As the Old Trumpets are Blown Once More

During the final preparations for Operation Greater Oranim, which would soon become the First Lebanon War, an ambitious young Major General Ehud Barak wrote a memo to the Minister of Security, Ariel Sharon.

Barak considered the war plans to be too pedestrian, and he wanted to broaden the scope of the war, so that it would include the destruction of the Syrian armed forces.
Knowing the Israeli public would object, he suggested to Sharon the public should be deceived. Sharon, no stranger to such planning, was impressed; but he rejected the suggestion.

This summer the very same Barak – older, yet still lacking in honesty – was appointed Minister of Defense, after winning his party’s internal elections. His winning seems to have come about by means of a combination of ballot fraud, an avoidance of any controversial statement, and his slogan: “Choose the better leader for the next war”. Not, heaven forbid, the one to bring about the next peace.

* * * * *

The Lebanon War began as a fraud upon the public. Its goal was not just to push the PLO away from the northern border – the PLO adhered strictly to a cease fire lasting almost a year – but also to “remake Lebanon”, and elect Bashir Gemayel president on the points of the Israeli army’s spears.


Prime Minister Menachem Begin made what could be considered – from his own point of view – a tragic mistake: he spoke the truth, and claimed the war was “a war of choice”.


But, of course, so were most of Israel’s wars. It can cautiously be claimed that following the first ceasefire,the entire War of Independence was a war of choice. The 1956 Sinai War was the result of a British-French-Israeli conspiracy against the Egyptian Nasser regime, and was preceded by no Egyptian aggression. In fact, Egyptian provocations were so scarce, the Israeli army was forced to fabricate its own, dressing Israeli soldiers in Egyptian uniforms and claiming border incursions.

The Six-Day War began with an Israeli surprise attack. True, it was preceded by a significant Egyptian provocation, but Israel didn’t bother with the usual rules: it did not announce the occupation of the Sinai and the closing of the Tiran Straits to be a casus belli, and did not issue an ultimatum. No; Israel always believed in a surprise blow. The Yom Kippur War was the direct result of the Israeli refusal to negotiate the return of the territories occupied in 1967. The Egyptians and Syrians, going for a surprise attack, had excellent mentors.


Actual reality-based information was always kept secret from the Israeli public. Until 1973, the press was the slavish handmaiden of the army and the government; this was a position it adored. During his final illness, Moshe Dayan confessed Israel was responsible for the vast majority of border incidents in the 1950s and 1960s. The government used the printed media to feed the public stories about Arab provocations and Israeli reactions. Questioning these official fairy tales meant branding oneself as a traitor.


The army is in the habit of knowingly fooling the government. On the eve of the Six-Day War, the General Staff terrorized the government – while knowing full well the expected results of the war. Under Sharon’s direction, Israeli army officers presented Begin’s cabinet with incorrect maps of Lebanon. During the last war, the Israeli army refrained from informing Olmert that the two kidnapped soldiers – the casus belli of the war – are likely dead. He had to learn it from a reporter.


In order to carry out such schticks, the army needs the cooperation of Trojan horse in the cabinet, the Minister of Security. And if the Minister of Security is new and not familiar with the material, he can simply be passed over – as indeed happened to Amir Peretz.

* * * * *

I don’t purport to know what happened in Syria yesterday. It may have been an Air Force sortie. It may be that the Air Force plane simply made a navigation error. It may be – given the location where it is claimed the incident took place – that it was an American plane, or a Turkish one. I really don’t know.


Had a Israeli army Spokesman denied the event, one would assume he was lying, as is traditional for the position. Since the Israeli army refuses to deny it, it is reasonable to assume it is afraid of being caught at yet another lie. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that somewhere in the Syrian Desert lies a pile of Israeli military equipment, waiting to be found by Syrian soldiers.


Now, according to the reports – which were not denied – the pilots made every effort to make sure they were noticed by the Syrians: flying low and breaking the sound barrier. This was no clandestine sortie, and it would seem it was not an attempt to stress-test the Syrian radar system, either. Given this information, it is reasonable to assume that those who sent the plane, wanted it to be noticed.

