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Uri Avnery: Netanyahu as the magicians apprentice

Uri Avnery
August 22, 2015

* The Magician’s Apprentice*

ONE HAS to choose: Binyamin Netanyahu is either incredibly shrewd or incredibly foolish.

Take his Iran policy. Actually, there is little to choose from. Netanyahu has no other policy to speak off.

According to him, Iran constitutes a mortal danger to Israel. If it obtains a nuclear weapon, God forbid, it will use it to annihilate Israel. It must be stopped by any means, preferably by American armed intervention.

This may be quite wrong (as I believe). But it makes sense.

So what did Netanyahu do?

FOR YEARS, he alarmed the world. Every day the cry went out: Save Israel! Prevent the destruction of the Jewish State! Prevent a Second Holocaust! Prevent Iran from producing The Bomb!

The world did not take any notice. It was busy with many other matters. There are crises galore everywhere, all the time. Economic depressions. Plagues. The warming of the earth.

But Netanyahu did not let off. He used every rostrum, from the Knesset to the United States Congress, to shout his message.

At long last, a weary world paid heed. OK, the Jews warn of the Iranian bomb? So let’s do something to prevent it. Not just something. No. Let’s get all the great powers of the world together to compel Iran to end this nonsense.

And they did. The USA, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – practically the whole world – commanded Iran to start negotiations.

There was only one single issue: preventing Iran from getting The Bomb. Nothing else mattered. Compared to this giant issue, everything else was insignificant.

And then something unexpected happened. Iran’s political system replaced their loudmouth president with a very different one: a soft-spoken, eminently reasonable politician. Negotiations started, and Iran sent an even more soft-spoken, eminently reasonable diplomat to conduct them. The foreign ministers of the world were enchanted.

After playing a little hard-to-get, Iran accepted an agreement. The World got, more or less, everything it wanted. No bomb for a long time. Very intrusive inspection procedures. (They were not really needed. Up-to-date espionage techniques can quickly detect any movements toward a bomb.)

EVERYBODY WAS happy. Everybody, that is, except Netanyahu. He was furious.

What kind of an agreement is this?

The Iranians will get the bomb. If not now, then in 15 years. Or in 25. Or in 50.

The Iranians will cheat! Persians always cheat! They can’t help it! It’s in their blood! (Not like us, who built dozens of nuclear weapons in secret. After the Holocaust, we are allowed to do things like that.)

And anyway, even if they don’t get the bomb, the Iranians will get legitimization. And money. They will support anti-Israeli terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas. (Not very convincing, after Netanyahu had demanded concentration on The Bomb, and not on anything else.)

The huge Israeli propaganda machine was set in motion. The terrible agreement is being denounced from every rooftop. Of course we knew all the time that Barack Obama is an anti-Semite, as is John Kerry. Now we have the proof.

Actually, the play is over. An agreement signed by the entire world cannot be made to disappear with a puff from Bibi. It will be there, even if the US Congress does vote against it and overrides the presidential veto. The world is tired of Netanyahu’s whims. The man got what he wanted, so what now?!

I believe that the Iranians did not want the bomb very much anyhow. According to all available evidence, the agreement aroused joy in the streets of Tehran. The prevalent mood seems to be: “Thank Allah, at long last we’ve got rid of this whole nonsense!”

BUT THE bomb that isn’t has already caused immense damage to Israel. Much worse than if it existed in some dark cavern.

All Israelis agree that the one supreme asset Israel has is its special, unparalleled relationship with the US. It is unique.

Unique and priceless. In military terms, Israel gets the most up-to-date weapon systems, practically for nothing. No less important, Israel can not conduct any war for more than a few days without an airlift of munitions and spare parts from the US.

But that is only a small element of our national security. Even more important is the knowledge that you cannot threaten Israel without confronting the entire might of the United States. This is a formidable umbrella, the envy of the world.

More than that, every country in the world knows that if you want something from Washington DC, and especially from the US Congress, you better pass through Jerusalem and pay a price. How much is that worth?

And then there is the veto. Not the little veto Obama will use to neutralize a Congress vote against the agreement, but the Big Veto, the one that blocks every single UN Security Council resolution to censure Israel, even for actions that cry to high heaven. A 49 year old occupation. Hundreds of thousands of settlers who contravene international law. Almost daily killings.

Condemn Israel? Forget it. Sanctions against Israel? Don’t make us laugh. As long as the almighty US protects Israel, It can do whatever it wants.

All this is now put in question. Perhaps the damage has already been done, like hidden cracks in the foundations of a building. The scale of the damage may become apparent only in coming years.

Another hidden crack is the rift between Israel and a large part of the Jews around the world, especially in the US. Israel claims to be the “Nation-State of the Jewish People”. All Jews throughout the world owe it unquestioning allegiance. A mighty apparatus of “Jewish organizations” is policing the vassals. Woe to the Jew who dares to object.

Not anymore. A rift has opened within world Jewry, that probably cannot be repaired. Commanded to choose between their president and Israel, many American Jews prefer their president, or just opt out.

Who is the anti-Semite who has managed to bring all this evil about? No other than the Prime Minister of Israel himself.

DOES THIS trouble the world? Not really.

We Israelis believe that we are the center of the world. But it ain’t necessarily so.

While Israel is obsessed with the Iranian bomb, great changes are taking place in our region. The almost forgotten 13-century old rift between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has suddenly reappeared all over. This rift, almost as old as Islam itself, was plastered over by the artificial order established by the notorious colonialist Sykes-Picot agreement during World War I.

What is happening now is a political earthquake. The landscape is changing dramatically. Mountains disappear, new ones are formed. The Shiite axis, from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon is overtaking the Sunni bloc of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Libya and Yemen are tossed around, Egypt harkens back to its glorious Pharaonic past, and in the middle of it all, a new power is raising its head – the Islamic Caliphate of Daesh, which attracts Muslim youth from all over the world.

