A JEWISH DILEMMA: Occupation, terrorism and the security of Israel
By Jacob Bleistein
"All my life I've heard I'm supposed to be a coward because I'm a Jew," Paul Newman's character tells a gentile nurse in the movie Exodus, "Let me tell you, kid. Every time the Irgun blows up a British depot or knocks the hell out of some Arabs he's winning respect for me. He's making a liar out of everyone who tells me Jews are yellow. The guys over there are fighting my battle for respect ... understand that?"
A MESSAGE TO MY FELLOW AMERICAN JEWS
We American Jews are in grave danger of being the willing, even enthusiastic participants in the most serious cultural tragedy since Kosovo. How sad it was that only when Sharon turned to his most violent and brutal tactics to date that American Jews turned out 100,000 strong to wildly, enthusiastically cheer him on. When hard-line hawk Paul Wolfowitz dared to mention the "suffering of the Palestinians" the crowd shouted him down and would not allow him to continue.
You don't need death camps and gas chambers to commit genocide. Denying a race of people its homeland, its culture and its chance to carve out an economic existence and most of all its HOPE is more than sufficient to doom them to non-existence.
WE MUST DECIDE
As American Jews, we hold the balance of power. Our influence over American foreign policy is unprecedented. America is the world's only superpower. Our influence on Israeli policy is also exceptional, but in the past we have never done anything except blindly "rubberstamp" what Israel's leader have told us was "good for Israel."
We have never had a leader like Ariel Sharon before. To follow him blindly is a deal with the devil.
We must decide for ourselves what is best for Israel.
We must decide: are we on the side of freedom and justice or are we on the side of "more real estate."
THE DEFENSE OF ISRAEL
The defense of Israel has long been the most emotional issue for Jews everywhere. It leads to a visceral response that can sometimes overwhelm logical thought. We are told again and again that the battle against the Palestinians is a fight for "very existence of Israel."
I support Israel as strongly and unflaggingly as any Jew anywhere but we have to be more calmly realistic on this issue. Not to do so will certainly have long term negative consequence for the state of Israel.
Israel has, according to Jane's Defense Monthly, the second best equipped and the best trained military in the world. We have the unfailing support of the world's only superpower - America. The Arab nations no longer have the backing of the Soviet Union. We have never lost a war.
In the recent Nuclear Posture Statement from the Defense Dept. the US even pledged to use nuclear weapons to defend Israel from attack.
Are we a nation at serious risk of extinction? Not really; let's not demean our position by exaggerating.
Are we fighting for the very existence of Israel? No, we are fighting for control of the West Bank.
More specifically, we are fighting for right of a small group of politically powerful religious hardliners to live in subsidized housing on the West Bank.
"The Zionist movement has been hijacked by the far right religious fundamentalists who prey on the fact that American Jews can be reliably counted on to defend ANYTHING Israel does." Rafael Goldman. In effect, the Jabotinsky wing of Zionism has triumphed.
To phrase it as a bumper sticker: "It's the Settlements, Stupid."
The current intifada is directly connected to the failure of the Oslo peace process to halt the dramatic increase in the number of settlements. Since Oslo, the Jewish population on the West Bank has DOUBLED. More new settlements were built under the Barak government than under any other. No wonder the Arabs found him difficult to trust.
Why are certain Israeli's so obsessed with living on the West Bank? I have my own theories, but you form your own opinion.
What is crucial now is "How many Jews must die to protect the right of a few religious fundamentalists to live on the West Bank?"
How many Arabs must die for that right? Are we as a people willing to commit cultural genocide to ensure the future existence of some apartment buildings on remote hilltops? More pointedly, as Sharon's brutal policies push the Arabs to every greater depths of desperation - how many Americans must die in the inevitable wave of terrorist attacks inside the U.S.? The first few terrorist attacks will increase the average American's solidarity with Israel. The next few will have the American's calling for Arab blood, but eventually as American's continue to die, a breaking point will be reached. At that point it may become extremely difficult for any American government to maintain the "special relationship" with Israel. There are limits to our power just as there are limits to American power. Terrorism cannot be stopped by military means. The victories in Afganistan and Jenin are temporary and illusive.
