The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Call-Girls United Present Blair with Xaviera Hollander Life Time Achievement Award. The press release said, “If ever there were a happy hooker, he is it.” [For Hollander, go to:]


In memory of Comrade Irwin: “Hold On,” performed by his wife Barbara Dane

At long last, some good news

  • Survey released on the eve of Rosh Hashanah also finds one in nine Spaniards think that Israel should ‘disappear ‘.

    By Barak Ravid

    A new poll by the Spanish government released on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in Madrid shows that one in three Spaniards is anti-Semitic, maintaining negative opinions about Jews. Another 46 percent had favorable views of Jews.

    One in nine Spaniards, the survey found, supports the statement that “Israel should disappear because it was established on Arab land.” Another 77 percent disagree with the statement. The results of the study indicate that the major cause of the rise in anti-Semitic feelings is Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians in the territories.

    The study follows poll results from 2008 and 2009 conducted by the Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center showing that close to half of all Spaniards at the time held anti-Semitic views. The two polls designated Spain an anti-Semitic country after finding that more than 35 percent of its citizens held anti-Jewish views. Ironically, however, in the most recent poll, 34.6 percent of respondents expressed anti-Semitic views, thereby barely escaping the anti-Semitic label according to that criterion. At an event at which the new findings were released, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said the poll showed Spanish society is not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

    The new poll, in which about 1,000 Spanish residents were questioned by phone, was conducted by the Madrid-based Casa Sefarad-Israel (Spain-Israel House ), which is affiliated with the Spanish Foreign Ministry and promotes ties between Spain and Israel and world Jewry. The survey was conducted in April, before the Israel Navy’s confrontation at the end of May with the Gaza-bound flotilla.

    Anti-Semitic sentiment exists in Spain despite the absence of a sizable Jewish community in the country since the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 15th century. Some 40,000 Jews currently live in the county of 40 million.

    Senior Spanish government officials sought to soften the impact of the poll results, noting that 54 percent of respondents hold negative views toward Muslims. About 1.5 million Muslims live in Spain. .

    Only Iran was viewed less favorably than Israel in the poll results. Moratinos and leaders of the Spanish Jewish community attributed the rise in anti-Semitic sentiment in Spain to the anti-Israel stance of most of the Spanish media. In contrast, however, 67 percent of respondents equally blamed Israel and the Palestinians for the conflict between them, and about 83 percent said Jews are entitled to live in peace and security in Israel once its borders are recognized by the international community.

  • Hunger Strike

    More info:,7340,L-3934844,00.html



    For decades Gideon Levy has used the platform provided by the liberal Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz to shine a light on the brutal realities of Israel’s occupation. His journalism, along with that of his colleague Amira Hass, has been an invaluable resource not only for Israeli readers but, through the Ha’aretz website, for international audiences seeking an informed and humane Israeli perspective on the conflict. It would be difficult to overstate how isolated Levy is within his own society, an isolation that increased over the past decade as Israeli public opinion stampeded to the right. He has described elsewhere how Ha’aretz keeps a thick folder of subscription cancellations from readers outraged by his articles. Despite this hostility, his critique of Israeli policies has become more, not less, radical over time.

    His recent book, The Punishment of Gaza, is a select compilation of his Ha’aretz columns from 2006, when Hamas’s electoral victory prompted harsh sanctions and violent reprisals from Israel and its international backers, through to the aftermath of last year’s Gaza massacre, which represented a bloody culmination of that same anti-democratic reaction. This chronology is itself something of a novelty – for most journalists, even those critical of the attack, the relevant background to the massacre stretched to the month of Qassam rockets that preceded it, or at most to the year and half since Hamas took control of the Strip. But Gideon Levy is not most journalists, and his critique of Israeli policies and society goes far beyond the weasel words and euphemistic equivocation offered by most of his contemporaries in the media, and those on the ‘Israeli left’. Whereas liberal Zionist intellectuals like Amos Oz and David Grossman supported the attack in principle, if subsequently criticising its excesses, Levy is clear: this wasn’t a “war”, he writes, it was “a wild onslaught upon the most helpless population in the world”, an “aimless, futile, criminal, superfluous offensive”. When ‘Operation Cast Lead’ was launched the Israeli media not only fell into line, it cheered the massacre on with a jingoistic fervour that was almost beyond belief. In this climate, Levy again distinguished himself, condemning the attack from the outset as a “war crime” that crossed “every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom”.

    This rare intellectual courage is also evident in his sharp criticism of those Israeli ‘liberals’ who, when their liberal values clash with their Zionist ones, betray the former every time. One of the most remarkable columns reproduced in the book is a response to prominent liberal Zionist A.B. Yehoshua. Despite being friends on a personal level, Levy did not shy from excoriating the author’s gross apologetics for war crimes in Gaza in the most direct and unsparing manner. “It is as if”, he wrote, “the mighty, including you, have all succumbed to a great and terrible conflagration that has consumed any remnant of a moral backbone.” This integrity was evident again in a column published last week, in which Levy criticised his Ha’aretz colleague and editor Aluf Benn for his blindness to and reflexive complicity in the brutalities of occupation. “You were a complete accomplice to the crime,” he writes of Benn’s service in an IDF that tortured and mistreated Palestinian detainees, “and you don’t even have a guilty conscience.” Reading his columns, it is clear that this is what disturbs Levy the most – not merely that his colleagues and fellow citizens tolerate and commit acts of brutality, but that they feel so good about doing so. His tireless commitment to challenging that complacency and dogged determination to force his readers to confront the consequences of their actions stands as an inspiration to and indictment of the vast majority of his colleagues, and not only in Israel. “This is what we look like,” he insists, relentlessly. “This is our moral portrait.”

    I met up with him in London a couple of weeks ago to discuss his book, the Israeli left, the political climate in Israel and the prospects for peace. The full interview follows.


    Over the past decade Israeli public opinion seems to have gone over the cliff – the last elections produced the most right-wing and possibly, as your recent columns have suggested, the most racist Knesset in Israel’s history. What is behind this trend?

