Israel on self-examination kick - let's hope it leads to peace overtures (hey, white South Africans changed, it's possible for Israelis, too)
1. Can you really not see? -- by Amira Hass (from Israel’s Haaretz Daily)
Let us leave aside those Israelis whose ideology supports the dispossession of the Palestinian people because "God chose us." Leave aside the judges who whitewash every military policy of killing and destruction. Leave aside the military commanders who knowingly jail an entire nation in pens surrounded by walls, fortified observation towers, machine guns, barbed wire and blinding projectors. Leave aside the ministers. All of these are not counted among the collaborators. These are the architects, the planners, the designers, the executioners.
But there are others. Historians and mathematicians, senior editors, media stars, psychologists and family doctors, lawyers who do not support Gush Emunim and Kadima, teachers and educators, lovers of hiking trails and sing-alongs, high-tech wizards. Where are you? And what about you, researchers of Nazism, the Holocaust and Soviet gulags? Could you all be in favor of systematic discriminating laws? Laws stating that the Arabs of the Galilee will not even be compensated for the damages of the war by the same sums their Jewish neighbors are entitled to (Aryeh Dayan, Haaretz , August 21).
Could it be that you are all in favor of a racist Citizenship Law that forbids an Israeli Arab from living with his family in his own home? That you side with further expropriation of lands and the demolishing of additional orchards, for another settler neighborhood and another exclusively Jewish road? That you all back the shelling and missile fire killing the old and the young in the Gaza Strip?
Could it be that you all agree that a third of the West Bank (the Jordan Valley) should be off limits to Palestinians? That you all side with an Israeli policy that prevents tens of thousands of Palestinians who have obtained foreign citizenship from returning to their families in the occupied territories?
Could your mind really be so washed with the security excuse, used to forbid Gaza students from studying occupational therapy at Bethlehem and medicine at Abu Dis, and preventing sick people from Rafah from receiving medical treatment in Ramallah? Will also you find it easy to hide behind the explanation "we had no idea": we had no idea that the discrimination practiced in the distribution of water - which is solely controlled by Israel - leaves thousands of Palestinian households without water during the hot summer months; we had no idea that when the IDF blocks the entrance to villages, it also blocks their access to springs or water tanks.
But it cannot be that you don't see the iron gates along route 344 in the West Bank, blocking access to it from the Palestinian villages it passes by. It cannot be that you support preventing the access of thousands of farmers to their land and plantations, that you support the quarantine on Gaza which prevents the entry of medicine for hospitals, the disruption of electricity and water supply to 1.4 million human beings, closing their only outlet to the world for months.
Could it be that you do not know what is happening 15 minutes from your faculties and offices? Is it plausible that you support the system in which Hebrew soldiers, at checkpoints in the heart of the West Bank, are letting tens of thousands of people wait everyday for hours upon hours under the blazing sun, while selecting: residents of Nablus and Tul Karm are not allowed through, 35-year-olds and under - yallah, back to Jenin, residents of the Salem village are not even allowed to be here, a sick woman who skipped the line must learn a lesson and will be purposefully detained for hours. Machsom Watch's site is available for all; in it are countless such testimonies and worse, a day by day routine. But it cannot be that those who are appalled over every swastika painted on a Jewish grave in France and over every anti-Semitic headline in a Spanish local newspaper will not know how to reach this information, and will not be appalled and outraged.
As Jews we all enjoy the privilege Israel gives us, what makes us all collaborators. The question is what does every one of us do in an active and direct daily manner to minimize cooperation with a dispossessing, suppressing regime that never has its fill. Signing a petition and tutting will not do. Israel is a democracy for its Jews. We are not in danger of our lives, we will not be jailed in concentration camps, our livelihood will not be damaged and recreation in the countryside or abroad will not be denied to us. Therefore, the burden of collaboration and direct responsibility is immeasurably heavy.
2. Diversionary Strike On a Rights Group -- by Kathleen Peratis
In early August Human Rights Watch issued a 49-page report, "Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon," charging Israel with war crimes in its conduct of the war in Lebanon. Many of the Lebanese civilian casualties could not be explained by Hezbollah soldiers' hiding among civilians, Human Rights Watch charged. Although Hezbollah fighters did hide among civilians, the rights group discovered that in about two dozen instances, involving about a third of the civilian deaths, there had been no Hezbollah presence at the time of the attacks and the targets had little or no military value.
The report was based on the same methodology that Human Rights Watch has used for more than 20 years in situations in which many witnesses have an incentive to lie: face-to-face probing and on-site inspections -- in this case in Beirut and southern Lebanon.
The critics of reports on this subject -- Amnesty International made similar charges -- have been ferocious. They have not merely deployed the common defense of accusing the accusers of getting the facts wrong. They have gone much further and accused the accusers of bad intent. For example: NGO Monitor, echoing other critics, claims that "central in the strategy" of Amnesty International is "to delegitimize Israel."
