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Uri Avnery: -There Are Still Judges...

April 18, 2015

THIS WEEK I won a dubious distinction: a groundbreaking Supreme Court judgment has been named after me.

It is an honor I would have gladly dispensed with.

MY NAME appeared at the head of a list of applicants, associations and individuals, which asked the court to cancel a law enacted by the Knesset.

Israel has no written constitution. This unusual situation arose right from the beginning of the state because David Ben-Gurion, a fierce secularist, could not achieve a compromise with the orthodox parties, which insisted that the Torah already is a constitution.

So, instead of a constitution, we have a number of Basic Laws which cover only a part of the ground, and a mass of Supreme Court precedents. This court slowly arrogated to itself the right to abolish Laws enacted by the Knesset which contradict the nonexistent constitution.

STARTING FROM the last Knesset, extreme right-wing Likud Members have been competing with each other in their efforts to castrate the Supreme Court one way or another. Some would stuff the court with right-wing judges, others would radically limit its jurisdiction.

Things came to a head when a group of far-right Likud members launched a veritable avalanche of bills which were clearly unconstitutional. One of them, and the most dangerous one, was a law that forbade people to call for a boycott of the State of Israel and, in a sinister way, added the words “and of territories held by it”.

This revealed the real aim of the operation. Some years before, our Gush Shalom peace organization had called on the public to boycott the products of the settlements in the occupied territories. We also published on our website a list of these products. Several other peace organizations joined the campaign.

Simultaneously, we tried to convince the European Union to do something similar. Israel’s agreement with the EU, which exempts Israeli wares from customs, does not include the settlements. But the EU was used to closing its eyes. It took us a lot of time and effort to open them again. In recent years, the EU has excluded these goods. They have demanded that on all merchandise “made in Israel”, the actual place of origin be stated. This week, 16 European foreign ministers called upon the EU foreign affairs chief to demand that all products from the settlements be clearly marked.

The law passed by the Knesset not only has criminal aspects, but also civil ones. Persons calling for a boycott could not only be sent to prison. They could also be ordered to pay huge damages without the plaintiff having to prove that any actual damage had been caused to him or her by the call.

Also, associations which receive government subsidies or other governmental assistance under existing laws would be deprived of them from then on, making their work for peace and social justice even more difficult.

WITHIN MINUTES after the enactment of this law, Gush Shalom and I personally submitted our applications to the Supreme Court. They had been prepared well in advance by advocate Gaby Lasky, a talented young lawyer and dedicated peace activist. My name was the first in the list of petitioners, and so the case is called: “Avnery v. the State of Israel”.

The case laid out by Lasky was logical and sound. The right of free speech is not guaranteed in Israel by any specific law, but is derived from several Basic Laws. A boycott is a legitimate democratic action. Any individual can decide to buy or not to buy something. Indeed, Israel is full of boycotts. Shops selling non-kosher food, for example, are routinely boycotted by the religious, and posters calling for such boycotts of a specific shop are widely distributed in religious neighborhoods.

The new law does not prohibit boycotts in general. It singles out political boycotts of a certain kind. Yet political boycotts are commonplace in any democracy. They are part of the exercise of freedom of speech.

Indeed, the most famous modern boycott was launched by the Jewish community in the United States in 1933, after the Nazis came to power in Germany. In response, the Nazis called for a boycott of all Jewish enterprises in Germany. I remember the date, April 1, because my father did not allow me to go to school on that day (I was 9 years old and the only Jew in my school.)

Later, all progressive countries joined in a boycott of the racist regime in South Africa. That boycott played a large (though not decisive) role in bringing it down.

A law cannot generally compel a person to buy a normal commodity, nor can it generally forbid them to buy it. Even the framers of this new Israeli law understood this. Therefore, their law does not punish anybody for buying or not buying. It punishes those who call on others to abstain from buying.

Thus the law is clearly an attack on the freedom of speech and on non-violent democratic action. In short, it is a basically flawed anti-democratic law.

THE COURT which judged our case consisted of nine judges, almost the entire Supreme Court. Such a composition is very rare, and only summoned when a fateful decision has to be made.

The court was headed by its president, Judge Asher Gronis. That in itself was significant, since Gronis already left the court and went into compulsory retirement in January, when he reached the age of 70. When the seat became vacant, Gronis was already too old to become the court president. Under the then existing Israeli law, a Supreme Court judge cannot become the court’s president when the time for his final retirement is too close. But the Likud was so eager to have him that a special enabling law was passed to allow him to become the president.

Moreover, a judge who has been on a case but did not finish his judgment in time before retiring, is given an extra three months to finish the job. It seems that even Gronis, the Likud’s protégé, had qualms about this specific decision. He signed it literally at the very last moment – at 17.30 hours of the last day, just before Israel went into mourning at the start of Holocaust Day.

His signature was decisive. The court was split – 4 to 4 – between those who wanted to annul the law and those who wanted to uphold it. Gronis joined the pro-law section and the law was approved. It is now the Law of the Land.

One section of the original law was, unanimously, stricken from the text. The original text said that any person – i.e. settler – who claims that they have been harmed by the boycott, can claim unlimited indemnities from anyone who has called for this boycott, without having to prove that they were actually hurt. From now on, a claimant has to prove the damage.

At the public hearing of our case, we were asked by the judges if we would be satisfied if they strike out the words “territories held by Israel”, thus leaving the boycott of the settlements intact. We answered that in principle we insist on annulling the entire law, but would welcome the striking out of these words. But in the final judgment, even this was not done.

This, by the way, creates an absurd situation. If a professor in Ariel University, deep in the occupied territories, claims that I have called to boycott him, he can sue me. Then my lawyer will try to prove that my call went quite unheeded and therefore caused no damage, while the professor will have to prove that my voice was so influential that multitudes were induced to boycott him.
YEARS AGO, when I was still Editor-in-Chief of Haolam Hazeh, the news-magazine, I decided to choose Aharon Barak as our Man of the Year.

When I interviewed him, he told me how his life was saved during the Holocaust. He was a child in the Kovno ghetto, when a Lithuanian farmer decided to smuggle him out. This simple man risked his own life and the lives of his family when he hid him under a load of potatoes to save his life.

In Israel, Barak rose to eminence as a jurist, and eventually became the president of the Supreme Court. He led a revolution called “Juristic Activism”, asserting, among other things, that the Supreme Court is entitled to strike out any law that negates the (unwritten) Israeli constitution.

It is impossible to overrate the importance of this doctrine. Barak did for Israeli democracy perhaps more than any other person. His immediate successors – two women – abided by this rule. That’s why the Likud was so eager to put Gronis in his place. Gronis’ doctrine can be called “Juristic Passivism”.

During my interview with him, Barak told me: “Look, the Supreme Court has no legions to enforce its decisions. It is entirely dependent on the attitude of the people. It can go no further than the people are ready to accept!”

I constantly remember this injunction. Therefore I was not too surprised by the judgment of the Supreme Court in the boycott case.

The Court was afraid. It’s as simple as that. And as understandable.

The fight between the Supreme Court and the Likud’s far-right is nearing a climax. The Likud has just won a decisive election victory. Its leaders are not hiding their intention to finally implement their sinister designs on the independence of the Court.

They want to allow politicians to dominate the appointment committee for Supreme Court judges and to abolish altogether the right of the court to annul unconstitutional laws enacted by the Knesset.

MENACHEM BEGIN used to quote the miller of Potsdam who, when involved with the King in a private dispute, exclaimed: “There are still judges in Berlin!”

Begin said: “There are still judges in Jerusalem!”

For how long?

Uri Avnery: A national unity government?

Uri Avnery
April 11, 2015

MY FIRST reaction after the election was: “Oh, no! Not a National Unity Government, please!

In my first article after the election, I devoted a large part to the danger of a “national unity” government, though at the time the possibility of such a government, based on Likud and the Labor Party, seemed very remote indeed.

But, looking at the figures, I had a gnawing suspicion: this looks like something that will end with a Likud-Labor combination.

Now, suddenly, this possibility has raised its head. Everybody is talking about it.

All my emotions rebel against this possibility. But I owe it to myself and my readers to examine this option dispassionately. Though pure logic is a rare commodity in politics, let’s try to exercise it.

IS A “national unity government” good or bad for Israel?

Let’s look at the numbers first.

To form a government in Israel, one needs at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Likud (30) and Labor (24) have 54 between them. It can be assumed that Binyamin Netanyahu almost certainly wants to renew his party’s historic alliance with the two orthodox factions, the Ashkenazi Torah Party (6) and the Oriental Shas (7) – together 67, quite enough for a stable government.

Netanyahu seems to be determined to add Moshe Kahlon’s new party too (10), as a kind of subcontractor for the economy. Together an imposing 77.

Who would be left outside? First of all, the Joint Arab Party (13), whose new leader, Eyman Odeh, would automatically assume the title of “Leader of the Opposition” – a first for Israel. No Arab has ever held this title, with all its prestige and privileges.

Then there is Meretz (5), reduced to a small leftist voice.
And then there are the two extreme rightist parties: the one of Naftali Bennett (reduced to 8) and the even smaller one of Avigdor Lieberman (now a mere 6).

Somewhere in between is the star of the previous elections, Yair Lapid, (now reduced to 11).

The initial prospect seemed to be a far rightist coalition, consisting of Likud, the two orthodox parties, the two far-rightist parties and Kahlon – altogether 67. (The orthodox refuse to sit with Lapid in the same government.)

These then, with minor variations, are the two options.

WHY DOES Netanyahu prefer – as it now seems – the National Unity option?

First of all, he detests his two co-rightists – Bennett and Lieberman. But you don’t have to like someone in order to take them into your government.

A far more important reason is the growing fear of Israel’s isolation in the world.

Netanyahu is now engaged in a ferocious fight against President Obama. He opposes the Iranian deal with everything he has. But this deal is also underwritten by the European Union, Germany, France, Russia and China. Netanyahu against the entire world.

Netanyahu has no illusions. There are hundreds of ways Obama and the European Union can punish Netanyahu. Israel is almost totally dependent on the US as far as weapons are concerned. It needs the US veto in the UN, and US subsidies also come in handy. The Israeli economy is also heavily dependent on European markets.

In this situation, it would be nice to have Isaac Herzog on board. He is the ultimate fig-leaf, a nice liberal leftist as foreign minister, son of a president, grandson of an Irish chief rabbi, well mannered, European looking, English speaking. He would pacify the fears of the world’s foreign ministers, cushion Netanyahu’s rough edges, prevents diplomatic crises.

Labor in the government would also block the deluge of anti-democratic bills which accumulated in the last Knesset. It would also halt the planned onslaught on the Supreme Court, Israel’s last bastion against the barbarians. The leading group of Likud extremists make no secret of their intention to castrate the Court and to enact the bills they hold in store.

Labor might also mitigate the economic policies of Likud, popularly known as “swinish capitalism”, which have made the poor poorer and the ultra-rich even ultra-richer. Housing might become affordable again, the decline of the health and education systems mighty be halted.

The prospect of becoming ministers again makes the mouths of some Labor functionaries water. One of them, Eytan Kabel, a close ally of Herzog, has already published a statement totally supporting Netanyahu’s Iran policy, raising many knowing eyebrows.

The Labor Party has yet to take a critical position towards Netanyahu’s Iranian stand. It only criticizes – halfheartedly, if not quarterheartedly – the Prime Minister’s attacks on Obama.

ON THE other side, what’s so wrong about a National Unity Government?

