It is so common for Israeli Palestinian MKs to be charged with treason, aiding the enemy, spying, etc. that Israeli Jews not only take it for granted, but accept that the charges are true without any offer of proof. But it’s a relatively new phenomenon for Israeli Jewish MKs not just to be accused, but to boast that they gave away classified information to settler hoodlums that was used as part of an assault against a West Bank army base in which two senior officers were wounded by bricks and rocks. Because of the assault. the IDF was prevented from demolishing an illegal outpost, which was the original goal of the settlers. In most other democratic countries this would be considered akin to sedition. In Israel, not so much.
It’s bad enough that MKs Zeev Elkin (chair of the ruling coalition caucus in the Knesset) and Uri Ariel admitted that they secured information directly from IDF sources about the mission of military forces that night, and passed this information on to settler activists so they would know where the IDF was liable to strike. This allowed them to concentrate their forces to do the most damage to the IDF and its mission of evacuating the outpost. But Nana is now reporting (Hebrew) that senior minister Benny Begin joined in this operation. He is not just an MK, he is a member of the senior ministerial committee that deliberates on major strategic and policy initiatives (like whether Israel attacks Iran). Begin is also the son of Menachem Begin, one of the icons of the classical Israeli Jabotinskyian right. Begin isn’t known as a settler hothead. So when he too joins in such acts, it carries far-reaching consequences within the Israeli centrist community. It’s yet another sign of the triumph of ultranationalism in Israeli politicial discourse.
Do you think the Israeli police will dare investigate these MKs, whose loyalty is not to the State or its authorities, but to an unofficial vigilante rabble that is at war with the State they supposedly represent? This reminds me a bit of the Southern members of Congress in the years leading up to the Civil War. Their allegiance was increasingly not to the United States, but to their region. Time after time, they betrayed their country on behalf of their fellow Southerners, which led to deep mistrust and eventual national disintegration.
Israelis and Diaspora Jews wring their hands in frustration claiming that these bad settlers spoil it for all the other good, law-abiding settlers and the rest of Israel. It’s the old good cop-bad cop routine. The extreme settlers are the bad cops, the average Israeli citizen is the good cop. The argument goes: don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Remember that Israel is not these bad seed settlers. If we could only control the bad guys, then all would be well.
This is horse manure. As I argued in a recent post, the radical settlers aren’t separate from, or opposed to the State. As far as the West Bank goes, these settlers ARE the State. Civil and military authorities do their bidding. Settlers exercise massive control in their domain and no one threatens it, least of all a few rock throwing Palestinians and their do-gooder international activist friends.
Israel is not disintegrating, at least not yet, because the settlers and their allies control all the levers of power that they need to maintain their movement. Unfortunately, there is no Israeli Lincoln to offer the settlers a final ultimatum. There is no Ben Gurion willing to face down Begin and fire on the Alta Lena in order to put down a possible insurrection. Israel needs discipline and internal cohesion on behalf of an overarching principle like democracy. There is none and no one to impose it.
There is, however, a rising discipline among the far right and a vision of how to impose control over social and political structures that will ensure their permanent majority. So it becomes a question of time before Israel becomes a far-right state along the lines of Milosevic’s Serbia. The liberals have been vanquished inside Israel. There is no loyal opposition. There is no coherent alternate political philosophy. The left is not just in disarray but in full-fledged disintegration. The right is ascendant. It cannot end well.
My only wish would be for the settlers to secede from Israel–without the IDF to protect them from their Palestinian neighbors. We could call it the Confederate State of Judea. It would last for about five minutes, if that.
In a related development, the police arrested four of the activists who trashed the IDF base. It is the first time in my recollection that anyone has been arrested for any of the price tag violence that has happened over the past few months (except possibly the arrest of Dor Oved for his death threats against Peace Now). The only reason they were arrested was that they broke a certain social taboo. You can kill Palestinians in cold blood, even assault your fellow Israelis. But you cannot touch the IDF. You cannot assault an army base. That goes one bridge too far.