In the middle of this raging storm, Netanyahu is a man of the past, a person whose perceptions were formed decades ago, in another world. Instead of addressing this new world, with its great dangers and great opportunities, he fumbles around with the non-existent Bomb.

The US and the other Western powers are cautiously changing their stance. They are afraid of Daesh, as they should be. They perceive that their interests are getting closer to those of Iran and further away from those of Saudi Arabia. The new nuclear agreement fits well into this pattern. Netanyahu’s permanent trouble-making does not.

IS THIS being discussed in Israel? Of course not. It’s all about the bomb, the bomb, the bomb. The little quarrels between the Muslims are more or less ignored.

Sunnis, Shiites – they are all the same. Anti-Semites. Holocaust-deniers. Israel-haters.

Yet there are great opportunities. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, as well as Egypt, are already hinting that they could cooperate with Israel. In deepest secrecy, of course. Nobody can shake hands openly with Israel as long as the Arab masses see every day on their TV sets the misdeeds of the settlers, the killings of the occupation army, the humiliation of the Palestinian brothers. Like a heavy weight tied to the leg of a swimmer, the occupation prevents us from reacting to the changes in the region.

Lately, there have been ever-stronger rumors about secret negotiations between Netanyahu and Hamas for an eight or ten year-long armistice, that would amount to an unofficial peace agreement. It would create a tiny Palestinian mini-state, while isolating even more Mahmoud Abbas and the main body of the Palestinian people, who are committed to the Arab peace plan.

All this for what? For enlarging the settlements and perhaps annexing another part of the West Bank (“Area C”).

So is the man shrewd or just foolish? A magician or just a magician’s apprentice?

Uri Avnery: A boy called Bibi

Uri Avnery
May 2, 2015

THERE ARE two different opinions about Binyamin Netanyahu. It is difficult to believe that they concern the same person.

One is that Netanyahu is a shallow politician, devoid of ideas and convictions, who is led solely by his obsession to remain in power. This Netanyahu has a good voice and a talent for making shallow speeches on television, speeches devoid of any intellectual content – and that’s all.

This Netanyahu is highly “pressurable” (a Hebrew word invented almost solely for him), a man who will change his views according to political expediency, disclaiming in the evening what he has said in the morning. None of his words should be trusted. He will lie and cheat anytime to assure his survival.

The other Netanyahu is almost the exact opposite. A principled patriot, a serious thinker, a statesman who sees danger beyond the horizon. This Netanyahu is a gifted orator, able to move the US Congress and the UN plenum, admired by the great mass of Israelis.

So which of these descriptions is true?

Neither.

IF IT is true that the character of a person is shaped by his early childhood, we must examine the background of Netanyahu in order to understand him.

He grew up in the shadow of a strong father. Benzion Millikowsky, who changed his foreign name to the Hebrew Netanyahu, was a very dominant and very unhappy person. Born in Warsaw, then a provincial town in the Russian Empire, he immigrated to Palestine as a young man, studied history at the new Hebrew University in Jerusalem and expected to become a professor there. He was not accepted.

Benzion was the son of an early adherent of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, the extreme rightist Zionist leader. He inherited from his father a very extremist outlook, and passed it on to his three sons. Binyamin was the second one. His elder brother, still a child himself, called him Bibi, and the childish appellation stuck.

Benzion’s rejection by the prestigious young Hebrew University turned him into a bitter man, a bitterness that lasted until his death in 2012, at age 102. He was sure that this rejection had nothing to do with his academic qualification, and everything with his ultra-nationalist opinions.

His extreme Zionism did not stop him leaving Palestine and seeking his academic luck in the United States, where a second-rate university gave him a professorship. His life’s work as a historian concerned the fate of the Jews in medieval Christian Spain – the expulsion and inquisition. It engendered in him a very dark world view: the conviction that Jews will always be persecuted, that all Goyim (non-Jews) hate the Jews, that a straight line connects the auto-da-fé of the Spanish inquisition with the Nazi Holocaust.

During the years, the Netanyahu family went back and forth between the US and Israel. Binyamin grew up in America, acquired perfect American English, essential for his future career, studied and became a salesman. His obvious talent for this profession attracted a Likud foreign minister, who sent him to the UN as Israeli spokesman.

BENZION NETANYAHU was not only a very bitter person, who accused the Zionist and Israeli academic establishment of failing to recognize his academic stature. He was also a very autocratic family man.

The three Netanyahu boys lived in constant awe of Father. They were not allowed to make any noise at home while the Great Man worked in his closed study. They were not allowed to bring other boys home. Their mother was completely devoted to her husband and served him in every way, sacrificing her own personality.

In every family, the second child of three is in a difficult position. He is not admired like the eldest, nor indulged like the youngest. For Binyamin this was especially hard, because of the personality of the eldest.

Yonatan Netanyahu (both names mean “God has given”) seems to have been a specially blessed boy. He was good-looking, gifted, much liked, even admired. In the army, he became the commander of the revered Sayeret Matkal (“General Staff Commando Unit”) – the elite of the army’s elite.

As such he was the ground commander of the daring 1976 Entebbe commando raid in Uganda, which liberated the captive passengers of a flight hijacked by Palestinian and German guerillas on the way to Israel. Yonatan was killed and became a national hero. He was also adored by his father, who never quite accepted the qualities of his second son.

Between his father, the embittered Great Thinker, and his elder brother, the Legendary Hero, Binyamin grew up as a quiet but very ambitious boy, part Israeli, part American. He worked for some time as a furniture salesman, until he was discovered by the far-right Likud foreign minister, Moshe Arens.

Between his obsessive need to be approved by his father and to be found equal to his glorious brother, Netanyahu’s own character was forged. His father never quite appreciated him, once saying that he would make a good foreign minister, but not a prime minister.

