The settlers’ retreat was the theatre of the cynical

There was no ‘sensitivity training’ when bulldozers went into Rafah

Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 19, 2005

Contrast the world’s overwhelming coverage, especially on television, of the departure of Israeli settlers from Gaza with the minimal reporting of larger and more brutal evictions in previous months.
There was no “sensitivity training” for Israeli troops, no buses to drive the expellees away, no generous deadlines to get ready, no compensation packages for their homes, and no promise of government-subsidised alternative housing when the bulldozers went into Rafah.

Within sight of the Gush Katif settlements that have been handled with such kid gloves this week, families in Rafah were usually given a maximum of five minutes’ warning before their houses, and life savings, were crushed. Many people did not even have time to go upstairs to collect belongings when the barking of loudspeakers ordered them out, sometimes before dawn. Fleeing with their children in the night, they risked being shot if they turned round or delayed.

As many as 13,350 Palestinians were made homeless in the Gaza Strip in the first 10 months of last year by Israel’s giant armour-plated Caterpillar bulldozers – a total that easily exceeds the 8,500 leaving Israeli settlements this week. In Rafah alone, according to figures from the UN relief agency Unrwa, the rate of house demolitions rose from 15 per month in 2002 to 77 per month between January and October 2004.

Parts of Rafah now resemble areas of Kabul or Grozny. Facing Israeli army watchtowers and the concrete wall that runs close to the Gaza Strip’s boundary, rows of rubble and ruined homes stretch for hundreds of yards.

The house where I stayed three years ago, which was then one row back from the frontline, has gone. So have three more lines of houses behind it, thanks to Israel’s remorseless policy of clearing the zone for “security” reasons even after Ariel Sharon announced his plan to leave Gaza.

Palestinians who visit the ruins or try to use one or two rooms that survived the onslaught risk their lives from Israeli bullets. A warning shot rang out as one homeowner took me on to his roof in broad daylight last month to survey the miserable scene. We quickly came down.

These cruel evictions have of course been reported, and some foreigners who tried to block or record them, such as Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller, paid with their lives alongside scores of murdered local Palestinians. But coverage was never as comprehensive or intense as this week’s removals of Israelis. Sharon wanted the world’s media to see the protracted agony of the settlers, so as to make the (spurious) point that if it is hard to get 8,500 to leave Gaza, getting 400,000 to withdraw from the West Bank and east Jerusalem will be impossible. However sincere the settlers’ grief is at leaving their homes, for the organisers of the retreat it was theatre of the cynical.

The exaggerated focus on the settlement evictions has some benefits. Those who claim, genuinely or dishonestly, that the world’s media are biased in favour of Palestinians had their argument collapse this week. TV viewers around the world have also been exposed to the ugly sight of rampant religious fundamentalism.

As they were dragged off, some Israeli zealots had no shame in minimising the Holocaust, absurdly comparing unarmed Israeli police to the Gestapo. Others used racist insults. “Jews do not expel Jews,” they shouted, presumably wanting to imply that only non-Jews do it. They apparently did not realise that most people will see the irony in terms of contemporary rather than historical events – “Jews do not expel Jews … Jews expel Arabs.”

Perhaps the ugliest part of the Israeli settlers’ behaviour was their corruption of youth, with parents instigating their children to wrap themselves in prayer shawls and sob or shriek defiance.
No one who spends time in Gaza’s Palestinian communities can avoid being saddened by the ubiquitous focus on the gun, which also diverts children from normal growing up. It appears on graffiti everywhere alongside the names and faces of those who died by violence, in suicide attacks or shot down by Israeli fire. Almost every teenage boy aspires to use a Kalashnikov or hand grenade. At a recent wedding, I saw a dancing mother twirl a rifle in both hands above her head like the baton of a majorette.

Trapped in their Israeli-enforced ghetto, Gazans can at least claim that this pervasive and corrupting militarism is the legacy of a decades-long national resistance movement to defend land that belongs to them. Islam is part of the mix, but religion follows the national flag. For many Israeli settlers in Gaza that dynamic was reversed. Religion was their driving force, and they had no individual or national right to the land on which they built their armed camps.

Israel’s worst practices from Gaza are likely to be transferred to the West Bank now. Controls over freedoms in the West Bank have been tightened relentlessly in recent years. More roads were closed. More checkpoints sprang up. Walls and fences were extended, in defiance of the international court of justice’s ruling that they are illegal. However, even with this creeping oppression, life in the West Bank is not yet as constricted as it was for those in Gaza.

That will probably change. Sharon – one of whose nicknames, appropriately, is Bulldozer – wants to expand the West Bank settlements and demolish more Palestinian homes around Jerusalem. Unless his strategy of unilateralism is blocked, evictions may reach Rafah-like proportions.

The break-up of the settlements will give those in Gaza freedom to move within their narrow enclave, but this benefit may be outweighed by the West Bank’s losses. One of the worst places in Gaza used to be the Abu Houli crossing, a tunnel for Palestinian vehicles that went under the road to the Israeli settlements of Gush Katif. At any moment Israeli Land Rovers or tanks would emerge to block the tunnel, leaving Palestinians stranded on what was the only road linking the north and south of Gaza. Pregnant mothers could not get to hospital. Relatives missed weddings. Students failed to reach their colleges to take exams.

Israel intends to build at least 16 gated crossings in the West Bank. It is one thing to have segregated roads – a step that America’s Deep South and apartheid South Africa never reached. But to insist on the right to block even those roads that are allocated to Palestinians is grotesque. The West Bank will be sliced into a series of ghettoes that Israeli forces can isolate at will. Whatever the security justification, the effect is to impose collective punishment on every Palestinian.

No one should be surprised if, in the face of such injustice, Palestinian anger and resistance grow.

Gaza Fiasco


The Shame of it All

Jennifer Loewenstein, ZNet, August 19, 2005

A great charade is taking place in front of the world media in the Gaza Strip. It is the staged evacuation of 8000 Jewish settlers from their illegal settlement homes, and it has been carefully designed to create imagery to support Israel’s US-backed takeover of the West Bank and cantonization of the Palestinians.

There was never the slightest reason for Israel to send in the army to remove these settlers. The entire operation could have been managed, without the melodrama necessary for a media frenzy, by providing them with a fixed date on which the IDF would withdraw from inside the Gaza Strip. A week before, all the settlers will quietly have left with no TV cameras, no weeping girls, no anguished soldiers, no commentators asking cloying questions of how Jews could remove other Jews from their homes, and no more trauma about their terrible suffering, the world’s victims, who therefore have to be helped to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank.

The settlers will relocate to other parts of Israel and in some cases to other illegal settlements in the West Bank ­handsomely compensated for their inconvenience. Indeed, each Jewish family leaving the Gaza Strip will receive between $140,000 and $400,000 just for the cost of the home they leave behind.

But these details are rarely mentioned in the tempest of reporting on the “great confrontation” and “historical moment” brought to us by Sharon and the thieving, murderous settler-culture he helped create.

On ABC’s Nightline Monday night, a reporter interviewed a young, sympathetic Israeli woman from the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim – a girl with sincerity in her voice, holding back tears. She doesn’t view the soldiers as her enemy, she says, and doesn’t want violence. She will leave even though to do so is causing her great pain.

She talked about the tree she planted in front of her home with her brother when she was three; about growing up in the house they were now leaving, the memories, and knowing she could never return; that even if she did, everything she knew would be gone from the scene.

The camera then panned to her elderly parents sitting somberly amid boxed-up goods, surveying the scene, looking forlorn and resigned. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, we are told. She knew just about all of the children who grew up here near the sea.

In the 5 years of Israel’s brutal suppression of the Palestinian uprising against the occupation, I never once saw or heard a segment as long and with as much sentimental, human detail as I did here; never once remember a reporter allowing a sympathetic young Palestinian woman, whose home was just bulldozed and who lost everything she owned, tell of her pain and sorrow, of her memories and her family’s memories; never got to listen to her reflect on where she would go now and how she would live.

And yet in Gaza alone more than 23,000 people have lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers and bombs since September 2000 — often at a moment’s notice on the grounds that they “threatened Israel’s security.”

The vast majority of the destroyed homes were located too close to an IDF military outpost or illegal settlement to be allowed to continue standing. The victims received no compensation for their losses and had no place waiting for them to relocate.

Most ended up in temporary UNRWA tent-cities until they could find shelter elsewhere in the densely overcrowded Strip, a quarter of whose best land was inhabited by the 1% of the population that was Jewish and occupying the land at their expense.

Where were the cameramen in May 2004 in Rafah when refugees twice over lost their homes again in a single night’s raid, able to retrieve nothing of what they owned?

Where were they when bulldozers and tanks tore up paved streets with steel blades, wrecked the sewage and water pipes, cut electricity lines, and demolished a park and a zoo; when snipers shot two children, a brother and sister, feeding their pigeons on the roof of their home? When the occupying army fired a tank shell into a group of peaceful demonstrators killing 14 of them including two children?

Where have they been for the past five years when the summer heat of Rafah makes life so unbearable it is all one can do to sit quietly in the shade of one’s corrugated tin roof — because s/he is forbidden to go to the sea, ten minutes’ walking distance from the city center? Or because if they ventured to the more open spaces they became walking human targets? And when their citizens resisted, where were the accolades and the admiring media to comment on the “pluck,” the “will” and “audacity” of these “young people”?

On Tuesday, 16 August, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that more than 900 journalists from Israel and around the world are covering the events in Gaza, and that hundreds of others are in cities and towns in Israel to cover local reactions.

Were there ever that many journalists in one place during the past 5 years to cover the Palestinian Intifada?

Where were the 900 international journalists in April 2002 after the Jenin refugee camp was laid to waste in the matter of a week in a show of pure Israeli hubris and sadism?

Where were the 900 international journalists last fall when the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza lay under an Israeli siege and more than 100 civilians were killed? Where were they for five years while the entire physical infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was being destroyed?

Which one of them reported that every crime of the Israeli occupation ­ from home demolitions, targeted assassinations and total closures to the murder of civilians and the wanton destruction of commercial and public property- increased significantly in Gaza after Sharon’s “Disengagement” Plan – that great step toward peace – was announced?

Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be covering the many non-violent protests by Palestinians and Israelis against the Apartheid Wall?

Non-violent protesters met with violence and humiliation by Israeli armed forces? Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be reporting on the economic and geographic encirclement of Palestinian East Jerusalem and of the bisection of the West Bank and the subdivision of each region into dozens of isolated mini-prisons?

Why aren’t we being barraged by outraged reports about the Jewish-only bypass roads? About the hundreds of pointless internal checkpoints? About the countless untried executions and maimings? About the torture and abuse of Palestinians in Israeli prisons?

Where were these hundreds of journalists when each of the 680 Palestinian children shot to death by Israeli soldiers over the last 5 years was laid to rest by grief-stricken family members? The shame of it all defies words.

Now instead report after report announces the “end to the 38 year old occupation” of the Gaza Strip, a “turning point for peace” and the news that “it is now illegal for Israelis to live in Gaza.” Is this some kind of joke?

Yes, it is “illegal for Israelis to live in the Gaza Strip” as colonizers from another land. It has been illegal for 38 years. (If they wish to move there and live as equals with the Palestinians and not as Israeli citizens they may do so.)

Sharon’s unilateral “Disengagement” plan is not ending the occupation of Gaza.

The Israelis are not relinquishing control over the Strip.

They are retaining control of all land, air and sea borders including the Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza/Egypt border where the Egyptians may be allowed to patrol under Israel’s watchful eye and according to Israel’s strictest terms. The 1.4 million inhabitants of Gaza remain prisoners in a giant penal colony, despite what their partisan leaders are attempting to claim.

