50 Young Israelis to Netanyahu: “We Refuse to Serve in the Occupation Army”
On 8 March 2014, the largest group of draft refusers in the history of Israel sent Prime Minister Netanyahu a letter in which they declared their refusal to serve in the Israeli military:
The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.
I quote from an e-mail I received from Ruth Hiller co-founder of New Profile in Israel:
This is the largest group of Israeli draft refusers in the history of Israel; it is the first act of its kind in five years, but follows a long tradition of communal conscientious objection. The current Israeli government is trying to widen the army draft to all ethnic groups within Israel against their will and young people from all over the country are reacting by refusing to serve in the Israeli Army.
The purpose of this statement is to protest against the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories where, according to the signatories “human rights are violated and acts defined by international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis.” They are also protesting the way in which the army influences civilian life, deepening the sexism, militarism, violence, inequality and racism present in Israeli society.
Mandy Cartner, a 16 years old signatory from Tel Aviv said: “The actions of the army distance us from finding a solution and from creating peace, justice and security. My refusal is a way of expressing my opposition to the wrongs done daily in our name and through us.”
Shaked Harari, a 17 years old signatory from Bat Yam, said: “The army serves the people in power and not the civilians, who are only a tool. My friends and I refuse to be cannon fodder.”
Roni Lax, a 20 year old signatory from Bnei Brak: “We stand in solidarity with the ultra-orthodox youth and the Arab youth – Christian and Druze, some of whom are currently in an army prison.”
Dafna Rothstein Landman – 0522470123 – email@example.com
Itamar Bellaiche – 0547484248 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Their statement reads as follows:
“We, citizens of the state of Israel, are designated for army service.
We appeal to the readers of this letter to set aside what has always been taken for granted and to reconsider the implications of military service.
We, the undersigned, intend to refuse to serve in the army and the main reason for this refusal is our opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinians in the occupied territories live under Israeli rule though they did not choose to do so, and have no legal recourse to influence this regime or its decision-making processes. This is neither egalitarian nor just. In these territories, human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis. These include assassinations (extrajudicial killings), the construction of settlements on occupied lands, administrative detentions, torture, collective punishment and the unequal allocation of resources such as electricity and water. Any form of military service reinforces this status quo, and, therefore, in accordance with our conscience, we cannot take part in a system that perpetrates the above-mentioned acts.
The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.
We refuse to aid the military system in promoting and perpetuating male dominance. In our opinion, the army encourages a violent and militaristic masculine ideal whereby ‘might is right’. This ideal is detrimental to everyone, especially those who do not fit it. Furthermore, we oppose the oppressive, discriminatory, and heavily gendered power structures within the army itself.
We refuse to forsake our principles as a condition to being accepted in our society. We have thought about our refusal deeply and we stand by our decisions.
We appeal to our peers, to those currently serving in the army and/or reserve duty, and to the Israeli public at large, to reconsider their stance on the occupation, the army, and the role of the military in civil society. We believe in the power and ability of civilians to change reality for the better by creating a more fair and just society. Our refusal expresses this belief.
