Sunday, March 14, 2010

There Are New Voices in Town

From The Age, a leading Melbourne newspaper:

"Jerusalem: Israel's military and one of its soldiers are no longer 'friends' after the gunner posted details of an impending raid in the occupied West Bank on his Facebook page, leading to the mission being aborted.

The soldier from an artillery unit updated his page on the social networking site, saying 'on Wednesday we are cleaning Qatanna, [a village near Jerusalem] and on Thursday, God willing, going home,' the army radio reported."

No more lying about what is happening in Palestinian villages, this poor young soldier who has the ability to hold his gun to the heads of any Palestinian who gets in his way, who only wants to go home to his God and family, says too clearly for his bosses, we cleanse people away, we sweep them from their homes as if they are stains on the land.

While Israel launches its public relations campaign, the last resort of morally bankrupt nations, new settlers' homes spring into being in East Jerusalem; the sea, air, land embargo of Gaza continues; the disenfranchising of Palestinian Israelis continues; the silencing and exiling of "foreign activists" as members of peace and anti-occupation NGO contingents are called, continues; plans go ahead to build a "Museum of Tolerance" over the Mamila Muslim cemetery; non-violent Palestinian demonstrators and organizers are rounded up in night raids and at a New York love fest for the Israeli Defense Forces, over 20 million dollars are raised. Pamphlets in Hebrew are passed out on planes calling on people to join in the struggle against this new attempt to delegitimize the state of Israel. Craziness, public relations campaigns as a way to turn eyes away from every day brutalities. Museums of Tolerance built in a country where nearly half of Israel's high school youth "do not believe that Israeli-Arabs are entitled to the same rights as Jews in Israel and would deny Arabs the right to be elected to the Knesset." (Ha'aretz, 12 March 2010) This is the future of Israel--growing religious fundamentalism, growing xenophobia, growing racism, growing armies. Already we read public statements about the "third world" workers who threaten the purity of the Israeli state. The words of a Jerusalem Post Editorial, 07/03/2010:

Tel Aviv, rejuvenated and energized as perhaps never before in its 100 years of existence, is the trendiest magnet for Israel's young, most vial and upwardly mobile set.

But Tel Aviv also pulls to it others, equally attracted by its bright lights and opportunities. There are third world economic migrants, the vast majority of them illegal....Anyone who indeed wanders into Neveh Sha'anan...would be hard put to identify the cityscape as even remotely Israeli, Squalid and foul, it's home to an exotic collection of denizens who have found their way to the country and most of whom originally hail from the southern hemisphere."

Israel is building walls of all kinds, and as others have said, it is building its own prison of intolerance, not only on its own shifting borders but within its own neighborhoods. All the banning of outside observers, all of the marshalling of required Jewish Diaspora unquestioning support will never disguise the tragedy of what Israel is becoming.

Yesterday the news article read "Israel Seals Off West Bank to Prevent Unrest," and continues to say that Israeli police will allow only men over 50 and women to pray at the Noble Sanctuary. This corrosive power to decide who will pray and who will not, who will live in their homes and who will not, who will be able to work, who will be able to receive medical care, to go to university, to drive down a highway, to make a plan for the future, this corrosive power over other human lives as Israel should know, etches a national ugliness that will haunt this nation.

From "Only Gall and Nothing More" by Gideon Levy, 08/10/2010:

Is the discourse we are conducting--if indeed we are conducting any discourse among ourselves and with our interlocutor--legitimate at all?Ever since the territories were occupied a public debate has been going on here [Israel] about their future and what is being done there...the settlements--yes or no; the roadblocks--yes or no; the assassinations, the arrests, the starving, the closure, the encirclement, the curfew, the exposure, the torture, the freedom of movement, the choice of the ritual,--yes or no.

Where does this right come from? [the right to say yes or no to prayer] Just as a rapist does not have the right to discuss carrying out his nefarious scheme, and the robber cannot haggle over the conditions under which he will return his loot, the occupier, the taskmaster, the jack-booted soldier and the exploiter cannot discuss the conditions under which they will carry out their deeds. This is a blatantly immoral discussion. The discussion by free people of the fate of other people under their rule is just as legitimate as the discussion by slave-runners or human traffickers. The only legitimate discussion is one that intends to end the situation, immediately and unconditionally.

