Once again I apologize for the large number. At least I can say that the final item—the 7th— is pure pleasure.
So this evening’s message begins with 3 information reports, first about Gideon Spiro who was arrested on the charges of ‘suspected incitement.’ Well, I guess that I could also be accused of the same, as many other activists.
The 2nd item is in support of Mordechai Vanunu’s desire to leave Israel and to be free. Am glad to see the piece in the Guardian. Perhaps there it will get more attention than had it been in one of Israel’s 3 major dailies.
Item 3 relates that a West Bank Mosque had been torched and that as usual the police have not found suspects. Interesting that when some crime happens to Jewish colonists the police find the Palestinian doers post haste. But when it comes to Jews doing things to Palestinians, all evidence seems to disappear. Who knows. Maybe this time the perpetrators will be found.
Item 4 is from Le Monde Diplomatique—an interesting analysis of the ‘Palestinian’s own spring.’ It is not an overly optimistic analysis of what will happen. Alain Gresh also sees no chance that Obama will step in to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the table to work out a Palestinian state.
Item 5 “False Messiah’s in Israel’s Capital” is one of the most critical articles of Netanyahu and policies that I have read. Apparently the author, Sefi Rachlevsky, shares my worry about Netanyahu’s intentions vis a vis Iran. I believe that Netanyahu would do anything to prevent a Palestinian state coming into existence either by negotiations or by a vote in the UN General Assembly, even if it would mean attacking Iran, and even if that meant 1000s of Israeli dead. Let’s hope that Rachlevsky and I are wrong.
Item 6 is an op-ed by Dore Gold justifying Netanyahu’s rejection of the 1967 line, and my response to it, which I sent to the LA Times as an op-ed and which was rejected. Well, the LA Times was right. I dashed it off, and it needs work to make it publishable. I am nevertheless including it in the message as is, because although I’m too tired now to clean it up, some of you might find elements in my response useful to responding to arguments by others but as Gold’s.
Item 7 might induce some of you to contact the Siraj Center for a summer holiday biking and walking in the West Bank. Not only will you learn much from seeing with your own eyes, and from contact with Palestinians, but you will also undoubtedly enjoy your experience.
All the best,
1. Independent commentary from Israel & the Palestinian territories
Tuesday, June 7 2011|
Journalist and activist Gideon Spiro arrested for “incitement”
Gideon Spiro, 76, was arrested and released on Monday for what the police considered, apparently groundlessly, to be incitement.
A Jerusalem Police investigator arrested Monday Gideon Spiro, a veteran leftist activist aged 76, for suspected incitement relating to an article he had written. Spiro was discharged two hours later, after his attorneys – from the office of Michael Sfard – intervened on his behalf.
Spiro, a dedicated writer of letters to judges whose judgment he considers lacking, is no stranger to controversy. One particularly strongly-worded letter led a magistrate judge in the late 1980s to order him to stop sending letters to judges. Spiro, represented by ACRI, appealed to the District Court against this peculiar prohibition, and won. In the meantime, he published his unsent letters in the Jerusalem weekly Kol Hair.
A peculiar arrest. Gideon Spiro and daughter, Jerusalem, April 2010 (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)
Despite a long career on the radical left, Spiro said in a phone interview that this is his first arrest. The cause is peculiar, to say the least: an article he wrote ten months ago. In the article, Spiro wrote that when settlers carry weapons, they ought to be considered as militiamen and therefore legitimate targets. He claimed that Israelis ought not to dictate to Palestinians their methods of struggle against the occupation, but strongly emphasized that he supports a non-violent struggle.
Israeli law (144d2b) prohibits “publishing incitement to an act of violence or terrorism, or praise of, support of, or encouragement of an act of violence or terrorism,” but it limits this to cases in which the publication creates a “viable possibility of causing violence or an act of terrorism.” The law is rarely applied; Spiro says this is likely the first arrest made due to an article since the 1950s. Since Spiro wrote in Hebrew, and since Palestinian gunmen do not, as a rule, peruse Hebrew publications, there seems to be little if any “viable possibility of causing violence” as a result of Spiro’s article.
One wonders how, precisely, the police would defend the arrest, when they would have to haul Spiro before a judge. One also wonders just how dangerous the police considered a 76-year-old man. ACRI has criticized the arrest, calling it a violation of Spiro’s rights. Spiro said he is considering suing the police and bringing a personal civil suit against the interrogator who ordered the arrest.
The arrest is particularly glaring, since the police do little, if anything, when actual calls for violence and racism (prohibited by the same law) are published. The rabbis who supported the notorious “Torat Ha’Melech,” which called for the murder of gentile children “if one has reason to suppose they will grow to be as evil as their parents,” were not arrested, and the rabbis who wrote the books were not indicted.
Shmuel Eliahu of Safed, who recently bragged that he managed to make his town a Palestinian-free zone by prohibiting renting apartments to them, was not arrested, much less indicted. This, despite the fact that the attorney general decided not to prosecute him five years ago, for the same charges, on condition of good behavior.
Perhaps those most guilty of incitement are the editors of Ha’Kol Hayehudi (“The Jewish Voice”), a website which praises and promotes pogroms (AKA “price tag” activities) against Palestinians. They are the students of the same rabbis who wrote “Torat Hamelech.” Needless to say, they were neither arrested nor indicted. And these are just samples from the last few months.
