Saturday, February 24, 2007


Israeli Russians and the Israeli Left - Vera Reider

Vera Reider, February 2007
Translated by Agatha Haun and revised by Vera Reider

Everyone knows that the absolute majority of immigrants who came to Israel from the former Soviet Union, beginning in the 1970s, declare themselves advocates of right-wing and ultra-right views. «Why so? » -- nearly every new acquaintance from the Israeli «left» camp asks me that. I even ask myself this question – both as an «Israeli Russian», and as a person who finds herself within the «left camp». In this essay I set out my reflections....

The «Russians» weren't born as rightists. Of course, the totalitarianism of the Soviet system left its imprint on their mentality, especially among the older generation – a dichotomous division of the world into the «good» and the «bad», a conception of their state as the bearer of some kind of special mission, turning it into an isolated bastion of the Truth, surrounded by enemies – all of this was instilled by Soviet upbringing from childhood. However, Russian and Soviet Jews, most of whom had received higher education and belonged to the upper strata of the Soviet intelligentsia, imagined themselves to be precisely the liberally inclined layer of society. Their attitude toward the authorities was rather ironic; they were accustomed to perceive reality critically and to ridicule ideological cliches.

And now these people turn up in Israel. It would seem that the liberal tendencies of their thinking should have been further developed here: here the border is not closed, society is more open, here there is a multi-party system, pluralism in the press, freedom of speech, press, and assembly. Didn't they dream of this under the red stars? And what then? As soon as the discussion turns to talk of politics, of the «situation» (and can you imagine life in Israel without the constant discussion, like the noise of a superhighway, on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?) – the impression is created that liberal values are rejected, individualism gives way to unprecedented rallying (that didn’t exist in the “old homeland”) for the «old homeland» – and this rallying happens on an extreme-right, ultra-nationalist basis.

Of course, the background is important here. They speak of the «imperial consciousness» which has not been eliminated among former citizens of the Soviet empire, and of the «victim's complex», which demands compensation, as soon as the former victim starts to sense that s/he is the master of the situation. This has its own truth, but there are also other aspects. As paradoxical as this may sound, in my view the change among the «Russians» is caused precisely by their desire to merge into the mainstream of Israeli society, while they lack sufficient knowledge of this society's history and current problems.

And, investigating the reason for the unpopularity of the «leftists» on the «Russian» street in Israel, one must ask him/ herself two questions. First, «how consciously do the «Russians» gravitate toward the right camp?» And second – «and does the «left» camp do enough to attract the «Russians» (or new people in general)?»

«Right, left, which side?»

That's a passage from a letter that I received a few months ago from Mikhail K. from Jerusalem. Mikhail is 46, he arrived in Israel 5 years ago from Ukraine, has two university degrees, and was a theatre critic in his home country. He writes:

«It's simply scandalous, the way people in this country treat Arabs. I think that to a great extent, they're without rights and they're being injured, and that's wrong. However, by conviction, I'm an extreme right-winger. Sometimes I ask myself: and where am I anyway? In a country which ought to be Jewish, or in some Arab country? But they live here and you have to do something with that. But if they were given citizenship, then they must be citizens with full rights. You can't humiliate them on the streets with unceremonious searches, making them form up in a line, as though they were in a camp or a prison. You can't force them to get off a bus, in the rain, for a check, just because somebody doesn't like the way they look, and so on.»

It sounds contradictory, doesn't it? And all the same, time and again I've been convinced that people who call themselves «extreme right-wingers», believe, even if just in theory, in the necessity of full civic equality and don't see a contradiction in that. Why does it happen that way?

In my opinion, one of the reasons is that the post-Soviet discourse develops not on the plane of «rightists-leftists», but on the plane of «totalitarianism-democracy». The Soviet Union was a totalitarian state. A «left» totalitarian state. Going out into the «free» world, emigrants continued to associate «leftishness» with totalitarianism. Democrats and liberals in Russia are «right-wingers»; in this context it would be worthwhile for the Israelis to listen, for example, to the opinions of Irina Khakhamada, president of the party Union of Right Forces, on the national question. She would certainly be driven out of MERETZ (1) for excessive «leftishness».

Among former Soviet people, «leftishness» and socialism are associated with the suppression of personal initiative, disrespect for the individual, a lack of democratic freedoms, while in Israel these freedoms are the aspirations of the «left». But at the same time, the entire political spectrum in Israel is moving sharply to the right! So it turns out that purely liberal values, which represent the mainstream in Europe, are located in the centre and on the right in post-Soviet Russia, and in Israel they're located on the left, far from the centre.

It's difficult to understand this, but that's still not everything. There's still the national (In Russian, the words «nationality, national» are sometimes used in approximately the same way that «ethnic, racial» are used in English, especially American English in discussions of «race relations» and similar problems – translator's note) question, after all. And I think that the «Russians» also perceive this differently from the Israelis.

Racism and xenophobia have always existed in Russia at the everyday level. And all the same, notice that from the time of the Jewish pogroms of 1906 to the post-Soviet carnage in Chechnya – almost 100 years! – there was no violence in the country based on nationality (ethnicity, race). Inter-ethnic (inter-racial) marriages were and still are a common phenomenon. All children studied in one and the same schools. Of course, national (ethnic) feelings, artificially suppressed by Soviet ideology, smouldered somewhere in the depths and at times broke through in the form of disputes in a tram-car. But – when one was in polite company and in sober form, to behave toward someone in a certain way because of his nationality (ethnicity) was considered indecent. What happened to the immigrants in Israel?

«And what's on the left in our country?»

In the early 1990s a district of detached houses for «Russian» immigrants was built in the town of Lod (2) – «Shkhunat Akademaim». Some «shikunim» (inexpensive multiple-flat buildings – V.R.) were located alongside them, whose population gradually gave place almost entirely to an Arab one. As is well known, the municipality is inclined to neglect such neighbourhoods – in particular, the sewer system there broke down, and the odor, recognising no boundaries, spread to the prestigious «Russian» neighbourhood.

One evening, a couple years ago, I came out of my friends' house in «Shkhunat Akademaim» and went to my car. An elderly man was tinkering with a car parked next door. When I greeted him, I learned that he was a resident of the neighbourhood, who had come from Moscow. «What's that smell here in your area?» I asked him. «Oh, don't ask, that's all because of the Arabs», he answered me. «Arabs live over there, their sewers don't work». «Why don't you do something about it?»I asked. «After all, you built yourselves these expensive houses, and now you can't even sit in the garden? You ought to demand that the municipality fix the sewers for your Arab neighbours!» «Oh, come on», he replied indulgently. «Here they won't do anything for Arabs. They should simply leave! If they leave here, Jews will move in to take their place, and then the sewers will be fixed. Kakha ze ba-arets!» («That's the custom in this country!» - Israeli expression)

The idea of «transfer», in this way, appeared here in a perfectly ordinary aspect, as though flowing out of the most banal daily life that is lived by the country. Any immigrant strives to get himself settled into a better position in his new country. In order to do that, he'll endeavour to merge into the «mainstream». But in their striving to become loyal citizens, the «Russians» unavoidably sensed racism and national (ethnic) chauvinism, which characterised both the society and the ideology of all Israeli governments – both right-wing and «left». If the entire political spectrum, from «Moledet» to Beilin, are more concerned about «preserving the Jewish character of the state» than about solving the social problems even of the country's Jewish citizens, not to mention the Arabs - then, in the end, what difference does it make to the «Russians» whom they join? «The right-wingers, at least, don't lie», one of them told me. «In fact the left-wingers hate and fear the Arabs just as much as the right-wingers do – they simply shelter themselves behind fine words, so as not to lose the subsidies from the European Union». And that's to say, you remember the pre-election rhetoric. As a «solution» to the conflict we are offered the choice: transfer, the Wall, unilateral separation. One is the invention of the right-wingers, the other – of the «left», but what's the difference, really? The idea is the same: «We promise you», say the right and «left» candidates, each in his own way, «that you won't see any more Arabs». The right-wingers simply talk about this more boldly and resolutely and who's going to vote for “left” hypocrites?

