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Uri Avnery: Nasser and I

Uri Avnery
October 3, 2015

FORTY-FIVE YEARS ago Gamal Abd-al-Nasser died at the early age of 52. It is not an event of the past. It continues to have a huge influence on the present, and probably will on the future.

My meetings with him go back to 1948. I used to joke that “we were very close to each other, but we were never properly introduced!”

It happened like this: in July we were desperately trying to stop the advance of the Egyptian army towards Tel Aviv. The cornerstone of our front was a village called Negba. One evening we were told that an Egyptian unit had cut the only road to this kibbutz and dug in across it.

The company to which I belonged was a mobile commando unit riding on jeeps, each with two machine guns. We were ordered to storm the position and retake it at any costs. It was a crazy idea – you don’t use jeeps to attack dug-in soldiers. But the commanders were desperate, too.

So we advanced in the darkness along the narrow road until we reached the Egyptian position and were met with murderous fire. We retreated, but then the battalion commander joined us and led another attack. This time we literally overran the Egyptians, feeling human bodies under our wheels. The Egyptians fled. Their commander was wounded. As I later found out, he was a major named Gamal Abd-al-Nasser.

After that, the fortunes of war turned. We got the upper hand and surrounded an entire Egyptian brigade. I was a part of the besieging force when I was severely wounded. On the opposite side was Major Abd-al-Nasser.

FOUR YEARS later, Gingi called me in great excitement. “I must meet you immediately,” he told me.

Gingi is the Hebrew slang version of ginger, as the British call a red-haired person. This particular gingi was a small, very dark Yemenite. He was nicknamed Gingi because he had very black hair – that was our kind of humor then.

Gingi (his actual name was Yerucham Cohen) had served during the war as the adjutant of the Southern front commander, Yigal Alon. During the fighting, a short ceasefire had been arranged to allow both sides to retrieve the dead and wounded left lying between the lines. Gingi, who spoke excellent Arabic, was sent to negotiate with the emissary of the encircled force – Major Abd-al-Nasser.

As so happens, during their several meetings, a friendship sprang up between the two men. Once, when the Egyptian was very depressed, Gingi tried to comfort him and said: “Cheer up, ya Gamal, you will get out of here alive and have children!”

The prophecy was fulfilled. The war ended, the encircled brigade returned to a hero’s welcome in Cairo. Yerucham was appointed to the Israeli-Egyptian armistice commission. One day his Egyptian counterpart told him: “I was asked by Lieutenant-Colonel Abd-al-Nasser to tell you that a son has been born to him.”

Yerucham bought a baby suit and at the next meeting, gave it to his counterpart. Nasser sent back his thanks and an assortment of cakes from the famous Groppi Café in Cairo.

IN THE summer of 1952, the Egyptian army rebelled and, in a bloodless coup, sent the playboy king Farouk packing. The coup was led by a group of “Free Officers”, headed by a 51-year old general, Muhammad Naguib.

I published in my magazine a message of congratulation to the officers.

When I met Gingi, he told me: “Forget about Naguib. He is just a figurehead. The real leader is a fellow called Nasser!” So my magazine had a world scoop – long before anyone else in the world, we disclosed that the real leader was an officer called Abd-al-Nasser.

(A word about Arab names. Gamal is a camel, a symbol of beauty for Arabs. Abd-al-Nasser – pronounced Abd-an-Nasser – means “Servant of [Allah] the victorious”. Calling the man just Nasser, as we all did, conferred on him one of the 99 names of Allah.)

When Nasser officially became the leader, Yerucham told me in deepest secrecy that he had just received an astounding invitation: Nasser had invited him to come, privately, to see him in Cairo.

“Go!” I implored him. “This may be a historic opening!”

But Yerucham was an obedient citizen. He asked the Foreign Office for permission. The minister, Moshe Sharett, the renowned peace-lover, forbade him to accept the invitation. “If Nasser wants to talk with Israel, he must apply to the Foreign Office,” Yerucham was told. That was, of course, the end of the matter.

NASSER WAS an Arab of a new type: Tall, handsome, charismatic, a spellbinding orator. David Ben-Gurion, who was already getting old, was afraid of him, and perhaps envied him. So he plotted with the French to overthrow him.

After a short voluntary exile in a Kibbutz, Ben-Gurion returned in 1955 to his post as Minister of Defense. The first thing he did was to attack the Egyptian army in Gaza. By design or mistake, many Egyptian soldiers were killed. Nasser, angry and humiliated, turned to the Soviets and received large shipments of arms.

Since 1954, France was facing a war of liberation in Algeria. Since they could not imagine that the Algerians would rise up against France of their own free will, they accused Nasser of inciting them. The British joined the club because Nasser had just nationalized the British-French company that ran the Suez Canal.

The result was the 1956 Suez adventure: Israel attacked the Egyptian army in the Sinai desert, while the French and the British landed in their rear. The Egyptian army, practically surrounded, was ordered to return home as hastily as possible. Some soldiers left their boots behind. Israel was intoxicated by this resounding victory.

But the Americans were angry, and so were the Soviets. US President Eisenhower and the Soviet President Bulganin issued ultimatums, and the three colluding powers had to withdraw completely. “Ike” was the last American president who dared to face down Israel and the US Jews.

Overnight, Nasser became the hero of the entire Arab world. His vision of a pan-Arab nation moved into the realm of possibility. The Palestinians, deprived of their own homeland which was divided between Israel, Jordan and Egypt, saw their future in such a broad nation and admired Nasser.

In Israel, Nasser became the ultimate enemy, the devil incarnate. He was referred to officially and in all the media as “the Egyptian tyrant”, and frequently “the Second Hitler”. When I proposed making peace with him, people considered me insane.

