excerpted from the book
The Other Israel
Voices of Refusal and Dissent
edited by Roane Cary and Jonathan
The New Press, 2002, paper
by Baruch Kimmerling
February 1, 2002
I accuse my prime minister, Ariel Sharon,
of creating a process that will not only intensify the reciprocal
bloodshed, but which may lead to a regional war and the partial
or nearly complete ethnic cleansing of Arabs o "Greater Israel."
I accuse every Labor Party minister in
the present Israeli government of partnership with the ultra-nationalist
right wing in implementing its evil "vision?'
I accuse the Palestinian leadership-and
primarily Yasser Arafat-of shortsightedness so extreme that it
has become a collaborator in Sharon's plans. If there is a second
nakba (Palestinian catastrophe of 1948), this leadership, too,
will carry partial responsibility.
I accuse the American government, and
especially the administration of President George W. Bush, of
complicity in the deaths of both Jews and Palestinians through
its complete misunderstanding of the situation in the Middle East
expressed by its willingness to give Sharon free rein in implementing
a policy of "politicide" against the Palestinians. The
United States government, as Israel's patron, bears full responsibility,
not only for the recent escalation but for the coming bloodshed
I accuse the military leadership of using
its supposed expertise to incite public opinion against the Palestinians.
Never before in Israel's history have so many high-ranking officers
and members of military intelligence, some of whom cloak themselves
as academics, taken part in public brainwashing. When a judicial
committee of inquiry is established to investigate the 2002 catastrophe,
they will have to be considered responsible along with the civilian
I accuse the Israeli electronic and print
media of being submissive to various military spokespersons by
granting them the access needed to exercise almost total control
over an increasingly aggressive and bellicose public discourse.
The military controls not only Palestinian cities, but Israeli
radio and television as well.
I accuse those people, politicians and
officers of all ranks, who order the black flag hoisted above
them, and those who follow their unlawful orders. The late philosopher
Yeshayahu Leibowitz was right: The occupation has ruined every
good part of Israeli society and destroyed the moral and social
infrastructures on which it rests. Let's stop this march of fools
and build society anew, a society free of militarism, oppression,
and the exploitation of other people.
I accuse everyone-mainly the majority
of Jewish intellectuals in Israel and the United States-who sees
and knows these things of doing nothing to prevent the impending
catastrophe. The Sabra and Shatila massacres were nothing compared
to what has happened-and what will happen-to us, Jews and Arabs,
following this ethnic war ...
THE ENEMY WITHIN
by Neve Gordon
May 1, 2002
For Israel, September 11 was a Hanukkah
miracle' Ha'aretz's political analyst recently quoted Israeli
officials as having said. Thousands of American fatalities are
considered-in this cynical world-a godsend because their deaths
helped shift international pressure from Israel onto the Palestinians,
while allowing the Israeli government to pursue its regional objectives
unobstructed. Indeed, ever since September lithe United States
has supported Israel's actions. The Sharon-led government has
exploited this change of mood in the Bush administration and is
determined to wreak havoc on the Palestinian Authority, precluding
the possibility that an independent Palestinian state will emerge
anytime soon. Recent events suggest that Sharon is interested
in unseating Arafat, with the hope of precipitating an intra-Palestinian
conflict, perhaps even a civil war. Israel, so the twisted logic
goes, can then help set up a puppet government while changing
the West Bank's territorial demarcation-the Lebanon debacle revisited.
As the cycle of violence consumes more
lives, many an Israeli has lost the ability to think clearly.
According to a poll that appeared in the country's largest newspaper,
Yediot Ahronot, 74 percent of Israelis are in favor of the government's
assassination policy. But when asked if they thought the assassinations
were effective, 45 percent claimed that they actually increase
Palestinian terrorism, 31 percent stated that they have no effect
on terrorism, and only 22 percent averred that assassinations
help deter terrorism. Almost half of all Israelis believe that
the government's reaction to terrorism is inimical to their own
interests, but continue, nonetheless, to support assassinations.
