INDEX (stories follow)
- Japan Dumps Water on Reactor; Radiation Levels Rise
- Deaths, Arrests in Bahraini Protest Crackdown
- Thousands Protest as Michigan Enacts Emergency Management Laws
- Wisconsin Prosecutor Challenges Anti-Worker Bill
- Florida Advances Restrictions on Teachers
- CIA Agent Accused of Murder Freed in Pakistan
- Hundreds Protest Clinton in Tunisia
- Clinton Visits Tahrir Square; Won’t Stay on Past 2012
- Palestinian Factions to Hold Unity Talks
- Study: 800,000 to Contract Cholera in Haiti
- EPA to Regulate Coal Power Plant Emissions
- Former Chicago Police Commander Begins Prison Term
A moment before boarding the next flotilla
I’d rather use my influence and power, in concert with other members of American civil society, to actively and nonviolently resist policies I consider abominable.
By Gabriel Matthew Schivone
You might wonder what would motivate a Jewish American college student to participate in what may be the most celebrated – and controversial – sea voyage of the 21st century, one that aims to nonviolently challenge U.S.-supported Israeli military power in the occupied territories. I simply cannot sit idle while my country aids and abets Israel’s siege, occupation and repression of the Palestinians. I would rather use my personal influence and power, in concert with other members of American civil society, to actively and nonviolently resist policies that I consider abominable. So, next week, I and more than 30 other American civilians will be sailing on the U.S. ship the Audacity of Hope, to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
I am one of a growing number of young American Jews who are determined to shake off an assumed – and largely imposed – association with Israel. Prominent advocacy organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee, which proudly proclaim their unconditional support of Israel, for several years have been declaring their “serious concern” over the increasing “distancing” of young American Jews from the state.
But what Israel apologists like the AJC view as a crisis, I see as a positive development for American Jews, who, like other parts of U.S. society, are shifting from blind support for Israel to a more critical position that reflects opposition to our country’s backing for Israel’s policies.
If Israel’s apologists in the U.S. are alarmed by a falling off in unconditional support for Israel, they should be even more concerned that such a diverse range of youth – especially young Jews – are joining up with constituencies that actively organize against America’s role in the occupation. Today, the so-called crisis has expanded from the coasts to such places as Arizona. It probably was just a matter of time before a Jewish anti-occupation group emerged in my home state, given that a fairly substantial portion of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on the University of Arizona campus (in Tucson ) were Jewish. For our part, we Jews launched an initial chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace at the UA campus in spring 2010 – one of nearly 30 JVP chapters throughout the country, which has a mailing list of 100,000 – and thereafter branches in the general Tucson and Northern Arizona communities, and at Arizona State University, in Phoenix.
Through JVP, I discovered there were a great many others like me, who were experiencing profound internal conflicts regarding Israel. They included people who had been intimidated from expressing public criticism of Israel, and others who were afraid to speak out in defense of Palestinian rights for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic.
It was clear that a campus JVP opened up a powerful, organic outlet through which Jewish students could safely exchange and process – without fear, intimidation or a need for self-censorship – their critiques, concerns, ideas, knowledge, questions, discoveries and plans to promote achievement of a genuinely mutual peace in Palestine/Israel. Before JVP came along, it wasn’t possible to have an open discussion, or feel that we as Jews had an alternative to either unquestioning support of Israel (the status quo ) or staying silent and thus supporting it by default. I myself was silent and timid for much too long.
We are committed to acting out of Jewish ethical traditions, while holding Israel to the same standard as any other state in the international system – no more, no less. Before JVP, there was nothing on my campus that was critical of Israel from an American Jewish perspective. Zero. The group’s success demonstrated that young Jews – moved by their cultural or religious values, which include a belief in universal human rights – have been on campus all the while, ready and willing to join a human rights-based cause for justice in Palestine/Israel. All it took to gain support on campus and elsewhere in the state was a potent sprinkling of opportunity, initiative and political will.
