There is so much worthwhile reading today that deciding what to forward was not easy. I try below to balance the scale with reports and opinion pieces that seem to me important. Also, below the 6 items are 5 links. I hope that you will read all 6 items, and if you have time or can manage so much, to also at least glance at the articles that the links take you to. I do not mean to say that these are all that there is to read today. They are merely the items that I think you should be aware of.
If you are short on time and can read but one item, then please make it the third one in which Terry Crawford Browne advises: “To end the occupation, cripple Israeli banks”
Of the 6, the first two items are the briefest, and furnish info about life in these parts.
Regarding the first item, imagine that one night soldiers or policemen arrive at your home to inform you that your 7 year old son is wanted for questioning by the Shabak (General Security Service). Something out of science fiction? Not at all. It happened in a Palestinian village. Ultimately it turned out to be a mistake. But Israel has in fact arrested and jailed boys as young as 12 years of age. Gilad Shalit’s name is widely known, as is the fact that he has been captured by Hamas and held captive for 4 years till now. And many sympathize with him and his parents.
But how many of you know about the Palestinian children that Israel has jailed and the worry and misery of their families in not being able to help them, and often not even able to see them? Few of you know that the children are often imprisoned in Israeli jails in Israel, out of bounds for their parents. Moreover, these children don’t even have names—that is, we do not know their names. The media does not consider it important to inform us either of their being ‘detained’ or their names.
The 2nd item is another of many cases of a young person who lives in Gaza but wishes to continue studies in the West Bank university of Bir Zeit. Is she allowed to? Of course not. Gisha is trying to help her, but if past cases are an indication, then the chances of her studying at Bir Zeit are slim. One could title this, “Stuck in Gaza.”
The third item, as I have said, is Terry Crawford Browne’s advice to cripple Israeli banks to end the occupation. And Terry tells us how to go about doing this.
The 4th item analyzes the situation regarding Israel vis a vis Iran, and says that all signs point to an impending war and as early as August. Please please let it not happen. It is entirely possible that it might. Israel has never been so low in public opinion abroad as it is now. What better way, its leaders believe, to improve Israel’s image or at least to take pressure off of Israel than to attack Iran. May it not happen. But I acknowledge that the signs are not very promising that it won’t happen.
Items 5 and 6 are both opinion pieces. Item 5 says loudly and clearly “Israelis don’t want peace.” Amazingly, it is from the Jerusalem Post, a paper not known for left-wing sentiments. And item 6 discusses the roots of Israeli “exceptionalism.” This is the longest piece of the 6, but well worth your time.
1. Harretz Thursday, July 01, 2010
IDF mistakenly summons 7-year-old Palestinian boy to Shin Bet interrogation
Shin Bet spokesperson’s office tells Haaretz the security service does not summon children to be interrogated and this case was obviously a mistake.
Israel Defense Forces soldiers summoned a 7-year-old Palestinian boy to a Shin Bet investigation, without checking whether the order was mistaken, Haaretz has learned.
On June 10, the Za’akik family from the West Bank village of Beit Omar awoke to loud knocks at the door. The father of the family opened, and three Israeli soldiers entered the house; one of them, whom the father thought to be the commander, asked for the boy, M. His father told the officer that M. was seven years old, and showed him his identification, stating the boy’s date of birth as September 17, 2002.
The mother noticed that the officer laughed upon seeing the document, but he delivered the summons nonetheless. The mother understood from him that the 7-year-old must attend a meeting with “Captain Tamir” of the Shin Bet security services at the offices of the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories (COGAT ), in the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion the next morning. The family decided not to send the child to the Shin Bet office, but because they feared the soldiers might return and arrest the boy, they consulted the organization Defense for Children International.
The summons form, though printed in Arabic and Hebrew, was filled out in Hebrew only. The family therefore had no way of knowing that the name on the summons wasn’t actually that of their son, but that of a person with the same first name but from the family of Za’arir.
Speaking to Haaretz, the father said there is no Za’arir family in Beit Omar.
The summons customarily bears a four-part name (first name, name of the father, name of the grandfather, and family name ). Only the first name in this case was in fact the same as that of the child, but the IDF still failed to notice the triple mistake of delivering the summons to a 7-year-old, bearing the wrong name and at the wrong address.