But the real vitriol has been reserved for Human Rights Watch and its executive director, Kenneth Roth. Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel has called Roth "loathsome." An editorial in the New York Sun accused Roth of "de-legitimization of Judaism" because his group condemned Israel's strategy as "an eye for an eye." Rabbi Aryeh Spero in Human Events Online referred to Roth as a "human rights impostor," and likened him to "Nazis and Communists." On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by NGO Monitor's Gerald Steinberg titled "Ken Roth's Blood Libel."
Is it possible that some of the witnesses lied? Sure it is. It's even possible, though it's something of a stretch, that many of the witnesses deliberately misled Human Rights Watch researchers. But it simply will not do to "rebut" a detailed report such as the group produced by accusing Human Rights Watch or its executive director, whose father fled Nazi Germany, of anti-Semitism (or other bad motives) and let it go at that. Indeed, the critics barely mention, much less discuss, the 24 incidents described in the report. Generally they merely assert the undisputed fact that Hezbollah did often hide among civilians. Steinberg broadly asserts, without citing any actual evidence: "When the details were examined by NGO Monitor's research staff, or Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University, the claims have often been shown to be false or unverifiable." Often? Where? When? He does not say.
No one expected the Anti-Defamation League and others to applaud the Human Rights Watch report, but one is entitled to expect something more serious by way of a response. "You're biased" is not a rebuttal.
At least some of the report's critics seem to believe that Israel should be exempted from the rules of war. Thus, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who has accused Human Rights Watch of "immorality at the highest level," says: "The moral issue, the human rights issue that overrides everything else in this conflict is that if Hezbollah, Syria and Iran don't understand that they will pay an overwhelming price for these rocket attacks on Israel, then eventually these rockets will be armed with chemical weapons and the warheads with nuclear weapons. In other words, the Holocaust would be in the works."
In other words, if the "overwhelming price" Israel causes the enemy to pay is indiscriminate under the rules of war, Israel must do it anyway. And Human Rights Watch is worse than naive to expect otherwise.
I don't think Foxman and NGO Monitor and others who want selective exemption of Israel from the rules of war have faced the implications of getting what they wish for, such as: Who will decide when the law can be ignored? And: If the law is mowed down, where will we find refuge when the devil turns on us?
America's security has not been enhanced by its violation of human rights principles, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay. Israel's strength lies not only in its might but in its moral principle, which it should not abandon, even in a time of war.
(The writer, a lawyer in New York, is a member of the board of Human Rights Watch and a regular columnist for the Forward, a national Jewish newspaper.)
3. The Worst Kind of Terror
Murder on Rucarb Street
By ELIZA ERNSHIRE
Ramallah. August 29, Pre-dawn.
It is only now that the gun-fire saluting the killed young man has become sporadic and no longer constant, and that the verses of the Koran, chanted in farewell to him, has ceased. But the streets are full; and full too are the hearts of all who had to witness an attack that should only have been imaginable in the darkest back alleys of some underworld city.
At 9 pm, the 28th, undercover Israeli Special Forces walked down the main street of Ramallah. They wore civilian clothes and Palestinian police-caps. They carried M-16s as all the police force does. No one looked at them twice. They walked straight past us where we stood at Al-Minara discussing work with a third colleague.
They walked straight passed the Palestinian Police Force as well who is always stationed there.
They continued walking straight down Rucarb Street until they were opposite the famous Rucarb Ice-cream shop where families gather every evening in the summertime.
Then they opened fire.
They opened fire after they failed to catch two 'wanted' men who were also in Rucarb Street along with half the population of Ramallah. The two men wouldn't come when called and so the undercover Israeli Officers opened fire.
It is not easy to explain the horror of seeing the cold-blooded murder of the young man who had turned to escape on realizing the situation.
It is not easy to explain the horror of hearing the name of the killed youth spreading from mouth to mouth until the whole of Ramallah knows that the young man killed was A. from the village of Deir Ghassan. Nor is it easy to explain the horror of rushing with everybody else who knows an A. from that village or a nearby one to the hospital.
The relief if the body pulled from the fridge is not your A.
The anguish if it is.
Grown men falling on the ground to beat at the dirt and cry.
The parents of the killed man stumbled into the hospital at midnight. The father could not even see his son because he was temporarily blinded by the shock and the screams of the mother could be heard from the street.
Young men were also in shock, wandering around and wondering why they had not even had a chance to fight back. There was an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness.
Palestine has been so reduced and so humiliated that it is now a country where the Occupying force can walk into a main city on nightfall, can walk down the main street of that city and kill a man and then walk away again as if that is a damn right of theirs and no one is going to blink an eye at it.
