This is one of the stranger posts I’ll have written here about Israeli politics. Usually I have a hard source from either Haaretz or Ynetnews or the New York Times upon which I can base my analysis and commentary. But tonight I have several piecemeal sources none of which tell a complete story.
There is the case of Israel’s leading Arab politician, Azmi Bishara, who has mysteriously left the country for reasons that are unclear with the Israeli chattering classes expecting his resignation from the Knesset. He has not yet resigned and if he does no one is clear about why he would do so. Even stranger, Ynetnews quotes his party, Balad, complaining that an Israeli court has issued a gag order preventing it from discussing the matter:
Harmed by rumors surrounding the disappearance of Balad Chairman Azmi Bishara, faction chairman MK Jamal Zahalka said the party would turn to the High Court of Justice if the gag order on the affair was not lifted.
After leaving country for Jordan, MK’s wife and son return without the Balad party head; reports say Bishara left for Europe after Jordanian foreign minister asked him to respect Hashemite Kingdom’s sovereignty
This would seem to indicate that Bishara may’ve asked Jordan for political asylum and been rebuffed by a kingdom which did not want to rile relations with Israel. No doubt the Shin Bet has also weighed in telling the king it would regard such a gesture as hostile.
Balad comments further on the gag order:
“We find ourselves at a dead end since we cannot talk…We have nothing to hide, on the contrary, we have someone to blame. If the court does not order the gag order to be removed on Sunday, we will go to the High Court of Justice,” Zahalka told Ynet on Thursday.
“We will go all the way to the High Court to realize our right to respond to the fabricated accusations against us, and refute the malicious rumors that are being published through the media,” added Zahalka.
“Bishara is being persecuted because of his political and ideological views, and because of his national and democratic opinions. Former minister Shulamit Aloni has already told the media recently that she thought Shin Bet would try to set him up and this is what we think has happened. We wish to remove the uncertainty, we have a lot to say, if we were only allowed,” he said.
…Either way, Balad is serious about the PR attack it plans to launch once the gag order is removed.
What in the world is going on? After forwarding the Ynetnews link to my good friend and fellow Israeli peace activist, Sol Salbe, we have together come to the conclusion that the Bishara case is part of the Shin Bet’s avowed war against the Israeli Arab leadership, which recently announced a campaign to transform Israel from a Jewish state into a multiethnic democracy:
An attack on the Arab leadership, Zuabi maintains, is a natural response to this defeat. The second cause that she sees is “the vision papers” published in recent months by several Arab organizations, documents that spoke, among other things, about altering the definition of Israel as a Jewish state. “This is a political culture that Balad introduced, and now it’s become dominant in Arab society,” says Zuabi. She believes this is why someone in power decided to get rid of Balad, because “only it is capable of nurturing the idea of rejecting the Jewish state.”
The Shin Bet apparently took these papers quite seriously. About a month ago, the Israeli daily Maariv reported that Shin Bet chief Avi Diskin told the cabinet that these “vision papers” indicate that Israeli Arabs are a “strategic danger.” It’s unclear if he was referring to Bishara specifically but to the vast majority of Israeli Jews Bishara is undeniably the symbol of the threat to the state’s Jewish character. This week, Education Minister Yuli Tamir said that “Bishara has crossed the red line,” and Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin made similar comments.
At the time I first read in Haaretz about the Shin Bet’s brazen declaration of war against Israeli Arabs it was a theoretical matter and I wasn’t clear how the spooks would fight it. The persecution of Bishara seems to be the first major battle in this war.
Sol believes that the Shin Bet has told Bishara that if he does not go into exile that it will arrest him on a security charge. Neither of us knows precisely what Bishara may be charged with. But Bishara visited Syria and Lebanon immediately after last summer’s war and made statements the Israeli government considered objectionable:
[In Syria,] Bishara…warned of the possibility that “Israel launch a preliminary offensive in more than one place, in a bid to overcome the internal crisis in the country and in an attempt to restore its deterrence capability.” …[In] Lebanon, [he] told the Lebanese prime minister that Hizbullah’s resistance to Israel has “lifted the spirit of the Arab people”. Soon thereafter at Interior Minister Roni “Bar-On’s request, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered a criminal investigation be opened against Bashara…” [A]fter Bashara’s last trip in 2001, the Knesset passed a law forbidding MKs from visiting any enemy state.”
There are some other disturbing precedents in Israeli history. In the 1960s, the Shin Bet also waged a war of persecution against Israeli Arab political leaders of the Al Ard movement. The latter was an Arab nationalist movement founded by rebellious young Israeli Arab intellectuals devoted to the teachings of Gamel Nasser. The movement rejected the traditional Arab politics of the Communist party in favor of a more authentically nationalist politics. Israeli intelligence saw Al-Ard as a serious threat and when it put forward a list for the 1965 Knesset, the party was banned. Several members including Mahmoud Darwish, one of the greatest contemporary Arab poets, went into exile.
Sol sees the Bishara case in much the same light. The Shin Bet is threatening either to ban Balad or prosecute Bishara for national security breaches or both. They have directed him to leave the country voluntarily and resign from the Knesset. If most or all of what Sol and I surmise this would mean the most egregious governmental assault on Israeli Arab political life in a generation.
I should make clear that Sol and I are speculating based on putting two and two together from various reports we have read from the Israeli Hebrew and English language press. Unfortunately, we can do no more than speculate because it appears that the news media is either being prevented from reporting this story fully or Balad is prevented from responding fully to whatever charges are being levelled against it.