The Shin Bet spokesperson’s office told Haaretz the security service does not summon children to be interrogated and this case was obviously a mistake. The summons was meant for someone else in the village with a similar name, the Shin Bet spokesman said, “and the force made a mistake in the address. We apologize for the distress caused to the child as a result.”
Defense for Children said in response that they welcomed the apology, but questioned whether it was issued to the family directly or only through the media.
The IDF spokesman said that there had been confusion between two families with similar names who live nearby to each other, and that the mix up was an innocent mistake.
This story is by:
2. Ynet Thursday, July 01, 2010
Gaza attorney petitions court to study in Birzeit
Fatima Sharif wants to study human rights, diplomacy in West Bank but says Israel won’t allow it
An attorney from Gaza has petitioned the High Court of Justice for the right to leave the Strip in order to study at Birzeit University near Ramallah, after Israel denied her request because she does not meet “humanitarian and exceptional need” criteria.
Fatima Sharif, 29, has applied for a masters’ degree in Diplomacy and Human Rights Law. She filed the court petition through the Gisha human rights organization.
“Despite Israeli declarations on easements in the civilian closure, Israel refuses to let her leave for school,” the petition says.
Sharif, who studied law in Gaza, currently works as an attorney at the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, a nonpartisan organization promoting human rights and diplomacy in the Strip.
“I want to raise awareness about human rights within the society of Gaza,” Sharif explained. “I firmly believe that every person has rights that they must be made aware of.”
The Al-Mezan center says Sharif had to apply for her MA in the West Bank because no such program is offered in Gaza, but that she planned to return to the Strip after completing her studies and continuing her work with the organization.
The petition claims that since 2000 Israel has imposed a prohibition on young people who desire to leave the Strip for West Bank universities. It adds that this is a violation of a High Court order, which states that
Israel must review these requests and grant them in “cases that would have positive human consequences”.
“If the request had been reviewed specifically there is no doubt it would have been approved, because of her personality and education, because of the school program she has chosen, and because of the future use she plans to make of the tools she will glean in Gaza once she comes back after completing her studies,” the petition says.
3. Dear Dorothy
Thank you for . . . your response this week to your family members and friends critical of your stance on BDS. It is so reminiscent of what we faced in South Africa during the 1980s. My son was a conscientious objector, my wife was Archbishop Tutu’s secretary and I was lobbying in New York and Washington for banking sanctions. Banking sanctions were our last non-violent strategy to avert a civil war and bloodshed, and the resultant devastation of South Africa and its economic infrastructure. Thank God, it worked.
I spent October 2009-January 2010 in Israel-Palestine with the EAPPI programme . . . I pray daily that you can avert the war of Armageddon being urged onto Israel by the bizarre theology of 50 million Christian Zionists, and a conflagration that could extend from China across Asia and Africa to Nigeria.
Following FYI is a piece I have written, which was published yesterday by the Electronic Intifada.
Terry Crawford Browne advises: To end the occupation, cripple Israeli banks
From: Matthew Cassel [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 11:25 PM
To: Terry Crawford-Browne
Subject: Re: FW: Your submission to EI
Terry Crawford-Browne, The Electronic Intifada, 30 June 2010
Targeting Israeli banks will help bring an end to the occupation. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)
The international banking sanctions campaign in New York against apartheid South Africa during the 1980s is regarded as the most effective strategy in bringing about a nonviolent end to the country’s apartheid system. The campaign culminated in President FW de Klerk’s announcement in February 1990, releasing Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the beginning of constitutional negotiations towards a non-racial and democratic society.
If international civil society is serious about urgently ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, including ending the occupation, then suspension of SWIFT transactions to and from Israeli banks offers an instrument to help bring about a peaceful resolution of an intractable conflict. With computerization, international banking technology has advanced dramatically in the subsequent 20 years since the South African anti-apartheid campaign.
Although access to New York banks remains essential for foreign exchange transactions because of the role of the dollar, interbank transfer instructions are conducted through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which is based in Belgium. So, instead of New York — as in the period when sanctions were applied on South Africa– Belgium is now the pressure point.
