Wednesday, December 24

The Israeli Elections and Violence

All the political parties have had their primaries and will be going into the field to capture the votes of their supporters. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the Likud and its potential right wing partners will win these elections. This will be detrimental to Israel and Palestinian interests in the movement towards peace. Now, the peace process has stalled and this is what the right wing block wants. It means that they will leave the situation as it is. This also means the settlements will remain and the tension between Israel and the Palestinians will increase.

Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister. All we seem to get are lack luster leadership in the main political parties. The cease fire between Hamas in Gaza and Israel ended on 19th December 2008. It remains to be seen whether there will be an increase of violence in the near future. As the situation is now, Hamas has been firing Qassam rockets into Israel and it will be a matter of time before the situation deteriorates further.

It is hard to understand what Hamas is trying to achieve by escalating the violence. They are inviting an Israeli Army action which will be disastrous for the Palestinians. Their actions are suicidal and the threat to the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is real. If the Israeli Army decides to enter Gaza with all its forces, Gilad Shalit’s life could be placed in jeopardy. Hamas is the Gaza Palestinian’s choice and this is the group with whom Israel has to negotiate. While Hamas has no interest in negotiating with Israel as it does not wish to recognize Israel, the difficulties of negotiating under these circumstances makes it impossible.

Hamas is playing with fire. They have no interest in peace and coexistence with Israel. Even democracy for the Palestinian people in Gaza is not in their lexicon. It is a matter of time before they get what is coming to them from the Israeli Army. The closures in Gaza, the economic squeeze on the Palestinian population is not going to help to improve the situation. Hamas must be held accountable for the untold suffering of the Palestinian population in Gaza. Their intransigence and violence towards Israel and their own opponents in Palestine are factors that prolong Palestinian suffering in Gaza. The message of Hamas is clear. They are a selfish, power hungry group of terrorists who can only survive by ensuring that the suffering of the Palestinian people continues. Economic hardships and Palestinian suffering somehow is Hamas’s strength. They initiate violence and the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel in order to provoke an aggressive Israeli response which they would turn into a victory by accusing Israel of aggression. They also hope that they can get improved conditions for a cease fire from their point of view. It looks as if they are on the road to brinkmanship. They are trying their luck to the point where Israel may be on the eve of a massive air strike of which they might stop short at the last minute once a renewed cease-fire is declared with Egypt’s mediation. There is no doubt that Hamas is a cancer in Palestinian society that rules Gaza by tyranny. In the coming days there will be an acceleration of Qassam rockets into Sderot and other areas in Southern Israel.

There has been further firing of rockets into the south of Israel – 18 rockets in all. There does not seem to be a cessation of this terrorist activity at all. Following the ongoing rocket fire, Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the defense establishment to cancel the planned transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, Israel decided to allow the delivery a limited amount of humanitarian equipment at 11 am Wednesday 24th December 2008, but the crossings are now slated to remain closed.

Meanwhile, Israel is carrying out limited air strikes against the Qassam launchers but this is not going to make any dent in the Hamas ability to carry on the violence.

While this is going on, the main political parties in Israel are gearing up for the elections in February 10th 2009. As I said, the trend is towards the right; the Labour Party will be trounced like never before in its history. Kadima will take second place and after the elections, it will be part of the Likud coalition and so will the Labour Party. Ehud Barak, the Labour leader may even retain the Defense portfolio under the Netanyahu Likud government that is on the cards, according to statistics. Those Israeli citizens who have the vote must be made to realize that a vote for any of these 3 parties is a vote for a right wing coalition because that is what we are going to receive.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the rejuvenated Meretz Party which has attracted quite a few well known Labour Party celebrities who have left the Labour Party, which over the last decade or so has lost its direction and is prepared to sit in coalitions with right wing parties that are theoretically diametrically opposed to Labour Party ideology or what is left of it. The Meretz Party’s performance in the last Knesset has been poor, it had not been outspoken on many issues like the peace process, and social issues as it had been in the past. It is doubtful if the new Meretz Party will gain more support than what it has now. It may gain an extra seat or two in the Knesset.

The Shas Party will as usual resort to religious extortion as they have done in the past. They will be part of the right wing coalition after the elections.