In Athens, as I write, waiting to board the Audacity of Hope, I am wearing a Star of David amulet around my neck, which was given to me the night before I left Arizona by a dear friend and fellow JVP organizer. She got it from a silversmith in Haifa while on a “Birthright” trip as an adolescent. For her, it had always been the reminder of the crude brainwashing she felt she had encountered on that trip. But when she came across the star recently, she decided it might be put to good use if I were to wear it on my journey. And so that’s what I’m doing.
I wear it as a symbol of the basic values of Judaism that I feel are not emphasized sufficiently today: the imperative to welcome the stranger as you would want to be welcomed; and of helping to free the slave from a bondage that you would not wish to suffer.
As a consequence of various nonviolent actions undertaken all over the world, led crucially by Palestinians on the ground, the Israeli occupation will one day end. Those of us who face up to the unavoidable choice of either tolerating or resisting these crimes will determine how long the death and suffering of mainly Palestinian noncombatants continues, and how long a lasting peace in Palestine/Israel remains out of reach.
Here’s a video of two of the activists aboard, courtesy of Democracy Now!
The Only Democracy? will bring you posts from Gabe Schivone, a Jewish Voice for Peace member aboard the “Audacity of Hope.” Here he is being interviewed by the Arizona Republic about his globe-spanning border activism.
And here is a recent op-ed by Schivone, who also is active with the border rights group No More Deaths.Crossposted from Mondoweiss.net
Israel’s harassment of US-Mexico border human rights activist raises many questions
On May 16, a 19-year-old American student from a Southwest university was stopped by Israeli security agents and held for several hours as she attempted to enter the occupied Palestinian West Bank with 17 other schoolmates and two professors. At one point in a grueling interrogation that lasted until 2 am, she was harassed about her affiliation with No Más Muertes/No More Deaths, a humanitarian group that operates along the U.S.-Mexico border.
No More Deaths is a prominent U.S. humanitarian group, well known for its numerous volunteers who have been indicted over the years by the federal government (though all acquitted) for advocating fundamental change in U.S. Immigration and Border Enforcement policies and, in the process, helping save the lives of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. So why is Israel so concerned about a human rights group that operates in a humanitarian border crisis zone several thousand miles away?
A report in recent weeks by Israel’s leading newspaper, Ha’aretz, suggests a possible answer, or at least provides some interesting insight on Israel’s efforts to deal with what it perceives as “delegitimization”: people and groups around the world opposing Israeli state crimes, organizing a mass withdrawal of support for them, and attempting to press accountability for such crimes under international and domestic law.
Following “an upsurge in worldwide efforts” of these sorts, according to Ha’aretz which cited senior Israeli officials and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officers whose Military Intelligence (MI) research division “created a department several months ago that is dedicated to monitoring left-wing groups” overseas and that “will work closely with government ministries.”
The Israeli officials were not reluctant to admit that the monitoring unit was created in the wake of a supposed intelligence failure prior to Israel’s lethal raid on the humanitarian convoy “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” last May in which nine international civilians were shot to death “in the manner of summary execution” and dozens were seriously injured, according to a UN fact-finding mission that investigated the attack.
According to the Ha’aretz report, the intelligence unit has been participating in high-brass discussions preparing for Flotilla 2. The unit’s interest might well be piqued, then, by the fact that the main No More Deaths Tucson General group announced last month on its website its support for two volunteers traveling to break the siege of Gaza, one being this author and the other a Palestinian student wishing to remain anonymous.
Ha’aretz described an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office explaining that the unit’s “quality of information” about foreign targeted groups has “improved” and the “quantity” of such information “has increased in recent months.”
One Military Intelligence (MI) official explained to that “[t]he enemy changes, as does the nature of the struggle,” and so “we have to boost activity in this sphere.” Doubtless the intelligence unit is doing its job. But whether Israel regards No More Deaths and its volunteers and supporters as enemies of the state remains unconfirmed.
What other information in the public sphere has the unit been—or would be—able to “collect” on No More Deaths in order to “adequately prepare” for challenges posed to Israeli policy by civil society actions such as the flotilla?