SWIFT links 8,740 financial institutions in 209 countries. Without access to SWIFT and its interbank payment network, countries are unable either to pay for imports or to receive payment for exports. In short, no payment — no trade. Should it come to a point where trade sanctions are imposed on Israel, it may be able to evade them. Instead of chasing trade sanctions-busters and plugging loopholes, it is both faster and much more effective to suspend the payment system.
The Israeli government may consider itself to be militarily and diplomatically invincible, given support from the United States, and other governments, but Israel’s economy is exceptionally dependent upon international trade. It is thus very vulnerable to financial retaliation. South Africa’s apartheid government had also believed itself to be immune from foreign pressure.
Without SWIFT, Israel’s access to the international banking system would be crippled. Banking is the lifeblood of any economy. Without payment for imports or exports, the Israeli economy would quickly collapse. The matter has gained additional urgency with the bill now before the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to penalize any person who promotes the imposition of boycotts against Israel. Another important political factor is that SWIFT is not only outside American jurisdiction, it is also beyond the reach of Israeli military retaliation.
Israel has long experience in sanctions-busting since the 1948 Arab boycotts. Apartheid South Africa was also well experienced in sanctions-busting — breaking oil embargoes was almost a “national sport.” Trade sanctions are invariably full of loopholes. Profiteering opportunities abound, as illustrated by Iraq, Cuba and numerous countries against which for many years the United States unsuccessfully has applied trade sanctions. Iran conducts its trade through Dubai, which happily profits from the political impasse.
Suspension of bank payments plugs such loopholes, and also alters the balance of power so that meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians become even possible. This is because banking sanctions impact quickly upon financial elites who have the clout to pressure governments to concede political change. Trade sanctions, by contrast, impact hardest on the poor or lower-paid workers, who have virtually no political influence.
SWIFT will, however, only take action against Israeli banks if ordered to do so by a Belgian court, and then only in very exceptional circumstances. Such very exceptional circumstances are now well-documented by the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s winter 2008-09 invasion and massacre in Gaza and by the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010. There is also a huge body of literature from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations detailing Israeli war crimes and violations of humanitarian law.
The Israeli government, like that of apartheid South Africa, has become a menace to the international community. Corruption and abuses of human rights are invariably interconnected. Israel’s long military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for example, has corrupted almost every aspect of Israeli society, most especially its economy. The Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported in December 2009 that the Israeli government lacks commitment in tackling international corruption and money laundering.
The international financial system is exceedingly sensitive about allegations of money laundering, but also to any associations with human rights abuses. Organized crime and money laundering are major international security threats, as illustrated by the United States subpoena after the 11 September 2001 attacks of SWIFT data to track terrorist financing. The website Who Profits? (www.whoprofits.org) lists hundreds of international and Israeli companies that illegally profiteer from the occupation.
Their operations range from construction of the “apartheid wall” and settlements to agricultural produce grown on confiscated Palestinian land. As examples, Caterpillar, Volvo and Hyundai supply bulldozing equipment to demolish Palestinian homes. British supermarkets sell fresh produce grown in the West Bank, but illegally labelled as Israeli. Ahava markets Dead Sea mud and cosmetics.
The notorious Lev Leviev claims in Dubai that Leviev diamonds are of African origin, and are cut and polished in the United States rather than Israel. They are sourced from Angola, Namibia and also allegedly Zimbabwe, and can rightly be described as “blood diamonds.” Israeli diamond exports in 2008 were worth $19.4 billion, and accounted for almost 35 percent of Israeli exports. Industrial grade diamonds are essential to Israel’s armaments industry, and its provision of surveillance equipment to the world’s most unsavory dictatorships. Such profiteering depends on foreign exchange and access to the international payments system. Hence interbank transfers are essential, and SWIFT — willingly or unwillingly — has become complicit, as were the New York banks with apartheid South Africa.
Accordingly, a credible civil society organization amongst the Palestinian diaspora should lead the SWIFT sanctions campaign against Israeli banks. And, per the South African experience, it should be led by civil society rather than rely on governments.
Each bank has an eight letter SWIFT code that identifies both the bank and its country of domicile. “IL” are the fifth and sixth letters in SWIFT codes that identify Israel. The four major Israeli banks and their SWIFT codes are Israel Discount Bank (IDBILIT), Bank Hapoalim (POALILIT), Bank Leumi (LUMIILIT) and Bank of Israel (ISRAILIJ).