Dafna Rothstein Landman – 0522470123 – email@example.com
Itamar Bellaiche – 0547484248 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Invitation: Miko Peled 10 – 16 March, South Africa
Please join us for a talk by Miko Peled, the well known Israeli peace activist and author, during South Africa’s Israeli Apartheid Week:
EVENT: Israeli Apartheid Week Opening Event
DATE: Monday, 10 March 2014
VENUE: Protea Hotel Auditorium, School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH), Bunting Road Campus, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park
EVENT: Book discussion with Miko Peled and Breyten Breytenbach
DATE: Tuesday, 11 March 2014
VENUE: Faculty Chapel, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch
SPECIAL GUEST: Afrikaans poet, academic and anti-apartheid activist Breyten Breytenbach
EVENT: Resisting from within, fighting oppression done in your name
DATE: Tuesday, 11 March 2014
VENUE: RW James Building Lecture Theatre B, University of Cape Town
EVENT: Discussion with the author
DATE: Thursday, 13 March 2014
VENUE: Humanities Seminar Room, Rhodes University, Grahamstown
EVENT: Book discussion
DATE: Friday, 14 March 2014
VENUE: Women’s Cultural Group Centre, Mariam Bee Sultan, 222 Kenilworth Road, Overport, Durban
EVENT: Breakfast and Discussion With the Author
DATE: Saturday, 15 March 2014
TICKET PRICE: R200 (this Pretoria event is a paid event, please contact 0735004036)
Find more information on Miko Peled’s South African Book Tour here: www.facebook.com/events/597059117046154/
For more information, comment or to arrange an interview with Miko Peled contact Muhammed Desai on 0842119988
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Miko Peled
In 1997, a tragedy struck the family of Miko Peled: His beloved niece Smadar was killed in Palestinian political violence in Jerusalem. His sister, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, reacted –according to some– “unusually” to the tragic death of her daughter. As a mother, she did not call for revenge or blame the Palestinians but the Israeli occupation policy of the Israeli governments.
That tragedy and his sister’s response propelled Peled into a journey of discovery. It pushed him to re-examine many of the beliefs he had grown up with, as the son and grandson of leading figures in Israel’s political-military elite, and transformed him into a courageous and visionary activist in the struggle for human rights and a hopeful, lasting, just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Miko Peled’s father was was the well known General Mattiyahu “Matti Peled” – a prominent general who turned after the Israel’s “war of aggression” in 1967, into an advocate of peace.
Miko Peled is a former Israeli soldier himself (having trained in Israel’s Special Forces) and has written in a June 2012 Los Angeles Times article that “Israel is faced with two options: Continue to exist as a Jewish state while controlling the Palestinians through military force and racist laws, or undertake a deep transformation into a real democracy where Israelis and Palestinians live as equals in a shared state, their shared homeland. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the latter path promises a bright future.”
ABOUT THE BOOK – “The Israeli Army General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine”
Miko Peled, in his book, combines the exceptional history of his family, the political development of the State of Israel and his personal conversion to a fundamental critic of the policy of the different Israeli governments. Peled has described his 2012 book, “The Israeli Army General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine” as an account of how he, “the son of an Israeli General and a staunch Zionist, came to realize that “the story upon which I was raised … was a lie.” The book, he has said, is based largely on long conversations with his mother, on a thorough reading of “everything my dad had ever written,” and on material about his father’s career in the Israeli army archives.
The book, which has been characterized as “part confessional, part cinematic epic and part emotional appeal for ‘different answers’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum,” contains a moving foreword by Alice Walker, well known African American author of “The Color Purple”. Walker write: “The journey that Peled traces in this groundbreaking memoir echoed the trajectory taken 40 years earlier by his father, renowned Israeli general Matti Peled. In “The General’s Son,” Miko Peled tells us about growing up in Jerusalem in the heart of the group that ruled the then-young country, Israel. He takes us with him through his service in the country’s military and his subsequent global travels… and then, after his niece’s killing, back into the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. The book provides a compelling and intimate window into the fears that haunt both peoples– but also into the real courage of all those who, like Miko Peled, have been pursuing a steadfast grassroots struggle for equality for all the residents of the Holy Land.”
Recent Article by Peled
Videos of Miko Peled
Book Review of Miko Peled’s “The Israeli Army General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine”
“The Israeli Army General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine”
– Exclusive Books: http://tinyurl.com/nwkslck
– Kalahari: www.kalahari.com/Books/The-General-s-Son_p_44486412
– Amazon (as a Paperback or eBook/Kindle): www.amazon.com/The-Generals-Son-Journey-Palestine/dp/193598215X
FOR MORE INFORMATION, COMMENT OR TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR:
IAW South Africa National Convenor, Muhammed Desai: +27 (0) 842119988
ISSUED BY KWARA KEKANA, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON OF “ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK SOUTH AFRICA TEAM”
Tel: +27 (0) 72 449 1774
Website: www.bdssouthafrica.com/2011/02/israeli-apartheid-week.html or www.apartheidweek.org
New Film Peels Layers of Truth: Invitation, Cape Town
You are invited to a screening of and conversation on The Village Under the Forest at 6.30pm on Tuesday, 8 April at Hiddingh Campus, UCT. It is part of St Georges Cathedral, District Six Museum and Michaelis School of Fine Arts series of conversations “Victim: No Resurrection?”
