5 items below, several preceded with my remarks in brackets. Since I’ve said what I have to say in the brackets, here I’ll just mention briefly the subject of each item.
Item 1 reveals another of the present Minister of Education’s attempts to muzzle—this time academics. Will he succeed? Time will tell.
Item 2 is the Independent’s report on the visit to Israel of British Foreign Secretary William Hague. It’s report, as also the Guardian’s, is vastly different in tone from those of the Israeli press on the subject. Whereas Israeli press stress that Hague promised that England would change the law, the Independent report is obviously furious with Israel for having ‘ambushed’ the Foreign Secretary on his first visit to Israel in his present capacity.
Item 3 is about the ethical code, or, rather, a letter stating certain aspects of that code for the IOF. In reading it, I recall certain responses of military witnesses at the trial of the killing of Rachel Corrie—for instance, when the gentleman in charge of the investigation was asked if there were no regulations about using bulldozers when civilians were in the area, he responded that there were regulations but that they were irrelevant in war zones, and that this had been one such. Ah yes. Regulations there are. But only for the books.
Item 4 I’ve included mainly because it is possible that some of you do not know that there is no civil marriage in Israel. Now there will be, but only for persons who have no religion. Were I to marry now, I would definitely try to get by with being with no religion, though it’s unlikely that I’d succeed. The Rabbinate is unlikely to allow more than just a few people to be without religion. After all, this is a Jewish state. In any event, as far as concerns me, it’s theoretical. Having been wed to one man for 58 years, am not a candidate for a wedding.
Item 5 is from Mahsanmilim, a treasury of videos and stories (true, mostly) about life under occupation. The particular story in this new addition is a bit different from most. Please read it, and use the opportunity to check out the website to get a general idea of the treasure trove there.
All the best,
1. Alternative information center
Israeli Education Minister Proposes “Ethics Code” to Curb Academic Freedom
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 00:00 Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Israel’s Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar proposed a new “ethics code” that will limit academic freedom, at the Knesset Education Committee on Tuesday (2 November).
According to Sa’ar, who chairs the Council for Higher Education, the code would include the following principles: “course material should reflect the range of academic views on the particular topic; lecturers should not be discriminated against on the basis of their political views; and academic freedom should not include the lecturers’ right to advocate boycotts of Israel, whether academic or otherwise,” reported the Israeli news daily Haaretz.
“Creating a ‘code of ethics’ would destroy academia,” Professor Aron Shai, Rector of Tel Aviv University, told the Knesset committee, whose discussion further addressed encouraging “Zionist views in academia.”
“The minute you sit down to draft such a code, there will be divisions and cliques,” Professor Shai added.
According to Sa’ar, the Council for Higher Education “will publish a code of basic principles that will serve as guidelines for institutions on the issue of academic freedom.”
Given that the majority of the council’s 26 members are from universities, and the universities generally oppose the idea, it is still unclear if the code will be passed or implemented.
Earlier this year Sa’ar threatened that the government would act during summer months against academics who joined the call for a boycott against Israel. He welcomed the proposed “boycott bill” and has stated that he supports sanctions against pro-boycott professors who serve at public universities.
“If a person calls for an academic boycott of the institution in which he teaches, the institution should address this,” the minister told Israel Radio.
University presidents, administrators, and professors have voiced opposition to the both the ethics code and the boycott bill, saying they go against the essence of academic freedom.
“Every university should be free to set its own rules, and any intervention by an outside body endangers academic freedom,” the council of university presidents warned in a statement released following Tuesday’s education committee meeting.
In July, responding to Sa’ar’s support of the proposed boycott bill, more than 500 Israeli academics, including former education ministers, signed a petition that declared: “Freedom of expression and academic freedom are the oxygen of the Israeli academic system.”
It continued: “Israeli academia will suffer great damage if politicians dictate to it what is right and wrong to say, think, research, and teach, and force it to adopt these kinds of criteria for accepting, promoting, or rejecting researchers and professors.”
2.[The reason for the possibility of Israelis being arrested in Britain [below] and other countries is Universal Jurisdiction.