Why?


There are several possible reasons. One, to torpedo peace talks held by the energetic President Peres with Syrian officials, behind the Prime Minister’s back. This, at any rate, is the claim made by Syrian officials . Israeli officials deny such talks take place – but they would deny them in any case.
The second possibility, even more troubling, is an that attempt to get Israel into a war by hook or by crook. Since the summer of ‘06, the Israeli army has been beating the drums of war, dating it for the summer of ‘07. Inter alia, its spokesmen howled that Syria is strengthening its anti-aircraft system to an unprecedented degree; but anti-aircraft systems are defensive weapons, and its strengthening only highlighted the fact that Syria is – justly! – afraid of an Israeli attack.

The Syrians, knowing full well their military and regime constitute tempting targets for our generals, refrained from any provocation.

Summer has ended. The collapse of the Olmert government is drawing closer by the day, and the Minister of Security who promised us a well-run war needs some success he can point to before facing Binyamin Netanyahu in general elections. The army is ready, quivering with ripeness; the public wants to see blood, the more the merrier, something to wipe off the disgrace of August 2006; and the Syrians, the bastards, adamantly refuse to play the part tailored for them.


Therefore, the bunch of good-for-nothings who serve as Israel’s leadership should be told as follows: we are not living in 1956 or 1967. We are not even living in 1982. If you insist on drawing us into another war of choice, if you carry out provocations to heat up the border and don’t even bother to hide it, prepare for fighting on your own. We will not answer your call.

War is no laughing matter. It is worse than hunger and plague; it is the handmaiden of death. Soldiers and civilians are not chess pieces on a board, to be moved when the King plays with the Queen. Once, at the beginning of the earlier century, the leaders of a country were assumed to have the right to take it to war as they please. We’ve gone some distance since then; starting an aggressive war is a war crime, and we shall not participate in it.


Should we go to war because of this or any other provocation, every Israeli will have to choose his or her path: Some will flee and hide, some will openly refuse orders, some will demonstrate. But none should show up when the trumpets are sounded again. It is time for the Israeli army to learn what happens when some declares a war, and nobody shows up.

Update: Turkey found two IAF detachable fuel tanks, close to the Iraqi/Syrian/Turkish border triangle. Now Turkey, practically an ally, is also demanding a clarification. One hell of a day for the Israeli Air Force,  harming relations with two countries, one of which is friendly. And the Israeli government keeps silent.

And aside from that, the Darfur genocide should be stopped.


(Written and posted in the Hebrew blog today; translated by Yossi Gurvitz.)

The incitement is gathering steam

Ok, this is becoming worrisome. Such waves usually pass after a week. Not this time.

MK Israel Hasson (Israel Beitenu) has submitted a bill, which will break the financial back of those the IDF has given up on. According to the bill, any governmental agency will be prohibited from funding show or events in which “derelicts” take part. The bill addresses events, including sports events, which are both paid for or open to the public. The airing of such insidious events will also be prohibited.

This bill is, on the face of it, in direct contravention of the Freedom of Profession Basic Law (basic law are what we have in lieu of a constitution, a pale imitation). This will not, in all likelihood, prevent its approval by the Knesset Members; only a few of them, whom a child could count, will have the public courage to stand against the Preservation of National Hardon Act.

Which means there will be appeals to the High Court of Justice, which will suddenly find itself in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to strike down a law enjoying fiery public support. It is reasonable to assume that it will need several years to reach a decision. If at all. After all, it needed five years to decide that the use of human shields by the IDF is forbidden, and 12 years to prohibit official torture.

Which means that in a while, agents and broadcasting services will be forced to start making black lists, on which will be the names of those whose performance is prohibited – and who will have no recourse but to forcibly switch professions. Lovely.