I used to be convinced that I cannot direct reality and I was very sure that I was right. Life happens…people fall ill and die, nature creates havoc and nations are at war.
But how do we remember things? This is one of the questions a new documentary asks. What if we (as individuals and as humanity) are accountable for how we shape the past, the present and the future….and how we define “truth”?
A brilliant new film on Israel/Palestine offers so much more than excellent information from an intimate perspective. Besides winning the Audience Award for Best South African film in 2013 at Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, the film leads perceptions on Israel-Palestine away from division and towards hope.
It is the story of a South African Jewish woman told bravely and without trampling on the humanity of anyone. I have seen many great films on Israel-Palestine, but this one offers a perspective we urgently need. It is a film that should be seen by all South Africans, by all Jewish people, and by the international community.
The Village Under the Forest is about making sense, and about finding meaning and a way forward. It reflects inner strength and compels the viewer to ask his or her own questions.
On a symbolic level, we all walk through our own “forests” in life. In this film, there is a real forest of trees – but not a natural one. It is one that was deliberately planted to hide the remains of the Palestinian village of Lubya. Lubya was one of the more than 500 Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in 1948.
The purposefully cultivated plantation called South Africa Forest attempts to hide the past in the name of green ecology. But now it is revealed for all to see.
The intimately personal perspective combined with scholarly input from Israelis raise questions on how we (as individuals and as members of a global society) deal with our own “forests” – and this one.
In the words of Director and Emmy-winner Mark J Kaplan and the writer and narrator Heidi Grunebaum:
By using the forest and the village ruins as metaphors, the film explores themes related to the erasure and persistence of memory. Moreover, the film imagines a future in which dignity, acknowledgement and co-habitation become shared possibilities in Israel/Palestine.
According to BDS South Africa,
(t)he film also explores the role of the controversial Israeli-parastatal, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), in building a forest (the “South Africa Forest“) over the Israeli-destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya. Israel and its supporters celebrates the JNF for its forest building work, however, human rights activists critisize the JNF for its involvement in the Israeli oppression and “ethnic-cleansing” against the indigenous Palestinian people, and specifically the construction of forests above Israeli-destroyed Palestinian villages in an attempt to erase all traces of Palestinian life. (See also the Mail&Guardian newspaper review).
After watching The Village Under The Forest, Ismail Coovadia, South Africa’s former ambassador to Israel, announced he will be returning the Jewish National Fund certificate he received and requesting that the trees the JNF planted in his name be removed. The story’s been covered all over the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Electronic Intifada.
He is Jewish, South African, and against the demonisation of Palestinians
Cape Town’s pro-Human Rights and its Zionist communities are known for their hot debates in the local newspapers. Ben Levitas is one of the regular writers. Here Dr Paul Hendler – a Jewish friend – answers Levitas in a wonderful letter:
Cape Argus 12 April 2013:
Ben Levitas (“Israel’s apartheid label is a slanderous fabrication”, Cape Argus, March 13) should know that Israel’s apartheid label is based on a 302-page Human Sciences Research Council (www.hsrc.ac.za) study of Israel’s policies.
Notwithstanding Israel’s classification of the occupied Palestinian territories – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza – as unoccupied, international law regards them as being under ‘belligerent occupation’, which is intended to be temporary. However Israel has occupied the West Bank for 46 years and Gaza is still under siege.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) (1965) provides the basis for, and the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (‘Apartheid Convention’) (1973) as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (‘Rome Statute’) (1998) define, apartheid as an international crime, not as it was practised in South Africa, but as a system that denies people’s right to life and liberty; imposes conditions to cause the physical destruction of a racial group; implements measures to prevent a racial group from participating in the political/social/economic/cultural life of society; divides the population along racial lines; exploits the labour of a particular racial group, and persecutes organisations and people opposing apartheid.
