Gideon Levy: Let the Annexation Begin


A Palestinian man waters goats and sheep in the Jordan Valley, West Bank, August 21, 2019. (MOHAMAD TOROKMAN – REUTERS)

Gideon Levy, If Americans Knew, September 12, 2019

There’s no longer any real debate in Israel. The right wants to annex Palestinian land openly, and the center wants to annex, but deceive us. All that’s left now is to admit to the world that in reality Israel annexed the West Bank many years ago… it’s one country with an apartheid system.

Reposted from Ha’aretz

Here’s one campaign promise by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that we should hope will be fulfilled: annexing the Jordan Valley to Israel. So far, no other campaign promise has been as encouraging as this one. Not one Zionist party has offered even a hint of an idea that could shake up the existing situation like this annexation proposal, and the status quo is crying for a shake-up.

I obviously won’t vote for Netanyahu, but I hope that this time he keeps his promise. Let him annex the Jordan Valley, and afterward the entire West Bank. Let him turn the reality in this territory into a political reality, without hiding it any longer. The time has come for truth. The time has come to put an end to the great masked ball that Israel and the world have been holding for 52 years already.

The apparently eternal reality in this territory should be translated into legal language. The Jordan Valley was annexed long ago, as was the entire West Bank. The Green Line has been erased; nothing remains of it.

All that’s left now is to say so officially. To admit to Israelis and to the world: Enough with the occupation, we have annexation. There are no settlements, there are towns. The two-state solution has been put to death, and it actually happened long ago. What remains is one state, in which the only battle will be over the system of government.

There’s no longer any real debate in Israel. Immediately after Netanyahu promised annexation, Benny Gantz, the great hope of the enlightened public, delivered the word of the opposition: He, too, is in favor of the Jordan Valley in perpetuity.

If so, what is all the criticism of Netanyahu for? For his lack of intention to keep his promise. People to Netanyahu’s left have been criticizing him for saying he’ll annex the region without him really meaning it. What more could we ask? Between the right, which wants to annex and announce it, and the center, which wants to annex but deceive us, the choice is easy. The only debate that remains is about the future of the Adei Ad settlement outpost, and that’s no longer important. Evacuating the Baladim outpost will no longer change anything either.

[Adei Ad and Baladim are illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank, both of which have been sites of violence against Palestinians, Israeli forces, and visitors.]

Netanyahu’s choice of territory to annex is no accident. There’s something symbolic about it. The Oslo process began with “Jericho first,” and its death will be pronounced with “the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea first.”

But there’s also a great deal more than symbolism here. Most Israelis have never considered the Jordan Valley occupied territory. Ever since our colonialist enterprise began, its settlers have been seen as “residents,” and even as pioneers, while its settlements have been seen as kibbutzim and moshavim – more stellar examples of Zionism.

In those settlements there are no prayer shawls and ritual fringes – there are Jewish masters and Thai farm laborers, like in every kibbutz and moshav. Also Palestinian farm laborers who earn shameful, exploitative, criminal wages. The Labor Party, the first and foremost party of occupation, has seen the Jordan Valley as an inseparable part of any agreement ever since the 1967 Allon Plan, which deserves to be remembered and condemned because no other plan has done more to perpetuate the occupation.

[Levy writes elsewhere: “Although it was never officially adopted, the Allon Plan, drafted in 1967 by Yigal Allon – an iconic figure from the War of Independence and afterward a leading politician – was in large measure implemented. Its aim: to cut off the West Bank from Jordan by means of two roads…and to establish settlements and army training camps alongside both highways.”]

The consensus about remaining in the territories began right here, between Hemdat and Almog. This was the first “settlement bloc” to enter the consensus, and it wasn’t even called a settlement. Most Israelis see no difference between Maskiot and Ro’i [two illegal settlements], in the Jordan Valley, and Beit Alfa and Heftziba [two kibbutzim in Israel], located between the Jezreel and Beit She’an valleys. All are in the Israeli valley.

But this is one of the worst evils of apartheid and transfer that the occupation has ever produced. Behind the modern names…hide greedy and sometimes violent farmers. Here, a quiet transfer of communities of shepherds has been carried out, just like in the South Hebron Hills.