Well, first of all, it leaves the country without an effective opposition.

In order to function, democracy needs an opposition that develops alternative policies and provides a choice at the next elections. If all the major parties are in the government, what alternative forces and ideas can provide the necessary choice?

A cynic may remark here that the Labor Party was not much of an opposition anyway. It supported last year’s superfluous Gaza War with all its atrocities. Its ally, Tzipi Livni, has dragged the Palestinian negotiations on and on without coming an inch nearer to peace. Labor’s opposition to the rightist economic policies was feeble.

Truth is, Labor is not built for opposition. It was in power for 44 consecutive years (from 1933 to 1977, first in the Zionist Organization and then in the new state). To be “governmental” is deeply ingrained in its nature. Even under Likud governments, Labor was never a determined and effective opposition.

But for Leftists, the main objection to a Unity Government is exactly what may induce Netanyahu to install it: because it provides the big fig leaf.

Labor in the government will blunt all foreign criticism of Netanyahu’s policies and actions. Israeli Leftists, who despairingly pray for foreign pressure on Israel, such as an all-inclusive boycott (BDS) and pro-Palestinian UN resolutions, will be disappointed. To get such a campaign moving, you need a far-right government in Jerusalem.

Under the National Unity umbrella, Netanyahu can continue to enlarge the settlements, sabotage the Palestinian Authority, conduct endless negotiations that lead nowhere, even make war from time to time.

After four such years, the Labor Party may cease to be an effective force in Israeli politics. Some might think that this is a good thing. With this degenerating force out of the way, a new generation of political activists may have a chance to eventually create a real opposition party.

PERHAPS THE decision on this will not be shaped in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but in Las Vegas.

I have a lurking suspicion that in reality Netanyahu takes his orders from Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson owns Netanyahu as much as he owns his casino in Macau or the US Republican party. If he wants to install a Republican president, in order to add the White House to his portfolio of assets, he needs to widen the chasm between the Obama administration and the Israeli government. This might cause US Jews to flock en masse to the Republican banner.

If this suspicion is true, Netanyahu will not really woo the Labor Party, but only use it as a trick to beat down the price his prospective far-right partners are demanding.

TWO JEWS are on a cruise.

In the middle of the night, one of them wakes the other: “Quick! Get up! The ship is sinking!”

The other only yawns. "What do you care? Is it your ship?

Israeli citizens in favor of a Palestinian state

Israeli petition in favor of recognition of a Palestinian state

We the undersigned citizens of Israel, who wish for it to be a safe and thriving country, are worried by the continued political stalemate, the occupation, and the settlement activities that lead to further confrontations with Palestinians and quash any chances for compromise. It is clear that the prospects for Israel’s security and existence depend on the existence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Israel should recognize the state of Palestine and Palestine should recognize the state of Israel, based on the June 4,1967 borders. Your initiative for recognition of the state of Palestine will advance prospects for peace and will encourage Israelis and Palestinians alike to bring an end to their conflict.

Abd Elkader Kanani, Research Student
Abed Kaboub, Jurist
Abraham B, Yehoshua, Novelist, Israel Prize, Bialik Prize, Brenner Prize
Achinoam Nini-Noa, Musician, Israel’s representative at the Eurovision 2009, Galileo Gallilei
Medal, Critics first prize at 56th San Remo
Ada Efody, Accountant
Ada Ravon, Lawyer
Adam Keller, Journalist
Adam Uriel, Visual arts
Adeeb Awad, CEO, Advertising & Media
Adi Drori, editor
Adi Rosenthal, Tourism Advisor
Adina Aviram, Dr Head of Molecular laboratory in Hematology
Ady Yarkon, Retired
Aharon Gefen, Education
Ahuva Bar’am
Alex Levac, Photographer, Israel Prize Recipient
Alex Massis, Film Producer
Ali Alasad, Advocate, PhD
Alice Krieger, Public Relations
Alina Edmonds, Teacher
Aliya Strauss, BA English Teacher
Aliza Dror, Psychotherapist
Alkalay Shraga, CEO
Alla Shainskaya, PhD
Allen Minitzer, Executive
Alon Confino, Professor of History
Alon Garbuz, CEO of Tel Aviv cinematheque
Alon Harel, Professor of Law
Alon Liel, Former Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Former Ambassador
Amana Cohen
Amar Salame ,Certified Nurse BA
Amatzya Ido, Translator
Amatzia Weisel, Professor of Special Education
Ami Weinstein, Industrialist, founder of “Shivion”
Amikam Cohen, PhD, Biologist
Amir Agbaria, Doctor
Amir Badran, Advocat
Amir Orian, Art Director
Amir Segal, Physicist
Amir Student, Entrepeneur
Amir Yaari, Agricultural Engineer
Amira Ityel, Family Therapist Educ. Counselor MA
Amira Katz-Goehr, PhD lecturer and tranlsator
Amira Openheimer, Clinical Psychologist
Amiram Goldblum, Professor of Computational Chemistry, Founder of “Shivion”
Amira Ityel, Family and Couples consultant
Amira Or, Psychologist
Amit Leshem, Peace Projects, Coordinator
Amnon Fruchtman, Physicist
Amnon Lipzin, Tourism
Amnon Sagiv, School Master
Amnon Werner, Sociologist, Kibbutz member near Gaza
Amos Goldberg, Professor of Jewish History
Amos Gvirtz, Peace Activist
Amos Ityel, Mechanical Engineer
Amos Oz, Novelist, Israel Prize, Prince of Asturias Prize, Legion D’honneur, Goethe prize, Heine Prize
Amotz Agnon, Professor
Amram Ashuach, Kibbutz member
An bar, BA
Anat Biletzki, Professor of Philosophy
Anat Frankel, Education consultant
Anat Langer-Gal, CEO of Middle East in the Negev Institute
Anat Levin, Language Editor
Anat Matar, Academic
Anat Morahg, Musician
Anat Natasha Camran, Counselor
Anat Noy, CEO Marketing
Anat Rimon-Or, Lecturer
Anat Tueg, Text editor
Aner Preminger, Cinema Professor and Filmmaker
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Peace Activist and NGO director
Anita Bardin, Social worker
Annelien Kisch-Kroon
Anuar Hasan, Art
Arad Eldad, M.A
Arie Arnon, Professor of Economics
Arie Geronik, Lecturer
Arie Plat, Community Consultant
Arie Stern, Pensioner
Ariel Hanaor, PhD, Civil Engineering
Ariel Niezna, MBA, Lebanon border Settlement
Ariela Shir, Writer for Children
Ariella Be’eri, Ben-Yishai Lecturer, PhD
Arik Shapira, Composer, Professor of Musicology, Israel Prize
Arnon Avni, Graphics, Kibbutz Nirrim – Gaza Border
Arnon BenYair, Teacher
Aryeh Burstein, Teacher
Arza Apelroit, Dr.
Agi Mishol, Poet
Asaaf Akram, Metal Contractor
Assaf Moskowitz
Assaf Yacobovitz, Clinical Psychologist, MA
Asher Fisch, Musician, International Conductor and Pianist
Avi Berg, Social Activist
Avi Glezerman, Dr, Corporate, Executive
Avi Mograbi, Film Director, Konrad Wolf Prize
Avidan Efody, Engineer
Aviel Hadari, Teacher
Avihai Steller, Researcher
Avihu Ronen, Historian, Dr.
Avinoam Ben-Shaul, Professor
Avinoam Koren, Song writer
Avishai Margalit, Israel Prize, Professor of Philosophy
Avital Burg, Author/Artist
Avital Spivak, Lecturer
Avital Toch, Peace activist
Avner Ben-Amos, Professor of History
Avner Cohen, Lecturer
Avner de Shalit, Professor of Political Science
Avner Giladi, Professor
Avner Gvariahu, Human Rights Activist
Avner Katz, Professor, Artist
Avner Mart, Inventor
Avraham Burg , Former Chair of the Israeli Parliament and Head of Jewish Agency
Avraham Frank, PhD, Education
Avraham Oz, Professor
Avram Katz, Artistic graphics
Avshalom Kaveh, Writer
Aya Breuer, Translator
Ayelet Lerman, Artist
Azriel Nativ, Farmer

Barry Morahg, Producer
Baruch Minke, Professor, recipient of Prince of Asturias Prize for Science 2010
Baruch Shalev, Co-Chair of Peace Making Social Workers
Baruch Velleman, Social worker
Bat Sheva Shapira, PhD, Editor
Beate Zilversmidt, Publisher
Ben Edlund, Chef
Ben Rafael Miriam, Clinical Psychologist
Ben Tzion Munitz, Professor
Ben Wayner, Informal Education
Ben Yeger, Therapist and Peace Activist
Benjamin Arbel, Historian
Benjamin Heifetz, Teacher
Benny Natan, Professor
Beny Gefen, Farmer
Benzi Keren, Industrial and Management Engineer
Bernard Avishai, Professor
Boaz Gork , Lawyer
Boaz Levin, Artist
Boris Lederman
Bosmat Gal, Dr
Bruria Beker, Education, Culture
Buma Inbar, Peace Activist

Carlos Ghindelschi, Clerk
Carmi Ashboren, NGO strategic consultant
Carole Hoffman, Dr, librarian
Chaim Gans, Professor of Law
Chana Ullman, PhD CLinical Psychologist
Chava Lerman, Ceramics
Chaya Offek, Musician
Chen Alon, Theatre Director, PhD
Chen Biran Aldema, Therapist
Christoph Schmidt, Professor of Philosophy
Claire Oren, Teacher
Cobi Sonnenschein, Professor of Physics
Colette Avital, Ambassador
Colman Altman, Professor of Physics

Dafna (Laura) Kaminer
Dahlia Amit, Translator
Dahalia Treibich, Artist
Dalana Rahamimov, Health Insurance center
Dalia Golomb, Teacher
Dalia Sachs, Dr.
Dan Bavli , Lieutenant Colonel (res.)
Dan Ben Zakai, Farmer
Dan Bitan, Research
Dan Flohr, Engineer
Dan Goldenblatt, Co-director of IPCRI
Dan Haddani, Colonel (Res.)
Dan Jacobson, Professor
Dan Miodownik, PhD, Political Science
Dan Wardinon, CEO
Dana Avidar, Education
Dana Bar Ner, Lawyer
Dana Lotan, Social Media
Dana Yehezkel, Psychologist
Dani Shofla, Programmer
Daniel Bar-Tal, Professor, Political Psychologist
Daniel Biton, Student
Daniel Eilat, MA
Daniel Gavron, Author
Daniel Haklai, Lawyer
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize, Professor
Daniel Lazare, Kibbutz Member
Daniel Levanon, PhD, Scientist
Daniel Shek, Former Israel’s Ambassador to France
Daniela Gordon, Psychologist
Daniela Yoel
Daniella Halevi, Architect
Danniel Qeletti, Writer
Danny Karavan, Artist and painter, Israel Prize recipient
Danny Rosin, M.D.
Danya Eliraz, Dancer
Daphna Joel, Professor
Daphne Banai, Educational Consultant
David Adler, PhD, Poet
David Blanc, Professor of Mathematics
David Grossman, Writer
David Harel, Israel Prize, EMET prize, Professor of Computer Science
David Lehrer, CEO of the “Arava” Instititue
David Mahalel, Professor
David Moshevitz, Lawyer
David Nevo, Tel Aviv Univ. Professor
David Palma, Poet
David Senesh, Dr, Psychologist
David Tartakover, Israel Prize, Artist
David Willner, Teacher
David Zisenwine, Professor
David Windholz, Social Psycologist
David Zonsheine, Software Engineer
Deborah Bernstein, Professor
Dina David, MA
Diana Shai
Diana Shoef, Producer
Dikla Ben-Shaul, Psychologist
Dimitry Shumsky, Dr
Doreet Hopp, PhD
Dorian Levin, Artist
Dorit Eldar, PhD, Lecturer
Dorit Solomon, Teacher
Doron Golan, Artist
Doron Lieber, Agriculture
Dov Koller, Teacher, History and Politics
Dubi Avigur, Secular Rabbi
Dubi Feldman, CPA
Dudy Tzfati, Professor
Dvora Barkay, Psychotherapy
Dvora Oreg, Consultant to Social Change NGOs
Dvorah Shainok, Retired teacher
Dvora Shlomi