This suggests that a visceral instinct
has taken over the national psyche, marginalizing and repressing
all forms of political reasoning. In the Republic, Plato warns
against the ascendancy of feelings and emotions in the public
sphere, claiming that these traits characterize the emergence
of despotic rule. Many years from now people may ask (just as
we wonder about other times and places) how it was that a whole
population did not realize what was happening.
To be sure, what is left of the Israeli
peace camp has been trying to mount some kind of viable opposition.
Weekly protests in front of the Prime Minister's house and hundreds
of Jews and Arab citizens of Israel breaking the military siege
by transferring basic foodstuffs to Palestinian villages are just
two of the manifestations of political resistance. These activities,
however, have not managed to displace the spirit of war.
There are many reasons why the Israeli
peaceniks have had little, if any, impact on local politics. While
most commentators mention the dramatic decrease in the peace camp's
numbers following its disappointment with Arafat, no one has discussed
the effect Israel's fascistization has had on the political scene.
Indeed, Israel's gravest danger today is not the Palestinian Authority
or even Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but the one it faces from within:
The fascistization of politics takes many
forms, some more apparent than others. Perhaps most conspicuous
is the dramatic change in the Israeli landscape. A few months
following the eruption of the second intifada, thousands of billboards,
posters, bumper stickers and graffiti began to appear, with slogans
like "No Arabs, No Assaults' "Expel Arafat' "Kahane
Was Right:' and "The Criminals of Oslo Should Be Brought
to Justice?' * It was shocking, at the time, that slain Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been criminalized by his own people.
But, as it turned out, this was just the
beginning. Stickers stating "No Leftists, No Assaults"
were printed to accompany the ones exclaiming "No Arabs,
No Assaults:' while little by little a whole new brand of posters
directed against Palestinian citizens of Israel appeared on the
scene: "Do Not Employ Arabs:' "Enemies Should Not Be
Offered a Livelihood:' "We Will Assist Those Who Do Not Provide
Work for Arabs." One poster even provided a detailed list
of taxi companies that employ Arab citizens and companies that
don't; Jewish history, so it seems, has been forgotten.
This kind of blatant racism is now common
in Israel; it feeds off the widespread fear of suicide bombings,
which have also managed to change the Jerusalem landscape. Downtown
streets are almost empty, and most businesses have been seriously
hurt because of the dramatic decline in clientele. One poll suggests
that 67 percent of Israelis have reduced the number of times they
leave their home. The only companies that have been thriving in
recent months are security firms. Every supermarket, bank, theater,
and café now employs private guards whose duty is to search
customers as they enter the building.
One of the effects of this new practice
is that profiling has become ubiquitous. Arab-looking residents
refrain from using public transportation and from going to Jewish
neighborhoods and shopping centers. It is not unusual when driving
in the city to see groups of Arab men being searched at gunpoint
by Israeli police, their faces against the wall and their hands
in the air. Meanwhile, the Israeli secret service routinely intercepts
the e-mails of peace groups and often obstructs solidarity meetings
or protests in the West Bank by declaring whole regions "closed
military zones." Peace activists are "invited"
to meetings with the secret service, where they are "warned"
about their activities. For over a year, the Gaza Strip has been
totally closed off to Israelis from the peace camp-including Knesset
Members; only Jewish settlers, journalists, and soldiers can now
enter the region. Over one million Palestinians residing in the
Strip have been locked up for a year and a half now in what constitutes
the world's biggest jail, and no Israeli can visit them.
Torture, which was finally banned in September
1999 after a decade-long struggle in the Supreme Court, has reemerged
with a vengeance. According to the Israeli Public Committee Against
Torture, the secret service has not only replaced outlawed methods
of torture with new ones, but ill-treatment, police brutality,
poor prison conditions and the prohibition of legal counsel are
now widespread. B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human
Rights in the Occupied Territories, has documented the torture
of Palestinian minors, while the Association for Civil Rights
and other organizations have appealed to the Supreme Court against
the new practice of holding suspects incommunicado. In the past
year, however, the Supreme Court has rejected all human rights
appeals that in any way relate to the lives of the Palestinian
population in the occupied territories.
Ever since September 2000, much of the
Israeli media, which had been well known for its critical edge,
has turned into a government organ. For Israeli television viewers,
Palestinian suffering is virtually nonexistent, while attacks
on Jews are graphically portrayed, replayed time and again, thus
rendering victimhood the existential condition of the Israeli
Jew. The deeply rooted victim syndrome has been manipulated over
the past year in order to rally the public around the flag.
