Ah, If I Were 25

Uri Avnery’s Column, 27/09/14

RESEARCH SHOWS that one of the most often used words in Hebrew is “Shalom”. Israelis greet each other with “shalom” and many of them do the same when parting. (The others use the two slang words “yallah bye”, the one Arabic, the other English.)

Shalom is not a synonym of the European word “peace”, as many believe. It is far more. It is based on the root “whole” and conveys the sense of wholeness, safety, wellbeing. In no European language can you say “our soldiers attacked the enemy and returned to their base in shalom”.

In Arabic, Salaam has the same meaning.

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But even in its restricted meaning for peace, shalom expresses a profound human longing. From antiquity, people craved for peace and dreaded war. “Dona nobis pacem” – “(God) give us peace” – is part of the Catholic mass. Several composers have set it to music. I remember singing it as a child.

Yet in today’s Israel, using the word “peace” in political discourse is almost indecent. A four-letter word (as indeed it is in Hebrew and Arabic). One may still express a wish for a “political settlement”, but even that sounds a bit suspicious.

It has become fashionable to say that the peace movement is moribund. That the “Two-State solution” is dead, while the so-called “One-State solution” is stillborn.

The safest way to put it is “I am all for peace, but…”

RECENTLY, HAARETZ columnist Ari Shavit, who is popular among American Jews, has written an article in which he equally condemns “extreme rightists” and “extreme leftists”, those who advocate war and those who advocate peace. He succeeded in creating a furor. Leftists protested that they have never murdered any opponent, let alone a prime minister, while the Rightists have done so and much more.

Can one compare, say, the leader of the Meretz party, Zehava Galon, with Miri Regev of Likud? (Recently, Regev, a very good-looking former chief army spokeswoman, sued a blogger for calling her “a whore with the mouth of a cesspool”. The suit was rejected by the court.)

Israel’s best and brightest attacked Shavit. Columnist Akiva Eldar, the word-renowned sculptor Dani Karavan (whose work includes the wall behind the Knesset speaker) and many others condemned his reasoning. How can one compare?

The Right is leading us towards an apartheid state in which a Jewish minority will oppress an Arab majority, while the Left advocates a situation in which both peoples live side by side in peace. Where is the symmetry?

But columnists love symmetry. Condemning both sides gives an impression of superiority and even-handedness. Also, it allows their readers to think that they are free spirits, soaring high above the tumult of the masses.

For politicians, the temptation is even greater. Both Leftists and Rightists claim to belong to “The Center”, on the assumption that that is where most votes are to be found. Also, if you are on the Right, you assume that Rightists will vote for you anyhow, so it is more profitable to invest all your efforts in “The Center”. The same goes for Leftists.

This leads to a distortion of the political process. Both sides hide or play down their real views in order to please a group of voters who hold no views at all, and who, frankly, don’t give a damn.

In other words, those who care least about the future of the nation are deciding who shall lead the nation into the future.

It makes one think of Winston Churchill, who said that the best way to despair of democracy is to talk with a voter for five minutes. However, the same Churchill also said that while democracy is a very bad system, all the other systems which have ever been tried are worse.

SHAVIT DOES not object to peace. On the contrary, he loves peace.

He even advances his generous peace plan: If Mahmoud Abbas unequivocally accepts Ehud Olmert’s peace proposal, and if all the Arab states give up all claims for the return of the Palestinian refugees, he, Shavit, is ready to negotiate for peace.

Sounds a little bit naïve to me.

Olmert submitted his peace proposal when he was already on the way out, after being indicted for corruption. I don’t remember its contents, nor, I suspect, does anyone else. It fell short of the Palestinian terms. Why should Abbas accept an Israeli plan from a bankrupt politician before negotiations?

As for the refugees, that is even more infantile. The refugees claim is by far the strongest card of Arab diplomats. They may give it up, but only after a long and hard struggle in return for an adequate price: a Palestinian state, a capital in East Jerusalem, a connection between the West Bank and Gaza, for starters.

Giving up the claim even before negotiations start is, well, a bit unrealistic. It shows that Shavit is innocent of any understanding of what peace means.

THE ISRAELI left is not dead. It is what the Germans call “scheintot”, still living but left for dead. (It was one of the nightmares of my childhood to be buried for dead while still living.)

The Labor Party is a pitiful remnant of the powerful force that led the pre-state community and the struggle for the creation of Israel. Nowadays it is led by pitiable people, and foremost by the official “leader of the opposition”, Yitzhak Herzog. During the recent war, the party was mute, except for giving Binyamin Netanyahu from time to time unsolicited and ignored advice about how to better conduct the war.

Meretz was scarcely more vocal. As long as the cannons were thundering, its muses were silent.

Neither of the two parties has the slightest chance of changing the course of events. In polls, Herzog attracts one-digit preference for prime minister.

And the Arab parties? Who’s asking? Nobody? OK.

TWO WEEKS ago, on my 91st birthday, I asked myself: if I were 25 and straining for action, how would I go about trying to create a new Left?

My first advice to myself would be: don’t behave like the aborigine, who bought a new boomerang and threw away the old one, which hit him squarely on the head. I would banish the old boomerang to a closed cupboard and acquire a shining new one.

How? First I would get rid of all the old slogans, appellations and trademarks, starting with “Left”.

What does “Left” mean to an average Israeli? To the million and a half “Russian” immigrants it means the hated Soviet Union, Stalin and the KGB. For the millions of “Oriental” Jewish citizens, it means the hated Ashkenazi elite, which still dominates many aspects of the country. For the religious of all shades, it means the secular public that has forsaken God and His 613 commandments. For the Arab citizens, it means a long trail of betrayal by leftist governments.

We need a new appellation, one acceptable and lovable by all the different sectors of current Israeli society: Men and women, Ashkenazis and Orientals, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs.

That is a tall order. I would set up focus groups in each sector, thrash it out among them and between them, find something original, Hebrew, that speaks to the hearts of people, not just to their minds.

Emotions are terribly important. For a long time, the Israeli Left has been dry and sterile, unable to excite. At demonstrations of the “Zionist Left”, there is no enthusiasm, no uplifting songs, nothing like “We shall overcome!”

Peace, democracy, equality, humanism – these are not empty and obsolete slogans. Combined with respect for Jewish and Arab traditions and the wisdom of the ancients, as well as for the unique contribution of each of the different sectors to the common good, they can be an exciting new mixture.

We need, as Martin Luther King so eloquently put it, a dream. A vision. Not just an election program.

A VISION needs an instrument for its realization. Without an exciting new vision, there can be no new political force. But without a political force, the vision will remain a dream.