Levitas argues that the Israel/Palestine conflict is primarily a religious one, hence the situation cannot be analogous to apartheid. In the occupied territories, the HSRC study finds that ‘Jewish’ and ‘Palestinian’ identities are socially constructed as groups distinguished by ancestry or descent as well as nationality, ethnicity, and religion, and therefore meet the requirement of ‘racial groups’ as referred to in international law.
The study assumes that not all the six aspects of apartheid as defined above have to be identified in an existing system to conclude that it is an apartheid system, but that there should be a sufficient number, which in combination constitute a systematic regime of racial oppression. It concludes that Israel practices apartheid in the occupied territories through the following activities –
- extra-judicial killings, torture and a separate legal system;
- restrictions on the right of full development of Palestinians as a group such as those on their freedom of movement, place of residence, nationality, work and so on;
- impeding Palestinians’ education and running a segregated education system;
- restricting Palestinians freedom of expression and opinion as well as their freedom of peaceful assembly; dividing the West Bank into racial cantons, extensive appropriation of Palestinian land for exclusive Jewish use; and
- arresting, imprisoning and banning the travel of Palestinians, and targeting Palestinian parliamentarians, national political leaders and human rights defenders.
Levitas argues further that there are two hostile states, Israel and Palestine, and that Israelis need to protect themselves. The study acknowledges the merit of Israel’s claims for security. It notes that the devolution of power to the Palestinian National Authority and Legislative Council (created through the Oslo Accords) has been only partial, and that Israel retains ultimate control. It concludes that Israel’s security actions are disproportionate to its security needs, their primary purpose being to prevent Palestinian opposition to racial domination.
Levitas’ argument that it is the countries ‘hosting’ the Palestinian refugees who are guilty of perpetuating apartheid demonstrates a cynical opportunism in its denial of the role of Zionism in creating the refugees. In this regard, I recommend Benny Morris’ 2004 interview with Haaretz (http://www.counterpunch.org/shavit01162004.html).
The illegal Israeli Wall built on Palestinian land
A demolished Palestinian house in East Jerusalem
Levitas’ criticism of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel for ignoring anti-semitism is inaccurate – BDS South Africa commemorated the Holocaust in January and is opposed to anti-semitism and all forms of racism within and outside of its ranks. In arguing that the BDS campaign apportions all the blame to one side Levitas neatly sidesteps the crucial point that the systematic implementation of a colonial policy by Israel oppresses the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
I write as a Jewish South African who stands against the demonisation of the Palestinian people, and for an objective account of the facts of their circumstances.
Paul Hendler, Stellenbosch
Dr Paul Hendler is the Director of a business that enables sustainable human settlements in South Africa that are socially and economically just and viable.
To me Paul is a living example of that kind of justice and human dignity that is not only directed to the “own”. It is great to hear his voice in public.
Click to read Hendler’s reply to Levitas in the Cape Argus, 12 April 2013.
Press statement: Jewish South Africans during Pesach/Passover
South African Jewish people reflect on their own freedom versus those of others as they are about to prepare for the Passover of 2013:
The festival of Pesach (Passover); our freedom is unfulfilled while others are oppressed
25 March 2013 / 14 Nisan 5773
As Jewish people around the world prepare for the festival of Pesach (Passover) that commences this evening (Monday 25 March), Stop The Jewish National Fund (StopTheJNF South Africa) would like to wish all who hold dear the values of freedom, liberation and justice a “Chag Kosher v’Sameach”.
While Jewish families around the world recall the enslavement of our ancestors, we recognise that celebrations of freedom will always be tainted by bitter tears when there are people who remain oppressed. Members of StopTheJNF South Africa are particularly pained that since the establishment of Israel in 1948, Jewish people will be celebrating ‘freedom’ whilst complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Further we recognise that our own authentic freedom will remain unfulfilled while the Palestinians are denied theirs. In this light, as Jews of conscience, we will continue to speak out against injustices committed by Israel in our name: the brutal siege of Gaza and an occupation of Palestinian lands which sees the ongoing dispossession, humiliation and brutalisation of the Palestinians.
