How immigration is transforming our society.
The definition of terrorist has drifted far from ground zero.
The return of the culture wars.
The Angolan wars connection to suburban Arizona.
Market Magic's Empty Shell
Days of infamy and memory.
Let's review the tape.
The liberal media strike again.
Israels gravest danger is not the Palestinians.
Bush unilaterally junks the ABM accord.
Washington gives Indians the runaroundagain.
Mumia's death sentence is overturned, for now.
Massey Energy, Inc. targeted by labor and greens.
Phil Radford: Last Call, Save the Ales.
BOOKS: Empires new clothes.
The Empty Theater
BOOKS: Joan Didion vs. the political class.
BOOKS: The Complete Works of Isaac Babel.
FILM: The Devils Backbone of the Spanish Civil War.
December 22, 2001
The Enemy Within
Israels gravest danger is not the Palestinians
JerusalemAriel Sharon appears determined to wreak havoc on the Palestinian
Authority. Events in December suggest that the Israeli prime ministers
strategy may be to unseat Yasser Arafat in the hope of precipitating an inner
Palestinian conflict, perhaps even a civil war. Israel, so the twisted logic
goes, can then help set up a puppet government while changing the West Banks
territorial demarcationthe Lebanon debacle revisited.
For Israel, September 11 was a Hanukkah Miracle, Israeli political
and security officials recently told the newspaper Haaretz. Thousands
of American fatalities are considered a godsendin this cynical worldsimply
because their deaths helped shift international pressure from Israel onto the
Palestinians, while allowing the Israeli government to pursue its regional objectives
unobstructed. And indeed, in the past months, the United States has unfalteringly
supported all of Israels actions.
A series of deadly suicide attacks inside Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad
helped Sharon receive a green light to carry out his plans. Returning on December
9, he convened a cabinet meeting at which the Palestinian Authority was designated
an entity supporting terrorism. F-16 jets began bombing Arafats offices
in Gaza and destroying the two helicopters he uses for transportation even before
the meeting concluded. Other Palestinian Authority structures were attacked
in Bethlehem, Nablus and Ramallah, including key state institutions. Not even
a murmur of protest was heard from the Bush administration.
On the contrary, on the following day Arafat was handed a list of the 33
Most Wanted leading militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He was asked
by both Israel and U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni to arrest them immediately and to
shut down all Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices. As arrests were underway, a failed
Israeli attempt to assassinate Islamic Jihad activist Mohammed Ayoub Sidr in
Hebron killed two Palestinian children. Arafats protests that Sidr was
not on the wanted list and that Israel cannot expect him to effectively
crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad while it continues its assassinations
were conveniently ignored.
The bloodshed continued. On December 10, a Palestinian attack on a bus left
10 Israelis dead and many more wounded. The Israeli cabinet convened again,
this time stating that the Palestinian Authority was solely responsible for
the attack and that Arafat had become an irrelevant figure. On December
13, Sharon directed the military to mount an all-out assault on the Palestinian
Authority. Altogether, in the first two weeks of December, 52 Palestinians and
34 Israelis were killed, 16 of them minors.
As the cycle of violence continues, what remains of the Israeli political left
has been trying to mount some kind of viable opposition. Weekly protests in
front of the prime ministers house, scores of soldiers refusing to serve
in the occupied territories, and hundreds of people breaking the military siege
by transferring basic foodstuffs to Palestinian villagesthese are just
a few of the activities taking place on a regular basis. They have not, however,
managed to challenge the hegemonic spirit of war.
Israels gravest danger today is not the Palestinian Authority, or even
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but the one it faces from within. During the past year,
peace activists have been invited to meetings with the secret service,
where they are warned about their activities. The secret service
routinely intercepts the e-mails of peace groups, and often obstructs solidarity
meetings or protests in the West Bank by declaring whole regions closed
military zones. For months, the Gaza Strip has been totally closed off
to Israelis from the peace campincluding members of the Israeli parliament,
the Knessetand only Jewish settlers, journalists and soldiers can now
enter the region. The security forces ongoing attempts to frighten activists
have surely affected the left, but their attack on civil liberties is only one
manifestation of much broader social processes taking place within Israel.
Israeli intellectuals who criticize the government are often attacked, not
only by the establishment inside Israel, but by its international proxies. Middle
East Quarterly recently published an article titled Israels Academic
Extremists. Written by a watchdog team of researchers keeping an
eye on Israels universitiesthe actual author is not mentionedthe
article goes after 20 Israeli professors (including this one) using lies and
half-truths to defame and blacklist them.
Worse is the blatant racism and hatred of the other that pervades
every aspect of Israeli political discourse these days. Jewish cabinet ministers
repeatedly refer to the Arab Knesset members as a fifth column of Arafats
agents and collaborators. In the past year, there has been a concerted effort
to delegitimize them; six out of the 10 Arab Knesset members from opposition
parties have undergone police investigations for anti-Israeli statements
made during political speeches, while the immunity of one has already been stripped.
Simultaneously, Israels public radio and television have prevented Arab
leaders from voicing their grievances by ceasing to interview them and, in this
way, have intensified the alienation felt by their constituency, which comprises
a fifth of Israels citizenry.
Adopting the nationalistic refrain, the Israeli media, which were once known
for their critical edge, now silence all opposition, broadcasting almost solely
those views conforming to the official line. TV crews pass by as if the peace
groupsstanding at peace rallies in front of government offices, chanting
anti-war sloganswere thin air. By rendering the peace camp invisible to
the public at large, the Israeli media helps make it powerless.
But the peace camp also bears some responsibility, since it has not adapted
its strategies to the new situation. The time has come to modify its methods
of protest, shifting its strategy from mere opposition to nonviolent resistance.
Only widespread civil disobedience can bring an end to the dreadful cycle of
violence and destruction. It is up to the left to do everything possible so
that years from now people wont ask (as we wonder about other times and
places) how it was that a whole population didnt realize what was happening.
Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University in Israel and can be reached at [email protected].