Eden Fuchs, Freelance Consultant
Edit Doron, Professor
Edna Gam, Dr. Psychotherapist
Edna Hakham-Baskin, Editor, MSc
Edna Kadman Teacher
Edna Morduch, Psychotherapist
Edna Nahum, Producer
Edna Raz
Edna Zaretsky Toledano, Group Facilitator, Sociologist
Edward Eddy Kaufman, Professor of Political Science and Conflict Management
Efraim Davidi, Dr, Lecturer
Efrat Ben-Ze’ev, Anthropologist
Ehud Eliav, Economist
Efrat Weil-Amit, Movement Therapy
Ehud Bandel, Rabbi
Ehud Hrushovski, Professor of mathematics
Ehud Spieser, Student
Einat Gutman, Combatants for Peace
Einat Gutman, Yoga Techer
Eitan Kalinsky, Teacher
Ela Alterman, Stage Director
Ela Greenberg, Academic
Elad Ronen
Elana Wesley, Human Rights Activist, Translator
Elchanan Reiner, Professor
Eli Bareket, Video Editor
Eli Caufman, History Writer & Journalist
Eli Diner, Artist
Eli Kalir, Lawyer
Eli Meshoulam, Lawyer
Eli Netzer, Poet-Writer-Editor
Eli Safran, Tour Guide, Sasa – Lebanon Border
Eli Shmueli, Neurobiologist
Eli Tavor, Mechanical, Engineer
Eli Yassif, Professor
Elie Barnavi, Historian & writer/professor, former Israel’s Ambassador to France
Elie Hoz, Tourism
Elisha Shpiegelman, Journalist
Elizabeth Freund, Dept of English
Elizabeth Goldwyn, Professor
Elka Bitan-Gal, Piano teacher/M.A
Emanuel (Mano) Shaked, Brigadier-General (Res)
Emma Rosenkovitch, Recherche biologique
Eran Goren, Programming developer
Eran Lev, Lawyer
Eran Shuali, PhD student
Erella Talmi, Musician and Writer
Erez Keller, Computer Programmer
Erez Krispin, CEO, Gurusfeet.com
Eric Yellin, Peace/Technology
Ester Levanon Mordoch, Dr.
Ester Levinger,Professor of Art history
Eti Grifel, Chef
Eva Jablonka, Professor
Eyal Oron, Lawyer and Internal Auditor
Eyal Raviv, Founder mepeace.org
Eylon Bavli
Eynel Wardi, Dr.
Ezra Mendelsohn, Professor, Bialik Prize
Fawaz Hussein, Author, CEO Education Dept, Hurfesh Lebanon Border

Gaby Lasky, Attorney
Gad Ben Ari, Businessman
Gad Friedman, PhD
Gad Kaynar, Professor of Theatre Studies
Gady Costeff, Business - MBA
Gadi Kenny, Business and Peace Activist
Gadi Stahl, Polymer & Plastics Chemistry
Gadi Sternbach, Vintner & Restaurateur
Gaily Clements
Gal Rosen, Student
Galeb Magadli, Former Minister of Culture and Sports
Galia Golan, Professor, Former head, Dept. of Political Science
Galit Hasan-Rokem, Professor of Hebrew Literature and Folklore
Gani Bloch-Tamir, Actor and Singer
Gavriel Arbiv, Student
Gavriel Yitzhak Meir, Musician
Gavriel (Gabi) Salomon, Israel Prize, Professor of Education
Gera De Shalit, Advocate
Gershon Baskin, PhD, Head of IPCRI Institute
Gershon Ben-Shakhar, Professor of Psychology
Gershon Sa’ar, PhD candidate
Gideon Lifshitz, Teacher
Gideon Shelach-Lavi, Archeologist
Gideon Spiro, Journalist, Human Rights and Peace Activist
Gidi Peled, Industrial Development
Gidon Medina, Professor
Gil Rimon, Entrepreneur
Gil Talmi,Film Composer
Gila Svirsky, Peace and Human Rights Activist
Gilad Paz, Advocate
Gilad Silbert, Dr. Chemistry
Gilad Zamir, Lawyer
Gili Veread, Early education Counselor
Gili Zimhoni, Architecture
Gina Ben David, Therapist and Performance artist
Giora Baram, Industry Worker
Giora Segal, Teacher and Educator
Giora Teltsch, Management consulting
Gonen Daskal, ME system Engineer
Guga Kogan, Journalist
Guy Hirshfeld

Hadar Ron, Architect
Hadas Feller, Freelancer
Hadassah Haskale, Poet, Psychologist
Hagai Ginsburg, Professor
Hagit Goldstein, Industry Worker
Hagit Lobel Hagai, Social Worker
Haim Baram, Writer and Journalist
Haim Hayet
Hamutal Peled, Teacher
Hamutal Tzamir, Lecturer
Hana Choresh, MA Psychology
Hanan Kisch, Professor of Petrology and Mineralogy
Hanna Aviram, Researcher
Hanna Barag, Peace and Human Rights Activist
Hanna Friedman, Founder of PCATI
Hanna Naiman, Nurse
Hanna Regev, Teacher
Hannah Safran, Dr. Of History
Harai Golomb, Professor
Hassida Shafran
Hava Halevi, Gardener
Haya Heller-Degani, PhD
Haya Nir, Fashion
Hedva Adiri, Chief Librarian
Henia Flohr, Teaching Coordinator
Herschel Ben Ami, Peace Activist
Hilda Wengrowef, PhD, Dance Therapist
Hillel Bardin
Hillel Schenker, Co-Editor of Palestine-Israel Journal
Hillel Schocken, Professor, Architect
Hubert Law-Yone, Professor of Architecture and City Planning
Husri Taufik, Accountant

Idan Ofgang, Independent
Idan Segev, Professor of Brain Research
Idit Avidan, BA
Idit Scwhartz, Medical Dr.
Idit Zertal, Professor of History
Idith Harel, Social Worker and Family consultant
Ido Amihai, PhD Researcher
Ido Lam
Ido Sokolovsky Programmer
Iftach Shavit, Film Editor
Igor Caplan, Engineer
Ilan Baruch, Former Ambassador to S. Africa & Zimbabwe
Ilan Saban, Dr., Senior Lecturer of Law
Ilan Sadeh, Professor of Computer Science
Ilan Shtayer, Historian
Ilana Margalith, PhD (Social work), Lawyer
Ilana Pardes, Professor
Ilana Segal, Musician
Ilana Shapiro, P.C.O.
Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg, PhD, Nutritionist
Inbal Arnon, Professor at Hebrew University
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Irene Lewenhoff, Nurse
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Iris Lerman, Psychologhist
Iris Milner, Professor of Literature
Iris Parush, Professor
Irit Sela, Editor
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Israel Pesach
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Jacob Barnai, Professor
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Karin Lindner, architect
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Lana Remez, Teacher
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Lee Shaish, PhD Biologist
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Menachem Brinker, Israel Prize, Professor of Literature and Philosophy
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Oded Efrati, Engineer
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Ram Ben Moshe, Academic Editor
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Rami Ashkar, Banker Rami Ben Ari, CEO in High Tech Company
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Ran Cohen, Former Minister of Industry & Trade
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Raphael Falk, Professor
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Reut Ginj, Films
Reuven Choshen, Business Consultant, M.Sc.
Reuven Eden, Veterinary surgeon
Reuven Gerber, PhD, lecturer & Jewish Philosophy
Reuven Holzer, Electronic Engineer
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Riva Bachrach, D"r Clinical psychologist
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Robi Guttman, Information Specialist
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Ron Arzi, Industry
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Ronit Matar, Anthrpologist
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Ruben Frankenstein, Lecturer Jewish studies
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Ruhama Shoulsky, Graphic Designer
Ruth Barkai-Tune artist
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Sariel Beckenstein
Saul Arolozoroff, Mechanical Engineer
Schwartz Idit, Dr. Physician
Sephi Lipkin, Computers
Shachaf Polakov, Photographer
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Shai Benjamin, PhD
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Shulamit Volkov, Prof Modern History, Member of the Israel Academy of Science, Recipient, Friedrich Gundolf Prize, German Academy of Languages and literature
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Sinai Peter, Theater Director
Snait Gissis, Dr, History of Science
Sofie Livio, Microbiologist
Stanley Ringler, Rabbi, social and political activist
Sue Schachter, Kibbutz Member
Sunny Gordon Bar, Dr., Psychologist
Susie Becher, Editor

Tahel Kaminski
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Udi Gur, Teacher
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Uri Ben Assa, general manager
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Uri Kantor
Uri Katz, Professor of Biology
Uri Milstein
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Uri Zaki, Fellow, the Emile Zola Chair
Uzi Maurer, Engineer

Varda Helled, Dr., Pediatrician
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Victor Treschan
Vivian Silver, Social Activist; Kibbutz Beeri – Gaza Border
Vitaly Markov, Research Student

Yaakov Oshman, Professor, Aerospace engineering
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Yael Dayan, Former MK & Writer
Yael Liber, Education consultant and superviser
Yael Medini, Literature Editor
Yael Nadler, Shmueli Education Ministry
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Yael Shalem, Finance Manager
Yafa Ben Knaan, Teacher
Yair Doari
Yair Gramse, Analyst
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Yair Lavi, High Tech Industgry
Yair Tzaban, Former MK and Minister of Health
Yaniv Belhassen, Ph.D
Yaron Harel, MD, Pediatric Intensive Care physician
Yaron Hirsch, Shahar Teacher
Yaron Kaplan
Yaron Kochavi, Customs Agent
Yasmin Amer
Yeela Raanan, Dr., Lecturer of Public Policy, Kisufim–Gaza Border
Yehoshua Kolodny, Israel Prize, Professor of Geology
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Yehuda Raschal, Businessman
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Yeudit Kafri Meiri, Writer and Poet , PM literature prize
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Yifat Solel, Civil Rights Lawyer
Yigal Ben- Efraim, Archeologist MA
Yigal Cohen, Peace Activist
Yigal Vishinsky, Veterinary Doctor
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Yigaal Livnat, Civil Engineer
Yishay Kalmanovich, Musician and Linguist
Yishay Mor, Consultant
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Yosef Hassin, Agriculture consultation
Yossi Amitay, PhD, Middle East Studies, former Director of the Academic Center in Cairo
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Yuri Liahovitzki, Historian, Dr.Historian
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Yuval Rahamim, Chair of NGO
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Ze’ev Back, Tour Guide in Israel
Zeev Degani, PhD
Zeev Sternhell, Professor of History, Israel Prize Recipient
Zeev Zamir, Manager
Zehava Grunfeld, Child Specialist
Zelda Harris, Public Relations
Zivit Abramson, Dr of Philosophy
Ziyona Snir, Academic documentation
Zohar Chamberlain Regev, Human Rights Activist
Zohar Ofir, Tourist Guide
Zohara Hadad, Psycotherapist
Zvi Bentwich, Professor of Medicine
Zvi Schuldiner, Senior Lecturer
Zvi Tauber, Professor

Uri Avnery: Israel´s Salvation Front

Uri Avnery
March 28, 2015

THE 2015 election was a giant step towards the self-destruction of Israel.