Anyone who still doubts the existence of apartheid ought to visit the Jordan Valley. The water, the land and the freedom – which are divvied up there via blatant segregation based on nationality, with no shame – tell the entire story. Nothing could be more just than for the Torah of annexation to go forth from here.

Continue reading

Diana Buttu & Gideon Levy on Israeli Settlements, Kerry, Military Aid & End of Two-State Solution

Democracy Now! December 30, 2016

Guests
Diana Buttu — attorney based in Palestine. She has served as a legal adviser to the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel. She was previously an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gideon Levy — Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. His new article is titled "UN Resolution is a Breath of Hope in Sea of Darkness and Despair." Levy is also the author of The Punishment of Gaza.

Secretary of State John Kerry has blasted Israel’s government, saying in a major address on Wednesday that the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank threatens Israel’s democracy and has all but ended the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians. "If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic; it cannot be both," Kerry said. "And it won’t ever really be at peace." Kerry’s speech followed intense Israeli criticism of the U.S. for refusing to veto a Security Council resolution last week. The measure condemns Israel’s expansion of settlements as a flagrant violation of international law. The resolution passed in a 14-0 vote. The U.S. abstained. We speak to Palestinian attorney Diana Buttu and Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, a Haaretz columnist.


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Secretary of State John Kerry has blasted Israel’s government, saying in a major address Wednesday that the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank threatens Israel’s democracy and has all but ended the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy. The truth is that trends on the ground—violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation—they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary Kerry’s speech followed intense Israeli criticism of the U.S. for refusing to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution last week. The measure condemns Israel’s expansion of settlements, a flagrant violation of international law. The resolution passed in a 14-to-0 vote. The U.S. abstained. Kerry insisted the U.S. had not abandoned its longtime ally, but said Israeli democracy would not survive under a single state.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: But here is a fundamental reality: If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was willing to resume peace talks in exchange for a halt to settlement construction. This is chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Continue reading

A Black Flag

From: Jennifer Loewenstein
Subject: Resuming Emails: Gideon Levy – A Black Flag
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2006 00:17:34 +0100

Last week I was in the West Bank and East Jerusalem trying to accomplish work for a research project, hence my absence. All I can say now is that what you are reading in real news reports about the IDF push into Gaza and the arrest of half of the Hamas government on the West Bank last Thursday is as terrible as these articles portray it, if not worse. The tension in the air is almost visible. The director of a West Bank NGO and respected politician (even today) says that we are on the eve of the Third Intifada. Last Wednesday when the first rumors of an IDF invasion of Ramallah hit the news, foreigners were asked to leave the city. By 5:00 pm more than 1000 youths had gathered at the Manara Square (city center) armed with rocks and sticks, and unveiled a huge Palestinian flag down the middle of the Lions’ statues monument. The IDF did not enter that day. Instead, a convoy of jeeps and army vehicles entered the city in stealth in the middle of the night arresting many of the Hamas officials including 8 ministers in the cabinet. The situation in Gaza is far worse and the Gaza Strip remains deliberately locked shut to the world. Nobody is allowed in or out except select foreign journalists, diplomats and, today, a handful of aide workers. Meanwhile the Hamas ministers with Jerusalem residency cards were stripped of their right to enter the city. Entry to Bethlehem was cut off to Palestinians from East Jerusalem as well and, according to a reliable Israeli journalist, the next to be restricted will be the entry at Qalandiya. Whatever happens, now is the time to speak up. Please do not betray the people of Palestine with silence. JL.


The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 2 July 2006

A black flag hangs over the “rolling” operation in Gaza. The more the operation “rolls,” the darker the flag becomes. The “summer rains” we are showering on Gaza are not only pointless, but are first and foremost blatantly illegitimate. It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to penetrate Syria’s airspace. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament.

A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization. The harsher the steps, the more monstrous and stupid they become, the more the moral underpinnings for them are removed and the stronger the impression that the Israeli government has lost its nerve. Now one must hope that the weekend lull, whether initiated by Egypt or the prime minister, and in any case to the dismay of Channel 2’s Roni Daniel and the IDF, will lead to a radical change.