I recently read an article in Haaretz saying that Israeli Arab political leaders planned a full-scale public relations campaign against the Shin Bet’s assault. I thought it was a strange pronouncement since the public didn’t know then precisely what the Shin Bet planned. But apparently Balad even then had a pretty fair idea of what was in store. And their response was dead on. Whatever shenanigans are going on here must see the clear light of day. As we here in this country know in light of revelations of Bush Administration violations of human rights using the cover of secrecy, tyranny loves darkness. The Shin Bet must be made to answer for its actions. It must not be allowed to hound Azmi Bishara into silence or exile without a fair hearing. If Israel is a true democracy and not a security state masquerading as a democracy, it is the least we can expect.
Israeli Arabs have every right as citizens of the state to agitate for their rights. They have every right to do precisely what Martin Luther King did here in the 1960s–to transform America from a land of the free only for some of its citizens into a land of the free for all its citizens. If Israeli Arabs seek to change the nature of Israel they will not destroy the state. They will never be able to transform Israel without the consent of Jewish citizens. But they have every right to lobby for their vision of what Israel should be. Just as Jews have every right to counter with their own vision. That is what a democracy is. What a democracy is NOT–is one in which the majority cows the minority into submission through hounding, persecution and prison.
UPDATE: An Italian left publication, Il Manifesto, adds some interestesting speculation to the mix on April 8th:
According to rumours, the security services are expected to have records of phone talks between Bishara and some leading members from Hezbollah, among which is General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah himself, which came about during the days of the devastating Israeli offensive in southern Lebanon and the katyushia rockets being launched against Galilee.
Fundamentally, Bishara would seem to be accused of keeping contacts with the enemy during wartime. Yet, it looks quite improbable that Nasrallah, Israeli air force’s target, hidden in a secret place under very strict security measures, might have phoned during the war (phone lines, not least the mobile phone ones, are a formidable means in the secret services’ hands to find people) in order to engage himself in conversations with Bishara who is, in turn, kept under constant surveillance.
The Gag order is, IMHO, one of the ways to hide what seems as a mishap of the Shim Bet. The story is all over the Arab news and it seems that both the English and Hebrew news sources (as well as Technorati) might be in the loop. No one is writing about it except arab sources.
If you can read hebrew, do what Shosh Forbres did and get the full story.
Melvin Schnell says
Bishara is probably under criminal indictment for terror related charges. He has called for attacks on Israel from Syria and Lebanon, and has done everything possible to inflame relations between Israeli Jews and Arabs. Israel has tolerated Bishara long enough. Imagine if Cynthia Mckinney visited Osama bin Laden in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (wherever he is hiding) and urged further attacks on the US. She would not exactly be welcomed in most of the US. Perhaps Bishara has inside info on the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Just like Conrad Henlein led Sudeten Germans against Czechoslovakia under Hitler’s orders, Bishara performs the orders of Ahmadinejad while a member of the Knesset
Richard Silverstein says
More horse manure, Melvin. And again you make accusations w/o providing any source or even quotation to back up yr charges. The only one inflaming here is you. Prove yr charge or don’t make it. Visiting with Bashir Assad is not “terrorism” no matter what the Knesset says & if I were Bishara I’d welcome the chance to make my case in an Israeli court room. It will turn Israeli justice & the Shin Bet into a laughingstock.
If you make further incendiary, unsupported charges like this you run the risk of losing yr privileges to post comments here.
It appears pretty simple to me. You break the law, excpect the consequences. Even as an MK it was illegal for Bashara to go to Syria in 2006 …” [A]fter Bashara’s last trip in 2001, the Knesset passed a law forbidding MKs from visiting any enemy state.” It would be wrong not to press charges. Visiting an enemy country and its leaders, especially during wartime, is more serious than tongue kissing an adult woman.
Richard Silverstein says
A ridiculous law. As I wrote, if I were Bishara I’d come home and fight it. That’s a fight I’d be eager for. And if he were to lose he would become the next Barghouti, a martyr and political model for every Israeli Arab child in Israel, not to mention the independent-minded Israeli Jews who would understand the injustice involved.
Such oppression does Israel no favors and wins it no friends. Just the opposite.
The neocons wanted to prosecute Nancy Pelosi for meeting with Assad as well. The attempt to demonize her for doing what any political leader should do (represent her position and constituency) backfired here as it would if the Shin Bet pursued its vendetta against Bishara.
There goes another or yr arguments. He arrived in Damascus on the day the ceasefire went into effect. The war was effectively over days before he arrived. Besides if there was a war it was with Hezbollah. Or was Israel also amid hostilities with Syria that I missed?
Please remember that as a parliament member Bishara is immune from criminal indictment and is also immune from wiretapping on his phone. in order to tap his conversations the Shin Bet should have had a warrant from a supreme court judge, and only for a specific purpose. if i were Bishara, i’d come back to israel to fight.
As fir what Melvin said, Bishara is not indicted yet, only suspects (afak), what he’s suspected for i don’t know, as there is a gag order.
Syria is at war with Israel. Syria uses proxies to attack Israel all the time. The first day of a ceasefire is not the end of hostilities since cease fires don’t always hold. It is illegal for him to visit Syria regardless of what is happening in Lebanon.
Richard Silverstein says
Ridiculous. Iran uses proxies to attack U.S. troops in Iraq. Are we “at war” with Iran?? Of course not (at least not yet). Israel is NOT at war with Syria & you know it. You may wish Israel to be at war with Syria along w. some of yr. mates in Likud. But it hasn’t happened yet. Get back to me when there are F-16s attacking the presidential palace in Damascus & troops massing on the Golan border. Then I’ll believe you.
Come off it. If you’d bother to go back & read the news you’d see that in the last days of the war fighting had died down & hostilities all but ended by the time he arrived in Damascus.
