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Enormous crowd "Get out of Gaza and start talking"

GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 - www.gush-shalom.org/

International release

[1] The rally - enormous crowd, contradictions on the podium

[2] 'If I may be permitted a prophecy' - the new optimism of Uri Avnery

[3] Supreme Court injunction puts temporary halt to mass demolition of houses in Rafah

###

[1] The rally - enormous crowd, contradictions on the podium

Saturday night, May 15, Rabin Square Tel-Aviv. For the first time in years, peaceminded Israelis were out on the street in force - not in an event masquerading as a memorial and apologizing for making political statements. Still, we were in an event with whose program (rather, an uneasy compromise between two different programs) we had fundamental disagreement.

The huge square started filling long before the scheduled time, and by 8pm the crowd was spilling off into the adjacent streets. These people were motivated by two major events of the past two weeks: the so-called referendum, held by Sharon among the registered members of the Likud Party, which had the intolerable result that some fifty thousand people - less than one percent of the Israeli citizen body - decided a major national issue, and that the settlers and extreme right acquired an effective veto even over a partial and half-hearted withdrawal such as the one proposed by Sharon. Hard upon this came the shock of the unexpected blows suffered by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip.

The army learned the hard way that invading Palestinian towns and refugee camps inside armoured vehicles does not always render the Israeli forces completely immune. The general public came up with the word "Lebanon", which for Israelis carries the same connotations as "Vietnam" for Americans.

All in all, the planned rally was being treated as a major event even before it took place. The rightwingers who demanded that it be canceled out of "respect for the fallen soldiers", merely helped to publicize the event.

While striving very hard to present a common front, and declare itself "the voice of the majority" the coalition of political parties and mainstream extraparliamentary groups which initiated the rally had a fundamental difference to cover up. Some accepted the basic framework of Sharon's "unilateral withdrawal from Gaza"; others advocated renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians touching upon the West Bank as well as Gaza, and aimed at achieving not only withdrawal but also peace. The compromise slogan eventually chosen: "Leave Gaza and Start Talking".

Still, on the podium covered with this slogan, the difference immediately became evident whith speakers contradicting each other.

- Ami Ayalon, former Shabak head turned peacemaker: "I believe in the sincerety of Sharon. We must not treat the settlers as enemies. Settlements can only be evacuated by one who feels great pain and empathy." (This did not go well on the audience, and there were some angry mutterings.)

- Tsali Reshef of Peace Now: "We have not the slightest trust in Sharon. We know that he wants to withdraw from Gaza in order to keep the West Bank. But just as he was forced to give up Gaza, we will force him to give up the West Bank. Ofra and Beth-El [near Ramallah] and Kedumim [near Nablus] will be evacuated just like the Gaza settlements! Yes, they will!"

(applause).

- Reserve General turned businessman Yom-Tov Samiya: "Our armed forces; bought a lot of time for the political echelon to make a plan, but they can't do it forever. I support Sharon's concept of limited withdrawal from Gaza and a small part of the West Bank; the alternative is headlong flight like from Lebanon, which will encourage terrorism." (He got a very scattered applause, quite a few people felt that such a person - who initiated the concept of destroying Rafah houses to widen the "security belt" - should not have been on the podium.)

- Yosi Beilin, initiator of "Geneva" and head of the Meretz/Yachad Party: "Those who refuse peace have tried everything, targeted killings which are not always very targeted; re-invading the West Bank and Gaza; destroying fields and groves and houses - 1800 houses destroyed; burning the fact of defeat into the other side's consciousness and doing it again and again and again. The one thing which they did not try is to make peace. Those who say that there is no partner are those who don't want to talk!" (The biggest applause of the evening.)

- Amir Peretz, trade-union leader and head of the One People Party: "In 1977, the electorate toppled the Labor Party rule, and brought the Likud to power; but they did not do it in order to help the Greater Israel ideology; they did it because they felt second-class citizens. But the money did not go to the slums; it went all to the settlements. We should end the cruel occupation, we should disengage from Gaza, but that is not all; we should re-engage with Israeli society, with the values of humanity and social justice."

- And of course, the inevitable Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres: "There had been very much talk of a Unity Government [no mention of his own eagerness to become once more Foreign Minister!]. But what is needed is a Unity Policy. We are not here a demonstration of the left. We are a demonstration of the majority. The government represents only a minority."

- And then, a surprise speaker: "My name is Eliezer Bidu, I live in the settlement of Omarim, south of Hebron. I went there fourteen years ago because I was promised 'quality of life' for my family. What a quality of life! A few months ago our car was shot at. A bullet passed near the head of my baby son. I can't sleep at night, I want to get out of there. Not to live guarded by soldiers day and night, on disputed land among neighbors who hate me. I want to live in the real Israel, and I am not the only one."