    There were two things happening. One was the failure of the Camp David conference in 2000, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak comes back and claims there is no ‘Palestinian partner’. This lie was well spread and convinced Israelis from across the political spectrum. And then came the Second Intifada – the exploding buses, the suicide bombers – and the entire so-called ‘Israeli Left’ totally crashed—which makes me think, ‘how solid was it in the first place?’ Because if it was so easy to crash it, then I’m not sure it was very solid before. But in any case, nothing was left of the Israeli Left, except for some small, devoted, courageous groups which are still very active. Unfortunately, they are not very influential.

    Why is the Left so weak – is it for those two reasons?

    Yeah, because those two developments – the belief that there is no ‘Palestinian partner’ and Palestinian terror – made it very easy for all the leftists to change their minds. Which makes me doubt very much that they were really leftists in the first place.

    Do you see much hope for a revival of the Left in the Sheikh Jarrah protests?

    The other day I was there, on one of the Friday protests, with an American friend and she told me, “this is exactly the way it was when the anti-war movement in the United States started in ‘60s”. I am more sceptical, more pessimistic. I think that it’s remarkable what’s going on there and I have full appreciation for those people who come Friday after Friday, but I don’t see it becoming influential, no.

    Reading Ha’aretz, it seems like democratic forces within Israel are coming increasingly under threat, for instance in academia.

    That’s my main concern now, even more than the occupation, because it’s going to destroy Israel from within. I think that Israeli democracy is now facing its biggest challenge ever: a systematic campaign against any kind of alternative voices. So far it hasn’t touched the media, because most of the media is anyhow recruiting itself to collaborate with the occupation project, and those of us – the very few – who go against the stream, until now we were untouched, but this I don’t take for granted. At the same time there are already the new bills and the campaigns against the NGOs, against academia, and it’s deteriorating day after day. It might touch me personally very soon but so far it hasn’t touched me personally or journalists in general.

    Israeli media

    You close the introduction to your book with a tribute to the courage of Ha’aretz editors in standing by your writings and continuing to publish them in an atmosphere of increasing intolerance and chauvinism. How unique is Ha’aretz in this regard? I notice, for example, that B. Michael appears to have disappeared from Yedioth Ahronoth [Israel’s largest-circulation daily] after his columns criticising ‘Cast Lead’.

    He was just fired. He didn’t ‘disappear’, he was just fired.

    So is the Israeli media quite jingoistic in its coverage generally? How unique is Ha’aretz?

    It is very clear to make the division between Ha’aretz and all the rest. It’s a very, very clear division – nobody can argue about this. The Israeli so-called democracy would look entirely different if Ha’aretz didn’t exist, while any other newspaper or TV outlet could disappear tomorrow and there would be no change. Ha’aretz is really the last outpost in the Israel media keeping democracy alive. But Ha’aretz, as you know, is a relatively small newspaper, quite elitist, and it doesn’t approach the masses. All the rest are commercial, free, professional, but when it comes to issues like the occupation, all the media, except for Ha’aretz, recruited itself – nobody recruited it, it recruited itself, voluntarily – to collaborate with the occupation, to dehumanise systematically the Palestinians, to demonise and to spread fears that are often totally artificial and exaggerated. The media in Israel is playing a fatal role, mainly in maintaining the occupation and the nationalistic and militaristic emotions and sentiments in the Israeli society. I think it’s a criminal role that the Israeli media as a whole is playing, really except for Ha’aretz – not because I work for Ha’aretz, but Ha’aretz is really the only sane voice around.

    Why do you think the rest of the media “recruited itself” to supporting the occupation?

    No censorship – no governmental one, no military one, almost nothing, no pressures of that kind. It’s only about trying to please the readers, it’s only about commercial factors – commercial considerations. To please the reader, not to bother him, not to frustrate him, not to make him furious. And this is the most dangerous kind of bias, because there is no resistance against it – it is voluntary, it is not imposed on anyone, everyone is happy. The government is happy, the readers are happy, the publishers are happy, everyone is happy about it, and so there will be no resistance.

    Ha’aretz has significant influence outside of Israel. Is it influential within Israel too?

    Traditionally, yes. Ha’aretz was always the most influential newspaper in Israel, because the elite reads it and it traditionally had an influence not only on politicians and the economic elite, but also on other media. I think this influence has decreased in a way, but it’s still there – Ha’aretz still plays a role, it’s not being marginalised, not at all. So the influence of Ha’aretz is much wider than its circulation in Israel. And also the fact that it’s being read all over the world through the website, gives Ha’aretz a special position also within Israel, because people are aware that everyone in the world who has an interest in the Middle East is reading it. This gives Ha’aretz a lot of power within Israel, because they understand that it has influence outside. So from this point of view, Ha’aretz still has its influence – but let’s not exaggerate about it.

    Dealing with ‘48

    I’ve noticed a shift in your own writings, which seem to have become increasingly radical in their criticism. I’m thinking in particular of a recent column in which you argued that “[d]efining Israel as a Jewish state condemns us to living in a racist state”, and urged people to “recognize the racist nature of the state”. Has there been a shift in your writings, do you think, and if so, what’s behind it?

    It’s not a shift, it’s a process. My views became more and more radical throughout the years, in contrast to the opposite stream of the entire society – the more Israel becomes nationalistic, the more the government becomes violent and aggressive, like in ‘Cast Lead’, like in the Second Lebanese War, like with the flotilla, all those developments put me in a much more radical position, obviously, because there is much more to protest against. So yes, I am becoming more and more radical, but you can’t put a finger to say one day I became a radical. It’s an ongoing process.

    Would you accept the label ‘anti-Zionist’ to characterise your views?

    It depends what is ‘Zionism’. Because Zionism is a very fluid concept – who can define what is Zionism? If Zionism means the right of the Jews to have a state, I am a Zionist. If Zionism means occupation, I’m an anti-Zionist. So I never know how to answer this question. If Zionism means to have a Jewish state at the expense of being a democratic state, then I am anti-Zionist, because I truly believe those two definitions are contradictory – ‘Jewish’ and ‘democratic’. For me, Israel should be a democratic state.

