheid” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Hasia Diner
Haaretz Contributor
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.734602

Interview with Shir Hever

 

You went to Berlin to the Free University. Why?

I actually live in Heidelberg, although I’m writing my PhD at the Free University of Berlin. I followed my partner who found a job in Germany. The very large emigration from Israel of young and educated people has meant that much of my family and friends have already left Israel, and Berlin is actually a favorite destination, where I meet many of my old friends from Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

What motivated you to research Israel’s military sector and to support BDS? Did your upbringing and family background have a role in this, or was it something you came to later in life?
I did grow up in a leftist and critical family, and was taught to ask questions from a young age. I went to a very militaristic school, so I was taught a Zionist perspective as well, but I didn’t want to take part in the occupation directly as a soldier. In order to try to be a non-combat soldier, I volunteered for a year of social service in the town of Sderot, and there I had time to think about politics, to hear from my friends who were drafted into the army, and to see aspects of Israeli society that I never knew existed. I decided not to do any military service. By pretending to be crazy I easily received an exemption, like thousands do every year.
Only in university, however, did I become aware of the Palestinian side of the story, when Palestinians were invited by a political group called “The Campus Will Not Stay Silent” to speak about their experiences during the Second Intifada. I started to become politically active and joined the Alternative Information Center, a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization.
Supporting BDS came naturally as I was part of the group of activists who were considering various strategies of combating the occupation. As an economist, I felt that BDS can have a very strong impact on the Israeli economy and society and was something that empowers Palestinians to use non-violent resistance.
Choosing my research topics was done in an activist environment, and I would usually write reports and studies on matters upon requests from activists. After writing my book on the political economy of Israel’s occupation, I realized that the Israeli military industry and Israeli arms exports are very important to complete the picture, to explain how Israel’s occupation fits into global interests, and so I chose this as a topic for my PhD.

It is said that the Israeli population is becoming more mentally and psychologically isolated from the rest of the world. Is that also your experience?
Absolutely not. Israelis strongly depend on a feeling of being part of the “west,” and part of Europe (even though Israel is not in Europe). The fascination of Israelis with the European Football Cup, with the Eurovision etc. is one aspect of this, but also the desire to travel in the world, to consume western culture, etc. I admit that when BDS started, I did not imagine that its most powerful impact would be precisely in the sphere of culture. Whenever a famous artist cancels a performance in Israel, the reactions are very powerful, because Israelis don’t want to feel isolated. The fact that Israelis are willing to pay double the prices for tickets to performances of artists who choose to violate BDS and perform in Israel is a testimony to that fact. Actually, this is the reason for BDS being a successful tactic; it targets a sensitive nerve of Israel’s culture, the need to be included.

Listening to Netanyahu and Lieberman, we get the impression here that the division between Jews and Palestinians in Israel itself is increasingly growing. Is that true?
On the political level, yes of course. The Israeli government is not ashamed to call for separation, and to demonize Palestinians as a group. On the local and personal level, there are also many cases of Palestinians and Jews working together, becoming friends, creating families together. Separation is never 100% successful. It is true that many Israeli Jews have little contact with Palestinians and know very little about them. Very few Israeli Jews bother to learn Arabic. But Palestinian Israelis, on the other hand, have frequent contact with Israeli Jews, speak good Hebrew and have a very good understanding of Jewish culture and politics.

How can you explain that an Israeli general has compared the situation in his country with Germany of the 1930s?
Major-General Yair Golan is well-known for being very direct and not too careful with what he says. In a lecture he gave in 2007 he admitted that the Wall of Separation’s main purpose is to separate populations, and security only comes as a second priority.
Currently Israel is witnessing a fierce struggle between two competing elite groups. The old military elite in Israel (to which Golan belongs) is in a state of crisis, losing much of its influence over the government and the business sector.
The military elite is not leftist, progressive or opposed to the occupation, but it believes in creating an “intelligent” occupation, a careful and planned use of force in order to keep the Palestinians under control. They are afraid of the populism of the Israeli government and how it encourages unbounded brutality of Israeli soldiers against Palestinians. Golan hinted that such populism and brutality are not signs of strength of Israel, but actually signs of weakness.
His statement was severely criticized, and gave the government the opportunity to make more populist statements. Minister of Defense Ya’alon (also a member of Israel’s military elite, and former commander of the army) was forced to resign and was replaced by Lieberman, who is not a member of the military elite.

