Saturday, April 24

Israel is 62 years old -what now?

Israel has just celebrated its 63rd year of independence. During the first 3 decades which were Israel's formative years much had been achieved. Jewish immigrants from all corners of the earth were absorbed into a vital dynamic Israeli society with relative success within a short time. No success story is without its hurdles which still have to be overcome.

Industrially Israel has made remarkable progress in a relatively short time, especially in the hi-tech field. Science and medicine have also advanced dramatically. Israel is the home of many leading scientists and medical doctors which would be the pride of any country.

Unfortunately, all this progress has been marred by Israel's inability to make peace with its Palestinian neighbours. The reason, according to Israel's leaders, is that there is no partner with whom Israel can negotiate a peace treaty which would end the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The situation has been complicated even further by the division of the occupied territories into two entities:

1. The Gaza Strip ruled by Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and is not even prepared to negotiate with Israel under any conditions.

2. The West Bank is ruled by the Palestinian Authority which is moderate but its power base is shaky.

The latter does have a desire for reaching an agreement with Israel but is unable because of the extremist Islamists that tow the Hamas line and those terrorist groups who are more radical than Hamas in their hate for Israel. The fear of the radical Islamists' factions in the West Bank is an important factor hindering peace negotiations with Israel.

Despite this, the mistake of Israel's colonial policies in the occupied territories always remains a factor in hindering peace negotiations even from the Israeli perspective. The encouragement of Jewish settlers to build and settle in the occupied Palestinian territories is also a factor in the emergence of extremist Islamists groups in the territories. The usurping of Palestinian lands by Israel's settlers to make way for building homes and expansion of Jewish settlements triggered off a violent nationalism with a severe Islamist ideology in a new generation that grew up under occupation. The expansionist policies of Israel in the occupied territories does play a role in uniting the extremist, Palestinian groups in their common hatred for Israel and also advances Ahmadinajad of Iran’s interests in the region which is domination of the Middle East and destruction of Israel.

The Palestinians suffer from a bad leadership which in many respects is influenced by fantasies rather than reality. Israeli leadership is right wing and has racist elements which form part of the Likud led coalition. This is hardly a prescription for encouraging peace negotiations despite the impotent leadership in the West Bank and the intransigent hate-filled Hamas regime in Gaza. Making matters worse is the hatred between the Hamas and Fatah regimes which make a rapprochement between the two factions impossible.

Both Israel and the Palestinian leadership need to reevaluate their attitudes towards each other and accept reality as it exists and not the fantasies that drive them.

Israel must cease its illegal settlement activity in the occupied territories and start drawing up plans for a phased withdrawal in an orderly fashion and the Palestinians must come to terms with the reality of Israel's existence and negotiate with it so that there will be peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

On the Israeli side there has been a change in priorities. Much of Israel's high ranking officials in the municipalities around the country have been involved in bribery and corruption while profiteering business entrepreneurs have been investing in property paying off city engineers, mayors and city planners to get shady building plans passed. The latest scandal rocking Israel now is the Holy Land Project. The ugliest building complex has been built in Jerusalem. No thought was spared for the environment. The only thought was motivated by GREED and nothing else. I would not be exaggerating if I say that this building is one of the biggest eyesores in Israel. Who can afford to buy apartments in this despicable complex? Rich diamond-studded, armchair Zionists from the Diaspora will live there only a few months of the year. They will come "on pilgrimage" to Israel to identify with their people at best or to speculate at worst. Is this the Zionism of today? A Zionism motivated by greed, profit and support for the occupation. Who knows what further eyesores will be built if there is no freezing of settlements?

The continuing occupation, the erection of illegal buildings in Jerusalem, bribery and corruption has the lowest common denominator - greed - and this is despicable! Those suspects involved in the Holy Land project are under arrest and will stand trial.

The pioneering spirit that was so much part of Israel's history is undergoing a transformation towards corruption that can be described as destructive and cancerous in Israel's society.

Saturday, April 17

The “Laager Mentality”

There has been much criticism by Israel pundits against those who compare Israel's policies to the apartheid policies of white South Africa. There is really no comparison between the two as the circumstances in both countries are very different. The similarities are in their reactions to criticism. The self righteous "laager mentality” is common to both.