Such a suspension would not affect domestic banking transactions within Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip — or international transfers to Palestinian banks that have separate “PS” identities. The campaign can be reversed as soon as the objectives have been achieved, and without long-term economic damage.
What is required is an urgent application in a Belgian court ordering SWIFT to reprogram its computers to suspend all transactions to and from Israeli banks until the Israeli government agrees to end the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and that it will dismantle the “apartheid wall;” the Israeli government recognizes the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Israel recognizes, respects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees.
The writer is a retired banker, who advised the South African Council of Churches on the banking sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa. He spent October 2009 to January 2010 in East Jerusalem monitoring checkpoints, house demolitions and evictions, and liaising with Israeli peace groups. He lives in Cape Town.
4. [forwarded by Rupa Shah ]
July 1, 2010
Dispatches From the Edge
Guns of August in the Middle East?
By CONN HALLINAN
Crazy talk about the Middle East seems to be escalating, backed up by some pretty ominous military deployments. First, the department of scary statements:
First up, Shabtai Shavit, former chief of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, speaking June 21 at Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv on why Israel should launch a pre-emptive strike at Iran: “I am of the opinion that, since there is an ongoing war, since the threat is permanent, since the intention of the enemy in this case is to annihilate you, the right doctrine is one of presumption and not retaliation.”
Second up, Uzi Arad, Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security advisor, speaking before the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem June 22 on his belief that the “international community” would support an Israeli strike at Iran” “I don’t see anyone who questions the legality of this or the legitimacy.”
Third up, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speaking to reporters at the G-8 meeting in Toronto June 26: “Iran is not guaranteeing a peaceful production of nuclear power [so] the members of the G-8 are worried and believe absolutely that Israel will probably react preemptively.”
Fourth up, Central Intelligence Director Leon Panetta predicting on ABC’s “This Week” program June 27 that Iran could have two nuclear weapons by 2012: “We think they [Iran] have enough low-enriched uranium for two weapons…and while there is continuing debate [within Iran] right now about whether or not they ought to proceed with a bomb…they clearly are developing their nuclear capacity.” He went on to say that the U.S. is sharing intelligence with Israelis and that Tel Aviv is “willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically and culturally and politically.”
A few points:
1) Iran and Israel are not at war, a fact Shavit seems confused about.
2) Since the recent rounds of sanctions aimed at Iran would have lost in the United Nations General Assembly, it unclear who Arad thinks is the “international community.”
3) Berlusconi is a bit of a loose cannon, but he is tight with the Israelis.
4) An Iran that is different “diplomatically and culturally and politically” sounds an awful lot like “regime change.” Is that the “room” Panetta is talking about?
And it isn’t all talk.
Following up the London Times report that Saudi Arabia had given Israel permission to fly through Saudi airspace to attack Iran, the Jerusalem Post, the Islam Times and the Iranian news agency Fars report that the Israeli air force has stockpiled equipment in the Saudi desert near Jordan.
According to the Post supplies were unloaded June 18 and 19 outside the Saudi city of Tabuk, and all civilian flights into the area were canceled during the two day period. The Post said that an “anonymous American defense official” claimed that Mossad chief Meir Dagan was the contact man with Saudi Arabia and had briefed Netanyahu on the plans.
The Gulf Daily News reported June 26 that Israel has moved warplanes to Georgia and Azerbaijan, which would greatly shorten the distance Israeli planes would have to fly to attack targets in northern Iran.
The U.S currently has two aircraft carriers—the Truman and the Eisenhower—plus more than a dozen support vessels in the Gulf of Hormuz, the strategic choke point leading into the Gulf of Iran.
The Saudis have vigorously denied the reports they are aiding the Israelis, and Shafeeq Ghabra, president of the American University of Kuwait, says “It would be impossible for the Saudis to allow an Israeli attack on Iran.”
But Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Ramat Gan, Israel, argues that Saudi Arabia and Israel both fear a nuclear-armed Iran. “This bring us together on a strategic level in that we have common interests. Since the Arab world and Saudi Arabia understand that President Obama is a weak person, maybe they decided to facilitate this happening.” He also said the story might not be true because “I don’t think the Saudis want to burden themselves with this kind of cooperation with Israel.”