Cynically, Spiro said that if he were a rabbi, he could just ignore the summons from the police. One cannot escape the feeling that Spiro was arrested because the police consider possible incitement against Jews to be essentially more criminal than actual incitement against non-Jews.
2. The Guardian,
6 June 2011
We must help Vanunu live in peace
Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu wants to obey Israeli law and lose his citizenship. The UK has an obligation to him
Mordechai Vanunu arrives at a Jerusalem court in December 2009. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images
Twenty-five years ago Mordechai Vanunu, a young Israeli nuclear technician, came to London to pass on information to a British newspaper about a secret nuclear weapons facility at which he had been working and about which he believed the world should know. In the course of the next few weeks he was lured abroad to Rome, grabbed by the Israeli security service, drugged and smuggled illegally out of the country to stand trial for aggravated espionage, high treason and assisting the enemy. He was jailed for 18 years, most of which he spent in solitary confinement.
Since his release from prison in 2004, Vanunu has been trying to leave Israel. Now he has written to the Israeli minister of the interior, Eli Yishai, asking if he can revoke his Israeli citizenship. In his letter, he points out that the Knesset has just passed a law that revokes the citizenship of anyone convicted of espionage or treason. Applying this logic, Vanunu has duly asked for the cancellation of his own.
“This law applies to me and I am ready for my citizenship to be cancelled,” he explains in the letter. “After all the ‘treatment’ that I have received from the state of Israel and its citizens, I do not feel, here, as a citizen or how a citizen should feel, I feel as an unwelcome citizen and treated as such by the state of Israel and its citizens. I am called and shouted at as a spy, ‘the Atom Spy’, and a traitor by the Israeli media and in the streets of Israel. I am harassed and persecuted as the enemy of the state for 25 years. I feel I am still imprisoned, still held as a hostage, by the state and its government. After 25 years of ongoing, many and very hard punishments by the state of Israel, I wish the end to all punishments and my suffering, and wish the realisation of the basic human right to freedom.”
The argument that has been used by the Israeli government against him being allowed to leave is that he could still pass on damaging secrets to a foreign power. In his letter, Vanunu moves into capital letters to dispute this: “I HAVE NO SECRETS ! EVERYTHING I KNEW THEN I HAVE PASSED ON TO THE ENGLISH PAPER IN 1986 !!”
Indeed, no one – unless they are completely ignorant of the case – genuinely believes that he has any secrets up his sleeve. He is refused permission to leave the country not for security reasons but as a further penalty, a punishment for coming out of prison as committed to his non-violent, anti-nuclear-weaponry principles as when he went in. This is how the old Soviet Union treated its dissidents, obstructing and humiliating them in the hope that they eventually crack or die.
Daniel Ellsberg, who risked an equivalent amount of time in prison for his own leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 in the United States, has called Vanunu “the pre-eminent hero of the nuclear era … He paid the full price, a burden in some ways worse than death, for his heroic act for doing exactly what he should have done and what others should be doing.” He is among the many voices now calling for Vanunu to be allowed to live a normal life in a country of his choice.
Last week, Julian Assange was awarded the Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism for his work with WikiLeaks. The award recognised that the leaking of information about secret governmental activity – wherever that government may be – makes for a better world.
Britain has a responsibility towards Vanunu, a man who gave his story to a British newspaper – the Sunday Times – and whose kidnap and removal from Italy started on the streets of London; Israel had not wanted to embarrass Margaret Thatcher’s government by carrying out the deed in the UK. It is time that the British government recognised the British link and spoke up for a man who risked his freedom and his sanity because of his hatred of nuclear weapons. And high time that a peaceful man in a violent world was allowed to live his own life in peace.
Arsonists believed to be Jewish settlers set fire to a mosque in the West Bank on Tuesday, the latest of a series of such attacks in recent years.
An Israeli police spokesman said a tire was set ablaze inside a mosque in the village of Mughayir, near Ramallah, in an attempt to burn the building. Worshipers who arrived for morning prayers discovered scorched prayer carpets and Hebrew graffiti scrawled on a wall.
The graffiti said, “price tag,” a reference to a practice by militant settlers who attack Palestinians and their property in response to moves by the Israeli authorities to take down unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank.
The scrawled message was signed, “Alei Ayin,” the name of a rogue outpost in the area where Israeli security forces demolished illegally built structures last week, setting off stone-throwing clashes with settlers, who firebombed a police car.
The police spokesman said an investigation into the mosque blaze was underway but that no arrests had been made. There have been four arson attacks on mosques in the West Bank in recent years, and while suspects have been held, none are known to have been prosecuted.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank accused Israel of failing to seriously investigate the mosque fires and prosecute those responsible, thus granting settlers “impunity to continue their attacks.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Tuesday’s arson attempt “a criminal act,” and the office of Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he had ordered security forces to act “with all means at their disposal to catch the perpetrators.”
4.Le Monde Diplomatique
Palestine’s own spring
Palestinian refugees demonstrated along Israel’s border in May, inspired by the Arab protests, in response to the Fatah-Hamas impasse
The images of Palestinians massed at Israel’s borders on 15 May represented a dream for some, and a nightmare for others. On the 63rd anniversary of the declaration of the Jewish state and of the nakba (catastrophe) for the many thousands of Palestinians expelled from their homes, demonstrators from Syria (1), Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza converged on the promised land. They were only a few thousand but the world wondered what would happen if millions marched peacefully to the borders and walls next time. These refugees – neglected by the PLO since the 1973 Oslo accords despite having inspired the Palestinian awakening of the 1960s – may have decided to take their future into their own hands.
