Shows the archive for januar, 2015

-Political drone attack

Uri Avnery
January 24, 2015

THERE USED to be a joke about a sadist and a masochist.

“Hit me! Beat me! Kick me!” the masochist pleads with the sadist.

The sadist smiles a cruel smile and slowly answers: “No!”

THAT, MORE or less, reflects the situation on our northern border at this moment.

Two Israeli drones have bombed (or missiled) a small Hezbollah convoy, a few miles beyond the border with Syria on the Golan heights. 12 people were killed. One was an Iranian general. One was a very young Hezbollah officer, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a very high-ranking Hezbollah officer who was also killed by Israel, some seven years ago, in a Damascus car explosion.

The killing of the Iranian general was perhaps unintended. Seems that Israeli intelligence did not know that he, and five other Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, were in the convoy. An Israeli army officer admitted this in a roundabout way. A second officer denied the statement of the first.

He did not apologize, of course. One cannot apologize when one does not officially admit to being the perpetrator. And, of course, Israelis do not apologize. Never ever. Indeed, one far-right party in the present election has turned this into an election slogan: “No apologies!”

The intended victim of the attack was the 25-year old Jihad Mughniyeh, a junior Hezbollah officer whose only claim to fame was his family name.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the killing, the question arose: Why? Why now? Why at all?

The Israeli-Syrian border (or, rather, cease-fire line) has been for decades the quietest border of Israel. No shooting. No incidents. Nothing.

Assad the father and Assad the son both saw to this. They were not interested in provoking Israel. After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which started with a huge Syrian surprise success and ended with a complete Syrian defeat, the Assads wanted no new adventure.

Even when Ariel Sharon attacked Lebanon in 1982, the Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon did not intervene. But since one of Sharon’s war aims was to drive the Syrians out of Lebanon, he had to open fire himself to get them involved. That adventure ended with a Syrian success.

Any intention Bashar al-Assad might ever have had to provoke Israel (and it seems that he never had any) vanished when the Syrian civil war started, more than four years ago. Both Bashar al-Assad and the various rebel factions were fully occupied with their bloody business. Israel could not interest them less.

SO WHY did Israeli drones hit a small convoy of Assad’s allies – Hezbollah and Iran? It is very unlikely that they had any aggressive intentions against Israel. Probably they were scouting the terrain in search of Syrian rebels.

The Israeli government and the army did not explain. How could they, when they did not officially admit to the action? Even unofficially, there was no hint.

But there is an elephant in the room: the Israeli elections.

We are now in the middle of the election campaign. Was there, could there be, any connection between the election campaign and the attack?

You bet!

TO SUGGEST that our leaders could order a military action to increase their chances in an election borders on treason.

Yet It has happened before. Indeed, it happened in many of our 19 election campaigns till now.

The first election took place when we were still at war. David Ben-Gurion, the war leader, won a great election victory, of course.

The second election took place during the fight against the Arab “infiltrators”, with almost daily incidents along the new borders. Who won? Ben-Gurion.

And so on. In 1981, when Menachem Begin ordered the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, somebody dared to suggest that the action was connected with the upcoming Knesset election. This gave Begin the opportunity for one of his greatest speeches. Begin was an outstanding orator in the European (and very un-Israeli) tradition.

“Jews!” he addressed his audience, “You have known me for many years. Do you believe that I would send our gallant boys on a dangerous mission, where they could be killed or, worse – fall into the captivity of these human animals – in order to gain votes?” The crowd roared back “No!”
Even the other side played their part. The Egyptians and Syrians launched their surprise attack on Yom Kippur 1973 in the middle of the Israeli election campaign.

After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, his heir, Shimon Peres, also faced an election campaign. During his short regency, he managed to start and lose a war. He invaded Lebanon and during the fighting a UN refugee camp was bombed by mistake. That was the end of the war and of Peres’ reign. Binyamin Netanyahu won.

WHEN LAST week’s killing was announced, the country and the army were requested to prepare for war.

Along the border, tension spread. Massive troop deployments took place. Armored brigades moved north. “Iron Dome” anti-missile batteries were positioned near the border. All the media prepared the public for instant revenge actions by Hezbollah and Iran.