Being his father’s son, Netanyahu incited the people against Yitzhak Rabin after the Oslo Agreement and was photographed on the speaker’s balcony during the demonstration in which a symbolic coffin of Rabin was carried around. Soon after, when Rabin was murdered, he denied all responsibility.

Rabin’s successor, Shimon Peres, failed miserably, and Netanyahu became prime minister. It was a total catastrophe. On the evening after the next elections, when it be came clear that he had lost, multitudes streamed to Tel Aviv’s central square (now named after Rabin) in a spontaneous demonstration of joy like that at the liberation of Paris.

His successor, Labor’s Ehud Barak, had no more luck. A former army Chief of Staff, admired by many and especially by himself, he compelled President Bill Clinton to convene an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference at Camp David. Barak, who was quite ignorant of Palestinian attitudes, came to dictate his terms and was shocked when they were rejected. Coming home, he declared that the Palestinians want to throw us into the sea. Hearing this, the public threw him out and elected the tough far-right general, Ariel Sharon, the founder of Likud.

Netanyahu became Minister of Finance. As such he was quite successful. Applying the neo-liberal ultra-capitalist teaching he had absorbed in the US, he made the poor poorer and the rich richer. The poor seemed to liked it.

Sharon was the father of the settlements in the West Bank. To strengthen these, he decided to give up the Gaza Strip with its few settlements, which were a disproportional drag on the army. But his unilateral retreat from the Gaza Strip shocked the rightist camp. The elder Netanyahu called the move a “crime against humanity”.

Inpatient with opposition, Sharon split the Likud and founded his own Kadima (“Forwards”) party. Netanyahu again became the leader of Likud.

As usual, he was lucky. Sharon suffered a stroke and fell into a coma, from which he never recovered. His successor, Ehud Olmert, was accused of corruption and had to resign. The next in line, Tzipi Livni, was incompetent and unable to form a government, though all the ingredients were there.

Netanyahu, the man who was kicked out just a few years earlier by the cheering masses, came back as an imperator. Again the masses cheered. Shakespeare would have loved it.

SINCE THEN, Netanyahu has been elected again and again. The last time was a clear personal victory. He vanquished all his competitors on the Right.

So who is this Netanyahu? Contrary to popular opinion, he is a man of very strong beliefs – the beliefs of his far-right father. The entire world is out to kill us at all times, we need a powerful state to defend ourselves, all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan has been given us by God (whether he exists or not). Everything else is lies, subterfuges, tactics.

When, in a famous speech at Bar-Ilan university near Tel Aviv, Netanyahu embraced the principle of “Two States for Two Peoples”, those who knew him could only smile. It was as if he had recommended the eating of pork on Yom Kippur.

He dangled this statement before the eyes of the naive Americans and let his Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, lead endless negotiations with the Palestinians, whom he despises. Whenever it seemed that the negotiations were nearing some goal, he quickly put up another condition, such us the ridiculous demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. He would not dream, of course, of recognizing the Palestinian territories as the Nation State of the Palestinian People – a people he does not really believe exists at all.

On the eve of the last election, just now, Netanyahu announced that there would not be a Palestinian state as long as he was in power. When the Americans remonstrated, he repudiated himself. Why not? As his Likud predecessor, Yitzhak Shamir, famously said, “It is permitted to lie for the Fatherland.”

Netanyahu will lie, cheat, repudiate himself, raise false flags – all for the purpose of achieving his one and only real goal, the Rock of our Existence (as he loves to say), the heritage of his father – the Jewish State from the sea to the river.

THE TROUBLE is that in this area, the Arabs are already the majority, a small majority, but one that is bound to grow steadily.

A Jewish and democratic state in the entire country is impossible. The popular joke has it that this is too much even for God. So He decreed that we have to choose two of the three attributes: a Jewish and democratic state in part of the country, a Jewish state in all of the country that will not be democratic, or a democratic state in all of the country that will not be Jewish.

Netanyahu’s solution to this problem is to ignore it. Just go on, enlarge the settlements, and concentrate on the immediate problem: install his fourth government and plan for his fifth, four years from now.

And, of course, show his father, who is looking down on him from heaven, that after all little Bibi, his second son, is worthy of him.

The Fascist Zeitgeist in Israel

Uri Avnery
December 21, 2013

SEEING HER face on the TV screen, one is struck by her beauty. It is the face of an angel, pure and innocent.

Then she opens her mouth, and what pours out is vile and ugly, the racist message of the extreme right. Like seeing a cherub parting its lips and revealing the teeth of a vampire.

Ayelet Shaked may be the beauty queen of the present Knesset. Her name is enticing: Ayelet means gazelle, Shaked means almond. But she is the instigator of some of the most outrageous right-wing initiatives in this Knesset. She is also the chairwoman of Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home faction, the nationalist-religious party of the settlers, the most radical rightist party of the current government coalition.

Her latest exploit is a bill which is now being debated in the Knesset, which would levy a huge tax on donations given by foreign “political entities” to Israeli human rights associations, those who advocate a boycott of Israel (or of the settlements only), the indictment of Israeli officers accused of war crimes in international courts, and more.

All this while immense sums of money are flowing from abroad to the settlements and their supporters. A large share of these sums is practically donated by the US government, which allows their exemption from US income tax as philanthropic. Much of it comes from American Jewish billionaires of dubious repute.

IN A way, this Gazelle is the face of an international phenomenon. All over Europe, extreme fascistic parties are flourishing. Small despised fringe groups suddenly expand into large parties with a national impact. From Holland to Greece, from France to Russia, these parties propagate a mixture of super-nationalism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and immigrant-hatred. A deadly witches’ brew.