My prediction? The four will be out of jail in days, if not hours. They’ll be celebrated by their comrades who will sing and dance and lionize them for their heroism. The rest of Israel will yawn and go on with their lives. Let the settlers do what they want as long as they don’t bother us here too much. As for trial and punishment? Not on your life. But if (and this is a big ‘if,’ the pogromists were prosecuted for a crime, these MKs should be accessories after the fact. Begin, Elkin and Ariel aided and abetted serious lawbreaking and injuries to senior IDF commanders. That should count for something, even in a country in which democracy and the rule of law is going to Hell in a handbasket. In a real democracy, a senior minister whose leaks cause harm to senior military personnel and the trashing of an army base would resign. But Israel I guess isn’t that sort of place. It’s a place in which such behavior is rewarded rather than castigated.
Anat Kamm’s leaks didn’t result in a single injury to a single Israeli soldier. But Begin’s did. But who’s been punished and who is walking free?
“It is so common for Israeli Palestinian MKs to be charged with treason, aiding the enemy, spying…”
Apart from Azmi Bishara, (who fled the country before charges could be brought) I can’t think of even one. Can you name all these Israeli Arab MKs who have been charged with treason?
BTW – what gives you the right to call Azmi Bishara a “Palestinian” when he himself said there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation?
Richard Silverstein says
I said that virtually every Palestinian MK has been accused of a variety of offenses under the general rubric of spying, aiding the enemy. Etc. If you can’t find confirmations that’s not my problem. Search harder. They’re all there in the public record.
The claim that Bishara denies there is a Palestinian people is preposterous at least in the formulation you offered.
Richard Silverstein says:
“I said that virtually every Palestinian MK has been accused of a variety of offenses under the general rubric of spying, aiding the enemy.”
No, that’s not what you said. You said that it was common for them to be CHARGED with treason, etc. I cannot think of any Israeli Arab MKs against whom charges of this kind have been brought. Being suspected is not the same as having charges brought against one.
Once again, you are claiming to have said one thing, when you actually said something different, because your original statement was proved to be (to put it kindly) inaccurate.
“The claim that Bishara denies there is a Palestinian people is preposterous at least in the formulation you offered.”
Bishara said, in Hebrew, (which I most certainly understand and which you claim to understand): “I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation. I think it’s a colonial invention. When were there “Palestinians”? I think there is an ARAB nation. Despite my struggle against the occupation, I have never turned into a Palestinian nationalist.”
If that isn’t a denial of the existence of a “Palestinian people” – I don’t know what is!
Richard Silverstein says
You’re being utterly ridiculous. I used “charged” & “accused” as synonyms which almost all English speakers would recognize as being the case. You’re either not an Englis speaker (clearly not the case) or you’re showing bad faith in your argument.
And I didn’t say they were “suspected” either. Police actually publicly accused them of these offenses. That doesn’t mean they charged them formally. It means that they accused them publicly.
One more crack out of you about my Hebrew proficiency and you’re gone.
Mary Hughes-Thompson says
Haneen Zoabi who was a passenger on board the MAVI MARMARA when it was attacked by IDF pirates in international water, killing eight unarmed Turkish and one unarmed American citizen, was accused of committing treason.
BTW, Richard, as one of the Palestinians’ “Do-gooder international activist friends” I hope you didn’t mean to disparage our efforts. We know we can’t do much other than show the Palestinians they aren’t forgotten, and to bring eye-witness reports of violent attacks by IDF and settlers back to our respective countries, but our hearts are in the right place. 🙂
Perhaps Richard proffers an inadvertent slur when he says, “Settlers exercise massive control in their domain and no one threatens it, least of all a few rock throwing Palestinians and their do-gooder international activist friends.” I hope it was more just this, an inadvertent slip, than some deliberate snide display of superiority and arrogance toward people executing courageous gestures. Obviously such gestures will not in and of themselves defeat those forces Richard seems to stand against, but they are bold actions which speak and point a way and call attention. As one who has read Richard’s often incisive and usually well researched blog for quite a while now, and even occasionally donated modest amounts, I have of late tired of his infinite listing of Israeli crimes without recourse to suggested solutions, approaches that might begin to address the tragic and often disgusting nation Israel has largely become in its continuing facts-on-the-ground ethos. After yet another listing, one might well simply react by declaring, “So what? So what’s new? So what you gonna do about it?” Reminds me of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz moaning, “Lions and bears and tigers, oh my!” One could even say that Richard’s unending list of real crimes and appalling hypocrisies and violations of this and that are really a means of satisfying and thus neutralizing those of us who would have it otherwise simply through such exposure, keeping us adequately incensed while achieving nothing. I personally salute the rock-throwers, the blockade-defiers, and those Jews and Arabs who, in spite of the dangers and opprobrium involved, make a stand beyond mere wordage, even when such a stand is achieved by “a few rock throwing Palestinians and their do-gooder internationalist activist friends.” Sorry, Richard, but sometimes one must react with full candor.