Would be a pity of Britain changed the law to exclude Israeli officials. Apparently the change in the law, if it comes, will not be as soon as most of the Israeli press claims. In a TV interview William Hague, when pressed for a date or time for the change, stated that it would have to go to Parliament and other procedures. He refused to give a time schedule beyond saying that it probably would not be for another year.
Israel and Britain moved last night to limit the damage of an Israeli diplomatic ambush that threatened to overshadow the first official visit to the Middle East by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary.
British officials were infuriated yesterday when Mr Hague arrived in the region to be confronted with the news that Israel had unilaterally cancelled a series of high-level “strategic dialogue” meetings between the two countries. The move was a protest against the UK’s failure to block arrest warrants being issued against Israeli generals and politicians visiting Britain.
The news of the cancellation was broadcast by Israel Radio yesterday, which cited anonymous sources in Israel’s foreign ministry. It was quickly confirmed by the ministry.
British officials were taken by surprise by the move and were particularly disturbed by the cancellation as Mr Hague was intending to announce later this week that the Government would legislate this year to prevent private individuals from issuing arrest warrants. The warrants – which have been issued against Israeli politicians and generals accused of war crimes – have been a source of tension since 2005 when Doron Almog, a retired Israeli major-general, decided not to land at Heathrow after being tipped off that he was facing an arrest warrant from a private prosecution in an English magistrates’ court for alleged war crimes.
A number of prominent Israeli figures have subsequently cancelled trips to the UK, including the leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni, who was a member of the Israeli government when it ordered the military onslaught on Hamas-controlled Gaza in 2008-09.
This week it was disclosed that Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor, had cancelled a private trip to London after being advised that he could face private proceedings over the interception of a Gaza-bound Turkish vessel in May.
Speaking in Ramallah yesterday after meeting Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mr Hague said that the British Government was resolving the warrants issue “in our own Parliament and on our own timetable”, adding he would raise the issue with Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
A later joint official statement by Israel and the UK said that both Israel and Britain now looked forward to an “early meeting” of the strategic dialogue. British sources said that the Israeli foreign ministry had indicated to Mr Hague and his entourage that the report was “regrettable” and had “unintended consequences”.
3. [The letter below on military conduct “to be read to every soldier” is being promoted by the identical chief of staff who in testifying before the Turkel Committee on the events on the Mavi Marmara “stressed” (among other lies) “that the commandos acted in a restrained manner and did not hurt those ‘who should not have been hurt.’” In other words, all of the 9 who were killed ‘deserved’ to have been murdered.! Take this letter “to be read to every soldier” with a grain of salt. Even if it is possibly a result of Israel beginning to realize that it is not as popular in the world as it once was, it is unlikely that the words in the letter will impact on soldiers, or that soldiers if brought to trial will necessarily be punished. ]
The Israeli military chief of staff has sent a letter outlining his “personal thoughts on ethics” which will be read to every soldier under his command.
The letter comes in response to a campaign that has targeted the military prosecutor for bringing cases against troops accused of misconduct.
Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi sent it to all commanders with orders for it to be read to “each and every soldier”.
It reads: “It is the legal and moral duty of the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces], as the military of the democratic Jewish state that prides itself on rule of law, to investigate every claim of misconduct regarding its personnel.”
The unusual decision to send a clear and direct message to every soldier reflects concern over a backlash against the prosecution of military personnel.
It follows a campaign of graffiti-spraying near the home of Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit, the military advocate general, accusing him of being a traitor.
The graffiti is thought to refer to a few prosecutions of soldiers on charges relating to the war in Gaza of 2008-2009.
Mendelblit has likened the accusations of treachery to those levelled at former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated 15 years ago today by a rightwing extremist opposed to the then-government’s peace talks with the Palestinians, according to a report in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
Ashkenazi’s letter says the IDF investigated hundreds of complaints regarding the behaviour of soldiers during the Gaza war, the vast majority of which it found to be groundless.
But it adds: “We are not exempt from firmly treating the isolated extreme cases where the military commands were not followed and the moral code of the IDF disregarded – this is not only our duty but an interest of the first degree to every soldier and commander of the IDF.”
The letter specifically mentions three cases – the theft and use of a credit card, the use of a Palestinian child as a human shield, and allegations that soldiers deliberately fired at a civilian – which resulted in prosecutions on Mendelblit’s instructions.