The rest of the parties are marginal. The environmental parties will not gain any seats in the Knesset and a vote for them will be futile if not a total waste.

The serious voter will remain confused for whom to vote. A vote for the right wing is a vote for the settler movement and the continuation of the occupation. Hamas provides the right wing with the ideal fuel for that! While Hamas maintains its anti-Israel stance, the right wing in Israel will be pleased and will score a victory in the elections.

The coming elections will, unfortunately, be another wasted opportunity – an exercise in marking time to continue the occupation. This will be further emphasized as election fever heats up and the right wing of Israel becomes the next government.

Saturday, December 6

The Violence Goes On with Israeli Elections in the Offing

The last week we all witnessed the terrible tragedy that occurred in Mumbai, India. The attack on the Taj Hotel, Oberoi Hotel and Chabad Centre left in its wake 173 people dead. This heinous terrorist act was ghastly and needs to be condemned by all peoples no matter from where they come. It was an attack on Western civilization as well as Jews. This occurred at the weak economic underbelly of India which was so unprepared. Let us all hope that these terrorist acts will never occur again and that Pakistan and India will work together to destroy this evil that is threatening the peace between the two states. Pakistan has a history of intelligence services that went rogue and worked against the interests of Pakistan. This was a tragic case in point.

It would be a grave mistake if people condemn Islam because of the terror that was perpetrated by Islamist extremists. Certainly accusing the Palestinians of being part of the terrorist groupings is not constructive and it is not the case here.

Back home, the violence in Hebron continues between right wing Jewish extremists and Palestinians. In this case, the Jewish religious extremists are to blame for the violence against the Palestinians. They flouted the law, and remained in the House of Contention in Hebron, wreaking havoc on the Palestinians. They maintain that this House of Contention belongs to them by right and they refuse to evacuate it. They also caused damage to Israeli Army property and injured soldiers carrying out their duty in maintaining law and order. Eventually the army succeeded in evacuating them. The army blames the settlers for instigating clashes with Palestinians, which led to the injury of 18 Israeli security personnel and settlers Tuesday 2nd December 2008, including a 15-year-old boy whose skull was fractured after he was hit in the head by a rock. Twenty Palestinians have been hurt in the clashes since Monday, the Palestinian Authority said.

The Israeli Border Police continue to treat these settler extremists and their supporters with kid gloves and as expected, no arrests were made. Why are these youth not punished? They have caused so much damage to property – Israeli as well as Palestinian. It all boils down to education. The so-called extremist rabbinical educators of the yeshivas where these kids study “firebrand” Judaism – the Judaism of hate not the authentic Judaism of love and tolerance should be blamed for the violence that these religious extremists commit. It is people of the likes of the racist Rabbi Dov Lior that foments hatred and is a catalyst for the settler youth violence. Other rabbis of this ilk preach the same.

The following is a quote from an article “Rabbis who bring shame to Judaism” by Khaled Amayreh:

“Religious extremism is very dangerous. It means that every thinkable vice under the sun can be committed, “sanctioned” and “justified” in the name of the Almighty. In Israel, rabbis with hundreds of thousands of followers, many of whom serve in the Gestapo-like Israeli occupation army, openly teach that non-Jews are only human in form but animals in substance. These racist teachings can’t be dismissed as “innocuous” or “esoteric.” Very often, they constitute “a manual for action” for many Jewish settlers roaming the hills of the West Bank, searching for an Arab prey to kill, or attack or tie up to a power pole.

The teachings also serve as a direct inspiration to numerous Israeli soldiers (by no means all the soldiers. It is NOT the policy of the Israeli Army to indoctrinate the soldiers with religious teachings. I have served in the Israeli Army and this statement is NOT true! The Israeli Army is NOT a racist army. It is concerned with the defense of Israel. While the methods it uses may be questionable, this does NOT make it racist or responsible for the ideology of various right wing extremists. The “hill top” youth have NOT served in the army because of their age. S .Z. Klein) operating in the West Bank who, thanks to the racist indoctrination they receive from their rabbis, have come to view the estimated 3.7 million Palestinians living under Israel’s military rule, not as real human beings, but rather as animals walking on two feet. The often barbaric treatment meted out to the Palestinians in the occupied territories testifies to the rampantly racist indoctrination soldiers and settlers receive at the hands of religious Zionist rabbis. Last year, a Jewish immigrant from France, who murdered an Arab taxi driver after luring him to his home north of Tel Aviv, told police interrogators that he didn’t kill a human being; he only killed an animal.