I think you’re tilting at windmills, being outraged with Richard’s gaff about the rest of us who give a damn but — let’s face it — can’t do much. I think he meant only that there is no force around to upset the settler’s control of their environment and certainly not angry Palestinians throwing rocks or people like us grieving for Israel and Palestine on the sidelines. It is important to chronicle the devolution of Israel, arrogant proud and heading into the abyss like othr nations smitten with themselves. It is important for me to know that I am not alone in my outrage.
We can’t save the situation ourselves: We can only do the right thing — support resistance, keep notes, give some money, sign petitions, travel and learn. We can only do what our consciences direct however futile it does seem.
Mary Hughes-Thompson says
I agree, David. I was initially taken aback at reading Richard’s description of people like you and me as “do-gooders” but I think I know him well enough to feel sure he is on our side and certainly meant no disrespect to our work.
Richard Silverstein says
People, I use irony & sarcasm. Don’t you remember that? I mistakenly thought that would be evident in that passage. Clearly, it wasn’t.
For example, my most recent post shows Rick Santorum holding up a $20 bill about which I say this is his new solution to the Muslim baby boom–he’s offering baby bonuses to Christian mommies. You didn’t think I was serious about that, did you? Only right-wingers would.
SInce I’ve just had an intensive exchange with right wing commenters about Palestinian rock-throwing & disputing their notion that this is the same violence as that used by the IDF, I thought readers would understand the sarcasm I intended in that passage. I guess I sprang it on you all without laying any context. I apologize for the confusion.
But, buddy, you’re way off base. Way off base. But if you’re tired please do go and take a nap. There are those of us who haven’t tired yet of this struggle.
Further, I don’t have answers to what should happen aside from what I’ve already written. The best I can do is be a witness and recorder of the crimes, injustice and evil that is committed in Israel’s name. I’m not a politician or a general. I can’t devise a solution (though I can suggest one & have done so advocating international intervention).
As for reacting with “full candor,” you might start out by actually understanding what I meant before you go off half-cocked as you have. Full candor based on ignorance or rash assumptions doesn’t reflect terribly well on you. Right wing readers of this blog will be delighted to hear that it’s so easy to make readers take their marbles & go home at perceived political slights that weren’t intended. It is interesting to know how many readers you can lose based on a single misunderstanding of one’s intent. But wouldn’t it be better to ask first about my intent if it flew in the face of everything I’ve ever written here, before jumping to conclusions?
Of course I should make myself clear & usually do. But if I’m not, step back pls before rushing to judgment.
That being said, I think there is a small element of frustration implicit not so much regarding Palestinians, but with the notion of any credible form of Israeli resistance to this evil.
I have escalated from support for resistance to throwing rocks! I went out in the backyard and threw several in the direction of the green line. I am sure they landed in the canyon in the back here in California, but it felt good and was not eco ugly.
Richard Silverstein says
At times I use a voice of sarcasm & irony meant to imitate the voice of the extreme right. That was what I meant in that passage. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.
Mary Hughes-Thompson says
Richard, it took me about five seconds to realize it was nothing more than either a poor choice of words or sarcasm. No apology necessary. I think I know where your heart lies.
She was accused by her political opponents. She was never charged.
Richard Silverstein says
Not true. She was actually investigated formally and the investigators made a decision not to charge her. Also, she was expelled from the Knesset for 2 weeks as punishment plus several important Knesset privileges were withdrawn fr her. Or did you miss all that?
