Thursday, September 23, 2010

Red and Green

Uri Avnery's Column
Ha'aretz, August, 2010

Channel 10, one of Israel’s three TV channels, aired a report this week that surely frightened a lot of viewers. Its title was “Who is Organizing the World-wide Hatred of Israel Movement?”, and its subject: the dozens of groups in various countries which are conducting a vigorous propaganda campaign for the Palestinians and against Israel.

The activists interviewed, both male and female, young and old - quite a number of them Jews - demonstrate at supermarkets against the products of the settlements and/or of Israel in general, organize mass meetings, make speeches, mobilize trade unions, file lawsuits against Israeli politicians and generals.

According to the report, the various groups use similar methods, but there is no central leadership. It even quotes (without attribution, of course) the title of one of my recent articles, “The Protocols of the Elders of Anti-Zion” and it, too, asserts that there is no such thing. Indeed, there is no need for a world-wide organization, it says, because all over the place there is a spontaneous surge of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli feeling. Recently, following the ”Cast Lead” operation and the flotilla affair, this process has gathered momentum.

In many places, the report discloses, there are now red-green coalitions: cooperation between leftist human-rights bodies and local groups of Muslim immigrants.

The conclusion of the story: this is a great danger to Israel and we must mobilize against it before it is too late.

THE FIRST question that arose in my mind was: what impact is this report going to have on the average Israeli?

I wish I could be sure that it will cause him or her to think again about the viability of the occupation. As one of the activists interviewed said: the Israelis must be brought to understand that the occupation has a price tag.

I wish I believed that this would be the reaction of most Israelis. However, I am afraid that the effect could be very different.

As the jolly song of the 70s goes: “The whole world is against us / That’s not so terrible, we shall overcome. / For we, too, don’t give a damn / For them. // … We have learned this song / From our forefathers / And we shall also sing it / To our sons. / And the grandchildren of our grandchildren will sing it / Here, in the Land of Israel, / And everybody who is against us / Can go to hell.”

The writer of this song, Yoram Taharlev (“pure of heart”) has succeeded in expressing a basic Jewish belief, crystallized during the centuries of persecution in Christian Europe which reached its climax in the Holocaust. Every Jewish child learns in school that when six million Jews were murdered, the entire world looked on and didn’t lift a finger to save them.

This is not quite true. Many tens of thousands of non-Jews risked their lives and the lives of their families in order to save Jews – in Poland, Denmark, France, Holland and other countries, even in Germany itself. We all know about people who were saved this way - like former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who as a child was smuggled out of the ghetto by a Polish farmer, and Minister Yossi Peled, who was hidden for years by a Catholic Belgian family. Only a few of these largely unsung heroes were cited as “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. (Between us, how many Israelis in a similar situation would risk their lives and the lives of their children in order to save a foreigner?)

But the belief that “the whole world is against us” is rooted deep in our national psyche. It enables us to ignore the world reaction to our behavior. It is very convenient. If the entire world hates us anyhow, the nature of our deeds, good or bad, doesn’t really matter. They would hate Israel even if we were angels. The Goyim are just anti-Semitic.

It is easy to show that this is also untrue. The world loved us when we founded the State of Israel and defended it with our blood. A day after the Six-day War, the whole world applauded us. They loved us when we were David, they hate us when we are Goliath.

This does not convince the world-against-us people. Why is there no world-wide movement against the atrocities of the Russians in Chechnya or the Chinese in Tibet? Why only against us? Why do the Palestinians deserve more sympathy than the Kurds in Turkey?

One could answer that since Israel demands special treatment in all other matters, we are measured by special standards when it comes to the occupation and the settlements. But logic doesn’t matter. It’s the national myths that count.

Yesterday, Israel’s third largest newspaper, Ma’ariv, published a story about our ambassador to the United Nations under the revealing headline: “Behind enemy lines”.

I REMEMBER one of the clashes I had with Golda Meir in the Knesset, after the beginning of the settlement enterprise and the angry reactions throughout the world. As now, people put all the blame on our faulty “explaining”. The Knesset held a general debate.

Speaker after speaker declaimed the usual clich├ęs: the Arab propaganda is brilliant, our “explaining” is beneath contempt. When my turn came, I said: It’s not the fault of the “explaining”. The best “explaining” in the world cannot “explain” the occupation and the settlements. If we want to gain the sympathy of the world, it’s not our words that must change, but our actions.

Throughout the debate, Golda Meir – as was her wont – stood at the door of the plenum hall, chain-smoking. Summing up, she answered every speaker in turn, ignoring my speech. I thought that she had decided to boycott me, when – after a dramatic pause – she turned in my direction. “Deputy Avnery thinks that they hate us because of what we do. He does not know the Goyim. The Goyim love the Jews when they are beaten and miserable. They hate the Jews when they are victorious and successful.” If clapping were allowed in the Knesset, the whole House would have burst into thunderous applause.