The decisive majority has voted for an apartheid state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in which democracy will slowly disappear.

The decision is not yet final. Israeli democracy has lost a battle. It has not yet lost the war.

If it does not draw the lessons, it will lose the war, too.

All the justifications and alibis of the Israeli left are useless. It’s the bottom line that counts.

The country is in existential danger. Not from the outside, but from the inside.

An Israel Salvation Front is needed now.

We have no other country.

FIRST OF ALL, the full extent of the debacle must be acknowledged and full responsibility must be taken.

The leaders who lost must go. In the struggle for the life of the state, there is no second opportunity.

The struggle between Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Netanyahu was a match between a lightweight boxer and a heavyweight.

The idea of a National Union government must be rejected and roundly condemned. In such a government, the Labor Party would again play the contemptible role of a fig leaf for the policy of occupation and oppression.

Now a new generation of leaders is needed, young, energetic and original.

THE ELECTION pitilessly exposed the deep chasms between the different sectors of Israeli society: Orientals, Ashkenazis, Arabs, “Russian”, orthodox, religious and more.

The Salvation Front must encompass all sectors.

Every sector has its own culture, its own traditions, its own faith(s). All must be respected. Mutual; respect is the foundation of the Israeli partnership.

The foundation of the Salvation Front needs a new authentic leadership that must emerge from all sectors.

The State of Israel belongs to all its citizens. No sector has exclusive ownership of the state.

The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us.

The salvation of the state must be based on a return to equality as a basic value. A reality in which hundreds of thousands of children live under the poverty line is intolerable.

The income of the upper 0.01%, which reaches to the heavens, must be brought down to a reasonable level. The income of the lowest 10% must be raised to a humane level.

THE ALMOST total separation between the Jewish and the Arab parts of Israeli society is a disaster for both and for the state.

The Salvation Front must be based on both peoples. The chasm between them must be eliminated, for the good of both.

Empty phrases about equality and fraternity are not enough. They lack credibility.

There must come into being a sincere alliance between the democratic forces on both sides, not only in words but in actual daily cooperation in all areas.

This cooperation must find expression in frameworks of political partnership, joint struggles and regular joint meetings in all areas, based on respect for the uniqueness of each partner.

Only a permanent joint struggle can save Israeli democracy and the state itself.

THE HISTORIC conflict between the Zionist movement and the Palestinian Arab national movement now threatens both peoples.

The country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is the homeland of the two peoples. No war, oppression or uprising will change this basic fact.

If this conflict continues without end, it will endanger the existence of both peoples.

The one and only solution was and is their co-existence in two sovereign states: a free and independent State of Palestine side by side with the State of Israel.

The two-state solution is not a recipe for separation and divorce. On the contrary, it is a recipe for close co-existence.

The 1967 borders, with mutual agreed changes, are the basis of peace.

The co-existence of the two states in the joint homeland does necessitate frameworks of partnership at the highest level, as well as open borders for the movement of people and goods. It also needs solid security arrangements for the good of both peoples.

Jerusalem, open and unified, must be the capital of both states.

The painful tragedy of the Palestinian refugees must find its just solution, agreed upon by the two sides. This solution will include return to the Palestinian state, a limited symbolic return to Israel and the payment of generous compensation by international funds to all.

Israel and Palestine shall work together so as to achieve a return of Jewish property left in Arab countries or the payment of generous compensation.

The State of Palestine will keep its affinity with the Arab world. The state of Israel will keep its affinity with the Jewish people in the world. Each of the two states will have sole responsibility for its immigration policy.

The problem of the Jewish settlers in Palestine will find its solution in the framework of agreed border changes between the two states, the inclusion of some settlements in the Palestinian state with the agreement of the Palestinian government and the re-settlement of the rest of the settlers in Israel.

Both states shall cooperate in the creation of a democratic regional partnership, in the spirit of the “Arab Spring”, while resisting anarchy, terrorism and religious and nationalistic fanaticism throughout the region.

The masses of Israelis and Palestinians will not believe in the chances of peace and co-existence if there is no real and open partnership between the peace camps of both peoples.

To establish such a partnership, organizations and individuals of both sides must start right now to conduct joint political action, such as constant consultation and joint planning on all levels and in all areas.

THE JEWISH character of the State of Israel finds its expression in its culture and its affinity with the Jews throughout the world. It must not express itself in its interior regime. All citizens and all sectors must be equal.

The democratic forces within the Jewish and the Arab public must join hands and work together in their daily actions.

International pressure by itself will not save Israel from itself. The salvation forces must come from within.

World-wide pressure on Israel can and must assist the democratic forces in Israel, but cannot take their place.

BASIC VALUES do not change. However, the ways of talking about them with the public must change.

The old slogans are ineffective. The values must be re-defined and re-formulated in up-to-date language, in line with the concepts and language of a new generation.

The two-state vision was defined after the 1948 war by a small group of path-blazers. Since than, huge changes have taken place in the world, in the region and within Israeli society. While the vision itself remains the only practical solution of the historic conflict, it must be poured into new vessels.

There is a need for political unity, a unifying salvation front that brings together all the forces of peace, democracy and social justice.

If the Labor Party is able to re-invent itself from the bottom up, it can constitute the basis of this camp. If not, an entirely new political party must be formed, as the core of the Salvation Front.

Within this front, diverse ideological forces must find their place and engage in a fruitful internal debate, while conducting a unified political struggle for the salvation of the state.

The regime within Israel must assure complete equality between all Jewish ethnic communities and between the two peoples, while safeguarding the affinity of the Israeli-Jewish public with the Jews in the world and the affinity of the Israeli-Arab public with the Arab world.

The situation in which most of the resources are in the hands of 1% of the population at the cost of the other 99%, must come to an end. A reasonable equality between all citizens, without connection with their ethnic origin, must be restored.

There is no social message without a political message, and there is no political message without a social message.

The Oriental Jewish public must be full partners in the state, side by side with all other sectors. Their dignity, culture, social status and economic situation must be accorded their proper place.

The religious-secular confrontation must be postponed until after peace is achieved. The beliefs and ceremonies of all religions must be respected, as well as the secular worldview.

The separation of state and religion – such as civil marriage, mass transportation on Shabbat – can wait until the struggle for existence is decided.

The protection of the judicial system, and above all the Supreme Court, is an absolute duty.

The various associations for peace, human rights and social justice, each of which conducts its laudable independent struggle in its chosen field, must enter the political arena and play a central role together in the unified Salvation Front.

Uri Avnery: -If the left wants to win, it must reform itself!

Uri Avnery
March 21, 2015

THE MESSIAH HASN’T COME and Bibi hasn’t gone.

That’s the sad outcome.

Sad, but not the end of the world.

As the American saying goes: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

I would say: “Today is the first day of the battle for the next elections!”

The battle for the salvation of Israel must start right now.

SOME PEOPLE say that the best course now is a so-called National Unity Government.

Looks like a nice idea. Unity always sounds nice.

I can muster some good arguments for it. The combination of the two major parties creates a bloc of 54 seats (of 120). Such a coalition needs only one other party to form a majority. There are several possibilities, headed by Moshe Kahlon’s 10 seats.

The advocates of this choice have one good argument: it’s the Lesser Evil. The only other possibility is an extreme right-wing-religious government, which will not only stop any step towards peace, but also expand settlements, enact more laws to choke democracy and impose reactionary religious laws.

It’s a good argument, but it has to be rejected outright.

The Unity Government would be dominated by the Right. At best it would be a government of total immobility. It would be unable and unwilling to make even the slightest move towards ending the historic conflict, terminating the occupation and recognition of Palestine. Settlements would expand at a frantic pace. The chances of an eventual peace would move even further away.

It would do a lot of harm. The Labor Party would be obliged to justify and beautify this disastrous course, disarm the Obama administration and progressive Jewish forces throughout the world. It would be a huge fig leaf for evil.

It would also leave Israel without an effective opposition. If the government coalition broke up somewhere along the way, the Labor party would be too besmirched to constitute a credible alternative. The initial success of Yitzhak Herzog in rousing the old party from its comatose state cannot be repeated a second time. Labor would become a spent force, a vegetable.

Fortunately for the Labor Party, this possibility died almost immediately after the election. Netanyahu killed it with one stroke.

BY THE way, a curious side effect of a National Unity Government would have been that the leader of the (Arab) Joint List, Ayman Odeh, would have become Leader of the Opposition.

By law, the title is bestowed automatically on the chief of the largest opposition party. It confers on its holders many of the privileges of a cabinet minister. The Prime Minister is obliged to confer with them regularly and share government secrets with them.

But even if there is no Unity Government, and Herzog becomes Leader of the Opposition, one outstanding result of the election is the changed situation of the Arabs in the Knesset.

There is a certain humor to this. It was Avigdor Lieberman, the almost pathological Arab-hater, who induced the Knesset to raise the minimum threshold to 3.25%. This was intended to eliminate the three small Arab parties (including the Communists, who also have some Jewish voters), who responded by overcoming their mutual disagreements and animosities and forming the joint list. Lieberman had great difficulties in crossing his own threshold, and Eli Yishai’s party, which includes the heirs of the fascist Meir Kahane, was – thank God – left outside the Knesset.

It is to be hoped that the Joint Arab List will not break up. Odeh represents a new generation of Arab citizens, which is much more willing to integrate in Israeli society. Perhaps next time the old taboos will at long last disappear and the Arab citizens will become a real part of Israel’s political life. This time, Labor did not yet dare to accept it as a full-fledged member of a Leftist coalition.

I DON’T like to say “I told you so”. It does not make one more popular. This time I cannot avoid it, because there is a lesson to be learned.

At the beginning of the election campaign I wrote two articles in Haaretz, suggesting that the initial momentum created by the Herzog-Livni union should be continued and intensified by creating a much larger Unity List, including the “Zionist Camp” (Labor) , Meretz, Lapid’s Yesh Atid and, if possible, even Moshe Kahlon’s new party.

The response? None whatsoever. None of the parties even took official notice.

The idea was that such a united front would create an irresistible momentum and attract voters who would not vote for any of these parties individually (or not vote at all). Together with the joint Arab list they would have created a blocking force that would have made a Likud comeback impossible.

I added that if the proposal was not accepted, all the parties involved may

THE MORNING after the elections, Meretz leader Zehava Galon resigned. It was the honorable thing to do.

Meretz barely overcame the threshold clause and shrunk to four seats, though many voters (including me) rallied to its help at the last moment.

The party has suffered from a long line of lackluster leaders. But its malaise goes much deeper. It is existential.

From its very beginning, Meretz was a party of the Ashkenazi intellectual elite. It says the right things. But it is resented by the masses of the Oriental community, hated by the religious, pushed away by the Russian immigrants. It lives on an isolated island, and its members give the impression of being quite happy to be among themselves, without all the riff-raff.

Zehava Galon is a very good person, honest and well-meaning, and her resignation (immediately after the first results came in and it seemed that Meretz had shrunk to 4 seats) does her credit. But the party has become – well – boring. Nothing new from it for a long, long time. Its message is right, but stale.