“These single cases do not demonstrate a lack of support for the combat soldiers or the over-use of legal actions taken in the military,” it says.
“It is the opposite. These cases demonstrate the moral strength of the IDF and our ability, unlike the claims of various figures both in Israel and in the world, to uphold the law and maintain our values at all times.”
An IDF source said it was rare for the chief of staff to issue a direct message to all military personnel.
“When there are difficult times, the highest-ranking commander has to say words,” the source said. “[Ashkenazi] is saying that if we think soldiers are committing crimes, we have to investigate.”
In one of the cases mentioned in Ashkenazi’s letter, two soldiers from the IDF’s Givati Brigade were convicted of using a nine-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield, ordering him to open bags suspected of containing explosives.
The use of human shields – “neighbour procedure”, in IDF parlance – is forbidden by the Israeli military code of ethics.
Scores of demonstrators, including soldiers, have protested outside the court during the current sentencing stage of proceedings. They claim the pair are victims of international anger over Israel’s conduct during the Gaza war.
Israeli police are investigating the spraying of graffiti near Mendelblit’s house, but a spokesman refused to be drawn on whether serving soldiers were suspected. “All directions are being looked into,” he said.
November 04, 2010
Israelis with no defined religion get civil marriage option next week
By Jonathan Lis, Dana Weiler-Polak and Yair Ettinger
The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset approved registration fees yesterday for new type of civil marriage that will be available to a limited number of Israelis when a new civil union law (“brit zugiut” in Hebrew ) comes into effect next week.
The new law allows registration of couples in which neither individual is Jewish according to Jewish religious law, halakha, and the two are deemed to have no other religion.
Committee chairman MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ) who was the sponsor of the law, said yesterday that it only dealt with part of the issue presented by the absence of civil marriage in Israel. He said he intends to submit an additional bill for a vote by the current Knesset providing for civil unions for the entire population, not only those without a religion.
According to the Israel Religious Action Center, there are about 300,000 immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union who are not considered Jewish. About 30,000 of them have non-Jewish spouses and therefore qualify under the new law. According to the sponsors of the law, however, about 150 couples a year are expected to register for civil unions.
The current civil union law was passed by a large margin in the Knesset in March as one of the commitments made to Yisrael Beiteinu to enter the governing coalition. In the cabinet, the law received the support of the ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, although the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism factions refrained from voting on the measure when it came before the Knesset for approval.
The Tzohar rabbinical organization, which is involved in promoting Jewish identity in Israel and assists immigrants from the former Soviet Union in proving Jewish family roots, called the official Knesset committee action approving registration fees for civil unions a “very partial solution to a broad problem.”
The director of the Masorti movement, Yizhar Hess, which represents the Conservative Jewish movement in Israel, welcomed the new law as the first step in the establishment of civil marriage in the country, paving the way for broader provisions enabling Israelis to marry under auspices other than the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. “At the moment,” he added, “in the height of absurdity, only those who manage to prove that they have no religious affiliation can benefit from the arrangement.”
5. From tamar goldschmidt & aya kaniuk _mahsanmilim [warehouse of words]
[The story below about the boy being shot in the back is one that Aya witnessed, years ago, at Qalandia checkpoint. I remember her story and her horror, and that when on a subsequent occasion Palestinian kids were throwing rocks and a soldier kneeled down and took aim at them, and Aya (who is petite) ran to the soldier to stop him, and as he brushed her off he told her, “I’m not going to shoot all of them. Just that one,” and Aya’s horror both for the child and at the soldier’s nonchalance with a human life. On that occasion, an officer came and stopped the soldier from harming Aya and from killing the child. I did not witness either instance, but remember clearly till today Aya’s relating both, and her sensitivity and caring about the lives of the Palestinian children, so many of whom Israeli soldiers have killed, and in killing the children have likely killed something within themselves, too.]
and She Said “I see”
She was a girl back then, in 2003. She had just stopped eating meat because she wouldn’t be an accomplice to killing, she said. And on the street she pitied the homeless. When she learned about the segregation that had been common practice in the US not so long ago, whereby the dark-skinned were not allowed to sit next to the fair-skinned, she asked me, her voice quivering, how could that be?