Probably most relevant to the case of the student who was interrogated for her involvement with the group concerns the No More Deaths University of Arizona (UA) chapter (UANMD), which has been leading the No More Deaths community in fulfilling its commitment to “Global Movement Building.”
In November 2010, UA NMD allied with fellow campus groups Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace in organizing tours of the U.S.-Mexico border, starting with Nogales, AZ-Sonora, a border community bisected by the border wall. The effort aimed to highlight the “concrete connections” between the U.S. and Israel in their monetary and material exchanges in security technology, training and resources in maintaining state policy in both areas.
The groups followed their border tours with a national student conference, Concrete Connections, held in February, in which students and teachers from nearly a dozen states from across the U.S. attended to discuss comparisons and differences between US/Mexico border issues and the Israel/Palestine conflict and how solidarity movements can internationalize their commitment to each other’s struggle for justice in both areas.
One of the topics discussed by some activists was a “mock wall movement” to employ atcampuses across the U.S., modeled off the “mock shanty towns” that proliferated on U.S. campuses during the mid-1980s to symbolize student support for divestment from companies supporting South African Apartheid. On March 21—incidentally the same day Ha’aretz ran the above report—the largest mock apartheid wall in the U.S. was erected, dividing the 40,000-student UA campus for ten days, sponsored by numerous groups but chiefly organized by none other than the UANMD, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace. Numerous other schools across the country followed suit with their announcements of erecting similar walls later in the spring and this coming fall.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent a letter of support to the students, echoing their call for mock walls to spring up across the country. In April esteemed public intellectual Dr. Cornel West echoed Tutu’s call for divestment, in particular supporting the students’ Ethnic Studies solidarity program bringing together youth from Arizona and Palestine to exchange experiences and strategies of resisting U.S./AZ and Israeli state attacks on education.
Whatever Israel’s intention, it is clear that groups such as No More Deaths pose a serious threat to Israel’s ability to carry out state crimes and policies of illegal settlement and occupation unimpeded.
Amb. Michael Oren dished out the flotilla talking points in a private call organized by the Jewish Federation’s multi-million dollar “Israel Action Network”
On June 22, the Jewish Federation of America’s new, multi-million dollar “Israel Action Network” hosted a conference call with Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. The call was an urgent response to the flotilla preparing to cruise towards Gaza in order to challenge Israel’s maritime blockade of the destitute coastal strip. David Sherman, the vice chair of the Federation’s board of trustees, introduced the new initiative and Oren’s involvement in it as a key to combating Israel’s “delegitimization.”
Throughout the call, Oren seemed more concerned about the Arab Spring, Israel’s relations with Turkey, and the Palestinian unity arrangement than the upcoming flotilla. He opened his remarks by launching into a fast paced survey of the myriad regional threats Israel supposedly faced, then explained how the state would tamp down on each one:
Egypt – Oren was convinced that the only parties that are poised to win upcoming elections are “well funded, well led extremist movements.” Presumably he meant the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Egyptian army’s stance reassured Israel. “The army has been telling us that they have every intention of maintaining Camp David and that there will be no substantive change in Egypt’s foreign policy,” Oren said. Israel’s biggest concern at the present moment was attacks on gas pipelines in the Sinai Desert, which Oren claimed were being carried out by Bedouins to extort protection money. He said that Israel’s gas supply was only at 2/3 capacity, forcing it to import environmentally hazardous coal.
Syria — Oren expressed frustration with rumors that Israel was urging a “go slow” approach to the Syrian revolt against the Assad regime. He referred indirectly to an article by Jerusalem Post military correspondent Yaakov Katz (he did not cite Katz by name, but was clearly pointing in his direction) claiming Israel’s military and political establishment would quietly support Assad because he was “the devil we know.” Complaining about Assad’s recent failures to keep the Israeli occupied Golan frontier quiet (Oren misleadingly described it as “Israel’s border”), Oren claimed that “no one in Israel will shed a tear” if Assad is gone.