CARRIED AWAY by his immense popularity throughout the Arab world and beyond, Nasser did a foolish thing. When the Israeli Chief of Staff, Yitzhak Rabin, threatened the Syrians with invasion, Nasser saw an easy way to demonstrate his leadership. He warned Israel and sent his army into the demilitarized Sinai desert.

Everybody in Israel was frightened. Everybody except I (and the army). A few months before, I was informed in secret that a leading Israeli general had confided to friends: “I pray every night that Nasser will send his army into Sinai. There we will destroy it!”

And so it happened. Too late Nasser realized that he had walked into a trap (as my magazine announced in its headline.) To stave off disaster, he issued blood-curdling threats “to throw Israel into the sea” and sent a high-ranking emissary to Washington to plead for pressure to stop Israel.

Too late. After a lot of hesitation, and after getting explicit permission from US president Lyndon B Johnsen, the Israeli army attacked and smashed the Egyptian, the Jordanian and the Syrian forces within six days.

There were two historic results: (a) Israel became a colonial power and (b) the backbone of pan-Arab nationalism was broken.

NASSER REMAINED in power for another three years, a shadow of his former self. He obviously did some thinking.

One day my French friend, the renowned journalist Eric Rouleau, asked me to come urgently to Paris. Rouleau, an Egyptian-born Jew working for the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde, was at home with the Egyptian elite. He told me that Nasser had just given him a long interview. As agreed, he submitted the text to Nasser for confirmation prior to publication. After some consideration, Nasser struck out a crucial section: an offer to Israel to make peace. It was essentially the offer that formed the basis for the Sadat-Begin peace agreement nine years later.

But Rouleau had the full interview on tape. He offered to give me the text, so that I could transmit it to the Israeli government on condition of total secrecy.

I rushed home and called a leading member of the Israeli government, Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir, who was considered the most dovish member of the cabinet. He received me at once, listened to what I had to say and showed no interest at all. A few days later, during the Black September crisis in Jordan, Nasser suddenly died.

WITH HIM died the vision of pan-Arab nationalism, the rebirth of the Arab nation under the flag of a European idea based on rational, secular thought.

A spiritual and political vacuum was created in the Arab world. But nature, as we all know, does not tolerate empty spaces.

With Nasser dead, and after the violent end of his successors and imitators, Sadat, Mubarrak, Gaddafi and Saddam, the vacuum invited a new force: Salafi Islamism.

I have warned many times in the past that if we destroy Nasser and Arab nationalism, religious forces would come to the fore. Instead of a fight between rational enemies which can end in a rational peace, it will be the beginning of a religious war, which will by definition be irrational and allow for no compromise.

That’s where we are now. Instead of Nasser, we have Daesh. Instead of the Arab world led by a charismatic leader, who gave the Arab masses everywhere a sense of dignity and renewal, we are now facing an enemy which glorifies public beheading and wants to bring back the seventh century.

I blame Israeli and American political blindness and sheer stupidity for this dangerous development. I hope we still have enough time for it to be reversed.

Uri Avnery: Israel and The Treaty with Iran

Uri Avnery
July 18, 2015

AND WHAT if the whole drama was only an exercise of deception?

What if the wily Persians did not even dream of building an atomic bomb, but used the threat to further their real aims?

What if Binyamin Netanyahu was duped to become unwittingly the main collaborator of Iranian ambitions?

Sounds crazy? Not really. Let’s have a look at the facts.

IRAN IS one of the oldest powers in the world, with thousands of years of political experience. Once they possessed an empire that spanned the civilized world, including our little country. Their reputation for clever trade practices is unequaled.

They are much too clever to build a nuclear weapon. What for? It would devour huge amounts of money. They know that they would never be able to use it. Same as Israel, with its large stockpile.

Netanyahu’s nightmare of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel is just that – a nightmare (or daymare) of an ignorant dilettante. Israel is a nuclear power with a solid second-strike capability. As we see, the Iranian leaders are hard-boiled realists. Would they even dream of inviting an inevitable Israeli retaliation that would wipe from the face of the earth their three-millennia-old civilization?

(If this capability is defective, Netanyahu should be charged and convicted for criminal negligence.)

Even if the Iranians did deceive the whole world and build a nuclear bomb, nothing would happen except the creation of a “balance of terror”, such as saved the world at the height of the cold war between America and Russia.

The people around Netanyahu pretend to believe that, unlike the then Soviets, the Iranian mullahs are crazy people. There is absolutely no evidence for that. Since their 1979 revolution, the Iranian leadership has not made one single important step that was not absolutely rational. Compared to American missteps in the region (not to mention the Israeli ones), the Iranian leadership has been thoroughly logical.

So perhaps they traded their nonexistent nuclear designs for their very real political design: to become the hegemon of the Muslim world.

If so, they owe a lot to Netanyahu.

WHAT HAS the Islamic Republic ever done in its 45 years of existence to harm Israel?

Sure. Tehran crowds can be seen on television burning Israeli flags and shouting “Death to Israel”. They call us, not flatteringly, “the Little Satan”, as compared to the American “Great Satan”.

Terrible. But what else?

Not much. Perhaps some support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which were not their creation. Iran’s real fight is against the powers that be in the Muslim world. They want to turn the region’s countries into Iranian vassals, as they were 2400 years ago.

This has very little to do with Islam. Iran uses Islam as Israel uses Zionism and the Jewish Diaspora (and as Russia in the past used communism) as a tool for its imperial ambitions.

What is happening now in this region resembles the “religious wars” in 17th century Europe. A dozen countries fought each other in the name of religion, under the flags of Catholicism and Protestantism, but in reality using religion to further their very earthly imperial designs.