The old Left is moribund because during the last sixty years it has given up, without a fight, all its instruments of power – from the once powerful Histadrut (trade union organization) to almost all its media. The leftist malaise of fragmentation is still sapping its strength. We have scores of peace and human rights associations, many of them composed of wonderful people doing a wonderful job in the fight against war, occupation, social inequality and oppression, each in a niche of its own. They are, alas, incapable of uniting in order to set up even the most elementary of joint instruments.

Politics is a matter of ideas and power. Both have to be formed from scratch.

FORTUNATELY, I am no longer 25 years old, and gladly leave the task to the younger generation.

According to the Jewish calendar, a new year started on Thursday, two days ago. Let’s hope that it will see the first step towards the awakening.

Originally published here Posted with the author’s permission.

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Hannibal ad Portas – Uri Avnery’s Column

Uri Avnery’s Column 13/09/14

THE LAST war has come to an end, the next war has not yet started, so let’s use the time to speak of many things.

Of Hannibal, for example.

Hannibal? The man with the elephants?

The very same.

HANNIBAL, THE Carthaginian commander who is considered one of the military geniuses of all times, was a hero of my youth.

At the time, we were in dire need of national heroes. Anti-Semites all over the Western world were claiming that the Jews were cowards by nature, shirkers unable and unwilling to fight like men. They just collected the money while others died for them.

Looking for heroes, we found Hannibal. Carthage was founded by refugees from Tyre in South Lebanon, whose inhabitants were Canaanites who spoke a dialect very close to Hebrew. The name of Carthage is derived from the Hebrew Keret Hadasha (New City”), and the name Hani-Ba’al means Ba’al, the Canaanite God, has given – more or less the same name as Netanyahu – Yahu, short for Jehovah, has given. Like Theodor as in Herzl and Dorothy as in de Rothschild.

Who could be closer to our heart then this great fighter, who led his army, with its dozens of elephants, across the Alps into North Italy, who gave his orders in Hebrew? Even the mighty Romans paled when they heard the shout: “Hannibal ad portas” (“Hannibal near the gates”, often falsely quoted as “ante Portas”)!”

One of the greatest Zionist poets, Shaul Tchernichovsky, the translator of Homer’s Odyssey, affirmed our closeness to the Carthaginians, telling us that they were the greatest maritime force in the ancient Mediterranean, even before the Greeks. We were proud of them.

IN A strange way, Hannibal came up in the recent Gaza war. Not that any of our commanders were modern-day geniuses. Far from it. But something called the “Hannibal procedure” was one of its most terrible phenomena.

Who coined the term? Some officer with an inclination for ancient history? Or just an insensitive computer, the same which called this war “Solid Cliff” – while a human robot gave it the English name “Protective Edge”?

At the height of the fighting near the town of Rafah (Rafiah in Hebrew) on the Egyptian border, a squad of Israeli soldiers were trapped by Hamas soldiers and most of them were killed. One Israeli was dragged by the Palestinians into a tunnel. The first impression was that he was captured alive, perhaps wounded.

The Hannibal Procedure went into action.

THE HANNIBAL PROCEDURE is designed for just such an eventuality. Of all the nightmares (or rather daymares) of the Israeli army, this is one of the worst.

This needs some explaining. In war, soldiers fall into captivity. Often this is unavoidable. In combat situations, in which further resistance becomes senseless suicide, soldiers raise their hands.

In medieval times, prisoners-of-war were often held for ransom. For officers and political leaders that was a welcome source of income, a good reason for keeping prisoners alive and well. In more modern times, after the laws of war came into being, prisoners are exchanged when the war ends.

During World War II, many Jewish soldiers from Palestine who had volunteered for the British army fell into German captivity. Surprisingly, they were treated like all other British prisoners-of-war and returned safely home when it was over.

There is nothing dishonorable about being captured. True, Stalin sent multitudes of returning Soviet prisoners to penal camps in Siberia, not because they were dishonored but because he was afraid that they had been infected by capitalist ideas.

SO WHY are we different?

Jewish ethos is quite explicit about this. The “redemption of prisoners” is a paramount commandment of the Jewish religion.

At the root of this moral order is the ancient phrase “(the people of) Israel are responsible for each other”. Every Jew is responsible for the survival of every other Jew.

This had to be taken literally. If a Jew from Alexandria was taken prisoner by Turkish pirates, rich Jewish merchants in, say, Amsterdam were obliged to pay the ransom to get him released. This is very deeply ingrained in Jewish consciousness, even in contemporary Israel.

During the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, when the Israeli army was fighting Arab regular armies trained by Europeans, prisoners were taken by both sides, generally reasonably well treated and exchanged after each war. But when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became “asymmetrical”, things became more complicated. On the one side a regular army, on the other hand armed militants (a.k.a. freedom fighters, a.k.a. terrorists).

Israel holds a large number of Palestinian prisoners, some sentenced, some held in “administrative detention” (i.e. on suspicion only). Their number varies between 5000 and 12,000. Some are political prisoners, some active members of fighting organizations (“terrorists”). Some have “blood on their hands”, meaning that they either did the killing themselves or helped the killers by hiding them or providing them with money or weapons.

For many Palestinians, it is a holy duty to get them released. For many Israelis, this is a crime. The result: constant efforts by Palestinians to capture live Israelis, in order to exchange them for these prisoners.

The tariff is going up all the time. When Palestinians demand a thousand of their prisoners in return for one Israeli, Israelis are outraged, but also flattered. Many indeed believe that this tariff is fair, but they are outraged nevertheless. In 1985, three Israeli soldiers held by a pro-Syrian Palestinian organization were exchanged for 1150 Palestinian prisoners.

In every such event, Israelis are torn between the obligation to “redeem prisoners” and the determination “not to deal with terrorists” as well as “not to surrender to blackmail”, especially concerning prisoners with “blood on their hands”.

The first priority is always to try to release Israeli prisoners by force. This is a very risky undertaking. In the ensuing shooting, the prisoner’s life is at risk. Often it is uncertain whether he was killed by the captors or by the liberators.

The Israeli sportsmen who were killed during the Munich Olympic games of 1972 were probably killed by the poorly trained Bavarian police. The autopsy results are still secret. The same happened to a class of Israeli schoolchildren in Ma’alot in Northern Galilee, who were captured by Palestinian guerrillas and perished in the exchange of fire.

In the famous Entebbe operation, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was ready for a prisoner exchange until he was persuaded by the army that the rescue operation had a very good chance of success.

The dilemma reached its peak in the Gilad Shalit affair. The soldier was captured (“kidnapped” in Israeli parlance) by Palestinians who emerged from a cross-border tunnel. (Our army drew no tactical conclusions from the incident, until the latest war).

Shalit was held in captivity for five years. Frantic efforts by the army to discover his place of captivity bore no fruit (luckily for Gilad, I must add). From week to week the public pressure for an exchange grew, until it became politically unbearable and Shalit was exchanged for 1027 Palestinian prisoners. The army was furious, and on the first opportunity rearrested all those who had been released.