Iran — Oren claimed Israel possessed intelligence showing that Iran had enriched uranium past the 20 percent level. “The 90 percent dial where they can develop nuclear grade material is a short leap,” he said. He went on: “We are in communication with the Obama administration about another round of sanctions. They are effective; they have taken a major chunk out of Iran’s economy, resulted in high inflation and high unemployment. This is a direct result of sanctions, but they have not had a big impact on nuclear program — we haven’t seen that yet. So in the next round the administration will announce various designations this week that will impair [Iran’s] ability to import and export oil; that will hurt transportation and the airlines of Iran. It promises to be quite painful. Throughout, the policy of the State of Israel and America remains that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from developing nukes, the policymakers in Iran believe us when we say that. Look at Gaddafi: he was convinced by a credible military threat from the United States to stop developing nuclear weapons.”
Turkey — Israel’s greatest source of friction with Turkey, according to Oren, was Turkey’s demand that Israel formally apologize for killing several of its citizens on board the Mavi Marmara last year. “We’re trying to find some language to satisfy them that holds up to the unwritten constitution of the democratic state of Israel,” he remarked. He said Netanyahu had congratulated Erdogan for preventing the Mavi Marmara from sailing with the new flotilla. “The Marmara was too large and we couldn’t stop it with technical means,” said Oren, suggesting that the cruise boat’s exclusion from the upcoming fleet to Gaza was a source of great relief to both Israel’s military and diplomatic corps.
The new flotilla — Oren attacked the organizers of the flotilla as “radical anti-Israel organizations…known also for anti-American activities.” He cited statements by the US State Department and UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon criticizing or condemning their actions. Then Oren claimed that the flotilla could simply deliver its aid through a “responsible organization” like UNRWA, or bring their materials through El Arish and allow Israel to offload it. “It’s not a fight between us and the people of Gaza,” Oren claimed. “It’s between us and the group Hamas which is determined to destroy the state of Israel.” (Never mind this Israeli government document). He went on to claim that Israel’s maritime blockade was “in full accord with international law,” though he did not explain how besieging a civilian population that was not actively engaged in a full-scale war against Israel comported with the 4th Geneva Convention or the San Remo Accords.
Next, Oren proudly announced that Israel had tentatively authorized an aid shipment to Gaza containing construction materials for 1200 new buildings and 18 new schools (UNRWA officials were skeptical that the aid would actually arrive as Israel said). The timing of the shipment and Oren’s promotion of it suggested that the flotilla had already made an impact. Would Israeli authorities have authorized the aid in without outside pressure? Whether or not they would have, Israel was seeking to extract as much propaganda value as it could from its agreement.
The Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood — The ambassador seemed far more troubled about the Palestinian Authority’s plan to introduce a statehood resolution at the United Nations General Assembly in September than about any other issue. Oren suggested that Israel would attempt to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in order to keep them away from the UN. In other words, the peace process would be Israel’s tool for blocking Palestine from winning statehood on a unilateral basis. In this effort, Oren described Dennis Ross, the White House special advisor on Middle East affairs, as Israel’s ally.
“We are working closely with the Obama Administration in trying to find a common framework that would enable the European Union to support negotiations in the framework to get them back to negotiations and keep them away from General Assembly,” Oren commented. “Dennis Ross is in Israel today conducting negotiations so we have reasons for some optimism. But we have to prepare for the worst. [With the statehood resolution] we are preparing for various scenarios of unrest in the West Bank, further attempts by the P.A. to use their improved status to delegitimize israel a la Goldstone type initiatives. Netanyahu has been meeting with the Italian government about this, and they are working tirelessly. And he is working closely with the Canadians who are very supportive.”
When Oren finished his remarks, the administrators of the call allowed time for a few questions. One caller asked Oren what Jews in the United States could do about the flotilla. “Stress that there’s no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the border is open for all materials, there is no shortage of food or medicine, and that our maritime blockade is upheld by the United States as completely legal and necessary for Israel’s defense,” Oren said.
Before I could ask a question about the legality of Israel’s siege of Gaza, Martin Raffel, the director of the Israel Action Network, came on the line to conclude the call. “I want to echo [what Oren said],” Raffel remarked. “Our role is not to be passive observers. We have to shake the public discourse so we’re sending message points and program guidance to everyone involved. And we hope you have some marching orders for when you go back to your communities.”
by Philip Weiss
The State Department has issued a new travel advisory for Gaza warning Americans not to go there by sea because Israel might try and kill them. With impunity.