Along the same lines, almost no criticisms
of the government's policies make their way into the mainstream
media. On the one hand, Jewish opposition leaders and peace groups
find it extremely difficult to get their opinions aired. On the
other hand, the media is actively assisting the state not only
in legitimizing its actions, but also in delegitimizing Israel's
The exclusion of almost a fifth of Israel's
citizenry from the demos is accomplished by attacking their leaders.
Jewish cabinet ministers and other Knesset Members repeatedly
refer to the Arab representatives as Arafat's agents, collaborators,
and a fifth column. Joining the fanfare, newspapers, television,
and radio have marked them not only as "other" but also
as enemies, which serves to justify the harassment they are currently
In the past year, six out of ten Arab
Knesset Members from opposition parties have undergone police
investigation for "anti-Israeli" statements they made
during political speeches, while the immunity of one has already
been stripped. Simultaneously, Israel's public radio and television
have prevented Arab leaders from voicing their claims and grievances
by ceasing to interview them and, in this way, have intensified
the alienation felt by their constituency.
As the new placards suggest, Arab citizens
themselves are also under constant attack, particularly by right
wing Jewish politicians who have been exploiting the pervasive
fear to foment a form of fervent nationalism informed by racism.
Effi Eitam, the new leader of the National Religious Party, who
is a minister in Sharon's government, has characterized all Palestinian
citizens of Israel as "a cancer' as if they were a tumor
that needed to be rooted out. "Arabs' he claims, "will
never have political rule in the country-not sovereignty, not
an army, not any part, grain, or alleyway of the Land of Israel'
which in Eitam's opinion includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
His views have now been legitimized and have a following within
the Jewish population.
It is within this stifling atmosphere
that one must understand the slow resurgence of the Israeli peace
camp. A number of incidents that have occurred over the past six
months suggest, however, that the nationalistic refrain is beginning
to be fractured.
First, the issue of "war crimes"
was discussed for the first time by the mainstream media following
the destruction of more than 50 houses in Rafah on January 10,
which rendered at least 500 people homeless overnight in the midst
of a cold winter-300 of whom are children. Along the same lines,
the April assault on Jenin and the fiasco surrounding the aborted
United Nations investigation team has also raised the issue of
war crimes, and the possibility that Israeli officers could be
arrested if they happen to visit European countries. There was
a small rupture in the media, and a number of interviews and articles
have appeared suggesting that soldiers should disobey commands
that call upon them to commit illegal actions.
The second and probably most significant
form of resistance was spurred by fifty combat officers and soldiers,
who announced, in an open letter published on January 25 in the
Israeli press, that they would no longer serve in the occupied
territories. These reserve soldiers, among them many sergeants,
lieutenants, captains, and even a few colonels, have organized
a new movement called Courage to Refuse, which now comprises almost
500 members. Together with Yesh Gvul ("There Is a Limit"),
the old conscientious-objector movement that was established during
the Lebanon War, the refusenik community now has over 1,000 members.
Thousands of Israelis have called a telephone
hotline to support the soldiers and to donate money to help them
publish ads in local papers. A group of women has organized a
petition, claiming that reservist men are not the only ones carrying
the burdens of occupation, while there are close to 100 twelfth
graders who have also announced that they will not serve in the
occupied territories following their conscription this coming
The uniqueness and force of the combat
soldiers' letter, and the fact that it has created such a stir
both inside the military establishment and society at large, has
to do with the profile of the people who initiated it. These are
not radical leftists but rather young men who are affiliated with
Israel's political center; they are members of the social elite
who characterize themselves as having been "raised upon the
principles of Zionism, sacrifice and giving... who have always
served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out
any mission, light or heavy, in order to protect the State of
Israel and strengthen it." Moreover, they experienced firsthand
the effect of the occupation, and no one can tell them that they
don't know what is happening in the territories.