The US, led by a bunch of neocon fools, destroyed Iraq, which for many centuries had served as the bulwark of the Arab world against Iranian expansion. Now, under the banner of the Shia, Iran is expanding its power all over the Region.

Shiite Iraq is now to a large extent an Iranian vassal (we’ll come back to Daesh). The leaders of Syria, a Sunni country ruled by a small semi-Shiite sect, depend on Iran for their survival. In Lebanon, the Shiite Hezbollah is a close ally with growing power and prestige. So is Hamas in Gaza, which is entirely Sunni. And the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are Zaidis (a school of the Shia.)

The status quo in the Arab world is defended by a corrupt bunch of dictators and medieval sheiks, such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf oil potentates.

Clearly, Iran and its allies are the wave of the future, Saudi Arabia and its allies belong to the past.

That leaves Daesh, the Sunni “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq. That is also a rising power. Unlike Iran, whose revolutionary élan long ago exhausted itself, Daesh is radiating revolutionary fervor, attracting adherents from all over the world.

Daesh is the real enemy of Iran – and of Israel.

PRESIDENT OBAMA and his advisors realized this some time ago. Their new alliance with Iran is partly based on this reality.

With the advent of Daesh, realities on the ground have changed completely. The shift reaffirms the old British maxim that one’s enemies in one war can well become one’s allies in the next, and vice versa. Far from being naïve, Obama is building an alliance against the new and very dangerous enemy. This alliance should logically include Bashar Assad’s Syria, but Obama is still afraid of saying so aloud.

Obama and his advisors also believe that with the lifting of the crippling sanctions, Iranians will concentrate on making money, lessening their nationalist and religious fervor even more. That sounds reasonable enough.

(Netanyahu thinks the American people are “naïve”. Well, for a naïve nation the US has done quite well in becoming the world’s only super-power.)

One by-product of the situation is that Israel is again at loggerheads with the entire political world. The Vienna treaty was signed not just by the US, but by all leading world powers. This seems to create the situation described by a jolly popular Israeli song: “The whole world is against us / But we don’t give a damn…”

Unfortunately, unlike Obama, Netanyahu is stuck in the past. He continues demonizing Iran, instead of joining it in the fight against Daesh, which is far, far more dangerous to Israel.

One does not have to go back to Cyrus the Great (6th century B.C.) to realize that Iran can be a close ally. In the relations between nations, geography trumps religion. Not so long ago, Iran was Israel’s closest ally in the region. We even sent Khomeini arms to fight Iraq. The Mullahs hate Israel not so much because of their religion, but because of our alliance with the Shah.

The present Iranian regime has long since lost its revolutionary religious fervor. It is acting according to its national interests. Geography still counts. A wise Israeli government would use the next ten-or-more years of a guaranteed nuclear-free Iran in order to renew the alliance – especially against Daesh.

This could mean new relations with Assad’s Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas too.

BUT SUCH far-reaching considerations are far from the mind of Netanyahu, the son of a historian, who is devoid of any historical knowledge or intuition.

The fight is now going to Washington DC, where Netanyahu will be fully committed as a mercenary of Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Republican Party.

It is a sorry sight: the State of Israel, which has always enjoyed the full unblinking support of both American parties, has become an appendix of the reactionary Republican leadership.

One victim of this is the legend of the “invincible” pro-Israeli lobby. This crucial asset has now been lost. From now on, AIPAC will be just one of the many lobbies on Capitol Hill.

AN EVEN sorrier sight is Israel’s political and media elite on the morrow of the signing of the Vienna treaty. It was almost incredible.

Almost all political parties fell in line with Netanyahu’s policy, competing with each other in their demonstrations of abject loyalty. From the “leader of the opposition”, the pitiful Yitzhak Herzog, to the voluble Yair Lapid, everybody rushed to support the Prime Minister at this crucial hour.

The media were even worse. Almost all prominent commentators, left and right, ran amok against the ’disastrous" treaty and heaped their uniform disgust and contempt on poor Obama, as if reading from a prepared government “list of arguments” (as indeed they were).

Not the finest hour of Israeli democracy and the much lauded “Jewish brain”. Just a despicable example of all-too-common brain-washing. Some would call it presstitution.

One of Netanyahu’s arguments is that the Iranians can and will cheat the naive Americans and build the bomb. He is sure that this is possible. Well, he should know. We did it, didn’t we?

Uri Avnery: War Crimes? Us???

Uri Avnery
June 27, 2015

WAR IS HELL!” the US general George Patton famously exclaimed.

War is the business of killing the “enemy”, in order to impose your will on them.

Therefore, “humane war” is an oxymoron.

War itself is a crime. There are few exceptions. I would exempt the war against Nazi Germany, since it was conducted against a regime of mass murderers, led by a psychopathic dictator, who could not be brought to heel by any other means.

This being so, the concept of “war crimes” is dubious. The biggest crime is starting the war in the first place. This is not the business of soldiers, but of political leaders. Yet they are rarely indicted.

THESE PHILOSOPHICAL musings came to me in the wake of the recent UN report on the last Gaza war.

The investigation committee bent over backwards to be “balanced”, and accused both the Israeli army and Hamas in almost equal terms. That, in itself, is problematic.

This was not a war between equals. On one side, the State of Israel, with one of the mightiest armies in the world. On the other side, a stateless population of 1.8 million people, led by a guerrilla organization devoid of any modern arms.

Any equating of such two entities is by definition contrived. Even if both sides committed grievous war crimes, they are not the same. Each must be judged on its own (de)merits.