“Merkaz Harav”

Merkaz Harav (the Rabbi’s Center) is the ideological and theological central nervous system of religious Zionism in Israel. Established in honor of Rabbi Abraham Kook, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, the center, which is actually a religious college, teaches students that God Almighty created the entire universe for the sake of “the Jew,” and that all non-Jews ought to be slaves laboring for the “chosen people.” As to the Palestinians, Merkaz Harav teaches that “non-Jews living under Jewish law in Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) must either be enslaved as water carriers and wood hewers, or banished, or exterminated.”

Some rabbinic authorities associated with Merkaz Harav have been preaching the view that Palestinians are descendants of the Amalek, or Amalekites, whom the Bible says must be exterminated. Such hateful views are actually espoused by hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. This is the religious doctrine of religious Zionism. This is the theology taught in hundreds of Yeshivas (religious schools) throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Settlers as well as the increasingly Settler-dominated Israeli army (This is untrue! The Israeli Army is NOT dominated by settlers – S. Z. Klein) may very well act on these doctrines in a more wanton manner if the world goes into a slumber. They are only awaiting the opportune time to do it.

According to Rabbi Kook, “The difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews-all of them in all different levels-is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the soul of cattle.” The late Israeli philosopher, Yisrael Shahak, pointed out that the teachings of Kook were based on the Lurianic Cabala, one of whose basic tenets is the absolute superiority of the Jewish soul and body over the non-Jewish soul and body “so much so that the world was created solely for the sake of Jews.”

Religious zealots of the right view it as their privilege to settle the West Bank (Judea and Samaria as they call it). They demonize the Palestinians and their hate for them knows no bounds. The violence directed towards the Palestinians is a logical outcome of the occupation. These hooligans, attired in the traditional attire of religious Jews, are the offspring of the religious rightwing settler movements. After years of occupation that resulted in the usurpation of Palestinian lands, justification of violence against Palestinians and the Security Forces has rendered the government powerless against them. Successive Israeli governments since the June War of 1967 are responsible for this cancer in Israeli society. This cancer manifests itself in the warped teaching of religious right wing rabbis residing in the territories who goad their students to commit acts of violence against the Palestinians as well as the Israeli Security Forces entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining law and order.

The extent of the violence recently exhibited by the settlers has been "nearly unprecedented" over the past few days and could spark Palestinian revenge attacks, IDF sources said. They called on educators in West Bank yeshivas and high schools to restrain their students, adding that most of the settlers involved in the fighting were young people from the territories.

Rabbis and principals are "turning a blind eye to their students' skipping school to go to Hebron, and some are even encouraging them," an IDF source said.

"We're sorry about the boy who was seriously wounded Tuesday," a military official added, "but the truth needs to be said: He is not a resident of Hebron and there was nothing for him to be doing there, in the heart of the riots. He should have stayed in school."

Right wing extremist rabbis are goading the youth to take the law into their own hands from the roof tops of the so called House of Contention to throw rocks at the Palestinians.

Nearby, a Palestinian youth walking home from school keeps his eye on the rooftop of the building. He knows a stone may be thrown at him from there at any moment. Mohammed al-Jabari, 46, who just finished praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs, said the youths on top of the building throw stones at every Palestinian passing on the street below.

Munwar al-Jabari, 62, lives down the road from the building. Her arm is covered with blue marks she said were caused by stones thrown at her by Jewish youths.

"They called me names. Whore, prostitute," she said. "Then they threw stones. One of them hit me and I haven't received medical treatment since."

Her sons later confronted the Jewish youths but three of them were arrested by police. A Red Crescent ambulance was called to treat Munwar, but Jewish youths threw stones at it too.

The word "vengeance," daubed by settlers on the door to the al-Jabaris' backyard can still be seen underneath a layer of white paint. Three weeks earlier, settlers wrote "death to Arabs" on another wall.