Everything must be done to win Gilad Shalit’s release. What we are doing now in Gaza has nothing to do with freeing him. It is a widescale act of vengeance, the kind that the IDF and Shin Bet have wanted to conduct for some time, mostly motivated by the deep frustration that the army commanders feel about their impotence against the Qassams and the daring Palestinian guerilla raid. There’s a huge gap between the army unleashing its frustration and a clever and legitimate operation to free the kidnapped soldier.

To prevent the army from running as amok as it would like, a strong and judicious political echelon is required. But facing off against the frustrated army is Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz’s tyro regime, weak and happless. Until the weekend lull, it appeared that each step proposed by the army and Shin Bet had been immediately approved for backing. That does not bode well, not only for the chances of freeing Shalit, but also for the future management of the government, which is being revealed to be as weak as the Hamas government.

The only wise and restrained voice heard so far was that of the soldier’s father, Noam Shalit, of all people. That noble man called at what is clearly his most difficult hour, not for stridency and not for further damage done to the lives of soldiers and innocent Palestinians. Against the background of the IDF’s unrestrained actions and the arrogant bragging of the latest macho spokesmen, Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant of the Southern Command and Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, Shalit’s father’s voice stood out like a voice crying in the wilderness.

Sending tens of thousands of miserable inhabitants running from their homes, dozens of kilometers from where his son is supposedly hidden, and cutting off the electricity to hundreds of thousands of others, is certainly not what he meant in his understated emotional pleas. It’s a shame nobody is listening to him, of all people.

The legitimate basis for the IDF’s operation was stripped away the moment it began. It’s no accident that nobody mentions the day before the attack on the Kerem Shalom fort, when the IDF kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from their home in Gaza. The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. How ridiculously pathetic Amos Gilad sounds when he says that the capture of Shalit was “illegitimate and illegal,” unlike when the IDF grabs civilians from their homes. How can a senior official in the defense ministry claim that “the head of the snake” is in Damascus, when the IDF uses the exact same methods?

True, when the IDF and Shin Bet grab civilians from their homes – and they do so often – it is not to murder them later. But sometimes they are killed on the doorsteps of their homes, although it is not necessary, and sometimes they are grabbed to serve as “bargaining chips,” like in Lebanon and now, with the Palestinian legislators. What an uproar there would be if the Palestinians had grabbed half the members of the Israeli government. How would we label them?

Collective punishment is illegitimate and it does not have a smidgeon of intelligence. Where will the inhabitants of Beit Hanun run? With typical hardheartedness the military reporters say they were not “expelled” but that it was “recommended” they leave, for the benefit, of course, of those running for their lives. And what will this inhumane step lead to? Support for the Israeli government? Their enlistment as informants and collaborators for the Shin Bet? Can the miserable farmers of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahia do anything about the Qassam rocket-launching cells? Will bombing an already destroyed airport do anything to free the soldier or was it just to decorate the headlines?

Did anyone think about what would have happened if Syrian planes had managed to down one of the Israeli planes that brazenly buzzed their president’s palace? Would we have declared war on Syria? Another “legitimate war”? Will the blackout of Gaza bring down the Hamas government or cause the population to rally around it? And even if the Hamas government falls, as Washington wants, what will happen on the day after? These are questions for which nobody has any real answers. As usual here: Quiet, we’re shooting. But this time we are not only shooting. We are bombing and shelling, darkening and destroying, imposing a siege and kidnapping like the worst of terrorists and nobody breaks the silence to ask, what the hell for, and according to what right?

The Israel Lobby

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, London Review of Books, 23 March 2006

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.