At the same time, the Hesder Yeshiva rabbis announced today that should General Ashkenazi be so bold as to lengthen the service of their fine youth from to 22 months instead of the current 16 months, they will not enlist at all. These yeshiva boys have one hell of a deal: you serve less than half the time mandated by law (which is 36 months), your service is conditional (as long as you like the politics of your orders, otherwise it’s mutiny time), you serve with the guys from your yeshiva, you spray rose scent about you and claim to be the cream of the youth, and then you have the nerves to make threats. 

Every class of such “youth cream” costs the IDF more than the entire time unserved by all artists, in all of its history. But it’s hard to assume that Ashkenazi was bold enough, when he met with the rabbis, to call these semi-derelicts – who suffer from no health or mental problems, who have no excuse –  to “lower their gaze”.

Because Ashkenazi, like any Chief of Staff, is a politician first and foremost. He knows the yeshiva militias hold political power, and that they are not shy about using it. The athletes, not to mention the artists, have neither political power nor patron, and they can be freely targeted, and score points in the public opinion on their backs.

As if one can still speak of “public” and “opinion” in the midst of his jingoistic wave.

 

And aside from that, the Darfur genocide has to be stopped.

(Written and published today in the Hebrew blog. Translation: Yossi Gurvitz)

 

 

It’s hunting season

Not enough Tel Avivians were killed in the Second Lebanon War. And Tel Avivians are surely also leftists, and all the leftists are gays and derelicts. Fuck the mother of all those shitty Tel Avivians gay leftists, sipping lattes in Shenkin St. while Jews are getting killed in Lebanon!!

During the Pride Parade, the gays showed up in order to defile the Eternal Capital of the People of Israel. And if they’re gays, then they’re surely Tel Avivians, hence also leftists and derelicts. Fuck the mother of all those gay leftist derelicts, these shits from Tel Aviv, with their filth. All the suicide attacks – it’s their fault!!1!

And then we found the derelicts, who simply must be leftist, hence also Tel Avivians and gays. Fuck the mother of all those shitty, treacherous derelict leftist Tel Avivian gays, who hate Jews and love the Arab enemy, I spit in your direction, traitors!!1!!!!1

And there’s also the Supreme Court, where everyone’s a leftist, so they simply have to be Tel Avivian gays, who didn’t do their military time. Like these gay artists, who are surely also Tel Avivians and leftists. Fuck the mother of all those leftists, Tel Avivian, gay elitist traitors, these judges and artists shits who collaborate with the Arab enemy and help them murder Jews!!!!!1!1!!!!1!

This is the target list, and hunting season is officially open; and anyone who isn’t enough of an ultra-nationalist, a jingoist and especially a man’s man, had better find himself a lair to dig in.

(Published today by MadMax, translated by Yossi Gurvitz)


A System Madness

The incitement against the people the IDF didn’t want so much as soldiers (who are known, in the best tradition of the IDF spin machine, as “derelicts”, deriving from the phrase “dereliction of duty”) continues at full thrust. Yesterday, Israel’s usually taciturn Chief of Staff, called upon the discharged to “lower their gaze”’ ironically, he did so in an unusually controversial ceremony.

Never before has the IDF ladled out so many medals as after last summer’s screw-up in Lebanon. A medal usually testifies to the complete and utter failure of the battle plan; Lebanon, it would seem, saw more than 100 such failures.

It is appropriate to remind the reader that we are talking about the commander of an army which did not manage to deliver supplies five kilometers beyond its borders, which has the country to war without any preparations and with exceptional arrogance, and which sacrificed 33 soldiers on the last two days of the war – after there was agreement on a cease-fire – to the Moloch of “the photographic image of victory”.

There is reason to suspect that all of the noise about the discharged “derelicts”, is intended to divert the public’s gaze away from the fact that the army has been screwing up for the last 40 years (and as an aside – that the number of screw-ups only increased since the number of yarmulke-wearing officers increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty, and since the army became the bodyguard of said yarmulke-wearers), and, that despite of all the chatter, nothing much has been changed in the last year.

It is wrong to complain about General Ashkenazi. What else can a general do, if not verbally attack those who were not “men enough”? But now our adversaries enjoy an unexpected reinforcement from Yuli Tamir: philosophy professor, education lecturer, and Israeli Minister of Education.