The explanation seems to be simple. All over the place, the economic crisis has hit the people hard. Unemployment is high. Young people cannot find jobs. The victims look for a scapegoat on which to vent their anger. They choose the foreigner, the minority, the helpless. That has been so since antiquity. That’s how a failed painter named Adolf Hitler became a historic figure.

For politicians without vision or values, this is the easiest way to success and prominence. It is also the most despicable.

An Austrian socialist said more than a century ago: “Anti-Semitism is the socialism of the fools”.

Social reformers may believe that the whole thing is instigated by the world’s billionaires, who are concentrating an ever larger part of the world’s assets in their hands. The gap between the upper 1% and everybody else is growing relentlessly, and the beneficiaries are financing radical right-wingers to divert the anger of the masses in other directions. Stands to reason.

HOWEVER, TO my mind the economic explanation is too simple. If the same phenomenon appears at the same time in so many different countries, with different economic situations, there must be more profound reasons. There must be some elements of Zeitgeist in it.

I think that we are witnessing a basic cultural breakdown, a crisis of accepted values. This kind of upheaval generally accompanies social changes, often caused by economic and technological breakthroughs. It is a sign of social dissonance, of disorientation. On the eve of the Nazi revolt, the German writer Hans Fallada wrote an immensely successful book called “Kleiner Mann was nun?” (Little Man, What Now?), expressing the despair of the newly disinherited masses. Many little men and women around the world are in the same situation now.

In Israel, too.

LAST WEEK, we saw a spectacle that would have shaken our grandparents to the core.

Some 300 black people, many of them barefoot in the biting cold of an exceptionally severe winter, were walking dozens of kilometers on a central road. They were refugees who had managed to flee from Sudan and Eritrea, to walk all the way through Egypt and the Sinai and had crossed the border into Israel. (Since then, a wall has been erected along the Sinai border, and this stream has practically stopped.)

There are now about 60,000 such African refugees in Israel. Thousands of them are crowded in the most run-down slums of Tel Aviv and other cities, causing deep resentment among the locals. This has proved a fertile breeding ground for racism. The most successful agitator is another beautiful member of the Knesset, the Likud’s Miri Regev, a former army chief spokeswoman, who is inciting the inhabitants and the country in the most primitive and vulgar manner.

Looking for a solution to the problem, the government built a large prison in the middle of the desolate Negev desert, unbearably hot in summer and unbearably cold in winter. Thousands of black refugees have been crowded there without trial for three years. Some called it a concentration camp.

Israeli human rights associations – the same as above – applied to the Supreme Court, and the imprisonment of the refugees was declared unconstitutional. The government thought again (if thinking is the right word) and decided to circumvent the decision. Not far from the forbidden prison a new prison was built, and the refugees were put there for one year each.

No, not a prison. Something called “Open Live-in Facility”. We are good at naming things. We call that “verbal laundry”.

This “open” desert prison is closed during the night, but inmates are free during the day. However, it is far from anywhere. The inmates must register three times during daytime – thus making it impossible to go anywhere, not to mention finding work.

It is from this “open” prison that the valiant 300 have walked out and marched all the way to Jerusalem, some 150 kilometers, in order to demonstrate in front of the Knesset. It took them three days. They were accompanied by a few Israeli human rights activists, mostly female, their light faces very conspicuous among all the black heads.

In front of the Knesset they were brutally attacked by specially trained riot police. Each demonstrator was surrounded by half a dozen bullies and violently thrown into a bus, which brought them to the old non-open prison.

I AM dwelling on this incident because I am profoundly ashamed.

Racism is not a new thing in Israel. Far from it. But whenever we accuse
our gazelles of racism, they answer that this is pure libel. There is a conflict between us and the Palestinians, strict security measures are called for, this has nothing to do with racism, God forbid.

This is a very dubious argument, but at least it has some plausibility.

But we have no national conflict with the refugees. No security considerations are involved.

It is racism, pure and simple.

Let’s imagine that suddenly, in a remote corner between Eritrea and the Sudan, a Jewish tribe had been discovered. Its 60,000 members want to come to Israel.

The country would be in a delirium. The red carpet would be rolled out in Ben-Gurion airport. Both the President and the Prime Minister would be there, ready with their most banal speeches. They would receive an “absorption subsidy”, free housing and work.

So it’s not an economic problem, nor a question of absorption, housing or employment. It’s not even a question of skin color. Black Jews from Ethiopia are readily welcomed.

It’s simply THAT THEY ARE NOT JEWISH.

No room here for other people. They would take away our jobs. They would change the demographic balance. This, after all, is a Jewish State!

OR IS it?

If this were a Jewish State, would it treat refugees this way?

A hundred memories float into our minds. Of Jews being hounded from country to country. Of the mighty United States of America rejecting Jewish refugees on a German ship, fleeing from Nazi persecution. And later exterminated in the death camps. Of the Swiss pushing back Jews escaping from the concentration camps who had made it to their border.

Remember “The Boat Is Full?”

If this really were a Jewish state, would it try to bribe African states to accept these refugees without asking what would happen to them there? For a refugee from the hell of Darfur, Zimbabwe is as foreign as New Zealand (unless one subscribes to the theory that “all blacks are the same”.)

If this really were a Jewish state, would the Minister of the Interior, a Likud functionary, send his force of goons to go hunting for refugees in the streets?

No, this is not a Jewish state. The Bible commands us to treat the stranger in our midst as we would want to be treated ourselves. “Also, thou shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 23:9).

Amen!

Uri Avnery on Israel's flash of insight in the world opinion

A Flash of Lightning

NIGHT. UTTER darkness. Heavy rain. Visibility close to nil.

And suddenly – a flash of lightning. For a fraction of a second, the landscape is lit up. For this split second, the terrain surrounding us can be seen. It is not the way it used to be.

OUR GOVERNMENT’ action against the Gaza aid flotilla was such a lightning flash.