THE IDEA of “war crimes” is relatively new. It arose during the 30 Years War, which devastated a large part of Central Europe. Many armies took part, and all of them destroyed towns and villages without the slightest compunction. As a result, two thirds of Germany were devastated and a third of the German people was killed.

Hugo de Groot, a Dutchman, argued that even in war, civilized nations are bound by certain limitations. He was not a starry-eyed idealist, divorced from reality. His main principle, as I understand it, was that it makes no sense to forbid actions that help a warring country [or “party”] to pursue the war, but that any cruelty not necessary for the efficient conduct of the war is illegitimate.

This idea took hold. During the 18th century, endless wars were conducted by professional armies, without hurting civilian populations unnecessarily. Wars became “humane”.

Not for long. With the French revolution, war became a matter of mass armies, the protection of civilians slowly eroded, until it disappeared entirely in World War II, when whole cities were destroyed by unlimited aerial bombardment (Dresden and Hamburg) and the atom bomb (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Even so, a number of international conventions prohibit war crimes that target civilian populations or hurt the population in occupied territories.

That was the mandate of this committee of investigation.

THE COMMITTEE castigates Hamas for committing war crimes against the Israeli population.

Israelis didn’t need the committee to know that. A large share of Israeli citizens spent hours in shelters during the Gaza war, under the threat of Hamas rockets.

Hamas launched thousands of rockets towards towns and villages in Israel. These were primitive rockets, which could not be aimed at specific targets – like the Dimona nuclear installation or the Ministry of Defense which is located in the center of Tel Aviv. They were meant to terrorize the civilian population into demanding a stop to the attack on the Gaza strip.

They did not achieve this goal because Israel had installed a number of “Iron Dome” counter-rocket batteries, that intercepted almost all rockets heading for civilian targets. Success was almost complete.

If they are brought before the International Court in The Hague, the Hamas leaders will argue that they had no choice: they had no other weapons to oppose the Israeli invasion. As a Palestinian commander once told me: “Give us cannons and fighter planes, and we will not use terrorism.”

The International Court will then have to decide whether a people that is practically under an endless occupation is allowed to use indiscriminate rockets. Considering the principles laid down by de Groot, I wonder what the decision will be.

That goes for terrorism in general, if used by an oppressed people that has no other means of fighting. The black South Africans used terrorism in their fight against the oppressive apartheid regime, and Nelson Mandela spent 28 years in prison for taking part in such acts und refusing to condemn them.

THE CASE against the Israeli government and army is quite different. They have a plentitude of arms, from drones to warplanes to artillery to tanks.

If there was a cardinal war crime in this war, it was the cabinet decision to start it. Because an Israeli arrack on the Gaza Strip makes war crimes unavoidable.

Anyone who has ever been a combat soldier in war knows that war crimes, whether in the most moral or the most base army in the world, do occur in war. No army can avoid recruiting psychologically defective people. In every company there is at least one pathological specimen. If there are not very strict rules, exercised by very strict commanders, crimes will occur.

War brings out the inner man (or woman, nowadays). A well-behaved, educated man will suddenly turn into a ferocious beast. A simple, lowly laborer will reveal himself as a decent, generous human being. Even in the “Most Moral Army in the World” – an oxymoron if there ever was one.

I was a combat soldier in the 1948 war. I have seen an eyeful of crimes, and I have described them in my 1950 book “The Other Side of the Coin”.

THIS GOES for every army. In our army during the last Gaza war, the situation was even worse.

The reasons for the attack on the Gaza Strip were murky. Three Israeli kids were captured by Arab men, obviously for the sake of achieving a prisoner exchange. The Arabs panicked and killed the boys. The Israelis responded, the Palestinians responded, and lo – the cabinet decided on a full-fledged attack.

Our cabinet includes nincompoops, most of whom have no idea what war is. They decided to attack the Gaza Strip.

This decision was the real war crime.

The Gaza Strip is a tiny territory, overcrowded by a bloated population of 1.8 million human beings, about half of them descendents of refugees from areas that became Israel in the 1948 war.

In any circumstances, such an attack was bound to result in a large number of civilian casualties. But another fact made this even worse.

ISRAEL IS a democratic state. Leaders have to be elected by the people. The voters consist of the parents and grandparents of the soldiers, members of both regular and reserve units.

This means that Israel is inordinately sensitive to casualties. If a large number of soldiers are killed in action, the government will fall.

Therefore it is the maxim of the Israeli army to avoid casualties at any cost – any cost to the enemy, that is. To save one soldier, it is permissible to kill ten, twenty, a hundred civilians on the other side.

This rule, unwritten and self-understood, is symbolized by the “Hannibal Procedure” – the code-word for preventing at any cost the taking of an Israeli soldier prisoner. Here, too, a “democratic” principle is at work: no Israeli government can withstand public pressure to release many dozens of Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of one Israeli one. Ergo: prevent a soldier from being taken prisoner, even if the soldier himself is killed in the process.

Hannibal allows – indeed, commands – the wreaking of untold destruction and killing, in order to prevent a captured soldier from being spirited away. This procedure is itself a war crime.

A responsible cabinet, with a minimum of combat experience, would know all this at the moment it was called upon to decide on a military operation. If they don’t know, it is the duty of the army [or “military”] commanders – who are present at such cabinet meetings – to explain it to them. I wonder if they did.

ALL THIS means that, once started, the results were almost unavoidable. To make an attack without serious Israeli casualties possible, entire neighborhoods had to be flattened by drones, planes and artillery. And that obviously happened.

Inhabitants were often warned to flee, and many did. Others did not, being loath to leave behind everything precious to them. Some people flee in the moment of danger, others hope against hope and stay.

I would ask the reader to imagine himself for a moment in such a situation.