Meretz needs a leader – an inspiring person who arouses enthusiasm. But most of all it needs a new attitude – one that allows it to come out of its shell and actively appeal to voters who shun it now. It needs to work very hard to appeal to Orientals, Russians, Arabs and even the moderately religious.

BUT IT is unfair to demand this only of Meretz. It applies to the entire social and liberal part of Israel, the camp for peace and social justice.

The election results have shown that the dark prophecies about a decisive, irreversible shift of Israel to the right are unfounded. The dividing line runs through the middle, and can be shifted.

(The general picture has not changes. The right-wing (Likud, Bennet, Lieberman) has gained only one single seat: from 43 to 44. The center-left (Zionist Camp, Meretz, Lapid has lost 8 seats: from 48 to 40, but most of them went to Kahlon, who gained 10. The orthodox went from 17 to 14. The Arabs gained 2 – from 11 to 13. The false impression of a huge change was created by the advance polls with their artificial dramas.)

But in order to effect this, there must be a readiness to start from the beginning.

The present setup of the Israeli left will not do. That is the simple truth.

The most outstanding fact of this election is that the outcome reflects exactly the demographic composition of Israeli society. Likud won decisively within the Oriental Jewish community, which includes the lower socio-economic strata. Likud also retained its partial foothold in the Ashkenazi community.

The Zionist Camp and Meretz won decisively within the well-situated Ashkenazi public – there, and nowhere else.

The attitude of the Likud people to their party resembles the attitude of football fans to their team. It has a big emotional content.

I was always convinced that election propaganda and all the media hullabaloo of the election carnival have little, if any effect on the outcome. It is the demographic facts that are decisive.

The left must invent itself anew according to this reality. Otherwise it has no future.

IF ONE of the existing parties can do it, fine. If not, a new political force must be formed. Now.

Non-party organizations, with which Israel is lavishly endowed, cannot do the job. They can, and do, try to remedy many existing faults. Their activists fight for human rights, propagate good ideas, highlight abuse. But they cannot do the main job: change the policy of the state. For this we need a political party, one that can win elections and set up a government. That is the most important requirement. Without it, we are heading for disaster.

First of all, our failures must be clearly analyzed and admitted. The fateful failure to win over a large part of the Oriental Jewish community, even the second and third generation. This is not a fact ordained by God. It must be recognized, analyzed and studied. This can be done.

The same, and even more so, goes for the immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They are totally estranged from the Left. There is no reason for that in Israel today. The second and third generation can and must be won over.

The taboo that prevents the Jewish left from uniting with the Arab political forces must be broken. It is an act of self-castration (on both sides) and dooms the left to impotence.

There is no reason for the complete break between the secular left and even moderate religious forces. The provocative anti-religious stand that is typical for some parts of the center and left is plain stupid.

SO WHAT to do?

First of all, a new leadership must be encouraged to emerge. Zehava Galon’s (first) laudable example should be followed by others and by herself. Really new leaders must come forward, who are not a replica of the old.

The greatest danger is that after the first shock, everything will settle down again to the old ways, as if nothing had happened.

A determined effort must be made to pinpoint the frictions between the Left and the estranged sectors. Test groups must be set up in order to get to the roots – conscious and unconscious, practical and emotional – of the estrangement.

Overbearing attitudes must be shed. No one sector has an exclusive right to the state. Everybody has a right to be listened to and to express their deeper feelings and aspirations. Exclusiveness, often unconscious, must be replaced with inclusiveness.

To my mind, it is a mistake to try to hide our convictions. On the contrary, the fact that the words “peace” and “Palestine” were not mentioned at all in the campaign did not help the Left. Honesty is the first requisite for convincing people.

In short, if the Left wants to win next time – which may come much sooner than expected – it must start to reform itself and overcome the reasons for its failure.

It can be done. The time to begin is right now.

Jeff Halper: -The Israeli elections: A game-changer

Jeff Halper
Publication date:
Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dramatic as they were for returning Netanyahu to power, the Israeli elections did not witness a major shift in political forces; in fact, the center-left (albeit Labor now pandering to the right by rebranding itself the “Zionist Camp”) did better than in the 2013 elections, while the right polled considerably less than half the votes. Indeed, with Labor becoming Likud Lite and many of its supporters defecting to Lapid’s neo-liberal Yesh Atid party, right-left differences are hard to specify. Even Shas, whose ultra-orthodox politics have always been extremely hawkish, became the darling of many leftist Mizrahi intellectuals who believe that Aryeh Deri is a closet “bridge” between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians.

Taking a party’s position on the Occupation and achieving a just peace with the Palestinians as our measure of “right-left,” the breakdown is roughly as follows:

Right
2013: 54 seats in the Knesset (of 120) 2015: 51 seats
Likud/Israel Beitenu (Netanyahu/Lieberman) – 31 Likud – 30
Israel Beiteinu – 5
Habayit Hayehudi (Bennett) – 12 Habayit Hayehudi – 8
Shas (Yishai) – 11 Shas (Deri) – 7

Center
2013: 25 seats 2015: 21 seats
Yesh Atid (Lapid) – 19 Yesh Atid – 11
Hatnua (Livni) – 6 Kulanu (Kahlon) – 10

Left-ish:
2013: 32 seats 2015: 42 seats
Labor – 15 Zionist Camp – 24
Meretz (Galon) – 6 Meretz – 4
Hadash (Barakeh) – 4 United Arab List – 14
Ta’al (Tibi) – 4
Balad (Zakhalka) – 3

*Others: *
(agendas unrelated to “right-left”)
2013: 7 seats 2015: 7 seats
United Torah Judaism – 7 United Torah Judaism – 7

Netanyahu managed to pull out a surprise victory – bucking considerable public fatigue with him in general – by effectively exploiting scare-and-fear tactics. He vowed never to allow a Palestinian state (as if that was ever in doubt), warned Israelis that an international conspiracy was plotting against him and accused the “Zionist Camp” of waging an “illegitimate” campaign. On Election Day he texted virtually all the Jews in Israel that “The Arabs are being bussed in to polling booths by Hamas and leftist money. They are voting in droves. You must vote in droves as well – for the Likud.

Save Israel!
No one can be happy when racism and oppression win the day. In a wider perspective, however, the election may represent a positive game-changer. Not that anything has really changed, but finally the fig-leaf that allowed even liberal Israeli apologists to argue that the two-state solution is still possible has been removed. It had fallen off long ago, of course, but Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech of 2009 in which he weakly endorsed a two-state solution (Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state; no Right of Return; Jerusalem would remain Israeli; no stop to settlement construction – but “negotiations”) was nevertheless held up as proof that such a solution was still possible. Netanyahu’s repudiation of even that minimalist formulation and his vow that if reelected there will never be a Palestinian state has at least cleared the air. Now that there is no longer a “peace process,” no longer “two sides” to conduct pseudo-negotiations, no longer the illusion of a two-state solution. We are finally free to move on to a genuine and just solution.

Yet another fig-leaf dropped in this election as well, the notion that Israel is genuinely a democratic state – the only democracy in the Middle East – and that, in fact, a “Jewish democracy” is even possible. Netanyahu and the others (including Herzog) have clearly excluded “the Arabs” from the Israeli body-politik. This will soon be followed by formal legislation, begun in the last Knesset, declaring Israel to be a Jewish state. When passed, it means that the Supreme Court will be instructed (possible in a country with no constitution) to privilege “Jewish values” and interests over those of equal rights, human rights and international law when they come into conflict. In fact, as the Supreme Court itself ruled last year, there is no “Israeli” people. There is merely a state ruled by Jews extending from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. In that state, some Palestinians (or “Arabs” as they are called, denying their very status as a people with national rights) may possess formal Israeli citizenship, but are excluded from national life. Other Arabs in that state are denied any fundamental human or civil rights; they are locked up in West Bank cells sealed by a Separation Barrier or inhabit the uninhabitable cage of Gaza.

There is a name for such a state: apartheid, but more precisely, prison. For in “greater” Israel the natives are not even dignified by the pretense of a Bantustan.

The realization that successive Israeli governments have created one state in all of the Land of Israel has finally become as irrefutable as it is irreversible. This is the game-changer of this election. Since Israel itself eliminated the two-state solution deliberately, consciously and systematically over the course of a half-century, and since it created with its own hands the single de facto state we have today, the way forward is clear. We must accept the ultimate “fact on the ground,” the single state imposed by Israel over the entire country, but not in its apartheid/prison form. Israel has left us with only one way out: to transform that state into a democratic state of equal rights for all of its citizens. In addition to ensuring its population’s individual civil rights, it must also ensure the collective rights of each of the country’s national groups: Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews.

Netanyahu’s victor paves the way a one-state solution by making the status quo so untenable. But it is only half of the necessary game-changer. The fall, removal or resignation of the Palestinian Authority is the other half. The PA was established to outsource Israeli control to a sub-contractor, a policeman who would do its dirty work. With the end of the two-state solution the PA becomes nothing more than a collaborationist regime. It must vacate the political space so that the mechanism of change – the inevitable Israeli re-occupation that must follow – may usher in the one-state option. May. Unless progressive Palestinian and Israeli forces come together with a fleshed-out plan for an inclusive bi-national, democratic state, the opportunity may be missed and other, darker, more powerful forces may give rise to something even worse than what we have now.
The Israeli elections brought us one step closer to the collapse of apartheid. Who knows when the PA will collapse? Perhaps sooner than later. We need to formulate our own vision of a just peace – and urgently.

- See more at: http://www.icahd.org/node/571#sthash.86vNgRAq.dpuf

Published here with the permission of Jeff Halper.

Uri Avnery: How to vote in the coming eledtion?

Uri Avnery
March 14, 2015

ONCE A Soviet citizen went to vote. He was given a sealed envelope and told to put it in the ballot box.

“Could I possibly see for whom I am voting?” he asked timidly.

“Of course not!” the official answered indignantly, “in the Soviet Union, we respect the secrecy of the ballot!”

In Israel, elections are also secret. Therefore I shall not tell you for whom I shall vote. Certainly I shall not be so impertinent as to tell my readers how to vote. But I shall set out the reasoning that will guide me.

WE ARE voting for a new government, that will lead Israel for the next four years.

If this were a beauty contest, I would vote for Yair Lapid. He is so very handsome.

If we had to decide who is the most likeable candidate, it would probably be Moshe Kahlon. He seems a very nice guy, the son of a poor, Oriental Jewish family, who as Minister of Communications has broken the monopoly of the cellphone tycoons. But sympathy has nothing to do with it.

If we were seeking a nice, well-mannered guy, Yitzhak Herzog would be the obvious candidate. He is honest, of good family.

And so on. If I were looking for a bar bouncer, Avigdor Lieberman would be my man. If I were looking for a smooth TV performer, both Lapid and Binyamin Netanyahu would be more than adequate.

But I am looking for a person who will at least prevent war (and perhaps bring peace closer), bring back some form of social justice, put an end to the discrimination against Arab and Jewish Oriental citizens, restore our health, education and other social services, and more.

LET ME start with the easy part: for whom I shall not vote under any circumstances.

On the extreme right there is Eli Yishai’s “Beyahad” (Together) party. I never liked Yishai. Before he split from “Shas”, he was Interior Minister and persecuted refugees from Sudan and Eritrea without even a modicum of compassion.