She, who was supposed to the bulwark of those who cannot fit in the ranks, who was supposed to remind us that there is also a civilian Israel, preferred jumping on the bandwagon, to define the discharged “derelicts” as being beyond the pale, and to informed them that they are not wanted in the celebrations commemorating 60 years of Israeli independence, to be held in the course of the coming year. Apparently she knew precisely what she was doing when she complained, upon being appointed to her current cabinet position, that expectations of her were too high.

It should be noted that mistaken diagnoses by the IDF’s psychological officers cost Israel an annual toll in the suicide of about 30 of its boys, who cannot bear the service and are sacrificed on the altar to the myth of universal service. It should be noted these are IDF numbers; the IDF does its best to classify suicides as “accidents”, particularly, “weapon discharge accidents”, so it is reasonable to assume the true number is actually higher; and that, aside from times of war (and the Intifada uprisings are not war in this sense), suicide is the chief cause of death in the IDF, which is an issue never raised when the conscripted draft is discussed.

How clear, then, was the voice of the attorney general of the Prime Minister’s office, Shlomit Barne’a-Fergo, who noted that a “derelict” is someone designated as such by a legal instance; that when someone is recognized as such, he is punished; and that therefore, forbidding him to ply his trade is a double punishment, and as such is legally forbidden. Furthermore, they would be discriminated against while other criminals – for instance, drug abusers and wife beaters – are perfectly acceptable as performers, in our poisoned atmosphere, as long as they’ve wore khaki for 36 months.

Perhaps the next defeat will cause our mob to direct its rage away from the “derelicts” and to the real culprit for defeat, the IDF. Perhaps. I wouldn’t bet on it.

And aside from that, the Darfur genocide has to be stopped.

(Written today, and published in the Hebrew blog. Translation: Yossi Gurvitz)

An illicit love affair

I am not a Christian.

Despite the lack of evidence, I am willing to accept that a radical Jewish rabbi learned a lesson from a foreign woman, and that he extended Hillel’s Golden Rule to the Gentiles as well; that he said that wondrous sentence, “let he among you who is free of sin, cast the first stone”, and that he told the “sinning woman” just “go and sin no more”; that he made a point of eating with the castaways, those people who were kicked away by right-thinking society: the sinners, the tax-collectors, the whores; that he preached against the corrupt Jewish leadership of the time; that he was betrayed and crucified by one of the worst Roman governors of Judea; and I’ll accept that last, terrible call, “My God, My God – why has thou forsaken me” – and that’s it. No demons rushing into swine, no bread and fish, no walking on the water; certainly not a return from the dead, absolutely not him being “Lamb of God, who carries the sins of the world”.

I am well-acquainted with the origins of Christianity. I know, as an atheist, that nothing that relies on the Jewish bible can be true, since it is false from beginning to end – especially visions of revenge visited upon the gentiles in the Book of the Apocalypse, which relies on that late forgery, the Book of Daniel. As a rational person, I reject Christianity alongside Judaism.

But.

Shulamit Aloni, a bitter and cynical goddess was asked once, in one of those holiday questionnaires, what is the difference between Judaism and Christianity, and she fired away: “The difference is that Christianity has mercy, and Judaism does not”. Spot on.

Judaism is based on the concept that there is a terrible God: Jealous, vengeful, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations, and that he has set before his children – Jews, naturally – a set of commandments which no person can fulfill (the classic, of course, is “thou shall not covet”; let’s see you managing full compliance even to the Ten Commandments).  And since, as the Gnostics knew, it’s hard to see the difference between the Jewish God and the Devil even on a lineup, a large part of the Jewish religion – the whole of Leviticus, for starters – was dedicated to methods of appeasing the heavenly psycho through the slaughter of cattle and other animals.