Add to this the human element – the mixture of humane and sadistic men, good and bad, you find in any combat unit all over the world, and you get the picture.

Once you start a war, “stuff happens”, as the man said. There may be more war crimes or less, but there will be a lot.

ALL THIS could have been told to the UN committee of inquiry, headed by an American judge, by the chiefs of the Israeli army, had they been allowed to testify. The government did not allow them.

The convenient way out is to proclaim that all UN officials are by nature anti-Semites and Israel-haters, so that answering their questions is counterproductive.

We are moral. We are right. By nature. We can’t help it. Those who accuse us must be anti-Semites. Simple logic.

To hell with them all!

Uri Avnery: -Why boycott of Israel is wrong!

Uri Avnery
June 13, 2015

BDS, the New Enemy

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU was racking his brain. His whole career is based on fear mongering. Since Jews have lived in fear for millennia, it is easy to invoke it. They are addicts.

For years now, Netanyahu has built his career on fear of the Iranian Nuclear Bomb. The Iranians are crazy people. Once they have the Bomb, they will drop it on Israel, even if Israel’s nuclear second strike will certainly annihilate Iran with its thousands of years of civilization.

But Netanyahu saw with growing anxiety that the Iranian threat was losing its edge. The US, so it seems, is about to reach an agreement with Iran, which will prevent it from achieving the Bomb. Even Sheldon the Great cannot prevent the agreement. What to do?

Looking around, three letters popped up: BDS. They denote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a worldwide campaign to boycott Israel because of its 48 year-old subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Ah, here we have a real threat, worse than the Bomb. A second Holocaust is looming. Brave little Israel facing the entire evil, anti-Semitic world.

True, until now Israel has suffered no real damage. BDS is more about gestures than about real economic weapons. But who is counting? The legions of anti-Semites are on the march.

Who will save us? Bibi the Great, of course!

HONEST DISCLOSURE: my friends and I initiated the first boycott, which was directed at the products of the settlements.

Our peace movement, Gush Shalom, was deliberating how to stop the spread of the settlements, each of which is a land mine on the road to peace. The main reason for setting up settlements is to prevent the two-state solution – the only peace solution there is.

Our investigators made a Grand Tour of the settlements and registered the enterprises which were lured by government enticements to set up shop beyond the Green Line. We published the list and encouraged customers to abstain from buying these products.

A boycott is a democratic instrument of protest. It is non-violent. Every person can exercise it privately, without joining any group or exhibiting himself or herself in public.

Our main aim was to get the Israeli public to distinguish clearly between Israel proper and the settlements in the occupied territories.

In March 1997 we held a press conference to announce the campaign. It was a unique event. I have held press conference which were overflowing with journalists – for example, after my first meeting with Yasser Arafat in besieged West Beirut. I have held press conferences with sparse attendance. But this one was really special: not a single Israeli journalist turned up.

Still, the idea spread. I don’t know how many thousand Israelis are boycotting the products of the settlements right now.

However, we were upset by the attitude of the European Union authorities, which denounced the settlements while in practice subsidizing their products with customs exemptions like real Israeli wares. My colleagues and I went to Brussels to protest, but were told by polite bureaucrats that Germany and others were obstructing any step toward a settlement boycott.

Eventually, the Europeans moved, albeit slowly. They are now demanding that the products of the settlements be clearly marked.

THE BDS movement has a very different agenda. They want to boycott the State of Israel as such.

I always considered this a major strategic error. Instead of isolating the settlements and separating them from mainstream Israelis, a general boycott drives all Israelis into the arms of the settlers. It re-awakens age-old Jewish fears. Facing a common danger, Jews unite.

Netanyahu could not wish for more. He is now riding the wave of Jewish reactions. Every day there are headlines about another success of the boycott movement, and each success is a bonus for Netanyahu.

It is also a bonus for his adversary, Omar al-Barghouti, the Palestinian organizer of BDS.

Palestine is well stocked with Barghoutis. It is an extended family prominent in several villages north of Jerusalem.

The most famous is Marwan al-Barghouti, who has been condemned to several life sentences for leading the Fatah youth organization. He was not indicted for taking part in any “terrorist” acts, but for his role as organizationally responsible. Indeed, he and I were partners in organizing several non-violent protests against the occupation.

When he was brought to trial, we protested in the court building. One of my colleagues lost a toenail in the ensuing battle with the violent court guards. Marwan is still in prison and many Palestinians consider him a prospective heir of Mahmoud Abbas.

Another Barghouti is Mustafa, the very likable leader of a leftist party, who ran against Abbas for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. We have met while facing the army in several demonstrations against the Wall.

Omar Barghouti, the leader of the BDS movement, is a postgraduate student at Tel Aviv University. He demands the free return of all Palestinian refugees, equality for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and, of course, an end to the occupation.

However, BDS is not a highly organized worldwide organization. It is more of a trade mark. Groups of students, artists and others spring up spontaneously and join the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Here and there, some real anti-Semites try to join. But for Netanyahu, they are all, all anti-Semites.

AS WE feared from the beginning, the boycott of Israel – as distinguished from the boycott of the settlements – has united the general Jewish population with the settlers, under the leadership of Netanyahu.

The fatherland is in danger. National unity is the order of the day. “Opposition Leader” Yitzhak Herzog is rushing forward to support
Netanyahu, as are almost all other parties.

Israel’s Supreme Court, a frightened shadow of its former self, has already decreed that calling for a boycott of Israel is a crime – including calls for boycotting the settlements.

Almost every day, news about the boycott hits the headlines. The boss of “Orange”, the French communications giant, first joined the boycott, then quickly turned around and is coming to Israel for a pilgrimage of repentance. Student organizations and professional groups in America and Europe adopt the boycott. The EU now vigorously demands the marking of settlement products.

