Dear All,

Six items below, about ½ are quite long, but they give you the taste of what Israel is and apparently will be until stopped, which, I hope, will eventually take place. 

Perhaps the most interesting of today’s collection is the 5th item, which depicts the right-wing versions of a single state—‘Jewish and democratic,’ whatever ‘democratic’ means in right-wing terms.  In all fairness, some of the versions do seem to have in mind a society which might allow all to live on more or less equal terms. .  Still, I believe that all the versions have the same fault as a binational entity has: rather than solve the problem, they delay it.  Each group will always want to be the strongest, to have the most votes, and to bring things to be as it sees they should be.  The issue of demography will continue to plague the Jewish state.  As for 2 states—where?  Israel has done everything to make 2 states impossible.  So the only remaining solution for those of us who want justice and peace is, it seems to me, a single democratic state, with a clear division of religion from state, and with equal rights for all citizens.  Such a state does not yet appear to be in the offing, but I believe that it will come, eventually.

Item 1 is a brief report of today’s demonstration near Hebron.  Reporters felt that they were being targeted.  The IOF denies this—but then, one cannot take the IOF’s word as matter of fact.  I have experienced many a demonstration which had no resemblance to the IOF reports of them.

Item 2 is a comment from Sweden on a report that I sent several days ago about supposed anti-Semitism in Malmo.

In item 3 Jonathan Cook reports on the “witch hunt” in Israeli schools and colleges.  I think that I mentioned the other day that a play, ‘the Ghetto, being performed in Israel by the Camari theater contains an argument between a Socialist and a Zionist, where the Socialist says to the Zionist, ‘you are replacing Nazi (or German?) nationalism with Jewish nationalism.  Indeed!  The present witch hunt is not solely nationalism.  It is militarism, too.  Militarism and nationalism are both means to attaining political aims.

In item 4 Gideon Levy relates what is happening to Palestinian herdsmen in the Jordan Valley.  While our attention is at present mainly on East Jerusalem, the military is demolishing the tents and shacks and cisterns of the Palestinians in the area.  In short, it is doing the government’s work of expelling these herdsmen and their families and sheep.

Item 5, as I have said, is about Israel’s right-wing’s notion of a single state.

In Item 6 Uri Avnery tells us some facts and reveals his opinion about the present Knesset.

May tomorrow bring better news.

All the best,



1. Jerusalem Post

July 17, 2010

Photographers wounded by IDF



Journalists were among Palestinians in a W. Bank riot. 

Two photographers from foreign news agencies said they were attacked by Israeli soldiers Saturday during a Palestinian demonstration near Hebron.

One photographer claimed an Israeli soldier hit him with a baton, and a second said he lost his hearing after a stun grenade exploded near his head.

The incident occurred during a demonstration in the West Bank. Palestinians rioted and threw stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and other riot-suppression measures.

The photographers were said to be among the protesters, making it difficult to pick them out. An IDF spokesperson didn’t comment directly on the photographers, but said “anyone who chooses to be present in close proximity to conflict areas or violent incidents does so at his or her own risk.”

The Foreign Press Association, which AFP said represents most international media outlets in the Palestinian territories, said there has been a recent policy change toward reporters by the Israeli military and police.

“Over the past months journalists covering these events have been harassed, arrested and attacked by the various on site forces before these forces turn their attention to the activists or demonstrators,” said the Foreign Press Association.

“Open, unhindered coverage of news events is a widely acknowledged part of the essence of democracy.

“Generally speaking this would not include smashing the face of a clearly marked photographer working for a known and accredited news organization with a stick, or for that matter aiming a stun grenade at the head of a clearly marked news photographer or summarily arresting cameramen, photographers and/or journalists.”


2. July 16, 2010 3:39 AM

Comment from Sweden on Gaza protest and anti-Semitism in Malmö

A note received by David McReynolds regarding a report that I sent on July 12 that seemed to me to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Israelism,’  and on which I accordingly commented:

“Item 2 tends to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Israelism.  The two are not the same.  The report is about a community in Sweden which evidently has a large Muslim population, which seems to not be overly friendly with Jews.  Just how accurate this is, I do not know.  But  I find it entirely understandable that it would surely have angered Muslims when “during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A small, mostly Jewish group held a demonstration that was billed as a peace rally but seen as a sign of support for Israel.”  It certainly would have angered me. That is not anti-Semitism.  That is anti-Israelism.”

“This is not to deny that there may be anti-Semites among residents of the city, but not every act against Jews is necessarily motivated by anti-Semitism.  Israel’s conduct could easily become the root of anti-Semitism.  Nevertheless, we have to distinguish between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.  The two are not the same.” 

The writer below agrees that the anger in Malmo is not a manifestation of anti-Semitism.

“I live 20 km from Malmö and my impression is that:

1) Israel-supporters must understand that a pro-Israel demonstration –

supported and visited by the right wing – makes people angry. Waving the

Israeli flag on the square is an act for the Israeli government and its

ockupation. It’s bullshit that the demonstration was particulary violent.

Some Israelis used force, and som with muslim background did. If I recall

correct they threw some eggs.

2) Antisemetism my have risen, but from nothing to almost nothing.

Compered to the racism against the muslims in Sweden – a racism with its

roots in bourgoise media and their parties – it’s almost nothing.

3) If pro-Israelis flee Malmö (in what numbers? 10 people?)- then it’s

their problem. Their support for  their racist regime will meet

resistance.  Jews not supporting the israeli ockupation continously

demonstrate against the Israeli state with muslims and christians and


This just stating facts, and not arguing that its correct to threaten or

harm anybody supporting Israel.



[forwarded by Elana Wesley]