With his new party desperate to overcome the threshold clause, which is now 3.25%, Yishai made a deal with the disciples of the late and unlamented Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was branded as a fascist by the Supreme Court. No. 4 on the list is now Baruch Marzel, who once publicly called for my murder. Even a bottle of the noblest wine is spoiled by a few drops of cyanide. No sell.

Next on the list is Avigdor Lieberman, the center of whose election platform is the proposal to behead with an axe all Arab citizens who are not loyal to the state. (I am not making this up.)

Not far from there is Naftali Bennett, the smooth, baby-faced former high-tech entrepreneur with the smallest kippa on earth. After conquering the Religious-National Party in a hostile takeover, he turned it into an efficient outfit.

The Religious-National Party was once a very moderate political force, which put a brake on David Ben-Gurion’s adventurism. But its semi-autonomous education system has turned out generations of extremists. Now they are the party of the settlers, and Bennett is wooing young Arab-hating, war-loving secular Jews, who otherwise would vote for Likud.

THUS WE come to Likud, the party of “King Bibi”, as Time Magazine admiringly called him.

Binyamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. A few months ago, when he decided to dismiss the Knesset and call early elections, he certainly did not dream of such a predicament.

It seemed that Israel’s march to the right was inevitable and unstoppable. That Netanyahu’s eternal reign was preordained. That the Left was facing a sordid end. That the Center was evaporating. It was just a matter of Netanyahu changing his horses (or asses, some would say).

And here we are, a few days before election day, with Likud almost desperate.

Why? How?

It seems that people are just fed up with Netanyahu. They seem to be saying: Enough is enough.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a great leader in peace and war, was elected for the fourth time, the American people decided to limit the terms of presidents henceforth to two. Perhaps the Israeli people have decided the same: three terms of Netanyahu are quite sufficient, thank you.

On the internet, a very funny clip is now circulating. Netanyahu is standing on the podium of the Congress, like a gym teacher (or like the trainer of very tame lions in a circus), commanding his pupils “Up! Down! Up! Down!” with congressmen and senators jumping at his command.

The Likud spin doctors had hoped that this sight would improve his fortunes in the election. And indeed, for a few days his numbers in the polls rose from a dismal 21 seats (of 120) to 23. But then they went down again and settled at 21, with Herzog at 24. Perhaps the senators did not jump high enough.

Where do the Likud votes go? First of all, to Bennett’s party. That would not be an unmitigated disaster for Netanyahu, since Bennett, with all the hatred between them, will have to support Netanyahu in the Knesset.

BUT SOME of the votes will go to the two “center” parties of Kahlon and Lapid, whose eventual allegiance is uncertain.

Kahlon comes from the Likud. He was a typical party member, son of immigrants from Tripoli (Libya), the darling of the party’s powerful central committee. A Likud member can vote for him now with a clear conscience, especially if he wants to change the social situation and ameliorate the lot of the poor.

Lapid is much the same, with one great difference: he has already been Finance Minister, while Kahlon only aspires to become one. Though Lapid has an unlimited enthusiasm for explaining his huge success in this job, the general opinion is that he was just so-so, if not a complete failure.

Nobody – not even they themselves – knows the answer to the decisive question: Will they join a Netanyahu or a Herzog government? They can do either. No problem. It may be a matter for a public auction: Who will pay more. More ministries, more budgets, more jobs. It will probably depend on the results of the elections.

The same is true for the two Orthodox parties – the Oriental Shas and the Ashkenazi “Torah Jewry”. They believe in God and Money, and God may instruct them to join the coalition which offers the most money for their institutions.

So there are at least four “center” parties which can decide whether Netanyahu or Herzog will be our next Prime Minister. Lieberman’s shrinking party may be the fifth.

Of course I would not dream of voting for any of them.

WHAT IS LEFT? A choice between three: Labor, now called “the Zionist Camp”, Meretz and the Joint (Arab) list.

The Arab list is composed of four vastly different parties: communist, Islamist and nationalist. It is a shotgun marriage, with Lieberman holding the gun: It was he who induced the Knesset to raise the minimum election threshold, in order to evict the small Arab parties from the Knesset. In response, the four small parties formed the big united list, which now holds third place in the polls after the two large parties.

The Arabs in Israel are second-class citizens, discriminated against and sometimes persecuted. What would be more humane for a progressive Jewish citizen than to vote for such a list?

For me that would be natural, since I was instrumental in creating in 1984 the first completely integrated Arab-Jewish election list (“the Progressive List for Peace”), which won two terms. (The communist party is almost completely Arab, with some Jewish members).

But the Joint List is problematic for me. A few days ago, they upset me with a fateful decision.

It concerns the “leftover” votes. Under our election law, two lists may make an agreement, under which the “leftover” votes of both will be pooled and turned over to one of them. (“Leftover” are votes remaining after the party has been allotted the seats for which it has the full number of votes.)

The Leftist parties devised a plan under which the Joint List was to pool its leftovers with those of Meretz. This might have given to one of them – and thus to the entire leftist bloc – one more seat, which may turn out to be crucial.

The Joint List refused, because Meretz is a Zionist party. The decision may have been logical, since many Arab voters could possibly abstain from voting if they feared that their vote might go to a Jewish “Zionist” list. But it showed that faced with any important decision, the Islamists of the Joint List might bloc a united decision for peace. I have a problem with that.

So I am left with Meretz and the “Zionist Camp”. Meretz is far closer to my views than the larger list. But only the larger list can unseat Netanyahu. The problem would not have existed if my proposal for a joint list including “the Zionist Camp”, Meretz, Lapid and more had been set up in time. All the prospective parts refused.

So now I am faced with a choice: either vote ideologically for Meretz or vote pragmatically for the party whose chances of putting an end to Netanyahu’s reign will be enhanced if it emerges as the largest party in the next Knesset. But this party has many defects, of which I am painfully aware.

Otto von Bismarck, one of the greatest statesmen of all times, famously described politics as "the art of the possible”.

It is now possible to stop the march of the Right and restore some sanity to our country.

So how should I vote?

The Netanyahu speech in Congress

Uri Avnery
March 7, 2015

SUDDENLY IT reminded me of something.

I was watching The Speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the Congress of the United States. Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval.

It was the shouting that did it. Where had I heard that before?

And then it came back to me. It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval.

Of course, the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout “Heil” but something unintelligible. Yet the sound of the shouting had the same effect. Rather shocking.

But then I returned to the present. The sight was not frightening, but ridiculous. Here were the members of the most powerful parliament in the world behaving like a bunch of nincompoops.

Nothing like this could have happened in the Knesset. I do not have a very high opinion of our parliament, despite having been a member, but compared to this assembly, the Knesset is the fulfillment of Plato’s dream.

ABBA EBAN once compared a speech by Menachem Begin to a French souffle cake: a lot of air and very little dough.

The same could be said about The Speech.

What did it contain? The Holocaust, of course, with that moral impostor, Elie Wiesel, sitting in the gallery right next to the beaming Sarah’le, who visibly relished her husband’s triumph. (A few days before, she had shouted at the wife of a mayor in Israel: “Your man does not reach the ankles of my man!”)

The Speech mentioned the Book of Esther, about the salvation of the Persian Jews from the evil Persian minister Haman, who intended to wipe them out. No one knows how this dubious composition came to be included in the Bible. God is not mentioned in it, it has nothing to do with the Holy Land, and Esther herself is more of a prostitute than a heroine. The book ends with the mass murder committed by the Jews against the Persians.

The Speech, like all speeches by Netanyahu, contained much about the suffering of the Jews throughout the ages, and the intentions of the evil Iranians, the New Nazis, to annihilate us. But this will not happen, because this time we have Binyamin Netanyahu to protect us. And the US Republicans, of course.

It was a good speech. One cannot make a bad speech when hundreds of admirers hang on every word and applaud every second. But it will not make an anthology of the world’s Greatest Speeches.

Netanyahu considers himself a second Churchill. And indeed, Churchill was the only foreign leader before Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress a third time. But Churchill came to cement his alliance with the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who played a big part in the British war effort, while Netanyahu has come to spit in the face of the present president.

WHAT DID the speech not contain?

Not a word about Palestine and the Palestinians. Not a word about peace, the two-state solution, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem. Not a word about apartheid, the occupation, the settlements. Not a word about Israel’s own nuclear capabilities.

Not a word, of course, about the idea of a nuclear-weapon–free region, with mutual inspection.

Indeed, there was no concrete proposal at all. After denouncing the bad deal in the making, and hinting that Barack Obama and John Kerry are dupes and idiots, he offered no alternative.

Why? I assume that the original text of The Speech contained a lot. Devastating new sanctions against Iran. A demand for the total demolition of all Iranian nuclear installations. And in the inevitable end: a US-Israeli military attack.

All this was left out. He was warned by the Obama people in no uncertain terms that disclosure of details of the negotiations would be considered as a betrayal of confidence. He was warned by his Republican hosts that the American public was in no mood to hear about yet another war.

What was left? A dreary recounting of the well-known facts about the negotiations. It was the only tedious part of the speech. For minutes no one jumped up, nobody shouted approval. Elie Wiesel was shown sleeping. The most important person in the hall, Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Congress republicans and of Netanyahu, was not shown at all. But he was there, keeping close watch on his servants.

BY THE way, whatever happened to Netanyahu’s war?

Remember when the Israel Defense Forces were about to bomb Iran to smithereens? When the US military might was about to “take out” all Iranian nuclear installations?

Readers of this column might also remember that years ago I assured them that there would be no war. No ifs, no buts. No half-open back door for a retreat. I asserted that there would be no war, period.

Much later, all Israeli former military and intelligence chiefs spoke out against the war. The army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who finished his term this week, has disclosed that no draft operation order for attacking Iran’s nuclear capabilities was ever drawn up.

Why? Because such an operation could lead to a world-wide catastrophe. Iran would immediately close the Strait of Hormuz, just a few dozen miles wide, through which some 35% of the world’s sea-borne oil must pass. It would mean an immediate world-wide economic breakdown.

To open the Strait and keep it open, a large part of Iran would have to be occupied in a land war, boots on the ground. Even Republicans shiver at the thought.

Israeli military capabilities fall far short of such an adventure. And, of course, Israel cannot dream of starting a war without express American consent.

That is reality. Not speechifying. Even American senators are capable of seeing the difference.

THE CENTERPIECE of The Speech was the demonization of Iran. Iran is evil incarnate. It leaders are subhuman monsters. All over the world, Iranian terrorists are at work planning monstrous outrages. They are building intercontinental ballistic missiles to destroy the US. Immediately after obtaining nuclear warheads – now or in ten years – they will annihilate Israel.

In reality, Israel’s second-strike capability, based on the submarines supplied by Germany, would annihilate Iran within minutes. One of the most ancient civilizations in world history would come to an abrupt end. The ayatollahs would have to been clinically insane to do such a thing.

Netanyahu pretends to believe they are. Yet for years now, Israel has been conducting an amiable arbitration with the Iranian government about the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline across Israel built by an Iranian-Israeli consortium. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was Israel’s stoutest ally in the region. Well after the revolution, Israel supplied Iran with arms in order to fight against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the famous Irangate affair). And if one goes back to Esther and her sexual effort to save the Jews, why not mention Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Judean captives to return to Jerusalem?

Judging by its behavior, the present Iranian leadership has lost some of its initial religious fervor. It is behaving (not always speaking) in a very rational way, conducting tough negotiations as one would expect from Persians, aware of their immense cultural heritage, even more ancient than Judaism. Netanyahu is right in saying that one should not trust them with closed eyes, but his demonization is ridiculous.