The banners in Ramallah demanded the right of all Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Beirut or Amman to elect a national representative council, and a radical reform of the PLO. This could represent a new stage in the liberation struggle, and Israel’s brutal response on 15 May, killing 14 unarmed Palestinians, shows how worried its leaders are. It is this new aspiration of ordinary Palestinians after the Arab uprisings, overlooked by both Hamas and Fatah, which has pushed the rivals to end their long quarrel and agree an accord, ratified in Cairo on 4 May by representatives of 13 Palestinian factions. It anticipates the formation of a government of technocrats or independents; the liberation of prisoners from both sides held in Gaza and the West Bank; presidential and legislative elections within one year; reform of the PLO; and the merging of the security forces on a strictly professional basis. Priority is given to reconstructing Gaza, which remains under Israeli blockade.
Unsurprisingly, the agreement was quickly rejected by Israel, with its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, telling Fatah to choose between peace and Hamas. He did not mention that for months Israeli officials had justified their reluctance to agree an accord with Mahmoud Abbas (head of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah) on the grounds that he only represented half the Palestinians. Netanyahu even claimed that Hamas was only the local version of al-Qaida. This intransigence was ratified by President Barack Obama in his speech on 19 May, when he said he understood that these were “profound and legitimate questions for Israel: how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognise your right to exist?” But Obama and Netanyahu are familiar with the wording of the Oslo accords, which they claim to adhere to, that mandate the PLO, not the Palestinian government, to negotiate a final status agreement with Israel. Hamas does not belong to the PLO. The leaders gave no credit to the statements by Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, who has repeated his support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital, and confirmed that, if it came about, Hamas would renounce violence (2).
The agreement between Fatah and Hamas surprised all observers of the negotiations between them over the years. It is hard to see to what extent it will be put into effect, as many points remain vague and there is still deep mistrust. But it has come about as the result of powerful factors, relating to the Palestinian scene and developments in the region. The refugees, who had been the most noticeable absentees from the last 20 years of negotiations, have now been invited in.
’Down with division’
Fatah and Hamas have been confronted by the rise of the protest movement in the West Bank and even Gaza. Unlike other Arab countries, the main slogan was not “Down with the government”, but “Down with division”, shouted by many young people. As Jamil Hilal, a social scientist in Ramallah, said: “We have no government and no state, just an authority, and on top of that, the occupation.” Although Fatah and Hamas responded with repression and pressure, they were forced to take notice of popular demands, since they are in a strategic deadlock.
The peace process, on which Fatah has staked everything since 1993, has been dead for years, but it was only with the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, the chief promoter of the supposed negotiations, that Abbas agreed to sign its death warrant: the rise in settlement-building removes any significance from dialogue with Israel. (On the day of Obama’s speech, the Israeli government announced the construction of another 1,550 homes in East Jerusalem).
Hamas, which claims to be the Palestinian “resistance”, has maintained a ceasefire with Israel, which it imposes on other Palestinian factions, if necessary by force. In Gaza, it has to deal with Salafist groups (whom some believe are linked to al-Qaida) that blame Hamas for not fighting the “Zionist enemy”, and for not making society more Islamic. The murder in April of Vittorio Arrigoni, a pro-Palestinian Italian activist based in Gaza, by an extremist group, was a warning. The Israeli blockade and daily problems of ordinary Gazans have eroded Hamas’s influence. Neither Fatah nor Hamas have alternative strategies and they are going through a crisis of legitimacy. Their behaviour in Ramallah and Gaza – authoritarian, corrupt, clientelist – is not so different from the behaviour of other Arab leaders, and is provoking the same revolt.
The Arab awakening
The upheaval in the region has also led to compromise. Fatah has lost its chief ally, Mubarak. Demonstrations in Syria, and their violent repression, have weakened a regime that is an essential support of Hamas, and has sheltered its external leaders since their expulsion from Jordan. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of Sunni Islam’s most popular preachers, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (from which Hamas emerged), strongly condemned Bashar al-Assad’s government on 25 March and said the Ba’ath Party could no longer run Syria. Meanwhile, despite pressure from Damascus, Hamas has been careful not to rush to defend the Syrian regime.
Another regional shift troubles Hamas’s leaders. The repression of the democratic uprising in Bahrain and the violence of the anti-Shia campaign by the Gulf states – led by Saudi Arabia – have increased tensions between the Arab world and Iran. Hamas is partly funded by businessmen in the Gulf who are not keen on its association with Iran. Hence its interest in making up with Egypt, a Sunni power; this has been made easier by the political orientation of the Cairo regime after the overthrow of Mubarak.
Without going so far as to break with the US, or question the peace treaty with Israel, Egypt is ending its subservience to Israeli and US interests. Mubarak opposed unity between Fatah and Hamas because he feared the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He considered Gaza a security problem and took part in its blockade, and he led Arab defiance against Iran. While the Muslim Brotherhood prepare to take part in September’s elections, and perhaps even in the next government, these fears are now out of place, since the democratic climate in Egypt allows people to express their solidarity with the Palestinians, as the government is well aware.