A sensitive girl, a bleeding heart, not quite sixteen. And I told her about fourteen-year old Omar Matar from Qalandiya refugee camp who had been murdered two weeks before that. How he and a group of children and youths had run from the soldiers at the checkpoint and how the soldiers had chased them, knelt, took aim and fired at the boys as they ran. And how a live bullet entered his neck and he fell, and how he lay dying for a whole week, and then died.
And I finished telling her and waited for her tears, certain they would come. I remember I also wanted to apologize to her for telling her something so terrible even though it will be so sad and hard to hear, because one simply must know what is happening so near, and because he had been alive and now he’s dead. Perhaps I also needed to get it off my chest, and whom would I tell if not her.
Her eyes remained dry and I wondered. Her gaze was flat, and stiff, and empty. Time went by. Then she said: “But what did he do?”
What did he do? What kind of question is that? What does it matter what he did? He is dead. Shot in the neck. Murdered. Is that your first question? What did he do?
And I told her, I think I said, “They were throwing stones, and he…”
And she said, “I see”.
True, I didn’t tell her – I didn’t have the chance to tell her – that it was not at the innocent that he was throwing stones, not at the guiltless, but at those who incorporate violence since they are soldiers.
That he threw stones at those who sit between him and his felled life because they are there, which is not their home, and that he lives in the ghetto which they maintain, and his neighbors and family and he himself are humiliated day by day all day, because there is the Occupation, and they – its facilitators – are there at the gates of his life, at the aorta of his spirit and rights, and life.
That he threw stones at the checkpoint where the assailant sits, he who bullies and violates and steals and takes, the executioner, the soldier who is guilty of maintaining and facilitating a policy that hurts him.
Perhaps I didn’t tell her all of this, because I did not yet believe that I would have to excuse myself to her. That dead Omar Matar would have to prove to her his innocence, and his right to remain alive and not to die.
Because I thought his death was stronger than anything.
“I see” she said, because for her that was enough. Now everything had become clear. He threw stones and so he could be shot while running away. In the neck. With live ammunition. And his life could be taken. “I see” she said to me, and her face remained empty, and her tears never came. Not even then. Only “I see” which she said, and fell silent.
After I already realized where she had gone inside herself, in the middle or at the end of her meeting with me then, or perhaps only later in my own feverish thoughts, there was a moment when – in my mind – I said these words to her:
And if I had told you that not Palestinian Omar Matar but a Haredi (ultra orthodox) fourteen-year old Jew was the one throwing stones at the checkpoint, at a soldier, at a policeman? And the policeman then knelt, took aim and fired at his neck while he was running away and the bullet entered his neck and he fell and died, would you still say “I see”?
And if I told you that an angry fourteen year-old Jewish boy, had thrown a stone at a military base housing Wehrmacht soldiers, and after he had thrown the stone he ran away, and a Wehrmacht soldier chased him, then knelt, took aim and shot him in his neck, and killed him, would you then, too, say “I see”?
And if I told you that a fourteen-year old boy had entered my next door neighbor’s yard and thrown stones at his house, and at him, and my neighbor opened his window, took out his pistol and shot him dead, would you still say “I see”, about this imaginary boy throwing stones at my neighbor who had never done him or anyone else around any harm, where there is no occupier and no victim, and my neighbor had never harmed anyone around him before would shoot him and take his life? Would you still say “I see”?
But I didn’t say anything. I sealed my ebbing sob and my anger and astonishment, and kept silent.
And I never saw her again. I didn’t happen to, nor did I want to. And perhaps our paths never crossed again because I didn’t want them to. And years went by. And I don’t know what she did with them. And I didn’t think about her any more.
2010. Not very long ago, on television, I was watching the coverage of a settler’s attempt to run over boys in Silwan, and remembered her.
A Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem. In a segregated discriminating city where the law forbids Palestinians to build their homes, and the law keeps demolishing their homes, which will never be made legal, because they are Palestinians. Where Jews have settled and are protected by the Occupation forces while taking over the place, step by step at the expense of its inhabitants, under the auspices of the regime.
A car drives along, downhill, deviates from its track, collide with two children one of whom is hurled in the air and falls on the road.
One’s mind and heart refuse to believe one’s eyes.
