Palestine Update 107
Israelis resist too resists the occupation-
But only a global alliance can overcome Israel’s fascist structures
It has so far proven difficult for the Israel Peace groups to make a serious dent in Israeli public perceptions. Israel’s propaganda machine and a compliant, even racist, media have combined to build the image of the Palestine as the ‘other’. Worse, the image of this ‘other’ is tainted with notions of them as that of a dangerous nation of terrorists whose only goal is to see Jews consigned to the deep blue sea. The Zionist narrative feeds into this notion.
But in the meantime, peace movements persist driven by the call to justice to counter opinions, prejudices, and political pressures. It is not easy to belong to the peace movement in Israel. They risk being judged as ‘self-hating’ Jews who are traitors to the Jewish cause. And much as Palestinians respect them, there can be no open truck in which they are seen together lest they be accused of ‘harmonizing’ things and abating Palestinian claims.
One of the serious setbacks in the search for peace in Palestine-Israel is the lack of political will and public preparedness for real peace. A realist (Israelis would call this person a cynic) recently said: “The only peace that is viable is the peace of the graveyard.” Public perception has changed too little and, when change occurs, is changing at snail pace and that diminishes the prospect of serious political impact.
Observers allude to seven reasons why Israelis feel what they do. Dubious as they are, we summarize them:
– Israelis share a collective experience of constant threat despite a high level of security, ironically Israelis. The narratives of the exile, the Holocaust, anti- Semitism, wars, thousands of terrorist attacks and enemies calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, all maintain a mental state of victimhood, persecution and fear of annihilation. Israel plays this up to keep the hate machine alive.
– Israeli society that peace feels no advantage in the moral, spiritual and material benefits of peace. They deem their military defense systems as adequate to bear the consequences of the conflict, and at a tolerable price tag.
– Security and peace are perceived as dichotomous concepts. Israelis prefer familiar reality over a hazardous prospect.
– Military service is integrated into the identity of millions and although compulsory, it is perceived as a privileged ticket to a full citizenship. Jewish Israelis distrust Arabs and the Arab world
– Distrust of Arabs persists in the political, cultural, social and individual domains. It is built into public perception through public discourse. Hatred and racism are its by-products.
– Israel has appropriated natural assets such as water resources, farmland, and are rapidly acquiring more. Most Jews actually believe that occupying all parts of the Holy Land is a value that justifies any cost and sacrifice.
If one applies a bland critical assessment of the Israeli peace Movement, one would argue that it is a camp that it is in a state of despair. The Peace Movement in Israel may be in a state of despair. It has its back to the walls and is struggling to be the difference between justice and injustice. Netanyahu has consolidated the right wing with a daily dose of some of the most fascist and most blatantly racist laws, each more racist than the previous one. The ways in which these legislations pass the Knesset tells one that Likud and Labour are the same brand; only they have different names. The peace camp feels the weight of a paralysis brought on by a fascist regime which does not brook tolerance of any form of dissent.
Those who fight from the inside are audacious to know that they cannot surrender. Their convictions drive them to strive even if they seem to be on the losing side. Their cause keeps them in the ring. While they welcome outside pressure, they know that they and the Palestinian have separate but complementary functions in the search for an end to occupation. International weight is added value; not core to the struggle. But it is still value and is vital.
Despite what seems huge power, the government is aware of the credence of an alliance of Palestinian resistance, Israeli peace groups’ and their cohesion, and international solidarity. It is afraid because it has seen what this deadly combination did in South Africa to end apartheid. No wonder the plethora of laws and measures to stifle resistance, whether of Palestinians, Israelis or the international activists.
The struggle will not end just because the fascist has passed a wish to end it. It will end when justice comes.
“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.” (Ernesto Che Guevara)
In this issue of Palestine Updates, we share with readers a list of Peace Movements as well as testimonies of Israeli veterans who served the Israeli military since the Second Intifada.
Peace Groups in Palestine and Israel
bitterlemons-international – An internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns.
Bat Shalom – A feminist center for peace and social justice aiming to work towards a democratic and pluralistic society in Israel.
B’tselem.org – Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories.
Dar Annawada – The International Center of Bethlehem works to serve the whole community “from the womb to the tomb.”
Gisha – Tel Aviv based NGO founded in 2005; Emphasis on freedom of movement for Palestinians
Gush Shalom – Israeli peace group. Click on English to start. Excellent articles & links.
Human Supporters Association a grassroots organization that offer the youth of Nablus and its surroundings a non-violent, proactive alternative in dealing with the given political realities, and that seeks to be a gathering point for activists promoting justice and social change within Palestinian society.
International Solidarity Movement – a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – Founder, Jeff Halper, Minnesotan & Israeli citizen. Organizing non-violent resistance to house demolitions, land expropriations and settlements and advocating the end of the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank.
Machsom Watch – The Israel-based group monitors and disseminates reports on Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, with the ultimate aim of “ending the occupation.”
Miftah – Commentaries by PLO spokeswoman Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and others, press releases, fact sheets on impact of occupation, polls.
