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No Palestinian 'Saison'/What Had To Be Proved

No Palestinian 'Saison' [UriAvnery] / What Had To Be Proved [DavidGrossman]

GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 -

[The following articles, one by Uri Avnery to be published Tuesday in Ma'ariv, the other by David Grossman in today's Ha'aretz, both try to appeal to Israeli public opinion regarding the Palestinians by reminding that we were once in the same condition.]


No Palestinian “Saison”

by Uri Avnery - 5.01.02 “You aren’t serious,” the Algerians told the PLO leaders. ”You must kill your opponents!”

That was years ago. The PLO leaders had asked their victorious brothers, the Algerian Liberation Front (FLN) veterans, for advice. They tendered their counsel generously: “You can’t wage a war of liberation when there are internal differences. There can only be one party. There is no place for internal opposition. Opponents must be liquidated.”

As an example, they pointed out one of their facilities on the Algerian- Tunisian border. It was a house of three rooms, to which opponents of the leadership were brought. In the first room they stood trial, in the second judgment was pronounced, in the third they were executed. The whole process lasted but a few hours. The only way they left the house was on a stretcher.

This story was told to me this week by a senior Palestinian official. “We, the Palestinians, listened and said to ourselves: This will never happen in our movement!”

And indeed, in order to understand what is happening now in the Palestinian territories, one has to understand that this is a unanimous national resolve: Avoid a civil war at any cost.

This resolve stems from a Palestinian trauma. In 1936 the “Arab Rebellion” (in Zionists parlance: “The Events”) broke out. Jewish immigration had been rising sharply after Hitler’s advent to power in Germany, the Arabs felt that the land was being taken from under their feet. In a desperate attempt to save their national existence, they declared a General Strike, which turned into an armed rebellion. It was led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

The mufti seized the opportunity in order to eliminate all his domestic opponents. In the bloodbath, almost all the Palestinian leaders who did not accept his leadership unconditionally were assassinated. When the moment of truth came at the end of 1947 (after the UN partition resolution), the Palestinian people had no national leadership to speak of.

Now Ariel Sharon wants to compel Arafat to start a civil war. That is the meaning of his demand that Arafat liquidate the Hamas and Jihad leadership and destroy their institutions. He expects the Hamas and Jihad will then take revenge and murder the Palestinian Authority chiefs. The mutual killing will put an end to the Palestinian struggle, perhaps forever.

Neither Arafat nor his opponents intend to fulfill this hope of Sharon’s. In his address to the nation, Arafat declared that continued attacks on Israelis are harmful to the national interests of the Palestinian people. Most Palestinians understand that Arafat is right. The Hamas and Jihad disagree, but do not want to be dragged into a civil war. Therefore there is a ”dramatic decrease in the number of attacks”, according to Israeli security officials.

All this reminds one of a similar phase in our own history. After the assassination of Lord Moyne by the Lehi*, Ben-Gurion decided to turn the “dissidents” over to the British police, who tortured them and then sent them to a prison camp in Africa. Some of the Irgun** fighters were kidnapped by Ben-Gurion’s Palmah (“shock troops”) and turned over to the British, others were arrested by the British themselves with the help of a list of 700 suspects, submitted to them by Ben-Gurion. This episode was called “the saison” (pronounced the French way), meaning the hunting season.

If at that time a bloody civil war did not erupt, it was thanks to Menahem Begin, the Irgun commander, who was determined to prevent a fratricidal war at any cost. Irgun fighters were ordered not to fire on the Palmah members who came to kidnap them. (The leader of the Lehi, Nathan Yellin- Mor, decided otherwise. As he told me years later: “I went to a meeting with the Haganah chiefs. I put a loaded pistol on the table in front of me. I said: ‘Every Lehi fighter will use his gun to defend himself.’ As a result, not one man of ours was kidnapped.”)

Ben-Gurion played a complex game. At one time he ordered the “saison”, at another he set up the “Hebrew Rebellion Movement”, which coordinated the actions of his own Haganah, the Irgun and Lehi. He used diplomacy and violence alternatively, in varying doses. Actually he used the actions of the Irgun and Lehi for his own purposes.

Arafat is now doing exactly the same. When there is hope of achieving a Palestinian state by peaceful means and a confrontation with the Americans has to be averted, he prevents the actions of the “dissidents”. When this hope fades, he gives them the green light.