In return, the believers of Jehova were left with a sense of superiority over the people among which they lived, who were not blessed with the commandment of checking the minutae of grasshoppers (prior to cooking them). Historiography common among the faithful revolves around the concept that “we did evil in the eyes of Jehova”, and therefore we must increase the finesse in which we treat the commandments, culminating in the Orthodox madness of our days, which honestly and seriously believes that there is a divine entity which will throw a person into fire for eternity, only because that person tore a piece of toilet paper during the last day of the week.

The Christian concept is a mirror image. It says God does not want you to obey the commandments, which is impossible for humans anyway, but their surrender and love. Understand that God loves you; love him back; give up your pride, your belief that the world is yours to conquer; accept your brothers, and your enemies; understand that they, too, are erring sinners, that evil is terror and weakness projected outwards; forgive them, for they know not what they do – and God will forgive you, too. Because you are human and erring and that’s how you were made and that’s the nature of the Valley of the Shadow of Death which is the world, and in the end you will return home.

And if Jesus still represents judgment and law, then since the 4th century a duality develops within Christianity, as the figure of Mary becomes more important and independent. Mary, the suffering mother, becomes a figure protecting all human beings, a “great mother” in every sense. She becomes a conduit of intercession for grace; the popular prayer “Ave, Maria” ends with “and please pray for us in our hour of death”. The image of Jesus, which Byzantine art kept portraying as the horrifying judge of the day of judgment, has been replaced – both in the East and the West – in that of a baby, protected by his mother. Mary becomes the defender of the common sinner. Jesus, for obvious reason, never materializes in the Middle Ages; but his mother is present, here there and everywhere, emanating grace and mercy wherever she appears. Often, she is the particular patron of criminal women, such as a mother blamed for smothering her baby son to death – a very common crime in the Middle Ages.

In a slow, persistent process, Mary was transformed from a cameo character to a central one; believers start referring to her as the Queen of Heaven, a staggering title, when you remember that in the Old Testament the “queen of heaven” is a foreign goddess, quite possibly Anat/Astarte.

The Middle Ages saw the worship of Mary reach its zenith. In the cathedral of Florence, he statue shows her holding Jesus in one hand and a scepter in the other. This has reached the point where the church has accepted – in the 19th century – the doctrine of Immaculate Conception, which claims that Mary herself, not just her progeny, was born free of sin; and stubborn rumors claimed Pope John Paul II – a native of Poland, where Marianism is a force to be reckoned with – has considered, as his final act, declaring Mary as a co-redeemer,  which is to say, not just one who plead for mercy at the feet of her judging son, but rather as one who can grant mercy of her own power. To a large measure, the mother has taken the place of the father in the Trinity.

Which may be what I am looking for.

*           *            *

My affair with Catholicism – not the watered-down Protestant version of Christianity – began in my last year in the Yeshiva. I was confused. I knew I am no longer a Jew – I mean, I did not know yet that the texts were forged, was not yet familiar with the depth of its horrors as I am today, but…

Let’s start anew. In 1984 Martin Meir Kahane was elected to the Knesset. His election was followed by a wave of ultra-nationalism among the Nationalist Jews, a wave which struck my Yeshiva, Nekhalim, particularly badly. At about the same time, the (first) Jewish Underground was exposed; the feeling was that these men, who murdered several men and plotted the death of hundreds, suffered injustice by being arrested at all. During the following year, when David Ben Shimol fired a LAW rocket at a bus full of Palestinians, the evening lessons at the Yeshiva had to be postponed so that student will have time enough to dance. I looked at that circle from aside.

All sorts of rabbis came to us, especially on Saturdays, and started talking about Din Rodef  (Law of the Pursuer, which allows killing a potential murderer to prevent the murder) and Lo Techanem (which orders that gentiles should be allowed to live in Eretz Israel, should be shown any tolerance, and should not be praised), and other such humanistic commandments. Following one of those sermons, my class’s rabbi – an Ultra-Orthodox, not a National Jew – called us together and, agitated,  tore that sermon apart. No, he said, no: Din Rodef is not a license to kill. If someone fired at you and then escaped, or dropped his weapon, he is no longer a pursuer. He was shaking with anger and he understood young killers were being educated there and I looked at him and at my classmates and the smirks they were trying to conceal. On Saturdays, they sang “may the mosque blow up” to the tune of “may the temple be built”.