According to military historian Martin van Creveld, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, “The real fear is that someone will get carried away by his own rhetoric and fear mongering” and start a war. He also thinks, however, that Israel should not take a preemptive strike “off the table.”
Trita Parsi of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington argues that the escalation of rhetoric is dangerous. “When you have that kind of political environment, you are leaving yourself no space to find another solution,” she told the Christian Science Monitor. “You may very well end up in a situation where you are propelled to act, even though you understand it is an unwise action, but [do so] for political reasons.”
The rhetoric is getting steamy, the weapons are moving into position, and it is beginning to feel like “The Guns of August” in the Middle East.
Conn Hallinan can be reached at: email@example.com
No, Israelis are not ready to change, they’re not ready to free the Palestinians, they’re not ready for peace.
Soon after I came to this country 25 years ago, I learned that among my relatives, “Tali” was the real Arab-hater, the most extreme right-winger in the family. “For Tali, the only good Arab is a dead Arab, right?” one of my cousins ribbed her one Friday night. “Wrong,” she said. “For me, dead isn’t good enough – he’s got to be buried 40 meters underground, too.”
She was exaggerating for comic effect, but Tali really did have it in for the Arabs. So one day I asked her which political party she voted for, thinking it would be Tehiya or one of the small, far-right parties of the time, or at best Likud.
“Labor,” she tells me. I was amazed. Why Labor? “Look,” she explains, “I don’t want to live with the Palestinians, and we can’t get rid of them, so the only thing to do is divide the land, let them live in their country and I’ll live in mine.”
I think of Tali and that remark when I hear this country’s mouthpieces going on about how Israelis, starting with the prime minister, are ready to accept a Palestinian state, how poll after poll shows that two-thirds of the Jewish population is in favor of trading land for peace.
The implication of this hasbara is that Israelis have become so liberal, so dovish, so open-minded about the Arabs. Oh no we haven’t. In 25 years, I have never seen this country so blindly contemptuous of everybody and everything Arab, so drawn to confrontation, so intractably closed-minded. Israelis haven’t come around to the idea of a Palestinian state because they realize the Palestinians have rights, too, or because they think there’s something immoral about the occupation and the settlements.
Today, if Israelis thought they could get away with expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and the Israeli Arabs from Israel, they’d support it. But they know they can’t, so they want to put as much distance and as high a wall between them and the Arabs as they can.
If this is your idea of peace, then the cliché “all Israelis want peace” is true.
YOU CAN say it doesn’t matter why the public has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, the important thing is that it has. But this is a misunderstanding of Israeli public opinion. People here accept the idea of a Palestinian state in theory, but they’re so antagonistic toward Arabs, so determinedly mistrustful of anything any of them says that in practice, Israelis are dead set against any move that might actually help bring a Palestinian state into being.
The lifting of West Bank checkpoints, the so-called settlement freeze and, most recently, the easing of the siege of Gaza – all these were done grudgingly by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and accepted grudgingly by the public, and only because the Americans forced us into it. If it was up to us, we’d let the Palestinians stew and crack them over the head if they complained too much. Two-thirds of Israelis may tell pollsters they’re in favor of trading land for peace, but this country will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into actually giving up land because nothing on earth can convince us that the Palestinians will give us peace.
Since I’ve lived here, there’s only been one period when Israelis’ minds were open to the possibility that Arabs weren’t inveterate killing machines, that maybe we weren’t entirely innocent in this conflict, and that we should give them a chance. That period began when Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister in June 1992, and it ended in March 1996, after three suicide bombings in nine days killed nearly 60 Israelis.
From that point on, trust was finished. Yasser Arafat could do no right, even though he finally cracked down on Hamas and brought terror under control for years. We like to say Israel offered the Palestinians a state at Camp David and again in the Annapolis talks, but the fact is that the more land Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians, the more hopelessly unpopular they became at home. Imagine if Arafat had said yes to Barak, or if Mahmoud Abbas had said yes to Olmert – would the Knesset and public have supported the uprooting of 75,000 or 100,000 settlers, along with the redivision of Jerusalem? Unthinkable.