Other recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and can thus earn interest on it. Most recipients of aid given for military purposes are required to spend all of it in the US, but Israel is allowed to use roughly 25 per cent of its allocation to subsidise its own defence industry. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, which makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the US opposes, such as building settlements on the West Bank. Moreover, the US has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems, and given it access to such top-drawer weaponry as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the US gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its Nato allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Washington also provides Israel with consistent diplomatic support. Since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. It blocks the efforts of Arab states to put Israel’s nuclear arsenal on the IAEA’s agenda. The US comes to the rescue in wartime and takes Israel’s side when negotiating peace. The Nixon administration protected it from the threat of Soviet intervention and resupplied it during the October War. Washington was deeply involved in the negotiations that ended that war, as well as in the lengthy ‘step-by-step’ process that followed, just as it played a key role in the negotiations that preceded and followed the 1993 Oslo Accords. In each case there was occasional friction between US and Israeli officials, but the US consistently supported the Israeli position. One American participant at Camp David in 2000 later said: ‘Far too often, we functioned … as Israel’s lawyer.’ Finally, the Bush administration’s ambition to transform the Middle East is at least partly aimed at improving Israel’s strategic situation.

This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. But neither explanation is convincing. One might argue that Israel was an asset during the Cold War. By serving as America’s proxy after 1967, it helped contain Soviet expansion in the region and inflicted humiliating defeats on Soviet clients like Egypt and Syria. It occasionally helped protect other US allies (like King Hussein of Jordan) and its military prowess forced Moscow to spend more on backing its own client states. It also provided useful intelligence about Soviet capabilities.

Backing Israel was not cheap, however, and it complicated America’s relations with the Arab world. For example, the decision to give $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an Opec oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies. For all that, Israel’s armed forces were not in a position to protect US interests in the region. The US could not, for example, rely on Israel when the Iranian Revolution in 1979 raised concerns about the security of oil supplies, and had to create its own Rapid Deployment Force instead.

The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden. The US could not use Israeli bases without rupturing the anti-Iraq coalition, and had to divert resources (e.g. Patriot missile batteries) to prevent Tel Aviv doing anything that might harm the alliance against Saddam Hussein. History repeated itself in 2003: although Israel was eager for the US to attack Iraq, Bush could not ask it to help without triggering Arab opposition. So Israel stayed on the sidelines once again.

Beginning in the 1990s, and even more after 9/11, US support has been justified by the claim that both states are threatened by terrorist groups originating in the Arab and Muslim world, and by ‘rogue states’ that back these groups and seek weapons of mass destruction. This is taken to mean not only that Washington should give Israel a free hand in dealing with the Palestinians and not press it to make concessions until all Palestinian terrorists are imprisoned or dead, but that the US should go after countries like Iran and Syria. Israel is thus seen as a crucial ally in the war on terror, because its enemies are America’s enemies. In fact, Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.

‘Terrorism’ is not a single adversary, but a tactic employed by a wide array of political groups. The terrorist organisations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or ‘the West’; it is largely a response to Israel’s prolonged campaign to colonise the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

More important, saying that Israel and the US are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around. Support for Israel is not the only source of anti-American terrorism, but it is an important one, and it makes winning the war on terror more difficult. There is no question that many al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are motivated by Israel’s presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians. Unconditional support for Israel makes it easier for extremists to rally popular support and to attract recruits.

As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel. Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons – which is obviously undesirable – neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without suffering overwhelming retaliation. The danger of a nuclear handover to terrorists is equally remote, because a rogue state could not be sure the transfer would go undetected or that it would not be blamed and punished afterwards. The relationship with Israel actually makes it harder for the US to deal with these states. Israel’s nuclear arsenal is one reason some of its neighbours want nuclear weapons, and threatening them with regime change merely increases that desire.

A final reason to question Israel’s strategic value is that it does not behave like a loyal ally. Israeli officials frequently ignore US requests and renege on promises (including pledges to stop building settlements and to refrain from ‘targeted assassinations’ of Palestinian leaders). Israel has provided sensitive military technology to potential rivals like China, in what the State Department inspector-general called ‘a systematic and growing pattern of unauthorised transfers’. According to the General Accounting Office, Israel also ‘conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the US of any ally’. In addition to the case of Jonathan Pollard, who gave Israel large quantities of classified material in the early 1980s (which it reportedly passed on to the Soviet Union in return for more exit visas for Soviet Jews), a new controversy erupted in 2004 when it was revealed that a key Pentagon official called Larry Franklin had passed classified information to an Israeli diplomat. Israel is hardly the only country that spies on the US, but its willingness to spy on its principal patron casts further doubt on its strategic value.