The IDF is merely redeploying outside the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded by electrical and concrete fences, barbed wire, watchtowers, armed guards and motion censors, and it will retain the authority to invade Gaza on a whim. Eight thousand Palestinian workers working in Israel for slave wages will soon be banned from returning to work.

Another 3,200 Palestinians who worked in the settlements for a sub-minimum-wage have been summarily dismissed without recourse to severance pay or other forms of compensation.

Still others will lose their livelihoods when the Israelis move the Gaza Industrial Zone from Erez to somewhere in the Negev desert.

The World Bank reported in December 2004 that both poverty and unemployment will rise following the “Disengagement” even under the best of circumstances because Israel will retain full control over the movement of goods in and out of Gaza, will maintain an enforced separation of the West Bank and Gaza preventing the residents of each from visiting one another, and will draw up separate customs agreements with each zone severing their already shattered economies– and yet we are forced to listen day in and day out to news about this historic peace initiative, this great turning point in the career of Ariel Sharon, this story of national trauma for the brothers and sisters who have had to carry out the painful orders of their wise and besieged leader.

What will it take to get the truth across to people? To the young woman of Neve Dekalim who can speak her words without batting an eyelash of embarrassment or shame?

As the cameras zoom in on angry settlers poignantly clashing with their “brothers and sisters” in the Israeli army, who will be concerned about their other brothers and sisters in Gaza?

When will the Palestinian history of 1948 and 1967, and of each passing day under the violence of dispossession and dehumanization, get a headline in our papers?

I am reminded of an interview I had this summer in Beirut with Hussein Nabulsi of Hizbullah ­ an organization that has had nothing to do with the movement for Palestinian national liberation whatsoever, but one that has become allied with those it sees as the real victims of US and Israeli policies and lies.

I remember his tightly shut eyes and his clenched fists as he asked how long Arabs and Muslims were supposed to accept the accusations that they are the victimizers and the terrorists. “It hurts,” he said in a whispered ardor. “It hurts so much to watch this injustice every day.” And he went on to explain to me why the Americans and the Israelis ­ with their monstrous military arsenals ­ will never be victorious.

Jennifer Loewenstein will be a visiting Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University beginning this fall. She can be reached: amadea311 at earthlink.net

The Shame of It All

Jennifer Loewenstein, CounterPunch, August 17, 2005

A great charade is taking place in front of the world media in the Gaza Strip. It is the staged evacuation of 8000 Jewish settlers from their illegal settlement homes, and it has been carefully designed to create imagery to support Israel’s US-backed takeover of the West Bank and cantonization of the Palestinians.

There was never the slightest reason for Israel to send in the army to remove these settlers. The entire operation could have been managed, without the melodrama necessary for a media frenzy, by providing them with a fixed date on which the IDF would withdraw from inside the Gaza Strip. A week before, all the settlers will quietly have left ­with no TV cameras, no weeping girls, no anguished soldiers, no commentators asking cloying questions of how Jews could remove other Jews from their homes, and no more trauma about their terrible suffering, the world’s victims, who therefore have to be helped to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank.

The settlers will relocate to other parts of Israel ­ and in some cases to other illegal settlements in the West Bank ­handsomely compensated for their inconvenience. Indeed, each Jewish family leaving the Gaza Strip will receive between $140,000 and $400,000 just for the cost of the home they leave behind. But these details are rarely mentioned in the tempest of reporting on the “great confrontation” and “historical moment” brought to us by Sharon and the thieving, murderous settler-culture he helped create.

On ABC’s Nightline Monday night, a reporter interviewed a young, sympathetic Israeli woman from the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim – a girl with sincerity in her voice, holding back tears. She doesn’t view the soldiers as her enemy, she says, and doesn’t want violence. She will leave even though to do so is causing her great pain. She talked about the tree she planted in front of her home with her brother when she was three; about growing up in the house they were now leaving, the memories, and knowing she could never return; that even if she did, everything she knew would be gone from the scene. The camera then panned to her elderly parents sitting somberly amid boxed-up goods, surveying the scene, looking forlorn and resigned. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, we are told. She knew just about all of the children who grew up here near the sea.

In the 5 years of Israel’s brutal suppression of the Palestinian uprising against the occupation, I never once saw or heard a segment as long and with as much sentimental, human detail as I did here; never once remember a reporter allowing a sympathetic young Palestinian woman, whose home was just bulldozed and who lost everything she owned, tell of her pain and sorrow, of her memories and her family’s memories; never got to listen to her reflect on where she would go now and how she would live. And yet in Gaza alone more than 23,000 people have lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers and bombs since September 2000 — often at a moment’s notice ­ on the grounds that they “threatened Israel’s security.” The vast majority of the destroyed homes were located too close to an IDF military outpost or illegal settlement to be allowed to continue standing. The victims received no compensation for their losses and had no place waiting for them to relocate. Most ended up in temporary UNRWA tent-cities until they could find shelter elsewhere in the densely overcrowded Strip, a quarter of whose best land was inhabited by the 1% of the population that was Jewish and occupying the land at their expense.

Where were the cameramen in May 2004 in Rafah when refugees twice over lost their homes again in a single night’s raid, able to retrieve nothing of what they owned? Where were they when bulldozers and tanks tore up paved streets with steel blades, wrecked the sewage and water pipes, cut electricity lines, and demolished a park and a zoo; when snipers shot two children, a brother and sister, feeding their pigeons on the roof of their home? When the occupying army fired a tank shell into a group of peaceful demonstrators killing 14 of them including two children? Where have they been for the past five years when the summer heat of Rafah makes life so unbearable it is all one can do to sit quietly in the shade of one’s corrugated tin roof — because s/he is forbidden to go to the sea, ten minutes’ walking distance from the city center? Or because if they ventured to the more open spaces they became walking human targets? And when their citizens resisted, where were the accolades and the admiring media to comment on the “pluck,” the “will” and “audacity” of these “young people”?

On Tuesday, 16 August, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that more than 900 journalists from Israel and around the world are covering the events in Gaza, and that hundreds of others are in cities and towns in Israel to cover local reactions. Were there ever that many journalists in one place during the past 5 years to cover the Palestinian Intifada?

Where were the 900 international journalists in April 2002 after the Jenin refugee camp was laid to waste in the matter of a week in a show of pure Israeli hubris and sadism? Where were the 900 international journalists last fall when the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza lay under an Israeli siege and more than 100 civilians were killed? Where were they for five years while the entire physical infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was being destroyed? Which one of them reported that every crime of the Israeli occupation ­ from home demolitions, targeted assassinations and total closures to the murder of civilians and the wanton destruction of commercial and public property- increased significantly in Gaza after Sharon’s “Disengagement” Plan – that great step toward peace – was announced?

Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be covering the many non-violent protests by Palestinians and Israelis against the Apartheid Wall? ­Non-violent protesters met with violence and humiliation by Israeli armed forces? Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be reporting on the economic and geographic encirclement of Palestinian East Jerusalem and of the bisection of the West Bank and the subdivision of each region into dozens of isolated mini-prisons? Why aren’t we being barraged by outraged reports about the Jewish-only bypass roads? About the hundreds of pointless internal checkpoints? About the countless untried executions and maimings? About the torture and abuse of Palestinians in Israeli prisons?

Where were these hundreds of journalists when each of the 680 Palestinian children shot to death by Israeli soldiers over the last 5 years was laid to rest by grief-stricken family members? The shame of it all defies words.
Now instead report after report announces the “end to the 38 year old occupation” of the Gaza Strip, a “turning point for peace” and the news that “it is now illegal for Israelis to live in Gaza.” Is this some kind of joke?
Yes, it is “illegal for Israelis to live in the Gaza Strip” as colonizers from another land. It has been illegal for 38 years. (If they wish to move there and live as equals with the Palestinians and not as Israeli citizens they may do so.)

Sharon’s unilateral “Disengagement” plan is not ending the occupation of Gaza. The Israelis are not relinquishing control over the Strip. They are retaining control of all land, air and sea borders including the Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza/Egypt border where the Egyptians may be allowed to patrol under Israel’s watchful eye and according to Israel’s strictest terms. The 1.4 million inhabitants of Gaza remain prisoners in a giant penal colony, despite what their partisan leaders are attempting to claim. The IDF is merely redeploying outside the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded by electrical and concrete fences, barbed wire, watchtowers, armed guards and motion censors, and it will retain the authority to invade Gaza on a whim. Eight thousand Palestinian workers working in Israel for slave wages will soon be banned from returning to work. Another 3,200 Palestinians who worked in the settlements for a sub-minimum-wage have been summarily dismissed without recourse to severance pay or other forms of compensation. Still others will lose their livelihoods when the Israelis move the Gaza Industrial Zone from Erez to somewhere in the Negev desert.

The World Bank reported in December 2004 that both poverty and unemployment will rise following the “Disengagement” even under the best of circumstances because Israel will retain full control over the movement of goods in and out of Gaza, will maintain an enforced separation of the West Bank and Gaza preventing the residents of each from visiting one another, and will draw up separate customs agreements with each zone severing their already shattered economies– and yet we are forced to listen day in and day out to news about this historic peace initiative, this great turning point in the career of Ariel Sharon, this story of national trauma for the brothers and sisters who have had to carry out the painful orders of their wise and besieged leader.

What will it take to get the truth across to people? To the young woman of Neve Dekalim who can speak her words without batting an eyelash of embarrassment or shame? As the cameras zoom in on angry settlers poignantly clashing with their “brothers and sisters” in the Israeli army, who will be concerned about their other brothers and sisters in Gaza? When will the Palestinian history of 1948 and 1967, and of each passing day under the violence of dispossession and dehumanization, get a headline in our papers?

I am reminded of an interview I had this summer in Beirut with Hussein Nabulsi of Hizbullah ­ an organization that has had nothing to do with the movement for Palestinian national liberation whatsoever, but one that has become allied with those it sees as the real victims of US and Israeli policies and lies. I remember his tightly shut eyes and his clenched fists as he asked how long Arabs and Muslims were supposed to accept the accusations that they are the victimizers and the terrorists. “It hurts,” he said in a whispered ardor. “It hurts so much to watch this injustice every day.” And he went on to explain to me why the Americans and the Israelis ­ with their monstrous military arsenals ­ will never be victorious.

JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN will be a viisiting Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University beginning this fall. She can be reached at: amadea311 [at] earthlink.net
 

Amira Hass: Khan Yunis / No Compensation for Arabs Losing Their Jobs in Katif

Amira Hass, Haaretz, 14 Aug 2005

Today is Omar’s last day of work for his employer in one of the religious settlements of Gush Katif. He will finish what he began a week ago: packing up the contents of the house and dismantling whatever can be dismantled. “I asked my boss if he would give me something from his house, as a gift,” the 29-year-old says without embarrassment. As someone who has to support his wife and two children, along with the households of his unemployed brothers and as someone who almost daily crossed over from crowded Khan Yunis, with its dowdy concrete houses pockmarked by shelling and bullets to the spacious settlement surrounded by greenery, he is not ashamed to expect a present from the man he has worked for since 1996.

Some employers, he says, gave their workmen a gift: a refrigerator, a fan, or NIS 150-200. But his boss told him he cannot give gifts and is selling whatever he cannot take to his new home.

Bidding farewell to his boss is not difficult for Omar; they had not forged a particularly affectionate tie and Omar says the same is true for most Palestinian laborers in the settlements. He does lament the loss of income and the reality of almost certain unemployment.