That’s where the joke comes in. Netanyahu fully expected Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief, to bomb Galilee in retaliation. Nasrallah just smiled one of his enigmatic smiles.

Revenge? Sure. But not just now. Some other time, perhaps. Some other place, too. Maybe in Bulgaria, where Israeli tourists were killed to avenge Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. Or even in Argentina, where the prosecutor investigating the destruction of two Israel-Jewish centers was found shot this week (by himself or by others.) The bloody attacks in Buenos Aires, 20 years ago, were attributed to Hezbollah and Iran after another Israeli action in Lebanon.

So why doesn’t Nasrallah avenge the drone action now? When you count on an enemy’s revenge action, it is very frustrating when it doesn’t come on time.

TO UNDERSTAND this, one must review the election campaign.

It is being waged by two large blocks – the right-wing led by the Likud and the center-left led by the Labor party. The left has gathered unexpected momentum by uniting Labor with Tzipi Livni’s little faction, and now, incredibly, has overtaken Likud in the polls. Aside from the two blocks there are the Orthodox and the Arab citizens, who have their own agendas.

The two main blocks sail under different flags. Likud and Co. sail under the flag of Security. The public believes that Netanyahu and his allies are more trustworthy when it comes to war and keeping our army big and powerful. The public also believes that Labor and its allies are more effective when it comes to the economy, the price of housing and such.

This means that the outcome will be decided by which side succeeds in imposing its agenda on the campaign. If the campaign comes to be dominated by the issues of war and fear, the Right will probably win. If, alternatively, the main issue is housing and the exorbitant price of cottage cheese, the Left has a chance.

This is not a matter of particularly acute perception, but of general public knowledge. Every missile launched by Hezbollah or Hamas will be a missile for Likud. Every day of quiet on the borders will be a day for Labor.

IT WAS therefore quite obvious to many Israelis that the sudden flair up on the northern border, caused by an unprovoked Israeli attack that makes no sense, was an election ploy by Netanyahu and his companions.

Many knew. But nobody dared to say so. The political parties were afraid of being seen as stabbing the army in the back. Accusing Netanyahu of risking a major war in order to win an election is a very grave matter.

The Labor party published a lame statement supporting the army. Meretz kept quiet. The Arab parties were busy with creating a united Arab list. The Orthodox couldn’t care less.

Gush Shalom, of which I am a member, prepared to publish an unequivocal accusation.

And then the silence was broken from a totally unexpected quarter.

General Galant gave an interview in which he squarely accused the government of warming up the northern border for election purposes.

Galant? Incredible!

Yoav Galant was the chief of the Southern Command during the cruel Molten Lead campaign. After that he was appointed by Netanyahu as the new army Chief of Staff. But before the appointment could be consummated Galant was accused of expropriating public village land for his palatial home and had to back out. I always considered him an out-and-out militarist.

Two weeks ago, Galant suddenly reappeared on the stage as candidate No. 2 on the list of Moshe Kahlon’s new center party with no ideology except bringing down prices.

Galant’s statement caused an outcry, and he quietly retracted it. But the deed was done. Galant had opened the gate. A horde of commentators stormed through it to spread the accusation.

The campaign may never be the same again after Galant’s gallant deed.

-Netanyahu unfit to be PM of Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu, serving as Israel´s prime minister since 2009, his third term, is “unfit for the job”, according to the leading leftwing newspaper Haaretz. In today´s editorial they analyse the situation, blaming him for turning Israel into a pariah state, with the following conclusion:

“… the dramatic change Netanyahu is talking about won’t happen if the person in charge remains someone unable to bravely deal with the difficult problems facing Israel, primarily the Palestinian issue. A 47-year-old occupation of millions of people is intolerable. A responsible prime minister must force a genuine effort to end this tragedy. For three terms as prime minister, Netanyahu proved he has neither the ability nor the intention to solve the problem, choosing instead the tactic of “managing the conflict,” which means stalling for time without action. Israel cannot allow itself another four years of stalling for time.”

You´ll find the complete editorial here

-With Bibi in the first row, campaigning

Uri Avnery
January 17, 2015

THE THREE Islamic terrorists could have been very proud of themselves, if they had lived to see it.