Netanyahu is happy. He calls upon world Jewry to take up the fight against this anti-Semitic outrage. The owner of Netanyahu, multi-billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, has convened a war council of rich Jews in Las Vegas. His counterpart, pro-Labor multi-billionaire Haim Saban has joined him. Even the perpetrators of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion would not believe it.

AS COMIC relief, another casino owner is competing for the headlines. He is a much, much smaller operator, who cannot be compared to Adelson.

He is the new Knesset Member Oren Hazan, No 30 on the Likud election list, the last one who got in. A TV expose has alleged that he was the owner of a casino in Bulgaria, who supplied prostitutes to his clients and used hard drugs. He has already been chosen as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. The Speaker has temporarily suspended him from chairing Knesset plenum sessions.

So the two casino owners, the big and the small, dominate the news. Rather bizarre in a country where casinos are forbidden, and where clandestine casino goers are routinely arrested.

Well, life is a roulette game. Even life in Israel.

Israeli citizens in favor of a Palestinian state

Israeli petition in favor of recognition of a Palestinian state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idan Ofgang, Independent
Idan Segev, Professor of Brain Research
Idit Avidan, BA
Idit Scwhartz, Medical Dr.
Idit Zertal, Professor of History
Idith Harel, Social Worker and Family consultant
Ido Amihai, PhD Researcher
Ido Lam
Ido Sokolovsky Programmer
Iftach Shavit, Film Editor
Igor Caplan, Engineer
Ilan Baruch, Former Ambassador to S. Africa & Zimbabwe
Ilan Saban, Dr., Senior Lecturer of Law
Ilan Sadeh, Professor of Computer Science
Ilan Shtayer, Historian
Ilana Margalith, PhD (Social work), Lawyer
Ilana Pardes, Professor
Ilana Segal, Musician
Ilana Shapiro, P.C.O.
Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg, PhD, Nutritionist
Inbal Arnon, Professor at Hebrew University
Inbal Ben Ezer, Conflict resolution
Irene Lewenhoff, Nurse
Iris Dotan Katz, Clinical Psychologist
Iris Lerman, Psychologhist
Iris Milner, Professor of Literature
Iris Parush, Professor
Irit Sela, Editor
Iris Stern, Social Psychologist
Irit Ben Ezer, Psychologist
Irit Halperin, Therapist
Irit Hakim, Artist
Irit Segoli, Art
Irit Shamgar, Teacher
Isaac Yanni Nevo, Professor of Philosophy
Ishai Menuchin,Human Rights Activist, Dr.
Ishay Landa, Dr., Historian
Israel Pesach
Israel Shafran
Israel Yuval, Professor
Itamar Shachar, PhD candidate
Itzhak Galnoor, Professor of Political Science, former head of Civil Service
Itzhak Levav, Professor, Psychiatrist
Ivonne Mansbach-Kleinfeld, Mental Health services research

Jacob Barnai, Professor
Jacob Katriel, Professor
Jacob Schiby, Teacher
Jacob Shoef, Producer
James Lebeau, Rabbi
Jehoash Hirshberg, Professor of Musicology, Emeritus
Jennifer Mizrachi, Therapist
Jochanan Benbassat, Professor of Medicine
Joel Freudenberg, Farmer
Joel Klemes, PhD Biologist
Jonatan Zait, Student
Jonathan Joel
Joseph Neumann , Professor of Biology and Philosophy
Joseph Shevel, Institute Manager
Joseph Zeira, Professor of Economy
Joseph Zernik, PhD
Joshua Sobol, Playwright
Judith Cooper-Weill, Author and Translator
Judith Korin, Director, Theatre
Judith Tamir, Alexander Technique
Judy Auerbach, PhD
Judy Orstav, LECTURER
Julia Horvath, Professor

Karin Lindner, architect
Karin Michaeli, Editor
Kate Rosenberg
Karlos Lewinhoff Journalist
Klipper Noa, Teacher
Kobi Peterzil, Professor
Kobi Yakobovich, Teacher
Koby Sheffy, PhD

Lana Remez, Teacher
Larry Lester Reporter
Latif Dori, Secretary of the Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue
Lee Shaish, PhD Biologist
Levi Spectre, PhD
Liat Ben-Rafael
Liat Segal, Marketing Teacher
Lilia Peter, Journalist
Linda Ben-Zvi, Professor of theatre studies, Tel Aviv U
Lior Almagor, Packaging Technologist
Lior Amihai, NGO Worker
Lior Kay Avishay, Social Worker for community transformations
Lior Tamam, Advocate
Liora Di Nur, Legal Advisor
Liora Glatt Berkovitz, lawyer
Liora Preis, Spiritual Support
Louis Williams, Retired book translator