Egypt’s foreign minister has said the Rafah border crossing will be opened, and has described the Israeli blockade of Gaza as shameful (3). The chief of staff, Sami Anan, has given Israel a warning on his Facebook page: “The Israeli government must show restraint when it discusses peace talks. It must refrain from intervening in the internal matters of Palestine” (4). As the former Egyptian ambassador to Syria, Mahmoud Shukri, said: “Mubarak was always taking sides with the US, but the new way of thinking is entirely different. We would like to make a model of democracy for the region, and we are ensuring that Egypt has its own influence” (5). The effect of this has been a thaw in relations with Iran, and both Tehran and Damascus have welcomed the Fatah-Hamas accord.
What hope for US intervention?
Obama’s latest speech, two years after he addressed the Muslim world in Cairo, was in response to the new situation in the region, and the failure of his mediation in the Palestinian conflict, confirmed by the resignation of US Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. Obama wanted to show that the US was on “the right side of history” at a time of regional turmoil. He announced that the US wanted to combine its interests and values; for example he denounced the repression by the government in Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based, but stayed silent about Saudi Arabia, which has assisted it.
Introducing him, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “America’s leadership is more essential than ever”. Robert Dreyfuss of the US weekly The Nation asked whether anyone in the region was still listening to the US (6). After describing Pakistan and Afghanistan’s defiance of the US, he wrote: “Iran, despite onerous sanctions and repeated threats of US military action, has not only refused to compromise over its nuclear programme, but Tehran is supporting anti-American movements in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and the Gulf states. Iraq, whose very government is the creation of the US invasion in 2003, has all but shut the door on a continued US military presence there, and its leadership touts its new alliance with Iran. Saudi Arabia, where anti-American sentiment has been growing for a decade, is seething over US policy in the region, and Riyadh is reaching out to Beijing, Moscow and other powers, despite its overwhelming dependence on weapons and security assistance from Washington.” Saudi Arabia has also expressed its displeasure at the way Obama dropped Mubarak and criticised the repression in Bahrain.
Netanyahu resisted calls to halt settlement building and rejected any return to the June 1967 borders, or even using those borders as a basis for negotiations, as suggested by Obama. When they met at the White House on 20 May, Netanyahu lectured Obama on history and geopolitics with the arrogance of someone who knows he can’t lose. Despite the media coverage about their differences the Israeli prime minister told his aides: “I went in with certain concerns. I came out encouraged” (7). Obama hailed their excellent relations, the only inviolable principle in the region, but also the major obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state. Obama announced in September 2010 that it would be created by 2011 (his predecessor, George W Bush, had promised it by 2005, then 2008).
With 17 months to go before the US presidential election, the chances of Obama realising his aim are slim. What is certain is that this September, when the UN Assembly meets to decide whether to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, the US will oppose it, as they have opposed any pressure on Israel, which has for years violated every UN resolution, including those voted by the US.
But the US runs the risk of being isolated, for the agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the creation of a single Palestinian government and Israel’s intransigence have created a more favourable context for Abbas’s demands. And it seems several European countries have decided to support the resolution. Washington could, once again, impose its veto. But a massive vote in favour by the General Assembly would at least allow the Palestinian state (not just the PLO) to be granted observer status at the UN and join UN organisations such as Unesco and the FAO, and put the issue of the occupation of a state (and not just “territories”) before international opinion and justice. A small step forward, but a step all the same.
5. Haaretz ,
June 07, 2011
False messiahs in Israel’s capital
Netanyahu’s propaganda machine swung into full gear again and transformed a right-wing general into a ‘traitor,’ ‘saboteur,’ and ‘gang leader.’
This summer, 1,000 rockets a day are expected to land on the inhabitants of central Israel for an undetermined period of time, with thousands of casualties on the cards. This is the reality that emerges from the assessments of the minister for the homefront, the real front, Matan Vilnai and from the recent warnings voiced by newly retired Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
The future of the citizens of the center of the country is being determined in a more secure center. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to devote so-called “Jerusalem Reunification Day,” marking the 44th anniversary of the capital, under its current status, in which Jews are citizens and non-Jews are not, to the country’s real center – Mercaz Harav Kook, a yeshiva and the center of religious settler messianic ideology.
On his perceived-as-victorious return from Washington, the Rome of today, Netanyahu was welcomed at the messianic core like an anointed king. Taking their seats with all the proper respect and giving their blessings were the police investigation refuseniks, the anointers – Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the ethnic cleansing rabbi from Safed, and Rabbi Dov Lior, the senior messianic rabbi, the rabbi of the first Jewish underground, mass murderer Baruch Goldstein’s rabbi, the rabbi of the rulings declaring Yitzhak Rabin a “pursuer” and a “betrayer,” and the rabbi behind the book of incitement to murder of non-Jews, “Torat Hemlekh.”
In turn, Netanyahu addressed his anointers and their followers, declaring them to be his source of strength in his dealings with U.S. President Barack Obama. “You are the elite special ops unit that leads the nation.”
The travel advisory vis-a-vis the east voiced by Dagan is being heard at a critical moment. A historical drama is underway in the target country. A real battle for power is raging between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his sect on the one side, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the traditional regime on the other. The Revolutionary Guard is accusing the president and his followers of blatant messianism; Ahmadinejad is accused of having crowned himself the Mahdi – the Islamic Messiah.