Israel’s strategic value isn’t the only issue. Its backers also argue that it deserves unqualified support because it is weak and surrounded by enemies; it is a democracy; the Jewish people have suffered from past crimes and therefore deserve special treatment; and Israel’s conduct has been morally superior to that of its adversaries. On close inspection, none of these arguments is persuasive. There is a strong moral case for supporting Israel’s existence, but that is not in jeopardy. Viewed objectively, its past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians.

Continue reading

Twilight Zone: They said they’d kill me

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, July 10, 2005

Here he is – the survivor. His head and arms bandaged, his cheek gashed, his right ear deaf. In pain, weak, exhausted, scared, stunned, angry, bitter. Hilal Majaida, 18, from Muwasi. For eight years he hadn’t left that area, in the heart of the Gaza Strip. Now he’s trying to recover at his cousin’s home in Khan Yunis and refuses to think about going home, for fear of the settlers. He won’t go back until after the disengagement, he told us this week. Until then he’ll stay without his parents, brothers and sisters. They are there and he is here, almost within walking distance, but separated by the Tufah checkpoint. He sought refuge in an office in the city belonging to his uncle, a contractor, after he got fed up with being hospitalized and fled from the hospital in Khan Yunis on Sunday.

Now he’s planning to go to Egypt, for an operation to save his ear, which the doctors in Khan Yunis recommended. No thank you, he says: He doesn’t want to receive any medical treatment in Israel. “There are enough hospitals in the Arab countries.” He hadn’t heard about the big uproar in Israel caused by the scenes of the lynch that were broadcast on television. He didn’t see the pictures and never wants to: “It will have a bad effect on me.” His parents saw. They saw the settlers throwing rocks at him, rock after rock, with fury and murderous intent. “He’s a Palestinian! Kill him!” one of them yells as Hilal is lying unconscious behind a gray brick wall opposite the building that was taken over by the settlers – the building where someone had scrawled in Hebrew: “Mohammed is a pig.”

A fisherman in a sea where he is prohibited to fish, a truck driver in an area where it’s prohibited to move, he was impatiently biding his time waiting for the disengagement, until these uninvited neighbors would finally be out of his life and that of others in Muasi. If Gaza is one big prison, then Muwasi is the dungeon – a prison within a prison. Here he spent his empty days and nights, until last Wednesday, the day of the lynch. On the white sand beach, between the Neveh Dekalim hotel – rechristened Maoz Hayam – and the building taken over by the settlers – Tal Hayam (nice shiny Hebrew names to cover acts of theft and exploitation) – sits the Majaida family home.

This past Sunday, it was quiet in this stretch of land, after the Israel Defense Forces employed Palestinian workers to clean the empty apartment house of Mansur al-Bayuk, which the settlers had coveted, of the vicious graffiti that had been sprayed on it. On the sand behind the brick wall, the crime scene, there were also no signs left of what had happened here four days earlier. A few children wandered about idly on the sand, Muwasi’s summer camp, while vehicles belonging to settlers, the army and the police flew by. The people from Muwasi are also allowed to travel by car – one kilometer north, one kilometer south. They are fenced in between one settlement and another – the places that are home to the “victims” who are soon going to be evacuated.

Hilal isn’t at home. He’s in Khan Yunis whose buildings are visible from here. To get to him, we have to go all the way north to the Erez checkpoint and then go all the way back down south, through the Gaza Strip, on our way to see the survivor of the lynching.

A small office in the middle of the city. The table is piled with mail and cardboard boxes. A picture of Yasser Arafat hangs on the wall. Leaning on his elbows and staring out into space, surrounded by young relatives whom he hadn’t seen for years, sits the survivor. He can barely stand up. His voice is weak. He barely glances at the two Israelis who have come to see him. This morning he decided to leave hospital. He’d had enough. He doesn’t even have any instructions from the doctors as to how to care for his injuries. He has a dozen stitches in his head. His cheek is bandaged, too, and he can’t do much with his hands. He is 18 and has six sisters and six brothers. His father, who used to operate heavy construction machinery, is now unemployed. Hilal also has a license to operate a bulldozer and a truck. Two weeks ago, his cousin, Mohammed Abdel Hamid, was injured by a rock thrown by settlers on the beach.