There is a danger that the current worldwide protest will meet the same reaction: that the Israeli public will unite against the evil Goyim, instead of uniting against the settlers.

SOME OF the protest groups could not care less. Their actions are not addressed to the Israeli public, but to international opinion.

I don’t mean the anti-Semites, who are trying to hitch a ride on this movement. They are a negligible force. Neither do I mean those who believe that the creation of the State of Israel was a historical mistake to start with, and that it should be dismantled.

I mean all the idealists who wish to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people and the stealing of their land by the settlers, and to help them to found the free State of Palestine.

These aims can be achieved only through peace between Palestine and Israel. And such a peace can come about only if the majority of Palestinians and the majority of Israelis support it. Outside pressure will not suffice.

Anyone who understands this must be interested in a world-wide protest that does not push the Israeli population into the arms of the settlers, but, on the contrary, isolates the settlers and turns the general public against them.

How can this be achieved?

THE FIRST thing is to clearly differentiate between the boycott of the settlements and a general boycott of Israel. The TV report suggested that many of the protesters do not see the border between the two. It showed a middle-aged British woman in a supermarket, waving some fruit over her head and shouting: “these come from a settlement!” Then it showed a demonstration against the Ahava cosmetic products that are extracted from the Palestinian part of the Dead Sea. But immediately after, there came a call for a boycott of all Israeli products. Perhaps many of the protesters – or the editors of the film - are not clear about the difference.

The Israeli right also blurs this distinction. For example: a recent bill in the Knesset wants to punish those who support a boycott on the products of Israel, including – as it states explicitly - the products of the settlements.

If the world protest is clearly focused on the settlements, it will indeed cause many Israelis to realize that there is a clear line between the legitimate State of Israel and the illegitimate occupation.

That is also true for other parts of the story. For example: the initiative to boycott the Caterpillar company, whose monstrous bulldozers are a major weapon of the occupation. When the heroic peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death under one of them, the company should have stopped all further supplies unless assured that they would not be used for repression.

As long as suspected war criminals are not brought to justice in Israel itself, one cannot object to the initiatives to prosecute them abroad.

After this week’s decision by the main Israeli theaters to perform in the settlements, it will be logical to boycott them abroad. If they are so keen to make money in Ariel, they can’t complain about losing money in Paris and London.

THE SECOND thing is the connection between these groups and the Israeli public.

Today a large majority of Israelis say that they want peace and are ready to pay the price, but that, unfortunately, the Arabs don’t want peace. The mainstream peace camp, which could once bring hundreds of thousands onto the street, is in a state of depression. It feels isolated. Among other things, its once close connection with the Palestinians, which was established at the time of Yasser Arafat after Oslo, has become very loose. So have relations with the protest forces abroad.

If people of goodwill want to speed up the end of the occupation, they must support the peace activists in Israel. They should build a close connection with them, break the conspiracy of silence against them in the world media and publicize their courageous actions, organize more and more international events in which Palestinian and Israeli peace activists will be present side by side. It would also be nice if for every ten billionaires who finance the extreme Right in Israel, there were at least one millionaire supporting action in pursuit of peace.

All this becomes impossible if there is a call for a boycott on all Israelis, irrespective of their views and actions, and Israel is presented as a monolithic monster. This picture is not only false, it is extremely harmful.

Many of the activists who appear in this report arouse respect and admiration. So much good will! So much courage! If they point their activities in the right direction, they can do a lot of good - good for the Palestinians, and good for us Israelis, too.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

50 Ways to Act for Peace With Justice

List initiated by Mazin Qumsiyeh, George Rishmawi and others at
The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People

1) Educate yourself via reliable books. For example books by Ilan Pappe
(Ethnic Ceansing of Palestine), Edward Said (The Question of Palestine).

2) Educate yourself and track current information and key historical data
via websites (and disseminate it). For example look into
http://www.imemc.org/, http://electronicintifada.net/,
http://english.aljazeera.net/, Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem,
Palestine Remembered, and similar websites.

3) Educate yourself by visiting Palestine and writing about it. There are
many organizations doing tours that inspire. Examples Siraj Center, Alternative Tourism Group, Holy Land Trust, Global Exchange, Birthright Unplugged, International Solidarity Movement, etc

4) Practice using clear and unambiguous vocabulary including language to
protest apartheid and colonization. See for example developing an anti-apartheid framework for the struggle (PDF File):
http://www.endtheoccupation.org/downloads/AAF%20curriculum%20training%20.pdf

5) Challenge media bias by first educating yourself and others about its
existence and the extent of the bias. See for example
http://ifamericansknew.org/

6) Write to the mainstream media. You can write letters to the editor (usually
200 words) and/or opinion pieces (700-900 words).