He and his circle believe in apocalyptic messianism. Their connection to nuclear weaponry is dangerous. Despite their extremism, Khamenei and the Iranian establishment are a different story. In Pakistan, too, there are dozens of atomic bombs and Islamic extremists, but the pragmatism in the established system creates stability.
The fact that Ahmadinejad’s messianism looks to be on the losing side is crucial. Even those, like myself, who believe in considering dramatic measures to strike at the messiahs of the bomb must know that an Israeli attack would thwart the moves to remove the messianic faction from power. Moreover, as is the case with every messianic movement, Rabbi Akiva, a spiritual leader, is a problem; but the real apocalypse comes only when a Ben Koziva, an apocalyptic messiah, takes over as an anointed Bar Kochba, who led the doomsday rebellion (in his personal case, against the Romans one that brought tragedy upon his people.)
The change in Iran is not fortuitous. In 2003, the Iranian leadership suspended its nuclear program for two years, after assessing that the United States constituted a threat following its invasion of Iraq. Today, the sanctions and, even more so, the regional ferment against oppressive regimes are causing the establishments in the region, as in Iran, to distance apocalyptic messianic elements from power.
Only in Jerusalem is messianism growing stronger. The “crime and punishment” principle has a mythical role in all cultures. In messianic cultures, the upheaval of principles is the essence. When a crime and its punishment are reversed, a messianic sign is born. Netanyahu’s rise to power came under such a sign.
After the incitement demonstrations he orchestrated to chants of, “With blood and fire, we will expel Rabin,” led to the assassination of a hero and prime minister, the religious right expected punishment – of Netanyahu and of the settlement world. Instead, seven months after the incitement and the murder, the anointed of the right was elected.
And the drama is repeating itself: The modern-day Ben Koziva, Netanyahu, travels to Washington, enters the lion’s den and slaps the “black Muslim,” aka “president,” in the face, and walks away unscathed. Instead of being punished, he wins applause from the elected of the empire. Like Mordechai the Jew in the Purim story whose audacity led to his crowning, our Bar Kochba mounted the horse of public support.
The head-spinning from the messianic victory over the “crime and punishment” gave rise to Dagan’s warning. In his opinion, the repeated transition in messianism from the manic to the depressive will end in disaster. From Netanyahu’s current sense that he has the ability to ignore U.S. opposition to a strike against Iran, as well as its demand for peace talks based on the 1967 border lines, the leadership, when faced with the price of September, will get spooked and, in the service of messianism and the settlements, the strike on Iran will come to stop the peace on the basis of 1967.
When it was exposed, the Netanyahu propaganda machine swung into full gear again and transformed a right-wing general into a “traitor,” “saboteur,” “nutcase” and “gang leader” who is “trying to topple an elected prime minister.” However, the real gang leader can be seen sitting in the Prime Minister’s Residence. Every citizen and every friend of Israel must act to remove his hands from the steering wheel. Never have the words “a matter of life and death” been more accurate.
June 5, 2011
The long view in Israel against the 1967 line
For decades, Israel’s greatest strategic minds have concluded that the Jewish state can safeguard its future only by retaining defensible borders beyond the 1967 line.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent statement that Israel can’t defend itself with borders drawn along pre-1967 lines has been questioned in certain foreign policy circles. These critics have noted that Israel successfully fought two wars, in 1956 and in 1967, while based within those borders. And they have claimed that borders don’t matter as much in modern warfare. But Netanyahu is right.
The idea that the 1967 line isn’t defensible has actually been around for decades. Indeed, the architects of Israel’s national security doctrine reached that conclusion soon after the Six-Day War. The main strategic problem that Israel faced at that time was the enormous asymmetry between its small standing army, which needed to be reinforced with a timely reserve mobilization, and the large standing armies of its neighbors, which could form coalitions in times of tension and exploit Israel’s narrow geography with overwhelming numbers. True, Israel won in 1967, but the war also pointed out the country’s many vulnerabilities.
In the years following the war, the main advocate for creating new boundaries to replace the fragile lines from before 1967 was Yigal Allon, then Israel’s deputy prime minister. Allon had considerable military experience, having commanded the Palmach, the elite strike units of the Jewish forces, in the 1948 war that created Israel.
In 1976, while serving as foreign minister, Allon wrote an article for Foreign Affairs outlining the strategic logic for his position. He pointed out that the 1967 line was an armistice line from Israel’s war of independence and never intended as a final political boundary. Allon quoted the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1967, Arthur Goldberg, who said that the 1967 line was neither secure nor recognized. Given this background, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, backed by both the United States and Britain, only called for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” — but not from “all the territories.” The resolution also didn’t specify strict adherence to the pre-1967 line, advocating only that “secure and recognized” boundaries be established.
Under the Allon plan, Israel would include much of the Jordan Valley within its border. This area is not within the pre-1967 line, but it is essential to Israel’s defense. Because it rises from an area that was roughly 1,200 feet below sea level up a steep incline to mountaintops that are 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level, it serves as a formidable line of defense that would enable a small Israeli force to hold off much large conventional armies, giving Israel time to mobilize its reserves. Control of the Jordan Valley also allowed Israel to prevent the smuggling of the same kind of weaponry to the West Bank that has been entering the Gaza Strip: rockets, antiaircraft missiles and tons of explosives for terrorist attacks.