Some 3,200 Palestinians worked in Gaza Strip settlements in July, but neither the state nor their employers is compensating them for losing their jobs. The Evacuation Compensation Law passed by the Knesset provides two benefits for people whose job is terminated by the evacuation: a monthly adjustment payment for a former employee or business owner, and the right to quit yet be eligible for severence pay. But the new law specifically grants these benefits to Israelis only.

Asked his opinion of the discriminatory law, Omar laughed. “We never received our basic rights as workers. Not minimum wage, not vacation, not sick leave. So should we be surprised that the Israeli Knesset did not pass a law that would compensate us too?” he says during a meeting in Gaza with him and two other laborers from Khan Yunis at the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Workers’ Rights.

Omar began working for his boss nine years ago for NIS 32 a day. In July 2005 his daily wages were NIS 50. His friend Khaled makes NIS 45 for an eight-hour day’s work. The hourly minimum wage in Israel is NIS 17.93, or almost NIS 145 per day. Omar, who is active in an independent workers committee that was founded in the Gaza Strip this year, says the maximum paid to Palestinian workers there was NIS 60 per day. An Israeli who spent a lot of time in Gush Katif in recent months heard from employers that the daily wage is between NIS 40-80.

K., a secular Gush Katif farmer, employed in his greenhouses some 20 Palestinians, four Nepalese and three Israelis who lived outside Gush Katif. A week ago, as the conversation with him was taking place, the Palestinian laborers were dismantling his house and greenhouses. The veterans among them had been in his employ 14 years. Asked whether he would give his workers severence pay, he said: “I’m supposed to compensate the workers, but who is supposed to compensate me? We’re not really compensated for what we’re losing. I didn’t fire them, the state fired them, let the state pay them. Why didn’t it think about that?”

K. insists his Palestinian workmen made NIS 2,800 a month, and up to NIS 3,200 with overtime. Informed that this was much more than other Gush Katif employers pay, he replied: “Minimum wage doesn’t apply here. Palestinians in the Strip have no work rights. I pay more because I have long-standing laborers.” (Omar said in response that he has never heard of a Palestinian earning a basic salary of NIS 2,800 in Gush Katif).

Yossi Tzarfati, who heads the Agricultural Committee of Gush Katif, could not say whether employers are giving or will give their Palestinian laborers dismissal letters – so they can receive severence pay. He also did not know how much Palestinians earn because that is “an individual matter between employers and workers.” He did say that the Palestinians “are not part of the minimum wage.”

But the minimum wage requirement does apply to Israeli employers in the occupied territories with Palestinian workers. Back in 1982, a GOC Command order was issued in the territories stipulating that “a person employed in a community [an Israeli settlement – A.H.] is entitled to receive wages from his employer that do not fall short of the minimum wage and will also be entitled to cost of living adjustment, all as updated in Israel from time to time.” The Civil Administration is supposed to oversee and enforce that order, but the office of the Government Coordinator in the Territories (to which the Civil Administration is subordinate) stated that “so far, we know of no complaints filed about the lack of enforcement of this order.”

Indeed, Omar and his friends have not complained officially that the wages they get in the settlements are almost a third of the obligatory minimum wage. Low income and high unemployment in the Gaza Strip, particularly in the past five years, have shielded employers from complaints and let the Civil Administration off the hook. Now Omar is troubled by a more pressing problem: he knows about a dozen laborers whose employers have already left, without paying them wages for the past week or two. Now they have no way of locating their bosses to get at least those few hundred shekels.

Message from Bertrand Russell

to the International Conference of Parlimentarians
Cairo, February 1970

The New York Times, February 23, 1970

“The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was ‘given’ by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless.

With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict.

No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East”.

Bertrand Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel laureate.

Goodbye to Gaza


But it is still Israel that can do most to improve the economic lot of the Palestinians: not only in Gaza, where it will continue to control the flow of people and goods across the border, but also in the West Bank, which despite the ceasefire remains under a harsh regime of closures and roadblocks.

 
The Economist, Aug 11th, 2005
 
CUI BONO (who benefits?) is said to be a helpful question to ask when you are trying to unravel a mystery. Yet it does not tell you much about why Ariel Sharon intends next week to start pulling all of Israel’s settlers and soldiers out of the Gaza strip, which it has occupied for more than a generation, since the war of 1967. Some Palestinians say that only Israel will benefit. Some Israelis say that only Palestinians will benefit. The true answer in this case is that who benefits depends almost entirely on what happens next — and nobody has much of a clue about what is going to happen next.
 
What it isn’t
 
Mr Sharon’s “disengagement” plan is a mystery because of what it is not. It is not the product of a peace agreement. Instead of land for peace — the principle under which Israel returned Sinai to Egypt in
1982 — Israel is quitting Gaza pretty much unilaterally, after minimal co-ordination with the Palestinians, and with no firm promise that their ferocious intifada will not erupt again the moment the settlers
have gone. Nor is the plan necessarily a step towards an independent Palestinian state, since it includes only a token withdrawal from the much bigger West Bank, which would have to be the heart of any
Palestine worth the name. So just as the Israelis cannot be sure that the intifada won’t resume, the Palestinians cannot be sure that Mr Sharon does not intend after leaving Gaza to sit tight everywhere
else (see article).
 
Oddly enough, given that this is an Israeli initiative, the only people who in the short run are almost certain to benefit are the Gaza strip’s 1.3m Palestinians. Israel’s 8,000 or so settlers have occupied more than a fifth of the scarce land in the strip. During the intifada, protecting the settlers required Israel to keep military forces in Gaza, who killed plenty of innocent civilians while fighting Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers. So even if Israel’s departure is not followed — as it should be — by massive economic help, the departure of all Israel’s settlers and soldiers will improve life in the strip.
 
What does Israel stand to gain? Nothing at all, cry Mr Sharon’s many detractors at home. Binyamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who resigned this week as Mr Sharon’s finance minister, speaks for most of Israel’s Likud party when he foresees nothing but negatives. Even Israelis who support the principle of land for peace are troubled about giving up land with no peace deal in return. They say that this will embolden the Palestinians’ men of violence, who already boast that it was their attacks that made Israel flee, and who will now use both Gaza and the West Bank as a haven from which to launch more
rockets and suicide bombers into Israel proper.
 
What may happen next is therefore that the conflict will revert to its previous stalemate. The Palestinians will resume their attacks, asking how else they can throw off the occupier. Israel will say that it cannot give up more land until the Palestinians give up terrorism. It will be back to square one — except that Israel will have surrendered the square called Gaza. But in that event not even the
Palestinians will benefit much, because if the intifada does resume Mr Sharon will send Israel’s tanks and helicopters straight back in — unencumbered this time by the complication of protecting the settlers.
 
After decades of false dawns, those who expect little from the Gaza disengagement have experience on their side. That may include its architect. For all anyone can tell, Mr Sharon’s true aim is to fight
on from shorter lines, having earned credit with America by sacrificing Israel’s most dispensable settlements, all for the sake of holding tighter to the big ones in the West Bank. Sitting tight will probably lose Mr Sharon the support of his Labour coalition partners, and so bring an early election, but few expect Labour to win it. The likely outcome — after diplomacy has been stalled by months of electioneering — is Likud again, under the tough Mr Sharon or the no less tough Mr Netanyahu, with little change in policy.
 
What it could be
 
Must it be like this? If disengagement is to be more than an interlude, the next big job after the settlers leave must be to prevent the war of attrition from resuming. In the “road map” which both Israel and the Palestinians have signed this is the job of the Palestinian Authority. But the PA was a feeble thing even before Yasser Arafat’s death last November, and Mahmoud Abbas, his successor, has neither the willpower nor the firepower to stop the extremists of Hamas from resuming the fight if they so choose. He
needs help — though it has to be help of the economic and political, rather than the military, sort.
 
Why economic? Mr Abbas may not be able to stop Hamas from resuming the intifada, but the Palestinian people can. And they would have a good reason to do so if the disengagement brought a big improvement
in their lives, which they believed a return to violence would jeopardise. Outsiders can help in this: James Wolfensohn, the former head of the World Bank, is trying to organise a post-disengagement dividend for Gaza. But it is still Israel that can do most to improve the economic lot of the Palestinians: not only in Gaza, where it will continue to control the flow of people and goods across the border, but also in the West Bank, which despite the ceasefire remains under a harsh regime of closures and roadblocks.
 
Beyond economics, the Palestinians need a “political horizon” — a believable promise that George Bush’s oft-enunciated “vision” of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank as well as Gaza is achievable without recourse to the gun. That state cannot come instantly: the two sides are farther apart today than they were when Bill Clinton’s peacemaking efforts collapsed in 2000, and trust each other less. But with America pushing, it should at least be possible to start a process, building first on self-government for Gaza and, in the West Bank, a settlement freeze followed by further withdrawals. Israelis and Palestinians are exhausted after five years of violence, and susceptible to pressure. Wary of failing as Mr Clinton did, distracted by Iraq, and reluctant to lean on Israel before it got out of Gaza, Mr Bush has kept his distance. The day after Mr Sharon pulls out must be the day that Mr Bush steps in.

 

Meanwhile, Israel grabs the rest of Jerusalem

Hind Khoury, The International Herald Tribune, AUGUST 11, 2005

JERUSALEM — After more than 38 years of its oppressive military occupation of the Gaza Strip, Israel will soon begin evacuating the few thousand settlers who have been denying freedom to more than a million Palestinians there. Israel has marketed the Gaza withdrawal as yet another historic opportunity to jump-start the peace process. But Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem indicate that Israel’s unilaterally imposed disengagement was never meant to start a peace process, but rather to end one.

As the world’s attention is diverted by scenes of the removal of settlers who had no right to be in Gaza in the first place, the real strategy behind disengagement is revealed by Israel’s aggressive moves to consolidate its occupation of Jerusalem’s eastern Palestinian sector.

At stake is the very basis of peace between Palestinians and Israelis – a negotiated two-state solution. Israel’s plan is to use “concessions” in Gaza to remove Jerusalem from the negotiation table. But without Jerusalem as a shared capital for Palestinians and Israelis, there is no two-state solution.

In violation of President George W. Bush’s May warning not to prejudice the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli cabinet recently approved a decision to complete Israel’s wall in East Jerusalem by the end of August, while the world’s attention is on the Gaza disengagement. The wall, which Israel is using to redefine Jerusalem’s borders, is being routed through occupied territory in such a way as to maximize the number of Palestinian Jerusalemites behind the wall, while maximizing the amount of Palestinian land on the “Israeli” side. About 55,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem will be effectively cut off from the their city, forced to access their schools, hospitals and even families through Israeli military gates which, as Palestinians know from experience, can be closed at a soldier’s whim.

These Palestinian Christians and Muslims will be denied free access to the holy sites in their own city. Already, Palestinian Christians and Muslims in the West Bank can no longer freely pray at the Old City’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher or the Noble Sanctuary (Haram al Sharif).

Difficulty in accessing their own city will cause Palestinian Jerusalemites to go deeper into the West Bank for educational, medical and religious services. Israel will then have a pretext – “insufficient links” to the city – for revoking their Jerusalem residency rights. To date, more than 6,500 Palestinians have lost their residency rights in the Jewish state’s unstated but measurable efforts to rid the Holy City of as many Christians and Muslims as possible.

Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in and around occupied East Jerusalem are increasingly common, with more than 50 homes destroyed so far this year. Sixty-four homes in a Palestinian neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Old City have demolition orders pending against them, even though the homes were built on privately owned Palestinian land. According to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, there are more than 10,000 outstanding demolition orders against Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem. Such orders are usually enforced without warning and in the middle of the night.