We also note the suffering of the Syrian people who are being butchered in a savage civil war, the murder and rape of countless women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the deprivations of the Tibetan people denied their national and religious rights by China – these are just some instances of the denial of basic freedoms which we condemn and will remember as part of our Pesach celebrations.
Allan Horwitz for “StopTheJNF South Africa”. StopTheJNF South Africa is an organization initiated by Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis.
For more information, contact StopTheJNF National Spokesperson, Allan Horwitz:
082 512 8188
Arriving in Israel: Just a few routine security questions, Mr Obama
Israel wouldn’t mess up and let its airport security welcome President Obama to the country, would it?
Please hand over your suitcase. Open it. Now that bag. Open it. Photo by AP.
This account is typical of what people experience on entering Israel. Just last week a visiting academic from South Africa, Dr Salim Vally, was denied access at Allenby Bridge on the Jordan Border.
By Nicolas Pelham in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 21 March 2013.
Israeli officials are more than a little nervous ahead of Barack Obama’s first visit as a sitting president. His previous encounters with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned into sparring matches. But salvation might be at hand from Israel’s ever-vigilant immigration authorities.
The president enters the terminal. A smiling young woman approaches, security tag hanging from her neck like a second necklace.
Sir, we need to ask you routine security questions.
PBO: Sure. It’s good to be here. Shalom.
(She opens his passport.) What is your name?
PBO: Barack Obama.
Barack Obama. What kind of a name is that?
PBO: My parents shared an abiding faith that in a tolerant world your name is no barrier to success. Barack means blessed…
(Interrupting) I see. Do you have any middle names?
The security officer waits.
PBO: That’s my name.
And what are the names of your grandparents?
PBO: Hussein and Habiba Obama.
What community did they belong to?
PBO: They were Kenyan Muslims…
Step aside please. (PBO is directed to an isolated corner of the arrivals hall. After some time, another security agent appears.) I need to ask you a few questions. You understand that this is for your own security. What are the names of your grandparents?
PBO: As I’ve said, Hussein and Habiba.
Do you feel more African or more American?
PBO: Thank you for your interest, but, well, this is a question I think we should all consider carefully before asking. I have a … a … a vision in which everybody’s treated with respect and dignity irrespective of race, faith, gender or sexual orientation.
I need you to answer the question.
PBO: In my country an immigration officer couldn’t ask an American Jew if he felt more Jewish or American. Could I ask your name?
I’m the one asking the questions. Do you belong to a community?
PBO: As I’ve said, I’m Christian. But there’s a rule at the heart of every religion: Do unto others as we would have them do unto us. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization.
Did anyone give you anything to take to Israel? You need to understand that it happens people are given something that looks innocent but is a bomb.
PBO (relieved to be back on solid ground): Well, of course, I fully understand the security considerations.
Did your father raise you as a Muslim?
PBO: My father passed on his name, not his religion. And besides, he left when I was young. Maybe 3.
You weren’t raised by your father? Where were you brought up?
PBO: Indonesia. I first went there when my mother married an Indonesian named Lolo Soetoro, and the people of Indonesia made me feel at home. My Indonesian friends and I used to run in fields with water buffalo and goats, running along the paddy fields and catching dragonflies. And because Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, hundreds of languages and people from scores of ethnic groups, my time here helped me appreciate the common humanity of all people…
(Interrupting.) And did your stepfather belong to a community?
Hey, I’m not sure these questions are really necessary.
These questions are part of the entry requirements for the State of Israel.
PBO: I am fully committed to Israel’s security. My government gives it $3 billion every year.
Please wait here. (She confers with her supervisor, then returns). I have a few more questions. You understand that this is for your own security.
Where will you be staying?
PBO: The King David Hotel.
Do you have a reservation?
Can I see it?
PBO: My people have it.
Who made your reservation?