I’m completely uninterested in the niceties of this law. I’m eager for it to be challenged before the High Court. I have very little doubt it will be thrown out as have so many other discriminatory & nonsensical laws applying to Israeli Arabs before it.
And while we’re at it let’s prosecute these Labor activists for meeting with Hamas ministers this week. After all, we’re at war with Hamas too, aren’t we? Where does all this criminalization of political speech stop?
It was illegal once upon a time to talk to the PLO. Israelis challenged this law as they should. The law was relegated to the legislative dustbin where this current one belongs & will undoubtedly end up. It was illegal at one time for African-Americans to vote in this country. It was actually considered seditious & dangerous to advocate such a position by southern whites. These laws were ruled unconstitutional by our Supreme Court.
BTW, I wish you would lobby our attorney general to charge Nancy Pelosi with a violation of the Logan Act which makes it a felony to negotiate with a foreign government (for her recent Syria trip). I’d love them to indict her & have her fight that in a court of law. The Wall St. Journal actually suggested this.
Mike Seth says
Well, you must always take these gag orders in context before you jump to conclusions.
First of all, gag orders are somewhat more often used in Israel than they are used in, let’s say, USA. Courts routinely use gag orders on criminal investigations, and police is required by law to retain in secret data pertaining criminal investigations involving minors. Trials for minors are behind closed doors too. Gag orders are used very often to protect criminal investigations; and leading one against a parliament member who has immunity is no pony trick.
Second, Shin Bet can’t just issue a gag order. They went to court, and they asked the judge, which probably means they had something in their hands; mind it, we’re talking about a member of parliament, a prominent politician in the Arab sector. I don’t want to speculate of the true reasons; but it is not entirely implausible that Bishara, who’s been known for his radical acts, is involved in outright criminal or terrorist activity. If the mere rumour that Bishara had telephone conversations with Hezbollah leaders is true, he should (and will) be charged with treason.
Of course, it is also not implausible that Shin Bet is actually setting him up to fall. I wonder why though. I simply do not buy the “evil people” excuse anymore.
Richard Silverstein says
This is a questionable statement at best. Keep in mind as I wrote in my reply to Amir that there are many instances in which a politician commits an act that appears radical or treasonous contemporaneously & a mere few yrs later appears as mild as mother’s milk. When Uri Avnery met w. Arafat while it was still illegal to do so Israelis wanted his head. Now, wouldn’t it look ridiculous if they had gotten it or forced him into exile or whatever??
A nation makes a deep mistake when it rushes to judgment as the Shin Bet unfortunately has done regarding the Arab national program & Bishara himself.
Mike Seth says
I have to contend!
Democratic country and all, you can’t have people going around and plan things with terrorists. This is not because the state has monopoly on selecting and implementing a way to deal with them but because the state *needs* the exclusivity in order to be able to operate. Now, keep in mind that those aren’t even allegations – they are rumors, which need to be examined as such (for all we know, if Shin Bet is out to get him, what sweat it’d be for them to plant a rumor in an European newspaper); and there are many other considerations such as the one that you correctly pointed out denoting that throwing Bishara in jail would make him an instant martyr in the Arab world; yet, imagine Nancy Pelosi meeting Osama Bin Laden. Seriously, imagine for a moment that tomorrow you hear Al Jazeera saying that Nancy Pelosi has met Bin Laden. Bin Laden is a good example, as we’re used to think he’s the person behind 9/11, as he himself told us. So that guy that we all regard as a heinous murderer who wouldn’t mind doing it again meets Nancy Pelosi; would you be pissed off? That is exactly the situation we (Israel) have on our hands: we’re surrounded by countries run by psychopaths, murderers and cultists, who all want our ass (well, less so with Lebanon and Egypt), and one of our own goddamn parliament’s members is recognizing and encouraging them by going behind the government’s back and talking to them.
Now, my problem with Uri Avnery is that he apparently never lived in the same Israel I live in. Yeah, things happen, but you really can not paint this country – this young, stupid and inexperienced country that has people from all sorts of interesting cultures run into each other daily – as violent,
racist and murderous. So when I hit his gun episode I stopped reading because it was unbearable and so terribly contrived that I couldn’t have any of this and I knew that it probably would get worse. So, you likely can’t expect a non-biased answer from me, but I still stand by my point: there’s a law that prohibits any person, and especially a state official, to cooperate with terrorists. A couple of laws, actually. This is because terrorism costs us lives of people and many many many expenses, so we all uniformly regard it as a bad thing that has to stop. Our own elected officials promoting the exact opposite, directly or indirectly, does not help.
Richard Silverstein says
Now how would you know what Bishara spoke about with Nasrallah or Assad, let alone that he “planned things.” Isn’t that being a tad presumptuous?
You make a huge mistake in equating Bin Laden with Nasrallah. They have much less in common than what separates them. I didn’t say Nasrallah is a swell fella. But he is no worse a figure than any current or prior leader of a country Israel opposed like Nasser, Sadat, Assad, the Jordanian kings, etc. He is a man with whom Israel has done business in the past (even indirectly) & likely will do business in the future. Demonizing him by calling him a Bin Laden doesn’t help things.
That’s going a bit far. Besides, you think that any citizen of any of those countries whose leaders you just called psychopaths, murderers & cultists think any differently about your Israeli leaders? I don’t think hyperbole does us any good in these sorts of discussions. And if you really do believe Assad, Nasrallah & Haniye are lunatics, then peace is indeed impossible & this makes me very sad.