Israelis normally live in darkness as far as seeing the world is concerned. But for that instant, the real landscape around us could be seen, and it looked frightening. Then the darkness settled down over us, Israel returned to its bubble, the world disappeared from view.

This split second was enough to reveal a dismal scene. On almost all fronts, the situation of the State of Israel has worsened since the last flash of lightning.

The flotilla and the attack on it did not create this landscape. It has been there since our present government was set up. But the deterioration did not start even then. It began a long time before.

The action of Ehud Barak & Co. only lit up the situation as it is now, and gave it yet another push in the wrong direction.

How does the new landscape look in the light of Barak’s barak? (“barak” means lightning in Hebrew.)

THE LIST is headed by a fact that nobody seems to have noticed until now: the death of the Holocaust.

In all the tumult this affair has caused throughout the world, the Holocaust was not even mentioned. True, in Israel there were some who called Recep Tayyip Erdogan “a new Hitler”, and some Israel-haters talked about the “Nazi attack”, but the Holocaust has practically disappeared.

For two generations, our foreign policy used the Holocaust as its main instrument. The bad conscience of the world determined its attitude towards Israel. The (justified) guilt feelings – either for atrocities committed or for looking the other way – caused Europe and America to treat Israel differently than any other nation – from nuclear armaments to the settlements. All criticism of our governments’ actions was branded automatically as anti-Semitism and silenced.

But time does its work. New tragedies have blunted the world’s senses. For a new generation, the Holocaust is a thing of the remote past, a chapter of history. The sense of guilt has disappeared in all countries, except Germany.

The Israeli public did not notice this, because in Israel itself the Shoah is alive and present. Many Israelis are children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and the Holocaust has been imprinted on their childhood. Moreover, a huge apparatus ensures that the Holocaust will not disappear from our memory, starting from kindergarten, through ceremonies and memorial days, to organized tours “there”.

Therefore, the Israeli public is shocked to see that the Holocaust has lost its power as a political instrument. Our most valuable weapon has become blunt.

THE CENTRAL pillar of our policy is our alliance with the United States. To use a phrase dear to Binyamin Netanyahu (in another context): it’s “the rock of our existence”.

For many years, this alliance has kept us safe from all trouble. We knew that we could always get from the US all we needed: advanced arms to retain our superiority over all Arab armies combined, munitions in times of war, money for our economy, the veto on all UN Security Council resolutions against us, automatic support for all the actions of our successive governments. Every small and medium country in the world knew that in order to gain entrance to the palaces of Washington, the Israeli doorkeeper had to be bribed.

But during the last year, cracks have appeared in this pillar. Not the small scratches and chips of wear and tear, but cracks caused by shifts of the ground. The mutual aversion between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu is only one symptom of a much deeper problem,

The Chief of the Mossad told the Knesset last week: “For the US, we have ceased to be an asset and become a burden.”

This fact was put into incisive words by General David Petraeus, when he said that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The later soothing messages did not erase the significance of this warning. (When Petraeus fainted this week at a Senate hearing, some religious Jews viewed it as divine punishment.)

IT IS not only the Israeli-American relationship that has undergone a fateful change, but the standing of the US itself is changing for the worse, a bad omen indeed for the future of Israeli policy.

The world is changing, slowly and quietly. The US is still by far the most powerful country, but it is no longer the almighty superpower it had been since 1989. China is flexing its muscles, countries like India and Brazil are getting stronger, countries like Turkey – yes, Turkey! – are beginning to play a role.

This is not a matter of one or two years, but anyone who is thinking about the future of Israel in ten, twenty years must understand that unless there is a basic change in our position, our position, too, will decline.

IF OUR alliance with the US is one central pillar of Israeli policy, the support of the vast majority of world Jewry is the second.

For 62 years, we could count on it with our eyes shut. Whatever we did – almost all the world’s Jews stood at attention and saluted. In fire and water, victory or defeat, glorious or dark chapters – the world’s Jews did support us, giving money, demonstrating, pressuring their governments. Without second thoughts, without criticism.

Not anymore. Quietly, almost silently, cracks have appeared in this pillar, too. Opinion polls show that most American Jewish young people are turning away from Israel. Not shifting their loyalty from the Israeli establishment to Israel’s liberal camp – but turning away from Israel altogether.

This will not be felt immediately either. AIPAC continues to strike fear into Washingtonian hearts, Congress will continue to dance to its tune. But when the new generation comes to man key positions, the support for Israel will erode, American politicians will stop crawling on their bellies and the US administration will gradually change its relations with us.

IN OUR immediate neighborhood, too, profound changes are underway, some of them beneath the surface. The flotilla incident has exposed them.

The influence of our allies is decreasing constantly. They are losing height, and an old-new power is on the rise: Turkey.

Hosni Mubarak is busy with his efforts to pass power to his son, Gamal. The Islamic opposition in Egypt is raising its head. Saudi money is trumped by the new attraction of Turkey. The Jordanian king is compelled to adapt himself. The axis of Turkey-Iran-Syria-Hisbollah-Hamas is the rising power, the axis of Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Fatah is in decline.

BUT THE most important change is the one that is taking place in international public opinion. Any derision of this reminds one of Stalin’s famous sneer (“How many divisions has the pope?”)

Recently, an Israeli TV station showed a fascinating film about the German and Scandinavian female volunteers who flooded Israel in the 50s and 60s to live and work (and sometimes marry) in the kibbutzim. Israel was then seen as a plucky little nation surrounded by hateful enemies, a state risen from the ashes of the Holocaust to become a haven of freedom, equality and democracy, which found their most sublime expression in that unique creation, the kibbutz.

The present generation of idealistic youngsters from all over the world, male and female, who would once have volunteered for the kibbutzim, can now be found on the decks of the ships sailing for downtrodden, choked and starved Gaza, which touches the hearts of many young people. The pioneering Israeli David has turned into a brutish Israeli Goliath.