Hate graffiti and stone-throwing recur repeatedly. Such incidents have become routine for Palestinians living near the "House of Contention."

Youths at the building seem determined to make their neighbors' lives a living hell. Seven Palestinians were wounded from stones thrown from the building yesterday, and another seven the day before. However, for some unknown reason, the police's reaction has been very soft.

Amjad al-Jabari, a photographer for the human rights organization B'Tselem, complained to a police officer on Saturday about the constant stone-throwing.

"I asked the officer to place police officers on the rooftops," he said. "He said he could not do such a thing. A few minutes later I was hit with a stone." He takes off his hat and reveals a bandage placed on his head in a way that resembles a skullcap.

"Three days ago I caught a youth who threw a stone at me," he said. "I took him to the police but they let him go after ten minutes."

As Amjad spoke, a police vehicle approached him. The officer stuck his head out the window and shouted angrily toward him: "Tell them, tell them everything." Almost all the Palestinians living near the "House of Contention" have been attacked by settlers.

A few settler youths play the guitar near the entrance to the building - an almost pastoral scene. A youth carrying a backpack gets off a bus at the bus stop set up right outside the building for the settlers' convenience. He enters the building and joins the ranks of those inside. Outside, two women sit in a vehicle keeping an eye on the traffic and warning against unwanted visitors.

Basam and Nabil al-Jabari are renovating their home opposite the Peace House. "We aren't interested in politics," Basam said. "But you are occupying us, so protect us. They attack people randomly, men, women and funerals. What do they want from us?"

The behaviour of these youths is shocking and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The right wing rabbis are no asset to Israel and certainly they are a great obstacle for peace. These rabbis are so full of hate for the Palestinians and it reflects in their interpretation of Judaism which they teach to the yeshiva students under their tutelage.

Their Judaism is violent and their rabbinical teachers encourage these hooligans to attack Palestinians. According to a Haaretz report of 5th December 2008, a pogrom was committed by the Jewish settlers against the Palestinians:

“An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people was surrounded by a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. This could best be described as a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, "Allahu Akhbar." Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there.

The cries rain down, much like the hail of stones the masked men hurled at the Abu Sa'afan family in the house. A few seconds tick by before a group of journalists, long accustomed to witnessing these difficult moments, decides not to stand on the sidelines. They break into the home and save the lives of the people inside. The brain requires a minute or two to digest what is taking place. Women and children were crying bitterly. They had fear on their faces. Stones land on the roof of the home, the windows and the doors. Flames engulf the southern entrance to the home. The front yard is littered with stones thrown by the masked men. The windows are shattered and the children are frightened. All around, as if they were watching a rock concert, are hundreds of Jewish witnesses, observing the events with great interest, even offering suggestions to the Jewish wayward youth as to the most effective way to harm the family. The police and the army were nowhere to be seen.

Ten minutes prior, while the security forces were preoccupied with dispersing the rioters near the House of Contention, black smoke billowed from the wadi separating Kiryat Arba and Hebron. For some reason, none of the senior officers of the police or the army was particularly disturbed by what was transpiring at the foot of Kiryat Arba. Anyone standing hundreds of meters away could notice the dozens of rioters climbing atop the roof of the Abu Sa'afan family home, hurling stones”.

The settler youths who committed these ghastly acts have the audacity to accuse the Israeli Army of being Nazis. If anything their loutish behaviour and the destruction of Palestinian property and injury they caused illustrates who are the real Nazis and racists in the territories.

The apologetic attitude of the right wing Likud and its further to the right allies towards the settlers is appalling. While admitting that those “hill top youth” ought to be punished for their hooliganism towards the Israeli Security Forces, they did not condemn the violence towards the Palestinians. This is the party destined to win the Israeli Elections in February 2009 and has no desire to make peace with Israel’s Palestinian neighbours. The settlers in the occupied territories will remain with the religious hooligans under the influence of their right wing rabbinical mentors in the bigoted, racist yeshivas in the territories.

The losers will be the Israelis and the Palestinians as the Likud and its right wing allies will lead Israel towards a true apartheid society resembling the old, detestable regime of White South Africa.