It is not their damn right to come and terrorize the people of a city night after night after night on some hyped up 'security' reason! This is no human being's right.
I have been accused of not understanding how people are feeling on the other side of the Wall. People have written to me 'You don't know what it is like to be driving behind a bus when it explodes' and I say this is true. But I do know what it is like to see fifteen thugs walk down a main street of a city at nightfall and murder in cold-blood outside a family restaurant and then walk away again.
I call that the worst kind of terror.
The boy they killed was just a village boy, and the children who witnessed this killing were just children. As in all parts of the world, children who had begged their parents for an ice-cream before going to bed.
Nhow they must live with this violation of their sensitivity forever.
And the thugs could just walk away! They did not even need jeeps to perform their action of terror.
These men were not desperate. Not one of them would tie an explosive belt around his waist.What I am most afraid of is that they enjoy what they do. To them and to too many others, the lives of Palestinians are, at most, only countable.
There was a three-second coverage of this news item on BBC. 'Three militants killed in the West Bank. One in Ramallah and two in Nablus; all were from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.'
One second for each man killed.
I won't begin a discussion on why, by naming the Martyrs Brigade, the West is somehow justifying the deaths, because the purpose of this article is only to register horror at the nighttime terror that came in so particularly a disgusting way to the streets of Ramallah four hours ago.And also to say that now the city is angry.
The young men who have been gathering for hours in groups on street corners are angry. Some have been crying, and all have been voicing their disbelief at how on earth Israel can continue to get away with their inhuman actions; not only nightly midnight raids and arrests but also this gangster plot that has left the main street of their city stained with blood again.
In the past two weeks Israeli forces have come to Ramallah every single night. There is now a vigil in the dark hours of these nights; from 2am till 5am half the city is awake watching and wondering where Israel's eyes are turned and what neighborhood they are targeting.
In the past week Israel has made daily incursions into Nablus and has destroyed houses and killed 16-year old boys in broad daylight, and has raided the city every night. For the past month the whole village district of Ramallah and Nablus have been enduring invasions and raids, house-searches and arrests.
While Olmert is taking a few blows about his conduct of the war in Lebanon, the Palestinians are having to endure being his 'dog-under-the-table'.
How on earth is he and Israel getting away with it?
(Eliza Ernshire can be reached at email@example.com)
4. Lebanon, Lebanon – by John Le Carré
The attacks on Lebanon's infrastructure and civilians will rebound on Israel for years to come, says John Le Carré.
So answer me this one, please. If you kill a hundred innocent civilians and one terrorist, are you winning or losing the war on terror? "Ah", you may reply, "but that one terrorist could kill two hundred people, a thousand, more!" But then comes another question: if, by killing a hundred innocent people, you are creating five new terrorists in the future, and a popular base clamouring to give them aid and comfort, have you achieved a net gain for future generations of your countrymen, or created the enemy you deserve?
On 12 July 2006 the Israeli chief-of-staff granted us an insight into the subtleties of his nation's military thinking. The military operations being planned for the Lebanon, he told us, would "turn back the clock by twenty years". Well, I was there twenty years ago, and it wasn't a pretty picture. Since then, the lieutenant-general has been as good as his word. I am writing this just twenty-eight days after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, a common enough military practice not unknown to the Israelis themselves.
In that time, 932 Lebanese have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded. 913,000 have become refugees. Israel's dead number ninety-four, with 867 wounded. In the first week of this conflict, Hizbollah fired some ninety rockets a day into Israel. Last week – despite 8,700 unopposed bombing sorties flown by the Israeli air force, resulting in the crippling of Beirut's international airport, and the destruction of power-plants, fuel-dumps, fishing-fleets, 147 bridges and seventy-two roads – Hizbollah upped its daily average of rockets to 169. And those two Israeli prisoners who were the purported cause of all the fuss have still not come home.
So yes. Exactly as we were warned, Israel has indeed done to the Lebanon what it did to it twenty years ago: laid waste its infrastructure and visited collective punishment on a delicate, multicultural, resilient democracy that was struggling to reconcile its sectarian differences and live in profitable harmony with its neighbours.
Until four weeks ago, Lebanon was being heralded by the United States as a model of what other middle-eastern countries might become. Hizbollah, it was widely and perhaps optimistically believed by the international community, was loosening its ties with Syria and Iran and on the way to becoming a political rather than a purely military force, yet today this very force is the toast of all Arabia, Israel's reputation for military supremacy is in tatters and its cherished deterrent image no longer deters. And the people of Lebanon have become the latest victims of a global catastrophe that is the work of deluded zealots and has no end in sight.
(This piece was written in support of Lebanon, Lebanon, to be published by Saqi on 28 September 2006; all proceeds will go to children's charities working in Lebanon)