In fact what is there so special that the «Zionist left» can offer to the «Russian» immigrant? Yes, the «right-wingers» have many opportunities to influence the «olim khadashim» through purely material factors. For example, in the ulpans (state-run courses in Hebrew for new immigrants – V.R.) there is agitation for the construction of housing in the settlements. And how, laying your hand on your heart, can you judge a person who receives minimum wage for qualified work, if he is enticed by a detached house «right next to the green line (former -until 1967 - demarcation between Jewish and Palestinian areas – translator's note), 20 minutes' drive from the centre of the country», instead of living in a shabby little flat in an outlying district? In addition to a whole bouquet of settlers' benefits and «special conditions»?

So then what's the reason for the «rightishness» of the «Russians» – is it simply that they're mercenary? – asks the reader. If only it were so simple! Did the «Zionist left» really try to oppose this in any way? Weren't settlements really built under Barak and Peres? Did the Avoda (Labor Party) and MERETZ government really invest sufficient funds in poor and outlying districts or undertake any sorts of steps to build low-cost housing as an alternative to the settlements? Precisely the opposite – the construction of social housing was discontinued by the Rabin administration, from the first days of its existence – and after all, it was to no small extent thanks to the «Russian» votes that it had come to power. Moreover – where is there the least degree of difference at all between the rightishness of Likud and the «leftishness» of Avoda in the issue of the settlements? In any case, it is so slight that a person who arrived in the country only yesterday, and has not yet defined himself on its political map, is hardly in a position to differentiate between them. And with all this – plus the ceaseless, constant right-wing propaganda in the «Russian» press – one must only be surprised at what a small percent of the «Russians» go to the settlements. Which once more indicates the striving to move into the «mainstream»... only the «mainstream» in Israel is thoroughly nationalist and right-wing.

Alas, it is hard to make any response to arguments about the hypocrisy of the Israeli «leftists». A person might call him/ herself a socialist, who struggles for the inculcation of social-democratic values, and be in the Socialist International, but as soon as it's a question of putting into practice the most banal of these values – equal rights – in his/ her own country, s/he is seized with an insurmountable feeling of tribal kinship. «A state for all the citizens? Not for anything in the world! » It is clear that the rhetoric of this statement is aimed mainly against Arabs. But already in the next stage it directly affects the Russian-language community. Almost a third of it consists of non-Jews – and what does the «Zionist left» have to offer them, once it is again in power? On the one hand they will continue to import them into the country – after all, they need cannon fodder and hands to hold the machine guns. On the other hand, nobody is planning to grant full equal rights to these people – at best they promise them that they can obtain (!) "a facilitated variant of giyur "(procedure for conversion to Judaism – V.R.). But this sudden readiness of the «leftists» to go cap in hand to the religious is capable only of arousing antagonism...

(I foresee the objections: it will be said that the majority of non-Jews, arriving in Israel as members of Jewish families, are fully in solidarity with the Jewish population of Israel and do not want to struggle for any rights, in any case, nothing at all is heard from them. This is true at first glance – but even if the problem is not evident, that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Already the next generation, who grew up in Israel, inevitably is discovering their legal disenfranchisement and it's hard for me to believe that they will resign themselves to being treated as a «demographic problem».)

Of course, I don't have a chance to conduct serious research on this topic, but from conversations with people, the impression emerges that the «Russians» feel much more comfortable in the right-wing camp than in the «left» camp. There they are treated as like-minded people, who are valued as such, and not only as purveyors of «goods» - the votes of the electorate. But if it's worthwhile for any «left» politician to consider whether it isn't time to start «work with the Russians», the most important question for him/ her will be «And how many votes will it bring me in the elections? » In this sense, the «Zionist left» takes the same attitude toward all «outsiders» - Arabs, «Mizrakhim» (Jews who arrived in Israel from Arabic countries – V.R.), and Russian speakers. And in the final analysis those who go to work for the right-wingers can have no illusions – there capitalism, tough competition, and profit are declared to be above everything. «Man is a wolf to man», therefore you can't make any claims on anyone. But what if the «left» lady, a defender of human rights, humiliates and chronically cheats her «Russian» domestic worker, time and again strives to avoid paying her too much? If the «left» professor asks permission of his «Russian» colleague to make use of his writings and then «forgets» to cite the sources? If the «left» party hires a «Russian» specialist copywriter and pays him/ her the minimum salary, and doesn't pay over that, so that afterward s/he is compelled to recover the earned money by going to court? No, ladies and gentlemen, «noblesse oblige» - if you call yourselves defenders of human rights, be pleased to tidy up your personal qualities further and observe the rights of ALL people – remember that you aren't alone, and that your unscrupulous conduct discredits the entire ideology and whole movements...

The «leftists» in Israel have not found a way to bring «Russians» (and not only «Russians») into full-fledged cooperation... and did they even want this? The «left Zionists» have a firm place in the sun, and after all to invite a co-worker on an equal basis means making room for others... And again to ask for comparison with Arab citizens. After all, the «leftists» prefer to see both «Russians» and Arabs as clients – or, at best, as business intermediaries, suppliers of votes – and not as fellow workers. «Let them be «poor», and when we get into power, we'll do them favours». Only neither the «Russians» nor the Arabs want to be unfortunate. They don't want to receive favours, but to work, not to be dependent, but to participate. Therefore as long as there are no «Russian» (and Arab!) «decision-makers» among the «leftists», as long as there are no «Russian» (and Arab!) ministers from the «left» parties, the left movement in Israel will remain unattractive for 40% of the population... perhaps a prestigious «ivory tower», but in no way a popular movement.

And again about the «Russian» press

But let us suppose that I'm exaggerating in the extreme. Let's suppose that the «leftists» have something to say to the «Russians», and they're full of resolution to try to win the «Russian» street. Their Bolshevik predecessors in this case, as is well known, first of all seized the post office, telephone, and telegraph, that is, the means of information and communication. The «leftists» in Israel should have first of all «won» the Russian press. The «Russian» press in Israel, as everyone knows, has a rightist, even extreme rightist, tendency.

Earlier it was thought that the «Russian» press in Israel was a temporary phenomenon which would disappear by itself when the immigrants learned Hebrew and started to read the local press. However, time has shown that it doesn't happen so simply. A person might work or study in a Hebrew-language environment and not experience linguistic difficulties, but in the evening at home s/he wants to relax and open up a newspaper in his/ her native language. S/he wants to continue receiving information about life in the country s/he left behind – and s/he watches Russian television channels. The Russian Internet offers an ocean of information on any subject and at the same time connects the user with the Russian-speaking diaspora not only in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, but also in the United States, Germany, Canada, Australia, and other countries and regions. Therefore they will be reading Russian here for a long time still.

The local Israeli Russian-language press is the most powerful factor influencing the country's Russian-speaking citizens. The strength of its influence is explained by two principal points.

First, for people who recently arrived in the country, and in recent years for those who are merely thinking about migrating here from the CIS, this press is the first and sole source of information. Possibly this is hard for an Israeli to understand: when you are born and grow up in a small country, where everyone knows about each other, information that comes from the press is supplemented, «diluted», and complicated, or on the contrary, it is explained, by personal impressions, rumors, acquaintance with the arrangement of forces, and so on. But for a person who is unacquainted with the life of the country, the press in a language accessible to him/ her is the sole representation of the new world. What is read in the newspaper in the first days remains in the memory for a long time and defines one's aims.

Second, in the Soviet Union there was no independent press which could express private opinions that did not correspond to the state ideology. It came to be that everything which was written in the newspaper was written with the knowledge and approval of «higher instances». The racism, xenophobia, and incitement against ideological opponents – «leftists», pouring from the pages of «Russian» newspapers in Israel are perceived therefore as something permitted and acceptable. All the more so since this incitement is very rarely stopped – the «leftists», it seems, decided simply not to pay attention to it. It is more probable that the «leftists» simply aren't interested in the «Russian» press. «They taught me to ignore that (Russian-speaking) public», a young correspondent of one of the leading Israeli papers told me not long ago in a private conversation, «there's nothing for you to do here, they're all rightists».

All of the «Russian» newspapers are owned by Israelis; I'm sure that not one of them defines himself as «right of centre». There are very few regular staff journalists on the «Russian» papers and those that there are receive miserable pay. The salary of an editor of a supplement, working on the basis of a personal contract, doesn't amount to the average Israeli salary. One of the famous journalists told me that, working on the staff of the «Vesti» – the most «solid» Russian-language newspaper in Israel – she was regarded as a half-time worker and received... 2,000 shekels [364 € or 478 US$]. The newspaper «Vesti» belongs to the «Yediot Ahronot» concern.

