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Israelis busy with own war // Avnery on Spain

Israelis busy with own war // Avnery on Spain

# On March 20, Israeli activists busy with own war # Avnery applies the Spanish example at home

NB: links and contact information re ongoing struggle Against the Wall / Refusniks / Vanunu


# On March 20, Israeli activists busy with own war

March 20 - first anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, a day of worldwide demonstrations, finds us very much immersed in our own local problems. While the headlines are devoted to PM Sharon's announcements of his intention to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, the smaller print carries the routine news of a seven-year old girl shot to death during the latest military incursion into the refugee camp of Khan Yunes, in the same Gaza Strip.

[Hebrew at request / òáøéú òì ôé á÷ùä ]

--This morning, we came to honour a group of young people who are not willing to share in the occupation and in its concomitant endless cycles of oppression and violence, retribution, re-retruibution and re-re-retribution. Haggai Matar, Matan Kaminer and Noam Bahat are now at Ma'asiyahu Prison (Lod), a civilian institution, having been "expelled" from military prison-6 where "their presence disrupted discipline and good order." (The other two, Adam Maor and Shimri Tzameret, also serving a year's term for refusing to join an occupation army were transfered to Hermon Prison in the north of the country.)

Several dozen people answered the call of the veteran refuser support group Yesh Gvul. One bus and many private cars stopped in front of the prison walls and soon the banners were waiving: Neither military prison, nor civilian! Free them Now!"

"They are not complaining; are filling their time by teaching fellow prisoners English and mathematics. That is the kind of alternative community service which they asked for all along. Why has it to be behind bars?" - Noam Kaminer, father of Matan.

Daniel Milo, father to Laura, who had been denied the status of conscientious objector and sent to imprison, announced the family decision to go to the Supreme Court. "What the army did to Laura is simply illegal. With regard to women the law is quite plain: a woman who shows that for reasons of conscience she cannot join the army is entitled to exemption."

Suddenly, the quiet and orderly vigil was disturbed by the arrival of two police patrol cars. "Move away immediately! This is private land!" "We are quite far from the prison walls; we don't disturb anybody." "Walls or no walls, this belongs to the prison authority."

The police fastened their attention upon singer Yasmin Wagner, who throughout the confrontation continued the song which she wrote after her own psychiatric discharge from the army, all the while sitting on the ground and strumming her guitar: "Hey boy, join the army / Make your mother proud / Shoot the young, shoot the old / Guard well your country // Hey girl, join the army / Join the pilot training, too / Bomb the schools just like the men do / Show them what a girl can do." But the police were not amused. They grabbed the guitar, and started dragging her to the waiting police car. Demonstrators were quick to hold on to her: "What are you doing! Are you crazy? What did she do wrong?" After some minutes of haggling the police gave up.

--At the same time, a confrontation was taking place elsewhere. Three buses full of women from all over Israel had set out to participate in a joint Israeli-Palestinian demonstration at the village of Mes'ha, protesting the Wall which has so severely disrupted daily life in the village. But they never got there: not only was the army ready with "closed military zone" orders which referred to these buses and to no other vehicles on the road, but soldiers were also stationed near the Palestinian taxi stands - preventing the women from making use of that alternative, too.

--"There Is No Military Solution! There Is No Military Solution! There Is No Military Solution!" rang the call at the gate of the Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv. Some 200 Peace Now supporters have come to register this evening their vocal protest, with banners and placards: "No to suicide bombings! No to assassinations! Yes to peace negotiations!" "Get out of the Territories! End the bloodshed!" "No sons for unnecessary wars!" "Say Goodbuy to Gaza, Today!"

KM Ran Cohen of the newly-founded Yachad Party took up the megaphone: "I read in the papers that withdrawal from Gaza is expected to last a year and half. What the hell is that needed for? How many people are going to be killed in this year and half - to be killed for what?" --On the same evening, an emergency meeting was taking place at the municipality of A-Ram, a large Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem. A few days ago, work started on the 8-meter high concrete Wall in this area along a route which would hopelessly break up economic and social life in this town of 50,000. Representatives of Gush Shalom, Ta'ayush and others discussed with Mayor Sirhan Salaymeh a large-scale campaign.

Over the past two weeks, the struggle against the Wall has intensified. In village after village the inhabitants turned out en masse - to block the bulldozers' way with their bare bodies, undeterred by barrages of tear gas, the shooting of rubber-coated metal bullets, and occasionally live ammunition as well. Israeli activists, especially Anarchists Against the Wall have been constant partners in this struggle, and their presence is increasingly noted by the Israeli media, but seems no longer a guarantee against killings.

There have been some successes: the Supreme Court has been more inclined than hitherto to grant injunctions halting work along considerable parts of the route, and in some places the army at its own initiative started negotiating changes in the route. A not unimportant role was played by inhabitants of nearby Israeli communities coming out in support of their Palestinian neighbors. Also significant was the high profile involvement of the Council for Peace and Security, a body uniting hundreds of dovishly- inclined former senior officers. Originally supporting the creation of a separation fence, they now strongly oppose its route.

--As we write this report, we got a phonecall from Rome, where Anat Matar - mother of imprisoned CO Haggai - had been invited to address a mass anti-war rally. "I was moved, when it turned out that the release of the five Israelis was among the official demands of the rally. And when I spoke and said the words "my son is in prison for refusing to serve the occupation" there was a heartwarming wave of applause from the immense crowd present. ~~~~~~~

# Avnery applies the Spanish example at home

Uri Avnery 20.3.04

Hebrew at request & soon at the site òáøéú òì ôé á÷ùä àå á÷øåá áàúø

Bravo, Amigos!