By committing two attacks (quite ordinary ones by Israeli standards) they spread panic throughout France, brought millions of people onto the streets, gathered more than 40 heads of states in Paris. They changed the landscape of the French capital and other French cities by mobilizing thousands of soldiers and police officers to guard Jewish and other potential targets. For several days they dominated the news throughout the world.

Three terrorists, probably acting alone. Three!!!

FOR OTHER potential Islamic terrorists throughout Europe and America, this must look like a huge achievement. It is an invitation for individuals and tiny groups to do the same again, everywhere.

Terrorism means striking fear. The three in Paris certainly succeeded in doing that. They terrorized the French population. And if three youngsters without any qualifications can do that, imagine what 30 could do, or 300!

Frankly, I did not like the huge demonstration. I have been in many demonstrations in my time, maybe more than 500, but always against the powers that be. I have never participated in a demonstration called by the government, even when the purpose was good. They remind me too much of the late Soviet Union, Fascist Italy and worse. Not for me, thank you.

But this particular demonstration was also counterproductive. Not only did it prove that terrorism is effective, not only did it invite copycat attacks, but it also hurt the real fight against the fanatics.

To conduct an effective fight, one has to put oneself first into the shoes of the fanatics and try to understand the dynamic that pushes young local-born Muslims to commit such acts. Who are they? What do they think? What are their feelings? In what circumstances did they grow up? What can be done to change them?

After decades of neglect, that is hard work. It takes time and effort, with results uncertain. Much easier for politicians to march in the street in front of the cameras.

AND WHO marched in the first row, beaming like a victor?

Our own and only Bibi.

How did he get there? The facts came out within record time. Seems he was not invited at all. On the contrary, President Francois Hollande sent explicit messages: please, please don’t come. It would turn the demo into a show of solidarity with the Jews, instead of a public outcry for the freedom of the press and other “republican values”. Netanyahu came nevertheless, with two extreme rightist ministers in tow.

Placed in the second row, he did what Israelis do: he shoved aside a black African president in front of him and placed himself in the front row.

Once there, he began waving to the people on the balconies along the way. He was beaming, like a Roman general in his triumphal parade. One can only guess the feelings of Hollande and the other heads of state – who tried to look appropriately solemn and mournful – at this display of Chutzpah.

Netanyahu went to Paris as part of his election campaign. As a veteran campaigner, he knew that three days in Paris, visiting synagogues and making proud Jewish speeches, were worth more than three weeks at home, slinging mud.

THE BLOOD of the four Jews murdered in the kosher supermarket was not yet dry, when Israeli leaders called upon the Jews in France to pack up and come to Israel. Israel, as everybody knows, is the safest place on earth.

This was an almost automatic Zionist gut reaction. Jews are in danger. Their only safe haven is Israel. Make haste and come. The next day Israeli papers reported joyfully that in 2015 more than 10,000 French Jews were about to come to live here, driven by growing anti-Semitism.

Apparently, there is a lot of anti-Semitism in France and other European countries, though probably far less than Islamophobia. But the fight between Jews and Arabs on French soil has little to do with anti-Semitism. It is a struggle imported from North Africa.

When the Algerian war of liberation broke out in 1954, the Jews there had to choose sides. Almost all decided to support the colonial power, France, against the Algerian people.

That had a historical background. In 1870, the French minister of justice, Adolphe Cremieux, who happened to be a Jew, conferred French citizenship on all Algerian Jews, separating them from their Muslim neighbors.

The Algerian Liberation Front (FLN) tried very hard to draw the local Jews to their side. I know because I was somewhat involved. Their underground organization in France asked me to set up an Israeli support group, in order to convince our Algerian co-religionists. I founded the “Israeli Committee For A Free Algeria” and published material which was used by the FLN in their effort to win over the Jews.

In vain. The local Jews, proud of their French citizenship, staunchly supported the colonists. In the end, the Jews were prominent in the OAS, the extreme French underground which conducted a bloody struggle against the freedom fighters. The result was that practically all the Jews fled Algeria together with the French when the day of reckoning arrived. They did not go to Israel. Almost all of them went to France. (Unlike the Moroccan and Tunisian Jews, many of whom came to Israel. Generally, the poorer and less educated chose Israel, while the French-educated elite went to France and Canada.)