Of course, in such a situation a journalist must earn additional pay by various work on the side. But it's not only a question of money. Let us not forget that Russian-language journalists in most cases came to Israel at the same time as their readers and have approximately the same baggage of knowledge. In such conditions a journalist doesn't have time to study and expand and deepen his/ her knowledge of the society in which s/he lives.

The reportage of Russian-language journalists concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict bears an almost exclusively theoretical character and abounds in abstract thoughts on general themes such as «the clash of civilisations» - and this in a country where conflict is developing a half-hour's journey from the newspaper's editorial office! But the «Russian» papers don't have the money to send a reporter to scene of the events. How are these articles written? It seems that the Israeli owners of Russian papers don't ask themselves such a question. Do they know at all what's written in them? Hardly likely...

Of course, the Israeli press is full of articles with a «rightist» bias and by no means are the events always reflected objectively. But all the same, the Israel press offers the reader a certain spectrum of opinions, it does conduct research on the events, calls on the reader to think things over, raises doubts, as is incumbent on a living press in a living country. Instead of all that, the «Russian» reader is offered pure, pseudo-patriotic, nationalistic propaganda. Is anyone from the Israeli «leftists» interested in this situation in the press, which is the source of information about the country for 20% of the population? It would seem not.

In the meantime, there are also left and liberal journalists on the «Russian» street. It's just that the way to the press is practically closed to them. And even so, they write and strive to make their opinion heard, in spite of the fact that they often have to pay a high price, both personally and in the context of their status. The paradox is that even making rare attempts at work with the Russian press, the «leftists» don't take the trouble to seek out like-minded people, but turn to all the same right-wing journalists or public-relations agencies, supposing, with the strange naivete of the «leftists», that devotion to an ideology can be purchased for money.

In 1999, when Barak came to power, replacing Netanyahu, a whole array of groups and individual citizens from among the «Russian-language» undertook, without reaching an arrangement among themselves, attempts to create a «left», or liberal, or really independent Israeli newspaper in Russian. They were not businessmen or politicians, they were simple citizens, worried about the state of minds on the «Russian» street, and they sought support among like-minded Israelis. The idea was simple – «Haaretz» (3) appears in English – why couldn't it also be published in Russian? Even if not every day, what about once a week? Even if not a whole newspaper, maybe just selected articles? Even if not only «Haaretz», what about a digest of the Hebrew press – if only to «take out» the Russian-language reader from this insufferable one-sided and rightist commitment of the «Russian» press! One of these people managed to get through to the chief editor of «Haaretz», someone tried to talk with politicians and prominent public figures. As we all know, to this day «Haaretz» has not appeared in Russian. None of the «left» Israelis supported this idea, in any case, no one wanted to lift a finger to translate the idea into action.

The main argument was the uncertainty about the «profitability» of such an enterprise. I don't know whether they conducted any real research about the potential profitability of such a publication – it's clear that it should have been done, taking into account the Russian-language diaspora in Russia and all around the world, especially in the USA, Canada, and Germany. But there's still one question – why the only factor which interested all these «leftist» actors was the aspect of «profitability», profits? Clearly, the establishment of a newspaper demands the investment of money, which is terrible to lose. But in Israel there are several «left» parties and organizations, and they could have at least have made an effort all together! Isn't the acquisition of like-minded people really «capital» of itself, and does everything (among «these «leftists»»!) really come down only to money? After all, ultimately, apart from concern about the «profitability», one would like to think that the «leftists» do still have an ideology, confidence in their convictions, the desire to change the existing state of things for the better.

Alas, all these are not sufficiently driving forces... The «leftists» lost the struggle in the field of information and propaganda seriously and for a long time. But after all, the way to victory here is quite simple. After all, you have experience in human rights work, don't you? – So struggle for the rights of the Russian-language journalists, let them receive pay equal to Israeli salaries! Are you prepared to allocate funding? – Forget about the fact that convictions can be bought, don't employ advertising agencies – take the «Russians» who came to you with their convictions, promote them, make them into copywriters, speakers, commentators! Found a «left» Russian newspaper, you will find journalists for it, and your ideas will finally have a proper mouthpiece on the Russian street...

Instead of a conclusion – a few words «from within» about the «radical left»

Alas, here the picture is not at all cheerful. I can't avoid citing the cry from the heart of one of my friends. «I'm a «Russian»», she said, «and I'm in a «radical left» organization. There I feel comfortable to the highest degree, they love me, respect me, promote me, take me into account... And all the time I'm thinking: the hell with this, if everything is so good, why I am the only «Russian» there?!”

Yes, we – the so-called «radical leftists» in Israel also don't draw the «Russians» to us, and not just the «Russians»... There are, of course, objective reasons for this, and even universally-objective. One of them is that whole lack of information: in the Russian press, MERETZ and Shalom Ahshav-Peace Now (4) are called «ultra-left» - but there are also reasons, so to speak, of a local character...

The point is that whether we want this or not – we're part of Israeli society and we're susceptible to its diseases. One of these diseases, in my view, is continuing «ghettoisation» from within. We call ourselves «radicals», but we can call ourselves radical leftists only according to the rules of an internal Israeli game. Beyond the walls of the ghetto there are other proportions and criteria, and if we want others to listen to us and understand us, especially those who came from outside, we should probably either start to speak in their language or acquire a new language in which the words will be equivalent to their meaning... After all, what's happening? If we agree that we're radicals then it turns out that the «centre», the «moderates» are in power in the country! Again I want to remind you that the «blasphemous», «extremist» idea of «a state of all the citizens» represents the most banal mainstream in the civilized world, and it's already time to start talking about this out loud... The impression arises that we are afraid to frighten fellow citizens with our «radicalism» and we seek ways to seem «pragmatic»... but after all, man does not live by bread alone, and our opponents successfully operate with such abstractions as «being the chosen ones», «tradition», «justice», «love for the homeland»... But after all, we too have a tradition – humanistic, universal human values, which are older than national values and which will remain, even when their national states have become obsolete...

I think that along with the concrete struggle against distorting phenomena of our reality, we need to busy ourselves with formulating an ideology in order to understand ourselves and show people not only what we want to move away from but also where we plan to arrive and bring the society. And, of course, we must be on the alert and struggle against the manifestations of racism and dehumanisation of the “other” in his/ her own milieu, to get out of the dichotomy of «Jews and Arabs», become aware of the diversity of nuances within and outside ourselves and create from them a unified picture of an open world, a world without walls... only then will we able to think that our comrades-in-arms will come to us unimpeded.


(1) MERETZ – liberal-national party which is considered «left» in Israel
(2) Lod (Lydda) – city in the central area of Israel, where both Jews and Arabs live
(3) Haaretz – left-liberal Israeli newspaper
(4) Shalom Ahshav – Peace Now – Zionist «left» organisation

This article was published originally in Hebrew in the journal Mi Tsad Sheni (From the Other Side), issued by the
Alternative Information Center

Translated from Russian by Agatha Haun and revised by Vera Reider, members of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is copyleft. It can be freely reproduced provided its author, translator, reviser, and site of origin are cited.URL of this article :


Thursday, February 22, 2007


Report of the Human Rights Council regarding the OPT

On Peacepalestine Documents find the complete report. Essential reading to have basic information. I will be taking much of this information for further analysis and discussion.

Thanks to Badil Organisation for distributing it.

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Monday, February 19, 2007


here we go again, shifting focus away from Palestinians, that's what UK Anti-Zionist Jews do best

Comment is free has loaded itself with its weekly installment of very self-righteous individuals who tell themselves, others and the world at large (well, the thousand readers the blog gets, at least) that being members of the UK Jewish intellectual (sic) elite, they certainly know just what the important issues are in Pro-Palestinian activism. They are here to share their knowledge with the rest of the left.

This week's piece is by Tony Greenstein, unperterbed by the fact that I haven't yet responded to his request that I publish his 1,000 word essay on the new all Jewish group who has signed a letter (and not done anything else just yet, and perhaps isn't expected to), he recycles a paper that he's put on Ziopedia, Jews Sans Frontieres and I think some small UK based Marxist online forum. Well, it's not really a new article, it's the same recycled stuff he's been using for a few years now.... but, as we say in Italy, "tant'è..."