Today, it might be argued that after the demise of Saddam Hussein, Israel no longer has to worry about Iraqi expeditionary forces racing across Jordanian territory. Yet Israeli planning for the future cannot be based on a snapshot of reality in 2011. No one can guarantee what the orientation of Iraq will be five years from now: a budding pro-Western democracy or a heavily armed Iranian satellite subverting the security of its neighbors. The Saudis, it should be noted, are not taking any chances and are constructing a security fence along the border with Iraq.
Israeli vulnerability has regional implications. Should it become clear that the great Jordan Valley barrier that protected Israel for more than 40 years is no longer in Israeli hands, then the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will become an increasingly attractive forward position for jihadi groups seeking to link up with Hamas to wage war against Israel. In 2007, when Al Qaeda activity in Iraq was at its height, the organization sought to build up a forward position in Irbid, Jordan, to recruit West Bank Palestinians. This effort was scuttled. But if Israel is back on the 1967 line, then the whole dynamic of regional security will change and the internal pressures on Jordan will undoubtedly increase.
Yitzhak Rabin, who promoted the Oslo agreements in 1993, understood better than anyone Israel’s strategic dilemmas in the years that followed. In October 1995, one month before he was assassinated, he addressed the Knesset and asked it to ratify the Oslo II interim agreement, which he had just signed at the White House in the presence of President Clinton. In his speech, he laid out how he saw the future borders of Israel. He made clear that Israel would not withdraw to the 1967 line. He insisted on keeping Jerusalem united. And finally, like his mentor Yigal Allon, Rabin stressed that Israel would hold on to the Jordan Valley “in the widest sense of that term.”
It is always possible to find Israelis who will say the 1967 line is just fine. But Israel’s greatest strategic minds since the Six-Day War have disagreed. They overwhelmingly have concluded that Israel can safeguard its future only if it retains defensible borders, which means redrawing the 1967 line to include parts of the West Bank crucial to the country’s survival.
Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
The fallacies in Dore Gold’s argument in “The long view in Israel against the 1967 line”
Dore Gold’s main arguments in his op-ed of June 5th, “The long view in Israel against the 1967 line” are 4, are tired and worn, and moreover are all based on the assumption that Israel’s future wars will be primarily ground warfare. This ignores the fact that today’s warfare and future wars between Israel and its neighbors are likely to be air warfare, either by bombers and drones (Israel’s principle tactic in the 2nd Lebanese war) or missiles. Thus the argument that the 1967 line is indefensible is itself indefensible. Bombers and missiles fly over borders, tunnels go under them.
Let us consider each of the 4 main arguments individually —
1. “The main strategic problem that Israel faced at that time was the enormous asymmetry between its small standing army . . . and the large standing armies of its neighbors.”
2. “U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, backed by both the United States and Britain, only called for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” — but not from “all the territories.” . . . The resolution also didn’t specify strict adherence to the pre-1967 line, advocating only that “secure and recognized” boundaries be established.”
*True. But Gold fails to mention that the same resolution prior to the section on “withdrawal” makes clear its intention when it states “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”—in other words, Israel must leave whatever territories that it conquered. The definite article is totally unnecessary given the statement of inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/240/94/IMG/NR024094.pdf?OpenElement
3. “Control of the Jordan Valley also allowed Israel to prevent the smuggling of the same kind of weaponry to the West Bank that has been entering the Gaza Strip: rockets, antiaircraft missiles and tons of explosives for terrorist attacks.”
*Nonsense! If Israel should have learned one thing from its experience in Gaza it is that tunnels go under borders. Moreover, the same weapons could be transferred from other areas–Lebanon, for instance.
4. “It is always possible to find Israelis who will say the 1967 line is just fine. But Israel’s greatest strategic minds since the Six-Day War have disagreed. They overwhelmingly have concluded that Israel can safeguard its future only if it retains defensible borders, which means redrawing the 1967 line to include parts of the West Bank crucial to the country’s survival.”
See Stephen M. Walt as above, who makes short shrift of Israel’s ‘greatest strategic minds.’
The only way in which Israel can safeguard its future and that of Israelis is not by force but by recognizing Palestinian rights to justice (including the right of return) and Israeli rights to live in peace and security with Palestinians. The Palestinians will neither disappear nor give up their desire for justice and peace, to which they have at least as much right as do Jews.
7. Haaretz ,
June 07, 2011
Between warm and fuzzy, and dangerous in the West Bank
Refugee camps, desert moonscapes, checkpoints and monasteries – all were part of an eye-opening bike trip around the West Bank, organized by a nonprofit Palestinian rights organization.
We left Jenin early on our first day of cycling through Palestine. After an inaugural hill, we crossed a main thoroughfare where the terrain flattened, and whizzed along under a brilliant sun, the road lined with olive trees as well as multicolored fields of thistles, poppies, marigolds and daisies. Our guide, Nidal, drove ahead slowly, as if he were a Tour de France team car. At one point he stopped as a tortoise ambled across the road. Several other times during the week he would stop to pick some of us up when the rolling hills started to seem like mountains.
Around midday, hot and thirsty, we arrived at the village of Sebastia, whose archaeological ruins date back some 10,000 years, and where tradition says John the Baptist was beheaded.