Within the wider context, Israel and Iran are already indirect allies. For both, the Islamic State (ISIS) is the mortal enemy. To my mind, ISIS is far more dangerous to Israel, in the long run, than Iran. I imagine that for Tehran, ISIS is a far more dangerous enemy than Israel.

(The only memorable sentence in The Speech was “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy”.)

If the worst comes to the worst, Iran will have its bomb in the end. So what?

I may be an arrogant Israeli, but I refuse to be afraid. I live a mile from the Israeli army high command in the center of Tel Aviv, and in a nuclear exchange I would evaporate. Yet I feel quite safe.

The United States has been exposed for decades (and still is) to thousands of Russian nuclear bombs, which could eradicate millions within minutes. They feel safe under the umbrella of the “balance of terror”. Between us and Iran, in the worst situation, the same balance would come into effect.

WHAT IS Netanyahu’s alternative to Obama’s policy? As Obama was quick to point out, he offered none.

The best possible deal will be struck. The danger will be postponed for ten years or more. And, as Chaim Weizmann once said: “The future will come and take care of the future.”

Within these ten years, many things will happen. Regimes will change, enmities will turn into alliances and vice versa. Anything is possible.

Even – God and the Israeli voters willing – peace between Israel and Palestine, which would take the sting out of Israeli-Muslim relations.

Avnery on the Netanyahu speech in Congress: An Expensive Speech

Uri Avnery
February 28, 2015

WINSTON CHURCHILL famously said that democracy is the worst political system, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Anyone involved with political life knows that that is British understatement.

Churchill also said that the best argument against democracy is a five minute talk with an average voter. How true.

I have witnessed 20 election campaigns for the Knesset. In five of them I was a candidate, in three of them I was elected.

As a child I also witnessed three election campaigns in the dying days of the Weimar republic, and one (the last more or less democratic one) after the Nazi ascent to power.

(The Germans at that time were very good at graphic propaganda, both political and commercial. After more than 80 years, I still remember some of their election posters.)

Elections are a time of great excitement. The streets are plastered with propaganda, politicians talk themselves hoarse, sometimes violent clashes break out.

Not now. Not here. 17 days before the election, there is an eerie silence. A stranger coming to Israel would not notice that there is an election going on. Hardly any posters in the streets. Articles in the newspapers on many other subjects. People shouting at each other on TV as usual. No rousing speeches. No crowded mass meetings.

EVERYBODY KNOWS that this election may be crucial, far more so than most.

It may be the final battle for the future of Israel – between the zealots of Greater Israel and the supporters of a liberal state. Between a mini-empire that dominates and oppresses another people and a decent democracy. Between settlement expansion and a serious search for peace. Between what has been called here “swinish capitalism” and a welfare state.

In short, between two very different kinds of Israel.

So what is being said about this fateful choice?

Nothing.

The word “peace” – shalom in Hebrew – is not mentioned at all. God forbid. It is considered political poison. As we say in Hebrew: “He who wants to save his soul must distance himself”.

All the “professional advisers”, with whom this country is teeming, strongly admonish their clients never ever to utter it. “Say political agreement, if you must. But for Gods sake, do not mention peace!”

Same about occupation, settlements, transfer (of populations) and such. Keep away. Voters may suspect that you have an opinion. Avoid it like the plague.

The Israeli welfare state, once the envy of many countries (remember the kibbutz?) is falling apart. All our social services are crumbling. The money goes to the huge army, big enough for a medium power. So does anyone suggest drastically reducing the military? Of course not. What, stick the knife in the backs of our valiant soldiers? Open the gates to our many enemies? Why, that’s treason!

So what do the politicians and the media talk about? What is exciting the public mind? What reaches the headlines and evening news?

Only the really serious matters. Does the Prime minister’s wife pocket the coins for returned bottles? Does the Prime Minister’s official residence show signs of neglect? Did Sara Netanyahu use public funds to install a private hairdresser’s room in the residence?

SO WHERE is the main opposition party, the Zionist Camp (a.k.a. the Labor Party)?

The party labors (no pun intended) under a great disadvantage: its leader is the Great Absent One of this election.

Yitzhak Herzog does not have a commanding presence. Of slight build, more like a boy than a hardened warrior, with a thin, high voice, he does not seem like a natural leader. Cartoonists have a hard time with him. He does not have any pronounced characteristics that make him easily recognizable.

He reminds me of Clement Attlee. When the British Labor Party could not decide between two conspicuous candidates, they elected Attlee as the compromise candidate.

He, too, had no commanding features. (Churchill again: An empty car approached and Major Attlee got out.) The world gasped when the British, even before the end of World War II, kicked Churchill out and elected Attlee. But Attlee turned out to be a very good Prime Minister. He got out in time from India (and Palestine), set up the welfare state, and much more.

Herzog started out well. By setting up a joint election list with Tzipi Livni he created momentum and put the moribund Labor Party on its feet again. He adopted a popular name for the new list. He showed that he could make decisions. And there it stopped.

The Zionist Camp fell silent. Internal quarrels paralyzed the election staff.

(I published two articles in Haaretz calling for a joint list of the Zionist Camp, Meretz and Ya’ir Lapid’s party. It would have balanced the Left and the Center. It would have generated rousing new momentum. But the initiative could only have come from Herzog. He ignored it. So did Meretz. So did Lapid. I hope they won’t regret it.)

Now Meretz is teetering on the brink of the electoral threshold, and Lapid is slowly recovering from his deep fall in the polls, building mainly on his handsome face.

In spite of everything, Likud and the Zionist camp are running neck and neck. The polls give each 23 seats (of 120), predicting a photo finish and leaving the historic decision to a number of small and tiny parties.

THE ONLY game-changer in sight is the coming speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the two Houses of Congress.

It seems that Netanyahu is pinning all his hopes on this event. And not without reason.

All Israeli TV stations will broadcast the event live. It will show him at his best. The great statesman, addressing the most important parliament in the world, pleading for the very existence of Israel.

Netanyahu is an accomplished TV personality. He is not a great orator in the style of Menachem Begin (not to mention Winston Churchill), but on TV he has few competitors. Every movement of his hands, every expression of his face, every hair on his head is exactly right. His American English is perfect.

The leader of the Jewish ghetto pleading at the court of the Goyish king for his people is a well-known figure in Jewish history. Every Jewish child reads about him in school. Consciously or unconsciously, people will be reminded.

The chorus of senators and congress(wo)men will applaud wildly, jump up and down every few minutes and express their unbounded admiration in every way, except licking his shoes.

Some brave Democrats will absent themselves, but the Israeli viewers will not notice this, since it is the habit on such occasions to fill all empty seats with members of the staff.

No propaganda spectacle could be more effective. The voters will be compelled to ask themselves how Herzog would have looked in the same circumstances.

I cannot imagine any more effective election propaganda. Using the Congress of the United States of America as a propaganda prop is a stroke of genius.

MILTON FRIEDMAN asserted that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and this lunch has a high price indeed.

It means almost literally spitting in the face of President Obama. I don’t think there was ever anything like it. The prime minister of a small vassal country, dependent on the US for practically everything, comes to the capital of the US to openly challenge its President, in effect branding him a cheat and a liar. His host is the opposition party.

Like Abraham, who was ready to slaughter his son to please God, Netanyahu is ready to sacrifice Israel’s most vital interests for election victory.

For many years, Israeli ambassadors and other functionaries have toiled mightily to enlist both the White House and the Congress in the service of Israel. When Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin came to Washington and found that the support for Israel was centered in the Congress, he made a large – and successful – effort to win over the Nixon White House.

AIPAC and other Jewish organizations have worked for generations to secure the support of both American parties and practically all senators and congress(wo)men. For years now, no politician on Capitol Hill dared to criticize Israel. It was tantamount to political suicide. The few who tried were cast into the wilderness.

And here comes Netanyahu and destroys all of this edifice for one election spectacle. He has declared war on the Democratic Party, cutting the bond that has connected Jews with this party for more than a century. Destroying the bipartisan support. Allowing Democratic politicians for the first time to criticize Israel. Breaking a generations-old taboo that may not be restored.

President Obama, who is being insulted, humiliated and obstructed in his most cherished policy move, the agreement with Iran, would be superhuman if he did not brood on revenge. Even a movement of his little finger could hurt Israel grievously.

Does Netanyahu care? Of course he cares. But he cares more about his reelection.

Much, much more.

Uri Avnery: -Anti-Semitism?

Uri Avnery
February 21, 2015

ANTI-SEMITISM is on the rise. All over Europe it is raising its ugly head. Jews are in danger everywhere. They must make haste and come home to Israel before it is too late.

True? Untrue?

Nonsense.

PRACTICALLY ALL the alarming incidents which have taken place in Europe recently – especially in Paris and Copenhagen – in which Jews were killed or attacked – had nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

All these outrages were conducted by young Muslims, mostly of Arab descent. They were part of the ongoing war between Israelis and Arabs that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. They are not descended from the pogrom in Kishinev and not related to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In theory, Arab anti-Semitism is an oxymoron, since Arabs are Semites. Indeed, Arabs may be more Semitic then Jews, because Jews have mingled for many centuries with Gentiles.

But, of course, the German publicist Wilhelm Marr, who probably invented the term Antisemitismus in 1880 (after inventing the term Semitismus seven years earlier) never met an Arab in his life. For him the only Semites were Jews, and his crusade was solely against them.

(Adolf Hitler, who took his racism seriously, applied it to all Semites. He could not stand Arabs either. Contrary to legend, he disliked the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had fled to Germany. After meeting him once for a photo-opportunity arranged by the Nazi propaganda machine, he never agreed to meet him again.)

SO WHY do young Muslims in Europe shoot Jews, after killing cartoonists who have insulted The Prophet?

Experts say that the basic reason is their profound hatred for their host countries, in which they feel (quite rightly) that they are despised, humiliated and discriminated against. In countries like France, Belgium, Denmark and many others, their violent rage needs an outlet.

But why the Jews?

There are at least two main reasons:
The first is local. French Muslims are mostly immigrants from North Africa. During the desperate struggle for Algerian independence, almost all the Algerian Jews sided with the colonialist regime against the local freedom fighters. When all Jews and many Arabs emigrated from Algeria to France, they brought their fight with them. Since they now live side by side in the crowded ghettos around Paris and elsewhere, their mutual hatred lives on and often leads to violence.

The second reason is the ongoing Arab-Zionist conflict, which started with the mass immigration of Jews to Arab Palestine, continued with the long list of wars and is now in full bloom. Practically every Arab in the world, and most Muslims are emotionally involved in the conflict.

But what have French Jews to do with that far-away conflict? Everything.

When Binyamin Netanyahu does not miss an opportunity to declare that he represents all the Jews in the world, he makes all the world’s Jews responsible for Israeli policies and actions.

When Jewish institutions in France, the US and everywhere totally and uncritically identify with the policies and operations of Israel, such as the recent Gaza war, they turn themselves voluntarily into potential victims of revenge actions. The French Jewish leadership, CRIF, did so just now.

Neither of these reasons has anything to do with anti-Semitism.

ANTI-SEMITISM is an integral part of European culture.

Many theories have been put forward to explain this totally illogical phenomenon, which borders on a collective mental disease.

My own preferred theory is religious. All over Europe, and now also in the Americas, Christian children in their formative years hear the stories of the New Testament. They learn that a Jewish mob was shouting for the blood of Jesus, the gentle and mild preacher, while the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilatus, was desperately trying to save his life. The Roman is depicted as a humane, likeable person, while the Jews are seen as a vile, despicable mob.