Some Kahane books were moving around, semi-clandestinely – the head of the yeshiva, the convicted criminal Yossef Ba-Gad, has forbidden their distribution, saying that “Kahane is right, but he’s insane” –  and getting one was not particularly hard.  I read it, became convinced that Kahane was deeply rooted in Jewish law, and decided I needed a ticket out, because I had no intention of becoming a Judeo-Nazi. And that’s it: the principled rejection of Judaism came before my atheism.

I was young and confused, which did not sit well in an atmosphere of young and fixated. There were debated which turned into fight. There was my boarding school roommate, who was just born back to the worst possible side – Kabbalah. He didn’t give us time to sleep with his arguments. Just to shut him up, I was dragged into atheistic devil-advocate arguments: how do you even know there is a God, not to mention the Catapult of Souls?

The rabbis and the instruction took notice. I spent much of the 11th and 12th grade in what was termed “High yeshiva” – they send you to a yeshiva which teaches nothing but religious studies. But I was mostly left alone in those places, which allowed me much time to read. And one day, when I was down and out in a Jerusalem religious institute, I decided it was time to taste the most forbidden fruit.

Jerusalem has plenty of churches. After their dwellers overcame their initial fear of the strange Israeli who wants to hear what they have to say – a perfectly justified fear, given the harassment Christians routinely suffer in Jerusalem – they were happy to talk to me. I bought a copy of the New Testament. I spent two charming evening in the Abbey of the Dormition. A group of elderly German monks and one former Jew, they in their robes and me in my yeshiva boy clothes, praying in Latin; it must have been a strange sight.

And the name “Mary” kept cropping up. Needless to say, she was not part of my formal education, and the new Testament says very little about her. I listened to them and they to me. I did not understand, but they explained, the division between law and mercy Paul made so early.

On one of those two nights, a young Catholic woman, from Germany, joined us. She did not sit with us; she sat separately. But I was used to that and at the time it raised no questions.

And, of course, the music, the solemnity, the incense, the aesthetics.

I was careless, and after several meetings my class rabbi informed I was seen moving around in churches, and ordered me to get back in line. I was frightened; I had no idea I was followed. In a very rash act, I went back to the church and they prayed for me. But, at that stage – as I told my roommate – I was convinced Christianity contained beauty Judaism lacked, but I did not believe it.

About a month afterwards, the school year was over. I could not return home with the New Testament. I left it in my closet; as a rule, anything left in the closets once we’ve left the rooms would be thrown away. I did not want to throw the book away myself.

A classmate has decided, for reasons known only to him, to dig around in my closet. He found the book. An unholy mess broke out. My mass communication teacher, Michael Tuchfeld, told me “I don’t see why they deal with this nonsense. It’s clear, after all, the problem is your atheism”.

It was clear. But did not stop them from burning the book.

*       *        *        *        *

And that’s what left: A taste of something beautiful yet false, something inviting a surrender which will not come, something which once promised grace and understanding in what looked like an endless period of judgment. A Bavarian old man explaining to you how to pronounce Latin, a Great Mother which is always there and an understanding God, which acknowledge your mistakes and will pardon them, if only you’d surrender, give up your rational, thinking part, and come into that great, false beauty.

But I can’t come. I can only look at others experiencing it with desire, and jealousy – from afar.

(published today, in the “The True and Shocking Story of” Hebrew Blog. Translation: Yossi Gurvitz) 

 

Patriot of a Non-Existing Country

We have the right to hate Germany, because we love it. When speaking of Germany, we should be taken into account: we, Communists, young socialists, pacifists, freedom-lover of all kinds… How easy it is to pretend as Germany is composed only of the national associations. Germany is a divided country. We are part of It”.

Kurt Tuchlosky, 1929 (*)

 

 

An ironic piece was published this week (**) in Ha’aretz: the State of Israel, in response to an appeal to the Supreme Court, objects to have the word “Israeli” appear under the “nationality” clause of the Israeli Identity Card (which all Israelis must carry). The attempt to have the Court recognize an Israeli nationality, claims the State, is undermining the State of Israel.