Witch-Hunt Begins In Israeli Schools
And Colleges

By Jonathan Cook

12 July, 2010

Nazareth: Hundreds of Israeli college professors have signed a petition accusing the education minister of endangering academic freedoms after he threatened to punish any lecturer or institution that supports a boycott of Israel.
The backlash against Gideon Saar, a member of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, comes after a series of moves suggesting he is trying to stamp a more stridently right-wing agenda on the Israeli education system.
The education minister has outraged the 540 professors who signed the petition by his open backing of a nationalist youth movement, Im Tirtzu, which demands that teachers be required to prove their commitment to right-wing Zionism.
Two of Mr Saar’s predecessors, Yossi Sarid and Yuli Tamir, are among those who signed the petition, which calls on the minister to come to your senses before it’s too late to save higher education in Israel.
Mr Saar’s campaign to Zionise the education system, including introducing a new right-wing Jewish studies syllabus and bringing soldiers into classrooms, has heightened concerns that he is stoking an atmosphere increasingly hostile to left-wing academics and human-rights activists.
Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva who called for an academic boycott of Israel last year, has reported receiving death threats, as has a school teacher who refused to participate in Mr Saar’s flagship programme to encourage high-school recruitment to the Israeli military.
Daniel Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa University, said: A serious red flag is raised when the education minister joins in the de-legitimisation of the academic establishment. This is a method to castrate and abolish Israeli academia.
Mr Saar’s sympathies for Im Tirtzu were first revealed earlier this year when he addressed one of its conferences, telling delegates the organisation would be blessed for its hugely vital work.
The youth movement emerged in 2006 among students demanding that the government rather than ordinary soldiers be held to account for what was seen as Israel’s failure to crush Hizbollah during that year’s attack on Lebanon. It has rapidly evolved into a potent right-wing pressure group.
Its biggest success to date has been a campaign last year against Israeli human rights groups that assisted a United Nations inquiry led by Judge Richard Goldstone in investigating war crimes committed during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008. The human rights organisations are now facing possible government legislation to restrict their activities.
Im Tirtzu’s latest campaign, against what it calls the reign of left-wing terror in the education system, was backed by Mr Saar during a parliamentary debate last month. He told MPs he took very seriously a report by the movement claiming that anti-Zionist professors have taken over university politics departments and are silencing right-wing colleagues and students.
Mr Saar also warned that calls for boycotts against Israel were impossible to accept and that he was talking to higher education officials about taking action this summer, hinting that he would cut funds for the professors involved and their institutions.
Yossi Ben Artzi, the rector of Haifa University and the most senior university official to criticise Mr Saar, warned him against monitoring and denouncing academics. He added that the Im Tirtzu report smells of McCarthyism.
The universities are already disturbed by a bill submitted by 25 MPs last month that would make it a criminal offence for Israelis to initiate, encourage, or aid a boycott against Israel and require them to pay compensation to those harmed by it.
The bill is likely to be treated sympathetically by the government, which is worried about the growing momentum of boycott drives both internationally and in the occupied West Bank. Mr Netanyahu has called the emergence of a boycott movement inside Israel a national scandal.
Prof Gordon, who wrote a commentary in the Los Angeles Times a year ago supporting a boycott, said Im Tirtzu had contributed to a growing atmosphere of violence in the country and on campuses.
Hundreds of students at his university have staged demonstrations demanding his dismissal. He was also recently sent a letter from someone signing himself Im Tirtzu calling the professor a traitor and warning: I will reach Ben Gurion [University] to kill you.
Prof Gordon said: I have tenure and Im Tirtzu cannot easily get me fired. But they are trying to become the guards at the gate to make sure other academics do not follow in my path.

Only three Israeli acadmics have so far openly endorsed a boycott, he added, with many others fearful that they will be punished if they do so. But Im Tirtzu and its supporters were using the issue as a pretext for cracking down on academics critical of rightwing policy. He called Israel an increasingly proto-fascist state.
Prof Gordon cited the recent case of Assaf Oren, a statistics lecturer and peace activist who had been told he was the leading candidate for a post in Ben Gurion’s industrial engineering department until right-wing groups launched a campaign against him.
In a further sign of what Prof Gordon and others have labelled a McCarthyite climate, MPs in the parliamentary education committee — which has come to closely reflect Mr Saar’s views — summoned for questioning two head teachers of prestigious schools after they criticised official policies.
One, Ram Cohen, has condemned Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, while the other, Zeev Dagani, has spoken against the programme to send army officers into classrooms to encourage pupils to enlist.
Mr Dagani was the only head teacher in the 270 selected schools to reject the programme, saying he opposed the blurring of boundaries when officers come and teach the teachers how to educate. He subsequently received a flood of death threats.
The education ministry has announced a new core curriculum subject of Jewish studies in schools that concentrates on nationalist and religious themes and is likely to be taught by private rightwing and settler organisations.
Avi Sagi, a philosopher at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, warned in the liberal Haaretz newspaper that the syllabus offered an opening for dangerous indoctrination.
A modern history curriculum published this month has been similarly criticised for leaving out study of the Oslo peace process and Palestinian politics.
Also in the sights of education officials are hundreds of Arab nursery schools, many of them established by the Islamic Movement. Zevulun Orlev, head of the education committee, has accused the schools of poisoning the minds of Arab children in Israel.
Mr Saar appointed a special committee last month to inspect the schools and shut them down if they were found to be teaching anti-Israel material

Arab MPs have called the claims ridiculous, pointing out that the schools were set up after the education ministry failed to build nursery schools in Arab communities.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is
A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.


4.  Haaretz Friday, July 16, 2010

Twilight Zone / Gestures to the Palestinians

Gideon  Levy

While the prime minister is dispensing promises about easing restrictions in the territories, Israel is expelling hundreds of shepherds from the Jordan Valley

Which is crueler? Expelling an urban family from its home in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, or bulldozing a meager tent encampment of shepherds living on private Jordan Valley land they leased, destroying their water tanks, their tents and their sheep pens, and expelling families with many children from the land on which they live? It’s hard to say. But while the Sheikh Jarrah expulsions are attracting interest in Israel and elsewhere, hardly anyone notices or protests what’s going on in the Jordan Valley.

There, far from view, Israel has been trying for several years to methodically remove Palestinian inhabitants from wide swaths of land. And in a week when the prime minister was making more promises about a “package of gestures” to the Palestinians, in order to curry favor in Washington, the Civil Administration bulldozers brutally destroyed several more encampments, leaving dozens of residents helpless and destitute under the open sky. But the Jordan Valley is far from the public eye and the public heart, and there Israel can do as it pleases.

One look at the landscape tells the whole story: The settlement of Beka’ot, with its lush greenery and plentiful electricity and water at one end of the magnificent valley, and the ruins of the meager shepherd encampments at the other end, with no electricity, no water, no nothing. One picture is worth a thousand words. It’s a far cry from the words of the old propagandistic song once sung by the Central Command musical troupe, about the little settlement in the Valley that “guarded the line, called out for peace and served up hope in the form of colorful flowers.” Calls for peace? Gestures of hope? Go ask the neighbors about that.

This week, Dafna Banai, an activist from Machsom Watch, described the most recent expulsions: 15 families were expelled from their encampments on July 1; the week before, another 16 families received demolition and evacuation orders. For more than a year, the entire valley has been strewn with dozens of cement blocks preventing entry and warning of “firing zones” wherever Palestinians live. Israel already has enclosed all the territory west of Highway 90 with impassable ditches, and residents can exit only twice a week, when Israel opens the locked gates on the roads.

Israel declares huge amounts of private Palestinian land as firing zones and expels the residents under the false and self-righteous guise of concern for their welfare, lest they be harmed by the military training; but these firing zones are always to be found solely on Palestinian land, and never on settlement land. Have you ever heard of any settlers being expelled from their homes because their settlement was declared part of a firing zone? But against these wretched shepherds in the Jordan Valley, anything goes. This is Israeli justice, this is equality as practiced by the Israel Defense Forces.

Perhaps the explanation for this appalling expulsion policy can be found in comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicized last Friday on Channel 10. During a condolence visit to the home of a settler family in 2001, Netanyahu divulged his dastardly plan: He told his hosts he would proclaim the entire Jordan Valley a “designated military site.”