    So would it be right to say that you support a state for Jews, but not a ‘Jewish state’ in the sense of a state that artificially maintains a Jewish majority?

    Absolutely. It should be a state for Jews that will be a just state, a democratic state, and if there will be a Palestinian majority, there will be a Palestinian majority. The idea is that Jews have to have their place, but it can’t be exclusively theirs, because this land is not exclusively theirs.

    This brings us nicely to the ‘liberal Zionists’, of whom you’ve been very critical. You have written that “[a] left wing unwilling to dare to deal with 1948 is not a genuine left wing”. Firstly, in terms of the Palestinian refugees – do you have a view about whether they should be permitted to return?

    First of all, something must be very clear – the problem must be solved. And as long as their problem will not be solved, nothing will be solved. Those hundreds of thousands of refugees cannot continue, generation after generation, to live in their conditions. They have rights. Now on the other hand, you can’t, and you don’t want, to solve the problem and to create a new problem. Full return means creating new refugees. The place I live in Tel Aviv belonged to a Palestinian village. If the owners of this village will come back, I will have to go somewhere else. All Israel is originally Palestinian – if not its villages then its land, its fields… almost all of it belonged to the Palestinians. So if you do a total return, you create a new problem. And also there are very few precedents in history in which everyone was allowed to return to his original home decades after the war. But it must be solved.

    I think there could be a solution, but it requires Israel to have good will – which it doesn’t have. It would involve, first of all, Israel recognising its moral responsibility. That’s the first condition. It’s about time for Israel to take accountability for what happened in ’48 and realise and recognise that there was a kind of ethnic cleansing, and expelling 650,000 people from their lands was not inevitable and was criminal. I think that taking responsibility will be the first step. Second step, Israel has to participate in an international project of rehabilitating the refugees – some of them in the places where they live. The third stage, obviously, is full return to the Palestinian state, if there will be a Palestinian state. And the last stage should be a symbolic, limited return also into Israel. It goes without saying, Israel has absorbed within the last few years one million Russians, and half of them were not Jewish. Why can we absorb half a million non-Jewish Russians and not absorb a few hundred or tens of thousands of Palestinians, who belong to this place, whose families are living in Israel? So that’s the way I see it.

    Do you have a preference – two-states against one state? And if you prefer a two-state settlement, what is that preference based on? For example, my ideal outcome would be a bi-national or one-state solution, but I think that for now the most just solution that can be achieved is a two-state settlement. So if you have a preference for a two-state settlement, is that because you think it’s the most just settlement, period, or merely the most just settlement that can realistically be achieved in the foreseeable future?

    First of all, I totally agree with the way you phrased it, I couldn’t phrase it better. The ideal, the utopia? One state for Palestinians and Jews, with equal rights, a real democracy, with real equality between the two peoples. The problem is that I don’t see it happening now, and I’m very afraid that a one-state would become an apartheid state. The two communities are very – there is a big gap between them. We have to realise that the Jewish community in Israel is more developed today, more rich, and to immediately mix both societies will create a lot of friction. There is also a lot of bad blood between the two communities. I don’t see it working, and for sure I don’t see it working in equal terms. So the only other solution left is the two-state solution. The problem is that it’s starting to become too late for this, because to evacuate half a million settlers – who will do it? No one. So I’m quite desperate. And the other solution, which I think will be the most probable, will be all kinds of artificial solutions – of half a Palestinian state, on half the land…this will not last, and this will not solve anything.

    ‘Liberal Zionism’

    I’ve just finished reading Yitzhak Laor’s ‘Myths of Liberal Zionism’, which is obviously very critical of the ‘Zionist Left’. What do you think of the politics of people like David Grossman, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and Meretz? Do they offer a sufficiently radical critique of Israeli policy, and if not, why is their critique so compromised?

    First of all, I had Oz and Yehoshua at my home for dinner a few weeks ago, so I have to be very cautious in what I say, but I am very critical about this kind of thinking. You can add [Israeli President] Shimon Peres and Labor to this. This is the typical Israeli hypocrisy, and I in many ways appreciate [Israel’s far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman more than Shimon Peres, because with Lieberman, at least, what you see is what you get. It’s very clear what he stands for. With people like Shimon Peres or Meretz – and I don’t say they are identical – or Oz and Yehoshua and Grossman, they want to eat the cake and leave it complete, as we say in Hebrew. This doesn’t work.

    I think they lack courage, some of them. Others, like Shimon Peres, are hypocrites who talk about peace and do the opposite. I think that Oz and Yehoshua and Grossman, who I know very well personally, mean well. But in many ways they are still chained in the Zionistic ideology. They haven’t released themselves from the old Zionistic ideology, which basically hasn’t changed since ’48 – namely, that the Jews have the right to this land, almost the exclusive right. They are trying to find their way to be Zionistic, and to be for peace, and to be for justice. The problem is that Zionism in its present meaning, in its common meaning, is contradictory to human rights, to equality, to democracy, and they don’t recognise it. It’s too hard for them to recognise it, to realise it. And therefore their position is an impossible position, because they want everything: they want Zionism, they want democracy, they want a Jewish state, but they want also rights for the Palestinians… it’s very nice to want everything, but you have to make your choice and they are not courageous enough to make the choice.

    Meretz supported the Gaza massacre –

    And so did Yehoshua! In the book there is an exchange between him and I. So did he.

    Why did it support it? Was it public pressure? Has this had implications for the Israeli left?

    Meretz lost its way a long time ago and it’s now almost a non-entity. It’s a group of three members of parliament – which is nothing – each of whom has his own interest, nothing to do with the occupation. One is dealing with gay rights, the other is dealing with economical questions, and the occupation is totally forgotten. Meretz right now is in a deep, deep crisis, and they supported ‘Cast Lead’ like they support most of what this government is doing, in a way that is shameful for Meretz. But Meretz is anyhow very, very marginal – three members of parliament – and they are losing all their worlds, because they will never become accepted by the right-wingers, and they lose the left-wingers, because what are they? To support ‘Cast Lead’, I can vote Likud – what do I need Meretz for?