Even a genius of spin could not change this. For years, now, the world sees the State of Israel every day on the TV screen and on the front pages in the image of heavily armed soldiers shooting at stone-throwing children, guns firing phosphorus shells into residential quarters, helicopters executing “targeted eliminations”, and now pirates attacking civilian ships on the open seas. Terrified women with wounded babies in their arms, men with amputated limbs, demolished homes. When one sees a hundred pictures like that for every picture that shows another Israel, Israel becomes a monster. The more so since the Israeli propaganda machine is successfully suppressing any news about the Israeli peace camp.

MANY YEARS ago, when I wanted to ridicule the addiction of our leaders to the use of force, I paraphrased a saying that reflects much of Jewish wisdom: “if force does not work, use brains.” In order to show how far we, the Israelis, are different from the Jews, I changed the words: “If force doesn’t work, use more force.”

I thought of it as a joke. But, as happens to many jokes in our country, it has become reality. It is now the credo of many primitive Israelis, headed by Ehud Barak.

In practice, the security of a state depends on many factors, and military force is but one of them. In the long run, world public opinion is stronger. The pope has many divisions.

In many respects, Israel is still a strong country. But, as the sudden illumination of the flotilla affair has shown, time is not working in our favor. We should deepen our roots in the world and in the region – which means making peace with our neighbors – as long as we are as strong as we are now.

If force doesn’t work, more force will not necessarily work either.

If force doesn’t work, force doesn’t work. Period.

Uri Avnery
June 19, 2010

Uri Avnery: -Obama blackmailed by Netanyahu

A Day in November

RAHM EMANUEL is, so it seems, the American most hated by the leaders of Israel. He is considered the most dangerous opponent of the Netanyahu government in the White House. Behind closed doors, they shower him – if one is to believe the media – with anti-Semitic epithets. “Jewboy” is one of them. In Zionist usage, he is a “self-hating Jew”.

And lo and behold, here he is strolling around the Galilee in shorts. He visits the occupied Golan Heights, which foreign diplomats normally take great pains to avoid. The IDF flies him between its installations. He prays at the Western Wall. A good Jewish tourist from America.

Emanuel’s son has reached the age of Bar Mitzva; where better to celebrate than the Land of Israel, where his grandfather was a member of the Irgun – an outfit that the US administration would have branded a terrorist organization, like Hamas today.

In short, the self-hating Jewboy has revealed himself as a Zionist with a warm Jewish heart, an admirer of the IDF and a supporter of the annexation of the Golan Heights.

THE VISIT was not, of course, a passing whim. It joined a long series of gestures by Barack Obama designed to win the hearts of the Jews before the upcoming congressional elections.

It seems that at some stage, months ago, Obama came to the conclusion that he had lost the first round of his contest with Binyamin Netanyahu, and that it would be better to live and fight another day.

He himself spelled it out in a conversation with Jewish leaders: at the beginning of his path in the Middle East he stepped on some landmines. He has learned his lesson.

The result was a campaign of sweet-talk and flattery:

He invited Elie Wiesel, Mr. Holocaust in person, to a private lunch at the White House. Perhaps they exchanged memories about some common experiences, like “How to accept the Nobel Peace Prize and keep a straight face.” Wiesel’s contribution to peace is one of the great mysteries of the universe. (My own opinion of Wiesel found its expression in a Hebrew word I invented especially for him: “Shoan” (something like “Holocauster’.)

After that, Obama met with several sets of “Jewish leaders” and told them about his unwavering support for the security of Israel, his admiration for Netanyahu and love for Israel in general. Never mind that just recently a major opinion poll has shown that these “leaders” represent mostly themselves – the great majority of the younger Jewish generation in the US opposes the policies of the Israeli government and is becoming more and more alienated from Israel.

Sending his No. 1 confidante to Israel in the guise of an ardent Zionist and extending an invitation to Netanyahu to come and visit him in the White House are further stages in this campaign.

WHAT IS the aim? Well, that is as clear as the mid-day sun.

On November 2, the 93rd anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, elections will be held in the US. All the seats in the House of Representatives and 34 in the senate will be up for grabs.

For Obama, these elections are hugely important. In the worst case, the Democrats will lose control of one of the houses of Congress, making it impossible for Obama to get most of the laws he desires passed. The best he can realistically hope for is that the Democratic majority in both houses will be reduced, making the life of the President much more difficult.

AIPAC has already shown that it can have a big impact on election results. When the lobby decides to topple a member of Congress, that is the end of his political life. When the lobby concentrates its financial and political might on a certain spot, it is almost invincible.

Obama now needs all the support he can get in both houses. Therefore, he must neutralize the pro-Israel lobby. The expense of the Bar Mitzva party of the Emanuel family was a negligible price to pay for this.

When Obama says that he stepped on a landmine, he means the mine called AIPAC.

THE PHENOMENON itself is nothing new. It repeats itself every fours years, and sometimes every two.

Since the first day of the State of Israel, all Israeli governments have been aware that an election year in the US provides them with unparalleled political opportunities.

Israel was founded in May 1948, half a year before the US elections. Harry Truman was in a critical situation. Many believed that he would be roundly defeated. He was in desperate need of money. Some rich Jews dug into their pockets and saved Truman, who won by the skin of his teeth.

All of Truman’s political and military aides advised him not to support Israel’s independence. But Truman recognized the new state (de facto at least) immediately after it was established.

From that day on, whenever the Israeli government needs US support for a controversial act, it waits for an American election year. This has almost always succeeded. The exception: a week before the 1956 elections, the Ben-Gurion government (urged on by Shimon Peres) invaded Sinai in cahoots with France and the UK. The Israeli leaders believed that no American politician would dare to oppose Israel on the eve of elections.