This is how the prime minister thought to mock the Americans at the time, so they would let Israel do as it pleases in the Jordan Valley. Now he is prime minister again, and his trick is working splendidly. A Jordan Valley cleansed of Palestinians will one day be more easily annexed to Israel.

The Civil Administration, naturally, attempts to deceive, dissemble and disregard all this. What connection could it possibly have with acts of systematic expulsion? After all, it is simply concerned with the welfare of the residents and the preservation of law and order. If an expulsion is taking place, the administration is not the one making the decisions; it’s just acting as a contractor.

In any event, what’s going on here is “self-evacuation,” as the spokesman put it, and “abandoned structures.”

“This is a matter of tin structures and tents, which were set up recently, without the necessary permits, in firing zones, endangering the inhabitants’ lives,” the spokesman said. “Most of the structures under discussion were abandoned independently by their residents, and a few were destroyed. Most of the people who built these structures own permanent homes in the valley, and most of the structures were already abandoned on the day they were destroyed.”

Owners of permanent homes? Have you heard of settlers being evacuated because they have another house in Petah Tikva?

On second thought: The expulsion in the Jordan Valley is worse than that of Sheikh Jarrah. It is more systematic, more large-scale, and it’s being committed against a weaker population. But the demonstrators won’t come here. It’s too far away.

The most closed open area

In an empty room that serves as the headquarters of a remote village council, local activists elaborate on their fears: Israel is seeking to expel all the area’s shepherds to here. Two big spiders silently spin their web on the ceiling. In the past month, dozens of families have received demolition and evacuation orders, all in accordance with the law, of course, the law of the occupation.

The elderly Abdel Rahim Basharat says it’s not a village, it’s a prison.

“If you close off the shepherds from every direction, to them it’s a jail, because their lives are tied to the land. If they are made to move to this village, they’ll have to sell their flocks, their only source of income. Taking our lands from us is the same as taking our lives.”

Basharat has a question: “Does Area C mean evacuation and expulsion?”

And what will you tell him? What can one tell him?

And he has another question: “Why don’t you ask about the water problem?”

Ataf Abu al-Rub, the B’Tselem investigator in the area, explains: “Sometimes these shepherds hear water trickling through the pipes that pass through their fields on the way to settlements, but they are forbidden to use it. Sometimes they hear the crackle of electricity in the high-tension wires, but the electricity is meant only for the settlers.”

Al-Rub says this is the most closed open area in the world. Four families have already left for the village, after the encampments were repeatedly destroyed and they tired of hopeless battle. The rest are persisting in a desperate fight for survival. We go out to see, driving past harvested wheat fields on our way to the sites of destruction.

Abdel Razeq Bani Awda’s family already has erected a new encampment. On July 1, the previous one was destroyed, and its ruins lie on the opposite hillside. They’d lived there for 15 years, on private land that belongs to a resident of Tubas who leased it to them. They have documents to prove it. Now they are stuck in the middle of a wheat field; when winter and planting times comes around, they’ll have to leave here, too. This is the fifth place they’ve moved to in the past few years, since Israel began implementing its policy of evacuation and expulsion. Two families – a father and son and their children, and 160 sheep, their only source of income. The sheep are now crowded into new pens, seeking shelter from the heat.

What will the children eat?

The road is too treacherous for our car, as we make our way up the hill from the ruins of their recently destroyed camp. Hardly anything is left of it. Strewn about the ground are some wrecked tent stakes, a spoon, a rusty kettle, a blackened coffee pot, a spilled container of tehina and a broken-down refrigerator. Remnants of a meager life. Basharat asks why Israel is also destroying the water tanks.

“The tents are one thing, but why the water tanks? Sometimes they empty them of water. What will the children drink? And why do they always come when times are the toughest, or in the middle of summer, when the heat is terrible, or during the rains, when there is no other shelter? It’s not by coincidence. And why do they destroy the taboun ovens? They know it takes four to five days to build a new taboun, and in the meantime we have no bread. Do they want us to die of hunger and thirst? Is that what they really want? Our children know the Israeli army is the one doing this. And what do they expect them to remember when they grow up?”

Basharat’s questions go unanswered, echoing through the valley. We sit beneath the remnants of a tin shack that wasn’t thoroughly destroyed. An old refrigerator door serves as a bench, until it, too, collapses beneath us. The Bani Awda family will return here in the winter. They have no other choice. They have already re-erected one tent. Across the way, Beka’ot is blooming; there is a spa there.

On the western part of the hillside is another ruined encampment. This is where Hassan Bani Awda’s family lived before they migrated eastward. Another encampment, closer to Beka’ot, is still standing. Nine times this family has had its home destroyed. We sit in silence and gaze out at the valley. It could be so beautiful, if not for the ugliness of the expulsion. We make our way to the next encampment.

An old wooden chair has an old sticker attached to it: “Israel is Strong with Shimon Peres.” Israel is also strong with Benjamin Netanyahu, especially in dealing with the weak: Mohammed Bani Awda and his 11 children are also living under the threat of expulsion. He has 270 sheep and a combine that belongs to the landowner from Tubas. This family already has been forced to move four times. Now they’ve been instructed to tear down just the storehouse for the sheep’s food. Is Mohammed afraid? He says: “They’re going step-by-step. They started in the east and when they finish clearing out there they’ll come here too. We’ll be the next stage.”

The two shepherds, Basharat and Bani Awda, consult with one another. What to do? Bani Awda suggests appealing to the High Court, and Basharat says there’s no point.

“There’s no point appealing to Israeli law and justice. They’ll declare the whole Jordan Valley a military zone and that will be the end of the story.”

Mohammed’s son Jihad, a 19-year-old shepherd, wears a New York baseball cap. He says he dreams of going there one day, but all of us in the tent knew it will never happen. It’s unlikely that he’ll every get as far as Jerusalem


5.  Haaretz Thursday, July 15, 2010

Latest update 13:27 15.07.10


It’s an idea for solving the conflict that sounds like a vision of the end of days: Grant Israeli citizenship and equal rights to all the Palestinians in the West Bank. And who is proposing the one-state solution? Right-wingers and settlers

By Noam Sheizaf

“The prospects of the negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas do not look promising. President Obama undoubtedly thinks otherwise, but if Abbas speaks for anyone, it’s barely half the Palestinians. The chances of anything good coming of this are not great. Another possibility is Jordan. If Jordan were ready to absorb both more territories and more people, things would be much easier and more natural. But Jordan does not agree to this. Therefore, I say that we can look at another option: for Israel to apply its law to Judea and Samaria and grant citizenship to 1.5 million Palestinians.”

These remarks, which to many sound subversive, were not voiced by a left-wing advocate of a binational state. The speaker is from the Betar movement, a former top leader in Likud and political patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a former defense and foreign affairs minister – Moshe Arens. On June 2, Arens published an op-ed in Haaretz (“Is there another option?” ) in which he urged consideration of a political alternative to the existing situation and the political negotiations. He wants to break the great taboo of Israeli policy making by granting Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians in the West Bank. Arens is not put off by those who accuse him of promoting the idea of a binational Jewish-Palestinian state. “We are already a binational state,” he says, “and also a multicultural and multi-sector state. The minorities [meaning Arabs] here make up 20 percent of the population – that’s a fact and you can’t argue with facts.”