As the homes of Christians and Muslims are destroyed, new Israeli settlements in and around East Jerusalem continue to expand. A few months ago, Israel announced plans to build 3,500 Israeli housing units to the east of Jerusalem – in an area which would complete the encirclement of occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli settlements. The Israeli press announced recently the planned construction of 21 new Jewish homes in the heart of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. Muslims have no equal right to build homes in the Jewish Quarter.

Israel greedily insists on retaining control over the whole of Jerusalem, rejecting Palestinian compromises to share the city on equal terms. Indeed, Israel, as a Jewish state, rejects the very idea of a pluralistic Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is sacred to all three of the world’s monotheistic religions – it cannot be the monopoly of just one.

The Palestinian Authority remains committed to a two-state solution based on international law. However, negotiations require an Israeli partner and Israel, as the more powerful party, realizes it can impose its own agenda rather than negotiate a solution.

Israeli violations of U.S. policy and international law are annually funded by billions of dollars from the American taxpayer. Yet Israel repays American goodwill and financial support by adopting measures to which the United States is opposed and which risk destroying the very two-state solution to which President Bush is so publicly committed.

America has so far not been willing to hold Israel accountable. Such inaction reduces U.S. credibility and alienates potential friends, undermining efforts to defeat terrorism and to build Middle East democracy.

Hind Khoury is the Palestinian Authority’s minister of state for Jerusalem affairs.

No Peaceful Solution


Despite his innocent appearance, Avi Shlaim knows that he is a sort of enemy of the people, and even enjoys it with refined British enjoyment. And now he has come to Israel, armed with his book, “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.”

Meron Rapoport, Haaretz, Aug 11, 2005

After reading the 573 pages of the book, one can understand why Sharon and Livnat do not want Shlaim to be taught here: in very readable prose, based on facts, he surveys the history of Israel’s contacts with the Arab world from 1948 to 2000, and states decisively (“The job of the historian is to judge,” he says) that the Israeli story that Israel has always stretched out its hand to peace, but there was nobody to talk to – is groundless. The Arabs have repeatedly outstretched a hand to peace – says Shlaim – and Israel has always rejected it. Each time with a different excuse.

Among the new historians, Avi Shlaim is the most “classical.” Benny Morris began as a journalist with a conscience, served time in a military prison for refusal to serve in Lebanon, and from this starting-point, came to write the “new history” about the creation of the refugee problem. Ilan Pappe was an activist in the non-Zionist left even before he went to complete his doctoral studies at Oxford.

Shlaim did not come from a political background. He studied history at Cambridge so he could serve as a diplomat in the Israeli Foreign Service, a job chosen for him by his mother, who fell in love with the British Foreign Service when her family found refuge in the British Embassy in Baghdad during the anti-Jewish riots there in 1941.

Only after he had taught international relations for several years at the University of Reading (specializing in European issues), and only after moving to Oxford, did he begin to take an interest in the history of that country, Israel, where he had lived between the ages of five and 16, and where he did two-and-a-half years of military service. This interest began in no small part thanks to one student, whose doctoral thesis he read as an outside examiner. The name of the student was Ilan Pappe.

Chance brought the new historians together. In 1988, Simha Flapan published his book “The Birth of Israel: Myths and Reality,” Ilan Pappe published “Britain and the Arab-Israel Conflict, 1948-51,” Benny Morris published “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” and Shlaim published “Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine.” Shabtai Tevet, Ben-Gurion’s biographer, published in Haaretz a no-holds-barred attack on what he called “the new historians.” Benny Morris replied, and he and Ilan Pappe continued to fight that war, which quickly went beyond a simple academic debate.

But while Morris and Pappe were clashing here with the guardians of the “old history,” which claimed that the Palestinian refugees left of their own free will and that the Zionist movement was always peace-loving, Shlaim remained in England, continued to teach at Oxford, to publish articles and to write books about the Israeli-Arab conflict. “The Iron Wall” was published in Great Britain in 2000, and sold over 45,000 copies, a best-seller in academic terms. Since then it has been translated into four languages, first into Arabic and recently into Portuguese, in Brazil.

The book is being published in Hebrew only now, at the initiative of Yaakov Sharett, the son of Israel’s first foreign minister Moshe Sharett, who decided on his own to translate the book, and approached Aliyat Gag publishers with a completed manuscript. Shlaim had already approached five publishers in Israel asking them to translate the book, and was turned down. “Not interesting,” they told him. This is Shlaim’s first book to appear in Hebrew.

A life of luxury in Baghdad

Not only does Shlaim’s academic career differ from that of his friends, so does his biography. Pappe was born on the Carmel in Haifa, Morris was born in England. Shlaim was born in Baghdad in 1945, to a wealthy family with a magnificent three-story house and 10 servants, including a special servant who went to the market to do the shopping. His father was an importer of building materials, and hobnobbed with the heads of the Iraqi government, including then-prime minister Nuri Said.

“Most of the ministers were customers of ours,” says Shlaim. “They used to come to our house and order building materials for their houses. They never paid, but in return they ordered work for the government from us, and paid much more than necessary. That was corruption, but not brutal corruption, as with Saddam Hussein. That was an old Arab political culture, a culture of compromise.”

His mother was connected to the British government. Her father was the British army’s head interpreter in Iraq during World War II, two of her brothers served in British intelligence as interpreters, and received British citizenship. That helped them later on, when they wanted to leave Iraq.

Shlaim describes a home in which Judaism was not an important component of his parents’ identity. “Judaism was ritual,” he says. “My parents used to attend the synagogue once a year, at home we spoke Judeo-Arabic, we listened to Arabic music. Nor was Zionism important, my parents had no empathy for it. There were Zionist agents who tried to create propaganda, but it didn’t impress the Jewish elite and the middle class. There was no tradition of persecution or anti-Semitism in Iraq.”

The first pogrom took place in 1941, in Farhoud, in the context of the (pro-Nazi) Iraqi rebellion against British rule. The real problems began with Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, says Shlaim, when the harassment began. The climax came when a hand grenade was thrown into the central synagogue in Baghdad in 1951, “and from that day to this, there have been rumors that an Israeli agent tossed the grenade.”

And have you, as a historian, tried to check out these rumors?

“At the state archives, I asked for the file on Baghdad in 1950. Although by law these documents are already supposed to be released, they told me that the file was closed and that I couldn’t see it. An acquaintance of mine told me that he had examined the file, and that there was no Israeli involvement recorded in it. All those involved in bringing the Jews of Iraq to Israel – Shlomo Hillel, Mordechai Ben Porat – vigorously deny that there was such involvement.”

And what do you think?

“I don’t have enough tools as a historian. I only know that Sharett wrote in his diary, relating to the `stinking affair’ in Egypt (in which Israeli agents placed bombs in movie theaters in Cairo, to cause conflict between Egypt and Britain), that `there was a similar case in Iraq.’ He doesn’t explain, but Sharett apparently suspected that the Mossad had tossed the grenade.

“I think – I can’t prove it – that there was an understanding between the Iraqi government and the Israeli government. An understanding, not an agreement. Israel asked Iraq to let the Jews immigrate, the Iraqis said: We are not opposed, but the Jews are filling central positions here in the Iraqi economy, so Israel said: Leave the Jewish property in Iraq. That accords with the behavior of the Iraqi government. Immediately after the grenade was thrown, the Jews of Iraq started to panic, and then the government issued a law that any Iraqi – they wrote `Iraqi’ rather than `Jew’ specifically – who wanted to leave the country, could leave if he registered by a certain date, but would have to surrender his citizenship.

“Out of the 130,000 Jews in Iraq, 100,000 registered, including my father. And then, immediately afterward, a new law was issued, to the effect that any Iraqi who had given up his citizenship was giving up all his other rights, including property rights. My father was sure that he would have enough time to sell his property, but then it turned out that he had lost everything: a house and warehouses and merchandise worth half a million pounds sterling at the time. In the end, he was even forced to cross the border illegally on a mule, because he was the guarantor of the debts of another Jew who had disappeared. I, my mother and my sisters, with our British citizenship, left Iraq on a regular flight to Cyprus, and met up with my father in Israel.”

Then you in effect agree with the members of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, who say that the Jews were brought from the Arab countries to provide “raw material” to shore up Zionism in Israel?

“That theory is very convincing. We won the War of Independence and founded a state, but the number of inhabitants was very small, fewer than 1 million. For Ben-Gurion, the top priority was aliyah (immigration), and the large reservoir of Jews was no longer in Europe, but in the Arab countries. We are not refugees, nobody expelled us from Iraq, nobody told us that we were unwanted. But we are the victims of the Israeli-Arab conflict.”

He knows what nationalism is

Shlaim, five years old at the time, landed with his parents in Ramat Gan. His father managed to bring some money with him, and tried to do business here, but failed. “They cheated him. In Baghdad, if you gave a check and it bounced, you wouldn’t show your face again. Here it was a badge of honor,” says Shlaim. His mother, who hadn’t worked a day in her life, found work as a telephone operator in the Ramat Gan municipality. She acclimated, as did Shlaim and his sisters. They learned Hebrew quickly, although they continued to speak Arabic with their parents.

He was somewhat ashamed of his father, especially when he would call to him in Arabic in the street, but he didn’t dare to ask him not to speak Arabic to him in front of strangers. “He was a broken man, but he continued to dress and to behave like a respectable man, very polite, he didn’t interrupt and he was not aggressive,” says Shlaim. “He brought with him from Baghdad all the suits that his tailor had sewn for him from British fabric. He didn’t have any work, and he would go down to the street, in a suit and an ironed shirt and a tie, and go to the cafes to sit with his friends from Iraq, who also had no work, and also walked around in the street in their suits.”

And did you try to talk to him?

“He didn’t talk about Iraq, he was silent. Today I’m interested in his trauma and I’m interested in why he didn’t speak at the time. Maybe he spoke and I didn’t show any interest. Children, apparently, are not interested in history. He died in 1971.”

Quite a few Iraqi children were in Shlaim’s class in Ramat Gan, but the Ashkenazi children set the tone. “I didn’t encounter discrimination, and I didn’t feel deprived, but the atmosphere was that anything Ashkenazi was good, and anything Arab was primitive,” says Shlaim. “I felt I had accomplished something when I had Ashkenazi friends. I remember that one boy placed his hand on my shoulder and said to me: You’re my best friend. I was amazed that he didn’t feel that I was inferior.”

In the classroom, Shlaim sat in back, didn’t do homework, didn’t say a word. His grades were poor. To everyone’s surprise, he passed the seker, the test that was administered at the time in eighth grade, prior to the selection for high schools. His homeroom teacher was surprised too, and made sure to tell him so. “Her name was Miriam Glans, and she was a good teacher, of yekke (German Jewish) origin. But she was hostile. When I received the results of the seker, she came to me and said: `You know that you passed only because of special dispensations they give Mizrahim (Jews of North African or Middle Eastern origin).”

Were you insulted?

“I was insulted, but I didn’t say anything. She should have been happy, she shouldn’t have said that.”

This humiliation marked the beginning of Shlaim’s successful career. Two years later, to save him from the clutches of the high school that prophesied certain failure for him, Shlaim’s mother decided to send him to England, to her brother who had immigrated there after leaving Iraq. Shlaim arrived in London in 1962 at the age of 16, studied in a Jewish school, and no longer felt like a foreigner. Just the opposite. The fact that he came from Israel turned him into a star, an attraction. He completed high school with high grades, returned to Israel to serve in the army, and even now recalls his swearing-in ceremony during basic training.

“It was in the Judean Hills, and the slogan was `In blood and fire Judea fell, in blood and fire it will rise.’ I remember that I had the feeling that we were surrounded by enemies and that I was ready to die for the homeland. Today that helps me as a researcher. I know what nationalism is. I have felt it inside me.”