A fisherman gets up early. Last Wednesday, Hilal got up early to head out to sea. This is what he does almost every day: He stands for a few hours with his net in the water, near the beach, to bring back a kilo or so of mullet, which he later sells in the Muwasi market for NIS 30 a kilo. But on Wednesday, the sea wasn’t cooperating and he didn’t catch a single fish. “It was a little stormy,” he says quietly.

It was also a little stormy near his home: There was an exchange of rock-throwing going on between the settlers, who’d taken over the abandoned apartment building four days before, and youths from Muwasi, sparked by the “Mohammed is a pig” graffiti that had managed to stir up even these usually docile residents. Hilal says that he ran into the stone-throwing on his way south, en route home. He says he didn’t take part in it. But eyewitnesses say they saw him throwing rocks, that he may even have been one of the two main rock-throwers. But what does it matter now?

“One settler came up to me and gave me a blow on the head with a rock. He came up from behind and I didn’t see him. After that, I felt several more rocks fall on me. I don’t remember anything more. I took a few steps and fell. After another rock, I woke up from the blow. I got up. Afterward there was a settler-soldier who knocked me against the wall and then another rock fell on me and I fell down again. I yelled: `Leave me alone, I want to go home,’ and I collapsed on the sand.”

His description is jumbled. He says there was also “a religious settler-soldier with a prayer-book in his hand” who took part in beating him. He says that another soldier beat him with the butt of his rifle. Eyewitnesses said one of the soldiers did grab him and held onto him tightly, before he was hurt, to stop him from continuing to throw stones at the stone-throwing settlers. No one saw him getting his head banged into the wall.

The television pictures showed a hapless soldier trying to protect him with his own body, though the soldier didn’t appear to do a thing against the thugs who continued attacking him with their rocks.
Hilal says the ambulance that was called to evacuate him was delayed for two hours at the Tufah checkpoint, and that his parents have not been permitted to visit him. Yaniv Alon, spokesman for the IDF’s Gaza liaison office, is quick to deny these two allegations. Alon says the delay at the checkpoint only lasted a few minutes because “the boy had no ID” and that his parents are entitled to cross the checkpoint at any time to visit him and that “it’s their choice.”

The IDF reacted very strongly in this incident – to the point that two senior officers visited the family home in Muwasi, something that had never occurred during the present intifada, to express an apology. And workers are already renovating the apartment house, in another unprecedented step on the part of the army, which in recent years has only known how to demolish. Hilal, by the way, didn’t know about the officers’ visit to his home.

He spent four days in the hospital in Khan Yunis. He won’t go home until all the settlers leave. “I’m afraid they’ll find me and do the same thing to me again,” he says. At night he can only fall asleep with the help of sleeping pills – maybe because of the pain, maybe because of the nightmares. “They’re really terrorists. They tried to kill me,” he says softly. He has nothing to say to the Israelis who were horrified by the pictures of the lynching. And he isn’t interested in the fact that the Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, said the people who attacked him should be tried for attempted murder. What punishment do they deserve? Prison, he says dryly.

He hasn’t heard anything at all from the Palestinian Authority. Not a single one of its representatives has come to visit him, or even phoned. Maybe he’ll throw a party at his house when the settlers are evacuated and he can return home. The first trace of a smile is visible on his face. It seems that he’d like us to get out of his sight already, too.

Continue reading

They Broke the Public’s Heart

For years, the news media ignored the injustices the settlers inflicted on their neighbors.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Jul 03, 2005

The media is to blame: For months, it portrayed the story of the “great sacrifice” the evacuated settlers must make. For years, it ignored the injustices they inflicted on their neighbors and thus helped portray the settlers in a false light. The result: broad public sympathy for their bitter fate and shock over their brutal behavior, as if blocking roads or even the lynching of a Palestinian teenager is something new or unusual. But in the territories, the settlers have been violently blocking roads for years, and harsh brutality toward Palestinians is also nothing new. The only novelty is that suddenly they are showing this on television.

