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The Other Israel - Issue 98/99

The Other Israel briefing July 26, Tel-Aviv.

The destruction two weeks ago (July 9) of fourteen Palestinian homes in Shuafat Refugee Camp at East Jerusalem was the shocking news to be seen on TV screens all over the world - as was the arrest of Rabbi Arik Asherman who lay down with other Israelis and Palestinians in front of the bulldozers. The additional destruction of a score of Palestinian homes at Rafah on the day after didn't leave place for anymore doubt: the Sharon government is not interested in achieving calm. Foreign Minister Peres felt obliged to criticize the rendering homeless of hundreds of people though he did not emphasize any principled objection but rather that "such actions hurt Israel's image" and "severely damage the Foreign Ministry's international public relations campaign."

In these weeks in which killings (the ones called "liquidations" as well as the ones called "terrorist attacks") became a daily routine, as well as the ever more strangling sieges of Palestinian towns and villages, we had to complete the long-overdue task of producing and sending out the July issue of The Other Israel newsletter. The increasing tensions in a way made it possible: the situation was bad enough for the mainstream media to pick up themselves the things which so often only get the attention of peace and human rights groups sending out desperate alerts and press releases. In the past weeks it was forces bigger than us who warned about the apparent preparations of our government for full-scale war. And at last the need of international intervention, at least at the level of sending observers, has become an issue with which our government must reckon.

In the newsletter, a double issue of 24 pages there is a long and thorough analysis of the first 100 days of the Sharon-Peres government, from which it becomes crystal clear that Sharon has been trying to collect credit points from the international community in order to gain a free hand against the Palestinians (you can read the full article, The Option Of Naked Force, which is editorial of The Other Israel 98/99, July 2001 at http://members.tripod.com/~other_Israel/ed.html). Or - if you didn't see the printed version before - make use of the free sample option (don't forget to include your postal address).

In the printed version, you find also reports on a variety of many little, sometimes bigger actions through which hundreds of very devoted peace activists mobilized by such groups as Gush Shalom, Coalition of Women, Rabbis for Human Rights, Ta'ayush, Committee Against House Demolitions, International Solidarity have been trying, together and alternatingly, to confront government policy - often leading to an involuntary visit to a police station located in a settlement, and sometimes to the first aid section of a hospital. Special attention was given to the long-drawn struggle of El Khader villagers against the encroaching Efrat settlers. .

Together with the newsletter the readers of this issue also receive the concrete maps which show what Barak's so-called "generous offers" were really worth - produced as handbills in great quantity by Gush Shalom, for those who didn't yet see it on the Gush Shalom website http://www.gush-shalom.org/. (You find there also the weekly statements published as paid ads in Ha'aretz and posted on the site in Hebrew and English, as are the most current articles of Uri Avnery.)

Furthermore:

- The Feisal Husseini Memorial

- The solidarity visit to Khares.

- Signs of a revival of the larger peace camp

- Increasing number of CO's and

manifestations of reservists' discontent

- The Feisal Husseini Memorial

The government's attempt to ban the memorial service 40 days after Feisal Husseini's death at the Orient House, Palestinian headquarters in East Jerusalem, backfired. The heavy police cordons greatly reduced the number of people able to attend, but they also drew worldwide attention to the defiant ceremony which did take place in the besieged building, and underlined the fact that Israel is an occupier in East Jerusalem. We have been able to play our part: a handful of Israelis did manage to penetrate into the Orient House and were treated as guests of honor in the memorial (Uri Avnery prominent among them) while activists of Gush Shalom and Peace Now who were denied entry held a nicely-covered protest at the massive police barrier.

- The solidarity visit to Khares.

Last week the army imposed a tight siege on the villages of Khares, Kif-el-Khares and Dir Istiya, with a total population of more than 10,000 people, prohibiting movement in and out, even on foot, and erecting barriers cutting off the three villages even from each other. All this, supposedly, in retalation for some shooting on a settler bus, in which nobody was hurt. (Needless to say, the army took no measures of this kind when on the same day a settler-based underground organization claimed responsibility for the random killing of three Palestinians, including a baby, and the wounding of four others). This week several dozens of us - activists of Gush Shlom, Women for a Just Peace, Ta'ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights - managed to elude the army and slip into Khares, climbing terraces and walking through olive tree groves. We were able to bring a message of solidarity to the crowd of unbroken villagers, to walk with them through the streets of the village and together with them take up shovels and break down one of the earthen barriers erected by the army.

But we could not be there on the following night, when the army and security services made a late-night raid on the same village, hauling eight Palestinians out of their homes and taking them off to detention on unspecified charges...