But this is PRECISELY the problem. He does live in the same country as you. The fact that you cannot imagine him as your countryman speaks volumes about the incredible divide that exists political, socially & ethnically within Israeli society.
That’s debatable. Violent and racist the country certainly is even within its borders. Murderous it certainly is regardinng the Occupation. This does not mean that Israel is not a young, wonderful country with much promise as you paint it. But along with the good there is unfortunately much that is not good. And without fixing the bad, you will never truly realize all the good that lies there waiting to be tapped.
And you don’t think that the Lebanese, after the madness Israel rained down on them last summer sees Israelis as “terrorists?” Besides, all Israeli Arabs and a significant minority of Israeli Jews do not see Hezbollah as terrorists. An opponent of Israel, yes. But a psychopathic terrorist? No. I predict that one day there will be peace bet. Lebanon, Syria and Israel. And both Assad and Nasrallah are likely to play some role in this process even if merely by not preventing it from happening. Demonizing your opponent doesn’t help you get to that place.
Besides, let’s say that Lebanon and Syria had laws preventing their citizens and political leaders fr. engaging in any discussion with the “Israeli terrorists.” How would there ever be peace if neither side permitted its representatives fr. meeting the enemy? It’s really ludicrous–a proposition that collapses under the weight of its illogicality.
You may have a point here, but according to the article it appears that the meeting was accidental.
No it wouldn’t. Rumor has it that the shin bet wanted to arrest Uri Avnery but Menachem Begin stopped them because Avnery was once in the Etzel. Maybe Bishara can claim he is being discrimnated against because he wasn’t in the Etzel. Anyway, Israel’s situation would be so much better today if Arafat and his cronies were left in Tunis.
How did you become spokesman for all Israeli Arabs?
Richard Silverstein says
Reread the article. The Labor activists deliberately met with a Hamas minister & accidentally met a second one while waiting to meet the first one. They didn’t shy away from meeting either one. So to me that’s deliberate & flagrant violation of yr. interpretation of Israeli law. Put ’em in jail & throw away the key, I say.
I have never seen any claim that Avnery was ever in Etzel. I’d trust a source far more than your “rumor” any day. Avnery knows for a fact that the Shin Bet intended to exile him, not just arrest him (he was also beaten severely in a mysterious attack that was also prob. a Shin Bet operation & possibly an attempted kidnapping). Ben Gurion asked Begin as opposition leader to sign off on the deed & he refused because Begin didn’t believe in dealing w. anyone, even with his political enemies by such methods.
Now, wouldn’t that be convenient for you. Unfortunately for you life doesn’t always work out the way we wish. Maybe if Amir had assassintated Rabin BEFORE 1993, then you could’ve kept Arafat in exile. WOuld that have been preferable for you? You have to deal w. the situation you are given (or actually you can refuse to deal w. it by continuing w. the political miasma Israel & Palestinians are living in) which is that those nasty, messy inconvenient Palestinians were allowed to return.
Do you think anyone has to be an Israeli Arab spokesperson to know that the latter group do not see Hezbollah as terrorists? You claim to know something about Bishara. If so, you’d know that he and the movement he represents doesn’t see Hezbollah as terrorists. Opinion polls confirm this. Did you miss them? And further unfortunately for you a good number of Israeli Jews, while viewing Hezbollah as Israel’s opponent, do not see the movement as any more “terrorist” than Israel itself. In other words, both represent nationalist political ideologies that are at loggerheads w ea other. Both pursue their objectives by the means at their disposal. Both kill people. Both have the ability to negotiate to end the conflict. Both have chosen not to unfortunately thus far. Both will eventually do so.
I’m surprised you don’t know Avnery was in Etzel (Etzel = Irgun).
Richard Silverstein says
You should’ve provided that link the first time & I would’ve not questioned you. I’ve read Avery’s account of this incident & he pointedly makes no mention of Etzel. And in fact, by the time of this incident Avnery’s views had migrated so far to the left that they were directly antithetical to Herut/Begin’s. I doubt there was any lingering sentimental affection bet. them when Begin refused to sign off on Avnery’s abduction & exile.
I reread the article. Now its your turn. I was correct. You are in error. The minister was from Fatah. And IF they broke the law (and I don’t know if they did), I hope someone from the shin bet will be paying them a visit soon.
Richard Silverstein says
Ynetnews notes that 56% of your fellow Israelis want your government to negotiate with the Hamas-dominated PA unity government and you want to throw 2 Israelis in jail for meeting a Hamas minister in a hallway and shaking his hand!
If you want to live in a national security state that’s fine. But there are many of us within Israel and outside of it who recoil in horror at the prospect. Eventually even the Israeli government will leave these hidebound notions behind leaving you & those like you braying at the traitors in yr midst who must be extirpated fr. the body politic.
I never said I want them in jail. I specifically said in my previous comment that the meeting was apparently accidental and I also said that I don’t know whether it is legal or not.
The government may negotiate with Hamas if they decide to. But only the government.
Richard Silverstein says
There is a long and honored (at least by me and other peace activists) of political figures from Abie Natan to Uri Avnery (among others) who defy bans like the ones you advocate. The only way to get the government & citizens of the state to understand how ludicrous such bans are is by defying them, defying an unust law, and forcing the authorities to show the ridiculousness of the law by prosecuting someone for violating it. That’s why I’d welcome you and hardline rightists lobbying the attorney general to advocate prosecution.
In fact, if I had enough money to do this I’d organize a group of American Jews and Israelis to do precisely that. I’d welcome having Maariv photographing my home and publicizing my address and phone number as they did Bishara’s. It only makes them look like the Shin Bet enablers they are.