When I read Greenstein’s article I realised that Gilad Atzmon is right. “We must begin to take the accusation very seriously..." What accusation might that be? "that the Jewish people are trying to control the Palestinian solidarity movement."

It's all about what feels good for Jewish activists. It's about who they agree with, who they like, who comes closest to their own image of what a Democratic State for the Palestinian people is supposed to look like, and how to get there as well, with the help of big brother, the qualified heir of the Bundist.

Greenstein says: “Supporters of the Palestinian cause should have no truck with anti-semitism.”

Any ethical being will recognise without being reminded of it that all racism is wrong, and it would be a beautiful world if there was no such thing, but still.... Tony, (let me address you personally here) you are losing sight of the core issue, the matter that is at the heart and soul of activism for Palestinian rights. There is really one major issue that is the minimum common denominator, and that is that support of the Palestinian cause is simply to support the Palestinian people. This is why more than a few Palestinian solidarity campaigners initiated the ‘Palestinians are the Priority’ petition
, a petition you yourself refused to sign. Perhaps the main reason is that it stated clearly that the Palestinians should not be dictated the actions they need to take, nor should they feel obligated (or those who put their energies at the service of their cause) to concentrate on issues such as Anti-Semitism, a phenomenon that they are not responsible for, nor one that is directly linked to their cause. I want to believe as well that every ethically orientated CIF reader will sign this petition. It was designed to clearly stress the fundamental focus on the Right of Return, redress of injustice and on service to the Palestinians. It also stresses the respect and honour of the Palestinian choice, while nevertheless it did take the liberty of reiterating our (as activists) desire for a State of co-existence, a single State that can be the home of Palestinians and Jews alike.

Again, Tony, you spend much of your energy in trying to denounce a group that is establishing memorials and events that commemorate the Nakba (the Palestinian deportation and exile) and propose awareness of it. The group that you most fear is an inter-faith, international, and inter-ethnic one, and besides you and your personal friends, it is greatly respected. You see that it is fitting to insult it and people who work to keep it active, including many Palestinians. Your fear and loathing for Deir Yassin Remembered is a common thread in most of your communications for years now. What may have escaped you is that DYR is neither a racist nor an anti-Semitic organisation. DYR events are probably the biggest gathering of Palestinians with their supporters in Europe and elsewhere. I am afraid that this is what Greenstein insists upon stopping. It is just as possible that on his journey to destroy DYR, he may even manage to bring the PSC down.

As much as Greenstein’s working class ideology is irrelevant in Palestine, his shallow motion for the PSC will secure his status as a crypto Zionist activist, as much as he hates and denies that title, his actions are reminiscent of the ADL more than any other group that comes to mind.

Half of Greenstein's post is based on the idiotic interpretation of
Gilad’s Scotland talk:

“In his speech on November 22, 2006 to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Atzmon explained that it is Jewishness that is the problem. In a telling analogy, he compared Jewish anti-Zionists in the Palestine solidarity movement to exiled German dissidents in Britain during the second world war, i.e. outsiders and strangers.”

No Tony, you are wrong, the analogy is very simple and I hope that even you can understand it: To let Jews run the Palestinian struggle against the ‘Jewish State’ is as silly as expecting exiled Germans run the British war against Nazi Germany. It's got absolutely nothing to do with being “outsiders and strangers”. Moreover Atzmon doesn’t speak about exiled Jewish Germans but rather about Germans as a national entity. Once again, you let your Phobias lead you nowhere.

Greenstein, again and again, insists that it is a Jewish interest (the war against anti-Semitsm) that must be located at the core of the Palestinian solidarity movement. I am pretty astonished that Greenstein is blind enough to expose his Judeo-centric agenda. I am pretty sure that every Palestinian activist is clever enough to spot it.

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For Someone's Child

A lovely, sad song about the smallest victims in the mad wars of the Middle East.
For Someone's Child
The author writes a very strong j'accuse including this sentence:

I accuse the US and UK governments of encouraging a climate of fear, in which the people have been blackmailed into passivity and coerced into silence by being told that they must either support this genocide or be labeled as supportive of terrorism ("Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists"). True human beings will not be threatened by such false dilemmas or logical fallacies. In a democracy, it is the government who should fear the people, rather than the people having to be afraid of their government.

Check out the site and the music.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007


Hard Times for Humanity - Infopal comment on recent Italian free speech limitations

In the picture: Roberto Hamza Piccardo, of the UCOII

Hard Times for Humanity

We have read again and again the news that regards the inscription in the Register of Investigation of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome for Hamza Roberto Piccardo and Mohammad Nour Dachan: violation of Law 13 October 1975 n. 654, stating that they “incited the committing of violence and acts of provocation of violence for racial and religious reasons,” and because they spread “ideas founded on racial and religious hatred.”

We wrote that we put full trust in Italian institutions, and in the judicial branch, and we repeat: at the end of all this, we are certain, this case will reveal itself to be nothing but hot air. Yet, we remain perplexed, dubious and worried about the dangerous overhang, threatening for whoever participates in Italian democracy. That democracy was the fruit of many struggles, of martyrdom and suffering, and perhaps it has never been fully exercised.

Freedom of thought, of critique, of reasoning is a treasure that is far too precious to sell on the black market to whoever makes the best offer.

Piccardo and Dachan have expressed, each with different means, bitter opinions and sorrowful reflections on what was happening in Palestine and in Lebanon last summer.

Where is the malicious, inciting, provocative, damaging, racist intent? Where is anything resembling such a thing? It is truly difficult to understand.

Dachan tried to make the comparison in a way that was historically – and we repeat, historically – inexact, between the Nazi exterminations and the current ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians by the hands of the Israeli government. His reasoning must have been: “the Italian mass media are all, or almost all, on the side of Israel, no matter what its government is committing. For the massacre of so many Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, there is no space in the newspapers or in the News broadcasts, if not to tell the story of the reasons, the “defence” needs of the Israeli State. If this is so, let us buy a page in a paper and denounce the crimes that are now taking place. This is a way that people can be informed.”

In other words, “let us use communication, means of information”, to “let the Italians know” what information is being withheld from them. The Arabs, the Muslims don’t need such a page in a paper: there is an abundance of satellite TV, local, international, there are newspapers and so forth that report in a consistent way, with complete details, photos, videos, filmed reports, interviews, what is going on in the Middle East. The Arabic-Islamic world and the Muslim communities in Italy are aware of what is happening. They are well informed. It is the Italian population that is scarcely informed. At least, a very large portion of them. And it is to them that the insertion of the UCOII is directed, and we believe, also the reflections of Piccardo.

Arabic was not used, nor the “double discourse”, something that often the Muslim leaders in Europe are accused of doing. No. The pieces were written in Italian, so that they would be understandable to Italians and those young Arabs who have become Italians in every way.

Therefore, the “incitement to hatred” was destined to Italians, one must deduce. Not to a mass of immigrants, to angry Arabs.

Or perhaps they were only clumsy or amateur attempts – insertion of an advertising page – to reawaken the consciences that are slumbering in the sleep of reason.

A reason that is clouded by an “equidistant” policy to the most powerful (by choice, for treaties that are sixty years old, for elective affinities, or for whatever other reason) and by an information system that is often biased, lacking, incorrect, ever more embedded with the strongest, with the oppressor currently at the helm. Information that is far from the “last”, evangelically speaking, and very, very near to the “first.”

Piccardo and Dachan wrote what many were thinking: the Israeli government, not the Jews, is committing horrors, atrocities, immoralities that the entire world and History itself will be held to respond for. No matter what the President of the Republic Napolitano or the Malans or Stracquadanios (the last two, members of Parliament, who have deposited the denouncement to the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome) think. Many Jews around the world and many Israelis had denounced such crimes committed against the Palestinians and the Lebanese by the Israeli government. Are they racists too? Are they anti-Semites?

As far as the means of communication that was chosen, everyone chooses according to their own dialectic capacities and their relationship to the means of information. Perhaps it would have been better to leave the task of communicating the message to an expert and to not improvise. But, this is beside the point.

The matter that disturbs us, and we repeat, is the dangerous road that our freedom of speech, denouncement and dissent is taking. In other words, our very democracy.