    Let’s turn to the occupation directly. Why does Israel choose to occupy the Palestinians? Is the occupation driven by economic interests, or ideology, or…?

    I don’t think it’s the economy, because economically I can also draw you a picture in which peace will bring much more prosperity to Israel. The settlement project is one of the most expensive projects that Israel has invested in, so I don’t see… it’s not economical, for sure not.

    But even if overall ending the occupation would be a net benefit for the Israeli economy, are there not certain powerful economic interests for whose benefit the occupation is maintained?

    I don’t think so. It’s for sure not a major consideration. The occupation is a continuation of the same ideology that established the state – the more, the better; the bigger, the better… it’s still this old ideology that we have to get ‘dunam after dunam’, as we say in Hebrew. It’s about real estate, it’s about having as much real estate as possible. It’s about believing that the bigger we will be the stronger we will be, which is not the case – on the contrary, the bigger we become the weaker we become. But this ideology never changed since ’48.

    I recently interviewed Norman Finkelstein and he suggested that it has got to the point where – and he analogised it in this respect to the occupation of Lebanon – Israel refuses to withdraw simply because it’s already there, and others are demanding that it withdraw, and it doesn’t want to withdraw under pressure. Do you think there’s any truth to this?

    There is for sure a lot of truth in the fact that Israelis don’t care so much about the territories, but their life is so good, and their interest in and knowledge about the occupied territories is so little, that what reason do they have to go through the hassle of withdrawal? Why to bother? And in a situation in which the majority of the society is indifferent, the only meaningful active group in the society are the settlers, so they can dictate, because all the rest couldn’t care less, and there is not a real, meaningful movement in favour of evacuating the settlements.

    Is there any elite opposition to occupation within Israel?

    No. I wrote once that the present Knesset is the first in which out of 120 MKs, there is not one single Jewish member for whom fighting against the occupation is his first ticket. None. There are some supporters of anti-occupation movements, but for none of them is opposition to the occupation his first, main flag. This tells everything.


    Turning to Gaza – in your book you describe ‘Cast Lead’ as “a war that was no war”, a “wild onslaught upon the most helpless population in the world”. Can you talk a bit about how the massacre was perceived in Israel – both at a popular level and by political and media commentators?

    First of all, it’s the same. The way it was described in the media is the way that the people see it – that’s the big influence of the media in Israel. So first, there was the stage in which there were the Qassams – they were described in an exaggerated way. Then came the demand from the media and the people to ‘do something’. Then came the stage of demonising Gaza – reports like ‘arsenal of Iranian weapons are being smuggled in through the tunnels!’, which turned out to be a big lie, because in Gaza there is hardly weapons, except for the primitive Qassams. But it was all about demonising them and exaggerating their power. And then came the demand to ‘do something and go to war’ – calling it a ‘war’, which is also a lie. This was not a ‘war’, because war is usually between two armies, with some kind of resistance – there was hardly resistance, it was just a brutal attack on a civilian population. There was no fighting. Out of the very few Israeli soldiers who were killed in Cast Lead, many of them were killed by friendly fire. So this is not a war. But that’s the way it was perceived.

    What do you think are the objectives behind Israeli policy towards Gaza – the siege and the periodic military attacks? How do ‘security concerns’ figure?

    I think security is one factor – I don’t want to say it’s not. The problem is that when Gaza is peaceful, nobody in Israel cares about Gaza. No doubt the government cannot tolerate attacks on the southern part of Israel – no government in the world would have tolerated it. It couldn’t go on, Qassams every second day and the state lives with it? This is out of the question. The problem is that nobody asks why they launched the Qassams. I guess that if Gaza would have been free, there would have been no Qassams. But Gaza is not free, and the occupation didn’t end in Gaza – it just changed its form. I think that the Israeli government would like to push Gaza into Egyptian hands – which will not take place because Egypt rejects this – and also to separate Gaza and the West Bank, weakening the Palestinians. In this, they succeeded. And Palestinians also carry some responsibility for this – the fact that they can’t get united is fatal from their point of view. So altogether it’s about doing anything possible to depress Gaza, to put it under walls and fences, and not to hear from it any more.

    There were a couple of points in your book where it seemed like you withdrew into the standard ‘liberal Zionist’ criticism, of the kind we discussed already. For example (as pointed out by Asa Winstanley in his review) in your column immediately after the launch of ‘Cast Lead’, you were very critical obviously – probably the most critical in the Israeli press – but you still described it as an ‘overreaction’, which seemed to me to play into the idea that it was somehow a ‘response’ to Palestinian violence, rather than an Israeli aggression. Do you still stand by that?

    It’s a very good question, if I may say so. One should always read those articles in the context of the time they were published. It’s not very easy to criticise a war when it just starts. There were many Israelis who were criticising the first Lebanese war, the second Lebanese war, and ‘Cast Lead’, but only after they ended or after they developed into fiascos. My first article appeared – Saturday it broke, Saturday afternoon I wrote it, Sunday it appeared. In this context, I had to be a little bit more cautious in order to reach the Israeli attention. And I had to take into account also the way that Israelis see it. Now I can say the same today, and I just said it, that the Qassams are not something that the government can just ignore – no way, no government in the world. The only thing is that I think Israel should ask why the Qassams are launched. By and large, for sure today I would write it a little differently – but just slightly different.

    What about the fact that prior to the invasion, Hamas had adhered to a ceasefire and offered to renew it?

    Absolutely, but this I wrote at once. I wrote that if it’s about a ceasefire, we can reach it without a war, and we don’t need a war to reach a ceasefire, no doubt about this. And I can tell you that from war to war, I can assure you one thing: the next war, I’ll be even more radical. Because as an Israeli, I always leave some room for doubt – maybe, maybe, this time it will go differently – but it’s not the case. Don’t forget that when it started, I wasn’t sure it was going to be what it became – it could have been a one-day operation, we didn’t know what was going on.