Richard, I apologize for my overreaction, perhaps at least in part a function of my competing with Methuselah in birthdays, but also please know that because I respect your ability as a wordsmith of conscience I found in that questionable comment not sarcasm but simply a gift to the right wing as a dismissal of courageous, even though futile, attempts to do something to address the evils we abhor. In brief, words should be important enough to be used carefully and wisely, and intelligent sarcasm certainly can and should be part of the verbal arsenal. Had you somehow suggested, even subtly, that the statement is what hasbarists and such would have deployed, then well and good. Such was not the case. And also, I do not tire of the struggle – although taking a nap always sounds good to me these days – but I do tire of a lack of discussion of what possibly can and must be done to reverse a status quo that greatly harms those both immediately and indirectly involved. Look, even the futile gesture shouldn’t be overlooked. Hell, I refuse to buy israeli cucumbers and other imports, about as effective as thinking that I might cause a tsunami if I spit into the ocean, but at least it gives me a tiny sense of feeling I did something. It’s a beginning. And let’s take it beyond. Let’s indeed discuss fully and with keen intent the issue of BDS. Is there any other way short of violence? After all, a mere mention of BDS makes those who support Israel’s every outrage livid unto apoplexy, same with that disgusting obscenity, as they see it, titled “1967”. Remember what happened to poor Obama when he dared utter it? I guess what I’m saying is that you should indeed keep cataloguing what is happening – a real sine qua non – but an honest dialogue about what can be done is also indicated. One major problem, of course, in starting on such a trek, if done seriously, might ultimately suggest that one actually do something, become involved beyond the limits of words, whether by hurling a rock or boarding a Gaza-bound vessel as our most commendable and modest Mary Hughes-Thompson has done.
“I refuse to buy israeli cucumbers” …
That’s really rather ironic, considering the fact that about 65% of “Israeli” cucumbers are grown in the West Bank by “Palestinian” farmers.
Richard Silverstein says
First, prove it. Second, can you prove that cucumbers marketed abroad as “Israeli” are produced by Palestinian farmers? I didn’t think so. But I’ll be waiting here for proof of yr claims.
Richard Silverstein says
I think we’re all on edge these days & prone to overreact, in which group I include myself. Things are so bad & the stakes are so high. It’s only natural. I’ll try to signal my sarcasm more clearly in future. Maybe I’ll create a new Sarcasm smiley face & use it in these circumstances.
As I recall, this is the second instance in which you have chided that we need to “do something.” Getting information out and distributed is doing something: The only course really open for sympathizers is to continue to make the ugly policies and practices of Israel vivid and real for others who are not interested or concerned.
Much of the intent of political/corporate legislation and lobbies in the US is aimed at making us disinterested in our neighbors and others, so that expensive welfare pr0grams can be dismantled etc. We are supposed to play video games and watch utterly insipid “action” flicks and not think about the rip offs going on all over the world. That’s really it, the “ownership” society in which we are individual “owners” and the other guys should take care of themselves and get their own living room screen. Chomsky makes the point very well in a doc I saw last night. So, we can do something by talking about the issues, putting books in the hands of those who have some interest but don’t know where to turn or who to trust.
Make everyone aware of the nastiness — lies, theft and murder — that Zionism has, at least, become in our time. Push back when confronted with the programmed opposition…the “self-hating jew” story, the lil’ Israel facing evil Arabs story, the pride of the IDF (which hasn’t faced an army since ’73!)…etc. Pop the bubble created by the false use of “security” to hide racist practices, etc.
This is a general comment, not about this article.
I lived in the US for a long time. Most of my life. I have children and grandchildren there. When the killing and crimes by my government got to be too great and I didn’t see an end to it, I moved out. Now my Social Security and retirement is not spent in the US. They get very little of what I earned in my working life. I had to do something and I am too old to to take a club on the head. Why do the people in Isreal stay and help prop up these fruit cakes running their country into the sea. Why not move out? Leave as soon as they can?
I appreciate Richards blog and the posters at this site.