As Washington, Ramallah and Jerusalem slouch toward what seems like a well-known, self-evident solution – two states for two nations, on the basis of the 1967 borders and a small-scale territorial swap – a conceptual breakthrough is taking place in the right wing. Its ideologues are no longer content with rejecting withdrawal and evacuation of settlements, citing security arguments calculated to strike fear into the hearts of the Israeli mainstream. Their new idea addresses the shortcomings of the status quo, takes account of the isolation in which Israel finds itself and acknowledges the need to break the political deadlock.

Once the sole preserve of the political margins, the approach is now being advocated by leading figures in Likud and among the settlers – people who are not necessarily considered extremists or oddballs. About a month before Arens published his article, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud ) said, “It’s preferable for the Palestinians to become citizens of the state than for us to divide the country.” In an interview this week (see box ), Rivlin reiterates and elaborates this viewpoint. In May 2009, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely organized a conference in the Knesset titled “Alternatives to Two States.” Since then, on a couple of occasions, she has called publicly for citizenship to be granted to the Palestinians “in gradual fashion.” Now she is planning to publish a position paper on the subject. Uri Elitzur, former chairman of the Yesha Council of Settlements and Netanyahu’s bureau chief in his first term as prime minister, last year published an article in the settlers’ journal Nekuda calling for the onset of a process, at the conclusion of which the Palestinians will have “a blue ID card [like Israelis], yellow license plates [like Israelis], National Insurance and the right to vote for the Knesset.” Emily Amrousi, a former spokesperson for the Yesha Council, takes part in meetings between settlers and Palestinians and speaks explicitly of “one land in which the children of settlers and the children of Palestinians will be bused to school together.”

It’s still not a full-fledged political camp and there are still holes in the theory. But although its advocates do not seem to be working together, the plans they put forward are remarkably similar. They all reject totally the various ideas of ethnic separation and recognize that political rights accrue to the Palestinians. They talk about a process that will take between a decade and a generation to complete, at the end of which the Palestinians will enjoy full personal rights, but in a country whose symbols and spirit will remain Jewish. It is at this point that the one-state right wing diverges from the binational left. The right is not talking about a neutral “state of all its citizens” with no identity, nor about “Israstine” with a flag showing a crescent and a Shield of David. As envisaged by the right wing, one state still means a sovereign Jewish state, but in a more complex reality, and inspired by the vision of a democratic Jewish state without an occupation and without apartheid, without fences and separations. In such a state, Jews will be able to live in Hebron and pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and a Palestinian from Ramallah will be able to serve as an ambassador and live in Tel Aviv or simply enjoy ice cream on the city’s seashore. Sounds off the wall? “If every path seems to reach an impasse,’ Elitzur wrote in Nekuda, “usually the right path is one that was never even considered, the one that is universally acknowledged to be unacceptable, taboo.”

Dead end

A year ago, in a seminar sponsored by the Geneva Initiative group, Uri Elitzur astonished an audience of parliamentary assistants with pointed, clear remarks about the desirable political framework. “The worst solution,” he said, “is apparently the right one: a binational state, full annexation, full citizenship.”

Among those who were not surprised were leading figures from the settlers’ movement Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful ). Elitzur has been trying to sell them his idea for some time. “At first I was in splendid isolation,” he says, “but lately more and more people are willing to move in my direction. I think it’s the only practicable solution. The two-state formula has been kicked around for 10 years or more. All the politicians say – aloud or in a whisper – they are for it, but it’s still not happening. The differences between left and right, over which they kill each other in hatred, are really very small. But everyone is convinced that moving a fraction of an inch from his viewpoint will mean the country’s destruction. Neither the one side nor the other is to blame, nor even the Palestinians. The Arab world simply does not want to reach a compromise with us, and even if the formula is found, it won’t endure.

“The existing situation is also a dead end,” Elitzur continues. “It can’t last forever. The problems Israel has faced in the international community in the past five years are due to the fact that the world is fed up. The international community is telling us, ‘You claimed it was a temporary situation, yet that temporary situation has already lasted 40 years. We are ready to agree to another decade, but we want to know where things are going.’ The Israelis are also starting to grasp this. I want us to look for the solutions on the other side of the scale, which lies between the existing situation and the annexation and naturalization of all the Palestinians.”

In internal forums and in front of a home audience, Elitzur is even more outspoken. “There are many softened or newspeak variations of apartheid,” he wrote in Nekuda, which devoted an entire issue to the search for an alternative policy to the two-state solution. “Some suggest that the Palestinians should be under Israeli rule but vote in the elections for the Jordanian parliament. There are ideas involving autonomy, cantons, powerless self-government. It’s not by chance or by neglect that none of these proposals became the official policy of Likud or of the right. In the end, they all go back to a dead end: a whole population living under Israeli rule without civil rights. That is unacceptable on a permanent basis. It’s a situation that can exist only temporarily and faces mounting pressure, both internal and external, to bring the temporary situation to an end at long last.”

What do you say to the allegations that you have joined the radical left?

“There’s a clear separation between us. I am talking about a Jewish state, the state of the Jewish people, which will contain a large Arab minority. The left is talking about an Arab state containing a Jewish minority, even if they do not explicitly think that. The leftist demonstrators in [the West Bank village of] Bil’in have totally joined the Palestinian cause.”

Still, in terms of the political plan, there are points of convergence between you and them.

“In terms of the political plan, yes. But so what? I have many points in common with the extreme left. I am in favor of refusing an order to dismantle settlements, they are in favor of refusing an order to serve in the territories, and both of us are against the [separation] fence. I am not frightened at the fact that there are Jews with whom I profoundly disagree on one issue but with whom I share views on other issues. But I will not enter into a political alliance with the Anarchists [Against the Wall] even though I too am against the fence. We have common ground, but beyond it we have a very deep disagreement. As I see it, the State of Israel was established in order to preserve the rights of the small Jewish minority in the Middle East – six million vs. 300 million – and that is its main purpose. After fulfilling its main purpose, it is also a democratic state. That’s why it has to grant human rights to everyone, Jew or non-Jew.”

Indeed, Elitzur no longer needs the left to wrench him out of his splendid isolation. Hanan Porat, for example, one of the iconic founders of Gush Emunim, though rejecting what he terms “the automatic citizenship that Uri is proposing, which is naive and is liable to lead to grave consequences,” also suggests gradually applying Israeli law in the territories, first in regions where there is a Jewish majority, and within a decade or a generation, throughout.

And the Palestinians?

Porat: “In my view, every Arab has three options. First, those who want an Arab state and are ready to implement that goal by means of terrorism and a struggle against the state, have no place in the Land of Israel. Second, those who accept their place and accept Jewish sovereignty, but do not want to take part in the state and fulfill all their obligations, can be considered residents and enjoy full human rights, but not political representation in the state’s institutions. By the same token, they will also not have full obligations, such as military or national service. Third, those who say they are loyal to the state and to its laws and are ready to fulfill the obligations it prescribes and declare loyalty to it, can receive full citizenship. I consider this a moral and human principle: citizenship is not forced on anyone or granted just like that. We tried this in East Jerusalem, and the fact is that we failed.