PBO: Well, these matters are normally handled by protocol.
Do you have a return ticket?
Answer the question.
PBO: After Israel we’re going to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
You have a second passport, don’t you?
Don’t you have an African passport?
PBO: Because I was born in Hawaii. Is there something wrong with my passport?
I just need you to answer a few questions. Do you have any other form of ID? A business card? (A huffy silence follows.) Has any member of your family been convicted of a criminal offense?
PBO: No. Hold on a minute. Do you think we could speak to someone at the American Embassy?
When we’re done. Are you sure? Any relatives, alive or deceased?
PBO: My grandfather was once in prison.
PBO: It’s not clear. He was tortured by the British, and scarred for life.
Sir, please follow me. (She leads PBO to a side room. Two security officers are there. The new woman picks up the questioning.) Did you pack your bags yourself? Have they been out of your sight?
PBO: They were packed by my staff.
(The male security officer dons latex gloves and begins to examine PBO’s luggage.) Did anyone give you anything to give to someone?
Have you or anyone close to you taken part in any solidarity activity for Palestine?
PBO: What are you trying to say?
I’m only asking a question.
PBO: Look, America’s bond with Israel is unbreakable. It is based on recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.
I understand. And what do you want to do about it? Will you be meeting with Palestinians?
PBO: Yeah, with leaders, including President Abu Mazen. But first of all, I’m not sure this is all strictly necessary. You know, we all have some discretion in terms of how we apply law.
If you want to enter Israel, you will need to cooperate with the security check. You’ve been here before. Why are you coming back? You could go to Mexico, to Canada. It’s closer to Washington and cheaper.
PBO: Could you get me the American Embassy, please.
You need to complete the procedures first. (The woman types www.gmail.com on her computer and turns the keyboard toward PBO.) Log in.
PBO: Is that even legal? Do you have a search warrant that entitles you to see such things? I am the president of the United States.
If you don’t comply, you know what that would mean, right?
PBO: OK, I want a lawyer. And I want to call the American Embassy. Now.
I doubt it would help. Most of the people who work there are Israeli nationals employed because they speak Hebrew. I doubt they voted for you.
PBO: This incident suggests that law enforcement in this country is blocking people disproportionately based on race and religion.
Sir, I will need to ask you to stay calm. You may call whomever you want, after you have completed the procedures. As of now, you are denied entry. You will have the right to remain in a facility pending your departure from Israel. In the meantime, if you could please sit in front of the camera … Thank you. And now if you could place your right thumb on this ink pad, and now the left one. Thank you.
Air Force One leaves. Prime Minister Netanyahu breathes a sigh of relief. He returns to his desk, and surveys his maps depicting contours for fresh settlement expansion.
Press statement: SABC/SAFM cancellation of programme with Prof Qumisyeh
13 March 2013
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign notes that the SABC and SAFM arranged to present a phone-in programme and debate between a distinguished visiting Palestinian activist, Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, and a representative from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), who undertook to present the Zionist perspective on Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. This was to have taken place just after the 9h00 news on SAfm on Tuesday 12 March 2013.
At the last minute, after having originally agreed to take part, the SAJBD withdrew its agreement and refused to participate. The programme was immediately cancelled by the SABC on the grounds that the SAJBD had been invited to ensure “balance” and that, following the withdrawal of those who would put the Zionist perspective, this “balance” no longer existed.
This is not the first time that Zionists have used this tactical ploy to silence those who disagree with them. In order to do this, it is of course necessary that the public platform would be provided by someone who sympathised with the Zionists and who thus could be trusted to play their shabby game with them. The obvious intention is to violate the constitutional right to the freedom of expression, freedom of the press and other media, and the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas while at the same time claiming to be seeking “balance”.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is completely unafraid to confront Zionists in any public debate – a debate which the SAJBD is clearly desperate to avoid. We believe that their evasive tactics further highlight the parallels between apartheid and Zionism. These are apparent at every turn and stone.
