GEORGE ARIDA,, Dec 9, 2005

Despite appearances to the contrary, Ariel Sharon is one of the true constants of Israeli politics.

Although he remains uncompromising in his ideology and consistent in his methods, he periodically redefines his political identity to serve his underlying agenda.

This week the mainstream Western media carried characteristically misleading headlines of his latest bold initiative: “Sharon Bolts Likud to Form Centrist Party” and “Israel’s Sharon unleashes political earthquake.”

As absurd as it seems at first to see the word “centrist” to describe Sharon or his new party, on reflection it may be an accurate term after all, given the spectrum of Israeli mainstream politics.

The sad truth is that “mainstream” Israeli politics occupies a narrow space, and Sharon’s new identity as a “centrist” is a reflection of the disturbing state of the Israeli body politic rather than any sign of change in Sharon’s stripes.

The left-to-right spectrum in Israel ranges from a kinder and gentler vision of “separate and unequal” (Labor, Meretz and the mainstream “left”) to a “banish-or-kill-em-all” vision of ethnic and religious superiority disturbingly reminiscent of some of Europe’s and America’s darker moments (elements of Likud, National Union, the National Religious Party, Kach, etc.)

Sharon’s heart is in the latter camp. In a global sense, he sits in a place of prominence among heads of government in terms of his open bigotry, enthusiastic use of overwhelming violence and enforcement of a brutal form of apartheid against an entire society, not to mention his personal record of atrocities.

But he is a master political pragmatist. Nothing demonstrates this better than his removal of 8,000 illegal Jewish settlers from Gaza to consolidate the grip of 250,000 of those same settlers over much more valuable Palestinian West Bank land. His reincarnation as a “centrist” is the next step in breaking the shackles of ideologically-blinded Likud rivals like Benjamin Netanyahu, who still balk at giving up a mole hill to save a mountain.

More importantly, Sharon is taking a pre-emptive swipe at the new leader of the Labor Party, Amir Peretz. Having toppled the fossilized Shimon Peres on a stridently anti-settlement, pro-working class platform, Peretz promises to negotiate peace with Palestinian partners who Sharon has consistently claimed are nowhere to be found. With his roots in Likud’s traditional base — Israel’s “second-class,” non-European Jewish population — Peretz could be a real rival.

It remains to be seen whether Peretz represents something new in Israeli politics. But clearly, Sharon does not. One need only realize that on the day Sharon declared his new party, his government began a mass demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem to use up this year’s demolition budget. For the scores of Arab families now homeless in the cold, it was still politics as usual.

Arida is a co-founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Re Isthmus article on Camp Shalom

Kathy Walsh, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, December 5, 2005

Regarding Robert Ablove’s letter about the Isthmus article on Camp Shalom (“Ain’t Gonna Study War No More,” 9/2/05):
My daughter and I visited Israel/Palestine last winter. While we were there, there were no suicide/homicide bombings by Palestinians. But while we were there a 10 year old girl was shot and killed, and a 7 year old girl was injured. They were Palestinian schoolchildren in the yard of their UN school. The shots came from an Israeli sniper tower and were presumably fired by an Israeli soldier.  These are hardly isolated incidents.
I will refer to statistics posted by Remember These Children. Since September of 2000, 123 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians. During this time 704 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis, most by Israeli soldiers.  For 2005 the numbers are 7 Israeli children versus 57 Palestinian children killed. Since the publication of the article on Camp Shalom one Israeli child and 11 Palestinian children have been killed. I ask Robert Ablove who are the more succesful terrorists? Whose parents should be more afraid?

University of Wisconsin Regents Urged To Divest From Israel

Aaron Nathans,The Capital Times, November 11, 2005

Protesters packed a hearing Thursday on the University of Wisconsin’s investment portfolio, encouraging the Board of Regents to divest from Israel.

Many held Palestinian flags, as speaker after speaker called for the university to divest from companies that do business with the Israeli military. They argued, for example, that Caterpillar makes bulldozers that are used to knock down houses of families of suspected Palestinian terrorists. And Lockheed Martin supplies the Israeli Air Force.

“As a mother, my heart goes out to the mothers of Palestine,” said Rae Vogeler, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate. She brought along her 8-year-old son. “Do we want to be investing in machines that kill?”

But local supporters of Israel said the effort had nothing to do with changing its military, and was instead part of a sustained campaign on American campuses to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The UW Board of Regents’ Business and Finance Committee held its annual forum on trust funds at Grainger Hall, with committee members, as usual, sitting quietly at a table in front while members of the public said their piece. The event, usually a tepid and sparsely attended affair, is designed to allow people to comment on the university’s investment choices. About 70 attended on Thursday.

Occasionally, the Board of Regents has taken action, such as two years ago, when it briefly divested in Tyson Foods bonds to show solidarity with striking workers at the plant in Jefferson.

Mohammed Abed of the University of Wisconsin Divest From Israel Campaign said Israel should be the board’s next target. He said the Jewish peoples’ history of suffering does not justify keeping the Palestinian people down.

“Is it not substantial personal injury when a person’s home is demolished, and they have nowhere else to live?” Abed said. “People come along and say, why Israel? That is not the real question. The real question is, why not Israel?”

Ken Goldstein, a UW-Madison political science professor, was one of the few pro-Israel speakers to attend the event. He said everyone knows that the best solution is Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side. The Palestinians have yet to control their radical elements and take risks for peace, he said.

Referring to Vogeler, he said: “When a Palestinian mother loves her child as much as that woman loves her child, and does not encourage 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds to strap bombs onto their body and blow up Israeli -3, 4-, 5-year-olds at a pizzeria, then we’ll have a two-state solution,” Goldstein said.

“This terrorism is not about a two-state solution,” Goldstein said. “This is about driving the Israelis into the sea.”

On another topic, freshman Molly Glasgow said the university should divest from Abercrombie & Fitch because, she said, it has factories in nations where labor is treated unfairly.

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