Finally, Israelis experiencing an economic
crisis, with an official unemployment rate of close to 10 percent
and negative growth expected for the year 2002. While this information
has yet to be adequately used in order to criticize the occupation,
more and more studies are appearing showing the disproportional
amount of funding allocated to Jewish settlers in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip and the detrimental effect of war spending on the
economy, particularly the growing number of people who are living
under the poverty line due to cuts in welfare benefits. Despite
these and other pockets of resistance to Sharon's policies, it
seems that darker times are lurking around the corner. The Bush
administration has extended its unequivocal support of the Sharon
government, thus allowing the Israeli security forces not only
to strike the Palestinian Authority but also to silence all opposition
from within. The crucial point that many foreigners neglect to
notice is that in Israel, democracy is also under attack.
THE WAR LOOKS DIFFERENT ABROAD
by Aviv Lavie
April 3, 2002
... A journey through the television and
radio channels and the pages of the newspapers exposes a huge
and embarrassing gap between what is reported to us and what is
seen, heard, and read in the world-not only in the commentaries
and analytical pieces, but also in the reporting of the dry facts.
Israel looks like an isolated media island,
with most of the reporters drafted into the cause of convincing
themselves and the reader that the government and army are perfectly
justified in whatever they do. Some have actually been drafted-Yediot
Ahronot has started running a regular column by its reporter,
Guy Leshem, who reports with determination from the heart of the
West Bank, straight from his military reserve service. This is
another step in erasing the line between the defense framework
and the editorial framework that is supposed to report and criticize.
An Israeli citizen interested in a more
complex picture of reality has to rely on the remote control and
the computer mouse. "I've been here many years but I don't
remember such a dark period in the Israeli press' complained one
foreign correspondent, who indeed has been here many years. But
even if he slightly exaggerated, it's not a totally unrealistic
... Reporters and commentators get most
of their information from the army, and a few also use Palestinian
sources whom they regard with great suspicion. Many reporters
believed the army was closed off to them for a few days, but as
time goes by, they have been proven wrong. Since the journalists
aren't on the ground to see firsthand, the soldiers become their
eyes, which explains the huge difference between what is reported
and broadcast to us, and what the rest of the world sees, particularly
the Arab world.
On Arab television stations (though not
only them) one could see Israeli soldiers taking over hospitals,
breaking equipment, damaging medicines, and locking doctors away
from their patients. In one interview, a doctor was whispering
on a phone, explaining that he had to lower his voice lest the
soldier in the next room cut off the conversation. Foreign television
networks all over the world have shown the images of five Palestinians
from the national security forces, shot in the head at close range;
one was apparently the manager of the Palestinian Authority orchestra.
Some of the networks have claimed they were shot in cold blood
after they were disarmed.
The entire world has seen wounded people
in the streets, heard reports of how the IDF prevents ambulances
from reaching the wounded for treatment. The entire world has
heard Palestinian residents saying they can't leave their homes
because "they shoot anyone in the streets."
The entire world has heard testimony by Palestinian families who
have been imprisoned in their homes for seventy-two hours, in
some places without electricity or water, and the food is running
out. There are also reports of vandalism and looting.
Maybe it's all mendacious propaganda (though
in some cases, the pictures speak for themselves), but Israeli
journalists have no way to investigate to find out the truth,
whether to deflate the stories or confirm them. In the absence
of that kind of reporting, instead, over and over, we hear the
worn-out mantras about how "the civilian population is not
our enemy," and reports on how the army takes such strict
care not harm civilians.
... when journalists cease collecting
facts and asking questions, and instead turn to beating the war
drums ... it's time to say good-bye ... to a free press.
After the war, in a week or two, or a
month, or maybe much longer, reporters will have to confront the
things they wrote and said. Or maybe they won't. The archives
are full of dusty folders full of the articles that appeared before
the Yom Kippur War, and those extolling the consensus around the
invasion of Lebanon. Nobody has yet really paid for what was written
then, and already a new bill is mounting.
BREAK THE MIRROR NOW
by Ilan Pappe'
April 11, 2002
... Very few in Israel seek alternative
interpretations of the "war on terrorism." Shocked by
the human bombs that have produced a sense of personal insecurity
and a rising death toll, the Israeli public in general is unable
and unwilling to look through the catastrophic plans of the man
they have elected democratically by an unprecedented majority.