Thousands of years of persecution have given us a bit of a chip on our shoulder. We have lived in so many places where we are unwanted that there is a deep cultural attitude to prove that "Jews have the right to live anywhere they want." I agree with that sentiment, but let us not allow that attitude to make us do something we will deeply regret in 10 or 20 years.
How many lives must be lost for those few apartment buildings on the West Bank? More importantly, to what extent are we willing to sacrifice any remaining moral capital we have; how much are we willing to accept a dramatic rise in Anti-Semitism (not the hooligans on the street - I'm talking about ordinary middle-class people everywhere); to what extent are we willing to have more and more of the world begin to think that the Israelis are not necessarily always the "good guys?"
To what extent are we willing to give up the idea that Israel is a true democracy?
To what extent are we as a people of morality and justice willing to impose a racist apartheid on an unwilling native population?
For thousands of years we have been the people of the Book, are we prepared to be known as the people of the Bulldozer?
All for a few apartment buildings on the West Bank?
Are we as a people willing to rewrite Jefferson: "All men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; chief among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Except Palestinians."
THE UNPLEASANT SIDE OF ZIONISM
"We shall try to break the will of the [Arab] population and spirit them across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country .... expropriation and the removal of the Arabs must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." -- Theodore Herzl - founder of the Zionist movement (from Rafael Patai, Ed. The Complete Diaries of Theodore Herzl, Vol I)
Herzl was for the removal of the Arabs by economic means; Jabotinsky favored violence to clear the Arab population from Palestine. The Jabotinskites are in the ascendancy and they hold our cultural reputation in their hands.
We're going to spend weeks now playing the body count game.
Was Jenin a massacre? Are 30 people dead or 200? How many are civilians? Did they bulldoze houses with people in them? Did they give a warning before they bulldozed a house?
This will consume the world for weeks, perhaps months.
IT IS IRRELEVANT.
Here is the real tragedy of Sharon's invasion, and also the GENIUS of what he did.
It is barely mentioned in the last paragraph of a story on page 18 of the New York Times (and on NPR) and yet it is perhaps the thing may possibly seal the fate of the Palestinians as a nation forever - one of those tiny details of history that can ultimately change the fate of nations.
The truly sad part of the invasion is not how many bodies there are.
The true atrocity is that the IDF systematically destroyed the offices, computers, hard drives, records and files of the Public Works Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Civil Office, the Transportation Ministry, the Water Works and many other civil administration facilities of the Palestinian Authority.
They ripped up streets to deliberately make them impassable to traffic. They bulldozed schools. They bulldozed hundreds of homes. They damaged or destroyed water supply systems. They have blown up police stations and assassinated police officers. In short, they deliberately and methodically destroyed the ability of the Palestinian people to govern themselves.
The bulldozer has become the weapon of choice for Israel. It is fast becoming the symbol of modern Israel. How sad - the bulldozer is an implement of the destruction of property; of destroying the past; of obliterating by brute force what men and women have built with their own hands. Ironically, for decades Ariel Sharon's nickname in the Israeli press has been "The Bulldozer."
THE REAL TRAGEDY
But here is the thing that makes me truly sad and possibly spells the end of the Palestinian people as a national entity. (Hey, I dislike Palestinians as much as anyone. I'm not defending THEM. I am defending the Jewish cultural treasure of a tradition of justice, fairness and morality.)
The IDF entered the Civil Court Building in Ramallah and stole ALL of the deeds of land ownership for the entire West Bank.
Now, no Palestinian can EVER prove that he "owns" a piece of land in the West Bank.
Sadly, Israel has used this tactic for years, it is well documented and well known and most unfortunate. When they expropriate a piece of land to build a settlement or a settler's road, the Palestinians who live there or farm that piece of land often come forward and say "That is my land, you cannot build a settlement there. I have farmed that land all my life."
The Israeli reply is "Show us the deed."
Of course, in most cases, he or she can't. When his father or grandfather took possession of that land there were no central courts to keep formal recorded deeds at that time. They just didn't have that system before the British. This was true in most non-European parts of the world until recent decades. It is still true in many tribal nations.
The taking of Native American lands is, of course, an exact parallel. The fiction that all Indians believed that the land "belongs to the great spirit," is largely a fiction generated by the Manifest Destiny settlers and disseminated by Hollywood. In fact, most Indian tribes were fiercely possessive of their ancestral lands and waged intense battles to protect their boundaries.