This story cannot be true. Roman rulers all over the Empire used to crucify potential troublemakers. The behavior of the Jewish authorities in the story does not conform to Jewish law. But the New Testament story, written long after the death of Jesus (whose real Hebrew name was Jeshua), was aimed at the Roman audience the Christians were trying to convert, in hot competition with the Jewish missionaries.

Also, the early Christians were a small, persecuted sect in Jewish Jerusalem, and their grudge lives on to this very day.

The picture of the evil Jews crying out for the death of Jesus is unconsciously imprinted in the minds of the Christian multitudes and has inspired Jew-hatred in every new generation. The results were slaughter, mass-expulsions, inquisition, persecution in every form, pogroms, and finally the Holocaust.

THERE has never been anything like this in Muslim history.

The Prophet had some small wars with neighboring Jewish tribes, but the Koran contains strict instructions on how to deal with Jews and Christians, the People of the Book. They had to be treated fairly and were exempted from military duty in return for a poll tax. Throughout the ages there were some rare anti-Jewish (and anti-Christian) outbreaks here and there, but Jews in Muslim lands fared incomparably better than in Christian ones.

If this had not been so, there would have been no “Golden Age” of Muslim-Jewish cultural symbiosis in medieval Spain. It would have been impossible for the Muslim Ottoman empire to accept and absorb almost all the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from medieval Spain, driven out by their Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella. The outstanding Jewish religious thinker, Moses Maimonides (the “Rambam”) could not have become the personal physician and adviser of the outstanding Muslim sultan, Salah-al-Din al-Ayubi (Saladin).

The present conflict started as a clash between two national movements, Jewish Zionism and secular Arab nationalism, and had only slight religious overtones. As my friends and I have warned many times, it is now turning into a religious conflict – a calamity with potentially grievous consequences.

Nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

SO WHY does the entire Israeli propaganda machine, including all Israeli media, insist that Europe is experiencing a catastrophic rise of anti-Semitism? In order to call upon European Jews to come to Israel (in Zionist terminology: “make Aliya”).

For a Zionist true believer, every Jew’s arrival in Israel is an ideological victory. Never mind that once in Israel, new immigrants – especially from countries like Ethiopia and Ukraine – are neglected.
As I have frequently quoted: “Israelis like immigration but don’t like immigrants”.

In the wake of the recent events in Paris and Copenhagen, Binyamin Netanyahu has publicly called upon French and Danish Jews to pack up and come at once to Israel for their own safety. The prime ministers of both countries have furiously protested against these calls, which insinuate that they are unable or unwilling to protect their own citizens. I suppose that no leader likes a foreign politician to call upon his citizens to leave.

There is something grotesque in this call: as the late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz remarked, Israel is the only place in the world where Jewish lives are in constant danger. With a war every few years and violent incidents almost every day, he had a point.

But in the wake of the dramatic events, many “French” Jews – originally from North Africa – may be induced to leave France. They may not all come to Israel. The US, French Canada and Australia offer tempting alternatives.

There are many good reasons for a Jew to come to Israel: a mild climate, the Hebrew language, living among fellow Jews, and what not. But running away from anti-Semites is not one of them.

IS THERE real anti-Semitism in Europe? I assume that there is.

In many European countries there are old and new super-nationalist groups, who try to attract the masses by hatred of the Other. Jews are the Others par excellence (along with Gypsies/Roma). An ethno-religious group dispersed in many countries, belonging and not belonging to their host countries, with foreign – and therefore sinister – beliefs and rituals. All the European nationalist movements which sprang up in the 19th and 20th centuries were more or less anti-Semitic.

Jews have always been, and still are, the ideal scapegoat for the European poor. It was the German (non-Jewish) socialist August Bebel who said that “anti-Semitism is the socialism of the stupid guys”.

With frequent economic slumps and a widening gap between the local poor and the multinational super-rich, the need for scapegoats is rising. But I do not believe that these marginal groups, even if some of them are not so marginal anymore, constitute a real anti-Semitic surge.

Be that as it may, the outrages in Paris and Copenhagen have nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

The real ruler of Israel

Uri Avnery
February 14, 2015

WHO IS the ruler of Israel?

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, of course.

WRONG.

The real ruler of Israel is one Sheldon Adelson, 81, American Jew, Casino king, who was rated as the world’s tenth richest person, worth 37.2 billion dollars at the latest count. But who is counting?

Besides his casinos in Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, Macao and Singapore, he owns the US Republican party and, lately, both Houses of the US Congress.

He also owns Binyamin Netanyahu.

ADELSON’S CONNECTION with Israel is personal. On a blind date, he fell in love with an Israeli woman.

Miriam Farbstein was born in Haifa, attended a prestigious high school, did her army service in the Israeli institute which deals with bacteriological warfare and is a multifaceted scientist. After one of her sons (from her first marriage) died of an overdose, she is devoted to the fight against drugs, especially cannabis.

Both Adelsons are fanatical supporters of Israel. Not just any Israel, but a rightist, supremacist, arrogant, violent, expansionist, annexationist, non-compromising, colonialist Israel.

In “Bibi” Netanyahu they found their man. Through Netanyahu they hope to rule Israel as their private fief.

To assure this, they did an extraordinary thing: they founded an Israeli newspaper, solely devoted to the furthering of the interests of Binyamin Netanyahu. Not of the Likud, not of a specific policy, but of Netanyahu personally.

Years ago I invented a Hebrew word for papers which are distributed for nothing. “Hinamon” translates, roughly, into “ragratis” or “gratissue” and was intended to denigrate. But I did not dream of a monster like “Israel Hayom” (“Israel Today”) – a paper with unlimited funds, distributed every day for nothing in the streets and malls all over the country by hundreds, perhaps thousands of paid young persons.

Israelis love getting something for nothing. Israel Hayom is now the daily paper with the widest distribution in Israel. It drains readers and advertising revenue from its only competitor – Yedioth Ahronoth (“Latest News”), which held this title until then.

Yedioth reacted furiously. It became a ferocious enemy of Netanyahu. Yossi Werter, a commentator of the center-left Haaretz (which has a far lower circulation) even believes that the present election boils down to a contest between the two papers.

That is vastly exaggerated. Judged by political and social content, there is little to differentiate the two. Both are super-patriotic, war-mongering and rightist. That is the journalistic recipe for attracting the masses anywhere in the world.

Yedioth is owned by the Moses family, a business-minded clan. The present, third-generation publisher is Arnon (“Noni”) Moses, the publicity-shy boss of a large economic empire based on the paper. The paper serves his business interests, but he has no special political interests.

Adelson is unique.

IN ISRAEL, betting is forbidden by law. We have no casinos, and secret gambling dens are raided by the police. In our early youth we were taught that casino moguls are bad people, almost like arms merchants. They take the money off poor addicted people, throwing them into despair, even suicide. See Dostoyevsky.

Israelis read Israel Hayom (it’s something for nothing, after all), but they don’t necessarily like the man and his methods. So some members of the Knesset were encouraged to enter a bill forbidding gratis newspapers altogether.

Netanyahu and the Likud party did everything to obstruct this bill. But in the preliminary vote (necessary for private members’ bills) they were beaten in an amazing way. Even members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition voted for it. The cameras caught Netanyahu literally running in the Knesset plenum hall to gain his seat before the voting started.

The vote was 43 to 23. Almost half the Likud members absented themselves. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his party voted for the bill. So did ministers Ya’ir Lapid and Tzipi Livni.

From the preliminary vote to the final adoption, such a bill has to pass several stages. There was plenty of time to bury it in one of the committees. But Netanyahu was furious. A few days after the vote, he dismissed Lapid and Livni from the cabinet, causing the government coalition to break up and the Knesset to disperse.

Why did Netanyahu do such a foolish thing less then half way through his (third) term of office? There can be only one logical explanation: he was ordered to do so by Adelson, in order to prevent the adoption of the law.

If so, Adelson is now our chief lawmaker. Perhaps he is also our chief government-maker.

MONEY PLAYS an ever-increasing role in politics. Election propaganda is made on television, which is very expensive. Both in Israel and the US, legal and illegal funds pour into the campaign, directly and indirectly. Corruption is abetted or tolerated by the courts. The very rich (known euphemistically in America as the “wealthy”) exercise undue influence.

In the last US presidential elections, Adelson poured rivers of dollars into the contest. He supported Newt Gingrich, and then Mitt Romney, with huge sums of money. In vain. Perhaps Americans don’t like to be ruled by captains of casinos.

For the next US presidential elections, Adelson has started early. He has summoned to his Las Vegas casino HQ all leading Republican candidates, to grill them on their allegiance to him – and to Netanyahu. Nobody dared to refuse the summons. Would a Roman senator refuse the summons of Caesar?

In Israel, such rituals are superfluous. The Adelsons – both Miri and Sheldon – know who their man is.

The Israel Hayom newspaper is, of course, a big propaganda machine, totally devoted to the re-election of Netanyahu. All quite legal. In a democracy, who can tell a newspaper whom to support? We are still a democracy, for God’s sake!

IT SEEMS to be strange for a country to allow a foreigner, who never lived in the country, to have such enormous power over its future, indeed, over its very existence.

That’s where Zionism comes in. According to the Zionist creed, Israel is the state of the Jews, all the Jews. Every Jew in the world belongs to Israel, even if temporarily residing somewhere else. A few days ago, Netanyahu publicly claimed to represent not just the State of Israel but also the entire “Jewish People”. No need to ask them.

Accordingly, Adelson is not really a foreigner. He is one of us. True, he cannot vote in Israel, though his wife probably can. But many people, including himself, believe that he, being a Jew, has a perfect right to interfere in our affairs and dominate our lives.

For example, the appointment of our ambassador in the US. Ron Dermer is an American, born in Miami, who was active in Republican politics. To appoint an American functionary of the Republican Party as ambassador of Israel to a Democratic administration may seem strange. Not so strange if Netanyahu acted under the orders of Sheldon Adelson.

It was Adelson who prepared the witches’ brew that is now endangering Israel’s lifeline to Washington. His stooge, Dermer, induced the Republicans in Congress – all of them dependent on Adelson’s largesse or hoping to be so – to invite Netanyahu to give an anti-Obama speech before both Houses.

While this intrigue was in preparation, Dermer met with John Kerry but did not tell him of Netanyahu’s coming. Neither did Netanyahu inform President Obama, who, in a fury, announced that he would not meet with the Prime Minister.

From the point of view of Israel’s vital interests, it is sheer madness to provoke the President of the United States of America, who controls American’s flow of arms to Israel and the American veto power in the UN. But from the point of view of Adelson, who wants to elect a Republican president in 2016, it makes sense. He has already threatened to invest unlimited sums of money to prevent the reelection of any Senator or Representative who is absent from Netanyahu’s speech.

We are nearing open warfare between the Government of Israel and the President of the United States.

Is someone playing roulette with our future?

The Criminal Court examines possible war crimes in Gaza

In January, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in Hague, opened a preliminary examination of possible war crimes committed in the Gaza war last summer. This is the first formal step in a judicial process that could lead to charges against Israelis and Palestinians for war crimes.

The preliminary examination startet after president Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, over the strong objections of Israel and USA, signed the treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), thereby accepting its jurisdiction.

The Israeli government froze Palestinian tax revenue when Palestine Abbas joined the court. USA has warned that American aid to the Palestinian Authority could be imperiled.

Read the full story from the New York Times here.

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