In Israel, the left has lost its way. It has been weakened to an amorphous, spineless mass under the Barak leadership that has attached itself to the Likud. The remains of the left under the Meretz leadership are ineffective and weak. They are not concerning themselves with important peace issues. They are not a responsible opposition that could offer a viable alternative to the right wing Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak Government.

Israel's standing in the world has reached a new low and its relationship with the Obama Administration has been severely damaged. The reasons for Israel's diminished standing are its refusal to freeze settlement building in East Jerusalem. It gives credence to the fact that the right wing Netanyahu Government does not intend to end the occupation.

The Netanyahu Government continues to grant permits for building Jewish settlements in areas designated for the establishment of a future Palestinian state. The freezing of settlements is cosmetic and limited.

It is business as usual and this means continuing the occupation. Israel would not grant permits for building new homes in occupied lands if its intention is to relinquish occupied lands for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

The severe dent in Israel's international standing is no doubt due to its desire to maintain the occupation in its entirety and to preserve the status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not even a matter of “nothing ventured nothing gained" but simply maintaining the occupation while its citizens have become apathetic towards peace.

Netanyahu keeps on harping on the Iranian nuclear threat as a digression to avoid discussing the establishment of a future Palestinian state. This tactic is bound to fail in the end and will only increase the resolve of Islamist extremists such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Ahmadinajad's Iran and their loathsome ilk in their resolve to destroy Israel. This will also result in Al Qaeda becoming more involved in terrorist activity against the non-Moslem West.

How does this influence the thinking of the Israel mainstream? The majority of Israelis have developed a siege mentality. They view the whole world as anti-Semitic that collaborates with Islamist extremists whose desire is delegitimizing Israel as a first step to its total destruction.

Israelis who do not hold this Armageddon-like world view are considered traitors and are ostracized. There is a wind of religious Jewish fundamentalism surging through a large segment of the Israeli population and with it an unhealthy desire to delegitimize left wing Israelis. This also spells danger for the future of democracy in Israel. The left in Israel is weak and those who define themselves as peacemakers are viewed as traitors or collaborators of Hamas and company and are dehumanized as well as delegitimized.

The siege mentality is replacing reason and this is similar to the attitude of the majority of the white population in apartheid South Africa. This is where the siege or "laager mentality” of many Israelis resembles the attitude of white apartheid supporters in South Africa prior to black majority rule.

Israel has the extremist right wing Lieberman faction, the fundamental racist Shas faction who views the foreign workers as polluters of the purity of the Jewish people not to mention the hate for Arabs who are viewed as a potential security threat. Xenophobia has become more prevalent amongst Israelis as they feel threatened.

At the time of writing, Israel is commemorating the Holocaust. Have we forgotten our victims of the Holocaust and the terrible suffering that racism against the Jewish People caused? "Do not do to others what you would not like done to yourself." - is the basis of Judaism which has been conveniently forgotten by Israel's politically motivated rabbis who wield the hidden power in the Knesset.

In apartheid South Africa, anybody who opposed apartheid was viewed as a traitor and was arrested without recourse to a lawyer. Arrests were carried out at the whim of a low ranking police sergeant in many cases. The suspects were often accused of being communists that meant imprisonment for an indefinite period even though there was no evidence to prove this.

In Israel there are security services (Shabak) that are carrying out similar witch hunts against people who are against the occupation and considered a security threat even though evidence may be scanty. The terms "traitors, collaborators with the enemy and threat to security" are used liberally to intimidate those opposing Israel's expansionist policies.

Another indication that could be viewed as a threat to democracy is the witch hunt of journalists who have in their possession documents that are obtained from classified secret sources. These sources of information are suspected of being severe security risks. This can be problematic when viewed as a threat to security despite the fact that the information based on these sources was released for publication by the military censor. Surely this could be viewed as a potential threat to press freedom!

Another example of the siege mentality is the danger of expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the occupied lands. A new military order is due to take effect this week enabling the army to deport tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and prosecute them on infiltration charges which carry long prison terms. Amira Hass of Haaretz exposed this. It bears the signature of Major Gen. Gadi Shamni who was commander of the IDF in Judea and Samaria. There is an infringement of human rights by not allowing Palestinians to move within the territories where they live.

Israel is behaving like a country under siege. The "laager mentality” is replacing reason and it will not be long before Israel will cease to be the "only democratic state in the Middle East".