Mike Seth says
I watched your interchange with amusement. Well, Richard, you’re a peace activist, I am not. I’m not preoccupied by peace, which gives me liberty to consider approarches that you would consider less than moral. This is also the reason why I, while considering myself a very liberal person, do not oppose the communications ban.
The ban has to stay, first and foremost, because it is well known that foreign intelligence (especially Iranian) is actively trying to recruit Israeli citizens to leak sensitive information. In fact, just a couple of days ago Channel 2 news ran a story on that exact subject.
Second, the ban has to stay because there is absolute, undisputed and infallible truth in the fact that no scheme of reasoning can be produced to justify “palestinian” terrorism in any modern western moral system. That is, as long as “palestinians” continue to attack us, I see it as a moral obligation of Israeli people to defend themselves vigorously, furiously and indeed with casualties. I’ve said that all the time and I’ll say it once again: the power to put an end to this lies in the hands of the “palestinian” people. Israel has no vested interest in harming them; in fact, doing so only plays well into the hands of certain cliques; however, Israel DOES have vested interest in maintaining status quo, because the alternative is worse. The “palestinians” also happen to be the people who are best positioned for such a move: nearly lawless, armed to teeth, angry and hungry, they could overthrow their so called leaders in one day and establish a democratic state. They don’t want to and/or they don’t have the balls to. The amount of resources and efforts we invest into national security is tremendous. No, we do not want to live in a national security state, but we have to. There are some people like Edward Said and Uri Avnery who would rather play dirty and make up terrible stories about themselves and mistreatment they get from “opressive”, “apartheid” Israeli society. I discard opinions of these people as immaterial. Their behaviour fits the exact pattern described by Theodor Katzinsky in his Unabomber’s Manifesto; as far as I care, they are sick. This is the reason I refuse to identify with the political left as much as religious orthodox parties and GWB are the reason I refuse to identify with the political right.
Third, the ban has to stay because indeed, the government is accountable, and private people are not. The resolution to our situation can be only gradual, and it must occur in controlled conditions. Many parties and interests are involved in this situation, and almost all of them are hostile towards us. One of the reasons is to preserve Israeli national interests: continuity of territory, authority over Jerusalem, permanent democratic Jewish majority. That’s right: those are the interests which circumvent the value of “palestinian” life. If we gave up on those interests, nothing would be standing in our way to let the “palestinians” have what they demand; however, to me personally, and I hope to any rational and reasonable Israeli citizen, these are crucial values, essence of Israel without which it may not proceed as a country. Peace can not come at expense of national integrity. This is something that’s often overlooked by peace activists, who tend to stick to absolutism when it comes to the value of human life. Of course, I’d rather prefer killing to stop on both sides, but suicide bombers and Apache assassinations are the price the Israeli people seem to be willing to pay: either alternative – succumbing to “palestinian” demands or complete forceful removal of “palestinians” from the territories (sure, you can interpret it as genocide) – would ultimately lead to demise of Israel, and this is the exact stated goal of the very people Bishara and friends adore so much. We can not have any of that. The only way out of this, in my opinion, is to have the “palestinians” declare their own, democratic, free state, on the lands that we decide to hand out to them, under conditions imposed by us, and these conditions must prohibit regular army and diplomatic relationships with countries hostile to Israel. I bet you think this is a draconian, completely unfair demand that would effectively turn “palestinians” into our bitches, but hey, they are our bitches right now. We deliver them gas, water, electricity, food, jobs, education, medical assistance, guns, money, cellular service and the Internet. Mostly at our expense. To be fair to “palestinians” means to remove all these things from them. Why do you think they’ve been whining about the fence so much? Children can’t go to schools? Pregnant women can’t cross to hospitals? People can’t work? D’oh. All of these nice things are on /our side/.
I maintain that the “palestinian” response towards our agressive handling is disproportionate to the extent of being called unjustifiable terrorism, and the “palestinians” themselves are pawns in hands of the evil clerics that sponsor the war against Israel. As it happens in the war, pawns die first. I’m not going to bleed my heart about it.
Richard Silverstein says
All I can say is that you appear to be a person of good faith. But one who has totally false, prejudicial & even racist attitudes towards the Palestinians. Of course Israelis have been given reasons to be as prejudiced as you are. There has been so much senseless bloodshed on both sides.
But any Israeli who sees the blame only on one side & doesn’t acknowledge that blame is a wide open 2 way street is fooling himself, indeed deluding himself.
This is precisely what I mean by Israelis who bury their head in the sand. Ideas & opinions which confirm yr views & prejudices are welcome. THose which clash w. yr views are “immaterial.” How you convince yourself that Uri Avnery has “made up” stories of him own punishment at the hands of the Shin Bet when all of them are confirmed by independent sources is beyond me. But you are welcome to your rose colored version of Mideast reality. Of course, if the lion’s share of Israelis continue the same delusive thinking as you there will never be peace. And for that you can never persuade the world solely to blame the Palestinians.
You must take a risk. You will have to take a risk. Whether you like it or not. Yes, it is dangerous to take risks. Yes, there is risk involved. But the other side will have to take no less a risk than you. That is the only way to peace. To continue with the status quo is death. Death for you (collectively), death for them.
As for the Bishara gag order–you foolishly believe it has to do with imagined Iranian agents. It has nothing to do (or at least very little to do) with that. It has almost wholly to do with the Shin Bet attempting to prevent publicity fr. leaking out & preventing Israeli Arabs & their Jewish allies fr. mounting an effective campaign against the outrage.