They were wrong. President Dwight Eisenhower, a former supreme allied commander, was supremely confident of his election victory. Therefore he ignored the Jewish lobby and, together with his Soviet colleague, presented Israel with an ultimatum. That got David Ben-Gurion out of Sinai and Gaza in a jiffy.

Those who hoped that Obama would prove to be a second Eisenhower were wrong. In spite of some resounding successes, his political situation is far from impressive. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has not improved his political health. As a realistic politician, he has decided that this is not the right time to take on the Jewish establishment.

Perhaps he remembered the sober advice of Niccolo Machiavelli: If you can’t kill the lion, don’t provoke it.

HOWEVER, THERE is a huge landmine buried on the road to election day: the settlement freeze.

When Obama compelled Netanyahu to freeze the settlements officially in the West Bank (and unofficially in East Jerusalem, too), a ten-month period was agreed upon. This will come to an end in September.

When the time comes, Netanyahu will face immense pressures from the settlers and their allies to start building again. “What are you afraid of?” they will say, “two months before the elections Obama will not dare to lift a finger! And (quoting a Jewish sage) if not now, when?”

The situation in Israel will increase the temptation. It seems that “we have never had it so good”. There are no attacks. Our economy is booming. In spite of the criticism echoing around the world, Israel’s political standing is robust. Just last week Israel was accepted as a member of the OECD, the world’s most prestigious economic club. Obama has capitulated. When the army’s Homeland Command held extensive exercises this week, the people just winked and did not bother to run to the shelters.

The temptation to renew the building in the settlements will be strong. But Netanyahu will think about the day after. And so will Obama.

AND INDEED, what will happen the day after the elections?

Optimists believe that on that morning, a new era will start. No further elections are planned before November 2012, when Obama’s first term expires. For an entire year, at least, he will be free to act.

That is a “window of opportunities”. A wide-open window. During this time Obama can realize his hope of bringing peace and retrieve the position of the US in the Middle East. As an added bonus, he will also be able to vent his accumulated fury against Netanyahu.

According to this forecast, in this one year, from the end of 2010 to the end of 2011, the final act of the drama will be enacted. Obama will present an American peace plan, the pressure on the Israeli government will intensify, Israel will finally have to choose between peace and territories, peace will at long last be on its way.

But there is also an opposite forecast: Obama will continue to disappoint, as he has disappointed until now. He will already be thinking about the next presidential election and continue to be afraid of AIPAC.

This forecast has a lot going for it. When I was very young, my father admonished me never, but never, to yield to blackmail. He who pays a blackmailer once will continue to pay to his last day. A blackmailer never lets go of his victim.

(In the course of my life I have tried to adhere to this advice. My technique is this: when somebody tries to blackmail me, threatening to do me some harm, I imagine that he has already done so. This way, the threat loses its sting.)

AIPAC is blackmailing Obama, and until now it has been successful. It will go on doing so after November. Obama should face up to the idea and decide: no more.

Will he have the courage to do so? I don’t know. I hope.

Uri Avnery
May 29, 2010

Uri Avnery on the paradox of the Noam Chomsky affair

Hallelujah, the World is Against Us!

A LOCAL TV station told us this week about a group of Israelis who adhere to conspiracy theories.

They believe that George W. Bush planned the destruction of the Twin Towers in order to further his wicked aims. They believe that the big pharmaceutical corporations spread the swine flue virus in order to sell their worthless vaccines. They believe that Barack Obama is a secret agent of the military-industrial complex. They believe that fluoride is put into drinking water to sterilize men, in order to reduce mankind by exactly two billion. And so on.

I wonder that they have not yet uncovered the most nefarious conspiracy of all: the one perpetrated by the gang of anti-Semites who have taken control of the government of Israel and are using it to destroy the Jewish State.

PROOF? NOTHING easier. One has only to read the papers.

The Foreign Minister, for example. Who but a diabolic anti-Semite could have appointed Avigdor Lieberman, of all people, to this post? The job of a foreign minister is to make friends and convince world opinion that we are right. Lieberman is working hard and skillfully to get Israel hated by one and all.

Or the Minister of the Interior. He works from morning to night to shock human rights defenders and supply ammunition to the worst enemies of Israel. Recently, he prevented two babies from entering Israel because their father is gay. He prevents women from joining their husbands in Israel. He deports children of foreign workers, who are building the state.

Or the Chief of Staff. He persuaded the government to boycott the UN commission for the investigation of the “Cast Lead” operation, thus abandoning the field to the accusers of the IDF. And since the publication of its report, he has been orchestrating a worldwide defamation campaign against the Jewish Zionist judge, Richard Goldstone.

Now the IDF has announced its determination to block the flotilla that plans to bring symbolic supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip. That will ensure live TV coverage, with the whole world following the small ships and having their attention drawn to the vicious blockade imposed for years upon a million and a half human beings. The dream of every Israel-hater.

The conspiracy reached its climax this week, when Professor Noam Chomsky was denied entry into the West Bank.

THIS AFFAIR has no credible explanation except a vicious anti-Semitic plot.

In the beginning I thought that it was just the usual mixture of ignorance and folly. But I have come to the conclusion that it can’t be so. Even in our present government, stupidity cannot have reached such proportions.

Briefly, this is what happened: the 81-year old professor arrived at the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River on his way from Amman to Birzeit University near Ramallah, where he was to deliver two lectures about US policy. The Israeli authorities of course knew well in advance about his coming. A young official asked him some questions, contacted his superiors at the Interior Ministry, returned to ask some more questions, contacted his superiors again, and then stamped his passport with the words: “Entry Denied”.

And what were the questions? Why he does not lecture at an Israeli university. And why he has no Israeli passport.

The professor returned to Amman and delivered his lectures by video link. The incident was widely publicized all over the world, especially in the US. The Interior Ministry apologized half-heartedly, stating that the matter was not under its jurisdiction, that it was the responsibility of the military Coordinator for the (Occupied) Territories.