- Signs of a revival of the larger peace camp

The open calls for all-out war made by cabinet ministers and generals, and the detailed plans for such war made by the army and leaked to the international press, seem to start arousing the larger peace camp from its lethargy and disarray. The leaders of this camp - Peace Now, Meretz and what is left of the Labour doves - conducted talks with an impressive group of Palestinian leaders, culminating with a joint paper presented at a press conference yesterday; there was good media coverage for Peace Now's "stop the unnecessary war" vigil in Jerusalem; there is an increasing number of articles in the mainstream media contesting the myth of "Barak's generous offers" whose rejection by the Palestinians was made into a justification for all acts of oppression; Yossi Sarid of Meretz, long the head of Sharon's "loyal opposition", started to make statements rather more suitable for the head of Israel's largest dovish party - such as outright support for sending international observers to the territories, criticizing (in at least some cases) the "liquidation" (in newest government euphemism "interception") of Palestinians deemed to be terrorists, and also admitting that Israel has broken the US-brokered cease-fire at least as often as the Palestinians did. It is all supposed to culminate with a march and rally against the threatening war, which the "Peace Coalition" intends to hold in Tel-Aviv on the evening of August 4. It remains to be seen whether these forces would be able to hold to their posts in the kind of eventuality for which the Israeli warmongers are openly waiting, and which many actions by the army and settlers seem calculated to provoke: another suicide bombing at an Israeli population center...

- Increasing number of CO's and manifestations of reservists' discontent

Official Israeli Army estimates, leaked to the foreign press and from there retranslated and prominently published in Israel, put the price of reconquest of the Palestinian cities at hundreds of Israeli lives and thousands of Palestinians. It might not be a coincidence that the past month saw a clear increase in the number of Conscientious Objectors imprisoned, either for refusal to take part in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians or for refusal to enlist altogether. And it might be no coincidence, either, that the media is nowadays full of reports about far wider manifestations of discontent among reserve soldiers - not directly challenging the occupation and government policy, but more than tangenially connected with them. Reservists charged with protecting one of the illegal "outposts" created by settlers on seized Palestinian land are complaining of harsh conditions and of haughty treatment by the settlers which they protest, and who refuse to let their protectors use electricity from the settlers' generator; at another reserve unit, whose revered commanding officer was killed in the beginning of the intifada and which was now called up again, dozens of reservists are known to have obtained psychiatric discharges or simply failed to show up; a whole battalion, soldiers and officers together, threatened not to show up for a tour of duty unless guaranteed state-finaced insurance in case of being killed or disabled, and negotiated with the miltary authorities in the exact manner of well-unionized workers... With the ongoing struggle requiring more and more intensive use of the army's limited manpower pool, the incidence of both phenomena - principled outright refusal of service by individuals and organized discontent in whole units - is likely to increase.

We would like to end this message by asking you to send letters of solidarity to three conscientous objectors presently spending time behind bars in the military prisons and thus at the forefront of the struggle to prevent the coming war.

- Conscript David Haham-Kherson (18.5), jailed for refusing to serve with his unit near Jericho in the West Bank. At his trial he declared: "I believe in an army of defence, not an army of occupation. As a Jew, I am not prepared to take part in a campaign of repression and denial of freedom."

Letters (preferably postcards) to: David Haham-Herson, I.D. 7189924, Military Prison 4, Military Post 02507, IDF, Israel; or via his parents, Tel: 972.2.6783418, e-mail: nono@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

- Conscript Hilmi Nafaa, now on his third term of imprisonment for refusal to serve in the IDF, is member of the Druze community of Israel - a community whose members are subject to military conscription just like Jews, and also to the discrimination in all spheres of life against Arabs. Hilmi Nafaa prefered imprisonment to conscription. In prison, too, Druze CO's are habitually treated much more harshly by the military authorities than Jewish ones.

Letters: Hilmi Nafaa, Military Prison 6, Military Post 03734, IDF.

- IDF reserve Serg. Alex Lyakas (26), who refused either to serve in the occupied territories or to support the units there by cooking meals for them at a kitchen located within pre-`67 Israel, (the compromise offered by his commander). Lyakas, a student of computer science from Haifa, and an immigrant from Lithuania in the former Soviet Union, wrote to his military superiors: “I am not prepared to participate in taking human lives, violating their freedoms or other natural rights, as I believe is being done today in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Letters to: Alex Lyakas Military Prison 4, Military Post 02507, IDF.

Yesh Gvul is planning a solidarity vigil outside Prison 4 (Tzrifin) on August 2 (info: Cherryk@zahav.net.il). To get current news on CO's, you can subscribe to New Profile's special new list (send a blank e-mail message to: NewProfileCO-subscribe@topica.com).

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