The latest round of negotiations directed by John Kerry broke down because Netanyahu refused to free a number of prisoners he had already undertaken to release.

Somewhere on the way, the Hannibal Procedure was instituted.

THIS ORDER is based on the conviction that prisoner exchanges must be prevented by all means – quite literally.

In such cases, the first few minutes are decisive. Therefore, “Hannibal” puts the entire responsibility on the local commander, even if he is a mere Lieutenant. No time for waiting for orders.

When soldiers see their comrade being dragged away, they must shoot and kill – even if it is almost certain that their comrade will also be hit. The order does not say explicitly “better a dead soldier than a captured soldier” – but this is implied and widely understood that way.

If the captors and their captive disappear, the whole neighborhood has to be flattened indiscriminately, in the hope that the captors are hiding in one of the buildings.

At the height of the Gaza war, that is exactly what happened. An Israeli squad fell into a Hamas ambush. All the soldiers were killed, except one – Hadar Goldin – who was seen being dragged into a tunnel. Assuming that he was captured, the army went berserk, razing scores of buildings in Rafah to the ground without warning, shooting at everything that moved.

In the end, it was all in vain. The army decided that the soldier was already dead when his body was captured, and now demands the return of the body, so as to fulfill another Jewish duty: “to bring a Jewish body to a Jewish grave”.

DURING AND after the war, this incident led to a furious debate. Why, for God’s sake, not let soldiers be captured? Isn’t a live captured soldier better than a dead one? If for his return a number of Palestinian prisoners have to be released, so what?

This is a profound moral debate, touching the roots of the Israeli ethos.

David Ben-Gurion once wrote: “Let every Hebrew mother know” that she is handing over her son to responsible officers. Thanks to Hannibal, some Hebrew mothers may now have serious doubts.

As for Hannibal himself, I wonder what he would have thought about this.

Uri Avnery’s Column is published here, weekly.

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EMERGENCY APPEAL FOR INJURED GAZANS

IJV SUPPORTS THE EMERGENCY APPEAL FOR INJURED GAZANS

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Over the past weeks we have seen the conflict between Israel and Gaza unfold with horror and helplessness. The fighting has ended, but the injured continue to suffer.

Whatever our politics, and whatever we think is right or wrong, no one can help but be moved and devastated by the loss of civilian life, and the suffering of the people of Gaza.

                                                              חביב אדם שנברא בצלם

                                    Beloved is humanity, created in the image of God

We are a group of British Jews from different organisations and with different ‘positions’ on the conflict, but with a shared desire to ease that suffering in whatever way we can. We have set up this appeal for members of our community to donate funds to where they are most needed. We must not let empathy be a casualty of this conflict.

Donate here

Where will the money be going?

Hundreds of Palestinians wounded in the conflict are being treated in Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These hospitals are under-provided at the best of times and are now struggling under the additional pressure.

The patients who have been transferred from Gaza are struggling with horrific injuries and traumas. Many have been severely burned or disabled; many have had their homes destroyed and have been left destitute. They are separated from support networks and are mourning the loss of loved ones. They are in urgent need of assistance for medicines as well as basic items such as food and clothes.

Al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem is the principal Palestinian hospital for acute treatment referrals, but as a charity hospital they receive no governmental support and are struggling with a funding crisis made worse by the influx of patients from this conflict. Their doctors have been unpaid for several months, and have already treated over 80 patients from Gaza including many children. There are more patients being transferred from Gaza every day.

They desperately need financial assistance to continue this work and to purchase urgent medical supplies for the injured from the conflict – particularly surgical equipment and antibiotics. They are also providing financial assistance to destitute patients returning to Gaza.

One of our group has recently visited Al Makassed and other Palestinian hospitals with a few donations from us and our families, and the aid from British Jews has been received with gratitude.

How can I donate?

Please give whatever you can to Makassed’s emergency Gaza appeal, which was set up in July, through the UK registered charity The Welfare Association

Can I see more information about Makassed Hospital?

You can read more about the work at Makassed hospital here

You can read more about the crisis of medical care for Gazans here

Who is organising this appeal?

This was put together by a group of concerned friends and is supported by:

Jewdas

Yachad

Young Jewish Left

Jews for Justice for Palestinians

Independent Jewish Voices

The appeal was originally posted here

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God Wills It! Uri Avnery’s Column 06/09/14

God Wills It!

Uri Avnery’s Column 06/09/14

FOR SIX decades my friends and I have warned our people: if we don’t make peace with the nationalist Arab forces, we shall be faced with Islamic Arab forces.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will turn into a Jewish-Muslim conflict. The national war will become a religious war.

National conflicts are basically rational. They concern territory. They can usually be solved by compromise.

Religious conflicts are irrational. Each side believes in an absolute truth, and automatically considers everybody else as infidels, enemies of the only true God.

There can be no compromise between True Believers, who believe that they are fighting for God and get their orders straight from Heaven. “God Wills It” shouted the Crusaders and butchered Muslims and Jews. “Allah is the Greatest” shout fanatical Muslims and behead their enemies. “Who is like you among the Gods!” cried the Maccabees, and annihilated all fellow Jews who had adopted Greek manners.

THE ZIONIST movement was created by secularized Jews, after the victory of the European Enlightenment. Almost all the founders were convinced atheists. They were mostly quite ready to use religious symbols for decoration, but were roundly denounced by all the great religious sages of their time.

Indeed, before the creation of the State of Israel, the Zionist enterprise was remarkably free of religious dogmas. Even today, extreme Zionists talk about the “Nation State of the Jewish People”, not of the “Religious State of the Jewish Faith”. Even for the “national religious” camp, the forerunners of today’s settlers and semi-fascists, religion was subordinate to the national goal – the creation of a national Jewish state in all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

This national onslaught met, of course, with the resolute resistance of the Arab national movement. After some initial hesitation, Arab national leaders turned against it. This resistance had very little to do with religion. True, for some time the Palestinian resistance was led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini – not because of his religious standing but because he was the leader of Jerusalem’s most aristocratic clan.

The Arab national movement was always decidedly secular. Some of its most outstanding leaders were Christians. The pan-Arab Baath (“Resurrection”) party, which came to dominate both Syria and Iraq, was founded by Christians.

The great hero of the Arab masses at that time, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, though formally Muslim, was quite un-religious. Yasser Arafat, the leader of the PLO, was a pious Muslim in private, but under his leadership the PLO remained a secular body with many Christian ingredients. He spoke about liberating East Jerusalem’s “mosques and churches”. For some time the official aim of the PLO was to create in Palestine a “democratic and non-denominational” state.

SO WHAT has happened? How did a nationalist movement turn into a violent, fanatical religious one?