Does militarism and war (also) serve to cover the tensions within Israeli Jewish society?
I wouldn’t say militarism and war, but rather an obsession with security. Israel hasn’t fought a real conventional war since 1973, instead it is constantly engaged in asymmetrical conflicts in civilian areas, where Israeli soldiers use heavy armaments in civilian areas. But the constant fear of retaliation, the threat of real and imagined terrorism, are exploited very cynically by the Israeli government to distract from the burning social issues in Israel.
A good example of this is the 2011 attack on an Israeli bus in the midst of large social protests in Israel. Netanyahu quickly announced that the attackers came from Gaza, and ordered a bombing against Gaza, killing five Palestinians. Even though the attackers did not come from Gaza, Palestinians chose not to react to the Israeli killing of innocent Palestinians, because such retaliation would serve the desire of Netanyahu to suppress the social protests. I think that we can learn from this example how well Palestinians understand Israeli society. Interestingly, the social protests ended eventually with very little effect, and the security issue continues to dominate Israeli political discourse.

If we look at the big military companies such as the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit, do they account for a large share of the Israeli economy?
The arms sector is a large section of Israel’s industrial sector, and the two biggest arms companies are the government-owned IAI, and the private Elbit Systems. There are conflicting numbers from various sources, and I estimate that 11% of Israel’s total exports are security and military exports, to which these two companies contribute more than half. Of course this is very significant for the Israeli economy, and no other country in the world has arms as such a high proportion of its total exports (not even the U.S, the world’s largest arms exporter). Nevertheless, one must remember that the majority of Israel’s exports, and industrial companies and workforce are civilian.

How is the Netherlands (and the EU) most complicit in supporting the Israeli military industrial complex? Through its subsidies and financing, its scientific research, its global production facilities, its purchases of Israeli military products and services, or its provision of tax havens for the companies’ profits?

All of the above, but the complicity is not just in helping to fund the Israeli arms industry, but also by legitimizing it. When Dutch and European politicians promote security cooperation projects with Israel, they are fully aware that the Israeli arms industry is based on the Israeli military experience in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, technologies developed in the course of repression of Palestinian resistance and control over a large population denied its basic rights. Therefore, all these ties between European and Israeli arms companies send a message that Europe accepts Israel’s occupation and even seeks to learn from it. This was said by General Yoav Galant (currently Israel’s minister of housing), that “foreign governments are hypocritical. On the one hand they criticize our actions, but then they come to us to learn how we do it.”

BDS campaigns in Europe have the potential to be a powerful force given that the EU traditionally has been one of Israel’s largest markets. Is this where you think BDS efforts can be most effective – or rather in the US or elsewhere?
In the end, the most effective BDS campaigns are not necessarily the ones that have the biggest monetary effect, but those that get the attention of the Israeli public. U.S-based BDS was very effective in making Israelis feel that “even our closest ally is changing its opinion on us,” but so did BDS actions in Germany. Europe remains Israel’s largest target both for exports and for imports, but BDS doesn’t seek to change that. BDS is not a tool to harm the Israeli economy, but to achieve political change through pressure.
The Netherlands play a very important role because of the importance of the Rotterdam port to Israel’s exports to Europe, especially of agricultural produce, which is of great symbolic significance. If the Netherlands will impose more strict controls over that import, it has a direct impact on the Israeli illegal colonies in the Jordan Valley, which is the most fertile land in all of Palestine.

Is BDS a bigger threat for the economy of Israel or for its image?
BDS does not seek to harm the Israeli economy, but to convince Israelis that it is unsustainable to violate international law. I don’t believe that the Israeli government will continue with its policies of apartheid and occupation long enough for BDS to cause a long-term damage to the Israeli exports. When Israeli companies will start moving to other countries to avoid BDS, the Israeli government will either collapse, or change its policies. The majority of the Israeli public today (unlike the situation in the 1970s and 1980s) is no longer willing to make great sacrifices for the sake of Zionism.
The Israeli image, however, is already strongly affected by BDS. The strength of BDS is that it is a movement based on research and information, and that through BDS, activists are able to educate the public about the situation in Palestine, and disseminate materials. The image of Israel in the world is changing as a result, and this is something that has no less of an effect on Israeli decision makers than the economic impact.

What could be important focus points for organizations such as docP and Stop de Wapenhandel (Stop the Arms Trade)?
In my experience, it is a very bad idea for someone from Israel/Palestine to tell organizations what their focus should be. Surely you know better than me who is your audience, what kind of message will be more effective to reach them and what they can do and organize locally. Palestine solidarity groups work in a wide variety of contexts – from student groups to church groups, from labor unions to social justice and environmental movements. My only recommendation would be to choose projects that can have an impact inside Israel, projects that involve major and well-known Israeli companies, politicians, etc. And that each such project should be accompanied by research. Activists can only be successful if they have a lot of information that they can disseminate as part of their activity. It is never enough to say “let’s boycott this company because it is Israeli.” You must explain why.

Shir Hever

DocP |  source

 

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