His posturing also caters to the dormant racist and ethnocentric
attitudes of the vast majority of Jews, nurtured over the years
by Israel's educational and cultural systems.
A coalition of groups opposing the war
is trying to offer an alternative explanation to the bombs exploding
in Israel and to the general Israeli policy. This coalition is
made up of two blocs. The major one, led by Peace Now, has very
little chance of providing a significant alternative. It is genuinely
convinced that Barak made the most generous offer possible to
the Palestinian side and that Arafat disappointed them. Their
most common attitude is that "notwithstanding Arafat's unforgivable
conduct, we have no other option but to conclude peace with this
awful man." What they have in store is, again, the equation
Barak made between Israeli withdrawal and peace. They never clarified
to themselves or to the Jewish public what "peace" entails.
As far as one can tell, it does not involve a solution to the
refugee problem, a change in the status of the one-million-strong
Palestinian minority in Israel (on whose vast support Peace Now
relies for its demonstrations) or full sovereignty for the future
Palestinian state. The evils of occupation are recognized, but
mainly as corrupting Jewish society, not as crimes against the
local population, and definitely not as a continuous evil that
began with the ethnic cleansing of 1948.
Still, this is the only coalition capable
of organizing massive demonstrations that elicit outside pressure
on Israel to end its military operations, and one should not underestimate
the urgency of such a development; but I doubt its ability to
produce the change in Jewish public opinion necessary to open
the way for peace and reconciliation. This element within the
anti-war coalition widens the margins of public debate in Israel
at a time when the media have silenced debate or reports that
question the government's policies. Even so, these margins remain
narrow as far as the attitude to the Palestinians, their plight,
and rights are concerned.
The smaller group in this coalition is
not even legitimized by the major component. It is centered around
non-Zionist Jewish organizations and most of the Israeli-Palestinian
parties. It offers a genuine alternative explanation and a way
forward. But it is marginalized and fought not only by the establishment
but also by the major component in the new peace and anti-war
coalition. Its importance lies in its contacts with regional and
global organizations that can empower both local and external
action against occupation and in support of peace. This small
component in the Israeli public space, as long as it is not totally
silenced, can underline the wider set of issues that construct
the oppressive nature of Zionism and Israel: the apartheid characteristics
of policies toward Israel's Palestinian minority, the historical
context of Israeli actions against the Palestinians in the occupied
territories and Jewish society's need to acknowledge, then reconcile
with, the crimes committed from the ethnic cleansing of 1948 until
the "Defensive Shield" of today. That name is reminiscent
of "Peace in Galilee' Israel's 1982 operation in Lebanon:
two euphemisms for two destructive wars.
On a more personal note, I would add another
déjà vu. As in 1993, during the heyday of Oslo,
today the same despairing frustration about the future seeps in.
I argued then, as I argue today, that even Peace Now is part of
a single Zionist outlook, which does not allow recognition of
past evils or of the need for genuine reconciliation with the
Palestinian victims of Zionism and Israel. I am convinced today,
as I was convinced then, that a far more fundamental and structural
change has to occur in Jewish society for that to happen. Ten
years ago, I pointed out apprehensively that we could not afford
to let another decade pass, for more tragedies were in store.
Now the sense that there is no time for long-term transformation
is even more acute. We are running out of time, for the dangers
of transfer and even genocide are hovering above us. Strong international
intervention and pressure are necessary, so that the Israeli state
and Jewish society alike may understand the moral and political
price they will have to pay.