A Prime Minister is waging war. The great majority of the people oppose the war. The majority vote for the Prime Minister.

Absurd? Well, that was the situation in Spain. It also applies, more or less, in Israel. But here the similarity ends.

The Spanish people have thrown their Prime Minister out. The Israeli people go on supporting their Prime Minister.

The Spaniards, in their innocence, believe that if a Prime Minister does the opposite of what the great majority of the people want, he has to go. They think that this is what democracy is all about. In Israel, such a thing is unthinkable.

And that is not the only difference.

Of course, the Spanish people arrived at this conclusion under the influence of the big terrorist attack in Madrid. The Spanish reaction was very different from the usual Israeli one.

After the terrorist onslaught, the Spanish asked themselves: why did they do it? What caused this murderous attack on us? The logical answer was: the Prime Minister's policy has brought this on us. The conclusion: Let's find another one.

In Israel, such a question cannot arise. What brought the terrorist attacks on us? What sort of a question is that? The reason for terrorism is the inborn murderous character of the Arabs. It has, of course, nothing at all to do with the policy of our Prime Minister.

When a terrorist outrage happens here, logic flies out of the window. Instead of thinking and asking questions, people shout "Death to the Arabs", demand bloody revenge and gather around the Prime Minister.

Another difference: the Spaniards got angry. The Prime Minister lied to them. He exploited the outrage for his election campaign. When he already knew that all the signs pointed to Islamic fanatics, he pretended in public that the attack was perpetrated by the Basque ETA organization. He hoped to garner the votes of those Spaniards who oppose an independent Basque homeland. But the voters understood that this was a lie and did not like it. The Prime Minister is lying to us? To hell with him.

In Israel, when the Prime Minister lies, the public remains apathetic. The Prime Minister has lied to us again? So what? Isn't he always lying? Nothing to get upset about.

One can only envy the Spanish. After a horrible civil war, after decades of an oppressive dictatorship, in spite of domestic splits and many terrorist attacks, what a healthy reaction! What strong democratic instincts!

(By the way: some 500 years ago, half a million Jews were expelled from Spain. In the last decades, almost all the "Sephardim" - Sepharad is the Hebrew name for Spain - came to Israel. The great majority of them support Ariel Sharon. Why do the "Spanish" Jews in Israel react differently from the Spanish people back home?)

There is another difference between Spain and Israel, and it may be the decisive one.

Last year I visited Spain. Some days before I arrived, the Prime Minister's party had won an impressive victory in the local elections. The opposition Socialist Party was lying flat out. Everybody spoke of it with contempt, some with pain. The party was in ruins, perhaps beyond redemption.

And then it happened: the party replaced its old leaders with an energetic, fresh one, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. With a lot of luck, this man has now led his party to power.

When the Spanish people were fed up with their Prime Minister, they knew that there was a reasonable alternative. They could throw the ruling party out because there was another party ready to move in.

In Israel, these conditions do not apply. Our leading opposition party, Labor, is also a shambles, but there is no sign of recovery. Quite the contrary.

It is headed by a pathetic person who would make a deal with the devil for a place in Sharon's government. Its other old leaders, all of them certified failures, are already quarrelling about the chairs that Sharon may allot them, should he be so kind as to invite them into his cabinet.

The Israeli situation is surreal: according to all opinion polls, a large part of the public is fed up with the war, the bloody cycle of suicide bombings and targeted assassinations, the settlements and the settlers. They want a solution and are ready to pay the necessary price - the end of the occupation, a Palestinian state, the dismantling of the settlements, a reasonable compromise about Jerusalem, withdrawal to the vicinity of the Green Line. They want to shift our national resources from occupation and war to economic growth, education and social welfare.

So how does this translate into political realities? It doesn't. There is no serious political force able to offer an alternative leadership.

In Spain that was a temporary situation, which corrected itself in a natural way. In Israel, this situation seems to be permanent.

Therefore, one can not only envy the Spanish, but also learn from them. The political ball is round. It can turn suddenly. What seems to be impossible can become possible - if there are good people around, who can convert good intentions into political reality.

I hope that this will happen here, too. True, some people are already standing in line - Tony Blair and George W. Bush. What has happened to Jose Maria Aznar in Spain must happen to them, and I hope that it will. Then, with a lot of courage and a lot of luck, the turn of the fourth in the queue will come, and Ariel Sharon, another man of blood and lies, will be turned out.

In the meantime we salute our friends at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea - Bravo, amigos! ~~~~~~~

NB: links and contact information re ongoing struggle Against the Wall / Refusniks / Vanunu

-- ðåëçåú éåîéåîéú áëôøéí îàéîéí ò"é äçåîä ìúàí òí àééáé 064-604172 àøé÷ 050-607034

Day to day presence at villages threatened by route of wall. Contact: Ivy Sichel 064-604172 who set's up a list for people who can come at short notice, or: Arik Asherman 050-607034

-- Refuser news:

Constantly-updated list of all presently jailed refusniks:

English - Hebrew / òáøéú -

For the latest news about the five:

NB: Letters of support to Noam Bahat / Haggai Mattar / Matan Kaminer AGAF BET Ma’asiyaho Prison P.O.B 13 Ramla Israel

Adam Maor / Shimri Tzameret: Hermon Prison P.O.B 4011 KFAR M’RAR

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