We gave them Gaza, we say, but it was a fluke. The one and only Israeli leader who could have gotten the public behind him for that move was Ariel Sharon, and again, the disengagement wasn’t done for the sake of justice and reconciliation, it was done to get the goddamn Arabs out of our sight, and accompanied by a popular, Sharon-style parting assault on the enemy. Since then, our vindictiveness toward Palestinians has only deepened.
IT DOESN’T come out of nowhere. It comes from traumatic bouts of violence and bloodshed at the hands of Palestinians who don’t accept the Jewish state by any means. Israelis have a right to be cynical.
Up to a point, though. Cynicism that closes their minds to the violence and bloodshed – not to mention colonial tyranny – that we’ve visited on the Palestinians is going much too far for anyone’s good.
Cynicism that keeps people frozen in the past, that blinds them to progress when it’s happening, that won’t allow them to say or hear a good word about Arabs – that’s crippling.
And except for the short period between Rabin’s election and the suicide bombings of early 1996, this has been the Israeli mind-set for as long as I can remember. (I wasn’t here for Anwar Sadat’s visit and the peace treaty with Egypt, which briefly broke the mold.) Israelis today are as safe or safer than they’ve ever been, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is everything we’ve ever asked for, yet I cannot remember a time of such bad blood against Arabs, and against anyone who criticizes how we treat them. Israelis say they want peace, but they resist with all their might any suggestion that it’s possible, that there are things we can do that we’re not doing to bring it closer.
No, Israelis are not ready to change, they’re not ready to free the Palestinians, they’re not ready for peace. That is, not unless you believe in polls.
Aggression immersed in victimhood is a striking reality of the Israeli discourse [GETTY]
An American academic once told me: “Many people in the Islamic world think America does not believe in human rights, but they are wrong; America believes in human rights indeed, the problem is the American definition of human.”
In other words: the American definition of ‘human’ is not a universal one. This is not purely an American characteristic; every culture faces the challenge of broadening its cultural limits and universalising its moral norms.
But among all human cultures and ideologies, the Israeli case is unique in its double standard.
Criminality wrapped in self-righteousness and aggression immersed in victimhood are a few striking characteristics of the Israeli reality and discourse.
The Israeli personality
The duality of “Israel’s insistent emphasis upon its isolation and uniqueness, its claim to be both victim and hero,” as Tony Judt wrote in Haaretz a few years ago, reflects the fragility and self-centeredness of the Israeli personality. This is not, unfortunately, exclusive to Israel’s political elite, but rather it extends to their Zionist supporters worldwide, including those, such as novelist Elie Wiesel and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who portray themselves in humanistic and aesthetic images.
I was profoundly moved by the graphic description of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust in Elie Wiesel’s Night, which depicts his and his father’s experience of a terrifying process that violates human life and degrades human dignity.
But I was struck by the tone of self-righteousness and self-justification in Wiesel’s fictional Dawn, particularly when he writes: “The commandment thou shalt not kill was given from the summit of one of the mountains here in Palestine, and we were the only ones to obey it. But that all over … in the days and weeks and months to come, you will have only one purpose: to kill those who have made us killers.”
When the Jewish South African judge, Richard Goldstone, exposed Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Wiesel called that “a crime against the Jewish people”. But this is simply an immoral use of past atrocities as a moral justification for present brutalities and oppression.
Moreover, one cannot but entertain two questions here: Firstly, what kind of moral claim does Wiesel, who was born of a Romanian father and a Hungarian mother, have over the divine call at Mount Sinai in the heart of a Middle Eastern desert? And secondly, by which moral or legal norm are the Palestinians of today responsible for the wrongdoings of the Germans of yesterday?
Israel uses past atrocities as a moral justification for present brutalities [GETTY]The worst of this hypocritical language, however, can be found in Bernard-Henri Lévy’s article about Israel’s aggression against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla published in Haaretz on June 8, 2010.
Lévy presents himself in self-glorifying terms as being “someone who takes pride in having helped to conceive, with others, this kind of symbolic action (the boat for Vietnam; the march for the survival of Cambodia in 1979)…”.
But when it comes to Gaza’s plight, Lévy simply dismisses the tragedy by denying the existence of the Israeli blockade and attacking easy targets, such as “the fascislamist government of Ismail Haniya” and “the Islamist gang who took power by force three years ago”.