    Prospects for peace

    Now, it was recently announced that a new round of ‘peace talks’ will start in September. Do you have any optimism about what they might achieve? [Note: this interview was conducted on August 20, before the ‘peace talks’ had begun]

    None whatsoever. It’s another scene in this ongoing masquerade, another photo opportunity. But it’s not only about being sceptical about the chances of something good coming out of it – we have to remember that it can also be very dangerous, because failures of the so-called ‘peace process’ might lead to another bloodshed. We saw it in 2000, what happened after the failure of Camp David. So it’s not only about ‘let’s give them a chance, maybe something will come out of it’. Nothing will come out of it, and it might also lead to another bloodshed.

    Do you see much change in how the Obama administration has approached the conflict, compared to its predecessors?

    I’d be more than happy to hear any sign of change. There’s been nothing. When he was elected and gave that speech in Chicago, I had tears in my eyes. I really hoped and believed that it was going to be a new atmosphere, a new world and a new Middle East. Nothing, but nothing, out of this. It’s a deep, deep disappointment.

    Do you think, honestly, that Israel will ever dismantle the settlements? Is that realistic? It would obviously be a huge trauma for Israeli society – the settlers have grown to become a substantial part of the population. Is it going to happen?

    First of all, you have to be realistic enough to believe in miracles. I don’t see it happening without a miracle, but things like this have happened in history. France pulled out one million settlers from Algeria, not so many years ago. I don’t say it’s the same – it’s not the same, because Algeria was overseas and this is in our backyard, so it’s not so simple. With all my willingness to be optimistic, I don’t see it happening, but so many things in very recent history were unexpected and happened – look what happened to Soviet Russia, look what happened to the wall in Berlin, look what happened to the apartheid regime. They were all unexpected developments. Realistically, rationally, I don’t see it happening.

    What should supporters of justice in Palestine in the UK and the US be doing?

    First of all, raise your voice and try to put pressure on your governments to stop supporting the occupation. Because your governments in Europe are supporting the occupation, are supporting the siege of Gaza, are supporting the boycott of Hamas, are supporting Israel as an occupier. This should come to an end. As for BDS: here I have to say two things. First of all, as an Israeli who does not boycott Israel, I can’t call on others to boycott Israel – I don’t do it myself. Secondly, boycott is a legitimate weapon – Israel is doing a lot of boycotting: Gaza, Hamas, Iran… Israel is a big boycotter. It was effective in a few examples in history, like South Africa. No doubt that Israel deserves boycott. But will it be effective in this case? I’m not sure. The risk is that it might also provoke Israeli society into becoming even more nationalistic, and more closed to the world. Here, I don’t have an answer – will it have a positive effect or not? I understand the sentiment to punish Israel, but boycott cannot be a goal. It is just a means. And as a means, I’m not sure it will be effective, I really don’t know. I wish it will be, but I’m not sure.

    If activists in the US succeeded in changing American foreign policy significantly, could Israel continue the occupation without US support?

    No way. Israel cannot carry on anything, including its existence, without the support of the United States. Israel was never so isolated and never so dependent on the United States as now. So the key is in Washington, no doubt. The problem is that I don’t see… I see a change in Washington, but a very minor one.

    When I told my dad [an Israeli citizen, living in Israel] that I was interviewing you, he laughed. When I asked why, he said that you were hated in Israel. How isolated do you think you are within Israeli society?

    I think your father’s reaction is a typical one. For sure my voice is a very marginal voice, but I still have the privilege to be heard – I’m on TV a lot, mainstream TV, and I’m writing my columns in total freedom in Ha’aretz, which is a mainstream newspaper. And yes, I’m quite lonely and my voice is quite a lonely voice, but you know history is full of cases in which the majorities were wrong and the minorities were right.

    Final question: do you find it difficult to keep carrying on, isolated, while remaining as critical as you are?

    No. It’s not always very pleasant, but do I have a choice? I can’t change my mind, I will not stop raising my voice as long as I can raise my voice, and as long as I have the platforms to raise my voice – and altogether I still, as I said, feel very free to do so. With all the price that I’m paying, it’s a relatively minor price.

    Gideon Levy is a prominent Israeli journalist and member of the Ha’aretz editorial board. His most recent book is The Punishment of Gaza, published by Verso.

    Jamie Stern-Weiner writes for New Left Project, where this interview originally appeared.

    Israel’s Welcome Wagon

    Saturday, September 4, 2010, in Ben Gurion Airport, Israel.

    British-born Palestinian Hip Hop artist, Shadia Mansour was surrounded by airport security and “intelligence officers” armed with guns.

    Ms. Mansour was told to return to her luggage after a usual baggage xray and multiple searches, when eight agents ran towards her, weapons drawn and pointed, they aggressively kicked away her bags and surrounded her. The eight agents had their guns pointed at Ms. Mansour while having her stand in the same position for one hour in suspicion of a bomb being planted in her microphone which they had in their possession for ten minutes already. Ms. Mansour assured the agents the microphone was used for recording music and was then asked by an officer to sing her lyrics to him, they screamed at her and asked “who she worked for, who bought the microphone, what does she sing about” and as the agents and officers shouted over one another she was also told, “we have found something planted in the microphone” all this transpiring while airport goers observed the entire ordeal. Although standard for Palestinians to be strip searched upon departure of Israel, Ms Mansour was made to lay down on her back as female agents pushed aggressively into her joints and neck. Once the female agents finished searching her the microphone was returned and Ms. Mansour was directed to her flight en route to London as though nothing had happened.
    Ms. Mansour told us “For a few minutes I really thought they were going to take my life, the way they handled the situation literally made me feel like I was an attempted suicide bomber that had just been captured or something”. No legal action has yet been taken.

    Please contact: Nancy Leigh at

    Gideon Levy at his best

    Pfc. Aluf Benn spent his years in the army in the Military Police in Lebanon. Yesterday, with commendable courage, he revealed his military routines in these pages ("When I was Eden Abergil"). He handcuffed and blindfolded people countless times and led many detainees to their cages. He saw detainees eating like dogs, as he put it – crouching with their hands tied behind their backs – and smelled their sweat and urine.