Karen Armstrong, the nun-turned-historian, pointed out that the same thing happened practically simultaneously in all three monotheistic religions. In the US, evangelical Christians now play a large role in politics, in close cooperation with the Jewish right-wing establishment. All over the Muslim world, fundamentalist movements are gaining strength. And in Israel, a messianic Jewish fundamentalism is now playing a larger and larger role.

When the same thing happens in such diverse countries and religions, there must be a common cause. What is it?

It is easy to speak about something nebulous with the German title of Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, but that really explains very little.

In the Muslim world, the bankruptcy of liberal, secular nationalism has created a spiritual void, an economic breakdown and national humiliation. The shining promise of Nasserism ended in abject stagnation under Hosny Mubarak. The Baath dictators in Baghdad and Damascus failed in creating modern states. The militaries in Algeria and Turkey did not do much better. After the overthrow of the elected democratic Iranian leader, Mohammed Mossadeq by oil-grabbing Western powers, the luckless Shah could not fill the void.

And, all the time, there was the humiliating sight of Israel, which grew from a despised little foreign implant into a formidable military and economic power, and which easily trounces Arab states again and again.

After every new war, Muslim people ask themselves: What’s wrong? If nationalism has failed both in peace and in war, if both capitalism and socialism did not succeed in creating a sound economy, if neither European humanism nor Soviet communism succeeded in filling the spiritual void, where is the solution?

The thunderous reply comes from the depths of the masses: “Islam is the Answer!”

LOGIC WOULD have it that the Israeli reply would be the opposite.

Israel is a success story. Not only does it have a mighty military machine and credible nuclear capabilities, but it is a technological power and has a comparatively sound economic basis.

But messianic fundamentalism, closely allied with an extreme nationalism, is now dictating our course.

On the eve of the recent war, the commander of the Giv’ati brigade published an order-of-the-day to his officers. It shocked many.

The Giv’ati brigade was an outstanding fighting force in the war of 1948 (I was one of its original fighters and wrote two books about it). We took great pride in its composition. The fighters were a mixture of the sons of the metropolitan Tel Aviv elite and the poorest surrounding slums – a mixture that was eminently successful and proved itself in battle.

The brigade commander was a former German communist underground fighter under the Nazis, who converted to Zionism and became a member of a very left-wing kibbutz. So were most of his staff officers. I don’t remember a single soldier in the brigade who wore a kippah.

Imagine our shock when the current brigade commander called for a holy fight to fulfill God’s will. Colonel Ofer Winter, who in his youth attended a religious-military school, had this to say to his soldiers on the eve of battle:

“History has chosen us as the spearhead of the fight against the Gazan terrorist enemy, who abuses and curses the God of Israel’s battles…I raise my eyes to heaven and call with you: ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One’. Oh Lord, the God of Israel, make us succeed on our way, as we are going to fight for Israel against an enemy who curses your name!”

The official aim of the Israeli army in this campaign was to guard the border and stop the launching of rockets at Israeli towns and villages. But that is not the aim of the Colonel. He sent his soldiers to die (three of them did) for the God of Israel, against those who curse his name.

If this officer were the only religious fanatic in the army, it would be bad enough. But the army is now full of kippah-wearing officers who have been indoctrinated with religious fervor and indoctrinate their soldiers in turn with the same spirit.

The Zionist-religious party and its fanatical rabbis, many of them outspoken fascists, have been working for years to systematically infiltrate the army’s officer corps. It’s a process of natural selection: officers who are loath to act as colonial masters in occupied territories leave the army to become high-tech entrepreneurs, while messianic fanatics are sent to fill their place.

The colonel, by the way, has not been reprimanded or harmed in any way. On the contrary, he has been lauded during the war as an exemplary battle commander.

ALL THIS leads me to ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Greater Syria), which recently changed its name to just “Islamic State”. The change means that the former states, created by the Western colonialists after World War I, are abolished. There is going to be one Islamic state that includes all former and present Islamic territories, including Palestine (including Israel).

This is a new and frightening phenomenon. There are, of course, many Islamist parties and organizations in the Muslim world – from the Turkish ruling party to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to the Palestinian Hamas. But almost all of them restrict their fight to their national countries – Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Yemen. They want to attain power and rule their countries. Even Osama bin Laden wanted mostly to take over his Saudi homeland.

ISIS is something quite different. It wants to destroy all states, especially the Muslim states carved out by Western imperialists from Islamic land. With horrible savagery, elevated to a religious symbol, it sets out on its way to conquer the Muslim world, and then the globe.

It may seem a ridiculous aim, given that the whole enterprise consists of a few thousand fighters. But this tiny force has already conquered a huge part of Syria and Iraq. It expresses the Muslim longing for restoring ancient glory, their hatred of all those (including us) who have humiliated Islam, a thirst for spiritual values. One cannot help being reminded of the beginnings of the Nazi movement – its resentments, its thirst for revenge, its attraction for all the poor and humiliated.

It may take only a few years to become a huge force, threatening all the states of this region.

DOES IT threaten Israel? Of course it does. If its dynamism holds, it will overthrow the Assad regime and reach the Israeli border, where other Islamic rebels have already shot the first few rounds this week.

With such a menace looming in the north, it seems ridiculous to fight against a miniscule Islamic-patriotic force in Gaza – even if curses the name of the Lord.

There may be very little time left to make peace with the Arab national movement, and especially with the Palestinian people – including both the PLO and Hamas – and join the fight against the Islamic state.

The alternative is frightening.

Uri Avnery’s Column 06/09/14
Originally published here Posted with the author’s permission.

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The War for Nothing – Uri Avnery’s Column 30/08/14

AFTER 50 DAYS, the war is over. Hallelujah.

On the Israeli side: 71 dead, among them 66 soldiers, 1 child.

On the Palestinian side: 2,143 dead, 577 of them children, 263 women, 102 elderly. 11,230 injured. 10,800 buildings destroyed. 8,000 partially destroyed. About 40,000 damaged homes. Among the damaged buildings: 277 schools, 10 hospitals, 70 mosques, 2 churches. Also, 12 West Bank demonstrators, mostly children, who were shot.

So what was it all about?

The honest answer is: About nothing.

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Gaza in numbers

Neither side wanted it. Neither side started it. It just so happened.
LET US recapitulate the events, before they are forgotten.

Two young Arab men kidnapped three young Israeli religious students near the West Bank town of Hebron. The kidnappers belonged to the Hamas movement, but acted on their own. Their purpose was to exchange their captives for Palestinian prisoners. Liberating prisoners is now the highest ambition of every Palestinian militant.

The kidnappers were amateurs, and their plan miscarried from the beginning. They panicked when one student used his mobile phone and then they shot the hostages. All of Israel was in an uproar. The kidnappers have not yet been found.