One may share or not the things that others say or write, but it is essential that there is the possibility to express oneself, without insulting, without threatening, without slandering (without, then, falling towards the void the way we see in TV everyday during the ever more omnipresent trash TV).

Instead, no: whoever criticises and challenges the now present Dominant Thought – be they the dwellers in the area of the TAV (who protest the environmental impact of High Speed Trains), those against Mose (the dam near Venice), those who protest the enlargement of the USA military base in Vicenza, those who protest the war of the Bush Administration and the multinationals, or anyone else who still has the courage – yes, the courage, to denounce the war crimes of the Israeli government – and not the Jews, let it be emphasised – is considered to be a potential Terrorist. A threat. A danger that must be “controlled”, that must be monitored, kept on file, etc., etc.

Just as in the worst Orwellian predictions, Big Brother wants us to be enlisted like brave soldiers without emotional reactions, without thought, without principles – if not those that he passes off as those that are Just. Otherness, diversity, dissent that are considered to be ever more a threat to the status quo. To the system that is perfectly developed, in which the few occasions of “free speech” are in reality just the functional ones, like a bone that is thrown to a barking dog.

Ah, yes…. Hard times ahead for Humanity.

The Editors of

Translated from Italian by
Mary Rizzo, member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is on Copyleft and may be diffused as long as its contents remain unaltered and the source and translator are cited.

In English on
In Italian: Hard Times for Humanity

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Friday, February 16, 2007


Better a human being than a rattlesnake: Gilad Atzmon answers Lenni Brenner's theological questions

Introduction by Gilad Atzmon:
This past 9 February I received an email from Lenni Brenner, the legendary anti-Zionist Jewish Marxist Historian. Lenni sounded very concerned, on the verge of panicking so to say. He may had have had good reason to dread; he was totally convinced that I have fallen ill, subject to the worst possible disease known to mankind. Lenni was certain that I became a lamb of Christ. But Lenni didn’t stop just there, he also believed that in addition to my newly adopted religion, I am busy spending my spare time acting as an inquisitor, chasing the sons of Israel and persecuting them for killing Jesus.

In a desperate effort to save a lost soul of Israel, either himself or myself, Lenni contacted me to find out whether there is truth behind the vicious rumours. Lenni was convinced that he had a scoop in his hands, so he CCed Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch, a magazine that hosts my writings regularly.

In my eyes, Lenni’s questionnaire serves us with an authentic glimpse into the notion of Jewish trauma. For an outsider, it is probably hard to believe the level of terror some Jews inflict upon themselves for no real reason. Seemingly, Lenni, a prominent historian, proves to be horrified by Christianity, its symbols, the narrative and its message of divinity.

Over the years I have learned a lot from Lenni Brenner. Though I do not share his political view, I regard his books as invaluable. I do believe that the differences between Lenni Brenner and myself portray a very accurate picture of the emerging chasm between the decaying tribalist Jewish Secular orthodox school of thought and the reawakening ethical discourse; a discourse that aims beyond the political and the dogmatic. I hope that this exchange may raise some interest amongst Lenni’s followers. I am pretty sure that my readers will find it interesting as well as entertaining.

This piece was published, without this introduction on Counterpunch. Since the time of responding to Lenni Brenner, I ran across a piece by an author who has been a great influence on me, Kurt Vonnegut. In his latest book of essays, he writes:

How do humanists feel about Jesus? I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, “If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?”

But if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.


Lenni: Hi Gilad, People tell me so many things about you, that I decided to get some answers straight from the horse's mouth, as we Yanks say.

Gilad: Hi Lenni, I do appreciate it!

Lenni: Are you a Christian?

Gilad: Not that it is your business (in case you didn’t know, Christianity is not paedophilia, it is allowed these days), however, I am an ex Jew. I didn’t formally join any organised religion and this includes: Islam or Christianity as well as your UK Bundist friends’ version of Talmudic Marxism (a religion rather than an ideology).

Lenni: Was Jesus human only, or divine in whole or part?

Gilad: What a pathetic question Lenni. How am I supposed to know? Do you know? Having been trained in philosophy, I will try to help you to refine your question. What you want to ask is whether I BELIEVE that Jesus was divine.

My answer, Mr. Brenner, is very very simple. I do not engage in questions having to do with divinity. And my own belief is irrelevant because I am not religious. Yet, I do respect the FACT that very many people around me believe that Jesus was divine. Unlike you and your UK friends, I do respect other people’s beliefs. In fact I respect any form of spiritual activity. I admire people who are inspired by divinity. I admire Torah Jews, who are the only Jewish collective resistance to Zionism. In case you ask yourself where I find divinity, my answer is very simple: Coltrane, Stravinsky and Bach, but this changes often.

Lenni: Was he (Jesus) the messiah? Is he coming again? Do you accept the New Testament as divinely inspired?

Gilad: Lenni, do I look like the Pope? How am I supposed to know whether Jesus was the Messiah? Again, do you know the answers? My affair with Jesus is rather metaphysical. I regard Jesus as a critical ethical awakening. For me Christ is all about loving your neighbour. Jesus is the birth of western universal humanism (as we know it). Following Hegel, I am inspired by the notion of Otherness, and ‘Master Slave Dialectic’. However, the notion of Otherness is nothing but Christ’s heritage. I suggest that you think about it for a while.

I would like to mention as well that your dismissal of Christianity and religion in general is rather disconcerting. However, without me being Christian, I must insist to remind you and your half a dozen UK followers that the days when Jews chased Christians are over.

Lenni: Did you write:

"I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all; the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus who, by the way, was himself a Palestinian Jew. But then two questions should be asked:

1 - How is it that people living today feel accountable or chased for a crime committed by their great great ancestors almost 2,000 ago? I assume that those Jews who get angry when blamed for killing Jesus are those who identify themselves with Jesus's killers. Those who would commit this murderous act today.

Those Jews are called Zionists and they are already advancing into their sixth decade of inhuman crimes against the Palestinian people and the Arab world.

Zionism, for those who do not know, is a repetition of the darkest age of the Jewish Biblical era."

Gilad: Yes indeed, these are my words and I stand by them.

Lenni: Does any living Jew have any responsibility for Jesus's death?

Gilad: Lenni, did you lose your capability to grasp a very simple text? I would really like you to present just how my text implies that I accuse contemporary Jews for killing Christ or for being responsible for it. In fact the text says the complete opposite. I ask: “How is it that people living today feel accountable or chased for a crime committed by their great great ancestors almost 2,000 ago?” In other words, I find it astonishing that people today happen to be offended by such accusations.

Lenni: Am I responsible? Do I have to atone for his death? Do I have to accept that he rose from the dead?

Gilad: Lenni, do I look like a shrink? I really leave this question to you. It is you who should answer whether you ‘feel’ responsible or not. By no means does my text imply that you or anyone else is responsible. The text says that those who are offended are “those who identify themselves with Jesus's killers. Those who would commit this murderous act today. “ Accordingly, it is you who should ask yourself whether you would commit such a crime today.

Once again, you may want to refine your question. The question you want to ask is whether I BELIEVE that you are responsible.
No is the answer. I don’t BELIEVE that you are responsible; moreover I KNOW that you are not responsible. Nevertheless, my text implies as well that you MAY not be as innocent as you wish to be.

In my text I stress that “I assume that those Jews who get angry when blamed for killing Jesus are those who identify themselves with Jesus's killers. Those who would commit this murderous act today.”

Seemingly, you are ‘angry’, you feel accused of something without even being accused of anything. On the face of it, the question you have to ask yourself is whether you identify yourself with Christ’s killers? I am pretty sure that you don’t and you shouldn’t be. However, I must tell you that the cyber kangaroo courts that you and your friends hold on a daily basis reminds me too much of the Sanhedrin. I suggest that you think about that as well for a while.

Somehow you and those like you know what is good for the Palestinians, the Jews, the working class. I occasionally ask myself what it is that makes you so confident. You and your followers indeed have managed to silence some of the most interesting intellects around just because you do not approve their politics or religion. I am afraid to inform you Lenni, that these days are over. Your six UK disciples are working day and night for more than three years doing their very best to silence me, I am afraid to tell you that they fail. In fact they achieve the opposite instead.