Similarly, reliable news sources report that Israeli courts have for the past 13 years consistently refused to record land sales to Palestinians. This is, of course, a close replication of the fascist German policy of not allowing Jews to own property.
Now, with the theft of the land records, the game is over. No Palestinian can ever "prove" that he or she owns a piece of land, an orchard or a home in the West Bank.
It is an historical tidbit, but a central system of recording land sales is one of the cornerstones of modern civilization. It is one of the things brought us out of the Middle Ages; back then people just fought battles over land boundaries.
Suppose the policy of "transfer" is carried out as is now being widely discussed in Israel. (Transfer is the forcible mass deportation of the Arabs from Israel and the Occupied Territories.)
One proposal to make Transfer more palatable is that the Arabs will be "compensated" (even the late Rehavam Ze'evi of the Moledet party, which strongly advocates Transfer, conceded that compensation would be necessary.) But of course, "No officially recorded deed - no compensation."
Stealing the land deeds is the most insidious, evil and craftily despicable thing Sharon has done in a very long time. There can be no justification that this is done for "the security of Israel." I have not heard even a trumped up excuse for why the civil, school and transportation ministry records, computers, offices and facilities were destroyed.
HISTORY ACCORDING TO ARIEL SHARON
There is an historical precedent for Sharon's eradication of public records as a form of cultural annihilation
"The 'exhilarating' possibilities of a land without Arabs, and the transfer of Arab farms, houses, and wealth into Jewish hands, set, as Morris reminds us, in the context of war and massive immigration, quickly overwhelmed the reservations expressed by minority factions about the morality of expelling Palestinian Arabs and destroying their villages." (Josef Heydemann, Jewish writer and commentator writing about the 1948 war.)
"We not only eradicated Arab place names [in Israel]," notes former Jerusalem deputy mayor Meron Benvenisti, "we actually destroyed the places as well. The Israeli erasure of Palestinian history was consciously as complete as possible."
As Benvenisti notes:
"I was aware for quite some time that the Palestinian Research Institute in Beirut was compiling files on each Palestinian village in Israel. Since the beginning of the [Lebanon] war I wondered about the fate of those files. I was fairly sure that general [Ariel] Sharon and General Eitan would search them out, seize them, and destroy them in order to complete the eradication of the memory of Arab Palestine. That is what eventually happened when the Israeli army entered West Beirut. The records have disappeared into the night and fog."
Benvenisti also notes the Israeli creation of a place called "Peace Forest" on the sites of eradicated Arab villages near Jerusalem, utterly destroyed to guarantee that the inhabitants never returned. "To call it Peace Forest," he laments, "to take well-meaning [Jewish] donors and with their money turn all these orchards into a picnic area for Israelis and tourists is something else entirely chilling to the heart. This betrays not only a lack of sensitivity but is something that must eventually corrupt our youth ... Dehumanization is a contagious disease."
[[Note: during the same period that "planting a tree in Israel" was an emotional statement of solidarity for many of us American Jews, the IDF has, since 1987 uprooted and destroyed 250,000 producing olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza.
The fruit of the trees is an important source of food and income for many impoverished Palestinian families. In many other cases "closures" and "curfews" have been timed to ensure that the families could not harvest the fruit - leaving it to rot on the tree. (Source: Amnesty International website)
The only ones we hear about here in America are the few that are claimed by the IDF to be "hiding places for snipers." I can accept that the IDF is not trying to win an award from the Sierra Club, but clearly, it is not necessary to cut down a quarter of a million flowering fruit trees for "security." Ironically - today is Arbor Day.]]
On the same note, 6,000 Palestinian homes have been bulldozed or dynamited since 1987. Probably close to 1,000 in the past few months. Estimates since 1948 run as high as 300,000 homes bulldozed or dynamited.
No matter how much you may hate Palestinians as a race, I ask you, is this a moral and just way for us to act? Do we want to be "The People of the Bulldozer?"
As Robert Scheer noted in his Op Ed piece last week, any Jew who criticizes Israel for even the smallest policy disagreement is quickly labeled a "self-loathing Jew," (the Jewish equivalent of an "anti-Semite.") In all frankness, for me personally, the lessons of morality and justice I learned at Hebrew school and at my father's knee outweigh the chance I may be labeled "disloyal."