The idea for the trip began when I met George Rishmawi in London three years ago. Rishmawi, a Palestinian from Beit Sahour, co-founded the International Solidarity Movement, and now runs the nonprofit Siraj Center with Michel Awad. Siraj promotes educational tourism, including walking tours around the West Bank, and is partnered with the Peace Cycle project, inaugurated in 2004 to raise awareness about the Palestinians’ plight. Now, the center is hoping to organize bicycle trips; ours was a trial run.
This spring had seemed to be the perfect time for the trip. I dragged along my son Lucas, admittedly to remove him from his teenage existence for a week. We came from our Paris home to Jerusalem in mid-April, where we met two other participants at the Jaffa Gate: George Snow, a self-described MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man in Lycra ) from Great Britain, who had recently taken up biking and had coordinated the tour with the Siraj Center, and Louise Rafkin, a writer, journalist and martial arts expert from San Francisco.
We took a taxi to Beit Sahour in the West Bank, just over the hill from Bethlehem, where we met Nidal, George Rishmawi’s brother. We then drove to Jenin to meet the fifth member of our party.
Davey Davis, 23, of Salt Lake City, was waiting for us with a broad smile. He had spent the day biking to Jenin from Nablus, where he has been working for the Palestinian NGO Project Hope for the past three months. A filmmaker, Arabic student and former bike messenger, Davey proved to be an invaluable companion as a bicycle technician, translator and inspiration to any teenager. He was also a serious rival to Palestinians in terms of friendliness.
Our first night in Jenin was spent, bizarrely, in a 90-room, luxury hotel called the Haddad Tourism Village, which had a fully functioning amusement park out front, packed with children and adults screaming with glee. Director and actor Juliano Mer-Khamis had been assassinated less than two weeks earlier in the Jenin refugee camp nearby, so it felt all the more incongruous to be having dinner outside under the full moon, the Ferris wheel spinning out front and stone lion statues guarding the hotel entrance.
Louise, who had heard about the bike trip from Jewish Voice for Peace in Oakland, had been learning about the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. She had arrived several days earlier and had spent most of her time with left-wing Israeli peace activists, most of whom had never been to the West Bank. She was still fuming about an Israeli man she had sat next to on a plane to Tel Aviv. When she told him about her bike trip, he asserted that Palestinians would kill her. That first night in Jenin, however, Louise was feeling nervous and vulnerable, as an American and a Jew.
Lucas and I were feeling well-fed and comfortable, having spent many holidays in Arab countries, including Lebanon, where my husband was born. Our family is a motley crew: My mother is a New York Jew who used to read I.F. Stone’s Weekly and has always preferred integration to segregation. Once, when asked what it means to be Jewish, she replied, “a vague nostalgia for poppy-seed cake.” My father is a Chinese-American art historian who lived in Alexandria, Egypt (where I was born ) in the 1960s, when he was studying Greek art from the Hellenistic period. My husband is a reluctant Christian from Beirut who has been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause since he was a teenager during Lebanon’s civil war. His mother was born in Jerusalem and lived in an apartment in the German Colony. She fled with her family during 1948 war and ended up in Beirut. She still had the key to her home, and often reminisced about her Jewish neighbor Miriam, with whom she played every afternoon after school. Her younger brother George played with Miriam’s brother, Yoram.
In Sebastia we cooled off and had an excellent lunch. Later, walking around the amphitheater and the ruins, the fields carpeted with yellow wildflowers, Siraj Center hiking guide Nedal Salwameh joined us and recounted with great relish the story of how King Herod had told Salome she could have anything she desired. John the Baptist’s head, she replied.
Leaving Sebastia, we cycled down a stunning, smaller road lined with Roman columns, and a little later passed the imposing Shavei Shomron checkpoint, now open. We arrived in Nablus late in the afternoon. The city is surprisingly vibrant given the destruction and occupation it has undergone. Louise and I were rushed to the Turkish baths in the heart of the old city in time to catch the women’s hour.
The Ottoman-era Hammam al-Shifa was heavily damaged during the Israeli invasion in 2002, but has since been repaired, complete with the original domes and hot tiles. We were given the pure olive oil soap that Nablus is so famous for, which makes one’s hair wonderfully soft. While waiting to be massaged, we ran into a group of towel-clad British and American writers and publishers. They were part of the PalFest literary festival, an annual cultural road show whose heavyweight patrons included Chinua Achebe, Seamus Heaney and the late Harold Pinter.
Book readings and discussions were held that evening in the leafy courtyard of the timeworn Sheikh Qasem cafe. We later met the bubbly and eloquent trade unionist-cum-guide Majdi Shella, who outlined the importance of establishing a democratic and free civil society, “so that when we have a country, things will be good … we do not want a Taliban nation.” He stated: “Our main battle is staying human. Even with all the struggling and violence.”
Walking around the old city, Louise, who had relaxed by then, began to feel nervous again. She was convinced Palestinians could tell she was Jewish just by looking at her. That’s silly, I told her. What about Majdi? His name could be Bernie Cohen. You’re right, she said, he looks just like my uncle.
Setting out early the next day, we sailed through the often-tense Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus and rode up into the hills, in an area particularly dense with settlers.
There are approximately 124 settlements and about 100 outposts in the West Bank. We were near the settlement of Itamar, where the Fogel family was recently murdered, and the village of Awarta, where two Palestinian teenagers had allegedly confessed to the deed. It was the only region where we felt any tension at all – we were asked several times by Palestinians we passed whether we were settlers.