 

It is doubtful whether there is any news item which so clearly articulates the problem of “two nations in thy womb”, the internal struggle over Israel’s soul. The appellants – who include such figures as Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avneri and Yehoshua Sobol – claim that the Ministry of the Interior recognizes 135 different nations. It recognizes the mighty Assyrian empire, the stubborn, hoary Samaritan tribe, and the remote Georgians. It refuses to recognize only one nation: the Israeli nation.

 

The ensuing struggle today in the Supreme Court is part of the struggle for the face, soul and identity of Israel. Our politics are so bitter because they are politics of identity, and our bitterness comes from fighting over what sort of country we should strive for. To put it another way, we are embittered over the question “who is a patriot.”

 

The right-wing readers of my columns have made it a habit to impugn my patriotism. And, indeed, according to their way thinking I am no patriot. If their patriotism means nothing but xenophobia, the controlling of another people, the justification of the killing of anyone who was not circumcised at the age of eight days, the limiting of civil rights according to ethnicity, and using the injustice visited upon the Jews as a pretext for injustice by Jews – then I should not be called a patriot. Moreover, I believe that such a country forfeits its right to exist. The world already has too many ethnocraties as it is. I strive towards a Civil State, what is called here, with contempt, “a country of all its citizens”, a distant dream in contemporary Israel.

 

I think ethnic countries, or rather countries whose perception of nationality relies ultimately on ethnicity, were and remain the main source of suffering in the world. All too often, religion gets entwined with ethnicity: thus, a loyal Frenchman (a right-winger, of course) was considered to be a Catholic one; thus, the Croats were led by Catholic priests, and Russian-Orthodox priests served as inciters for ethnic cleansing in Serbia; thus the national struggle in Afghanistan, the struggle against the Soviet invaders, got mixed up with religion – and became a struggle against the atheist invaders.

 

So is the case in Israel, as Judaism or some of its mutations (most commonly the Sect of the Battle Uniform, which demands that anyone who served in the IDF is a Jew or should be considered as such), lead it towards ultra-nationalism, away from the Civil State. The Ministry of the Interior chose sides and stands by religion: it will not recognize the Israeli nationality. Such recognition means that a person may be defined by some other characteristic than his religion, that a community may be formed based on the fact that its members hold the same principles, instead of the same religious tenets or ethnic background.

 

The Declaration of Independence stands by the supporters of civil state: it guarantees equal rights to all who live in the country, a promise that clashes with the concept of “a Jewish and democratic country”. A country cannot be both Jewish and democratic. A “Jewish and democratic country” is democratic to its Jews and Jewish for the rest of its residents.

 

The supporters of the ethnic state point, correctly, to the fact that the writers of the Declaration of Independence never intended to apply it. The Founders wanted an ethnic state, and carried out a wide ethnic cleansing to get it. The Declaration was written so that they would have something to wave at the UN, which had just then published the Declaration of Human Rights.

 

And that’s what the fight is about: Is there an Israeli nation, or are there only Jews and Arab ethnicities; shall we have a partnership, or shall we stand, forever, on the brink of an ethnic-cleaning war; will the willful hatred of humanity, or will universalism – both rooted in Judaism – portray the visage of the country. It is the question whether the Declaration of Independence is a fundamental document or a mere camouflage rag.

 

Many in the left find it hard, in the last few years, to love their country. Their tendency is to leave patriotism for the right-wingers to appropriate. It is hard, but necessary, to hate our country, because we love it; to hate its current visage, and to strive to change it.

 

How easy it is to pretend, as if Israel is composed of only the Likud Center and the Settlers. When speaking of Israel, we should also be taken into account: we, universalists, humanists, opponents of militarism, socialists, anarchists, freedom-lovers of all kinds. Israel is a divided country; we are part of it.

 

(Written and published in Nana News, as a weekly “Decline of the Republic” column, on 23 May 2004. Translated into English by Yossi Gurvitz).