How often in history, in books, in movies or in our own lives is it the lone Jew in the crowd who stands up at a meeting and has the courage to speak out in defense of the moral, the just and the fair course of action?
Why is it that we utterly lose that ability when it comes to anything at all connected with Israel? Many respected Israeli political commentators and historians readily acknowledge that the "destruction of Israel" has been a myth since the early 1950's. It is a myth that has been used to keep American Jews under tight control. We are free thinkers on most issues, why not this one?
"Ethnic cleansing is the first step towards genocide." Eli Weisel
One of the greatest barriers to peace in the Middle East is the lack of historical perspective by U.S. citizens. Only when Americans consider all sides of the problem and think critically about it can we (the world's only superpower) arrive at the decision to bring about a lasting peace. No enduring peace is ever going to be based on half-truths and deceptions. We have a long history of facing up to reality and dealing with it to achieve a successful resolution to a problem. Now should be no different.
We are never going to get anywhere by sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring reality. One tragic fallout of the current Sharon policies is that they are calling increased attention to Israel's history and the work of the revisionist historians at Israeli universities.
We can no longer ignore that violence is part of the history of Israel. If we have learned nothing else in the last 20 years it is that to deny facts will only lead to embarrassment and being discredited as honest and honorable men and women. As a public relations consultant, I constantly advise my clients DON'T ATTEMPT A COVERUP. I do so now, also.
Zionists and Jewish freedom fighters recognized from the very beginning that it would ultimately be a demographic war. Herzl advocated peaceful means to eliminate the Arab population in Palestine; Jabotinsky supported violence to clear the land of Arabs. Obviously these two wings of Zionism are still at odds - although the Jabotinskites are clearly in the ascendancy.
"We must do everything to insure they never return. The old will die and the young will forget. We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters." (David Ben-Gurion - First Prime Minister of Israel. 1949).
"There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries, not one village, not one tribe should be left" (Joseph Weitz, one of the founders of Israel, 1940)
The Irgun was specifically a terror group which acted against the British and also against Arab natives. One of their favorite targets was bus stops in Arab towns. Their biggest operation was the King David Hotel - 92 dead, mostly British and Arab civilians. In all, the Irgun committed some 1,000 acts of terrorism against civilians. The death toll of British and Palestinians was approximately 5,500. Menachim Begin was the leader of the Irgun.
Together with the Stern Gang (Lehi), the Irgun attacked the village of Deir Yassin in 1948. Reports of deaths vary from 150 to 252. Deir Yassin had a non-combatant agreement with local Jewish leaders - it was a peaceful village, but it overlooked a key road. Irgun and the Stern Gang combined and the decision at the planning meeting was:
"The majority," Irgun officer Ben-Zion Cohen recorded, "was for liquidation of all the men in the village and any other force that opposed us, whether it be old people, women, or children."
"We had prisoners and before the retreat we decided to liquidate them," Irgun officer Yehoshua Gorodenchik recorded. "We also liquidated the [Arab] wounded."
They slaughtered over a hundred prisoners who had surrendered, mostly women, children and old men. They raped the women as a form of cultural revenge [just as the Serbs did in Kosovo]. Both male and female corpses were subject to sexual mutilation. [Ironically, the frenzy of killing the wounded, rape and mutilation was set off by the killing of a beloved commander. How closely this echoes the situation in Jenin, where the killing of a reserve Major and later his platoon set off the frenzy of bulldozing homes.]
Joseph Weitz, the first President of Israel, said "Without Deir Yassin, there would be no Israel." What he meant was that Deir Yassin and similar terrorist attacks on Arabs were the primary reason 750,000 of them became refugees in 1948. A demographic war - you see.
SHARON'S RAID ON QIBYA
Now what about Ariel Sharon and Unit 101?
In retaliation for the murder of a single Jewish woman in 1952 Sharon led his battalion strength Unit 101 in a raid on the village of Qibya, which was chosen only because it was close. His snipers lined the outside of the village to prevent anyone from escaping and his engineers set explosive charges on each house in the village, as the families cowered inside.
72 people died. The official Israeli death count is 68. Sharon also uses that number in his autobiography.
The point of the story is Sharon was an official terrorist for the Israeli army. His task as a commander was to frighten and terrorize the civilian Arabs, primarily to motivate them to leave - to become "refugees."