That is, of course, a mendacious excuse, since the ministry itself has recently denied entry to several personalities who profess sympathy with the Palestinians, including the most popular clown in Spain.

A PERSONAL memory of mine: a dozen years ago I took part in a heated public debate in London with Edward Said, the late Palestinian professor. He happened to mention that his friend, Noam Chomsky, was about to deliver a lecture at a local university.

I hastened there and saw the building surrounded by a dense crowd of young men and women. With great difficulty I pushed my way to the stairs which led up to the lecture hall, but was stopped by the ushers. I pleaded in vain that I was a friend of the lecturer and that I had come all the way from Israel just to hear him. They told me that even a needle could not be squeezed in. Such was his popularity even then.

Noam Chomsky is, perhaps, the most in-demand intellectual on earth. His reputation goes way beyond his academic specialty – linguistics – where he is considered a genius. He is the guru of millions around the planet. The world media treat him as a cerebral celebrity.

If so, what could have induced the Ministers of the Interior and/or Defense to hold this man for four hours and then send him back where he came from? Abysmal folly? Malice? Vengefulness? All of these? Or perhaps something else?

THIS AFFAIR has many wide-ranging implications.

First of all: it is a provocation against the Palestinian Authority, with whom Binyamin Netanyahu wants to have direct peace negotiations – or so he says. It’s like spitting in their face.

Chomsky arrived as a guest of Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who espouses non-violence and human rights. He came to give lectures at a Palestinian university.

How does that concern Israel? What Chutzpa is it to prevent Palestinian students from hearing a lecturer of their choosing?

And what does it tell us about Netanyahu’s perorations about “Two States for Two Peoples”? What kind of a Palestinian state is this supposed to be, if Israel can decide who is allowed to enter, and who not? Especially in light of the Israeli demand to control all the border crossing of the new state!

SECOND, ALL over the world a campaign is in full swing to boycott all Israeli universities. Not only the self-styled “University Institute” at the Ariel settlement, and not only Bar-Ilan University, which helped to set it up. All of them.

Several associations of academics in the UK and other countries have adopted resolutions to impose this boycott, and other groups oppose it. It is an ongoing battle.

The opponents of the boycott raise the flag of academic freedom. Where shall we be if we boycott researchers and thinkers because of their country of residence or opinions? The Italian writer Umberto Eco has written his colleagues an emotional letter against the boycott. I, too, oppose it.

And here comes the government of Israel and pulls the rug out from under our feet. No one suggests that Chomsky supports terrorism or is coming to spy. His entry was denied solely because of his views. This means that academic freedom is good only if it serves those who praise Israel, but is worth no more than a garlic’s skin (as we say in Hebrew) when it is used by somebody who objects to the policies of the Israeli government.

That is a direct help for the boycotteers. The more so since not a single Israel university or group of academics has raised its voice in protest.

THE ASSERTION that Chomsky is an enemy of Israel is ludicrous.

He bears an eminently Hebrew first name, and so does his daughter, Aviva, who accompanied him.

I met him for the first time in the 60s, when I visited him in his cramped quarters at MIT, one of the most respected academic institutions in the US and the world.

He spoke with some nostalgia about the kibbutz (Hazorea, of the leftist Zionist Hashomer Hatzair movement), where he had lived for a year in his youth. We exchanged opinions and agreed that the two-state idea was the only practical solution.

His first name was given to him by his parents, who were born in the Russian empire and emigrated to the US in their youth. The mother tongue of both was Yiddish, but they devoted their home to Hebrew culture, and Noam spoke Hebrew from early childhood. In the mental world of his youth, socialism and anarchism were mixed with Zionism. His doctoral thesis was about the Hebrew language.

I have been following his statements ever since. I never found any opposition to the existence of Israel. What I did find was sharp criticism of the Israeli government’s policies – the same criticism levied by the Israeli peace forces. But he is far more critical of the successive US administrations, whose policies he considers to be the mother of all evils.

When the two professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, published their revolutionary expose supporting the claim that Israel controls US policy through the Israel lobby, Chomsky contradicted them and argued that the reverse was true: that it is the US which exploits Israel for its imperialist designs, contrary to real Israeli interests.

As for myself, I believe that both theses are right. Chomsky’s assertion may be illustrated by the present American veto on a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, as well as the American intervention that prevents the Gilad Shalit prisoners’ swap.

So why, for God’s sake, was this man denied entry into the country?

I HAVE a theory which would explain everything.

For many centuries, the Jews were persecuted in Christian Europe. Anti-Semitism turned their life into hell. They fell victim to pogroms, mass expulsions, confinement in ghettos, oppressive edicts and discriminatory laws. In the course of time, they developed mental and practical defense mechanisms, methods of survival and routes of escape.

Since the Holocaust, the situation has changed radically. In the US the Jews now live in a paradise unparalleled since the Golden Age in Muslim Spain. When the State of Israel came into being, it attracted world-wide admiration and sympathy.

That was wonderful, but below the surface of the national consciousness – if one may generalize – a sense of unease, of disorientation, set in. The tried and trusted defense mechanisms, which had given the Jews a feeling of orientation and awareness of lurking dangers, disintegrated. They felt that something was out of order, that the well-known road signs were not working anymore. When the Gentiles laud the Jews or are ready to make alliances with them, that is suspicious. Clearly, something sinister must be behind it. Things are not as we knew them. That’s frightening.

Since then, we have been working feverishly to bring the situation back to normal. Without being conscious of it, we do what we can to be hated again, to feel at home, on familiar ground.

If there is a conspiracy, it is a conspiracy of ourselves against ourselves. We shall not rest until the world is anti-Semitic again, and we know how to behave.

As the jolly song goes: “The entire world is against us, but what the hell…”

Uri Avnery
22.5.10