7) Start your own group or join an existing organization that works for
justice. Simply search/google your city with the word Palestine to identify
candidates.

8) Join the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

9) Develop close working relationship with progressive parties and groups in your country.

10) Network and enhance groups working on sanctions and suspension of US aid to Israel. e.g. Suspend US Aid to Israel Now

11) Lobby. This is done individually or by supporting/joining one or more of the many groups doing it, e.g. Council for the National Interest, Citizens For Fair Legislation, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, and American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights (http://www.aaper.org/).

12) Hold a teach-in, seminar, or public dialogue. This is straightforward:you need to decide on a venue, speakers, and publicity. This can be facilitated through such groups as Palestine Media Watch which have speakers bureaus.

13) Send direct aid and support for people on the ground through transparent and trustworthy groups.

14) Use youtube and googlevideo to disseminate information

15) Challenge Israel in local and International courts.If you are a lawyer, donate your time and start networking and initiating cases (e.g. US Congress is violating US laws by sending money to Israel, US Citizens can bring cases against foreign governments that harmed them). Groups with great interest and activism on behalf of Palestinians includes Lawyers Without Borders, National Lawyers Guild, Al-Haq, Yesh Din, and Adalah - Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

16) Help coalitions work for Palestine and insist they do not leave this issue; example is http://CTUnitedforPeace.org.

17) If you work in a group, suggest formation of local or national coalitions to increase the power by association.

18) Join the campaigns for economic boycotts. See successful examples here: http://www.qumsiyeh.org/boycottsanddivestment/

19) Join or initiate a campaign for cultural and academic boycott; see also
http://pacbi.org/.

20) Host an art exhibit or other art performance (music, dabka etc) that highlight the rich Palestinian culture.

21) Engage in civil disobedience actions to draw attention and change policies.

22) Develop campaigns to support the right to enter: see www.righttoenter.ps
Israel Takes Aim At Palestinian Families By Ida Audeh
http://www.countercurrents.org/audeh110907.htm

23) Facilitate a visit by the Wheels of Justice bus tour to your area (in the US) or create a similar bus (e.g. in Europe). See justicewheels.org

24) Donate to aid Palestinian Children. For example, Palestine Children Relief Fund, and Playgrounds for Palestine

25) Develop campaigns to ban Political Junkets to Israel.Here is an example "In a challenge to one of the most powerful lobbying tactics used by the Jewish community, a county in Maryland decided last week that local legislators could no longer go on sponsored trips to Israel. http://www.forward.com/articles/11553/

26) Support the campaigns to end the siege on Gaza. See http://www.freegaza.org/

27) Work in your country against discrimination: Arabs Against Discrimination: http://www.aad-online.org/

28) Support Human Rights: Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org/doc/?t=mideast&c=isrlpa
B'Tselem:The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories http://www.btselem.org

29) Support the Right to Education Campaign: http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/

30) Donate to United Nations Relief and Works Agency: http://www.un.org/unrwa/

31) Work against home demolistions: Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions: http://www.icahd.org/eng

32) Support empowering Youth from Palestine e.g. see http://www.yfppal.com/
and http://www.alrowwad-acts.ps

33) Write to and work with alternative mass media (like DemocracyNow, Public Access TV).

34) Create your own content and post it to the web

35) Utilize social networking sites to reach a mass audience (e.g. Facebook)

36) Go into chat rooms, email discussions, etc. and spread the word.

37) Buy Palestinian Products, for example from www.palestineonlinestore.com,
www.canaanfairtrade.com, www.palestinefairtrade.org.

38) Pray for Peace and Justice or if you are not religious, take time out to
think and meditate on what can be done to achieve Peace with Justice

39) Make a podcast or public service announcement and spread it

40) Drop a banner from a traffic bridge or any other publicly visible location

41) Put out an information table in a university student center, public gathering, festivals, or other places where people congregate.

42) Host a fundraising party or dinner at your home.

43) Show a documentary in a public setting and then have a discussion about it.

44) Organize a public debate between those who support Zionism and those who support equality and justice

45) Learn Arabic or if you are an Arab learn another language (including Hebrew) so that you can communicate better

46) Do street theater

45) Engage in Civil disobedience acts (this may entail getting arrested).

46) Reach out to Christian religious leaders and ask them to act based on the Kairos Palestine document www.kairospalestine.ps

47) Challenge the Zionist attempts to doctor Wikipedia (ie. imposing a Zionist distorted version on this free web encyclopedia).

48) Start a genuine interfaith dialogue based on acting for justice rather than chatting to hide injustice.

49) Find a way not to pay taxes to governments that violate human rights and use your taxes for war and oppression.

50) Host a dinner with Arabic food and show people the rich cultural traditions like embroidered dresses that go back to Canaanitic times.

Write to us to remind us of other ways to act.