I do not feel sorry for them because they have really zero reputation to defend. But I really feel sorry for you Lenni. You are an important contributor to the Israeli-Palestinian discourse. Your books are more than valuable. You have a reputation to defend. I would like to see you in the midst of the discourse rather than surrounded the last shadows of echoes of tribal socialism.

Just before closing this email I will sharpen the differences between us. Unlike you Lenni, I believe in freedom of speech. Unlike you Lenni, I am against gatekeeping, I am also against any form of dogmatic or monolithic discourses of hegemony. Unlike you and your friends, I believe that every human subject is entitled to human rights. Unlike you Lenni, I approve of the Hamas. Unlike you Lenni, I understand that working class politics has very little relevance in Arabia.

Yet, I have never tried to silence anyone, on the contrary. I will fight for your right to speak your mind.

Lenni: Thanks, in advance, for your time and trouble in this regard,


Gilad: It was my entire pleasure.

All the best

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


What 'Israel's right to exist' means to Palestinians

Drawing by Juan Kalvellido - "What a Shitty Puzzle, there's a piece left over."

Recognition would imply acceptance that they deserve to be treated as subhumans.

By John V. Whitbeck
Since the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel and much of the West have asserted that the principal obstacle to any progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace is the refusal of Hamas to "recognize Israel," or to "recognize Israel's existence," or to "recognize Israel's right to exist."

These three verbal formulations have been used by Israel, the United States, and the European Union as a rationale for collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The phrases are also used by the media, politicians, and even diplomats interchangeably, as though they mean the same thing. They do not.

"Recognizing Israel" or any other state is a formal legal and diplomatic act by one state with respect to another state. It is inappropriate – indeed, nonsensical – to talk about a political party or movement extending diplomatic recognition to a state. To talk of Hamas "recognizing Israel" is simply to use sloppy, confusing, and deceptive shorthand for the real demand being made of the Palestinians.

"Recognizing Israel's existence" appears on first impression to involve a relatively straightforward acknowledgment of a fact of life. Yet there are serious practical problems with this language. What Israel, within what borders, is involved? Is it the 55 percent of historical Palestine recommended for a Jewish state by the UN General Assembly in 1947? The 78 percent of historical Palestine occupied by the Zionist movement in 1948 and now viewed by most of the world as "Israel" or "Israel proper"? The 100 percent of historical Palestine occupied by Israel since June 1967 and shown as "Israel" (without any "Green Line") on maps in Israeli schoolbooks?

Israel has never defined its own borders, since doing so would necessarily place limits on them. Still, if this were all that was being demanded of Hamas, it might be possible for the ruling political party to acknowledge, as a fact of life, that a state of Israel exists today within some specified borders. Indeed, Hamas leadership has effectively done so in recent weeks.

"Recognizing Israel's right to exist," the actual demand being made of Hamas and Palestinians, is in an entirely different league. This formulation does not address diplomatic formalities or a simple acceptance of present realities. It calls for a moral judgment.

There is an enormous difference between "recognizing Israel's existence" and "recognizing Israel's right to exist." From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba – the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949 – is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was "right" for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

To demand that Palestinians recognize "Israel's right to exist" is to demand that a people who have been treated as subhumans unworthy of basic human rights publicly proclaim that they are subhumans. It would imply Palestinians' acceptance that they deserve what has been done and continues to be done to them. Even 19th-century US governments did not require the surviving native Americans to publicly proclaim the "rightness" of their ethnic cleansing by European colonists as a condition precedent to even discussing what sort of land reservation they might receive. Nor did native Americans have to live under economic blockade and threat of starvation until they shed whatever pride they had left and conceded the point.

Some believe that Yasser Arafat did concede the point in order to buy his ticket out of the wilderness of demonization and earn the right to be lectured directly by the Americans. But in fact, in his famous 1988 statement in Stockholm, he accepted "Israel's right to exist in peace and security." This language, significantly, addresses the conditions of existence of a state which, as a matter of fact, exists. It does not address the existential question of the "rightness" of the dispossession and dispersal of the Palestinian people from their homeland to make way for another people coming from abroad.

The original conception of the phrase "Israel's right to exist" and of its use as an excuse for not talking with any Palestinian leaders who still stood up for the rights of their people are attributed to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It is highly likely that those countries that still employ this phrase do so in full awareness of what it entails, morally and psychologically, for the Palestinian people.

However, many people of goodwill and decent values may well be taken in by the surface simplicity of the words, "Israel's right to exist," and believe that they constitute a reasonable demand. And if the "right to exist" is reasonable, then refusing to accept it must represent perversity, rather than Palestinians' deeply felt need to cling to their self-respect and dignity as full-fledged human beings. That this need is deeply felt is evidenced by polls showing that the percentage of the Palestinian population that approves of Hamas's refusal to bow to this demand substantially exceeds the percentage that voted for Hamas in January 2006.

Those who recognize the critical importance of Israeli-Palestinian peace and truly seek a decent future for both peoples must recognize that the demand that Hamas recognize "Israel's right to exist" is unreasonable, immoral, and impossible to meet. Then, they must insist that this roadblock to peace be removed, the economic siege of the Palestinian territories be lifted, and the pursuit of peace with some measure of justice be resumed with the urgency it deserves.
• John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer, is the author of, "The World According to Whitbeck." He has advised Palestinian officials in negotiations with Israel.


Sunday, February 11, 2007


Deconstructing Anti Semitism, a logical investigation-Gilad Atzmon

A special feature for the Comment is Free readers:

1.• While in the old days an 'anti-Semite' was someone who hates Jews, nowadays it is the other way around: an anti-Semite is someone the Jews hate.
• Because Jews are theoretically capable of hating anyone including other Jews, everyone is a potential anti-Semite.
• Since ‘everyone’ refers to the entire human family, we are entitled to deduce that humanity is, how to say it, potentially anti-Semitic.
• This is indeed very concerning.

2.• Since the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians can never be morally justified, every morally orientated critical voice of Israel i.e., every moral being, is hated by some Jews. Thus, every moral being is an anti-Semite.
• Since Israel is a regional ecological disaster as well as nuclear threat every eco-enthusiast is potentially hated by some Jew or other and ecology is on the verge of becoming anti-Semitic.
• Since Jazz music is a call for freedom and this entails as well freedom for Palestine, Some Jazz is indeed hated by some Jews. In other words, Jazz is anti-Semitic.

3.• Even Bush and Blair, the most famous Zio-philic Goyim of our time, people who sacrifice their political careers just to save the Jewish State are hated by some anti-Zionist Jews which is enough to make Bush and Blair into proper anti-Semites.
• Even the Zionists themselves, those who rob Palestine and cleanse its indigenous inhabitants, are apparently hated by the Torah Jews, the true followers of the Judaic tradition. In other words, Zionism is nothing but anti-Semitic.
• Needless to say that the ‘Torah Jews’ themselves, those who happen to oppose Zionism in the name of the Torah are hated by the vast majority of secular Jews, by the totality of Marxist Jews and by Zionist Jews in particular, in short, Torah Jews are nothing but anti-Semites.

4.• If humanity is anti-Semitic, moralists and environmentalists are anti-Semitic, Zionists are anti-Semites, Jews in general are anti-Semites and even Jazz is no different (anti-Semitic), we are left to accept the fact that anti-Semitism is apparently the entirety, the totality, the medium in which everything else takes place.
• Though it must be admitted that anti-Semitism is beyond time and place. Yet it isn’t as great as God.
• While God was there before time, thus before the Jews, anti-Semitism is a subsequent Jewish product.
• Thus, Jews are greater than anti-Semitism but lesser than God.
• Saying that, some radical atheist Jews hate God, something that qualifies God as an anti-Semite.
• A Talmudic riddle: can God be greater than anti-Semitism and the Jews and yet be an anti-Semite himself?
• Yes, only if God is himself a self-hating Jew.
• Though one self-hating Jew made it into God, not every self-hating Jew is God. I, for instance, just play the saxophone and deconstruct the Jewish identity.

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Friday, February 9, 2007


Gilad Atzmon - Words and Deeds

What matters is what the Palestinians do

David Ben Gurion, the legendary Zionist leader as well as Israel’s first Prime Minister, used to say: “What matters is not what the Goyim say, what matters is what the Jews do”.