Thus, he shamelessly dismisses the grand effort of the multiethnic, multinational and religiously diverse group of humanistic leaders and activists on the Freedom Flotilla.
Moreover, Lévy lacks the objectivity to address the fascizionist – to borrow from his own terminology – gangs who aggressively invaded Palestinian land over six decades ago, and uprooted a whole population forcing them into the new Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps – Gaza and the West Bank.
Indeed, for those who put their selfish desires above the moral principles of justice and compassion, their self-serving myths are better in their eyes than the ugly truth.
Jewish humanistic intellectuals, such as Professor Tony Judt and musician Gilad Atzmon deplore Israel’s self-indulgence and lack of maturity. Judt writes: “Israel still comports itself like an adolescent: consumed by a brittle confidence in its own uniqueness; certain that no one ‘understands’ it and everyone is ‘against’ it; full of wounded self-esteem, quick to take offence and quick to give it … that it can do as it wishes, that its actions carry no consequences, and that it is immortal.”
Atzmon writes: “We are dealing here with a uniquely and seriously disturbed immature nation. We are dealing with a self-loving narcissistic child …. The more the Israelis love themselves and their delusional phantasmic innocence, the more they are frightened that people out there may be as sadistic as they themselves proved to be. This behavioural mode is called projection …. Jews have a very good reason to be frightened. Their national state is a racist genocidal entity.”
What is most disappointing, however, is not the Zionist self-righteousness and narcissism; rather it is the Western acceptance and support of this attitude – an attitude that is better understood when placed in a historical context.
The main theoretical basis of the acceptance of Israeli exceptionalism in Western culture is the diversion, mainly within the Protestant branch of Christianity, of the Christian incarnation of God in the person of Jesus to a new incarnation of God in the Jews as a people – the Chosen People.
This tendency started with Martin Luther (1483-1546) who subdued Christianity theologically and morally to the Jewish factor in his small epistle That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew. Luther wrote in that epistle: “When we are inclined to boast of our position, we should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord.”
Through this Luther – who was paradoxically a staunch anti-Semite – inadvertently opened a theological window, that would centuries later allow the ‘cult of Israel’, as it has been dubbed by the American writer Grace Halsell, to replace Christianity in most Protestant denominations, especially among American Baptists. After all, what they are doing is no more than a literal implementation of Luther’s deification of the Jews.
Professor Yvonne Haddad of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding calls this heresy ‘Holocaustianity’. And within this new heresy lie the roots of the Israeli exceptionalism.
Trivialising the Holocaust
Israel is becoming a moral burden for those who value social justice [GETTY]Professor Judt writes that: “What Israel lost by its continuing occupation of Arab lands it gained through its close identification with the recovered memory of Europe’s dead Jews.” But he knows well that the memory of the dead is the worse moral justification for murdering innocents: “In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint. ‘Remember Auschwitz’ is not an acceptable response.”
But that is exactly the kind of moral justification we have from the Israelis today.
When an advisor to Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, tried to attack Helen Thomas’ remarks in which she said Israelis should “go home … [to] Poland, Germany …” all he did is remind her that some of his relatives were killed in Poland and Germany more than half a century ago, as if that is a good reason to starve the Palestinians to death and to kill humanitarian activists in international waters today.
After all, the Israeli politician was just confirming what Thomas said: you belong there; not here.
This is how the Holocaust memory, a memory of a human tragedy by any and every measure, is trivialised by Israeli criminality.
A moral burden
Many political thinkers and politicians have recently realised that Israel is becoming a liability and a strategic burden for the US. It has always been a strategic burden. But the problem is much deeper. Israel is becoming a moral burden on all those who have an ethical conscience, including Jews who value human dignity and social justice.
Even those who spent their lives advancing the Zionist cause are today realising the moral paradox of their life’s achievement. Henry Siegman, a German-born American writer who served as the executive director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994, wrote in Haaretz on June 11, 2010: “A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants.”
All decent human beings must support the oppressed Palestinian against the Israeli oppressor.
The oppressed Arabs of Palestine (Muslims and Christians) are rendering through their suffering a great service to the entire body of humanity, by exposing the most self-centered and supremacist ideology in our world – an ideology that is wrapped today in a bloody sacredness.
Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti is an author in political history and history of religion. He is a research coordinator at Qatar Foundation.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
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