Malka Dvir, Teacher
Malka Gerber, Teacher
Malka Lindner, PhD in Science
Marcelo Yarkoni, Int Sales Manager
Marcia Greenman, Lebeau Educator
Marianna Barr Writer and Translator
Mati Kroin
Maya Bailey, Theatre and Cinema
Maya Savir, Novelist
Maytal Lochoff, Arabic Law, literature and language
Meir Gotlieb
Meir Margalit, Dr
Meir Peleg, Musician
Menachem Brinker, Israel Prize, Professor of Literature and Philosophy
Menachem Fisch, Prof. of Philosophy
Menachem Golan, IT Engineer
Menachem Klein, Professor of Political Science
Marcia Greenman, Lebeau Educator
Meyran Haim, Graphic Designer
Micah Leshem, Professor
Micha Hopp, Professor of Epidemiology
Michael Benyair, Former Attorney-General
Michael Eden, Attorney
Michael Kaminer, Film Editor
Michael Kovner, Painter
Michal (Milli) Katz
Michal Zeira, Corcos Economist
Michael Keren, Professor of Economy
Michael Sfard, Lawyer, Human Rights
Michael Toch, Professor of History
Michaela Rahat, MSc education
Michal Barak, Education
Michal Belikoff, MSc Michal Brody-Bareket, lecturer
Michal Gamlieli, glass art
Michal Goldberg, Clinical Psychology
Michal Hochberg, Social Worker
Michal Mazor, Scientist
Michal Nitzan
Michal Paneth Peleg, Blogger & Text Editor
Michal Preminger, Psychologist
Michal Pundak Sagi, Therapist
Michal Ronel, Mental Health
Michal Schechter, Internet
Michal Schonbrun, Women’s Health/ MPH
Michal Wertheim
Michal Zilka, Project Manager
Micky Fisher, Nurse
Mika Ginzburg, PhD
Mika Schuster, Wood restoration
Mike Arad
Miki Cohen MA in Music education
Miky Fisher, Teacher
Miki Kratsman, EMET Prize, Photography
Milli Katz, Graffiti Artist Media
Mili Mass, Dr, Social Worker
Mira Awad, Artist
Mira Edelstein, Resource Development
Mira Hermoni, Artist
Mira Livne, Occupational Therapist
Mira Zacai Soprano, Prof. of Music, Gramee Award, PM award
Miri Barak, Translator
Miriam Barnai, Banker
Miriam Ben Baruch
Miriam Frank, Peace Activist
Miriam Makin, Farmer
Miriam Patya, Microbiology
Miriam Tal, Theatre Specialist
Mooky Dagan, Musician
Mordechai Bar-On, Dr of History, Former Brigadier-General and Member of Knesset
Mordechai Dudai, PhD in Biology
Moriel Rotman, Writer
Moshe Glick
Moshe Haas, Musician
Moshe Hazan, Proessor
Moshe Ivgy, Actor Moshe Kotler, Biologist
Moshe Levin, Hi Tech
Moshe Maoz, Professor of Middle-East History
Moshe Rotschild, Independent
Moshe Zimmerman, Professor
Moshe Zuckermann, Professor
Mossi Raz, Former MK, Chair of Peace Organizations Forum
Motti Lerner, Playwright
Motty Perry, Professor of Economy
Michael Persico, Physician
Muhamad Diab, PhD, Co-Chair of Peace Making Social Workers

Na’aman Hirshfeld, Historian
Nabil Saad, Academic
Nachi Alon, Clinical Psychologist
Nadav Bigelman, Student
Nadav Weiman, Instructor, High School
Nadia Raz, Music student
Naftali Raz, Educator & Tour guide, Chair of Massad
Nakad Nakad, Lawyer
Naomi Benbassat, PhD, Psychologist, Ein-Habsor – Gaza Border
Naomi Chazan, Former MK, Professor of Political Science
Naomi Raz, Early Childhood Educator
Naomi Sussmann Academic research
Naphtali Ringel
Naomi Shaanan, Human Resources administration
Nava Dgani, Translator
Nava Sonnenshein, PhD, CEO of School for Peace
Neal Laufer, Dr Paychiatry
Nehama Hillman, Art Consultant
Nestor Portnoy, Nurse
Neta Efroni
Neve Gordon, Professor
Nili Belkind Ph D, ethnomusicology
Nili Fisher, M.A.
Nir Harel, MFA/Artist
Nira Kedar
Nira Keren, Teacher
Nirit Assaf, Dr.
Nirit Haviv, Human Rights NO - Machsom Watch
Nirit Veiga, Strategic management consulting
Nissim Calderon, Professor of Litrature
Niva BenYair
Niva Segev, Kibbutz Beeri – Gaza Border
Noa Burstein, Musician
Noa Harris, GBV
Noa Hershkovitz, Economist
Noa Michaeli, Lawyer
Noa Shoval, Dr.
Noam Sonin, Business Development
Noam Zohar, Professor
Noemi Givon Givon, Art Forum
Noga Efrati, Senior lecturer, MidEast History
Noga Engelstein, Clinical Psychologist
Nomi Erteschik-Shir, Professor Nomika Zion, “Other Voice”, Sderot – Gaza Border
Nora Orlov, Translator, Poems translator
Nura Resh, PhD, Sociology
Nurit Badash Management & Public Politics
Nurit Budinsky, Mathematican
Nurit Gazit MBA
Nurit Lotner, Social Worker & Therapist
Nurit Peled Elhanan, Sacharov Prize, Professor of Education
Nurit Rinot, Dr. Psychology
Nurit Schleifman, Dr Nurit Shoor
Nurit Tolnai, Mindfulness workshop facilitator

Oded Efrati, Engineer
Oded Goldreich, Professor, Scientist
Oded Hon, Lawyer Social activist
Oded Lifshitz, Journalist – Nachal-Oz – Gaza Border
Oded Niv Hotelier
Ofer Bronchtein, President, International forum for peace
Ofer Cassif, Dr
Ofer Prag, Films
Ofira Henig, Theater Director
Ofra Ben Artzi,Teacher
Ofra Danon, Art
Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni, Professor
Ofra Kats, Goldsmith
Ofra Tene, house wife
Oliver Kraigher, Surgeon
Omri Afek
Omri Feinstein, IT Programmer
Omri Lernau, Surgeon
Oren Yiftachel, Professor
Ora Ardon, Writer,editor,journalist
Oren Sh, Video Engineer
Orit Adam, Clinical Psychologist
Orit Dekel, Assistant to VP
Orit Friedland,Translator & Editor
Orit Shochat, Journalist
Orit Tenne, PhD Student
Orly Feldheim, Film maker
Orly Morag, PhD - science education
Orna Glinka, Computers
Orna Lavi, ART
Ortal Beeri, Organization developper
Osnat Bar-Or, Lawyer, PhD
Ovadia Ezra Dr.