A few days ago a group of Jews who may have been independent at one stage decided to gather and to form a new collective peace-loving humanist synagogue. They call themselves the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). They are determined to challenge the hegemony of the Board Of Deputies Of British Jews (BOD). I am far from being a supporter of the Board of Deputies, in fact, I despise them. Yet, being a Jew by origin, I have never regarded this body as a representative of either myself or any of my so-called Jewish friends.

Furthermore, being a practicing independent thinker, I regard the BOD as a representation of everything I fight against. Yet, I do acknowledge that this body indeed represents the community of Jews in Britain. I do understand as well that the majority of Jews in Britain and around the world do support Zionism. This is indeed very sad and rather concerning. Yet, far more concerning, is the fact that IJV are not exactly against Israel or Zionism. Like the BOD, they do believe in the right of the Jews to live in peace in Palestine. In their favour it must be said that though they are in favour of the Idea of Jewish state, they want it to be different. They believe in the possibility of morally orientated colonialism in which the colonialists (those who live in Tel Aviv) and the ethnically cleansed (those who live in Gaza, for instance) live in ‘peace’ side by side.

On the face of it, an internal Jewish dispute between two Zionist synagogues shouldn’t really become one of the top priorities of British society. This debate should have taken place on the very yellow pages of the Jewish Chronicle. Yet, the IJV wanted to get the British public on their side. How did they do it? They have peppered their declaration with some humanist post-colonial terminology and planted the word Palestine in every other sentence. It quite important to mention that in the declaration itself the BOD is not mentioned even once. Palestine, on the other hand, is mentioned six times.

Out of the five principles presented by the IJV, three are dedicated to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The author of the declaration must be aware that the British people are gradually becoming more and more aware of the emerging level of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian population. It is rather crucial to emphasize that while the IJV insists upon conveying an image of commitment to the Palestinian issue, they clearly refrain from any substantial ethical commitment to Palestine, Palestinians or humanism. The IJV do not extend beyond the Israeli Left’s Peace-Now rhetoric. Though, they refer to human rights, they clearly refrain from mentioning the Palestinian right of return. They are succumbing to the old leftist Zionist trick; they identify the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as its resolution, with the occupation and its demise. This is obviously a lie and the authors of the IJV declaration are fully conscious of this lie. I would like to believe that more than a few of the IJV signatories are not aware of the sophisticated manipulative document they have signed on.

Once again, the truth must be said. The Palestinian cause is largely about the right of return and a solution to the refugee problem. Though the end of occupation is indeed a necessity, it won’t secure any peace deal. By avoiding the Palestinian cause, the IJV are guilty of dismissing the elementary rights of Palestinians to live on their own land. The IJV may momentarily score some points by taking the Palestinians for a ride while not committing themselves to their real cause. Unfortunately, such an ethical momentum that could be used as a general awakening for Jews was wasted on another exercise in a left Zionist fig leaf operation.

Learning from the success of Ben Gurion and his version of Zionism, I would like to make a suggestion to my Palestinian brothers and sisters. It really doesn’t matter what the Jews say, it matters what the Palestinians do. Fromthe looks of it, the decision to create a Unity Government seems like a positive step forward.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007


Noted Arab Citizens Call on Israel to Shed Jewish Identity

in the photo, Asad Ghanem
8 February 2007

JERUSALEM, Feb. 7 -- A group of prominent Israeli Arabs hascalled on Israel to stop defining itself as a Jewish state and become a`consensual democracy for both Arabs and Jews,`prompting consternation and debate across the country.

Their contention is part of `The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,` a report published in December under the auspices of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel, which represents the country`s 1.3 million Arab citizens, about a fifth of the population.

Some 40 well-known academics and activists took part. They call on the state to recognize Israeli Arab citizens as an indigenous group with collective rights, saying Israel inherently discriminates against non-Jewish citizens in its symbols of state, some core laws, and budget and land allocations. The authors propose a form of government, `consensual democracy,` akin to the Belgian model for Flemish- andFrench-speakers, involving proportional representation and power-sharing in a central government and autonomy for the Arab community in areas like education, culture and religious affairs.

The document does not deal with the question of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where an additional three million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation without Israeli citizenship. The aim of the declaration is to reshape the future of Israel itself.

The reaction of Jewish Israelis has ranged from some understanding to a more widespread response, indignation.

Even among the center-left, where concern for civil rights is common, some have condemned the document as disturbing and harmful. On the right, Israeli Arabs have been accused of constituting a `fifth column,` a demographic and strategic threat to the survival of the state.

Rassem Khamaisi, one of the Future Vision participants and an urban planner, said: `The document reflects the Arab public`s feelings of discrimination. We should be looking for ways of partnership.`Many Israeli Arabs say they are second-class citizens who do not get the same services and considerations as Jews and face discrimination in employment, education and state institutions.

Last month, a Muslim Arab legislator from the Labor Party, Ghaleb Majadele, was named a government minister, the first in Israel`s history. That development has been criticized as unhelpful by other Israeli Arab politicians, who mostly boycott the mainstream Zionist parties, running forParliament on separate Arab lists and sitting in opposition.

In an interview, Mr. Majadele distanced himself from the new document, saying that pragmatic political action would help the Arab sector more than any ideological program.`The fact is that Israel is a Jewish state, a state with a Jewish majority,` he said. `Can we change that reality with words?`Yet Mr. Majadele said that he, too, felt uncomfortable with national symbols like the flag, with a Star of David, and the anthem, which speaks of the `Jewish soul` yearning for Zion.`These were made and meant for the Jews, and did not take the Arab minority into account,` he said. `If Israel wants to integrate us fully, then we need an anthem and flag that can do that. We and the state must think deeply if we want to take a step in that direction. But it must be by agreement, with the involvement of both sides.`Many of the Future Vision participants are affiliated with elite Israeli academic institutions. For example, Asad Ghanem, one of the document`s principal authors, is head of the Government and Political Theory Department at Haifa University`s School of Political Science.

As such, both Jewish conservatives and liberals have been taken aback by some propositions in the document. Many are angered by its description of Israel as the outcome of a`settlement process initiated by the Zionist Jewish elite`in the West and realized by `colonial countries` in the wake of the Holocaust.

Jewish critics argue that the Future Vision report negates Israel`s legitimacy and raison d`etre as the realization of Jewish self-determination; further, they say it undermines the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, since that implies the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one.

In January, the senior fellows and board of the Israel Democracy Institute, a generally liberal independent research group that has worked on projects with some ofthe same Arab intellectuals, wrote a response expressing`severe anguish` over the document`s contents. Prof. Shimon Shamir, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and Egypt, published a letter in Al Sinara, an Arabic weekly in Israel, stating that even among Jews who are generally sympathetic to Arab concerns, the Future Vision document `evokes a sense of threat.`The document has exposed some raw nerves. Israel`s Declaration of Independence promises full equality in social and political rights to all inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex, and Israel`s Arab citizens participate in the country`s democratic process.

Over the decades, however, Jewish-Arab relations in Israel have been marked by mutual suspicion and resentment. From 1948 until 1966 Arabs here lived under military rule. A 2003 government report acknowledged discrimination by state institutions, and a recent report on poverty published last year by Israel`s National Insurance Institute indicated that 53 percent of the impoverished families in Israel are Arabs. And it is clear that the vast majority of Israel`s Jews consider the very essence of their state to be its Jewish identity.

Traditionally, Arab parties in the Parliament have focuseon peace and equality, but the Arab public has become frustrated with the lack of results, leading to a lower voter turnout. Most Arab Israeli politicians have rejected the Future Vision document as unrealistic, exposing divisions within the Arab community.

Arab parties hold 10 seats in the 120-seat Parliament and are sometimes accused by the Jewish establishment of provocations. During last summer`s Lebanon war, some Arab legislators were perceived as sympathizing with Hezbollah.

Now there are signs of growing assertiveness and extremism on both sides. Avigdor Lieberman, head of the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which has 11 seats in the Parliament, wants to reduce the number of Arab Muslim citizens in Israel by eventually transferring some populous Arab towns and their inhabitants to a future Palestinian state.

A few Jewish Israeli liberals have welcomed the Future Vision document. Shalom (Shuli) Dichter, co-director of Sikkuy, a Jewish-Arab organization that monitors civic equality in Israel, has hailed the effort as opening a serious dialogue about the terms for genuine Jewish-Arab co-existence though he, too, took issue with the historical narrative adopted by the authors.