After the army he returned to study history at Cambridge, married a great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, who was the British prime minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration, returned to Israel to be accepted into the Israeli Foreign Service, but then was informed that he had received a position as a reader at the University of Reading’s department of international relations. In 1987 he was appointed a professor at Oxford, where he is a Fellow at the prestigious St. Anthony’s College. And as far as is known, he achieved all that without special dispensations for Mizrahim.

I didn’t feel ashamed, but I was astonished

At the start of his academic career, says Shlaim, he made a deliberate decision not to deal with the Middle East conflict. Slowly but surely, however, he was pulled into it. An article here, an article there. In 1982 he came to Israel with a stipend to write a study on the influence of the Israel Defense Forces on Israeli foreign policy. Just then the archives dealing with the 1948 war were opened, and Shlaim found himself sitting in the State Archive for days on end. “Then my eyes were opened,” he says. “I had the knowledge acquired in childhood, and I believed in Israel’s purity of arms, I believed that Israel was the victim. I discovered documents that showed me other things.”

Benny Morris once told me that when he found a document that proved an act of massacre or murder, he was happy about the historical discovery, but felt shame as an Israeli. What did you feel?

“I didn’t sit in the IDF archive and I wasn’t exposed to documents about acts of murder or rape. I worked with diplomatic papers. I didn’t feel shame, but I was astonished. I knew that in every country there’s a gap between rhetoric and practice, but I don’t know of any country where the gap is as great as in Israel. All the leaders speak about peace, Golda Meir used to say that she was willing to travel anywhere in the world to make peace. But these were not truthful words. In the archive, in the Israeli papers, I found that all the Arab leaders were practical people, people who wanted peace.

“Take, for example, Hosni Zaim (the Syrian chief of staff who took over the government in 1949 and was deposed a few months later – M.R.). He said that his ambition was to be the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel. He proposed an exchange of ambassadors, agreed to absorb a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in Syria, but demanded that the border pass through the middle of Lake Kinneret. He didn’t issue any ultimatum about the rest of the refugees. I was astonished by the Israeli reaction. Ben-Gurion said: First we’ll sign a cease-fire agreement with Syria, then we’ll see. That destroyed my childhood version. It’s not that Ben-Gurion didn’t want peace, he wanted peace, but on the basis of the status quo. Israel said at the time that there was nobody to talk to. The truth is that Israel was actually saying that there was nothing to talk about.”

Based on this statement, which took shape among the shelves of the State Archive in Jerusalem, Shlaim wrote his book “Collusion in Transjordan,” which was published the same year as the books by Morris, Pappe and Flapan, those same famous – or infamous – “new historians,” depending on the eye of the beholder.

In an article by Shlaim a few years ago, he summarized what seemed to him the five main arguments of the new historians:

* The official version said that Britain tried to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state; the “new historians” claimed that it tried to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state

* The official version said that the Palestinians fled their homes of their own free will; the “new historians” said that the refugees were chased out or expelled

* The official version said that the balance of power was in favor of the Arabs; the “new historians” said that Israel had the advantage both in manpower and in arms

* The official version said that the Arabs had a coordinated plan to destroy Israel; the “new historians” said that the Arabs were divided

* The official version said that Arab intransigence prevented peace; the “new historians” said that Israel is primarily to blame for the dead end.

This group has meanwhile disintegrated. Morris’ ideological revolution after the outbreak of the second intifada, during which he in effect justified the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948, distanced him from Shlaim. “He went off his rocker, and expressed racist views,” says Shlaim. “That undermines him as a scholar.”

In Shlaim’s opinion, Pappe made a mistake by politically defending the research of Teddy Katz about the massacre in Tantura, and made an even bigger mistake when he supported the academic boycott of Israel. “That is a totally stupid and absurd idea,” he says. “Under no circumstances am I willing to support an embargo on dialogue.” He maintains good personal relations, by the way, with both of them.

From the start, Shlaim was interested in the last of the five points discussed by the new historians: He was interested in the history of the dead end in the relations between Israel and the Arab world. “The Iron Wall” is an abridged history of this dead end. The book took its name from the famous article published by revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky in 1923. “Their voluntary agreement is out of the question …,” wrote Jabotinsky in that article. “This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall that the native population cannot break through.”

Jabotinsky was in the minority at the time, Mapai (the forerunner of the Labor Party) was in the majority, and Ben-Gurion disdained Jabotinsky. But in effect, claims Shlaim, Ben-Gurion and the Zionist movement, and the State of Israel in its wake, adopted the theory of the “iron wall.” In other words, they believed that the only important thing was to “establish facts on the ground,” and therefore, there was no point in entering negotiations with the Arabs. They only forgot the end of Jabotinsky’s article, remarks Shlaim, where he said that after the Arabs had come to terms with the “iron wall,” it would be possible to speak to them about mutual concessions.

According to Shlaim, the first 10 years of the State of Israel prove this argument. King Farouk of Egypt wanted an agreement, and Israel rebuffed him. King Abdullah of Jordan wanted an agreement, and Israel rebuffed him as well. We have already mentioned Zaim of Syria. Even the archenemy Nasser, writes Shlaim in one of the surprising revelations of the book, sent emissaries and even a personal letter to then-prime minister Sharett, to put out feelers for an agreement. He was also turned down out of hand.

The book gives a clear sense of a state that could not get enough. Moshe Dayan, then chief of staff, pressed for war with Egypt to capture the Gaza Strip and Sharm el-Sheikh, and “raised a suggestion” to capture the West Bank. Yigal Allon pressed for remedying the “long-term mistake” made in 1948, by capturing and annexing the West Bank. Ben-Gurion toyed with this idea and once with another idea; in 1956, a moment before the Sinai Campaign, he explained his great dream to his new friends from France: Israel would occupy the Sinai Peninsula, take over the West Bank and dismantle the Kingdom of Jordan, and reach the Litani River in Lebanon, establishing a Maronite state in northern Lebanon. The entire Israeli leadership (with the exception of Moshe Sharett), says Shlaim, adopted the idea of the “iron wall.” The only argument was about where to place it.

Every meeting is important

Mordechai (“Moraleh”) Bar-On was there when Ben-Gurion revealed his “grand plan” in the Sevres Palace near Paris. He was then serving as the head of Dayan’s office, and was involved in many secret and non-secret contacts. Today he himself is a historian, as well as a personal friend of Shlaim. We are sitting on the balcony of Bar-On’s home in Jerusalem’s German Colony, the bastion of the Israeli elite, a place to which Shlaim never belonged, and discussing what happened.

Bar-On was active in Peace Now, and he does not really have any argument with Shlaim as to the facts. He has a serious disagreement with him regarding Shlaim’s interpretation of them. It’s true that Israel rejected all the Arab proposals, he says, and it’s true that up until May 1967, the Arabs had no real plan to attack Israel. But the Arab proposals were unacceptable, and the war was unavoidable, because the Arabs could not forget what the Israelis had done to them in 1948.

Bar-On remembers Ben-Gurion’s “grand plan” speech. “I was embarrassed when I heard it, it sounded like a text from the Versailles Conference,” he says. But he admits that thoughts of expansion, at least in the direction of Egypt, were very common in the 1950s. “It’s true that from 1955 on, Dayan pressed for war with Egypt. He begged the Old Man [Ben-Gurion] to embark on `a war of deterrence,’ and the Old Man didn’t agree. In December 1955, Dayan met with 50 officers and asked them who supported a war of deterrence. All of them, with one exception, voted in favor. Dayan didn’t receive permission from Ben-Gurion to embark on a war of choice, but he did get permission to cause the situation to deteriorate. In one of the retaliation operations in the demilitarized area in Nitzana, he wanted to leave the forces in place until morning, in the hope that Egypt would attack.”

In the end, Ben-Gurion ordered him to withdraw the forces and Dayan gave in. Bar-On admits that Dayan wanted to get Egypt out of the Gaza Strip and create a strip from El Arish to Sharm el-Sheikh under Israeli control. “That was territorial expansion,” says Bar-On, “but it stemmed from what Dayan saw as Israel’s strategic weakness. There was no ideological issue here.”

Shlaim, on the other hand, considers Dayan and Ben-Gurion the source of all evil. Ben-Gurion was a wicked man, Dayan thought in terms of a perpetual conflict. Sharett was the only one who tried to fight them. He represented another school, a school that believed that dialogue with the Arabs was possible, that what Israel did, and even what Israel said, affected the dynamics of the conflict. “I think that there were two schools,” says Shlaim, “and when Ben-Gurion dismissed Sharett in 1956, he destroyed the moderate school, and it was never revived. That school had no leader, Abba Eban didn’t count.”

Nonsense, says Bar-On with a dismissive wave of his hand, “there weren’t two schools. There was a strong, dominant school, that of Ben-Gurion, and there was a small, weak one, that of Sharett.”

Shlaim claims that the retaliation operations in the 1950s, Dayan’s baby, led to a deterioration, to an intensification of the hatred and to a distancing of the chance for dialogue. That was why Sharett fought against it with all his might. Fought and lost. Bar-On agrees that at least in the Egyptian sector, the retaliation operations were what gave rise to the fedayeen operations from the Gaza Strip, and they in turn led to the Sinai Campaign. But Dayan thought, says Bar-On, that the Arabs hated us in any case, and therefore it made no difference how much force we used.

Bar-On thinks he was right. “Sharett thought that if we behaved nicely, the Arabs wouldn’t make trouble. And if we didn’t behave nicely, Arab hatred would increase. I think that he was mistaken on two counts. There were 750,000 Palestinian refugees in Israel, we screwed them in 1948, they had good reasons for hatred, so what if we added another two or three kilos of hatred? If it was possible to carry out a good operation, it had to be done. The basic situation in the Arab world was refusal to accept the situation of 1948, and it was childish to think that anything would help.”

This is exactly where Shlaim differs with Bar-On. Abdel Rahman Sadek, who was the Egyptian press officer in Paris, conducted the contacts with Israel on Nasser’s behalf in 1955. “This dialogue was not about peace,” says Shlaim, “it was about relieving the tension, reducing the propaganda, lifting trade restrictions, things that could have improved the atmosphere, served as a lead.”

Bar-On: A lead to what?

Shlaim: “To an attempt to understand one another, to the beginning of a dialogue beyond the lines of conflict.”

Bar-On: “I totally disagree here with Avi. Abdullah could not have passed a peace treaty in his government. The matter of Zaim was not serious. Ben-Gurion was mistaken in not meeting with him, only because that would have prevented Avi from writing his article. Nasser was more serious, but they were not talking about peace there. Israel did not want to get peace under the minimal conditions that the Arabs were willing to discuss: the UN Partition Plan borders and the return of the refugees. Had we agreed to that, there would be no State of Israel today.”

Shlaim: “Not everything is war or peace. There are also interim agreements. Every contact, every meeting is important. The Sinai Campaign intensified the hostility, intensified the hatred; in 1964 they created the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), established a united Arab headquarters. For the first time, the goal of the Arab League was to destroy Israel. That was the result of the Sinai Campaign, and that is what led to the Six-Day War.”

The two actually agree about the Six-Day War. In 1967, the moment occurred when the iron wall became a reality in Arab awareness. From that moment on, the Arabs understood that they could not defeat Israel, and the only way to get anything from it was through negotiations. Bar-On says that “through a wise process,” it would have been possible at the time to return the territories and achieve peace. Shlaim says that immediately after the war, Jordan’s King Hussein offered a full peace in return for withdrawal from the West Bank, but “Galili and Allon and the other land robbers” replied in the negative. Shlaim believes that this negative answer was the continuation of a policy that has been in force since 1948, and maybe even prior to that. Bar-On believes it was a localized mistake.