As we biked up into beautiful terraced hills of olive groves, we passed a herdsman with a flock of handsome goats in soft grays, blacks and beiges. In this peaceful landscape there were signs of of the occupation in the ever-present Israel Defense Forces watchtower and some settler provocation – graffiti or huge metal Stars of David. Biking up the last and particularly difficult hill of the day, George, who had revealed a distressing inclination for off-color remarks and jokes, muttered, “Bloody hills – let’s get the Israelis to level them.”
That night we stayed in the Christian village of Taibeh, famous for its beer factory, where we were received by the tiny, French-born Mother Marie-Martine in the Sainte Croix de Jerusalem convent. She delighted Lucas by recounting how she and a few other nuns, out looking for a place to picnic, had inadvertently stumbled into the huge IDF outpost on top of the hill overlooking the village, and were told to leave immediately.
By then Louise and Nidal were friends and were behaving like kindergarten classmates, with Nidal teasing Louise, and Louise punching him on the arm. Davey, Lucas and I gravitated happily around them, while George wandered off doing his own thing. It was in this light and happy spirit that we coasted blissfully through a desert moonscape down below sea level to the historic city of Jericho.
An uber-modern, red, suspended cable car took us up to the Mount of Temptation, where wizened Greek monks patrolled the monastery of the same name. The next day we cycled down the empty road through the Judean wilderness, past a lone camel and Nabi Musa, which one Muslim tradition recognizes as the tomb of the prophet Moses.
At a turnoff point, a Siraj Center member piled the bikes into the car and left for Beit Sahour. Happy to take a break from our bikes, we followed Nidal into the desert for a three-hour hike to the glorious Mar Saba, a Greek Orthodox monastery founded in 483 C.E. and home to 20 monks. Louise and I sat outside with a group of Cypriot women tourists clad in black under the olive trees, barred from entering due to our gender. We took a taxi back to Beit Sahour, where we were to stay for our last two nights at the spotless Arab Women’s Union guesthouse, run by Milada Khair, a gentle, pint-sized, hyper-energetic woman who did her laundry around midnight. The next day we abandoned our bicycles and piled into the car with Nidal, headed for Hebron. After the empty northern West Bank, the area between Bethlehem and Hebron was teeming with IDF watchtowers and futuristic-looking settlements.
We toured the beautiful old city of Hebron with Walid Abu-Halawa of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee. Hebron really brought it all home – we saw and felt up close how the Palestinians were muzzled and oppressed.
At the entrance to the old city were IDF soldiers, whose jeeps were parked in the center of the square. They monitored the comings and goings of inhabitants, stopping nearly all the boys and men. Everywhere we looked there were soldiers posted on roofs of buildings; they were visible all over the place, their weapons trained at passersby. At ever corner there were two or three propped against the wall, near food stalls, clothing stores or next to old men sitting on plastic chairs and smoking.
According to B’Tselem human rights organization, more than 75 percent of all local Palestinian businesses have closed since settlements have taken root in the old city.
We walked around there in a daze, acting as if it were normal to see IDF soldiers, weighed down with military paraphernalia and assault rifles at chest level, every 10 meters. “Boys with toys,” scoffed Abu-Halawa.
‘Friends with a Jew’
Wire mesh over our heads had been put up by Palestinians to protect them from rubbish and excrement that settlers throw down on them from the buildings above. Even Nidal, who had brought along his 9-year-old son, was shocked to tears. The checkpoint leading to the partitioned Ibrahimi mosque, known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, was closed. Streets were sealed off and made into dead ends by barbed-wire fences.
In the market, products were attractively piled up; brightly colored embroidered dresses and bedcovers hung in front of the clothing shops. All dressed up and nowhere to go, I thought. Ever-optimistic schoolchildren danced past the soldiers, while 126 CCTV cameras, according to Abu-Halawa, installed in the one-square kilometer stared down at us from rooftops and street corners.
In the car on the way back from Hebron Louise timidly and only half jokingly asked Nidal, “So, what’s it like to be friends with a Jew?”
“Lovely friend,” he said softly.
We said good-bye to Nidal that afternoon; it was time for him to get back to his family. Afterward Louise sobbed in her room, devastated by the thought that so many people retain an image of Palestinians as hostile and violent.
That night Davey and Lucas played table soccer in a crowded hall with other boys from Beit Sahour, while a man made falafel in a corner. Our last morning we packed our bags into a new car driven by a Palestinian with an Israeli ID who could bring us through the checkpoint in Bethlehem and then take the bicycles back to Beit Sahour.
“I wish I could come with you,” said Milada’s assistant wistfully.
As we cycled past the wall and through the checkpoint in Bethlehem, we had the distinct impression of leaving somewhere warm and fuzzy, and going into what seemed to us to be an aggressive, dangerous world.
In response to my e-mail of thanks to a family in Taibeh who had us over for dinner, the wife wrote: “Thank you for coming. Such visits are important for us, it is showing us that we’re not alone. Hope many people from all over the world do the same. It gives us the opportunity to speak about our lives and the real situation we live in. Since you visit our home, you must feel that you have friends in this country … Best regards Maaddi Family.”
Olivia Snaije is a freelance journalist based in Paris, who frequently writes about the Middle East.