 

(*) I do not read German – the text is a translation of a translation from German to Hebrew.

(**) That was in May 2004. As far as I know, the appeal is still being deliberated bu the Court.

Slaughterhouse Fodder

Ehud Olmert demonstrated new depths of cynicism today, depths which can only be demonstrated by a person to who clings to his position with less public support than a statistical margin of error. He declared in the Knesset “we are correcting a wrong that has lasted 60 years, which has not yet been resolved. The Holocaust survivors who reside in Israel are entitled to live with dignity here, without coming to the state where they cannot enjoy a warm meal.” What was the cause for this rousing declaration? The government had decided to add 83.33 shekels a month to the Holocaust survival stipend — about $19.30 — and even this will only commence in the 2008 budget.
This is, of course, only a government decision. It will require approval by the Knesset. The swift moving dudes in the Treasury have already declared that they will support a budgetary supplement of up to 520 Shekels per Couple — but only as of 2011. Let the wretches die a little, and stop being a drain on the public purse. The treasury cannot find the 240 million shekels to finance those 520 shekels per couple in 2008.
Of course, there is money. There is a lot of money. $15 billion of excess taxes to be exact. In other words, 62.5 times the required amount, and this is only from excess taxes collected this year.
Now is also a good time to state that the Israeli banks have been exploiting the Holocaust survivors and their descendents with a lack of humanity that even is Switzerland is cause for discomfort. It is also a good time to bring up that dark deal made by Ben Gurion, the deal the gave legitimacy for money, under which the State of Israel — allegedly, the heir of those persons murdered in the Holocaust –received a great deal of money and goods from West Germany, infringing on the rights of the survivors themselves. It is also appropriate to state again that the denazification of West Germany at the time was, how should I put it, only partial.

Ben Gurion gathered up human dust
To toss at the enemy’s eyes;
The road we paved to Jerusalem
Was paved on survivor’s bones.
Benjamin Haroshovsky, Peter the Great

The Holocaust survivors have always been used as objects by the Zionist movement and its rightful heir, the State of Israel. At first they were used in order to increase the immigration quotas, although the immigrants themselves were harassed by the society to which they had immigrated. Then they were used as an excuse to establish the state itself. After that, they were cannon fodder for its battles, not even knowing the language of the land and dying along the road to Jerusalem, in Latrun, crying “wasser, wasser!” and in the absence of water drinking the oil from their guns. After that, when they’d done their job, they were ordered into silence. They were an object of shame for those who stormed though Canaan to conquer it. The fifties were the decade when silence by day turned into howls by night. It was a generation which saw psychological treatment as a weakness, a stain – and they did not submit themselves to it. While all this was happening, Zionism completed the devastation of their culture, the Yiddish culture; it was “a foreign jargon”.

Later, when the Zionist ideology exhausted itself,  and it became necessary to establish the Holocaust as a religion in its stead, they were commanded to speak – just as they had been commanded to be silent, beforehand. And they were as obedient to the new command as they had been to the old. And never mind that this speech, which turned them into the event that they had lived through, reopened wounds that had only barely sealed up with scar tissue. And then they became the ambassadors if Israel around the world, a world ordered to sit in silent shame and never dare to ask any questions.

And after the State picked their pockets and used them to the full extent possible – it threw them to the dogs. The only ray of light in this story is the decision taken by the Electric Company workers, who have undertaken not to cut off electricity for Holocaust survivors. Until now, apparently, Holocaust survivors who could not afford to pay their electricity bills were doomed to boil in the heat of summer and freeze in the winter cold.

Sixty thousand Holocaust survivors – about half of the total number of survivors living in Israel – live beneath the poverty line. And the Ministry of the Treasury abuses them year after year. After all, what can they do? Go on strike?

And now Ehud Olmert is pleased, because he’s added $19.30 a month to their budget. And this, according to the Prime Minister of Israel, is supposed to “right a wrong that has lasted sixty years”.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz on 30 July 2007, translated by Dena Bugel -Shunra)