What we see now is the continuation of this war between Algerian Muslims and Jews on French soil. All the four “French” Jews killed in the attack had North African names and were buried in Israel.

Not without trouble. The Israeli government put great pressure on the four families to bury their sons here. They wanted to bury them in France, near their homes. After a lot of haggling about the price of the graves, the families finally agreed.

It has been said that Israelis love immigration and don’t love the immigrants. That certainly applies to the new “French” immigrants. In recent years, “French” tourists have been coming here in large numbers. They were often disliked. Especially when they started to buy up apartments on the Tel Aviv sea front and left them empty, as a kind of insurance, while young local people could neither find nor afford apartments in the metropolitan area. Practically all these “French” tourists and immigrants are of North African origin.

WHEN ASKED what drives them to Israel, their unanimous answer is: anti-Semitism. That is not a new phenomenon. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of Israelis, they or their parents or grandparents, were driven here by anti-Semitism.

The two terms – anti-Semitism and Zionism – were born at almost the same time, towards the end of the 19th century. Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, conceived his idea when he was working in France as a foreign correspondence of a Viennese newspaper during the Dreyfus affair, when virulent anti-Semitism in France reached new heights. (Anti-Semitism is, of course, a misnomer. Arabs are Semites, too. But the term is generally used to mean only Jew-haters.)

Later, Herzl wooed outspoken anti-Semitic leaders in Russia and elsewhere, asking for their help and promising to take the Jews off their hands. So did his successors. In 1939, the Irgun underground planned an armed invasion of Palestine with the help of the profoundly anti-Semitic generals of the Polish army. One may wonder if the State of Israel would have come into being in 1948 if there had not been the Holocaust. Recently, a million and a half Russian Jews were driven to Israel by anti-Semitism.

ZIONISM WAS born at the end of the 19th century as a direct answer to the challenge of anti-Semitism. After the French revolution, the new national idea took hold of all European nations, big and small, and all of the national movements were more or less anti-Semitic.

The basic belief of Zionism is that Jews cannot live anywhere except in the Jewish State, because the victory of anti-Semitism is inevitable everywhere. Let the Jews of America rejoice in their freedom and prosperity – sooner or later that will come to an end. They are doomed like Jews everywhere outside Israel.

The new outrage in Paris only confirms this basic belief. There was very little real commiseration in Israel. Rather, a secret sense of triumph. The gut reaction of ordinary Israelis is: “We told you so!” and also: “Come quickly, before it is too late!”

I HAVE often tried to explain to my Arab friends: the anti-Semites are the greatest enemy of the Palestinian people. The anti-Semites have helped drive the Jews to Palestine, and now they are doing so again. And some of the new immigrants will certainly settle beyond the Green Line in the occupied Palestinian territories on stolen Arab land.

The fact that Israel benefits from the Paris attack has led some Arab media to believe that the whole affair is really a “false flag” operation. Ergo, in this case, the Arab perpetrators were really manipulated by the Israeli Mossad.

After a crime, the first question is “cui bono”, who benefits? Obviously, the only winner from this outrage is Israel. But to draw the conclusion that Israel is hiding behind the Jihadists is utter nonsense.

The simple fact is that all Islamic Jihadism on European soil hurts only the Muslims. Fanatics of all stripes generally help their worst enemies. The three Muslim men who committed the outrages in Paris certainly did Binyamin Netanyahu a great favor.

Half of Shas

Uri Avnery
January 10, 2015

THE SHAS party has split into two. Opinion polls show that both parts are hovering around the 3.12% threshold which is now necessary for entering the Knesset, after the minimum was raised by the last Knesset.

Many people in Israel would be glad if both parts do not make it, and Shas would disappear once and for all from our political landscape.

Not I.

SHAS IS the party of oriental orthodox Jewish Israelis. It is debatable whether it is foremost orthodox or foremost oriental. I believe that the oriental part of its outlook is far more important.