The Israeli security forces used the opportunity to implement a prepared plan. All known Hamas activists in the West Bank were arrested, as well as all the former prisoners who were released as part of the deal to free the Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit. For Hamas this was the violation of an agreement.

The Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip could not keep quiet while their comrades in the West Bank were being imprisoned. It reacted by launching rockets at Israeli towns and villages.

The Israeli government could not keep quiet while its towns and villages were bombarded. It responded with a heavy bombardment of the Gaza strip from the air.

From there on, it was just an endless festival of death and destruction. The war was crying out for a purpose.

Hamas then did something that was, in my opinion, a cardinal mistake. It used some of the clandestine tunnels which it had built under the border fence to attack Israeli targets. Israelis suddenly became aware of this danger that the army had belittled. The purposeless war acquired a purpose: It became the War Against the “Terror-Tunnels”. The infantry was sent into the Gaza Strip to search out and destroy them.

Eighty thousand soldiers entered Strip. After destroying all the known tunnels, they had nothing to do except stand around and act as targets.

The next logical step would have been to move forward and conquer the entire Gaza Strip, some 45 km long and an average of 6 km wide, with 1.8 million inhabitants. Four times larger than Manhattan island with about the same population.

But the Israeli army detested the idea of conquering the Strip for the third time (after 1956 and 1967). The last time it left, the soldiers sang “Goodbye Gaza, and not to see you again!” Predictions of military casualties were high, many more than Israeli society was ready to suffer, in spite of all the patriotic hyperbole.

The war deteriorated into an orgy of killing and destroying, with both sides “dancing on the blood”, blessing every bomb and missile, completely oblivious to the suffering caused to the human beings on the other side. And still without any realizable aim.

IF CLAUSEWITZ was right about war being but a continuation of policy by other means, then every war must have a clear political aim.

For Hamas, the aim was clear and simple: Lift the blockade on Gaza.

For Israel there was none. Binyamin Netanyahu defined his aim as “Calm in return for Calm”. But we had that before it all started.

Some of his cabinet colleagues demanded to “go to the end” and occupy the entire strip. The army command objected, and one cannot fight a war against the wishes of the army command. So everyone stood around waiting for Godot.

What brought about the final ceasefire agreement?

Both sides were exhausted. On the Israeli side, the feather that broke the camel’s back was the plight of the settlement around the Gaza Strip, called the “Gaza envelope”. Under the unceasing barrage of short-range rockets and – even worse – mortar shells that cost next to nothing, the inhabitants, mostly kibbutz members, started to move quitetly to safer regions.

That was almost sacrilege. One of the founding myths of Israel was that in the 1948 war, in which the state was born, Arab villagers and townspeople ran away when they were shot at, while our settlements stood firm even in the midst of hell.

That was not entirely so. Several kibbutzim were evacuated by order of the army when their defense became impossible. In several others, women and children were sent away, while men were ordered to stay on and fight with the soldiers. But on the whole, Israeli settlements stood fast and fought.

But 1948 was an ethnic war for territory. Land evacuated was lost forever (or at least until the next war). This time, the whole rationale was different.

LIFE IN the “envelope” became impossible. Sirens sounded several times within the hour, and everybody had 15 seconds to find shelter. The clamor for evacuation became open and loud. Hundreds of families moved away. The myth was abandoned and the government was compelled to organize a mass movement. That did not look like victory.

The Palestinian side underwent a terrible ordeal. About 400 thousand people had to leave their homes. Whole families found shelter in UN buildings, several families in a room or in a corner of the courtyard, without electricity and with very little water, mothers with 6, 7 or 8 children.

(Imagine what that means: A family, poor or wealthy, has to leave its home within minutes, unable to take anything, no clothes, no money, no family albums, just to gather the children and run, while behind them the home collapses. A whole life’s work and memories destroyed in seconds. The young men were long gone, living in secret underground tunnels, preparing for the crucial fight.)

It is almost a wonder that under these conditions, the Hamas government and command structure did function. Orders passed from hidden leaders to hidden cells, contacts were maintained with leaders abroad and between different organizations, while spy drones circled overhead and killed any civil leader or commander who showed his face.

After the action to kill the Hamas military Commander in Chief, Mohammad Deif (which succeeded or failed, we don’t know), Hamas started to shoot the informers without whom such actions are impossible. (In my days as a junior terrorist, we did the same.)

But with all their remarkable ingenuity, Hamas could not go on forever. Their large stocks of rockets and mortar shells were being depleted. They also needed an end.

The result? Clearly a draw. But, as I have said before, if a small resistance organization achieves a draw against one of the mightiest military machines in the world, it has cause to celebrate – as it indeed did, last Monday, the 50th day of the War for Nothing.

WHAT DID the two sides lose?

The Palestinians sustained huge material losses. Thousand of homes were destroyed in order to break their spirit, some with some slim pretext, others without any. In the last days, the Air Force systematically brought down the luxurious high-rise buildings in the center of Gaza.

Palestinian human losses were also enormous. Israelis did not shed any tears.

On the Israeli side, human and material losses where comparatively light. Economic losses were significant, but bearable. It is the unseen losses that count.

The delegitimization of Israel throughout the world is accelerating. Millions of people have seen the daily pictures coming out of Gaza, and, consciously or unconsciously, their image of Israel has changed. For many, the brave little country has turned into a brutal monster.

Anti-Semitism, we are told, is dangerously on the rise. Israel claims to be the Nation-State of the Jewish People, and most Jews defend Israel and identify with it. The new rage against Israel sometimes looks like old-time anti-Semitism, and sometimes is.

We don’t know how many Jews will be driven by anti-Semitism to Israel. Nor do we know how many Israelis will be driven by the eternal war from Israel to Germany, the US or Canada.

One tends to overlook the most dangerous aspect. A huge mass of hatred has been created in Gaza. How many of the children we saw running with their mothers from their homes will become the “terrorists” of tomorrow?

Millions of children throughout the Arab world have seen the pictures beamed daily into their homes by Aljazeera, and become bitter haters of Israel. Aljazeera is a world power. While its English-language edition tried to be moderate, the Arab edition had no brakes – hour after hour its reports showed the heartbreaking pictures from Gaza, the children killed, the homes destroyed.

On the other side, the generations-old enmity of Arab governments towards Israel has been broken. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf States (except Qatar) are openly collaborating now with Israel.

Can this bear political fruit in the future? It could, if our government were really interested in peace.

In Israel itself, fascism, vile and unmistakable, has raised its ugly head. “Death to the Arabs” and “Death to the Leftists” have become legitimate battle-cries. Some of this foul wave will hopefully recede, but some may remain and become a regular feature.

