Monthly Archives: July 2007

Return of the Repressed

The Japanese have a big problem with their history, and it occasionally breaks through to the surface. The Japanese Minister of Defence, Fumio Kyuma, was recently forced to resign after stating the obvious: that the American use of nuclear bombs against the atrocity his country has been inevitable at the time. What is perceived as an extreme to psychotic right-wing notion outside of Japan, but constitutes the mainstream inside it, made him pay the price for offending the national myth. The former Prime Minister, Koizumi Junichiro, mostly a benign character, insisted on odd visits to the Yasukuni Temple where senior Japanese war criminals are commemorated. It is entirely plausible that the American effort, right after the war, to prevent the prosecution of the Emperor Hirohito – a step the Americans feared might lead to a general uprising – badly distorted the Japanese conception of history.

The Turks have a big problem with their history, and it keeps generating headlines. During the first world war the military junta conducted a genocide against the Armenian minority. This genocide is a self evident truth world wide, except in Turkey and Israel; but what, to outsiders. is perceived as an extreme to psychotic right-wing notion, is the Turkish mainstream; and it insists on prosecuting even nationally-recognized writers, if they uncover the conventional fallacies. Sometimes it murders as well.

The Israelis have a big problem with their history, and it’s difficult even to walk down the street without bumping into it. Those who took Canaan by storm did it a little too late, in a time when the whole idea of ethnic cleansing started being rejected by international consensus. Ironically, it happened because of the efficiency with which the Nazis conducted their ethnic cleansing against the Jews (The Soviet ethnic cleansing in eastern Europe is beginning to draw attention only in recent years). Hundreds of villages and quite a few Palestinian cities where demolished when the Zionist phoenix rose from the Palestinian ashes; ;dozens of massacres were carried out, hundreds of deportations; the language, the traditions, the landscape – all changed beyond recognition. Often by means of bulldozers and demolition charges.

Today the Minister of Education, Yuli Tamir, stated the obvious: the Palestinian citizens of Israel would no longer have to learn about the mighty pioneers who tamed the wilderness and fought the evil savages, but could learn history as it was experienced by their ancestors: the deportation, the massacres, the Naqba. What is perceived, outside Israel, as the extreme to psychotic right-wing – the Israeli mainstream – has already confronted the minister with raging fury. She hasn’t resigned yet, but it’s very possible that the decision will be used by Ehud “no High Court of Justice” Barak as means to her dismissal. MK Zvi Hendel, that exceptionally rabid dog, whose discontent over being unable to continue abusing the inhabitants of Gaza has become his icon, has already informed that he will propose a bill to automatically revoke the citizenship of those who commemorate the Naqba.

Tamir’s decision is idiotic, of course. If there was a Naqba, if there were deportation and massacre and ethnic cleansing and Ben Gurion’s famous hand gesture, it should appear in Jewish schoolbooks as well. If it didn’t happen, as the Zionist propaganda claims, then there is not reason for the Naqba to appear in the Arab schoolbooks. Two so different schoolbooks on the same subject are a recipe for increasing and radicalizing the tension.

But Tamir doesn’t have the required political capital to oppose the raging rabble which is the majority of the Israeli public, that same rabble that enthusiastically supports turning Israel into an apartheid state, that believes it is the Chosen People returning to its “long lost home”; her political capital barely sufficed for marking the Green Line, the 1967 borders, on schoolbooks’ maps. The Zionist myth – equality, national independence, progress for all the land’s inhabitants, the unabated righteousness – these turned S. Yizhar’s Hirbet Hiz`ah, that account of “how to create a diaspora”, unbearable even at the seventies. What the conquerors themselves knew, their descendants prefer to forget.

And since the Israelis simultaneously believe both that they are the takers of Canaan by storm, and that the storm was only a gentle spring breeze, they cannot look in the face at the ruins their existence is founded on. Anything that might remind of what must not be reminded is brutally pushed aside. And that brutality is often turned towards those witnesses of the horror that was the birth of Israel, the Palestinians who brazenly did not flee, who remained despite the massacres, despite the arbitrary land expropriation, despite the discriminatory laws and all the foul legal shticks the Jewish genius managed to devise.