(The term “oriental” needs some explanation. Jews from Muslim countries used to be called “sepharadi”, but that is a misnomer. Sepharad is the Hebrew name of Spain, and the terms applies properly only to the Jews who were expelled from Spain by the Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. They were welcomed by the Ottoman Muslim empire and spread from Morocco to Bulgaria and Iran. However, most Jews from Muslim countries are not Sepharadim. My magazine, Haolam Hazeh, started to call them Mizrahim, Orientals, and this term is now generally accepted.)

Orientals are now about half the Jewish population of Israel. The rift between them and the Jews of European origin, which was expected to disappear over time, is growing. Orientals feel discriminated against, despised by the Ashkenazi “elite” and generally mistreated. They bear a deep grudge. (Ashkenaz is the old Hebrew name for Germany, but applies now to all Europe.)

HERE I must explain my special relationship with the oriental problem. Don’t stop me if you have heard it before.

In the middle of the 1948 war I was promoted from private to squad leader and was allowed to choose between Polish and Moroccan recruits. I chose the Moroccans, sprinkled with Libyans and Turks. Without a common language, I trained them and led them into the fighting. I tried very hard to treat them fairly. They thanked me by risking their own lives to save mine when I was severely wounded.

Already during that war, I realized that something was going very wrong. My soldiers, volunteers who had come to Israel to fight without their

families, felt that the old-timers – and especially the girls – saw them as knife-wielding savages.

The interaction between these immigrants and the “old” inhabitants was based on mutual misunderstandings. The old-timers who were born and grew up in the country felt vastly superior, and sincerely wanted to help the “primitive” newcomers to become like us. The newcomers, who met prejudice everywhere, naturally resented this attitude. This generally happens in immigration countries.

Fresh from my army experience, I saw from early on that a tragedy was brewing. Already in January 1954 I published in my magazine an investigation entitled “Screwing the Blacks” which caused a nation-wide scandal. We were accused of inciting hatred, sowing division and what not. It took decades for the country to realize that they had a major problem on their hands. In the intervening years, my magazine generally supported the Orientals.

THE RIFT between Ashkenazis and Orientals is only one of several in Israel. There is a profound rift between orthodox and secular, Jewish and Arab, old immigrants and new ones (from the former Soviet Union), leftists and rightists, inhabitants of Tel Aviv and its surroundings and the “periphery”, and, of course, between well-to-do and poor.

That, by itself, is not so tragic. Every country has internal rifts of diverse kinds.

What is so bad about our rifts is that they are really one and the same. The great majority of the Orientals are also religious, rightist, poor and living in the periphery. They dislike the Ashkenazis, the secular, the Arabs, the leftists, the Tel Avivis, the rich and the “elites” in general.

They are also the electoral basis of the Likud.

WHY, FOR God’s sake?

Logic would dictate the very opposite. The Likud is neoliberal, an instrument of the super-rich, the proponent of policies that make the poor poorer, that divert huge funds from education, health and welfare to the settlements and the army. The great majority of the settlers are Ashkenazi.

When an Oriental votes for the Likud, he votes against his own interests. So why does he do it?

There are many explanations, all of them valid.

One of them is that, when the mass of Orientals came to Israel, they found a society that saw the Arabs not only as archenemies, but also as primitive and contemptible. But the Orientals spoke with the guttural sounds of the Arabs, their music was Arab, their culture and mentality was Arab. So the newcomers hastened to shed all these Arab attributes, though with little success. They professed an abiding hatred for everything Arab.

One curious aspect was the retroactive remaking of history. Muslim rulers had welcomed the Sepharadi refugees, who settled throughout their Empire. Jews in Islamic lands lived in peace, protected by Muslim rulers who were enjoined by the Koran to protect Jews (and Christians), the “peoples of the Book”. No pogroms (a Russian word), no expulsions, and, of course, no Holocaust. Anti-Jewish incidents were rare and local.

Yet in Israel, the immigrants from Morocco, Egypt, Iraq and Iran, and even more so their descendents, are convinced that their life in the Muslim world had been one long hell, even before the advent of Zionism started a real struggle.