Netanyahu’s personal fortunes are clouded. During the war his popularity ratings rose sharply. Now they are in a free fall. It is not enough to make speeches about victory. Victory must be seen. If possible, without a microscope.

WAR IS a matter of power. The reality created on the battlefield is generally reflected in the political results. If the battle ends in a draw, the political result will also be a draw.

Celebrating a similar triumph long ago, Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, remarked: “Another such victory and we will be lost!”

Uri Avnery’s Column
30/08/2014
Originally published here. Posted with the author’s permission.

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The End of Liberal Zionism

In this Op Ed in The New York Times, IJV Steering Group member Antony Lerman describes the insurmountable challenges facing liberal Zionism and calls for a joint Israeli-Palestinian movement that recognises the indivisibility of human, civil and political rights and the primacy of full equality for both peoples.

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Son of Death

Uri Avnery’s Column 23/08/14

THE WAR was over. Families returned to their kibbutzim near Gaza. Kindergartens opened up again. A ceasefire was in force and extended again and again. Obviously, both sides were exhausted.

And then, suddenly, the war came back.

What happened? Well, Hamas launched rockets against Beersheba in the middle of the ceasefire.

Why? No why. You know how the terrorists are. Bloodthirsty. They can’t help it. Just like scorpions.

But it is not so simple.

THE CAIRO talks were near success, or so it seemed. But Binyamin Netanyahu was in trouble. He hid the Egyptian draft agreement for a long ceasefire even from his cabinet colleagues. They learned about it only from the media, which disclosed it from Palestinian sources.

Apparently, the draft said that the blockade would be greatly relaxed, if not officially ended. Talks about the building of a port and airport were to start within a month.

What? What did Israel get out of this? After all the shooting and killing, with 64 Israeli soldiers dead, after all the grandiose speeches about our resounding victory, was that all? No wonder Netanyahu tried to hide the document.

The Israeli delegation was called home without signing. The exasperated Egyptian mediators got another 24 hour extension of the ceasefire. It was to expire at midnight on Tuesday, but everybody on both sides expected it to be extended again and again. And then it happened.

At about 16.00 hours, three rockets were fired at Beersheba and fell into open spaces. No warning sirens. Curiously enough, Hamas denied having launched them, and no other Palestinian organization took responsibility. This was strange. After every previous launching from Gaza, some Palestinian organization has always proudly claimed credit.

As usual, Israeli airplanes promptly started to retaliate and bombed buildings in the Gaza Strip. As usual, rockets rained down on Israel. (I heard the interceptions in Tel Aviv).

BUSINESS AS usual? Not quite.

First it became known that an hour before the rockets came in, the Israeli population near Gaza was warned by the army to prepare their shelters and “safe spaces”.

Then it appeared that the first Gaza building hit belonged to the family of a Hamas military commander. Three people were killed, among them a baby and his mother.

And then the news spread: It was the family of Mohammed Deif, the commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. (Qassam was a Palestinian hero, the first rebel against British rule in Palestine in the 1930s. He was hunted down and killed by the British.) Among those killed this Tuesday were Deif’s wife and baby son. But it seems that Deif himself was not there.

That in itself is no wonder. Deif has survived at least four attempts to assassinate him. He has lost an eye and several limbs, but always came out alive.

All around him, his successive commanders, political and military peers and subordinates, dozens of them, have been assassinated throughout the years. But he has led a charmed life.

Now he heads the Israeli hit list, the most wanted and hunted Palestinian activist. He is the No. 1 “Son of Death”, a rather biblical appellation used in Israel for those marked for assassination.

Like most inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, Deif is a child of refugees from Israel. His family comes from the village Kawkaba, now in Israel, not far from Gaza. I passed through it in the 1948 war, before it was razed to the ground.

For the Israeli Security Service, he is a prize for which it is well worth breaking the ceasefire and reigniting the war.

FOR MANY security agencies around the world, including the American and the Russian, assassination is a sport and an art.

Israel claims to hold the gold medal.

An assassination is a complicated operation. It requires a lot of time, expertise, patience and luck. The operators have to recruit informers near the victim, install electronic devices, obtain precise information about his every movement, execute their design within minutes once the opportunity presents itself.

Because of this, there is no time for confirmation from above. Perhaps the Security Service (usually called Shin Bet) got permission from Netanyahu, its sole political chief, perhaps not.

They obviously were informed that Deif was visiting his family. That was a golden opportunity. For months, indeed for years, Deif has been living underground, in the literal sense – somewhere in the maze of tunnels his men had dug beneath the Strip. He was never sighted.

Since the beginning of this war, all the other prominent Hamas leaders have also been living under the ground. From Ismail Haniyeh down, not one of them has been seen. The unlimited command of the air by Israeli planes and drones makes this advisable. Hamas has no anti-air weapons.

It seems to me highly unlikely that Deif would risk his life by visiting his family. But Shin Bet obviously got a lead and believed it. The three strange rockets fired on Beersheba provided the pretext for breaking the ceasefire, and so the war started again.

Real aficionados of the art of assassination are not very interested in the political or military consequences of their actions. “Art for art’s sake”.

A propos, the last Gaza war, two years ago, started the same way. The Israeli army assassinated the de-facto al-Qassam leader, Ahmed Jaabari. The ensuing war with its many hundreds of dead was just collateral damage.

Jaabari was at the time filling in for Deif, who was convalescing in Cairo.

ALL THIS is, of course, much too complicated for American and European diplomats. They like simple stories.

The White House immediately reacted to the resumption of hostilities by condemning the Hamas launching of rockets and reaffirming that “Israel has a right to defend itself”. The Western media parroted this line.

For Netanyahu, whether he knew in advance of the assassination attempt or not, it was a way out of a dilemma. He was in the unfortunate position of many leaders in history who start a war and do not know how to get out of it.

In a war, a leader makes grandiloquent speeches, promises victory and bountiful achievements. These promises seldom come true. (If they do, like in Versailles 1919, that may be even worse.)

Netanyahu is a gifted marketing man, if nothing else. He promised a lot, and the people believed him and gave him a 77% rating. The Egyptian draft proposal for a permanent ceasefire, though markedly pro-Israel, fell far short of a victory for Israel. It only confirmed that the war ended in a draw. Netanyahu’s own cabinet was rebellious, public opinion was souring perceptibly. The resumption of the war got him out of this hole.

But what now?

BOMBING THE Gaza population draws more and more criticism from world public opinion. It also has lost its appeal in Israel. The maxim “Let’s bomb them until they stop hating us” obviously does not work.

The alternative is to enter the Gaza Strip and occupy it completely, so that even Deif and his men have to come up to the surface to be assassinated. But that is a dangerous proposition.

When I was a soldier in the 1948 war, we were taught never to get into a situation which leaves the enemy no way out. In such a case, he will fight to the end, causing many casualties.