Three dozen Americans are now preparing to travel to Gaza by sea on the flotilla. But the State Departmentwarning says:
The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel… On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt.
That U.S. citizen was of course Furkan Doğan, a 19 year old permanent resident of Turkey who witnesses said was shot repeatedly as he attempted to photograph the commandos on the Mavi Marmara.
During his recent visit to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that “America has no better friend than Israel.” As Matthew Yglesias pointed out , the statement is “absurd.” This seems borne out by a travel warning that tells citizens not to try to get to Gaza by sea so that they don’t risk getting shot by their country’s “best friend.”
Oh and here’s Tablet echoing the State Department: “Supporters of the blockade should be untroubled by the prospect of Israel enforcing it with precision and compassion.” Huh?
It’s simply amazing the power of the Israeli media to lull its audience into a false sense of confidence that all Israel’s alleged enemies are incompetent, their evil machinations will be foiled, and that their government, like Allstate, has them in the best of hands. This little bit of soporific was offered via the Voice of Israel Radio’s political correspondent reporting on the Gaza flotilla:
In the coming hours, Israel plans to distribute a warning to those nations from whose ports flotilla ships will depart: it will say that Israel will not allow the boats to reach Gaza: “the sea blockade is legal because of the state of war Hamas forces on Israel, and it will be upheld with full force.”
Diplomatic sources following the preparations in Europe note that several organizations failed to secure adequate funding to buy ships, some bought ships ill-suited for their purpose. Most of them are finding it difficult to secure insurance and certificates of sail.
First note the total sophistry in the claim that Hamas has forced a state of war on Israel. Of course, there is no state of war since there’s a ceasefire. Hamas, with only two exceptions, has maintained the ceasefire for nearly two years. So on what basis does Israel claim there is a state of war? Since there is none, the siege is illegal and the threat of force against the flotilla is yet another act of piracy and violation of international law.
This report also fails to note that Israel has exerted tremendous pressure on ship owners, and that in at least one instance a completed sale was overturned when Israel’s representatives put the fear of God and the Mossad into one owner. Joseph Dana will shortly report in The Nation on the pressure exerted against Greece to prevent the sailing of the U.S. boat from its port.
Reports are that the flotilla boats will be setting sail next week.
- Voice of Israel: Hamas Accepts Palestinian State Within 1967 Borders The next time you read Ethan Bronner and he mentions…
- Luntz Calls Israel’s Gaza Hasbara Lame Didi Remez translates a Channel 10 news report of a…
- First Gaza Flotilla Ships Depart Scotland Channel 10 Israeli TV reports (Hebrew) along with Israel Radio…
The absolute cluelessness of the IDF beggars belief at times and this is one of them. Amidst a mystifying warming trend between the Israeli and Turkish governments which I wrote about last night, the Israeli army has appointed a new military attaché for Turkey. Since Turkey is one of the most sensitive countries in the world in terms of Israeli relations you’d think they’d appoint an individual with some background in Turkey, perhaps familiar with the language, definitely someone who has relationships there and would be seen as sympathetic by the Turks. Who did they appoint? None of the above.
Yediot reports the new attaché is Col. Moshe Levi, past administrator of the Gaza siege. He’s the guy responsible for making cardamom treif for Gaza. They guy starving Gazan babies. The guy preventing Gaza from rebuilding after the devastation wrought by Operation Cast Lead, a massacre denounced fulsomely by Turkey’s prime minister. The guy who had the chutzpah to say the following in May 2010 as last year’s fateful Gaza flotilla was getting underway:
Colonel Moshe Levi, commander of the Gaza District Coordination Office, told reporters Wednesday that there is no shortage of food or equipment in the Hamas-ruled territory.