If the media had exposed the full scope of the settlers’ deeds over the years – the dubious ways in which they took over land, the huge budgets they received, their violent behavior – perhaps they would have been denounced long ago, as should be done by a healthy society. If their full story had been told, perhaps we would not have blindly subscribed to the distinction between “moderate” and “extreme” settlers, to their portrayal as modern day pioneers and to the sugary and hypocritical preaching for dialogue with them. Israeli society chose to be led by their cynical manipulations, and we journalists lent a hand to this. “A leftist mafia?” What a ridiculous contention. Never has there been such an impressive media success here as that of the right. An enterprise that was criminal from the outset was depicted as one of high principles, even by people who favor compromise with the Palestinians. It was portrayed as an enterprise worthy of sympathy and appreciation, mainly comprised of idealists – and even if some stray weeds sprouted there, they were just an exception.

This false conception is now collapsing – the conception of this illegitimate enterprise’s legitimacy, fostered by politicians, military personnel and journalists. The rotten fruits of this distorted description are now placed at our doorstep – at Muasi, Maoz Yam, Tal Yam, the blocked highways of Israel, tire spikes and all of the other expressions of violence.

For several months, the media has devoted inflated coverage to the suffering of the evacuees, and we are subject to heartrending and senseless descriptions. Every teenage girl from Gush Katif who pours out her heart in a diary is awarded a tear-jerking column, every rabbi becomes a profound philosopher and every housewife an angry prophet. Every piece of land cultivated by Palestinian and Thai workers employed under disgraceful conditions becomes part of the sacred homeland, and the relocation of inhabitants under deluxe terms is presented as uprooting and rending. The evacuators and evacuees are described as “weeping together.” Soldiers who destroyed and killed in the territories without inhibition are suddenly in need of emotional support. In this way, the price of the evacuation is raised and the next evacuation is prevented. There is no proportion between the suffering of the evacuees – to whom the state is extending generous assistance in every area – and the lamentation over them. These spin doctors, the settlers, pluck every string, from their children to the graves of their family members, to create an image of victimhood. It is no wonder the country is painted orange.

Suddenly we are showing a rare sensitivity for human suffering. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes, as their homes, with all of their possessions, were crushed by Israel Defense Forces bulldozers, without warning, without compensation, without evacuation. The hundreds of families whose homes were expropriated for various purposes, the farmers dispossessed of their lands, the uprooted trees and the children who silently witnessed the brutality – these were never given even a fraction of the media coverage the settlers have received.

Foreign workers who are hunted as animals and violently deported, and even the impoverished in Israel – those evacuated from their homes, with their children, due to debt and mortgages, the unemployed who are down to their last loaf of bread, and miserable homeless people who roam the streets – can only dream of such broad and sympathetic media coverage.

On the other hand, the dark side is concealed. How much, if at all, has the Israeli public been shown the hundreds of homes in Khan Yunis, those surrounding Gush Katif, that were destroyed only because of the Gush’s existence? Or the acts of vengeance and the terrorizing of olive harvesters in northern Samaria? Or the abuse of cave dwellers in the southern Hebron Hills? Or the behavior of settlers at IDF checkpoints? Who knows how much money was channeled to their enterprise over the years? Even the excellent book by Idit Zartel and Akiva Eldar, “Lords of the Land,” did not succeed in exposing the full scope of these budgets. Did we know how much a Palestinian laborer earns at the Gush Katif hothouses, those over which everyone is now shedding crocodile tears? Have we heard that about 60 percent of Gush Katif residents have at least one family member who enjoys a salary from the state? Have they shown us the neglect that prevailed in the Gush until a few months ago and the recent effort to patch up homes for purposes of compensation?

This dubious enterprise was kept in a fog over the years, and in this fog it sprouted and grew to its current dimensions. Now, when its true nature is beginning to be exposed, a reckoning should be made not only with those responsible for its monstrous growth, but also with those who failed to expose the full truth about it during all these years.