“There is no point in threatening us with the idea of a state of all its citizens,” Porat continues. “Already 30 years ago, we in Gush Emunim were against solutions of fear – both withdrawal and transfer – and said that in the Return to Zion there is room for the Arab population who desire this, as long as we are not naive about the process.”

Lower price

A few weeks before he published his article in Nekuda, Elitzur spoke at the conference Hotovely organized in the Knesset on alternatives to the two-state solution. Despite the participation of serious speakers, such as former chief of staff and present minister for strategic affairs, Moshe Ya’alon, and Major General (res. ) Giora Eiland, a former head of the National Security Council, Hotovely came out of the conference disappointed. “It made a lot of headlines and had resonance, but I did not see a genuine vision,” she says. “The ideas ranged from the status quo to ‘Jordan is Palestine.’ Most of the speakers rejected the alternative put forward by the left without putting anything positive on the table.

“This approach has characterized the political discourse of the right wing for years,” she continues. “The right, you could say, had a Qassam for every argument of the left. We had deep ideological roots which said that this is our land, but beyond that we did not put forward a real solution. Only Uri Elitzur took a different approach.”

Since then, Hotovely has become increasingly convinced that the idea of giving the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria citizenship must be part of the political horizon. At the moment, she envisages this as a long-term process, perhaps lasting a generation, during which the situation on the ground will stabilize, while the symbols and character of the Jewish state will be enshrined in a constitution. But the goal must be clear: annexation and citizenship, or as she puts it, “removing the question mark from above Judea and Samaria.”

Hotovely: “My outlook has two motivations. First, my deep belief in our right to the Land of Israel. Shiloh and Beit El settlements are, for me, the land of our forefathers in the full sense of the term. The second thing is that I do not ignore the fact that there are Palestinians here. Both the left and the right chose to shut their eyes to the fact that there are human beings here. The left chose to do it by building a fence and deciding that they just don’t want to see them, and the right simply said, ‘We will continue and see what happens.’ We have reached a critical point, a situation in which the entire Zionist enterprise is under threat, because the international community now disputes the legitimacy of our defense of Sderot and Ashkelon, not the legitimacy of building a settler outpost.”

The international community takes that stance because we are still occupiers. There will be greater legitimacy when the occupation ends.

“We did not get legitimacy in return for our previous withdrawals. Worse, the harm we are inflicting on the Palestinian population has become far more mortal. Our instruments of defense became tanks and planes, and that is always worse than policing operations that are done when you control the ground.

“The assumption of the left is that once it hides behind the international border, everything will be permitted. But it’s clear already now that not everything is permitted and that the principle of proportionality is shackling Israel in Gaza – so what will happen in Judea and Samaria? In fact, it goes even deeper. There is a moral failure here. After all, the left has long since stopped talking about peace and is resorting to a terminology of separation and segregation. They are also convinced that the confrontation will continue even afterward. The result is a solution that perpetuates the conflict and turns us from occupiers into perpetrators of massacres, to put it bluntly. It’s the left that made us a crueler nation and also put our security at risk.”

Could a country with such a large non-Jewish minority still be Jewish?

“At the moment, we are talking about citizenship in Judea and Samaria, not Gaza. In Gaza there is an enemy regime that rejects Israel. It is outside the political discourse, including the two-state discourse. There are 1.5 million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. I want it to be clear that I do not recognize national rights of Palestinians in the Land of Israel. I recognize their human rights and their individual rights, and also their individual political rights – but between the sea and the Jordan there is room for one state, a Jewish state.”

The fact is that the state is having a hard time containing a minority of 20 percent even now. How will it cope with 30 or 40 percent and also preserve its character?

“Every choice entails a price. The status quo carries a heavy price, the two-state idea carries a heavy price, and the approach I am now presenting also carries a price. Coping with the Arab minority is a lower price than the danger of the Qassams, the delegitimization and the immoral actions we will commit in coping with them, and also preferable to giving up parts of the homeland, including Jerusalem.”

Once the Palestinians become citizens, things might lurch out of your control. Some will say you are playing with fire.

“Everyone is playing with fire. There is no solution that is divorced from the world of risk in the Middle East. The risks in the two-state conception are not virtual, they have already been actualized. The risks I am talking about can be addressed in a rational process lasting a generation.”

Of the two dangers you discern – a binational state or a Palestinian state – which would you choose?

“Unequivocally the binational danger. In the binational process we have a degree of control, but the moment you abandon the area to the Palestinian entity, what control do you have over what will happen there?”

51 percent majority

In a political reality of increasing polarization between the country’s Jewish and Arab citizens, talk of a shared space between the Mediterranean and the Jordan does not always get a serious hearing. Some of the right-wing spokesmen understand this. For Moshe Arens, integration of the Arab population into Israeli society is a prior condition – only afterward will it be possible to talk about granting citizenship to the Palestinians in the territories. “If we are incapable of integrating Israel’s Arab citizens, how will we be able to offer the others citizens?” Arens says. “If I wanted something to happen after my article was published, it was for an emphasis to be placed on the attitude toward the Arab population inside Israel. I have spoken to the prime minister about this dozens of times. It’s the biggest problem in the country. If we do not integrate the Arabs, it will simply be a disaster.”

There is one large party that says they simply have to be transferred into a Palestinian state.

“The platform of Yisrael Beiteinu is nonsensical, an attempt to curry to the lowest common denominator in the country,” says Arens sharply. “Where will the transfer be carried out? Will Galilee be transferred to the Palestinian state? The Negev to Egypt? It’s not doable. They are just causing damage to 20 percent of our population, insulting them by saying they want to be rid of them, strip them of Israeli citizenship. Who ever heard the like?

“I repeat: first of all, we need to take care of the Israeli Arabs who are citizens. That is also essential if we are thinking of giving citizenship to Palestinians from Judea and Samaria. Only if they see that the Arabs have it good in Israel will they think it might be good for them, too.”

Your opponents will say that by publishing an article like this, you are strengthening Sheikh Ra’ad Salah [a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel] and that you will introduce a fifth column into the country that will spell the end of the Jewish state.

“Only those who don’t grasp the full depth of the issue will say that. I have written dozens of times that the policy must be two-pronged: against the Islamic Movement – to outlaw them, because they are a subversive, seditious movement – and, at the same time, to work against feelings of discrimination among Israel’s Arab citizens. It is untenable for these people to be hewers of wood and drawers of water – doing the dirty work in the industrialized and advanced country that is Israel.”

Have you been accused of becoming a post-Zionist in the wake of your article?

“That’s a lot of nonsense. Was [Revisionist leader Ze’ev] Jabotinsky a post-Zionist? He talked about a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, but for him a majority meant even 51 percent, too. In his last book, he suggested that the president might be a Jew and the vice president an Arab, and also the opposite. Jabotinsky was no post-Zionist.”