Shlaim considers Sharon a direct successor of the “iron wall” approach. “Sharon never believed that the process could be resolved by peaceful means,” says Shlaim. “He was always the master of violent solutions. He has been the prime minister for four years, and he hasn’t had a single meeting about the final-status agreement. For Jabotinsky, the iron wall was a metaphor. For Sharon, the wall has turned into a physical reality that mars the landscape, destroys the environment and in the long term is destroying two societies, Palestinian society and Israeli society. The left supports a fence, but I don’t believe that it will lead to an agreement.”

But what does Shlaim know? Shlaim told me when we were still in the cafe that since he was a child, Israel has looked to him like an “Ashkenazi trick” of which he doesn’t feel a part. “I’m not certain even now that I know how that trick works.”

No Aid for Israel’s Gaza “Disengagement”

August “Washington Wednesday” Action Alert
Start Date: August 10, 2005
End Date: To be determined

BACKGROUND

Israel is scheduled to begin in mid-August a unilateral “disengagement” from the Palestinian Gaza Strip by evacuating its illegal settlements and military bases there.  Israeli officials announced in July that they will ask the United States to pay $2.2 billion for this disengagement.
 
TAKE ACTION

1) Contact your Members of Congress and the Administration and tell them to oppose Israel’s aid request.  Contact information for Members of Congress can be found at www.congress.org.  To make your communication as effective as possible, please make sure to personalize it and use your own words.
2)  Get your organization to endorse a letter to Members of Congress and the Administration opposing Israel’s aid request.  Send the letter to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and it will deliver this letter to Capitol Hill and the State Department after the August Congressional recess.
 
TALKING POINTS

* In defiance of international law, Israel has militarily occupied the Palestinian Gaza Strip and established illegal settlements there for more than 38 years.  If the United States is serious about promoting the rule of law, it cannot reward Israel with money for the numerous human rights violations it has committed against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip over the past four decades.

* Although Israel plans to dismantle its illegal settlements and military bases in the Gaza Strip, it will still maintain a full-scale sea, air, and land siege of the territory.  Gaza will remain an open-air prison under Israeli control, preventing Palestinians from exercising their right to freedom of movement and from engaging in economic activity.  Under these conditions, Israel will still in effect be occupying the Gaza Strip, according to international law.

* Israel’s plan to “disengage” from the Gaza Strip does not meet the minimum expectations articulated by the United States.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that “when the Israelis withdraw from Gaza it cannot be sealed or [an] isolated area, with the Palestinian people closed in after that withdrawal. We are committed to connectivity between Gaza and the West Bank, and we are committed to openness and freedom of movement for the Palestinian people.” (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/49973.htm). Since the Gaza Strip will be both sealed and isolated after the “disengagement,” the United States would be funding a policy with which it disagrees.

* Israel’s plan to “disengage” from the Palestinian Gaza Strip is not meant to advance the peace process, but to put it into “formaldehyde,” according to Dov Weisglass, senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who last year stated that “the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. Effectively, thi! s whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”  The “disengagement” plan is a smokescreen to draw attention away from Israel’s construction of the illegal Wall in the Palestinian West Bank and its consolidation of control there.

* Unconditional US military, economic, and diplomatic support for Israel’s 38-year-old military occupation of the Palestinian Gaza Strip has resulted in the de-development of the Palestinian economy and the destruction of its infrastructure.  Rather than rewarding Israel for maintaining the Gaza Strip as an open-air prison after the “disengagement,” the United States should provide money for the re-development of the Palestinian economy.

ABOUT “WASHINGTON WEDNESDAY”

The “Washington Wednesday” is a joint effort of a coalition of Washington-based organizations that coordinate efforts the first Wednesday of each month to bring attention to resolutions affecting the situation in the Middle East currently being considered by Congress and to educate congressional representatives about the situation. Coalition members include:  American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Fellowship of Reconciliation; Council for the National Interest; Partners for Peace; US Campaign to End the Occupation (including over 200 associated organizations).

J’accuse: Finkelstein and Dershowitz

It’s a dispute that involves just about every emotive issue you can think of – Israel, Palestine, human rights, freedom of speech. Gary Younge dissects the academic battle that has gripped America

Gary Younge, The Guardian, 10 August 2005

In his landmark book, Democracy in America, the 19th-century French intellectual Alexis de Tocqueville commented on the fever pitch to which American polemics can often ascend. In a chapter entitled Why American Writers and Speakers Are Often Bombastic, he wrote: “I have often noticed that the Americans whose language when talking business is clear and dry … easily turn bombastic when they attempt a poetic style … Writers for their part almost always pander to this propensity … they inflate their imaginations and swell them out beyond bounds, so that they achieve gigantism, missing real grandeur.”

When it comes to a duel between DePaul university political science professor Norman Finkelstein and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz over Finkelstein’s upcoming book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, gigantic bombast feels like an understatement. It is a row that has spilled on to the pages of most of the nation’s prominent newspapers and gone all the way to the desk of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Like the two professors in Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House who abandon their high-minded theoretical clashes for a drunken brawl in a car park, Finkelstein and Dershowitz hover between principle and raw verbal pugilism in which the personal and the political are almost indistinguishable.

Finkelstein says Dershowitz is a “total liar”, adding that “If a true word were to leap out of his mouth he would explode.” Dershowitz eschews direct personal attacks only to ascribe his jibes to others. “Many people have thought he was unstable … he is like a child … he makes up facts.”

But beneath the vitriol lie many vital issues: namely Israel, Palestine, human rights in the Middle East, anti-semitism, academic freedom and intellectual honesty. Not to mention the scope for discussing these subjects in the United States, Israel’s greatest ally, where the parameters for debate are relatively narrow compared with the rest of the western world. “The atmosphere for publishing critical stuff on Israel here is very intimidating,” says Colin Robinson, who as publisher of the New Press initially intended to publish Finkelstein’s book.

Finkelstein billed his book as “an exposé of the corruption of scholarship on the Israel-Palestine conflict,” but essentially it is an attack on Dershowitz in general and his bestselling book, The Case for Israel, in particular, which Finkelstein describes as “among the most spectacular academic frauds ever published on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

This is fighting talk. But then both of these writers come to this subject and each other with some form.

Finkelstein is best known for his book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. The book, serialised in the Guardian, argued that the Holocaust should not be treated as a sacred event to be exploited by a huge “memory industry” but understood as one of many genocides. Translated into 17 languages, it drew widespread criticism from many Jews for playing to an anti-semitic gallery in both its tone and tenor. It is “filled with precisely the kind of shrill hyperbole that Finkelstein rightly deplores in much of the current media hype over the Holocaust”, wrote historian Omer Bartov, who holds a chair at Brown university. “It is brimming with the same indifference to historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics and dubious contextualisations.” Other experts believe he has a point.

Dershowitz is not just a prominent figure in American academe but the nation’s cultural life. He was part of both OJ Simpson and Mike Tyson’s defence teams. In 1991, he wrote Chutzpah, in which he argued that American Jews should shed their self-image as second-class citizens and engage more bravely with gentile America. In 2003 he wrote The Case for Israel.

A passionate advocate of Zionism and Israel, who after September 11 made the case for torture of suspects whom authorities believed to be hiding information about “an imminent large-scale threat”, Dershowitz is also loathed by the left. Noam Chomsky has described him as a “Stalinist-style thug”.

Both insist they would rather not stoop to the other’s level but have been provoked. “I feel that I have an obligation to defend the ideas,” says Dershowitz. “He is not going to destroy my career. But if they can attack me in this way then it can have a powerful message for others who share my ideas that their careers can be destroyed.”

Finkelstein insists that Dershowitz is either baiting him or is insane. “On a public relations front his attacks have become so hysterical that [Dershowitz] is either trying to provoke me or he’s imploding. My friends keep telling me, ‘Norman, don’t respond’.”

Finkelstein’s criticisms of the book can be reduced to two central themes. The first amounts to an accusation of academic fraud. He originally asserted that Dershowitz “almost certainly didn’t write [it] and perhaps didn’t even read it prior to publication”. He also charged that Dershowitz “plagiarises large swaths” of From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters, a now-discredited – by Finkelstein – 1984 book, which attempted to buttress the Zionist argument that the land that is now Israel was underpopulated, and its few inhabitants a collection of different peoples, not Palestinians with a strong claim. (In the version that has just gone to press, the word “plagiarise” has been softened to “lifts from” or “appropriates without attribution”.) Finkelstein alleges that of the 52 quotations and endnotes in the first two chapters of Dershowitz’s book, 22 are almost exact replicas of Peters’ book. However, instead of quoting Peters as the source, Dershowitz cites the original sources from Peters’ footnotes.

The second accusation is that Dershowitz’s defence of Israel’s human rights record during the second intifada is based on flawed or fraudulent data, which Finkelstein challenges with reports from organisations such as Amnesty International, the US-based Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem. “I juxtapose what he says is going on there and what is actually going on there,” says Finkelstein.

A recent piece in the American leftwing magazine The Nation details some of the points of contention. Finkelstein takes issue, for example, with Dershowitz’s assertion that “when only innocent civilians are counted, significantly more Israelis than Palestinians have been killed.” Yet, he says that, according to Amnesty International, even when only unarmed civilians are counted, the ratio is still three to one, Palestinian to Israeli. Dershowitz argues that the IDF tries to use rubber bullets “and aims at the legs whenever possible”; he points to a 2002 Amnesty report that rubber bullets are regularly used against children, at close range, often injuring their heads or upper bodies.

Dershowitz says his principal grievance was with the accusation that he hadn’t written the book – “It’s like disputing the paternity of my children,” he says. “I know I wrote the book. I wrote every single word of it” – and dismisses the plagiarism allegations as malevolent pedantry. He says they were investigated by the Harvard library and dismissed as a “frivolous charge” and that he can prove he used some of the citations in public debates as far back as the 70s and that he first saw the other quotes in Peters’ book, then went and checked the originals in Harvard library.

On the issue of what is going on in Israel, Dershowitz claims that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did not get all of their facts right and that Finkelstein is a “transient academic” with little practical knowledge of the Middle East. “This is a man who until recently had never been to Israel.”

When Dershowitz found out that the book was going to be published by the New Press, says Robinson, who published The Holocaust Industry when he was an editor at Verso, he got the home addresses of the New Press board and urged them not to publish it. “I got four letters from Dershowitz in three months.”

Realising that the book was bound to provoke great controversy, Robinson says he sought to postpone publication from early spring to early autumn so that he could be sure they got it right. “We wanted our ducks in a row. We wanted to read the manuscript to know what we would be defending before we put it in the catalogue.”

Piqued, Finkelstein took the book to the University of California Press, saying that he wanted to get it out as early as possible. “The book was very timely and I thought a delay would be damaging,” he says.

After the UC Press decided to take it on, Dershowitz wrote to Schwarzenegger, but even he would not get involved. “You have asked for the Governor’s assistance in preventing the publication of this book,” wrote his legal affairs secretary. “He is not inclined to otherwise exert influence in this case because of the clear academic freedom issue it presents.” According to The Nation’s reporter Jon Weiner, who is also a professor of history at the University of California, Dershowitz got a prominent law firm to write stern letters to the university regents, to the university provost, to 17 directors of the press and to 19 members of the press’s faculty editorial committee.

UC Press defends Finkelstein. “His books are very, very thoroughly researched,” Lynne Withey, the publishing house’s director, told Associated Press. “He clearly has a point of view that is antithetical to Dershowitz’s, but scholars line up on both sides of the issue.” Dershowitz denounces the UC Press as “very hard-left” and “very anti-Zionist”: “No other university press would publish garbage like this.”