I weary of rebutting all of yr various mistaken notions. You’ll go yr way & I’ll go mine. History will prove you wrong & me right. But unfortunately it will take you much blood before you & yr fellow Israelis find a real path to peace.a
This is the first time I’ve come across your site, Richard. Allow me to note that the above message string seems very much like a discussion between deaf people, or probably more correct a conversation taking place at a very loud party playing all available music styles. Even the message contributors who claim to see both sides of the conflict do not support this claim with their message content. The truth of the matter is that the situation is not one-sided but multi-sided. The Israeli Arab population is in an impossible situation, torn between its national Palestinian affiliation and the political reality of being Israeli citizens. The Israeli governament and security bodies such as the S.B. are also in an impossible situation, torn between the equal rights owed to all citizens in a democratic country and the true security risks arising from from the growing Israeli Arabs Palestinian identity. I wish we could have more of each side truly seeing the other side’s beliefs and constraints, as well as accepting the fact that some issues will be determnined contrary to one or the other sides’ beliefs. Israel will always be a “Jewish first” country, and the Israeli Arabs will always be “Palestinian first” people. We can still make things work within this context because there’s no better alternative.
By the way, Uri Avneri indeed joined Etzel (“The Irgun” ) at the young age of 15, but is “militarily known” for his service during the 1948 War with “Samson’s Foxes”, the Commando unit of the Giv’ati Brigade at the time.
Richard Silverstein says
Ailon: Thank you for yr measured comment. I appreciate yr attempt to see both sides of this issue and wish more Israelis could do so (at least more than come to comment at this blog).
I don’t accept yr premise. There is almost no evidence showing that Israeli Arabs are a security risk. In fact the radicalization of Israeli Arabs began from the cold blooded murder of 13 unarmed Arabs demonstrating during the first Intifada. None of the perpetrators of this massacre ever received ANY discipline. Were you an Israeli Arab how would you have reacted? If despite such criminal abuse the State and Shin Bet continue to believe that they have done nothing to cause this radicalization, then they too are wearing blinders. Tolerance, comity and respect are what is required; not confrontation, threats, belligerence and hate.
I’m not quite sure what this means esp. the second half of yr statement. Plus, I’m not certain that Israel will ALWAYS be a “Jewish first” country. I foresee a future when Israeli Jews will have national rights commensurate with Israeli Arabs. But such Jewish rights will not exceed or trump Arab rights as they do now. This won’t happen in a day, week or year. But perhaps over time Israeli society will develop in this direction. It must if there is ever to be social comity.
Mike Seth says
Both sides of the issue?
I do see both sides of the issue. I’ve been to the territories, and I’ve spoken to both Israeli arabs and “palestinians”; I am very well aware of “both sides” of the issue; it’s just that I care about the side I am on more than I care about the side they are on. It seems that you wish to concentrate on equality and fairness and human compassion as the final goals; but why do you completely disregard the risks, and the likely negative outcome of what you propose?
Israel must remain a “Jewish first” state. Israel carries the modern Hebrew culture and tries to follow western standards. The people in Israel – the only democratic country in the area and the only liberal country in the area – would rather stay it that way. When I go down into the city to buy cigarettes, I don’t mind walking into an arab store (and often do so). I have no problem with minorities. It’s just that I myself do not want to turn into a minority. It is my country. And you know the great thing? I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to be a complete and utter asshole to people, I don’t need to burn crosses, I don’t need to resort to violence to secure that. I don’t have to do anything because this is my country /already/, because I reject the territorial claims of the “palestinian” arabs of today on the same ground as I reject Uri Avnery; their opinions are immaterial to me, but not because I deliberately refuse to see the other side; it is because I know that if we let these people have it their way, they will go exactly with what you hope will happen, one state in which Jewish de facto rights (as opposed to de jure of today) will be equal to or lesser than of arabs; and arab population is known to grow at rates that way exceeds that of our own. This is the usual baby boom argument that no one has succeed in debunking yet. Oh, remember, those are the same people who danced on the streets. Not just on 9/11, but also on different bloody occasions in Israel. So what Uri Avnery and friends would like to see is Israel granting its enemies a safe passage into its heart, where they can devour it, and devour it they shall, no doubt of that. Of course, that would probably be equal, fair, compassionate and very human or something, but I don’t care. Neither should you, if well being of Israel matters to you; and if it doesn’t then you probably don’t understand our concerns anyway so what’s the point in arguing?
Richard Silverstein says
Oh, so you’re someone who doesn’t accept that there are Palestinians? Is that why you place the word in quotation marks & improperly use a small “p” for the word: “palestinians?” If so, (& you can confirm this here if you like before I make any judgments) our conversation is over.
Giving Arabs equality will not in any way whatsoever diminish the Jewish character of the state. But it would no longer be “Jewish first.” Instead it would be Jewish and Arab co-equally. Modern Hebrew culture, language and the Jewish religion would be fully respected as would Arabic & Islam.
As for “western standards,” I resent the notion that Arabs are somehow primitive and “non-western” while Israelis are modern and “western.” This is a ridiculous borderline racist notion.
It is much more complicated than that. Israeli is a democracy only for its Jewish citizens. In fact, respected Israeli academics have more correctly called Israel an “ethnocracy,” that is a state that provides superior rights for the majority ethnic group and truncated rights for the minority.
That’s mighty “white” of you. You actually patronize (literally as well as figuratively) Arab stores. That’s one strike for “liberal” Israelis like you. You actually tolerate yr minorities!
NO. It is your country AND their country. They have just as much claim to it as you. They lived here before you and your relatives came here. Of course, you and they have a claim to the land too. But your claim in no way supercedes theirs.