“The sail is a provocative act that is unnecessary in light of the figures, which indicate that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is good and stable,” he said, adding that Israel allows the transfer of many products to the Strip,
Now, how do we see this appointment? Is it an act of provocation by the IDF against Turkey’s civilian government? Is it an appointment vetted with the Israeli prime minister (and thus is Bibi in on it too)? Or is it cynicism or just plain obtuseness? Or are they punishing the guy for not starving Gaza enough? Or all of the above? Yediot reports that the position in Ankara is no longer thought to be the attractive one it once was due to the frigidity of bilateral relations between the two countries. So they had to exert pressure on Levi to take the post. Gee, you’d think those responsible for this brilliant piece of personnel management might’ve stopped to think whether P.M. Erdogan might see it as a slap in the face given Levi’s past.
This passage from the Yediot article indicates that the IDF remains clueless about how Levi’s past will appear to his new Turkish interlocutors:
Tzahal hopes that the new winds blowing from Turkey will renew strategic collaboration between the two nations and ease the service of the new attaché.
I’d say: not likely, unless they think a CV that would be specially attractive to the Turks would include past service that produced profound suffering for Gaza’s 1.5 million civilians. One wonders whether Levi plans to put Turkey on the same type of “diet” he put Gaza on?
- Maria Abusisi: ‘Ask Daddy to Buy Me a Barbie When He Comes Home’ In the midst of all the spookery and legal maneuverings…
- Israeli Prime Minister’s Military Attache Stayed Home for Fear of Arrest in Britain Bibi Netanyahu’s military attache, Maj. Gen. Yochanan Locker, decided not…
- Arab Democratic Revolution: Bringing It All Back Home–to Palestine Larry Derfner wrote a suggestive column in the Jerusalem Post…
from The Only Democracy? by David Shulman
May 27, 2011
We gather at 4:00 outside the settlers’ multi-story stone building opposite the old police station at Ras al-Amud, on the Mount of Olives. This was the week of Netanyahu’s speech before Congress; if, utterly unlikely as this may be, there is anyone in the world who failed to notice that he was lying through his teeth, then Wednesday’s official ceremony unveiling the new settlement here in East Jerusalem should be enough to remove the veil. He used the word “peace” many times, in most cases meaning “war.”
It is hot, dusty, dry, and from the start I’m thirsty, and it keeps getting worse. I’m also a little high on the mood of the crowd: I sense a savvy toughness, a clarity of purpose, and I feel the rage. The lines are lucidly drawn. Some 20 to 30 settler children, boys and girls, and a few adults line the rooftop overlooking the street and the activists milling just below them; sometimes the children spit at us, or spray us with water (not unwelcome in the fierce heat), and sometimes they sing or chant, as if to mimic the rhymed slogans we’re shouting to the beat of the drums. They hang a sign down from the roof: “refuah shlemah, Speedy Recovery,” the implication being that we are mad, perhaps suffering from some kind of mass psychosis. Perhaps they’re right. Would Jews demonstrate against other Jews, even if the latter are outand-out thieves?
But not only Jews are here to demonstrate today; there are many Palestinians, far more than in most of the Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations, and they’re up front in the thick of it, facing the police. There’s a large underground parking area beneath the massive stone apartments; we’ve taken our stand on the path leading up to it, so settler cars entering or leaving are having rather a hard time. At one point one of them, surrounded by activists, suddenly accelerates, plowing through the crowd; people leap to the side; miraculously, no one is hurt. The police bark and push and shove at us, trying vainly to clear a way. It all takes time, a long time, as the tension slowly mounts, reaching toward a climax, though there are also moments of anomie and perplexity, and the weariness of boredom, thirst, and heat.