No other place craves normalcy as much as Israel, an evidence of how badly it is missing here; but a nation that was founded on graveyard remnants and mosque ruins will never be normal, until it admits the debt it owes its past, look it straight in the eye and make its peace with it. We can see just how abnormal it is, how badly it terrifies those who inhabit it, in a recently published research; it shows that 46.1% of youths between 14 and 18 prefer living outside of Israel, and that 68% of them think its situation is “not good”. A country that so many of its young want to flee, will never be normal. The first generation conquered and kept silent, the second generation concealed, the third generation escapes.

And we can understand them: they are being raised from childhood on the conception that life in Israel is a mission, that in fact they are doing the country a favor by living in it. They are, after all, the vanguard of the Jewish People returning to its motherland. And it seems that for amazingly high number of them, this burden is too heavy to shoulder.

They were never taught that they are natives to this land. They were never taught that their country was founded on injustice, on crime, but that it was founded; that it is here; that it has nowhere to go; they were never taught that they do not bear their fathers’ sins, but do have to face the crimes themselves and deal with their consequences; they were taught they were born over a bottomless pit. They were taught that exposing the historical truth, what every thinking man knows, is lethal. They weren’t taught, but rather deliberately misled, as to the difference between the ’48 Arabs and the ’67 Arabs, and now they can’t tell the difference, or tell why only some of them have Israeli citizenship. The difference between Jewish and Israeli has been deliberately blurred. The entire past had been made to vanish, and any sliver of it that is suddenly exposed is as shocking as the revelation of a family tragedy.

Some consolation may be found in the idea that the Israeli public cannot face the facts because they are too horrid, because they say shocking things about the foundation of its existence, because it wants to avoid the deep feeling of shame that will justly confront it. But denying history – whether it’s denying the holocaust, or denying the atrocities of occupied China, or the stern denial of the genocide in Anatolia and Syria – is a symptom of a grave disease, of an irreparable rupture between reality as it is and reality as we would want it to be.

And to heal ourselves from this disease, we need a cold and ruthless history of our Independence War, one that will document all the crimes. We need a comittee of truth and reconciliation. We need to know exactly where we live, and who lived here before us. Only thus can we build this place anew, and not on foundations made of broken tombstones.

Perhaps. Because a place almost half of its children want to flee, has few reasons for hope.

(Orignally posted to Friends of George by Yossi Gurvitz. Translated by Yair Mahalalel on July 31st, 2007)


The Green Beast Kicks Back

About a week ago a smiling young girl knocked on my door. She wore a very unique shirt, showing the logos of the Katz courier company and of the Home Front Command. She wanted the gas mask, God only knows where it is. It turns out that the Home Front Command wants it back, and threatens not to issue me a replacement in case of emergency, unless I provide it with the old mask. To perform the operation, just as it privatized the sirens, it also privatized the collection of the masks. The question begs to be asked: why not privatize all the handling of the masks? In fact, why not privatize the entire Home Front Command?

There are senior officers, there are honest officers, and there are very few who are both. As if we needed proof of that, the last report of the state comptroller shows that the head of the Home Front Command, Yitzhak “Jerry” Gershon, is not merely dishonest, but an outright criminal.

All through the war in Lebanon, Gershon was vigorously occupied by the IDF maneuver known as covering its ass. He evaded any responsibility, avoided any action he was not directly ordered to take, and in general – just like the prime minister – conducted himself as if he was preparing for an inquiry committee. He apparently knew why.

The gravest incident was an act of direct insubordination by Gershon. In the first volume of the report, pages 59 to 62, the comptroller records how the Minister of Defence, Amir Peretz, directed Gershon to call reserve soldiers into active duty and station them at the bombarded northern cities, to assist the civilian population. Gershon didn’t call the soldiers. He spoke with the IDF Chief of Staff, understood from him that he doesn’t have to call up the soldiers, and didn’t bother updating the Minister of Defense. Quite the opposite: he reported several times that he was carrying out the order. When he was dragged in front of the comptroller he made up something about “a soldier in uniform takes orders only from the Chief of Staff”, and that the instructions of the Minister of Defense are not, as far as he is concerned, binding orders.