Dershowitz, who received the William O Douglas First Amendment award from the Jewish advocacy group the Anti-Defamation League, says he never wanted to curb Finkelstein’s freedom of speech. “I want to see his book published,” he says. “I want to see it demolished in the marketplace of ideas. I just want the false personal charges taken out.”

UC Press persuaded Finkelstein to withdraw the claim that Dershowitz had not written the book, thereby relegating this rather serious charge to the status of an overexuberant rhetorical flourish. In a statement accompanying review copies, the press explained that “Professor Finkelstein’s only claim on the issue was speculative … We felt this weakened the argument and distracted from the central issues of the book. Finkelstein agreed.”

For a while last month, it seemed as though Finkelstein’s book might never come out. Involved in delicate negotiations with UC Press at one point he posted a message on his website saying that it had been dropped.

But with the book coming out later this month (and possibly in October in the UK; the contract has been written but not signed) he is bullish once again. “I have not retracted one jot of one word of what I’ve said the past year.”

Dershowitz, meanwhile, says he has no plans to sue “that nut job” despite the disputed allegations that remain. He too has a book coming out this month. Its title: The Case for Peace.

Bigger Than AIPAC

Robert Dreyfuss, MIFTAH, August 09, 2005

Important new details of the U.S.-Israeli espionage case involving Larry Franklin, the alleged Pentagon spy, two officials of the American- Israel Public Affairs Committee, and an intelligence official at the Embassy of Israel emerged last week. Two AIPAC officials-who have left the organization-were indicted along with Franklin on charges of “communicat[ing] national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it.” In plain English, if not legal-speak, that means spying.

But as the full text of the indictment makes clear, the conspiracy involved not just Franklin and the AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, but at least several other Pentagon officials who played intermediary roles, at least two other Israeli officials, and one official at a “Washington, D.C. think tank.” It’s an old-fashioned spy story involving the passing of secret documents, hush-hush meetings and outright espionage, along with good-old-boy networking.

But the network tied to the “Franklin case”-which ought to be called the “AIPAC case,” since it was AIPAC that was really under investigation by the FBI-provides an important window into a shadowy world. It is clear that by probing the details of the case, the FBI has got hold of a dangerous loose end of much larger story. By pulling on that string hard enough, the FBI and the Justice Department might just unravel that larger story, which is beginning to look more and more like it involves the same nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries, and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums for war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are now trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well.

Needless to say, all of this got short shrift from the mainstream media when it was revealed last week.

The basic facts of the case have been known for a while. Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a Department of Defense official, was caught red- handed giving highly classified papers to two officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, of AIPAC-in part, concerning U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and the war on terrorism. But from the carefully worded indictment, it is clear that a lot more may have been going on. All in all, along with revealing tantalizing new information, the indictment raises more questions than it answers. To wit:

    First, the indictment says that from “about April 1999 and continuing until on or about August 27, 2004” Franklin, Rosen and Weissman “did unlawfully, knowingly and willfully conspire” in criminal activity against the United States. So far, no one has explained what triggered an investigation that began more than six years ago. But it reveals how long the three indicted conspirators and “others, known and unknown to the Grand Jury,” engaged in such criminal activity. In any case, what appeared at first to be a brief dalliance between Franklin and the two AIPAC officials now-according to the latest indictment, at least-spans more than five years and involves at least several other individuals, at least some of whom are known to the investigation. What triggered the investigation in 1999, and how much information has FBI surveillance, wiretaps and other investigative efforts collected?

    Second, the indictment makes it absolutely clear that the investigation was aimed at AIPAC, not at Franklin. The document charges that Rosen and Weissman met repeatedly with officials from a foreign government (Israel, though not named in the indictment) beginning in 1999, to provide them with classified information. In other words, the FBI was looking into the Israel lobby, not Franklin and the Defense Department, at the start, and Franklin was simply caught up in the net when he made contact with the AIPACers. Rosen and Weissman were observed making illicit contact with several other U.S. officials between 1999 and 2004, although those officials are left unnamed (and unindicted). Might there be more to come? Who are these officials, cited merely as United States Government Official 1, USGO 2, etc.?

    Third, Franklin was introduced to Rosen-Weissman when the two AIPACers “called a Department of Defense employee (DOD employee A) at the Pentagon and asked for the name of someone in OSD ISA [Office of the Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs] with an expertise on Iran” and got Franklin’s name. Who was “DOD employee A”? Was it Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy? Harold Rhode, the ghost-like neocon official who helped Feith assemble the secretive Office of Special Plans, where Franklin worked? The indictment doesn’t say. But this reporter observed Franklin, Rhode and Michael Rubin, a former AEI official who served in the Pentagon during this period and then returned to AEI, sitting together side by side, often in the front row, at American Enterprise Institute meetings during 2002-2003. Later in the indictment, we learn that Franklin, Rosen and Weissman hobnobbed with “DOD employee B,” too.

    Fourth, Rosen and Weissman told Franklin that they would try to get him a job at the White House, on the National Security Council staff. Who did they talk to at the White House, if they followed through? What happened?

    Fifth, the charging document refers to “Foreign Official 1,” also known as FO-1, obviously referring to an Israeli embassy official or an Israeli intelligence officer. It also refers later to FO-2, FO-3, etc., meaning that other Israeli officials were involved as well. How many Israeli officials are implicated in this, and who are they?

    Sixth, was AEI itself involved? The indictment says that “on or about March 13, 2003, Rosen disclosed to a senior fellow at a Washington, D.C., think tank the information relating to the classified draft internal policy document” about Iran. The indictment says that the think tank official agreed “to follow up and see what he could do.” Which think tank, and who was involved?

The indictment is rich with other detail, including specific instances in which the indicted parties lied to the FBI about their activities. It describes how Franklin eventually set up a regular liaison with an Israeli official (“FO-3”) and met him in Virginia “and elsewhere” to communicate U.S. secrets.

It is an important story, arguably one that has greater implications for national security than the scandal involving the churlish outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. So far, at least, the media frenzy attending to the Plame affair is matched by nearly total silence about the Franklin-AIPAC affair? Can it be true that reporters are more courageous about pursuing a story that involves the White House than they are about plunging into a scandal that involves Israel, our No. 1 Middle East ally?

Robert Dreyfuss is a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone.

Source: TomPaine.com, 9 August. 2005

No Letup to the Occupation

Will Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza free it from the burden of the occupation? The answer is yes and no.

Aluf Benn, Haaretz, Aug 09, 2005

After it is all over – when the Jewish settlers from Gush Katif are luxuriating in their caravillas, when the Hamasniks have finished their victory parades and the Israel Defense Forces have left the Philadelphi route – will Israel enjoy freedom from its oppressive responsibility for the Gaza Strip and international recognition of “an the end to the occupation?” Yes and no, say senior jurists. It depends on what Israel says and how things look to outside observers. There is no judge who is qualified to determine whether and when the occupation has ended.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has depicted the shedding of Israel’s responsibility for the Gaza Strip as a major goal of the disengagement plan. But Sharon is not going to ask the United Nations to declare the end of the occupation in Gaza, as former prime minister Ehud Barak did after his withdrawal from Lebanon. The main reason for this is the fear of a precedent that would affect Israel’s control of the West Bank.

It is impossible to request acknowledgment of the southern Green Line (pre-Six Day War border) as a recognized international border and argue that the Green Line to the east is something different. Anyone who wants to hold on to Ariel and Beit El in the West Bank cannot go to the UN for help.

In the absence of a recognized UN ruling after the withdrawal, the parties will present themselves to the judgment of governments and public opinion in the West. Israel will try to make a distinction between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, find reasons to justify the difference in their status and try to blur the precedent of its withdrawal to the last millimeter.

The Palestinians will no doubt argue that the occupation has not ended in Gaza as long as Israel controls the sea and the air and is supervising the border crossing points. They are already saying that the disengagement will turn the Gaza Strip into a big prison. They will try to lever the principle of total withdrawal to demand much the same in the West Bank.

A number of teams are now examining these questions. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they are planning the PR campaign. Deputy Attorney General Mike Blass is coordinating the amendments to legislation and administrative procedures that will be needed after the disengagement. The National Security Council is looking into the legal status of the Gaza Strip under Palestinian control.

Under international law, the test for the existence of an occupation is “effective control” on the ground. In the Oslo Accords, Israel handed some of its responsibilities over to the Palestinian Authority, but maintained its hold on the entrances and exits to the Gaza Strip, and of course on the Jewish settlements and on the roads leading to them. Just evacuating the settlers will not be considered an end of “effective control” if the doors remain locked and Israel keeps the key.

The planned withdrawal from the Philadelphi route and reaching an arrangement for supervision of the crossing points would be a significant step in the divestiture of responsibility. But even then, say the legal experts, it would be hard to put a finger on the exact moment when Israel’s “effective control” would disappear. The occupation, then, looks like something unpleasant that has stuck to a shoe. It is hard to get rid of it and the stink remains even after the sole is cleaned.

Israel will announce that its control ends at the demarcation line of the Gaza Strip, which was determined in the Gaza and Jericho agreement of 1994. The extensive legislation that regularized the legal and municipal status of the settlements in the Gaza Strip will be revoked or allowed to lapse. The border facility will be relocated from Rafah to crossing points between Gaza and Israel, and employees of the Coordination and Liaison Administration, which will be dismantled, will be transferred to the Interior Ministry.

Israel’s continued control of the crossings between Egypt and the Gaza Strip and in the air and sea will be represented as a means of self-defense and not as occupation. The Gaza Strip will not be defined as a state; relations with it will be conducted in accordance with the interim agreement of 1995.

There are those who think that all these efforts are meaningless legal hairsplitting. This is not a real problem, they say in the Prime Minister’s Bureau. Even today, the world does not hold Israel responsible for the poverty and other problems in the Gaza Strip, and after the disengagement the attribution of this responsibility will be even less.

Amira Hass: What Business Is It of Chirac?

The Jordan Valley, the settlement blocs that continue to merge into each other, the monumental Jews-only roads, the demilitarized zone long since annexed to Israel, the area annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, the de facto annexations of the fence – these already cover most of the West Bank.

Amira Hass, Haaretz, Aug 03, 2005

A European journalist was asked to write about the wall being built around Anata, which will transform it into an enclosed ghetto within Jerusalem. Sorry, she said, the paper’s editors are only interested in the disengagement. It has it all: upbeat news, lots of action, Jews cursing Jews, Jews beating up Jews. We’re fed up with the repetitious details of the wall’s damages.

The other side of that coin is the affection with which Ariel Sharon was welcomed in France last week. And honestly, should Jacques Chirac care that last week the Israeli authorities demolished three homes in the village of al-Khader? And is it his responsibility that a short distance from there, the illegal settlement of Efrat continues to expand at the expense of the biblical landscapes of al-Khader?

What is it to him that the crossings Israel is now building, east of the Green Line, rob hefty square kilometers from West Bank territory and the private property of hundreds of families, with a transparent objective of institutionalize them as “international terminals?” And why should he and other European leaders be shocked by the news that the West Bank’s main roads have nearly no Palestinian traffic, as though a transfer has been implemented there? Israelis are not shocked by this information.

Who can find the words to explain to Europe’s newspapers that once every few weeks, Israel Defense Forces soldiers prevent all residents of the northern West Bank from driving south? At the Za’atara checkpoint south of Nablus, near the illegal settlement of Tapuah, they send people packing as the IDF declares a “hot security alert.” In the creative diction of the IDF, this is called “separation.” They separate between Judea and Samaria. Sometimes this lasts four days, sometimes 10. As usual, whoever is determined to reach his destination finds a roundabout way that takes several hours, between hills and dales, rocky terrain and olive groves. But most forgo their right to mobility.