    Benn tried to argue that everyone did this, thousands of soldiers of the occupation army for generations, and that is why he was not shocked by the acts of soldier Eden Abergil. That is a twisted but frightingly banal moral explanation: Everyone does it, so it’s okay. I never saw aberrations, Benn wrote, immediately after describing the detainees’ horrendous doglike meal. The occupation did not corrupt me, he added later, without batting an eyelash.

    Well then, my excellent editor and good friend, Aluf Benn, your article is unequivocal proof of how much you have been corrupted after all – and, more seriously, how unaware of it you are. You didn’t know and didn’t ask who the prisoners were and why they were detained that way. Even their crouching to eat in handcuffs was deemed by you, a soldier who read Uri Avnery in his youth, to be normal, not a monstrous moral aberration. But really, what can you expect from a young brainwashed soldier?

    The problem is that even today, with mature hindsight, you still don’t consider this an aberration. Why? Just because everybody did it.

    The occupation did not turn us into lawless criminals, you write with a pure heart. Really? You handcuffed thousands of people for no reason, without trial, in humiliating conditions, causing them pain that made them scream, according to your testimony. Is this not a loss of humanity?

    You didn’t return home to riot in the streets and abuse innocent people, you write, and that’s all very well. But you were silent. You were a complete accomplice to the crime, and you don’t even have a guilty conscience.

    Try to think for a moment about the thousands of detainees that you handcuffed, humiliated and tortured. Think about their lives since then, the traumas and scars they carry, the hatred you planted in them. Now think about yourself, the soldier who has matured, become a family man and a respected columnist, a liberal editor to the bone, with independent and enlightened opinions. Could it be that you are blinder today than you were in your youth?

    So that’s what everybody did. You have made an important contribution to Breaking the Silence, providing proof of what the occupation does to the occupier, who doesn’t even notice the ugly hump on his back anymore. The occupier you described is a grave development. An occupier who feels so good, so at peace with his past actions, is in need of profound self-examination.

    "When I was Eden Abergil" is an important article. It honestly exposes what most of us don’t want to admit. It can’t be called false propaganda, and no one would dare accuse its author of being an anti-Semite. He was a dedicated soldier in the defense forces that committed (and still commit) such criminal deeds.

    But the lesson Benn took away from his military service is perhaps the most chilling of all: It is better to be the one taking the prisoner, not the prisoner. It is better to be the one placing the handcuffs, not the handcuffed. It is better to guard the detainee and then go to the dining room than to eat crouching, hands cuffed, in a stinking hall. This is the binary world of the former Israeli soldier: either a brutal soldier, or his victim.

    And what about the third possibility, which is neither one nor the other? The world has plenty of these – neither torturers not torture victims, neither occupiers nor the occupied. But they have been entirely erased from the narrow and frighteningly distorted image of the world that Israel plants in its soldiers’ minds.

    Benn and his fellow soldiers just wanted to be on the strong side, and to hell with being on the just side. But those who forced people to eat like animals are not the strong side. Even the mighty, who once read the leftist Haolam Hazeh and now edits the op-ed page of Haaretz, has fallen.

    Pfc. Benn certainly did not deserve a medal for his army service. Years later, he doesn’t even understand what was wrong with it.

    So, now we know they’ll be targeting “hospitals, and homes and schools” in the next war

    WASHINGTON (AFP) – Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, warned Friday that Hezbollah has placed around 15,000 rockets along Lebanon’s border with Israel, including some that could hit southern Eilat.

    “The Syrian-Iranian backed Hezbollah poses a very serious threat to Israel,” Oren said in a conference call focused mainly on the new direct Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

    “Hezbollah today now has four times as many rockets as it had during the 2006 Lebanon war. These rockets are longer-range. Every city in Israel is within range right now, including Eilat,” he said.

    The Red Sea resort of Eilat is the most southern point in Israel.

    He said the rockets also have bigger payloads and are “far more accurate” than those fired four years ago.

    “In 2006, many of their missiles were basically out in the open, in silos and the Israeli air force was able to neutralize a great number of them,” Oren said.

    “Today those same missiles have been placed under hospitals, and homes and schools because Hezbollah knows full well if we try to defend ourselves against them, we will be branded once again as war criminals,” he added.

    He said Israel is watching the situation with Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim fundamentalist movement, “very vigilantly” because it is of great concern to the Jewish state.

    “We know Hezbollah has in violation of UN resolutions once again penetrated southern Lebanon, transformed entire villages into armed camps and put in about 15,000 rockets along the Israeli border,” he said.

    Israel has already said Hezbollah has a total arsenal of 40,000 rockets.

    In the summer of 2006, Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 rockets at northern Israel during a conflict with the Jewish state, paralyzing the region for 34 days and forcing a million Israelis to hide in shelters or flee to cities in the south.

    More than 1,200 Lebanese, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mainly soldiers, were killed during the 2006 war.

    Israel accuses Shiite Muslim Iran of arming Hezbollah.

    From a former student and real activist

    by: Shirien D.

    The first statement to come out of the meeting between President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu last week was Obama’s condemnation of the deaths of four Israeli settlers in Hebron, who were shot by Palestinian snipers. Hamas’ military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the deadly shootings. But so did an unknown group, the Haq Brigades. The official Hamas political party insisted it played no role in the shootings and claimed that the shootings and the talks are not related. [1] Who is to blame and whether or not it has to do with the renewed peace talks remains unclear, although the Palestinian Authority has been cracking down on Hamas supporters in the West Bank and arresting Palestinians en masse for the crime.

    “These people have no respect for human life and trample human rights into the dust and butcher everything they oppose,” said Natanyahu, standing alongside Obama at a White House press conference. Rhetoric by Obama and Natanyahu point to one thing that many American politicians and mainstream media pundits have been saying for decades: peace won’t happen until the Palestinians denounce violence.