Gershon’s lawyer’s statements in this case are stupefying: “The army is a hierarchal system, the army conducts itself according to orders… the minister did what he had to by promising assistance, the minister doesn’t understand, the minister is new, the minister yells home front, home front, home front…”. The minister yells, the minister is new, the minister doesn’t understand.

The comptroller, very cautiously, too cautiously, called upon the current Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff, “to explain to the head of Home Front Command the significance of his actions, and to clarify the matter with him beyond a shadow of a doubt”. In a normal army, the brave soldier Jerry would have been hauled to a short and formal court martial for insubordination in action, and then to face a firing squad. There would have certainly been no shortage of volunteers. And in the IDF? In the IDF Gabi Ashkenazi has already informed, a rare statement by him, that he fully supports his pathetic major general. Not only hasn’t Gershon been prosecuted, he wasn’t even reprimanded. Now this blunderer considers suing the comptroller for slander.

If you want to uncover the essence of this voluntary military putsch we underwent, note that except a couple of editorials, this event – emblematic of the entire war – vanished without a trace. The army is negligent, stupid and treacherous – and we prefer to look the other way.

The least any citizen can do is spit at Jerry if they come across him in the street. For the time being we can still express our contempt at the ruling junta. We can, and we should.

(Orignally posted to Friends of George by Yossi Gurvitz. Translated by Yair Mahalalel on July 31st, 2007)

Don’t steal, the government hates competition; The wave of censorship; The civil marriage bluff; The list of shame – four comments on the situation.

Israbluff: The Chief Rabbi – the one of the kidnap and assault, not the one of the bribery and molestation – surely laughed all the way to the office, if he bothered to get there at all. The “breakthrough” he agreed on with Minister of Justice Friedman, according to which those who are not a part of any millet will be allowed to marry each other in a civil ceremony, only served to strengthen him.

When the Rabbinate allows civil marriage “only to those forbidden from being married by the rabbinate” it gives up nothing. Quite the opposite. It absolves itself of a headache. And the Government of Israel? It made another racist step to preserve the Jewish endogamy – the fear of “blood mixing”. Jews, everybody knows, should only marry Jews. And the latest decision staves off any concern that a kosher Jewish woman might marry some “irreligious”. The Rabbinate now has a wonderful excuse for preventing the marriage. Let the uncircumcised marry one of his own. Now that there is a “solution”, the danger of mixed marriages is dramatically reduced.

It is no coincidence that this decision bears a close resemblance to the way converts and born-again Jews are treated in orthodox and ultra-orthodox societies: they are asked to marry their own. Otherwise murmurs ensue, and occasionally a little violence. And since we are a Jewish state – i.e. misanthropic – there are now in Israel 300,000 more people, who are semi-officially defined as having lesser rights. It is very clear why Amar agreed to that. It is completely unclear why Friedman agreed to it. Perhaps he was too busy scheming against Beinisch.

Third time a charm: A strange wave is sweeping through the Knesset recently, as it tries to censor left and right. There was bill 892, by Yehiel “brain in the warehouse” Hazan, which fell through; Minister of Communications Atias proposed a slightly different version of it; Collette Avital proposed the hideously moronic proposal to not only ban the use of holocaust symbols in debates, but also to incarcerate those who do; and all were outdone by that match made in moronic heaven, Yuval Steinitz and Danny Yatom.

These two clowns proposed a bill that bans publication of pictures taken in public without the consent of all concerned. In one swift blow they destroyed journalistic photography in Israel, to say nothing of televised news, since, technically, everyone covering a demonstration will need the approval of all those present in order to release the pictures or video. Not to mention that if one photographs a policeman brutalizing a demonstrator – not a rare event in these places – then technically, the officer can claim that the photograph offends him (which is true enough) and prevent its publication.

Moreover, this idiotic bill destroys not only journalistic photography, but photography as a whole. If I walk down the street, and see someone doing something interesting or wearing a unique expression, I would not be able to post the picture to Flickr without approval of the man himself, and anyone else in the frame. Photographers will be asked to focus on flowers from now on.