With what ease the scene was televised time and again – the child flying in the air again and again and crashing down on the road – and the Israeli anchormen and women, male and female reporters all click their tongues, their faces empty and cold just like that of the girl all those years back after I had told her about the murder of Omar Matar.
He threw stones, they say. It wasn’t the driver who started, it was the boy. The boy the boy the boy the boy. Who threw stones. Who lay in wait, who threw, who started, who is guilty. And the little body is hurled in the air before crashing on the asphalt. And this tiny humanness, blunt and burning, is flashed back from their empty, cold faces that say “I see”.
But a car, never mind why, hit a boy. A boy was hurled in the air. And crashed down on the asphalt. Is this not a closed, complete, objective, absolute event?
And even if the driver was afraid and didn’t mean to do it, and did not intentionally change his course in order to run them over –
And even if other children had thrown stones at him earlier, or even these very children whom he ran over –
And in spite of this automatic acquittal of the Jew only because he is a Jew be what may, regardless of what he had done –
Before all of this, ahead of all of these contexts and interpretations and rationalizations, is
there not a child there?
A child whose little body was hit by a car, its impact hurling it in the air until it fell and crashed on the road.
True, the child’s skin may have been slightly browner than the assailant driver’s, and if not his skin color, than his accent may have been different, and he was most likely not the boy next door, nor possibly the son of a family relation of the Israeli television’s reporters.
And true, by means of ‘mandatory conscription’ that stamps its recruits with the State’s stamp, be what may, the assailant driver himself – settled in Silwan and manifesting Israel’s inherent injustice towards this neighborhood – is to a certain extent everyman, every man who serves in the Israeli army, as are the sons and daughters of all those anchors and reporters, and they themselves, are either the hitting driver or those who protect him in deed or in some future potential.
Because they too are soldiers.
And it is certainly not easy to sympathize with the victim of someone you might know and be related to. Of your son and daughter. Your own potential victim.
To sympathize with your witness, your mirror.
But is there – still – nothing that is not relative, I wonder, that is not merely in the eyes of the beholder, that bears inherent meaning and value regardless of circumstances and identities of those involved? In his poem On the Slaughter, written following the 1903 Kishinev pogroms, didn’t the poet Hayyim Nahman Bialik write:
Vengeance such as this, vengeance for the blood of a small boy,
Satan himself has not devised-
Words that have become emblematic of the non-relativity of evil. Words that say that a crime is a crime, and a child is a child, and injustice is injustice, always.
Again and again I recall that girl, now already 23 years-old. And I imagine her witnessing a horrific traffic accident, perhaps, how her heart begins to pound, how she approaches, with her bleeding heart that I remember so well, and the driver stands there and one person lies dead on the ground, covered, and she approaches the body, lifts the sheet and sees the identity of the victim, and raises her eyes and sees the identity of the hitting driver, and only then does she weeps, or merely says – “I see”.
And I think to myself, no, Bialik, you were wrong. Not the blood of a child. The blood of a Jewish child, perhaps, but not the blood of just any child.
Not in these parts and not at this point in time.
Here there is no such thing as ‘a boy’ or ‘a child’ if it is a Palestinian, for a Palestinian is not ‘a child’ but always a Palestinian.
Here it is all – really all – about ‘ours’ and ‘us’ and ‘them’. And we are right because it is ‘us’, and they are wrong because it is ‘them’.
And there is no evil or good conduct, justice or its violation, as an inherent, permanent and absolute value regarded only in view of the deed itself. Only who killed and who died.
There is only ethnicity.
Since the attempt to run him over at Silwan, 11-year old Omran Mohammad Mansour whom the car hit was tried and found guilty. He has been placed under house arrest and fined. However, 57-year old settler David Be’eri who drove his car into the two children is not under any kind of arrest, nor fined.
And just as I did back then when Omar Matar was murdered, now, too, I stitch inside me the tears that rise and my anger and astonishment, I lower more curtains, and again I distance Omar Matar and all the other murdered children of Qalandiya refugee camp and the run-over children of Silwan whom I’ve already distanced a bit, and already they are almost mere words, and even less – stains of memory.
And that girl and those others like her who say “I see” – I distance them too.
Until the next time when I will not be able to contain them again.
Until the next time someone within earshot says – “I see”!.