There is no way out of the Gaza Strip. If the Israeli army is sent to conquer the entire Strip, the fighting will be ferocious, causing hundreds of Israeli and thousands of Palestinian dead and injured, and untold destruction. The Prime Minister will be one of the political victims.

Netanyahu is fully aware of that. He doesn’t want it. But what else can he do? One can almost pity the man.

He can of course, order the army to occupy only parts of the Strip, a village here, a town there. But that will also spread death and destruction, to no manifest gain. In the end, public discontent will be the same.

Hamas threatened this week to open “the gates of hell” for us. This hardly affects the inhabitants of Tel Aviv, but for the villages and towns near Gaza this is really hell. Casualties are few, but fear is devastating. Families with children leave en masse. When calm returns, they try to go home, but then the next rockets drive them away again.

Their plight evokes a very strong emotional response throughout the country. No politician can ignore it. Least of all the Prime Minister. He needs to end the war. He also needs a clear image of victory. But how to achieve this?

The Egyptian dictator tries to help. So does Barack Obama, though he is furious with Netanyahu and hates his guts. So does Mahmoud Abbas, who is afraid of a Hamas victory.

But as of now, the man who has the final decision is the Son of Death, Mohammed Deif, if he is alive and kicking. If not, his successor.

If he is alive, the assassination of his wife and baby son may not have made him gentler and more peaceable.

                                                        ~

Originally published on Gush Shalom. Posted with the author’s permission.

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Eyeless in Gaza.

By Uri Avnery, published with his permission.
16/08/14

THE TROUBLE with war is that it has two sides.

Everything would be so much easier if war had only one side. Ours, of course.

There you are, drawing up a wonderful plan for the next war, preparing it, training for it, until everything is perfect.

And then the war starts, and to your utmost surprise it appears that there is another side, too, which also has a wonderful plan, and has prepared it and trained for it.

When the two plans meet, everything goes wrong. Both plans break down. You don’t know what’s going to happen. How to go on. You do things you have not planned for. And when you have had enough of it and want to get out, you don’t know how. It’s so much more difficult to end a war than to start a war, especially when both sides need to declare victory.

That’s where we are now.

HOW DID it all start? Depends where you want to begin.

Like everywhere else, every event in Gaza is a reaction to another event. You do something because the other side did something. Which they did because you did something. One can unravel this until the beginning of history. Or at least until Samson the Hero.

Samson, it will be remembered, was captured by the Philistines, blinded and brought to Gaza. There he committed suicide by bringing the temple down on himself and all the leaders and people, crying out: “Let my soul die with the Philistines!” (Judges 16:30)

If that’s too remote, let’s start with the beginning of the present occupation, 1967.

(There was a forgotten occupation before that. When Israel conquered the Gaza Strip and all of Sinai in the course of the 1956 Suez war, David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the “Third Israeli Kingdom”, only to announce in a broken voice, a few dates later, that he had promised President Dwight Eisenhower to withdraw from the entire Sinai Peninsula. Some Israeli parties urged him to keep at least the Gaza Strip, but he refused. He did not want to have hundreds of thousands more Arabs in Israel.)

A friend of mine reminded me of an article I had written less than two years after the Six Day War, during which we occupied Gaza again. I had just found out that two Arab road-construction workers, one from the West Bank and one from the Gaza Strip, doing exactly the same job, were paid different wages. The Gaza man was paid much less.

Being a member of the Knesset, I made inquiries. A high-level official explained to me that this was a matter of policy. The purpose was to cause the Arabs to leave Gaza and settle in the West Bank (or elsewhere), in order to disperse the 400 thousand Arabs then living in the Strip, mostly refugees from Israel. Obviously this did not go so very well – now there are about 1.80 million there.

Then, in February 1969, I warned: “(If we go on) we shall be faced with a terrible choice – to suffer from a wave of terrorism that will cover the entire country, or to engage in acts of revenge and oppression so brutal that they will corrupt our souls and cause the whole world to condemn us.”

I mention this not (only) to blow my own horn, but to show that any reasonable person could have foreseen what was going to happen.

IT TOOK a long time for Gaza to reach this point.

I remember an evening in Gaza in the mid-90s. I had been invited to a Palestinian conference (about prisoners), which lasted several days, and my hosts invited me to stay with Rachel in a hotel on the sea-shore. Gaza was then a nice place. In the late evening we took a stroll along the central boulevard. We had pleasant chats with people who recognized us as Israelis. We were happy.

I also remember the day when the Israeli army withdrew from most of the Strip. Near Gaza city there stood a huge Israeli watchtower, many floors high, “so that the Israeli soldiers could look into every window in Gaza”. When the soldiers left, I climbed to the top, passing hundreds of happy boys who were going up and down like the angels on the ladder in Jacob’s dream in the Bible. Again we were happy. They are probably Hamas members now.

That was the time when Yasser Arafat, son of a Gaza Strip family, returned to Palestine and set up his HQ in Gaza. A beautiful new airport was built. Plans for a large new sea-port were circulating.

(A big Dutch harbor-building corporation approached me discreetly and asked me to use my friendly relations with Arafat to obtain the job for them. They hinted at a very large gratuity. I politely refused. During all the years I knew Arafat, I never asked him for a favor. I think that this was the basis of our rather strange friendship.)

If the port had been built, Gaza would have become a flourishing commercial hub. The standard of living would have risen steeply, the inclination of the people to vote for a radical Islamic party would have declined.

WHY DID this not happen? Israel refused to allow the port to be built. Contrary to a specific undertaking in the 1993 Oslo agreement, Israel cut off all passages between the Strip and the West Bank. The aim was to prevent any possibility of a viable Palestinian state being set up.

True, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon evacuated the more than a dozen settlements along the Gaza shore. Today, one of our rightist slogans is “We evacuated the entire Gaza Strip and what did we get in return? Qassam rockets!” Ergo: we can’t give up the West Bank.

But Sharon did not turn the Strip over to the Palestinian Authority. Israelis are obsessed with the idea of doing things “unilaterally”. The army withdrew, the Strip was left in chaos, without a government, without any agreement between the two sides.

Gaza sank into misery. In the 2006 Palestinian elections, under the supervision of ex-President Jimmy Carter, the people of Gaza – like the people of the West Bank – gave a relative majority to the Hamas party. When Hamas was denied power, it took the Gaza Strip by force, with the population applauding.

The Israeli government reacted by imposing a blockade. Only limited quantities of goods approved by the occupation authorities were let in. An American senator raised hell when he found out that pasta was considered a security risk and not allowed in. Practically nothing was let out, which is incomprehensible from the “security” point of view of weapons “smuggling” but clear from the point of view of “strangling”. Unemployment reached almost 60%.