Once, during a debate in the Knesset, Abba Eban said the same. I sent him a private note and protested furiously. He half-heartedly apologized (“There were lights and shadows…”) and sent me his large book on Jewish history, in which he made no such claim.

Curiously enough, Palestinians believed for many years that the “Jewish Arabs” would bring about peace and reconciliation, unlike the Arab-hating Ashkenazi Zionist leadership. Arab citizens in Israel also believed that the Oriental Jews would become a “bridge”. They were bitterly disappointed.

Another reason for the attachment of Orientals to the Right in Israel is their socio-economic status. It is a world-wide phenomenon that in colonial countries, the lowest layer of the dominant nation (“white scum” in the US) is the most extreme enemy of the national minorities.

And there is the emotional factor. The Right generally speaks an emotional language, appealing to the heart, while the Left uses cold logic, appealing to the brain. Secular logic does not appeal to the masses of Orientals, who wear kippahs. However, the religion of the Orientals is generally far more moderate and tolerant than the fanatical religion of the Orthodox Ashkenazis.

THE SHAS party was founded in 1982, after several previous attempts to set up an Oriental political force had failed. Shas (the name means 360,

the number of the books of the Talmud) was moderately orthodox. In general, Oriental Jews are far more easy-going and tolerant in their religious outlook than their orthodox Ashkenazi counterparts.

The outstanding religious guide and political leader of Shas was Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a charismatic Iraqi-born rabbi, considered a religious genius. It got 4 seats in 1984, rose to 17 in 1999 and settled at around 12 seats.

Its initial rise was due to the meteoric advent of a Morocco-born young man, Aryeh Deri, a very talented politician, who at the tender age of 28 had already attained the rank of Director General of the Interior Ministry.

Deri attracted my attention when he clearly advocated peace with the Arabs and saw his party as an instrument to this end. Rabbi Ovadia, too, advocated peace and unlike almost all other prominent rabbis declared that it was permissible to give the occupied territories back to the Arabs if it saves Jewish blood. He visited Egypt and there expressed similar views.

All this convinced me to support the party. I chose Deri as the Man of the Year of my magazine and wrote a lengthy article, in which I stressed the mission of the Orientals to make peace, based on the cultural symbiosis of Arabs and Jews since medieval times. All the great personalities of the Oriental Jews, from the religious thinker Moshe Maimonides, who was the physician of Saladin, to the outstanding poet Yehuda Halevy, spoke and wrote Arabic and are also part of Arab culture.

However, throughout the years Shas moved further and further to the right, prompted by the masses of its voters. It was generally an ally of Likud. But during the Yitzhak Rabin interlude, it was Shas which enabled the left-wing government to achieve the Oslo agreement.

RABBI OVADIA died 15 months ago and was buried in the largest funeral Israel has ever seen. He left behind two heirs, who can’t stand the sight of each other.

One is Deri, who had in the meantime been sentenced to 4 years in prison for bribery and fraud and was released after 2 years and 6 months.

The other is Eli Yishai, a humorless, fanatical politician. I once sat next to him on a bench in the Supreme Court. It was like sitting next to a nervous volcano. He did not sit quiet for a moment, moving his limps all the time, and from time to time jumped up to say something. The judges ordered him again and again to sit down and be silent.

The enmity between the two is personal, but it has profound political implications. Shas has split into two almost equal parts.

The part led by Yishai has turned determinedly to the extreme right and is looking for allies among the far-out and even fascist elements. They lead furious attacks on Deri, whom they accuse of being an Arab-loving leftist. As proof they circulate an interview I gave years ago, in which I praised Deri’s attitude towards peace. (When accused that I am his friend, he replied with dry humor that with friends like me, he doesn’t need enemies.)

THE PRACTICAL implication of all this is that if Deri’s Shas survives the election in March with 5-7 seats in the next Knesset. his party may be a possible candidate for a center-left coalition – if the numbers add up. This could be crucial.

For me, this would be the realization of a dream. It would mean that the Israeli peace movement would break out of its Ashkenazi, elitist ghetto, and meet with at least a part of the Oriental masses.

At the moment, this is only a possibility. If I were religious, I would pray for it!