Paul Heger, Dr. PhD
Pepe Alalu , Member of Jerusalem Council
Peter Harris Dr.
Pilz Dan, CEO
Pnina Feiler, Nurse

Ra’anan Alexandrovich, Film Director , the Gatekeepers
Raaya Rotem, Teacher and Lecturer
Rachel Afek, Peace and Human Rights Activist
Rachel Elior, Professor of Jewish Studies
Rachel Kaminski, Yoga Teacher
Rachel Landshut, Artist
Rachel levkovitz, Management
Rachel London Katz, Sculptor
Rachel Naparstek
Rachela Hayut, Teacher
Racheli Bar-or, Psychotherapist
Racheli Merhav Landscape architect
Raffi Lipkin, Computer Engineer
Rafi Eshet Orthopedic expert
Rakefet Milika, Psychologist
Ram Ben Moshe, Academic Editor
Rama Yacobi
Rami Ashkar, Banker Rami Ben Ari, CEO in High Tech Company
Rami Elhanan, Peace Maker
Rami Goldstein, Engineer
Rami Heled, Translator
Ran Cohen, Former Minister of Industry & Trade
Ran Hassin, Professor of Hebrew
Ran Keidar, Retired Leut. Colonel
Raphael Falk, Professor
Raphi Meron, Dr., Economist
Reut Ginj, Films
Reuven Choshen, Business Consultant, M.Sc.
Reuven Eden, Veterinary surgeon
Reuven Gerber, PhD, lecturer & Jewish Philosophy
Reuven Holzer, Electronic Engineer
Reuven Israeli
Revital Sela, Translator
Revka Wittenberg
Rika Cohen, CEO of an NGO
Riki Ben-Ami, Teacher
Riki Levi, PhD student
Rimon Lavi, Paychologist
Riva Bachrach, D"r Clinical psychologist
Rivka Machlion MSw, Social Worker
Rivka Nir
Rivka Sallum, CEO of an NGO
Robi Guttman, Information Specialist
Rolly Rosen, Consultant
Ron Arzi, Industry
Ron Barkai, Professor
Ron Gerlitz CEO “Sikkuy”
Ron Hoz, Professor
Ron Issar Student
Ron Naaman, Professor
Ron Shahar, Professor
Ron Weiss, Economist
Ronen Leshem, Software developer, M.A.
Ronen Shamir,Lecturer
Roni Hammermann, PhD
Roni Hirshendon, Artist
Roni Segoly, CEO
Ronit Matar, Anthrpologist
Ronit Matalon, Novelist
Ronit Pan, Certified Art teacher
Rony Efrat, Theatre and Translator
Rony Pisker, Teacher, Theatre
Rotem Hann, Social Worker
Rotem Levin, Med Student
Rotem Telem, Dr.
Ruben Frankenstein, Lecturer Jewish studies
Ruchama Marton,Psychiatrist
Ruhama Shoulsky, Graphic Designer
Ruth Barkai-Tune artist
Ruth Butler, Professor
Ruth Duek, Clinical Psychology
Ruth El-Raz, M.A. Social Work
Ruth Frumkin, Nurse
Ruth Hacohen Pinchover, Professor of Musicology
Ruth Kedar
Ruth Maor, Naturopath
Ruth Rosenthal, Artist
Ruth Tirosh, Biblical Researcher
Ruth Zakovich, Editor and translator
Ruth Zimmermann-Shahar, Medical Doctor and Dental Surgeon
Ruthie Pragier, Psychologist
Ruthy Efody
Ruthy Schoken-Katz, Director
Ruthy Yarkoni, Teacher
Ruthie Pragier, Psychologist
Ruti Kantor, Designer

Sagi Frish, Student
Sahar Tueg, Student
Sami Alkalay, Marketing & Advertisements
Sami Ohayon, Theatre Director
Sara Carmeli Communication
Sara Helman, Dr Sara Fischman, Dr.
Sara Shilon, Executive
Sarah Levine, Artist
Sari Raz Nutritionist
Sariel Beckenstein
Saul Arolozoroff, Mechanical Engineer
Schwartz Idit, Dr. Physician
Sephi Lipkin, Computers
Shachaf Polakov, Photographer
Shachar Camran, Restorator
Shai Benjamin, PhD
Shai Davidovich, Student
Shai Gilad, Business
Shaked Stoler, Independent
Shalma Orr, Teacher
Sharon Vaknin, Artist
Shay Davidovits, Student
Shay Shohami, Adv.
Shelagh Shalev Dharmacharya
Shimmy Belikoff MSc Industry & Management Faculty
Shimon Ben Ari, Manager
Shimon Diga, Human Resources
Shimon Levinson
Shir Darwin Regev, Woodworking
Shir Hacham, Teaching Assistant Tel Aviv University
Shir Hermeche, Student
Shirley Racah, Public Policy
Shlomi Hadar
Shlomi Tazir, Computers
Shlomit Breuer, Curator
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Uri Avnery: Israel´s Salvation Front

Uri Avnery
March 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Israel Salvation Front is needed now.

We have no other country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Salvation Front must encompass all sectors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uri Avnery
March 21, 2015

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

That’s the sad outcome.

Sad, but not the end of the world.

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

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

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

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

Looks like a nice idea. Unity always sounds nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO WHAT to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

-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.

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!