Neve Shalom – A village, jointly established by Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, that is engaged in educational work for peace, equality and understanding between the two peoples.
Palestine Center for Human Rights – This non profit group centered in Gaza reports on human rights violation.
Palestinian Monitor – Palestinian writing about life under the occupation – facts, articles and analysis.
Palestinian Mothers – Iqbal Tamimi created this social network for Palestinian mothers.
Palestine Remembered – A web site focusing on Palestinian cities and villages destroyed.
Parents Circle Bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families supporting peace, reconciliation and tolerance. The Forum members have all lost immediate family members due to the violence in the region.
Rabbis for Human Rights – A rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights gives voice to the Zionist ideal and the Jewish religious tradition of human rights.
Rafa Today – Pictures and articles of daily life in Rafah.
Sabeel – An ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians.
Tent of Nations – Seeks to bring youth of various cultures together to build bridges of understanding, reconciliation, and peace.
Women in Black – Network of women committed to peace with justice.
Zochrot – A group of Israeli citizens working to raise awareness of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948.
Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories…Soldiers who serve in the Territories witness and participate in military actions which change them immensely. Cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years, but are still explained as extreme and unique cases. Breaking the Silence testimonies portray a different and much grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of Israel’s security. While this reality is known to Israeli soldiers and commanders, Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny what is done in its name. Discharged soldiers returning to civilian life discover the gap between the reality they encountered in the Territories, and the silence about this reality they encounter at home. In order to become civilians again, soldiers are forced to ignore what they have seen and done. Breaking the Silence strives to make heard the voices of these soldiers, pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled.
Methods of the work of Breaking the Silence – making known testimonies
Breaking the Silence collects testimonies from soldiers who have served in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since September 2000, and hold lectures, house meetings, and other public events which bring to light the reality in the Territories through the voice of former combatants. Breaking the Silence also conduct tours in Hebron and the South Hebron Hills region, with the aim of giving the Israeli public access to the reality which exists minutes from their own homes, yet is rarely portrayed in the media.
It all began in March 2004 by a group of soldiers who served in Hebron. Breaking the Silence has since acquired a special standing in the eyes of the Israeli public and in the media, as it is unique in giving voice to the experience of soldiers. To date, the organization has collected testimonies from over a 1,000 soldiers who represent all strata of Israeli society and cover nearly all units that operate in the Territories. All the testimonies are meticulously researched, and all facts are cross-checked with additional eye-witnesses and/or the archives of other human rights organizations also active in the field. Every soldier who gives a testimony to Breaking the Silence knows the aims of the organization and the interview. Most soldiers choose to remain anonymous, due to various pressures from official military persons and society at large. Breaking the Silence’s first priority is to the soldiers who choose to testify to the public about their service.
Breaking the Silence offers guided tours to Hebron and the South Hebron Hills, allowing an unmediated encounter with the reality of military occupation. The tour guides, all former combatants who served in these areas, share from their experiences to help illustrate the Israeli government’s policies enacted by the IDF.
Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories (Two testimonies)
“Anything still there is as good as dead”
– A testimony from a First Sergeant Deir al-Balah area
We entered a neighborhood with orchards, which is the scariest. There were lots of stories going around about being surprised by tunnels or explosive devices in these orchards. When you go in you fire at lots of suspicious places. You shoot at bushes, at trees, at all sorts of houses you suddenly run into, at more trees. You fire a blast and don’t think twice about it. When we first entered [the Gaza Strip] there was this ethos about Hamas – we were certain that the moment we went in our tanks would all be up in flames. But after 48 hours during which no one shoots at you and they’re like ghosts, unseen, their presence unfelt – except once in a while the sound of one shot fired over the course of an entire day – you come to realize the situation is under control. And that’s when my difficulty there started, because the formal rules of engagement – I don’t know if for all soldiers – were, “Anything still there is as good as dead. Anything you see moving in the neighborhoods you’re in is not supposed to be there. The [Palestinian] civilians know they are not supposed to be there. Therefore whoever you see there, you kill.”
Then we went down into the street and the houses we were supposed to take over no longer existed
A Testimony also from a First Sergeant Unit Northern Gaza strip
I remember one time that explosives were detonated in order to clear passage routes. They told us, “Take cover, it’s about to be used 100-150 meters away.” Then an explosion – I’ve never heard anything like it. Lamps crashing, it was insane – a crazy mushroom of fire, really crazy. Then we went down into the street and the houses we were supposed to take over no longer existed. Gone. [You] start walking up the stairs, and you walk two steps up and there are no more stairs – it’s destruction on a whole other level. When we left [the Gaza Strip], we went through all the wreckage, which used to be Beit Hanoun, and I really remember that. It was before the air force strikes on the neighborhood. We just couldn’t believe it – we kept asking ourselves, how does one even start to clear this up? We tried to think about what the family would go through when they returned to their home, and in the best-case scenario what’s left of the house is a bit of its floor and two walls. How does one go about cleaning all the wreckage? Who’s going to clean it up and how are they going to do it?