The demographic war continues. Why are the Israeli's so fanatical about settlements on the West Bank? Religious reasons? Certainly not. Very few of the places they live have religious significance; actually Hebron is the only one.
THE BIG IDEA
Sharon invented the idea of the settlements. There was universal international protest when they started building them (The actual policy started in 1979 - there were very, very few settlements before that). Even the US still recognizes that they are illegal.
It is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention to move your own population into occupied areas; as it is to confiscate the property of civilians fleeing combat. These tenets of international law apply even if you accept Israel's assertion that the West Bank belongs to them because they "conquered it." Didn't Hussein "conquer" Kuwait? Milosovich "conquered" Kosovo.
Sharon said the idea is to get "facts on the ground." In other words, once there are people living there, it is really, really difficult to get them out - no matter how illegal they are. It's a demographic war.
Why has Israel NOT annexed the West Bank? They annexed the Golan Heights and huge areas around Jerusalem. Why not the West Bank?
Demographics. Annexing the West Bank would make the Palestinians very nearly a majority in Israel. Israle would be forced to admit they are not a true democracy - that they have first class citizens (Jews) and second-class citizens (Arabs).
The purpose of the settlements is to build a Jewish majority on the West Bank - once they have that, they will annex.
Home demolitions are also a part of the demographic war. Since 1987, 6,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed. Several hundred more were bulldozed this week in Jenin alone. The total is well over 1,000 by now this month. What would you do if someone came with a bulldozer and destroyed your home? Would you be angry? For poor Palestinians, the home often represents the bulk or even all of the families assets. They are nearly always the abode of the entire extended family.
A demographic war. It has been since the beginning. A war on the indigenous people because they are a different race - a racist war.
By the way, let's stop hypocritically calling them settlements. For the sake of clarity, let's call them what they are: colonies.
Consider these quotes from Zionist leaders:
"We shall try to break the will of the [Arab] population and spirit them across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country .... expropriation and the removal of the Arabs must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." -- Theodore Herzl - founder of Zionist movement (from Rafael Patai, Ed. The Complete Diaries of Theodore Herzl, Vol I)
"They can ignore our guns and bombs, but when we start destroying their homes, that will get their attention. In Arabic, the worst curse you can call upon someone is to say 'May your home be destroyed." Ariel Sharon in an address to the Knesset, August 1976. (6,000 homes destroyed since 1987)
(If you do nothing else, PLEASE go see this information.)
B'Tselem: the most complete report on Israeli legal trickery used in land seizures
PLANS FOR THE PALESTINIANS
TERRORISM - The other side
Salon Magazine. http://www.salonmag.com/news/feature/2000/10/17/sharon/index1.html
http://www.hebron.com/israel-honors-serial-murderer-111597.html (Baruch Goldstein - this one written by one of the Jewish settlers in Kiryat Arba - well worth reading, a very thoughtful analysis of the situation.)
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m2082/2_63/72435149/print.jhtml (A scholarly article on the subject of the 1948 massacre at the Arab village).
Amnesty International. Annual Report, 2001. http://www.amnesty-usa.org/
THE KING DAVID HOTEL
Reported in The Times of London, August, 1946
The King David Massacre:
"The King David Hotel explosion of July 22, 1946 (Palestine), which resulted in the deaths of 92 Britons and Arabs and in the wounding of 58, was not just an act of "Jewish extremists," but a premeditated massacre conducted by the Irgun in agreement with the highest Jewish political authorities in Palestine-- the Jewish Agency and its head David-Ben-Gurion. [note - Ben-Gurion was later the first Prime Minister of Israel.]
According to Yitshaq Ben-Ami, a Palestinian Jew who spent 30 years in exile after the establishment of Israel investigating the crimes of the "ruthless clique heading the internal Zionist movement,"
The Irgun had conceived a plan for the King David attack early in 1946, but the green light was given only on July first. According to Dr. Sneh, the operation was personally approved by Ben-Gurion, from his self-exile in Europe.
The Jewish Agency's motive was to destroy all evidence the British had gathered proving that the terrorist crime waves in Palestine were not merely the actions of "fringe" groups such as the Irgun and Stern Gang, but were committed in collusion with the Haganah and Palmach groups and under the direction of the highest political body of the Zionist establishment itself, namely the Jewish Agency."
Thanks for listening,