Why should Chirac and Le Monde, or Le Figaro, be interested in shepherds in the southern Hebron Hills whom IDF soldiers kicked off their grazing lands on Monday, shouting distance from another illegal settlement?

Why should Chirac and the other European leaders take an interest in the millions of trifles of the calculated dispossession, which dictate the lives of the Palestinian people? Trifles that add up to a clear picture: Sharon is determinedly striving to realize the master plan – integrating most of the West Bank into the sovereign State of Israel.

The Jordan Valley, the settlement blocs that continue to merge into each other, the monumental Jews-only roads, the demilitarized zone long since annexed to Israel, the area annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, the de facto annexations of the fence – these already cover most of the West Bank. They will call the densely populated Palestinian pockets that will remain a state, and the world will applaud.

Reasons abound for not taking an interest in the trifles of this dispossession: a mere three and a half million people are at stake, with no oil and no support from any international power; their brethren in the Diaspora and in Israel do not constitute a lobby. There are places in the world where tens of millions are being wronged far more cruelly, and nobody makes a peep. And, after all, Israeli colonialism doesn’t even come close to the murderousness of the European variety.

But Europe does take an interest. The billions of dollars it’s pouring in here prove that it knows that this “little” usurpation is being perpetrated at a highly sensitive juncture. Perhaps European leaders are hoping that the money being showered on the Palestinian Authority – and effectively on Israel, which thus escapes its responsibility as the occupying power – will compensate for their impotence. It was they, after all, who failed to implement international decisions regarding the illegality of the settlements.

Europe and its media – which were hoodwinked by the peace propaganda of Oslo while Israeli colonization accelerated – has a duty to stop ignoring the reality depicted by their diplomatic envoys to the region. Israel is perceived as part of the West, the enlightened world which presumes to have drawn lessons from its colonialist and Nazi past and to combat racism.

The Citizenship Law and the law against intifada compensation which passed in the Knesset, along with other laws, contradict proclaimed European concepts of “combating racism and discrimination.” But Israel participates in European sports tournaments and maintains close economic, scientific and cultural ties with Europe, as though it met the criteria of the human rights charter.

Indeed, it is impossible to separate, historically, the establishment of the State of Israel from the genocide of European Jewry. Therefore, Europe bears historic and moral responsibility for both peoples living in our land – the occupied Palestinian people and the Jewish-Israeli people – the occupier.

This should be enough to obligate Europe not to assist Israel in implementing its master plan, regardless of whether or not that plan jeopardizes the security of the region and the world.

The Jerusalem Powder Keg

The International Crisis Group, REPORT No. 44 / MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA, 2 AUGUST 2005

While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem.

Executive Summary

While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem. If the international community and specifically the U.S. are serious about preserving and promoting a viable two-state solution, they need to speak far more clearly and insistently to halt actions that directly and immediately jeopardise that goal. And if that solution is ever to be reached, they will need to be clear that changes that have occurred since Israelis and Palestinians last sat down to negotiate in 2000-2001 will have to be reversed.

Since the onset of the Arab-Israeli conflict, control over Jerusalem has fluctuated, as have the city’s contours. Speaking of the city today, one refers to substantial areas, some Jewish, others Arab, that were part of the West Bank and that no one would have recognised as Jerusalem prior to 1967. Stretching municipal boundaries, annexing Palestinian land and building new Jewish neighbourhoods/settlements, Israel gradually created a municipal area several times its earlier size. It also established new urban settlements outside the municipal boundary to surround the city, break contiguity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and strengthen links between these settlements, West Jerusalem and the rest of Israel.

Settlement expansion has been pursued by Labour and Likud governments alike and has always been highly problematic and deemed unlawful by the international community. But Prime Minister Sharon appears to be implementing a more focused and systematic plan that, if carried out, risks choking off Arab East Jerusalem by further fragmenting it and surrounding it with Jewish neighbourhoods/settlements:

  • The separation barrier, once completed, would create a broad Jerusalem area encompassing virtually all of municipal Jerusalem as expanded and annexed in 1967 as well as major settlements to its north, east, and south. This new “Jerusalem envelope”, as the area inside the barrier euphemistically has been called, incorporates large settlement blocks and buffer zones, encompasses over 4 per cent of the West Bank, absorbs many Palestinians outside of municipal Jerusalem and excludes over 50,000 within, often cutting Palestinians off from their agricultural land.
  • Expansion of the large Ma’ale Adumim settlement to the east of Jerusalem and linking it to the city through the E1, a planned built-up urban land bridge, would go close to cutting the West Bank in two.
  • New Jewish neighbourhoods/settlements at the perimeter of the municipal boundaries would create a Jewish belt around Arab East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the West Bank and constricting Palestinian growth within the city.

As virtually all recent Israeli-Palestinian peace plans, as well as Crisis Group’s own 2002 proposal, recognise, Israel’s future capital will include Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem that were not part of Israel prior to 1967 and are home to over 200,000 Jews today. Moreover, Israel has legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, where Palestinian attacks since the intifada have led to hundreds of dead and more than 2,000 wounded. Addressing them will require energetic steps, including Israeli but also and importantly Palestinian security efforts. But the measures currently being implemented are at war with any viable two-state solution and will not bolster Israel’s safety; in fact, they will undermine it, weakening Palestinian pragmatists, incorporating hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli side of the fence, and sowing the seeds of growing radicalisation.

Of most immediate political consequence, Israeli steps are further damaging the domestic credibility of Palestinian President Abbas. For Palestinian groups inclined to undermine the cease-fire, the fate of Jerusalem offers a potent pretext. The establishment of new Jewish neighbourhoods coupled with the route of the barrier is creating Palestinian enclaves in East Jerusalem, reducing economic opportunities, and producing overcrowded living conditions. If the process is completed, some 200,000 Palestinian East Jerusalemites will end up inside the Jerusalem envelope, live under greater Israeli control, and increasingly be separated from the West Bank; the remaining 55,000 will be outside the barrier, disconnected from the city that has been their centre of gravity, fearful of reduced social services and, in many instances, determined to find their way back into the fenced-in areas. That will be an explosive mix.

Perhaps most significantly, current policies in and around the city will vastly complicate, and perhaps doom, future attempts to resolve the conflict by both preventing the establishment of a viable Palestinian capital in Arab East Jerusalem and obstructing the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state. None of this is good for the Palestinian people, the people of Israel, or the peace process.

Although Israel’s disengagement from Gaza is hailed as an historic opportunity for peace, prospects for early subsequent progress are dim. With the dominant Palestinian Fatah movement in disarray, sharpening power struggles with Hamas and legislative elections due to be held by 20 January 2006, Abbas is unlikely to be in a position to launch a major diplomatic initiative in coming months. On the heels of the traumatic Gaza withdrawal and on the eve of a difficult Likud primary and then Israel’s parliamentary elections (probably in mid-2006), Sharon will not contemplate further withdrawals in the short term. Electioneering and subsequent political manoeuvring — a period that typically lends itself more to political posturing and catering to extremes than daring diplomacy — will drag on until mid to late 2006. And even this modest scenario presumes maintenance of a fragile cease-fire.

As a result, the coming year will be as much about preserving chances for a comprehensive peace as about advancing toward one. This makes what happens in Jerusalem all the more vital. And it makes the international community’s responsibility all the more desperately pressing.

Amman/Brussels, 2 August 2005

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Amira Hass: Fooling the High Court of Justice and the Hague

The legalistic deception of the Israeli Civil Administration: “It is all Israel”

Amira Hass, Haaretz, 13 July 2005

Listen to the soldier in the field. He says what his commanders were trained to cover up and embellish. Listen to the red-headed soldier, who prevented residents of Qafin from passing through the gate in the separation fence last month to get to their lands. These are 5,000 out of 8,200 dunams of agricultural land in a village in the northwestern West Bank. These are lands belonging to the families of these residents for several generations, and for so-called security reasons they were separated from the village – as has happened, and will happen, with hundreds of other Palestinian villages.

Several residents have Civil Administration permits allowing them to pass through the closed gate. Signed permits serve as written proof – intended for the High Court of Justice, and indirectly for the world court at The Hague – that the security establishment and the state are keeping their promises, whereby the security fence does not keep farmers away from their land, that it is “measured.” This could be used as evidence in a future international court that will clean out the entire system: the commanders, the politicians, the judges. A written document is better evidence than the undocumented long hours during which people waited for nothing outside the gate, under the beating sun.

But the soldier knows better, because he’s in the field, and he doesn’t lie: These permits don’t obligate the army, he said (and the Civil Administration confirmed this, when asked), because this gate is only for the olive harvest season. That is, the autumn – but now it’s summer. Since the gate near their land is closed, there’s no chance that the Qafin farmers can pass through to plant 7,500 olive saplings received as a donation, to replace the 12,000 trees destroyed by the fence. Since the gate near! their l and is closed, when fires break out they can’t get there quickly and save the groves their grandfathers planted. And since the gate is closed, they are unable to plant wheat, okra or corn between the groves to slightly improve the nutrition of their families, which are trapped in a cycle of poverty and unemployment.

But the red-headed soldier didn’t discuss only the gate. He didn’t hide the geopolitical worldview in whose name he is commanded to safeguard the gate’s welfare. “There is no entry to Israel from here,” he said. When he was told that the farmers don’t want to enter Israel, but to walk 200 meters to get to their age-old lands, a few kilometers away from the Green Line, he responded: “To be politically correct, it is all Israel.”

How right the soldier is. From his standpoint, on the security road that links up with bypass roads for Jews only, which in turn link up with settlements and Israel proper, this is what he and his colleagues watch every day: The space called “Israel,” from the river to the sea, containing all kinds of “crowded population concentrations” surrounded by fences and imprisoned behind locked gates.

It’s not only one locked gate that separates the farmers of Qafin from their lands. Another locked gate in the separation fence, in the north of the village, also divides them from their lands. And there’s a third gate open only to those who have permits, but it involves its own tricks to ensure that the residents of Qafin won’t really be able to work their lands. It’s 12 kilometers away from the center of the village and is located in what’s called the Reihan terminal, which cuts off and isolates some of the northwestern West Bank villages from other parts of the West Bank. In other words, it costs money no one has to get to this gate, which is between four and eight kilometers away from village lands. Residents aren’t allowed to get to the lands by car or donkey. They are not allowed to take tools or saplings. In short, it’s a hike of several hours, so as to! cry ove r the neglected land. This is the nature of “the access to the land” that the security establishment promises the High Court justices, who believe what they are told.

The tricks don’t end here. Out of 1,050 people who submitted requests to the Civil Administration to be allowed to get to their lands, only a minority received the permits (the residents put the number at 70; as of June, and the Civil Administration says 206). Hundreds were refused because the Civil Administration officials decided the residents were “distant relatives” of the people under whose name the land is registered. Several sons and grandsons of landowners were denied permits because they were considered “distant relatives.” In one case, a permit was given to a man but not his wife; in another, only the elderly wife was granted permission to go on the long journey, alone, to the family land.

The residents of Qafin have come to one conclusion: The goal is to bring about the neglect of their green agricultural lands until they become wilderness. Then Israel can rely on an old Ottoman law that allows neglected and abandoned land to become public property, in order to make the wilderness bloom. In Israel, as every soldier knows, the “public” is the same as the “Jews.” And so will the mistake of 1948 be rectified. At that time, some 18,000 dunams from Qafin became part of Israel, became Jewish land. Now it will happen to an additional 5,000 dunams.