The Strip is roughly 40 km long and 10 km wide. In the north and the east it borders Israel, in the west it borders the sea, which is controlled by the Israeli navy. In the south it borders Egypt, which is now ruled by a brutal anti-Islamic dictatorship, allied with Israel. As the slogan goes, it is “the word’s largest open-air prison”.

BOTH SIDES now proclaim that their aim is to put an end to this situation. But they mean two very different things.

The Israeli side wants the blockade to remain in force, though in a more liberal form. Pasta and much more will be let into the Strip, but under strict supervision. No airport. No sea-port. Hamas must be prevented from re-arming.

The Palestinian side wants the blockade to be removed once and for all, even officially. They want their port and airport. They don’t mind supervision, either international or by the Palestinian Unity Government under Mahmoud Abbas.

How to square this circle, especially when the “mediator” is the Egyptian dictator, who acts practically as an agent of Israel? It is a mark of the situation that the US has disappeared as a mediator. After the futile John Kerry peace mediation efforts it is now generally despised throughout the Middle East.

Israel cannot “destroy” Hamas, as our semi-fascist politicians (in the government, too) loudly demand. Nor do they really want to. If Hamas is “destroyed”, Gaza would have to be turned over to the Palestinian Authority (viz. Fatah). That would mean the re-unification of the West Bank and Gaza, after all the long-lasting and successful Israeli efforts to divide them. No good.

If Hamas remains, Israel cannot allow the “terror-organization” to prosper. Relaxation of the blockade will only be limited, if that. The population will embrace Hamas even more, dreaming of revenge for the terrible devastation caused by Israel during this war. The next war will be just around the corner – as almost all Israelis believe anyhow.

In the end, we shall be where we were before.

THERE CAN be no real solution for Gaza without a real solution for Palestine.

The blockade must end, with serious security concerns of both sides properly addressed.

The Gaza Strip and the West Bank (with East Jerusalem) must be reunited.

The four “safe passages” between the two territories, promised in the Oslo agreement, must at last be opened.

There must be Palestinian elections, long overdue, for the presidency and the parliament, with a new government accepted by all Palestinian factions and recognized by the world community, Including Israel and the USA.

Serious peace negotiations, based on the two-state solution, must start and be concluded within a reasonable time.

Hamas must formally undertake to accept the peace agreement reached by these negotiations. Israel’s legitimate security concerns must be addressed.

The Gaza port must be opened and enable the Strip and the entire State of Palestine to import and export goods.

There is no sense in trying to “solve” one of these problems separately. They must be solved together. They can be solved together.

Unless we want to go around and around, from one “round” to the next, without hope and redemption.

“We” – Israelis and Palestinians, locked for ever in an embrace of war.

Or do what Samson did: commit suicide.

Originally published at Uri Avnery English

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Urgent Appeal from Physicians for Human Rights

Urgent Call for Intervention Regarding Evacuation of Protected Persons & Medical Cases in the Gaza Strip
Friday July 25 2014

We are writing to request your urgent intervention regarding evacuation of protected persons and medical cases in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli side – with whom PHR-IL has corresponded and held numerous phone calls – promises to ensure the evacuation of civilians and the wounded from fighting areas. However, we are faced with calls for help from civilians, some of whom are wounded, disabled or elderly, that are unanswered for days. Coordination is very difficult and in some areas non-existent or completely ineffective. This is confirmed to us by the aid workers on the ground.

Reasons vary – and it is currently impossible to understand why there are no mechanism of short ceasefires in specific areas so it will be made possible.

We urge you to assist us, and all other efforts and call Israel to:
mark a safe and secured passage with a specified area to go to from the area under fire.
create safe zones where the needs of civilians can be addressed
create time frames in which ambulances can enter without specific calls  from individuals – as there are so many who may be there without phones, batteries exhausted etc.

At the moment and in light of the hostile atmosphere to voices of Human Rights organizations and other NGO’s, we have no effective address among the Israeli authoritiesand lives are being lost. An utmost effort should be made to allow at least these measures, let alone to bring an end to the war which has already taken the lives of hundreds, wounded thousands and traumatized hundreds of thousands.

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See a joint letter by human rights organizations:
http://www.phr.org.il/default.asp?PageID=190&ItemID=1982

For further details, and for convening an urgent meeting please contact me at 054-6623232 or hadas@phr.org.il

Sincerely and in hope for your prompt response

Hadas Ziv
Public Outreach
PHR-IL

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A message from the Bereaved Families Forum

An extract from the recent message by Chani Smith of the Bereaved Families Forum:

The events in Israel and Gaza are hard to witness, and we are all affected by the terror and devastation that the fighting is causing. Our hearts go out to all the victims in Gaza and Israel. It is natural at this time to look at one’s ‘side’ and blame the other side. But, in the long run, it does not lead down a constructive path: the conflict continues and more blood is spilt. The Bereaved Families Forum is responding to this dreadful situation by inviting everybody, Palestinians, Israelis, and their supporters, to look for another way, which involves both sides being part of the solution through dialogue, and through acknowledging the human face of the other side, and the suffering on both sides.

Dear Friends,

Although the circumstances of our daily lives have become more challenging and distressing, it is the days that follow that we dread the most. Once the canons and rockets fall silent, Palestinian and Israeli societies will be left with dead to bury, shattered economies and, most notably in our field of work, damage to our moral fibre, human resilience and social competencies for compassion for the other and for reconciliation.

We Don’t Want You Here
The Israeli and Palestinian members of the Parents Circle came together last Tuesday to film a video, ‘We Don’t Want You Here’, created by Saatchi and Saatchi. The clip is powerful and it’s best if you just watch it.  Please forward it to your contacts and share it through social media. The clip is receiving a lot of attention in Israeli and international media:

Hear Robi Damelin on Radio TLV1
Read about the clip in Times of Israel

Peace Square
Within a week of the escalation of violence, the PCFF set up what’s being called the ‘Peace Square’ – a haven, in the centre of Tel Aviv where PCFF members share their stories, their support for reconciliation, facilitate dialogues, screen films that represent our messages and when necessary, go to bomb shelters together.

In the Peace Square, PCFF holds a vigil from 7-10pm every night to provide an alternative to the propaganda and hatred running rampant in Israel. The shared Israeli and Palestinian vision of ending the cycle of violence seems illegitimate to many. I believe it is also a place of healing from the psychological and emotional damage this type of violence has on society.

Alternative voices in the media
Our members, their stories and our messages are being heard in the U.S. media through a variety of outlets:

·         Read Robi Damelin’s ‘Cry for Sanity’ in Huffington Post WorldPost
·         Listen to Robi and Bassam Aramin’s interview on NPR’s Tell Me More
·         Watch Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan on Huffington Post Live World Brief
·         Read Robi’s Blog Post on BlogHer

All this and more updates can be found on the PCFF Facebook page.

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