If there is anything that unites the political establishment – Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and now Netanyahu, too – it’s the view that granting the Palestinians citizenship is dangerous and that only separation will ensure a democratic Jewish state.

“Demagoguery. If Zionism means ‘as little as possible for the Arabs,’ I have to say that I do not accept that. Jabotinsky did not accept it, either. You call that Zionism – as few Arabs as possible in Israel? That is the Zionism of [Avigdor] Lieberman. If what is implied by the rhetoric of Tzipi Livni is that we need as few Arabs as possible in Israel, it’s not so far from Lieberman. “People should not exploit what I said for their purposes. My intention is that, to begin with, we have to focus on the Arab population in Israel, and especially the Muslims. It’s definitely a dual-stage process. Only then, many years from now, will it be possible to consider additional minorities, and then maybe the Arabs across the Green Line will say that things are simply good in Israel – not in order to overcome us demographically, but simply because things here are good. We haven’t yet reached that point.”

One land

If Elitzur, Hotovely and Arens represent the political aspect of the idea of a joint state, Emily Amrousi is interested in its everyday side. Amrousi, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Talmon, is active in Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace ), an organization that arranges meetings between settlers and Palestinians, focusing on the local interests of both sides, not necessarily on the political pitfalls. She, too, admits that in the distant future there will have to be citizenship for everyone. “But don’t make me out to be a one-state advocate,” Amrousi says. “In the end, it might arrive at that, but that’s still a very long way off. Let’s talk first about one land, one strip of ground. We are not like the Canaanite movement: we are not forgoing the State of Israel and the flag of Israel.”

And until we reach the coveted equality, will we have to make do with the status quo?

“No, I don’t like the status quo either because it’s really not moral. It’s impossible to go on like this, with a situation in which my Palestinian neighbors have to cross three checkpoints to get from one village to another. There is a distortion here – true, for security reasons, for logical reasons – but something went wrong along the way, and we can’t go on accepting this.

“The word ‘citizenship’ is very national and very political. In the Eretz Shalom initiative we do not talk about citizenship, but about concepts of neighborly relations. There are no neighborly relations here, because either it’s relations between enemies or we are transparent to them and they to us. And the relations that do exist are like those between horse and rider. There must be an initial basis before we talk about citizenship and a judicial system. We need to speak their language and we can even have a joint swimming pool here, because both they and we need separation between men and women. That may be a bit far off, but we have to think first about everyday life. I know that sounds like conditional citizenship – saying they must first be my good neighbors and then I will grant them rights – but I really do want to talk about a process that starts from below.”

From below or from above, in the end we reach a state whose demographic and geographic parameters are very different from what we have today.

“Demography is definitely a threat, but the other threat is bigger. The harder price is to cut up this country, with one part topographically higher than the other. I can’t speak with the Israeli public now about citizenship and Palestinians on the beach in Tel Aviv, because that’s a threat to the public. The whole situation now is wrong. We made a mistake, we arrived at the wrong place and we have a long way to go, but in the end there has to be one space here. We will yet talk about one state, but in the meantime we can talk about one land.”

One can take a cynical view of Eretz Shalom, of Amrousi’s decision to learn Arabic or of the project being organized by the settlers in Talmon: to build a lean-to for Palestinian workers awaiting a security check before entering their settlement. Fashionably late, one could say, and under the threat of evacuation, Gush Emunim is discovering the enlightened occupation. But there is another side, too: the impression that the Israeli center, in its addiction to the separation idea, has sloughed off the question of relations with the Arab population, on both sides of the Green Line. Is it a coincidence that Amrousi chose to describe the reality in the Land of Israel as “one space,” a term used by critical sociologists from the radical left?

Prof. Yehouda Shenhav, formerly from the Sephardi Democratic Rainbow and editor of the journal Theory and Criticism for the past decade, believes that the concept of reality for people on the right, as quoted above, is far more accurate and honest than the two-state concept of the left. In his recent book, “The Time of the Green Line” (Am Oved, Hebrew ), Shenhav returns to what he terms the true foundation of the conflict, namely 1948, and not “the obliterating and blurring paradigm according to which everything was swell until 1967, and then things went awry, as David Grossman writes in ‘The Yellow Wind.'” Shenhav rejects both the two-state idea and the “state of all its citizens.” He argues that the only possible stable model is one that will recognize the distinctiveness of different communities – among both Palestinians and Jews – in the one space between the sea and the Jordan River.

“The diagnosis of the right-wingers is accurate,” Shenhav says, and immediately adds, “But let’s be precise: it’s not the whole of the right. Most of them do not speak in those terms. But there is a minority that reads reality in a far less denying and less repressive way than all the people on the left who support the two-state solution. The majority of the left does not understand a spatial concept that does not permit homogeneity. The Jews and the Palestinians are Siamese twins. The ideology of the Jewish state espoused by the articulate spokespersons of the left tries to sever the different Palestinian groups, and takes their severance as a fait accompli. In contrast, Rubi [Reuven] Rivlin and Moshe Arens understand that those on both sides of the Green Line are Palestinians.

“I am not in favor of the wrongs being caused by the settlements,” Shenhav continues, “but in their political diagnosis the settlers are right. In one way or another, we too will ultimately learn this, and the only question is how much bloodshed it will entail. I wrote exactly what the right is saying today: the war in Gaza is the model that will be repeated in the future if there is separation.”

The 1967 lines are accepted by the international community. The left is against the plunder of land that is taking place to the east, against the fact that a settlement like Ofra is situated on private Palestinian land.

“What exactly is the difference between Ofra and Beit Dagan, which is situated on [the former Palestinian village of] Beit Dajan? Do the 19 years from 1948 to 1967 make one settlement moral and the other immoral? In my book I quote Uri Elitzur, who says, ‘You [the left] expelled the Palestinians in 1948, did not allow them back, established settlements on all their villages and afterward built the separation fence, and then you come to us with complaints, even though we have not destroyed even one village in the West Bank – not even one – to build a settlement.’

“The 1967 paradigm is intended to make it possible for the left to live in Tel Aviv and feel good about itself,” Shenhav continues. “The settlements will be sacrificed in order to atone for what they did to the Palestinians in 1948. The settlers will pay the price of the sins of the left. Yossi Beilin and his Geneva Initiative and all the rest want to preserve the achievements of the Ashkenazi elite.

“Don’t get me wrong: I am not in favor of the vision of the right wing. All I am doing is recommending that the left listen to what the right is saying. To take the right wing’s diagnosis and develop it into normative and moral left-wing viewpoints, to create a horizon that reflects leftism – not nationalism, not a Jewish empire.”

Are you now a person of the left or the right?

“I don’t know. I wrote in favor of the [Palestinians’] right of return and I am against the evacuation of settlements. So where does that leave me?”

