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.

-Are you a Zionist?

Uri Avnery
January 31, 2015

MANY TIMES people ask me: “Are you a Zionist?”

My stock answer is: “Depends on what you mean by Zionism.”

This is quite sincere. The term Zionism can mean many different things. Like the term socialism, for example. Francois Hollande is a socialist. So was Joe Stalin.

Any resemblance?

WHEN I was young, there was a joke making the rounds in Germany: “A Zionist is a Jew who asks a second Jew for money in order to settle a third Jew in Palestine.” My father was such a Zionist. That was before the Nazis came to power, or course. I suspect that this definition applies nowadays to many American Zionists.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, did not really want to go to Zion, a hill in Jerusalem. He did not like Palestine at all. In the first draft of the Zionist Bible, Der Judenstaat, he proposed Patagonia as the preferred site of the Jewish state, because of its mild climate. Also, because it was sparsely populated after a genocidal campaign by Argentina.

When the movement turned towards Zion, Zionism still meant many different things to different people. Some wanted the country to become merely a spiritual center of the Jews. Others wanted it to become a socialist Utopia. Others wanted it to become a nationalist bastion based on military force.

The renewal of the Hebrew language, which has become such an integral part of our lives, was not a part of the Zionist project at all. Herzl, whose initial ambition was to become a great German writer, thought that we would speak German. Others would have preferred Yiddish. The fanatical desire to rejuvenate Hebrew came from below.

Even the desire to found a Jewish State was not unanimous. Some ardent Zionists, like Martin Buber, dreamed of a bi-national state, half Arab, half Jewish. “Practical” Zionists wanted to fulfill the Zionist dream by patient settlement in the country, “Revisionist” Zionists wanted to achieve at once an international “charter”.

Religious Zionists want a state based on and dominated by the Jewish religion. National-religious Zionists believe that God has sent the Jews into “exile” because of their sins, and wanted to compel God by their deeds to send the Messiah now. Atheist Zionists declare the Jews are a nation, not a religion, and want nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

And so on.

SO WHAT does Zionism mean nowadays? The word is bandied about in Israel without much thought. Almost every party wants to be seen as Zionist and brands its adversaries as anti-Zionist – a deadly accusation in Israeli politics. Only small minorities at the edges decline the honor. Communists on one side, ultra-Orthodox on another. (These believe that it is a great sin to go back to the Land of Israel in large numbers without God’s express permission.)

For many Israelis, Zionism means nothing more than Israeli patriotism. If you want Israel to exist as a “Jewish state” (whatever that means) you are a Zionist. Also, you have to believe that Israel is a part of the world-wide “Jewish people” and its leader, a kind of command-center. In up-to-date terminology: “the Nation-State of the Jewish people”.

In a deeper sense, Zionism may mean the profound belief that all the world’s Jews will eventually come to Israel, either by their own free will or driven here by anti-Semitism. The inevitable victory of anti-Semitism in each and every country is taken for granted. Therefore any real or imagined anti-Semitic wave – like the present one in France – is greeted with secret satisfaction (“We told you so”).

WHERE DO I stand?

A few years before the foundation of the State of Israel, a group of young people in this country, mostly artists and writers, declared that they were not Jews, but Hebrews. They were nicknamed “the Canaanites”.

Their gospel was that the Hebrew-speaking young people in this country were not a part of the world-wide Jewish community, but a separate new Hebrew nation. They wanted nothing to do with the Jews. Some of their announcements sounded positively anti-Semitic. They conceived the Hebrew nation as a continuation – after a brief interval of a few thousand years – of the original pre-Biblical Canaanite people. Hence the nickname.

Four years later I founded another group, nicknamed the “Struggle-Group”. We also proclaimed that we were a new Hebrew nation. But contrary to the Canaanites we acknowledged that this new nation was a part of the Jewish people, much as the Australians, for example, are a part of Anglo-Saxon culture.

We also contradicted the Canaanites on one other crucial element of doctrine. The Canaanites denied the existence of an Arab nation or nations. We not only recognized Arab nationalism, but declared that the Arab nation was the natural ally of the Hebrew nation in the creation of a new Semitic Region.

Soon after, Israel was founded. 40 years ago, in a libel case, I was asked by the judge to define my attitude towards Zionism.

In response I invented the term “post-Zionism”. The Zionist movement, I testified, is a historic movement with incredible achievements – a totally new society, an ancient-new language, a new culture, a new economy, new social models like the kibbutz and the moshav. But Zionism also performed grievous wrongs, especially to the Arab Palestinian people.

However, I said, this is history. With the creation of the State of Israel, Zionism has fulfilled its role. Israeli patriotism must replace it. Like scaffolding that is dismantled once the new building is finished, Zionism has outlived its usefulness and should be discarded.

This is my belief today, too.

THE WHOLE question has come up again now because of the decision of the new combined election list of the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s group to call itself officially “the Zionist Camp”.

On the pragmatic level, this is a clever move. The Rightist parties almost always accuse the Left of being unpatriotic, even traitorous, a fifth column. In our case, the Left is being accused of being anti-Zionist. So it makes sense for a new combined list to call itself Zionist. Not “a” Zionist party, but “the” Zionist party.

(By the same logic, a very moderate French party once called itself the “Radical Party”, the word “democratic” has appeared in the official names of several communist countries and the German fascists called themselves “National-Socialists”.) Being sure of their hard-core adherents, they hope the misnomer will attract votes on the fringes.

One negative practical aspect of the name of the Labor list is that it automatically excludes the Arab citizens. For Arabs everywhere, Zionism is the synonym of evil. Zionism took away their country, Zionism expelled the Arab Palestinians and carried out the Naqba, Zionism today discriminates against the Arab citizens of Israel in all spheres of life.

However, very few Arab citizens voted in the recent past for the Labor Party anyhow, and these don’t care either way about Zionism as a name. All Arab political forces in the country, including the Communist Hadash party which has a number of Jewish members, united this week in a common Arab list, and are expected to harvest almost all the Arab votes.

(This, by the way, is one of the ironies of Israeli politics. The “Israel Our Home” party of Avigdor Lieberman, which some consider fascist, wanted to evict the Arabs from the Knesset. Noting that none of the three Arab lists achieved 3.25% of the votes, they enacted a law that raised the threshold for entering the Knesset to this level. As a result, all the Arab parties, which detest each other, united in a common list that may reach 10% and more.

Apart from the Orthodox, this will be the only self-styled anti-Zionist party. Everybody else, from the far-right national-religious Jewish Home party to the far-left Meretz, declare themselves staunch Zionists.

So it’s quite a coup that Herzog and Livni ran away with the coveted label.

-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.