In January, 30,000 copies of the document were distributed to Arab homes with weekend newspapers. According to a poll of Arab Israelis by the Yafa Institute, commissioned by the Konrad Adenauer Program forJewish-Arab Cooperation, only 14 percent of respondents said they thought Israel should remain a Jewish and democratic state in its current format; 25 percent wanted a Jewish and democratic state that guarantees full equality to its Arab citizens. But some 57 percent said they wanted a change in the character and definition of the state, whether to become a `state for all its citizens,` a binational state, or a consensual democracy.

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Israel Misused Cluster Bombs U.S. Delivered last August

Photo courtesy Information Clearing House

From Council for National Interest
State Department Report Delivered to Pelosi and Biden
February 7, 2007
At the height of the Israeli war against Hezbollah last summer, in which hundreds of civilians living in southern Lebanon were killed, the U.S. rushed a request from Israel for more than 1,300 American-made M26 cluster bombs. The request prompted an outcry in Congress and elsewhere that the artillery rockets, which disperse 644 submunitions each, might be used in civilian areas, contrary to the terms of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. Last week, the Department of State delivered a preliminary report to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, and to Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that is said by the news media to accuse Israel of exactly these charges.

A petition banning the use of cluster bombs and demanding an urgent clean-up of the more than 1 million cluster-bomblets sprayed over southern Lebanon has been launched by the American Task Force for Lebanon, a non-profit non-sectarian group based in Washington, DC. We urge our members to join the campaign that has been endorsed by Ralph Nader by signing their petition: "Stop the Carnage, Ban the Cluster Bomb."

In the closing days of the war, after a deadline had been set by the U.N. and accepted by both the Israelis and Hezbollah and 72 hours before the ceasefire was to go into effect, the Israeli military fired thousands of cluster munitions into southern Lebanon, leaving behind a deadly legacy. As of January 25, 2007, the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center South Lebanon confirms that 30 people have been killed and 184 injured from unexploded ordnance since August 14, when hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel ended. Many of the casualties have been children.

Cluster bombs have been controversial for many years. They were used by the U.S. army in both Iraq wars, inflicting damage on civilians especially, and by the Israeli army in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, prompting the Reagan administration to suspend shipment of the bombs to Israel for six years. The UK NGO Landmine Action has published evidence that Israel used American cluster munitions with expiration dates as early as 1974, which were made available to Israel from classified U.S. weapons depots in Israel. Thus the American taxpayer is once again supporting the slaughter of civilians through the misuse of its arms exports.

The findings of the State Department report on Israel's misuse of cluster bombs has not yet been made public. A resolution curbing the sale of cluster bombs last September that was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) failed in the Senate by a vote of 70 to 30. A new resolution is said to be prepared by the senators for introduction in the Senate this year once the furor about the State Department findings has died down.

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Israeli army shells a Lebanese army post

from IMEMC Thursday
February 08, 2007 00:35 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
Israeli sources reported on Wednesday night that the Israeli army fired shells at a Lebanese military post across the border. Israel claims that the Lebanese army fire light bombs at military tanks operating in the area.

The Israeli army claimed that troops were still inside the sovereign Israeli territory when the Lebanese army fired the light bombs. Shortly after the incident, the Israeli army shelled a Lebanese military post opposite to Moshav Avivim settlement.

Initial Lebanese sources reported that apparently three Lebanese people were injured in the shelling. Currently, members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon are trying to mediate in an attempt to prevent a new war in the area.

Israeli soldiers crossed on Wednesday the Lebanon border-fence and started a search campaign for "additional explosive devices" after claiming that the army found several explosive charges in the area two days ago.

Israeli sources reported that the army does not intend to cross the international borders between Israel and Lebanon which lie several dozen meters beyond the fence, an Israeli online daily reported.

Meanwhile, the army accompanied by military bulldozers and Engineering Crops are operating in the area, overturning mounds of earth, claiming an attempt to locate the bombs.

An official army statement said that the operation aims to make sure that no additional explosive devices are placed in the area, and to make it difficult for Hezbollah fighters to hide additional explosives there.

The statement also stated that the aim of the operation comes to emphasize the Israeli sovereignty along the international borders.

Yet, the Northern Command of the Israeli army is still unable to determine if the bombs, found on Monday, were placed recently by Hezbollah fighters or whether they were just exposed due to the heavy rains in the area.

On its part, Hezbollah party stated that the devices had been in the area before the outbreak of the war on July 12.

Israeli sources reported that the military operation is being conducted under heavy security, and that Israel informed the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) about the operation, but said that Israeli soldiers will not cross the international border.

The Al Manar television station, the official station of Hezbollah, reported that UNFIL and Lebanese soldiers arrived at the scene.Earlier on Wednesday, Israel's Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, accused Syria of allowing the entry of arms to Hezbollah fighters through the Lebanese-Syrian border. Peretz said that Israel will act "forcefully against Hezbollah".

Hezbollah denied the Israeli claims.

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Monday, February 5, 2007


Gilad Atzmon - And What About The Palestinian Cause?

in the photo, Eric Hobsbawm, one of the signatories.

The Palestinian activist Reem Abdehadi, when asked for her opinion about Jewish anti-Zionist campaigners, said sarcastically: “they are very nice, all fifteen of them…”

I was rather happy to read in yesterday’s Guardian that; “A group of prominent British Jews will today declare independence from the country's Jewish establishment, arguing that it puts support for Israel above the human rights of Palestinians.”

It is indeed about time that Jewish people with influence in art, academia, business and the media raise their voices against Israel’s crimes and its supportive lobbies around the globe. It is rather crucial that Jewish people should openly succumb to true ethical and universal thinking rather than clannish monolithic discourse solely concerned with tribal maintenance.

Earlier today, I logged on to check out what the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) have to say. If to be honest, though I found more than a few of my friends enlisted, I was rather disappointed with the views expressed by the group.

Once again it was an ‘image’ of moral thinking rather than an authentic ethical commitment. Once again it was a glorifying exposition of Jewish righteousness rather than simply acknowledging the Palestinian cause, i.e., the ‘right of return’. Disappointingly, the declaration wittingly avoids confronting the kernel of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since it is rather established that the Palestinian cause is largely orientated around the mass expulsion of the indigenous Palestinians in 1948 and the failure to resolve the refugee catastrophe, avoiding the issue is nothing less than denying the Palestinians the most elementary human right: the right to live on one’s land. Avoiding the refugee issue is nothing less than dismissing the Palestinians of the most basic human rights.

In other words, when the JIV says “Human rights are universal and indivisible and should be upheld without exception. This is as applicable in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as it is elsewhere,” what they really mean is “Human rights are universal as long as you are not a Palestinian who wants to return to his land.” I may admit that I find this approach rather disappointing. I would really love to believe that more than a few of the Jewish Independent Voices do agree with me on that one. I want to believe that they really fail to grasp what they were signing.

But the independent Jewish humanists do not stop just there; they also say “Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives.” This may be true. Yet somehow, it sounds to me too much like the highlight of Olmert’s speech. People are entitled to live in peace, nevertheless, the occupier and the colonialist cannot expect to live a secure life. I would even suggest that Jewish intellectuals who dismiss this crucial point might find it hard to secure their position as ‘independent ethical voices’.

The Independent Jewish Voices expect all sides as well to comply with ‘international law’. And I think to myself, in a world where America is a single superpower, international law and UN resolutions have very little to do with ethical thinking. Moreover, even the historically accepted 1947 partition resolution is non-ethical to the bone. Once again, I would expect the ethically orientated Independent Jews to stand out and promote ethical thinking rather than resolutions that are grounded by hegemony and military might.

Eventually, the prominent independent Jews spit it out. They are really against anti-Semitism. “The battle against anti-Semitism is vital and is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic.”

While on the verge of complete dismay, I wonder, wouldn’t it be sufficient to just be against racism in general? Why is it that Jews who regard themselves as Independent Jewish Voices have to declare that fighting anti-Semitism is ‘vital’? The reason is simple. They insist upon not being seen as anti-Semites by their ‘less independent’ brothers. In other words, they, the independent voices, are far from being liberated. They are far from being independent. They are totally imbued within the Jewish discourse. And their message to the world is nothing more than the old two state solution.

I am not impressed.

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