All this is done by mutual understanding. Contrary to his image created in Israel, Arafat is no brutal dictator. On the contrary, some of his aides accuse him of being too forgiving, not taking revenge on those who betrayed him and not punishing those who damage the Palestinian cause. He adheres to an ancient Arab tradition: the “Ijmaa”, decision by general agreement. (The elders of the tribe sit and discuss a controversial issue until every single one of those present is convinced and supports the proposed decision, making it unanimous.)

That is his way of stopping the violence. The Palestinian people will not commit suicide by civil war. They will be persuaded to stop the violent struggle only if they see that their national existence can be assured by peaceful means. And in the meantime, they will collect weapons, for any eventuality.

* Lehi - Hebrew initials of “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”, called by the British “Stern Gang”

** Irgun – short for National Military Organization, another underground

[2] Ha`aretz, Sunday, January 06, 2002

What Had To Be Proved

By David Grossman

The seizure of the Palestinian arms ship brings great relief because the terrible weaponry will not be aimed at Israelis, as well as a sense of gratitude toward the soldiers who participated in the mission. However, in the voices of spokesmen for the Israel Defense Forces, the government and the media there was also an unconcealed note of joy that at long last "final proof" has been found of the Palestinians criminal, terrible intentions.

Ostensibly, it has become clear beyond a shadow of doubt that "the Palestinian Authority is infested with terror from head to toe," as Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz said at the press conference that seemed to be an attempt to bring back for a moment the glory of the heroic 1950s, if not of Entebbe itself.

But what proof has been obtained here? Proof that if you oppress a people for 35 years, and humiliate its leaders, and harass its population, and do not give them a glimmer of hope, the members of this people will try to assert themselves in any way possible? And would any of us behave differently from the Palestinians in such a situation? And did we behave any differently when for years we were under occupation and tyranny?

Avshalom Feinberg and Yosef Lishansky set out for Cairo to bring money from there to the Nili underground so that the Jewish community in Palestine could assert itself against the Turks. The fighters of the Haganah, the Lehi and the Etzel underground movements collected and hid as many weapons as they could, and their splendid sliks (arms caches) are to this day a symbol of the fight for survival and the longing for liberty, as were the daring weapons acquisition missions during the British Mandate (which were defined by the British as acts of terror).

When "we" did these things, they were not terrorist in nature. They were legitimate actions of a people fighting for its life and liberty. When the Palestinians do them, they become "proof" of everything we have been so keen to prove for years now.

It was embarrassing and irksome to hear the chief of staff scolding the Palestinians for "wasting their money on acquiring arms instead of seeing to their poor and hungry populace" - the words of a man whose soldiers - who follow the government's instructions - harass Palestinians morning, noon and night, impoverish them and starve them. No less embarrassing was the journalistic reporting of the seizure of the ship. The correspondents, excited by the heroism of our soldiers, unanimously adopted the self-righteous declarations of the chief of staff and the prime minister about the Palestinians and their murderousness and the terrorism that burns in their breasts like a second nature, almost.

Now come the days of celebration and rejoicing because "we told you so": We told you that the Palestinians do not keep agreements (while we of course stick to every agreement); we told you that they will do everything possible to acquire attack weapons (while we aim narcissus stems at the windows of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's window in Ramallah); we told you that there is no one to talk to and therefore we should keep tightening the noose around their necks (and in this way undoubtedly we will bring about a profound change in the "Palestinian character," so that they will agree to accept all our conditions); we told you that Arafat is in fact bin Laden (and we are disciples of the Dalai Lama).

In the attempt to smuggle in the arms by ship, the Palestinians seriously violated the agreements with them and the IDF must, of course, do all it can to prevent such escalation. Nevertheless, how can an entire people's sense of judgement be so dulled? How can we repeatedly ignore the big picture and the sharp sense that Israel, in its actions and in its failures to act, and especially in the malevolent behavior of its prime minister, keeps pushing the Palestinians to such actions so that time after time they will provide us with that "incontrovertible proof," in which there is in fact no real benefit to our interests?

These are disgusting days. Days of total befuddlement of the senses. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will wring every possible drop of propaganda out of this ship. The media, for the most part, will run panting after him. The Israeli street, too exhausted and apathetic to think, will adopt any definite conclusion that will solve for it the internal and moral contradiction in which it lives and reinforce its sense of righteousness, which has been undermined at its base.

Wo has the strength these days to remember the beginning, the root of the matter, the circumstances, the fact that what we have here is occupation and oppression, reaction and counter-reaction, a vicious circle and a bloody circle, two peoples that are becoming corrupt, violent and crazy with despair, a death trap in which we are suffocating more with every passing day.


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