All this time, the radical groups who have been excluded from the podium, were busy among the enormous crowd, adding the points which none of the speakers made. On the day before the rally, organizers announced that signs advocating refusal will be banned - but in practice nobody stopped Courage to Refuse and Yesh Gvul from holding up "It will not end if you don't refuse!", while the Refuser Parents Forum collected a considerable number of signatures in support of the six imprisoned refusers. We ourselves were busy distributing Gush Shalom leaflets: "It should be said in clear words: Arafat is the partner; an agreement without his signature has no value; he is the only one who can convince his people to a compromise." And people were flocking around the Gush Shalom stall, taking up the "Truth Against Truth" brochure (now alo available in English!) as well as last-minute stickers "Destruction of Rafah - War Crime" and "Philadelphi Route - a Death Trap."

The whole spectrum of moderate and radical groups were there with stalls and stickers: Women's Peace Coalition, the Geneva Initiative, the Communist Youth, the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan, the Labor Youth, Ta'ayush, Yachad Youth, Socialist Workers League, MachsomWatch, the Working and Studying Youth, Chadash, the Anarchists ("two states for two people is two states too many"). The newly-founded "Shuvi" women were collecting signatures on their petition for withdrawal from Gaza (reportedly they already flooded the email of the PM's office). The "Daber" initiative told about collecting testimonies of soldiers who had served in the territories, while "All for Peace" are initiating a peace radio, to begin with through the internet.

And there was a forest of signs, official and unofficial; printed and hand-made: Evacuating settlements is choosing for life / Get out of ALL the territories / The Likud is disengaged from the people - Elections Now! / Stop the Apartheid Wall / The Likud is Against Peace and Against the Poor / There is a partner / Life is cheap - settlements are expensive / Right or Left? History will prove that we were RIGHT to have LEFT [this one originally English] / We buried our sons - save those still alive / The life of our sons is more important than the settlements / Dear settlers, come back home.

A man in a wheelchair was wheeling himself energetically through the crowd, on his chest a sign: "More money for the handicapped - less for the territories. How long will we get 1201 shekels (appr. $250) per month? A young Yachad supporter collected signatures against the plan of the Tel-Aviv municipality to turn the Rabin Square into a parking lot. "If you don't sign, where will you demonstrate next year?"

For photos and what the press wrote: http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/427546.html Hebrew http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/427334.html

[2] 'If I may be permitted a prophecy' - the new optimism of Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

15.5.04

Hebrew at request & soon at the site:

http://www.gush-shalom.org :òáøéú òì ôé á÷ùä àå á÷øåá áàúø

Busharon: The Countdown

The strange creature named the Busharon is in serious trouble.

The front half of this animal - George W. Bush - is having trouble with nude photos. Not only those of the hapless Iraqi prisoners, with the exuberant female soldier pointing at their genitals, but also of Bush himself, whose nakedness was exposed for all to see.

The savior of the Iraqi people from a cruel tyrant, the gallant leader bestowing democracy on Mesopotamia, the representative of Western civilization fighting against barbarism - has himself been exposed as a cruel barbarian.

Let no one kid himself: this is not a case of a few sadists, male and female, who happened to find themselves in one place. It is already clear that there was systematic abuse of prisoners - keeping them naked, humiliating them sexually, sending in vicious dogs which probably bit them, preventing them from sleeping, keeping them shackled in painful positions for a long time, covering their heads with filthy hoods, threatening them with electrocution - all these were photographed. But there can be little doubt that with such an attitude towards the prisoners, much worse torture was applied but not photographed.

It is now quite clear that this is applied as standard procedure for "softening" up prisoners. Not only in this prison, not only in all the other prisons in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, in the devil's island of Guatanamo and all the other places where such defenseless victims, most of them quite innocent people who were picked up by accident, are imprisoned. Meaning: this was a matter of policy, coming from the highest level.

The soldiers, male and female, who happily let themselves be photographed in these pornographic scenes are certainly detestable, but anyone familiar with military life knows that this was not a private initiative. Such acts cannot go on for a long time, with many hundreds of pictures shot, without the whole chain of command being involved.

Every simple soldier is influenced by the spirit of his commanders, at least up to the level of the brigade. Its commander in turn is influenced by the spirit of his superiors, up to and including the Chief- of-Staff. In this case, it has been proven that the Pentagon chiefs and the Secretary of Defense knew the facts long ago. The investigating general did not find any written order, but such orders are always conveyed orally, and sometimes by a mere gesture or a wink.

These soldiers, most of them from decent homes, behaved as people do in lynch mobs, and for the same reason: the denial of the humanity of other races, which are considered sub-human. Racism turns the members of the master-race themselves into sub-human beings.

George Bush lost his world with the publication of these photos. He could have fired the whole chain of command, from the Secretary of Defense down to the prison commander. He didn't, of course.

All the moral arguments attempting to justify his war against Iraq have come crashing down. No democracy, no liberation, no civilization. Nothing is left except the naked aggression of cynical and cruel robber barons, just like the henchmen of Saddam Hussein.

If I may be permitted a prophecy: this week starts the countdown to the end of the career of George W.