I say thank you to all within Israel and without, who tirelessly struggle to raise dissenting Jewish voices, who take to the streets like the demonstrators in front of that icon of power, the Waldorf Astoria, the legacy of the robber barons; to all, who stand vigil, who enter the forbidden zones of Palestinian suffering, who sit at their computers late into the night sending out the news both of despair and of hope, of organizing and petitions, to all who brave the tear gas bombs and rubber bullets, to all my Jewish family who risk exiles from friends and family, from communities and some from jobs, who like me, know we are all part of this history, who know there is no other way to live in these times other then to say over and over no, no, no, not in our Jewish, human names.

As you might have heard, I wrote these words in some despair, not only with the state of Israel, but with the resurgence of the Christian right in America to almost crazy national attention, the Texas school board decisions over text book contents, the Tea parties and draped American flags over the shoulders of scoundrels, the attacks on lawyers doing their job of defending unpopular clients, and on and on, and then in the Australian Jewish Democratic Society Newsletter, March 2010 (, edited by my dear friend Israeli-Australian Sol Solbe, I find the words of Sarah Beninga, spoken at the Sheikh Jarrah rally. Beninga is one of the Israeli activists who organized the rally on March 6:

There Is a New Left in Town
There is a New Left, and it is not a left that is content with peace talks; it is a left of struggle. There is a New Left that knows that there are things you have to fight against even when they are identified with the state and even when they are sanctioned by law. There's a New Left that knows that this struggle will not be decided on paper, but on the ground, in the hills, in the vineyards, in the olive groves. There's a New Left that is not afraid of settlers--even when they come down on us from the hills, masked and armed. This left does not succumb to political oppression by the police, nor does it care what Ma'ariv writes about it.
There is a New Left in town. This left does not want to be loved, does not dream of filling town squares and does not bask in the memories of 400,000 demonstrators. This left is a partnership of Palestinians who understand that the occupation will not be stopped by missiles and bombs, and of Israelis who understand that the Palestinian struggle is their own.
The New Left links arms with Palestinians is a cloud of tear-gas in Bili'in, and with them, bears the brunt of settler violence in the South Hebron Hills. This left stands by refugees and work immigrants in Tel-Aviv and fights the Wisconsin Project [privatised 'welfare-to-work' program]. This New Left is us, all of us.
All those who came here tonight; all those who dared to cross the imaginary line separating West and East Jerusalem despite the threats and intimidation--we are all the New Left that is rising in Israel and Palestine. We are not fighting for a peace agreement; we are fighting for justice. But we believe that injustice is the main obstacle to peace. Until the Ghawis, the Hanouns and the El-Kurds return to their homes, there will be no peace because peace will not take root where discrimination, oppression, plunder exist. There is a New Left in town and this left stands with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah tonight, and it will continue standing with them until justice overcomes fanaticism.

But there is also a New Right in town. A Right filled with envy and racism that seduces the masses with its jingoistic rhetoric. The New Right has no interest in the well-being and the welfare of human beings. The New Right is only interested in a narrow ethnic and tribal loyalty a la Avigdor Lieberman. For the New Right, only the Jewish poor deserve attention. And what makes someone Jewish is that they are not Arabs. The New Right has nothing to offer but never-ending war. The New Right has nothing to offer but hate for the other: Arabs, refugees and leftists.

This New Right creates the fanatic settlers against whom we are demonstrating tonight. These settlers hate Jerusalem. They have no love for Israel and no love for humankind--they love only themselves. There are many amongst the settlers with whom we can and should carry out a dialogue. But the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah who sing songs of praise to Baruch Goldstein--must be defeated.

The New Right created the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat. He is a technocrat who doesn't understand or care about Jerusalem. He is a mayor who uses administrative terror against the residents of East Jerusalem and neglects the residents of West Jerusalem, while mouthing empty cliches. If Jerusalem is a powder keg, then Nir Barkat is the one who is striking the match. But Barkat doesn't scare us and neither of the settlers or Lieberman.

We will continue coming to Sheikh Jarrah and everywhere that justice is crushed by the forces of occupation and oppression. Take a look around you; we are not as few as we thought we were! And we will prevail!

Take a look around--away from the love fest for more killing at the Waldorf Astoria where so many parents poured their money into making sure their children will live in a more unsafe world--and let us find each other and take up the struggle.