People abroad, reading what I-and my friends
with similar views-write, think mistakenly that we scribble these
analyses and predictions easily. In fact, a very long process
of hesitation, deliberation and articulation took place before
these positions were formulated Our views place us in a very precarious
position in our society. We are treated as insane at best, and
at worst as traitors, even by those who claim to uphold the values
of free speech and opinion in Israel. I am analyzing such a posture
not from the point of view of risk or retribution, but rather
from that of effectiveness: How can people like myself, so alienated
by their own society and so revolted by what it and its government
are doing, be effective in changing local public opinion? It sounds
like a quixotic exercise. But then I remember all the Jews who
joined the ANC, the civil rights movement in the United States
and the anticolonialist movement in France. I remember the brave
Italians and Spaniards who did not succumb to the lure of fascism,
and I draw courage from all these examples to go on telling my
own people, from within, to break the mirror that shows them a
superior moral body. They must replace it with one that exposes
the crimes they, or on their behalf their various leaders and
governments, are committing against humanity and the Palestinian
by Yitshak Laor
April 22, 2002
What has the war between us and the Palestinians
been about? About the Israeli attempt to slice what's left of
Palestine into four cantons, by building "separation roads:'
new settlements, and checkpoints. The rest is killing, terror,
curfew, house demolitions, and propaganda. Palestinian children
live in fear and despair, their parents humiliated in front of
them. Palestinian society is being dismantled, and public opinion
in the West blames the victims-always the easiest way to face
the horror. I know: My father was a German Jew.
Disastrously, the Israel Defense Forces
are the country's imago. In the eyes of most Israelis, the IDF
is pure, stainless; worse, it is seen as being above any political
interest. Yet, like every army, it wants war, at least every once
in a while. But whereas in other countries military power is balanced
by civil society's institutions or by parts of the state itself
(industry, banks, political parties, etc.), we in Israel have
no such balance. The IDF has no real rival within the state, not
even when the army's policy costs us our own lives (the lives
of Palestinians, not to mention their welfare or dignity, are
excluded from political discourse). There's no doubt that Israel's
assassination policy-its killing of senior politicians (Dr. Thabet
Thabet from Tulkarm, Abu Au Mustafa from Ramallah) or of "terrorists"
(sometimes labeled as such only after being eliminated)-has poured
petrol on the fire. People talk about it, yet no politician from
the right, the center, or even from the declining Zionist left
has dared speak out against it. And despite critical articles
in the press, the army has kept on doing what it wanted to do.
Now they have had what they were really aiming for: an all-out
attack on the West Bank.
Israelis look to punish anyone who undermines our image of ourselves
as victims. Nobody is allowed to take this image from us, especially
not in the context of the war with the Palestinians, who are waging
a war on "our home"-that is, their "non-home?'
When a cabinet minister from a former
socialist republic compared Yasser Arafat to Hitler, he was applauded.
Why? Because this is the way the world should see us, rising from
the ashes. This is why we love Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (and even
more his disgusting film about the IDF) and Schindler's List.
Tell us more about ourselves as victims, and how we must be forgiven
for every atrocity we commit. As my friend Tanya Reinhart has
written, "It seems that what we have internalized [of the
memory of the Holocaust] is that any evil whose extent is smaller
But this "evil of the past"
has a peculiar way of entering our present life. On January 25,
2002, two months before the IDF got its license to invade the
West Bank, Amir Oren, a senior military commentator for Ha'aretz,
quoted a senior officer:
In order to prepare properly for the next
campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the territories said
not long ago that it is justified and in fact essential to learn
from every possible source. If the mission is to seize a densely
populated refugee camp, or take over the casbah in Nablus, and
if the commander's obligation is to try to execute the mission
without casualties on either side, then he must first analyze
and internalize the lessons of earlier battles-even, however shocking
it may sound, even ( how the German Army fought in the Warsaw
Here's the beginning of an answer. As the corpses lay rotting
in Jenin and small children were running around looking for food
or their missing parents, and the wounded were still bleeding
to death, with the IDF preventing any relief or UN officials from
entering the camp (what did they have to hide?), the Ministry
of Education issued an instruction to all schools that children
should bring in parcels for the soldiers. "The most important
thing' the teacher of my seven-year-old son said, "is a letter
for the soldiers." Hundreds of thousands of children wrote
such letters when the war against a civilian population was at
its most extreme, under the critical observation of the world
media. Imagine the ideological commitment of those children in
the future. This is just one / aspect of our oppositionless society.
Gas chambers are not the only way to destroy a nation. It is enough
to destroy its social tissue, to starve dozens of villages, to
induce high rates of infant mortality. The West Bank is going
through a Gaza-ization. Please don't shrug your shoulders. The
one thing that might help to destroy the consensus in Israel is
pressure from the West, on which the Israeli elite is dependent
in many ways.