The animal's rear end - Ariel Sharon - is also in great trouble.

This started with the rejection of the "Unilateral Disengagement" plan by the Likud members, a tiny part of the population, manipulated by the settlers. Since then Sharon has been prowling around like a caged predator. He has no majority among his ministers and members of parliament (they are bound by the party referendum), he is unable to form another government (the MPs of his party will not allow it), he is unable to fulfil his promise to President Bush (and has made Bush look ridiculous).

He has begun to blabber about "other plans" that he is forming - reminding one of Groucho Marx's joke: "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

If Sharon had really intended to leave Gaza, he would have done it at once and without the hullabaloo, fixing a strict timetable and without changing the details every few days. He would have including in his plan the evacuation of the "Philadelphi Axis", the narrow strip a few hundred yards wide between Gaza and Egypt, which demands a human sacrifice almost every day.

A week after the Likud referendum, two terrible blows were delivered. An armored vehicle carrying a large quantity of explosives entered Gaza city in order to blow up buildings, and was hit by a roadside bomb planted by Palestinian guerillas. It exploded, tearing the six soldiers to pieces. The day after, the very same thing happened on the "Philadelphi Axis": an armored personnel carrier full of explosives, which was sent there to blow up tunnels under the border, was hit by a Palestinian rocket and blew up with its five crew members.

The power of each of the two explosions was such that body parts were scattered over hundreds of meters. The whole country saw on TV how Israeli soldiers crawled on all fours, filtering the sand with their bare hands in order to gather the body parts of their comrades. The media competed in the orchestration of a necrophile hysteria, with endless talk about "body parts" interlaced with scenes of funerals.

It was impossible to ignore the direct connection between the Likud referendum's rejection of the withdrawal and the death of the soldiers. This was expressed in the most simple way by the actor Shlomo Vishinsky, whose son Lior was killed in the second vehicle, when he blamed the members of Likud for the death of his son.

For the first time, the Israeli public saw the real picture of Gaza: not "terror", not "terrorists", but a classic guerilla war, with the whole population taking part in the struggle against the occupation forces. Today's Gaza, tomorrow's West Bank.

In such a struggle, we cannot win. One can kill Palestinians wholesale, destroy whole neighborhoods, as is happening now. But one cannot win. The public is beginning to understand that. The "Zionist Left", so it seems, is also waking up from its 4-year coma.

Israel will leave the Gaza Strip, as it left the "Security Strip" in South Lebanon. The similarity between the two strips is so obvious, that banal headlines proclaim it in all the media.

If I may be permitted a second prophecy: this week starts the countdown to the end of the career of Ariel Sharon.

[3] Supreme Court injunction puts temporary halt to mass demolition of houses in Rafah

http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/427462.html

# Sharansky and the New Antisemitism, by Adam Keller -

http://otherisrael.home.igc.org/sharansky.html

(more articles of The Other Israel May issue accessible via

http://otherisrael.home.igc.org/contents.html)

*** Ongoing struggle ***

how to link up with anti-Wall struggle, refusnik news etc.

#Against the Wall contact addresses daily struggle / eye-witness reports

#Refusniks (prisoner addresses & links to constantly updated sites) updated refusniks lists / support to five long-time incarcerated

#Against the Wall

* ðåëçåú éåîéåîéú áëôøéí îàéîéí ò"é äçåîä ìúàí òí àééáé 064-604172 isichel@netvision.net.il àøé÷ 050-607034 info@rhr.israel.net

Day to day presence at villages threatened by route of wall. Contact: Ivy Sichel 064-604172 isichel@netvision.net.il Arik Asherman 050-607034 info@rhr.israel.net

*

Daily eye-witness reports from the Occupied Territories: http://www.machsomwatch.org

(Israeli women monitoring the checkpoints)

http://www.palsolidarity.org/pressreleases/pressreleases.php (internationals throughout OT)

#Refusniks

Constantly-updated refusniks lists:

English - http://www.yesh-gvul.org/english/prison/ Hebrew / òáøéú - http://www.yesh-gvul.org/prison/

English - http://www.newprofile.org/default.asp?language=en Hebrew / òáøéú - http://www.newprofile.org/

For the latest news about the five: http://www.refuz.org.il/News.html

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 - Israel

--

http://www.gush-shalom.org/ (òáøéú/Hebrew)

http://www.gush-shalom.org/english/index.html (English)

http://www.gush-shalom.org/arabic/index.html (selected articles in Arabic)

with \\photos of recent actions \\the weekly Gush Shalom ad \\the columns of Uri Avnery \\Gush Shalom's history & action chronicle \\position papers & analysis (in "documents") \\and a lot more

N.B.: On the Gush Shalom website links for Articles and documents in German, French and Spanish

In order to receive Gush Shalom's Hebrew-language press releases mail to: gush-shalom-heb-request@mailman.gush-shalom.org + NB: write the word "subscribe" in the subject line.

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