Ah, but you DO. You need to murder 12 Israeli Arabs in cold blood in Nazareth during the First Intifada. You need to deliberately underfund Arab municipalities & provide them pitiful public services compared to Jewish municipalities. You need to prevent them from securing building permits so their communities cannot grow and absorb populations increases. Your Jewish politicians need to accuse them of treason and advocate their forced transfer. You need to do all these things and more to secure your superior claim to the land. You need to repress, oppress, expropriate, criminalize, etc. If you didn’t you are afraid that this minority might actually compete for and win rights which you wish to prohibit them at all costs. It’s a pity you don’t see the bankruptcy of yr position.
If the rights of the two peoples are inscribed in a Constitution as equal there is no way Jewish rights could ever be lesser than Arab rights no matter who is the majority or minority. This system exists in other countries so don’t tell me it can’t work in Israel.
But I’m curious what frightens you so about having “equal” rights to Arabs. Your own Declaration of Independence guarantees Arabs equal rights. Are you opposed to what’s inscribed in this sacred nationa document?
And you don’t think Jews did the equivalent when Arafat died (or was murdered by the Mossad as Sharon has hinted) or when Rabin was assassinated? There is no lack for primitive emotion & vengeance on both sides of this conflict.
Histrionics pure & simple.
Israel’s well-being matters to me. But Israel to me includes Jews AND Arabs. And the long term interests of a state that includes Jews and Arabs is that they co-exist in peace and justice. That will create a long term state that is viable, stable and free. Your method will create a state that eventually will expel all its Arabs or marginalize them into Bantustans. Such oppression will never create stability or viability for you or them. Israel will always have a yoke on its shoulders & never be able to break free of it.
Mike Seth says
No, I simply do not recognize “palestinians” as a nation. Many people are convinced that Palestine is an actual nation that was razed by Jews. It’s a lie. No such nation ever existed; and the claims of “palestinian” ancestry towards Philistinians, who were vanquished way before Jesus . Here’s my favourite litmus test: name me 5 “palestinian” scientists, artists or writers that lived between, let’s say, 1650 and 1963. In fact, you would probably have a hard time naming them today, too.
“Palestinians” are indeed people. Poor people and opressed people who are suffering, and we’re the ones who directly cause that suffering with our roadblocks, helicopters, searches and detainings; but we aren’t doing that because we don’t like their skin color or the way they talk. We’re doing because we know some of these people are brainwashed to hurt us, and the rest don’t seem to mind. As long as the “palestinian” people choose to remain the loyal sheep of their terrorist masters, we will slaughter them like cattle because that’s in the long term cheaper, easier and smarter to slaughter them so that they do not slaughter us.
Now you seek for some reason to embrace the arab rights in Israel and to ensure their equality. This is by itself a great and noble goal, and it’s not far beyond the horizon either. However, when it comes to religion and culture, that is an entirely different matter.
I want Israel to be a secular state. You know, a place where men don’t throw stones at women? A secular state is one step closer to freedom, since the guilt and prejudice would be removed from the society as independent factors. I would like to see a place where everyone is bound by law to have a gun, and many people do carry guns. I would also like restrictions on mind altering drugs lifted, and I want anyone and everyone trying to bring any of this back prosecuted for treason. I want a small government under public scrutiny, I want state-insured academic education, I want first priority to environmental concerns. I want low, flat rate taxes. I want any attempt to deliberately oppose development of technology, science or art to become a crime. Oh yeah you know what else should be criminal? Trying to parasite. Right now, they are eating, partying and studying on my expense. Off the taxes I paid. In my ideal Israel, organized religion would be condemned. I mean, they don’t mind stopping me on the street and telling me that I am a bad jew. How about I turn the tables? How about I stand up and say “Hey! *You* are the religious freaks! *You* need help!
Freedom of religion is great in the same sense as freedom of schizophrenia is great. Before you get all wound up about liberties and rights, think of the following example:
Guy A screws guy B’s girlfriend. Guy B shoots guy A. When cops arrive, he says “I didn’t shoot him, the gun in my hand did!” and the cops go like “Oh! Okay then!” and go back to their donuts. Nonsense? Yet this is exactly what happens with religion. Everytime someone does or says something universally disgusting that’s rooted in religion, people jump the wagon and cry freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is bullshit, if the people are not allowed to copulate in front of children, they should not be talking about god in front of children either. Why do we tolerate this at all? Why is being religious a carte blanche to anything these days?
So why would you want to encourage MORE religion? Worse yet, why would you encourage the venomous, addictive religion of hate as opposed to useless and harmless Judaism? Let me ask you this: when you read about that person who was fired for being an atheist; are you shocked? I am. Thank God I grew up in secular Russia, where none of this church sponsored guilt bullshit was tolerated. So again; why would you encourage ANY religion at all and following that, why would you encourage a particularly nasty one?
There shouldn’t be a freedom of religion outside of your own house.
And no, it’s not their country and our country. It’s our country. Two thousands years of persecution makes it our country. And that makes everyone else our guest. Yeah, many things we do to harm them are deliberate (and probably a greater lot is due thanks to stupidity and incompetence of those in charge) , but they aren’t immoral. If we do let these people thrive as they are now, they will focus their energy on one and only one thing: our destruction. They need to be educated, and they need to be cut off from their terrorist friends before we can possibly consider them to be equal. Imagining that someone is equal to you is a great thing and all unless that someone is aiming a gun to your head at that very moment. So, as I always said, it’s our country, and they should be grateful for whatever we give them. Instead they somehow think it’s a right.