A Palestinian boy, maybe 12 years old, takes the megaphone and boldly leads the chanting for a few minutes, half in Arabic, half in Hebrew, the languages running together on his tongue: la l’ihtilal, ken le-meri ezrahi, “No to Occupation, Yes to Civil Disobedience.” I like the sound of it, coming from him. Civil disobedience is what is called for in the extreme conditions of Israel-Palestine 2011—and with it relentless provocation, a constant seeking of the point of friction, giving no inch. The police seem bewildered, out of their depth: what are they supposed to do with these 200 demonstrators? I can see the two commanders hesitating, uncertain; they’re not much of an enemy, this time round; for once they don’t seem eager to arrest us. Maybe—just a guess, or wishful thinking- the senior one, who carries himself with a certain dignity, doesn’t really like defending these fanatical settlers. Still, we prod them, taunt them, we call them a “settlers’ police” (all too true), we tell them they have the right and, indeed, the duty to refuse illegal orders, we spill over the line they are trying to hold, and finally we do what many have done before us, in Gandhi’s India, in Alabama and Mississipi, in the Vietnam years, in Tibet—we sit down on the approach road, blocking access to the building and its parking lot, and wait, arms looped together, for the police to pry us loose and drag us away.
It takes some time. The usual happiness washes over me. There is really nothing quite so sweet as doing the right thing. I am, at last, or again, one with myself and almost at peace with the world—apart from the tormenting thirst and the occasional drizzle of spit from above. We’re packed together in an ungainly mass. Profound equality, communitas, like a physical force, binds us together in the face of what is about to come. But I’m not thinking about the future now. This moment is enough. I need nothing more.
Of course the ranks ahead of me are rapidly thinning out, for the police have begun their attack; they grab whatever part of the body presents itself first, head, feet, arms, buttocks, they struggle to separate us one from another—it isn’t easy—and they drag us, one by one, sometimes punching us for good measure, yelling curses, to the side of the road which, of course, must be kept open for the settlers at all costs. I can’t see the larger scene very well from my small piece of paradise on the ground, but I hear the shouts and cries and the steady roar of the drums, and I can see the soldiers’ black boots getting closer and closer, the first couple of rows gone by now, only two or three meters left, they will be on me in a moment, I really ought to be afraid but nothing seems capable of shattering my eery peace. I’m a little worried about Eileen, who is standing somewhere near the edge of the street; I can’t see her, I hope she’s not within range of the blows the border police are showering with evident abandon, as if finally freed from irksome constraint.
Perhaps, I think, I’ll be able later to write about that peacefulness and explore it further; I know I’m not the only one to feel it. Eileen will say later, when it’s over: “That moment all of you sat down was beautiful and powerful.” She’s right about that. Maybe that’s why, as she says, I love it so. Let’s say a hundred of us were sitting there, defiant, ready to be pummeled or dragged away or arrested. Clearly we didn’t have to explain it to anyone, least of all to ourselves, because the rightness of it was perfectly evident, and, after all, we’ve done such things before, many times, and by now we’ve learned what had to be learned—above all the lesson of action, saying “no” not in words but with our bodies, again and again, as long as it’s necessary to do so until some day we win. But even that thought is not right and not needed, these days we’re not thinking much about winning. I smile at Tehila, just behind me, remembering our arrest in south Hebron just a month or so ago—her first time. But the smile is because I have just realized that we are doing this precisely because we can’t know where it will lead or what effects it will have, and I have just remembered the verse from the Bhagavad Gita which says that human beings are given the right to act but should never consider the fruits of action—it is enough that it is good, godly, and intrinsically humane.
There’s quite a lot of tugging and tearing and poking and grabbing and punching, and to my surprise I am swept, as if by a whirlpool, away from the center and toward the curb, since by now the soldiers and police have cleared just enough space for one of the settler cars to struggle through, and they’ve apparently tired of the struggle against these interlaced arms and legs and heavy bodies. I guess I was lucky. Someone just a yard or two away was not: they shot him with a Taser, and he fell, clutching his right chest, his eyes racing wildly in their sockets, his body twitching a little, hardly conscious. I rush over, but before I can begin to dredge up my medic’s instincts, Daniel is there, cradling his head in his arms; Daniel is a doctor, with the doctor’s assurance. We call an ambulance, but within a few minutes our friend comes to, sits up slowly, even more slowly tries to stand. Tasers are dangerous; they hit you with an electric shock that can kill. My son Misha warned me some months ago that we’d be likely to encounter them one of these days, and today it happened, my first time. Our wounded activist, uncowed, rejoins the others still sitting on the road.