    These out-of-context statements are problematic and make many baseless assertions. One is that if there is no peace, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinians. Because apparently, Israel is doing everything right. Secondly, they ignore the fact that Israel has murdered and committed human rights violations against Palestinians throughout the history of the conflict, at a far greater proportion than any Palestinian has. Mr. Netanyahu, did you forget the systematic ethnic cleansing and massacres done by the State of Israel itself? Maybe it’s just me and Goldstone, but personally, I don’t think dropping white phosphorus chemicals on Palestinians in Gaza is in accordance with human rights. Oh, and what about the daily murders, beatings and harassments of Palestinians by Israeli settlers? Yeah, the settlers that are illegally settling Palestinian land. Mr. Netanyahu, I encourage you to take a good, long look in the mirror before you speak of human rights. But then again, you’ll probably become a self-hating Zionist.

    U.S. politicians and media commentators occasionally ask “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” That’s easy, Israel expelled him. In 1988, Israel forcibly exiled Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad, who advocated the use of Gandhian-style resistance to Israeli occupation[2]. There have been countless others like Awad. In fact, Palestinians have been using organized non-violent resistance in different forms since the 1930s[3]. The First Intifada is a case in point. Violent resistance became more prominent during the Second Intifada in 2000. However, since then, violent tactics have been disappearing, as non-violent resistance has become the preferred weapon of choice in Palestinian society. Today, demonstrations, hunger strikes and sit-ins occur on a weekly basis across Palestinian towns and villages like Bi’lin, Ni’lin, Silwan, Shiekh Jarrah, Budrus and Beit Omar, just to name a few. Hell, even Hamas, notorious for preaching violence, is beginning to embrace non-violent tactics [4].

    Jody McIntyre (left) with Rani Bornat (right) at a demonstration in Bilin. Photo by: Hamde Abu Rahme

    Israel is cracking down hard on this non-violence, often physically attacking and detaining demonstrators. Last month, when I visited Palestine, I met Musa Abu Maria, a non-violent activist of the Palestinian Solidarity Project. This peaceful, humble and soft-spoken man was arrested and tortured numerous times for organizing protests to protect the crops of Palestinian farmers. Many other leaders of Palestinian NGOs are harassed and arrested frequently by the IDF; it has become expected.

    The fact of the matter is that non-violent struggle is a far greater threat to Israel than any violent resistance. Non-violent resistance is a powerful tool, gaining respect and support internationally. So it comes as no surprise that Israel responds with violent military action to suppress it. This past May, the Mavimara flotilla full of international peace activists delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza was an innovative, creative and symbolic non-violent act of resistance. When Israel decided to massacre these unarmed civilians in international waters, it opened people’s eyes. Those who died on the Flotilla certainly did not die in vain. Their brave actions had a huge impact by showing the world just how inhumane Israel can be. Non-violent techniques are much more effective than the armed resistance that gives Israel the excuses to disproportionately massacre thousands. Palestinian violence does wonders for Israeli PR, and Palestinians on the whole are certainly aware of this. The recent actions of these snipers do not represent the largely non-violent Palestinian movement that is thriving today.

    Israel doesn’t want non-violent resistance. What Israel really wants from Palestinians is pacifism and submission. That’s the only way to continue the occupation. U.S. politicians and media commentators asking the question “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi”? not only discounts the indigenous non-violent resistance movement of Palestinians, it also screams hypocrisy. The U.S. government gives billions of dollars in military aid every year to help Israel continue its occupation, but turns around and tells Palestinians not to fight back with violence. U.S. leaders advocating non-violence is like the Tea Party preaching tolerance. It’s just ironic.

    To those who preach non-violence to Palestinians, I encourage you to visit Palestine. You will see the daily assaults by the IDF and the Israeli settlers that Palestinians must endure without returning the same violence. Palestinians don’t need the U.S. to tell them how to react to Israeli occupation. Given their circumstances, they have been handling themselves just fine. What they need most from the U.S. is to stop supporting and sending the weapons to the country that murders, imprisons, tortures and occupies them, committing human rights violations everyday. If Obama really wants a change, maybe he should start the next meeting with such a statement.

    Settlement Freeze (Yeah, right.)

    By Juliane von Mittelstaedt in Jerusalem

    September 04, 2010 “Spiegel” —  In Washington, the Israelis and Palestinians are discussing peace, but in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, construction is proceeding at full speed. A legal ban is being ignored and the government is looking away. The thousands of new homes could hinder reconciliation.

    Officially, at least, this is the hour of diplomacy. For the first time in two years, Israelis and Palestinians are meeting for direct peace talks. United States President Barack Obama has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington. Settlement construction is one of the most sensitive issues at the talks.

    It’s also an issue where the fronts are growing increasingly tense. “As far as we are concerned, we will continue building after we have buried our dead,” Naftali Bennett, the general director of the settlers’ association Yesha said hours before the start of peace talks. Just a short time after his announcement, the settlers began erecting several symbolic settlements in the West Bank. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Bennett had threatening words. “It is not good enough that the moratorium will end on Sept. 26,” he said. “Ehud Barak needs to act to approve 3,000 new housing units — 1,500 of them right now.”

    The message is clear: After Hamas terrorists shot four Israelis near Hebron, the settlers no longer want to adhere to the 10-month construction stop that expires at the end of September. An army commander told the newspaper Maariv that the settlers threatened to “flood” the West Bank “with thousands of homes.” He said he was concerned that dozens of cement mixers would drive in at night to pour the walls and that there was nothing the military could do to stop it.

    And why should they if they have the impression that the government doesn’t even support the moratorium?

    Construction work could soon begin again in 57 settlements. The peace talks that began on Thursday with an official reception thrown by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won’t change that. After all, construction of settlements also continued during previous rounds of peace talks. From the start of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s until today, the number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank has tripled — growing from 110,000 to more than 300,000 people living in 121 settlements and 100 outposts. In addition to that there are 200,000 more settlers in East Jerusalem.

    The Land Is Practically Free

    Construction may even proceed at a faster pace than before. In the West Bank, there are few signs that the moratorium has even been put in place. In dozens of settlements, excavators and cement mixers are a regular sight, and Palestinians work in temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Around 2,000 homes are currently under construction — and in most cases, work had begun shortly before or after the start of the moratorium.