Great candor

The supporters of the two-state concept always warned against closing a window of opportunity to establish a Palestinian state. Now that the right has started to talk about a one-state solution, is the window closed? Definitely not, says Gadi Baltiansky, director general of the Geneva Initiative: “But I appreciate the sincerity of those who speak clearly at this time. The right always spoke in negative terms. Tzipi Livni once noted that the Likud’s platform always starts with the word ‘no.’ No to a Palestinian state, no to withdrawal, no, no and more no. Now there are people on the right who are saying with great candor what must be done, even if some of them are still hesitant about going public.

“I never liked the division into the ‘peace camp’ and the ‘national camp,'” Baltiansky continues. “The fact is that I am no less national than the right and they want peace no less than I do. In Israel there is a two-state camp and a one-state, binational camp, and the choice is between them. But the right should not delude itself: one Jewish state will not be a solution, but a continuation of the conflict. There will be fights over the flag and over the anthem and over the school curriculum, and the situation will be untenable.”

As of now, giving citizenship to the Palestinians is not on the political agenda of the right. According to the head of the Yesha Council, Danny Dayan, “the idea is unrealistic. In the present circumstances, it could put Israel’s character at risk. Morally, the fact that the Palestinians will not have full political rights in the foreseeable future is the fault of the Palestinians themselves. They rejected every compromise and chose war and are now paying the price of their mistakes. It’s not apartheid, it’s their choice.”

So what’s the solution?

“The solution for the coming decades is the present status quo, with improvements of one kind or another. Of all the possibilities, that one affords the most stable balance. It is also important to say that even so, the Palestinians have more political rights than any Arab citizen in the Middle East, with the possible exception of the Lebanese.”

Faithful to his outlook, Dayan last week – ahead of Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama – was busy cobbling together a coalition of the leaders of the right-wing parties in the Knesset. The aim: to compel Netanyahu to end the construction freeze in the territories at the end of September, as promised. Other MKs who are against the two-state solution, such as Aryeh Eldad (National Union ) and Danny Danon (Likud ), also told me that giving the Palestinians citizenship is not on their agenda, not even in the face of the emerging two-state plan.

Still, the impression is that even those who are against the idea have modified their approach recently. Adi Mintz, a former director general of the Yesha Council, presented a plan whereby after the security situation stabilizes, Israel will annex 60 percent of Judea and Samaria, whose 300,000 Palestinian inhabitants will be granted Israeli citizenship. The status of the rest of the population and of the area will, in this view, be settled within the framework of a comprehensive regional solution in the more distant future.

The right-leaning newspaper, Makor Rishon, recently devoted an issue to the possibility of leaving settlements under Palestinian sovereignty if the two-state plan is implemented. Logic says that if supporters of such an idea are truly serious, it should not be a problem for them to agree to live in the one state that will extend from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, whatever its character.

In any event, it will soon become clear whether renewal of the political process will lead to the removal from the agenda of every option except the establishment of a Palestinian state, or whether the opposition to such a state will generate momentum for supporters of the one-state alternative. Those who espouse this idea admit that its main drawback is that no genuine discussion of its merits and shortcomings has ever been held. Thus, key issues, such as the transition period leading up to citizenship, the refugee problem, the status of Gaza and even the bizarre question of how many Palestinians there really are have not been seriously addressed.

For this reason, Hotovely wants to publish a position paper on the issue, perhaps with the aid of an American research institute. “I want people to understand the issues, not to say that [MK Ahmed] Tibi and I are from the same party. The taboo that forbids talk about any option other than the two-state solution is almost anti-democratic. It’s like brain- gagging.” W