There are arrests, of course—six, to the best of my knowledge; but when they try to arrest one of the Palestinians, the activists swirl around and manage, with much difficulty, to extricate him from the clutches of the police. One minor victory. Meanwhile, while I was busy, many things have happened. Uli, my former student, comes week after week to hold up a black flag with a pirate’s skull and bones; some have found this banner enigmatic, though Uli says its message is self-evident, a perfect emblem of the settlers’ ways. Today one of the settlers manages to snatch it and tear it off the pole, which now, I have to admit, looks a little forlorn. Maybe it’s become a Buddhist flagpole, supporting the deep emptiness of all that is. Then Uli’s cellphone rings, and on the line is a former girlfriend of his, whom he describes as a nihilist or anarchist, utterly apolitical; and by a strange twist such as turns up regularly in Israel, this woman happens to be the sister of one of the settlers inside the building, and the sister’s children are with the former girlfriend and are supposed to be taken “home”, if a stolen piece of Palestinian land counts as home. What to do? Uli doesn’t want the children to be traumatized: “Wait an hour,” he suggests.
And then—when? Some two hours or more have gone by– it’s over. The police drive off with their captives. Eileen sees Palestinian children grasping stones and broken shards of ceramic in their fists. This is a new danger, worse than anything that has happened so far. She goes over to try to calm them, and others join her, and it works–or maybe the boys decide rightly by themselves. No tear gas or rubber bullets today.
On the main road just beside us, while we’re still embroiled in the melée, drums beating, people screaming, a Palestinian car, brightly decorated with white ribbons, with bride and groom inside, painfully threads its way past this battle zone, somehow avoiding the jeeps of the Border Guards that block the way. Will they make it in time to the wedding?
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position, how it takes place
When someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…
The Auden poem happens to be about us, Eileen and me: we spent this morning in Tel Aviv shopping for Misha’s wedding. Should I be feeling guilty for this great joy, this pleasure, when I could have been in south Hebron or Silwan or Nabi Saleh, when I could have bound up the wounds of the suffering and tried, at least, to free the slaves? No, I should not. But you know—it’s utterly impossible to make sense of these sharp transitions. It’s crazy. One moment we’re having our espresso in Tel Aviv, and the next we’re here with the police and the settlers and the dust and the drums and the pain and the unanswerable questions and the hopelessness and the dread. Whatever god invented the world we inhabit didn’t think things through. I wish Him a speedy recovery.
A former high ranking Israeli minister has confirmed a line of thought I’ve developed regarding collusion between the Israeli and Ukrainian governments over the extraordinary rendition of Dirar Abusisi. I’ve been reporting consistently the sneaking suspicion that the kidnapping involved various quid pro quos between the two countries. Now, a former government official has confirmed that Israel said to Ukraine:
“Give us Abu Sisi, and we’ll give you any trade agreement you ask for, plus lobbying services in Washington.”
Over the past few months, I’ve noted visits by the Ukrainian prime minister to Israel (just after Abu Sisi’s kidnapping) at which major new trade deals were announced. Yesterday, I pointed to a major new aviation agreement that would dramatically increase the number of Ukrainian and Israeli pilgrims visiting each others’ countries. Ukraine still covets a visa-free zone that would entitle its citizens to travel to Israel without using their documents. That has not yet been confirmed by Israel. But given Ukraine’s stellar participation in the kidnapping of Abusisi, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t happen as well.
Israel also offered Ukraine unspecified lobbying assistance in the U.S. Congress and administration regarding U.S.-Ukrainian bilateral issues important to Ukraine. Given Israel’s unparalleled access to lawmakers, it’s easy to see how a word from Aipac would open doors for Ukrainians on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the government. In this sense, both Israel and its enablers in the U.S. Jewish community are selling their access in return for shady, underhanded deals like Abusisi’s extraordinary rendition. This, of course will not bother the conscience of Aipac’s Capitol Hill lobbyists one bit.
But the next time a Congressmember, staffer, or cabinet official gets a call from a pro-Israel lobbyist asking for a meeting or favor on behalf of the Ukrainian government, you’ll know why.
The source referenced above had direct knowledge of matters discussed.