    One such place is Anatot, a settlement near Jerusalem, that is dotted with flower beds, trees, cute street signs at every entranceway and a street lamp every few meters. Anatot is the perfect suburban idyll. And it’s just one of many settlements where inhabitants can quickly forget that they are settlers.

    Now there are plans to expand Anatot. A new neighborhood is being erected with 70 apartments, as the construction manager proudly states. The settlement is being expanded by one-third from its current population of around 200 families.

    A few of the new homes have already been completed. They’re attractive cubes build of creamy white Jerusalem sandstone. A colorful sign at the entrance to Anatot advertises “cottages with quality of life.” It’s a dream that costs 1.02 to 1.4 million shekel (around €280,000) — less expensive than a small apartment in West Jerusalem. The construction in the West Bank is massively subsidized by Israel. The land is practically free. After all, it is “state” land. The development costs are paid by the state, and the residents get affordable loans.

    Nevertheless, construction is not actually permitted here. The building project is not included in the list of 490 “legal exceptions” which the government managed to make to the settlement moratorium.

    The Moratorium ‘Was a Fiction Right from the Outset’

    “The construction boom here began shortly before the building freeze,” says Dror Etkes, who is perhaps the Israeli who knows the most about the settlements. For years he has been documenting settlement construction and submitting complaints against illegal projects.

    Etkes is sure that active construction is taking place in at least 46 out of 120 settlements. Building projects have only actually been frozen in five settlements, he says. Even government inspectors have found violations of the moratorium in 29 settlements. So far, however, no construction firm has been called to account over those violations. That is despite the fact that the building freeze, for the first time in Israeli history, is not just a “political” requirement, but is actually enshrined in law — meaning that any violation should be legally punished.

    Additionally, infrastructure projects are not included in the building moratorium. As a result, a number of sewage treatment plants and water reservoirs are being built in settlements — including on Palestinian land. In Beitar Illit, a new road is being built.

    Neither were the associated financial incentives — the only reason that many Israelis choose to live in the West Bank — affected by the moratorium. Those benefits include cheap loans, subsidized rents, tax breaks and countless other perks, all of which could easily be cancelled.

    “The difference between the level of construction before and during the moratorium is much, much less than the settlers claim,” says Etkes. “It’s not just that the building freeze has been undermined — it was a fiction right from the outset.” One of the consequences, he says, has been that construction activities have become even more focused on the eastern settlements — in other words, those small, isolated and often radical settlements that would need to be evacuated if a peace agreement were reached. It is expected that the inhabitants of those settlements would defend themselves with force against such a move.


    ‘Building Freeze Is More Harmful than Useful’

    Construction work is also going on in Kfar Adumim. The settlement is significantly larger than the norm — 2,700 people live here in the hills between Jerusalem and Jericho. Among them are two members of the Knesset, the two hardliners Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel. 30 houses are to be built here and 50 Palestinian workers are employed on the site. One man, who is busy laying bathroom tiles, says they started work a month before the building freeze came into force. In the beginning, they had 300 men working at full speed to lay as many foundations as possible in the short time.

    Etkes sees the circumventing of the building freeze here as a “classic example of the cooperation between the settlers and the government”: Some of the foundations were hastily laid before the building freeze came into force, some afterwards — but nobody bothers to police it. “The building freeze was discussed for half a year, that was enough time for all parties to prepare.”

    This is no different from other settlements. Once the moratorium comes to an end, the settlers immediately begin to build. Or, if they do not need housing right away, they can save the foundations as a “reserve” in case of future building freezes. In addition, dozens of settlers’ organizations have submitted building applications to local authorities that could be approved in the coming months.

    The tiler will not give his name because he is afraid of losing his job, which pays him a minimum of about €30 a day. But he did say that many of his colleagues began work on the site two days before the construction moratorium in the settlements came into force. He also said that building work is still going on in Har Homa in Bethlehem, even though the building freeze is in force there. Carpenters work at night so as not to draw so much attention.

    With Each Project, the Future Clearing of Settlements Becomes More Difficult

    Whether that bothers the man as a Palestinian? “What should we do? As long as they are allowed to carry on building here, we’ll be here too,” he says with a shrug. It is the pragmatism of those who do not believe the Israelis will be leaving the West Bank anytime soon. It is the same almost everywhere near Jerusalem. But what about the isolated settlements, with those near Nablus, near the Jordan Valley, near Hebron. “It’s a similar situation,” says Etkes.

    Ten apartments here, 40 there. In no other place are the projects as massive as at Ramat Shlomo, the Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem where, earlier this year, 1,600 new apartments were approved — just as US Vice President Joe Biden was travelling to Israel. The Americans were irritated and insisted that the Israelis obide by the construction moratorium. But even small projects bring with them thousands of new settlers — and with each, the later clearing of settlements becomes even more difficult. And without clearing the settlements there can be no viable Palestinian state.

    All it takes is a few figures from Israel’s statistical office to determine that no reduction of construction activity worth of mention has taken place. Israel’s Channel 10 TV, for example, has reported that 8,000 Israelis either moved to the West Bank or have been born there in the past six months. Projected over the remaining months of 2010, that would be 16,000 people. In recent years — without the construction moratorium — the average growth rate was 5.5 percent, which with 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, would mean an annual increase of around 16,500 people. “In other words, the much-discussed construction moratorium has brought us 500 fewer settlers,” Etkes says.

    ‘At the End of the Day, There Will Be Another 1,000 Homes’

    For the Palestinians, the time elapsed since the start of the construction moratorium hasn’t been a good one. According to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli civil administration in West Jordan has torn down a total of 267 Palestinian homes in recent months, more than ever before. The homes had been built without permits, but that’s the case with most new Palestinian homes because they are hardly ever approved.

    By contrast, says Etkes, he has no doubt that the homes in the settlement that have been built illegally during the moratorium will, at least some of them, be legalized later. “At the end of the day, there will still be another 1,000 homes more in the West Bank.”