6.  Uri Avnery
A Parliamentary Mob
WHEN I was first elected to the Knesset, I was appalled at
what I found. I discovered that, with rare exceptions, the
intellectual level of the debates was close to zero. They
consisted mainly of strings of clich?s of the most
commonplace variety. During most of the debates, the plenum
was almost empty. Most participants spoke vulgar Hebrew.
When voting, many members had no idea what they were voting
for or against, they just followed the party whip.
That was 1967, when the Knesset included members like Levy
Eshkol and Pinchas Sapir, David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan,
Menachem Begin and Yohanan Bader,  Meir Yaari and Yaakov
Chazan, for whom today streets, highroads and neighborhoods
are named.
In comparison to the present Knesset, that Knesset now
looks like Plato’s Academy.
WHAT FRIGHTENED me more than anything else was the
readiness of members to enact irresponsible laws for the
sake of fleeting popularity, especially at times of mass
hysteria. One of my first Knesset initiatives was to submit
a bill which would have created a second chamber, a kind of
Senate, composed of outstanding personalities, with the
power to hold up the enactment of new laws and compel the
Knesset to reconsider them after an interval. This, I
hoped, would prevent laws being hastily adopted in an
atmosphere of excitement.
The bill was not considered seriously, neither by the
Knesset nor by the general public. The Knesset almost
unanimously voted it down. (After some years, several of
the members told me that they regretted their vote.)  The
newspapers nicknamed the proposed chamber “the House of
Lords” and ridiculed it. Haaretz devoted a whole page of
cartoons to the proposal, depicting me in the garb of a
British peer.
So there is no brake. The production of irresponsible laws,
most of them racist and anti-democratic, is booming. The
more the government itself is turning into an assembly of
political hacks, the more the likelihood of its preventing
such legislation is diminishing. The present government,
the largest, basest and most despised in Israel’s history,
is cooperating with the Knesset members who submit such
bills, and even initiating them itself.
The only remaining obstacle to this recklessness is the
Supreme Court. In the absence of a written constitution, it
has taken upon itself the power to annul scandalous laws
that violate democracy and human rights. But the Supreme
Court itself is beleaguered by rightists who want to
destroy it, and is moving with great caution. It intervenes
only in the most extreme cases.
Thus a paradoxical situation has arisen: parliament, the
highest expression of democracy, is itself now posing a
dire threat to Israeli democracy. 
THE MAN who personifies this phenomenon more than anyone
else is MK Michael Ben-Ari of the “National Union” faction,
the heir of Meir Kahane, whose organization “Kach” (“Thus”)
was outlawed many years ago because of its openly fascist
Kahane himself was elected to the Knesset only once. The
reaction of the other members was unequivocal: whenever he
rose to speak, almost all the other members left the hall.
The rabbi had to make his speeches before a handful of
ultra-right colleagues.
A few weeks ago I visited the present Knesset for the first
time since its election. I went there to listen to a debate
about a subject that concerns me too: the decision of the
Palestinian Authority to boycott the products of the
settlements, a dozen years after Gush Shalom started this
boycott. I spent some hours in the building, and from hour
to hour my revulsion deepened.
The main cause was a circumstance I had not been aware of:
MK Ben-Ari, the disciple and admirer of Kahane, holds sway
there. Not only is he not an isolated outsider on the
fringe of parliamentary life, as his mentor had been, but
on the contrary, he is at the center. I saw the members of
almost all other factions crowding around him in the
members’ cafeteria and listening to his perorations with
rapt attention in the plenum. No doubt can remain that
Kahanism – the Israeli version of fascism – has moved from
the margin to center stage.
Recently, the country witnessed a scene that looked like
something from the parliament of South Korea or Japan.
On the Knesset speaker’s rostrum stood MK Haneen Zoabi of
the Arab nationalist Balad faction and tried to explain why
she had joined the Gaza aid flotilla that had been attacked
by the Israeli navy. MK Anastasia Michaeli, a member of the
Lieberman party, jumped from her seat and rushed to the
rostrum, letting out blood-curdling shrieks, waving her
arms, in order to remove Haneen Zoabi by force. Other
members rose from their seats to help Michaeli. Near the
speaker, a threatening crowd of Knesset members gathered.
Only with great difficulty did the ushers succeed in saving
Zoabi from bodily harm. One of the male members shouted at
her, in a typical mixture of racism and sexism: “Go to Gaza
and see what they will do to a 41 year old unmarried
One could not imagine a greater contrast than that between
the two MKs. While Haneen Zoabi belongs to a family whose
roots in the Nazareth area go back centuries, perhaps to
the time of Jesus, Anastasia Michaeli was born in (then)
Leningrad. She was elected “Miss St. Petersburg” and then
became a fashion model, married an Israeli, converted to
Judaism, immigrated to Israel at age 24 but sticks to her
very Russian first name. She has given birth to eight
children. She may be a candidate for the Israeli Sarah
Palin, who, after all, was also once a beauty queen..
As far as I could make out, not a single Jewish member
raised a finger to defend Zoabi during the tumult. Nothing
but some half-hearted protest from the Speaker, Reuven
Rivlin, and a Meretz member, Chaim Oron.
In all the 61 years of its existence, the Knesset had not
seen such a sight. Within a minute the sovereign assembly
turned into a parliamentary lynch mob.
One does not have to support the ideology of Balad to
respect the impressive personality of Haneen Zoabi. She
speaks fluently and persuasively, has degrees from two
Israeli universities, fights for the rights of women within
the Israeli-Arab community and is the first female member
of an Arab party in the Knesset. Israeli democracy could be
proud of her. She belongs to a large Arab extended family.
The brother of her grandfather was the mayor of Nazareth,
one uncle was a deputy minister and another a Supreme Court
judge. (Indeed, on my first day in the Knesset I proposed
that another member of the Zoabi family be elected as
This week, the Knesset decided by a large majority to adopt
a proposal by Michael Ben-Ari, supported by Likud and
Kadima members, to strip Haneen Zoabi of her parliamentary
privileges. Even before, Interior Minister Eli Yishai had
asked the Legal Advisor to the Government for approval of
his plan to strip Zoabi of her Israeli citizenship on the
grounds of treason. One of the Knesset members shouted at
her: “You have no place in the Israeli Knesset! You have no
right to hold an Israeli identity card!”
On the very same day, the Knesset took action against the
founder of Zoabi’s party, Azmi Bishara. In a preliminary
hearing, it approved a bill – this one, too, supported by
both Likud and Kadima members – aimed at denying Bishara
his pension, which is due after his resignation from the
Knesset. (He is staying abroad, after being threatened with
an indictment for espionage.)
The proud parents of these initiatives, which enjoy massive
support from Likud, Kadima, Lieberman’s party and all the
religious factions, do not hide their intention to expel
all the Arabs from parliament and establish at long last a
pure Jewish Knesset. The latest decisions of the Knesset
are but parts of a prolonged campaign, which gives birth
almost every week to new initiatives from publicity-hungry
members, who know that the more racist and anti-democratic
their bills are, the more popular they will be with their
Such was this weeks Knesset decision to condition the
acquisition of citizenship on the candidate’s swearing
allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”,
thus demanding that Arabs (especially foreign Arab spouses
of Arab citizens) subscribe to the Zionist ideology. The
equivalent would be the demand that new American citizens
swear allegiance to the USA as a “white Anglo-Saxon
protestant state”. 
There seems to be no limit to this parliamentary
irresponsibility. All red lines have been crossed long ago.
This does not concern only the parliamentary representation
of more than 20% of Israel’s citizens, but there is a
growing tendency towards depriving all Arab citizens of
their citizenship altogether.   
THIS TENDENCY is connected with the ongoing attack on the
status of the Arabs in East Jerusalem.
This week I was present at the hearing in Jerusalem’s
magistrates court on the detention of Muhammed Abu Ter, one
of the four Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament
from Jerusalem. The hearing was held in a tiny room, which
can seat only about a dozen spectators. I succeeded only
with great difficulty in getting in.
After they were elected in democratic elections, in
conformity with Israel’s explicit obligation under the Oslo
agreement to allow the Arabs in East Jerusalem to take
part, the government announced that their “permanent
resident” status had been revoked.
What does that mean? When Israel “annexed” East Jerusalem
in 1967, the government did not dream of conferring
citizenship on the inhabitants, which would have
significantly increased the percentage of Arab voters in
Israel. Neither did they invent a new status for them.
Lacking other alternatives, the inhabitants became
“permanent residents”, a status devised for foreigners who
wish to stay in Israel. The Minister of the Interior has
the right to revoke this status and deport such people to
their countries of origin.
Clearly, this definition of “permanent residents” should
not apply to the inhabitants of East Jerusalem. They and
their forefathers were born there, they have no other
citizenship and no other place of residence. The revoking
of their status turns them into politically homeless people
without protection of any kind.
The state lawyers argued in court that with the
cancellation of his “permanent resident” status, Abu Ter
has become an “illegal person” whose refusal to leave the
city warrants unlimited detention.
(A few hours earlier, the Supreme Court dealt with our
petition concerning the investigation of the Gaza flotilla
incident. We won a partial, but significant, victory: for
the first time in its history, the Supreme Court agreed to
interfere in a matter concerning a commission of inquiry.
The court decided that if the commission requires the
testimony of military officers and the government tries to
prevent this, the court will intervene.)
IF SOME people are trying to delude themselves into
believing that the parliamentary mob will harm “only
Arabs”, they are vastly mistaken. The only question is: who
is next in line?
This week, the Knesset gave the first reading to a bill to
impose heavy penalties on any Israeli who advocates a
boycott on Israel, in general, and on economic enterprises,
universities and other Israeli institutions, including
settlements, in particular. Any such institution will be
entitled to an indemnity of 5000 dollars from every
supporter of the boycott.
A call for boycott is a democratic means of expression. I
object very much to a general boycott on Israel, but
(following Voltaire) am ready to fight for everybody’s
right to call for such a boycott. The real aim of the bill
is, of course, to protect the settlements: it is designed
to deter those who call for a boycott of the products of
the settlements which exist on occupied land outside the
borders of the state. This includes me and my friends.
Since the foundation of Israel, it has never stopped
boasting of being the “Only Democracy in the Middle East”.
This is the jewel in the crown of Israeli propaganda. The
Knesset is the symbol of this democracy.
It seems that the parliamentary mob, which has taken over
the Knesset, is determined to destroy this image once and
for all, so that Israel will find its proper place
somewhere between Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.   

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