It is unclear what Yuval “launching missiles to God” Steinitz and Danny “Whistling ping pong balls” Yatom wanted to achieve with this bill. After all it is unlikely, I hope, that this stupid proposal will survive a preliminary reading. So what is the point? What is it good for.

No one may break the law, except the government: I only noticed this late – It so happens that the government insists it has a right to employ companies violating labor laws. I would have called it new and shocking, hadn’t the government tried to pass an amendment to the minimum wage law at Nov. 2003, that will make it the only employer exempt from it.

And the situation is no better when the government isn’t the felon: Only ten violations of the minimum wage law where prosecuted at 2006, according to Ha’aretz reporter Ruthi Sinai. That same year, a routine investigation by the ministry of industry, trade and labor showed that 92% of employers violate labor laws. This is what happens when there are exactly 22 inspectors for all the country’s employers.

The ministry of finance opposes adding inspectors, and not without reason. When they speak of “a free market”, they mean the freedom of action of the 19 families. The rest have the freedom to sleep under the bridge, with the ministry of finance cutting their leeway every year. American style capitalism, third world level conception of human rights – that is probably a concoction unique to Israel.

The list of shame: The list of MKs who voted for the JNF law has been published. 16 of them are from the Kadima party, the center of all centers. Three Gil MKs, which is officially a part of Kadima, supported it as well. I would say that such a strong support from the ruling party practically guarantees it will be made into law.

The most bitter disappointment is Ami Ayalon, one of the two Labor MKs who supported the bill (the other being Shalom Simhon, the Moshavim representative). Pity, I had high hopes of him. It seems like Meretz is the only option left, alas. They don’t even have a branch in Petach Tikva.

(This was posted on Friends of George on July 20 2007, and was kindly translated by Yair Mahalalel).

An End to the Story

In July the Israeli Knesset voted in a preliminary reading to approve a law proposed by members of the Likud, the National Union, and Kadima – the center of the right side of the Zionist spectrum. The proposed law forbids the Jewish National Fund to lease its land to any person who is not the son of a Jewish mother or alternatively, a convert.

Sixty-four of the 120 members of Knesset supported the proposal; nineteen voted against it. One can cautiously state that a proposed law that gain such support – or rather, such a lack of resistance – at its preliminary stage will also pass in its first, second, and third reading, and thus become the law of the land.

The Jewish National Fund holds approximately 13% of the land in the State of Israel. Most of this land was transferred to it by the state itself, and not – as the JNF tirelessly and misleadingly claims – purchased lawfully. Most of this land was looted from the Arab population of Palestine. The Knesset is now electing to complete the task of looting and to ensure that as long as the State of Israel stands, this land will not be returned to its owners. And while its at it, the Knesset covers the entire country with an official stamp that reads “Apartheid”.

Israel has been an Apartheid state since the day it was born, but shame kept the facts undercover, as did a trepidation about “what people might say”. In his book The Claws of the Devil, Uzi Ornan skillfully described how the Knesset masked its discriminatory laws. Apparently, such trepidation is no longer with us. When a prime minister dares to say that he is not Israeli but Jewish, and thus admits that he leads the government of only 81% of the citizens, it would seem that such time has come.

But if the Knesset does not hasten to shake off this law, the State of Israel will have lost any right to demand loyalty from its Arab citizens. One cannot demand loyalty of someone who is explicitly disenfranchised, deprived of basic rights. Apparently, this does not particularly trouble the Knesset. It is another important step on the road to an ethnocracy, another grand step on the path out of the roster of democratic nations.

What hurts most is that this law will receive enthusiastic public support, more so even that it found in the Knesset. The mob – and it has long since ceased to be a nation – has never accepted Israel; it has always dreamed of Judah, cleansed of gentiles. Here is another state taken in that direction. Many words can be said – but what’s the point. Their world is split into Jews and gentiles; humans and beasts.

The time has come to cut any bond with this country, and with anything it represents. A line has been crossed here: this country can no longer be supported. Any person who sees human rights as important must carefully consider his actions after today – and those of us who live inside Israel should also consider emigration. This country can no longer be saved. One can only hope that the world will put an end to in soon – as it did to the original Apartheid regime.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz, July 18 2007; translated by Dena Bugel-Shunra, 29 July 2007)