You listed a bunch of misdeeds by Israeli government and people in your previous post. Since I don’t intend to continue debating this beyond making my perspective clear, I wouldn’t be following my usual habit of following up every allegation and accusation with 5-7 documented cases of “palestinians” blowing themselves up. I refuse to accept the recently popular idea that it is we the Jews in Israel who are the problem. The “palestinians”, the U.S. government, Putin, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Iraq are the problem. Islam, Christianity and Judaism are the problem. Old people in the establishment are the problem. Stupid, incompetent and mentally ill are the problem. We’re merely putting this problem away with our missiles and kidnapped soldiers and torn apart civilians, but we are sure as hell not the problem.
And on hystrionics: when I took my daily bus ride today, I realized that the bus was full of people of different races and colors. There were some Ethiopians, some Thai workers, some Philipino women, some people speaking Spanish and a black guy reading a free bus station paper. Someone next to me was talking on the cell in Russian. Israel might not be a perfectly run country, but if shameless liars such as Said (PBUH! LOL) and other no less respectable folks dare to compare this country and this particular bus ride to actual african style appartheid, that’s where I draw the bullshit line. This is bullshit; freedom of religion is bullshit; peace now is bullshit; the “palestinian problem” is bullshit; respecting liars because they are, you know, dead, too, is bullshit; one state solution is bullshit and two state solution looks like a pile of bullshit. Pre-1967 is bullshit. There’s so much bullshit in this whole thing that sometimes I catch myself actually believing in the crap they’re telling me.
Which is why I use quotes on “palestinians”: it’s bullshit. They’re not a real nation and I wanna remind people that their claim is nowhere near as sophisticated and legitimate as people think. In other words, it’s bullshit too.
Oh, yeah, I’ve been watching the Bishara case too. I’m not as puzzled anymore though, because it appears that the story is due to end soon. There’s no mystery to it anymore, all that’s left is to wait for formal charges, extradition (capture), a loud high treason trial, and another martyr made in the name of a false cause to be released in 5-7 years when the next bunch of 18 year olds gets kidnapped by another bunch of 18 year olds.
Is he going to be your martyr too, now?
Richard Silverstein says
This is one of my red line subjects. No one may write any comment in this blog which denies the existence or legitimacy of the Israeli or Palestinians peoples. Repeat this fallacious calumny & your comment will be deleted & depending on how pissed off I feel you may be banned from further commenting.
Jews and Israelis exist and deserve to have their names capitalized as is common accepted usage as do Palestinians and Arabs. If you cannot accord them the recognition and respect that they deserve, then you will not be accorded any respect here.
Your views are an incredbily bizarre amalgam. I credit that to the poisoning and oppression you must’ve experienced under the Soviet system. The idea of folks like you carrying those guns in Israel frightens the mind. Some of yr views I agree with but most I find repugnant.
You would be pretty much right at home with radical libertarians or even the Aryan nation (except for their virulent anti-Semitism) here in the States.
You took a ride on a public bus & this persuaded you somehow that Israel is a rainbow nation that doesn’t oppress its Arab minority? That’s a wonder!
Your view of what will happen in the Bishara case is very far off the mark.
Mike Seth says
[ed., As I warned you previously, this blog doesn’t discuss whether or not an Israeli or Palestinian people “exist” or whether they should exist. They DO exist. Any claims to the contrary may be removed as I have done so in this comment.]
The soviet system wasn’t much of an influence on me though; I defied the attempts of the elementary school and the high school to indoctrinate me. I am as disgusted of communist ideology and methodology today as I was back when I was a kid; probably even more now than then since I’ve learned its mechanics. Yeah, my views are probably are bizzare and can’t be easily aligned with any of the single minded ideologies on the bullshit market of today. This is because every single one of them is a result of my own conclusions, and not of Chomsky’s or Coulter’s making. If anyone can help me improve them, go ahead and seed me some facts.
And guns in Israel? Well, not today, no, with all the security checks and terrorism, but someday maybe? I am a firm believer that everyone has a right to own, carry and use a gun. I also believe that many registered guns is better than many unregistered guns, and two well known places where everyone has guns – Switzerland and US’s own Kennesaw city – are a hard proof that mandatory gun ownership REDUCES gun crime. I really dont care that some people are afraid of guns. It’s a problem that they have to deal with, and it’s not a valid reason to impose restrictions on other people’s right of self defense and retaliation.
And me, with libertarians? And Aryan nation? Haha. I don’t believe in either a particular form of running a country or in supremacy of one people over the other. What I do believe in though is reasoning based in facts and science, not in religion, fear or moral values. If some people are black, we refer to them as black. If some people are white, we refer to them as white. If some white people are thieves and some black people are rapists, it is appropriate to call these people “white thieves” and “black rapists”. What is not appropriate is to attach labels to all white people or all black people; however, it would’ve been appropriate if absolute majority of white people were thieves and absolute majority of black people were rapists. You would also do that if /some/ white people were thieves and the /rest/ of white people were not but did not actively oppose theft. This is the situation with “palestinians” and terrorism, so please do not put me and the Aryan nation in the same basket.
My view on Bishara case is this: he got caught red-handed for treason. There’s no evidence to counter it, there’s circumstancial evidence establishing that he is not beyond doing that, and according to you yourself, the matter must be very serious if the Supreme Court got involved. So they will get to him and they will try him and if they find him guilty I would not be running around crying conspiracy because from the outlook of it all, in absence of formal dialogue, looks very much like he did in fact commit treason. We will know very soon.
Richard Silverstein says
In fact, the opposite is the case. The evidence is tenuous at best as Haaretz has reported. And you have no idea what the evidence is in any detail nor do you know what evidence may counter it. You’re speaking solely out of prejudice & w/o any basis in fact.
Mike Seth says
We’ll see very soon!
NB: Yay for censorship!