On its part, the SAJBD reveals itself – yet again – to be too craven to face in public, in front of an open microphone, or in any other form or venue those who wish to present the reasons why Zionism and the Zionist policies of Israel are racist, oppressive, and a violation of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians.
Moreover, the action of withdrawing from a programme it agreed to take part in is itself a clear political statement. The SAJBD has had to rely on the SABC to provide it with cover to skulk behind, even though by its own act the SAJBD has itself forfeited any right to a claim of “balance”.
Further, the SABC is revealed as having not yet freed itself from its squalid role as the apologist for, and would-be sanitiser of, apartheid. It used to make the same bogus claim to “balance” when silencing those who opposed what the whole world condemned as a crime against humanity – just as it has now done in the case of Zionism.
None of this is surprising. In 2007 the SABC and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies entered into a formal ageement which – in summary – empowered the SAJBD to censor how the SABC presented affairs concerning the Middle East.
Racism in general, and Zionism in particular, cannot cope with the searchlight of democracy. The SAJBD is seeking to protect itself from being exposed by its critics, and thereby to sanitise Israel by attempting to subvert rights protected by the South African constitution. One of the most visible victims is the SABC itself, which is content to render meaningless in practice what it claims to be its editorial policies in its published Editorial Code. We point to statements it makes to the effect that it avoids promoting discrimination in its programmes on the grounds of political persuasion, and that it seeks balance by presenting relevant views on matters of importance.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign condemns the cancellation of the interview with Proof. Mazin, and demands that the SABC honour the obligations and duties it boasts of.
ISSUED BY THE PALESTINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN, SOUTH AFRICA
Contacts for further comment:
Martin Jansen 0828702025 or Mercia Andrews 0823683429
Qumisyeh’s Peace Plan/ South African public broadcaster cancels interview
“What is your Peace Plan?” they asked Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh. His answer consisted of four words.
On Monday 11 March 2013 Qumsiyeh’s public talk in Stellenbosch started by mentioning his own interwoven family history with ties to people in various cultures and religious groups – including Jewish links.
Mazin is an American citizen. Five years ago he returned to Palestine where he now plays an active role in civil society in addition to his academic career in genetics and zoology.
When asked what his “Peace Plan” is, he said it consists of four words:
HUMAN RIGHTS and INTERNATIONAL LAW.
I couldn’t agree more.
In the end one would hope for HUMAN DIGNITY too.
After his talk at the Faculty of Theology (and the great introductory talk by Bonga Mbenenge and his remarks on human dignity), a few of us accompanied Prof Qumsiyeh to the nearby lush green botanical gardens. What a gift it was to share this day in such great company!
Public broadcaster cancels radio talk:
The next morning Qumsiyeh had an appointment for an interview on SAFM (a South African public radio station that broadcasts nationally), but it was cancelled at the very last minute.
Why? As stated in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s letter (PSC letter to SABC station manager the Jewish Board of Deputies who first insisted to be part of the discussion in the name of “balance in a sensitive issue” withdrew the evening before the show – and so South Africa’s public broadcaster cancelled the show.
The next morning, Terry Crawford-Browne took Prof Qumsiyeh to the studio. Says Crawford-Browne:
The SABC’s security record for the day will confirm that Mazin Qumsiyeh and I signed in at 08:45. The receptionist’s computer monitor confirmed that Mazin was expected. The sound engineer on duty can confirm that he took us into a studio, and contacted Johannesburg to advise that Mazin was in the studio. He was then hugely embarrassed to tell Mazin that the programme had been cancelled.
To call the matter between Israel and Palestine in need of “balance on a sensitive matter” displays in my opinion either ignorance or a disregard of international law, human rights and the gross violations thereof by Israel in its occupation of Palestine.
Why not give someone from Palestine a voice? Surely the public can phone in and ask any questions they want? I think this was an attempt to silence a strong voice who speaks the reason of inclusion and dignity for all in the Middle East. I am deeply ashamed that my country’s public broadcaster’s decision. In fact, the South African Palestinian Solidarity Campaign called this censorship by the SABC/SAFM:
“unlawful and unconstitutional, violating South Africans’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”
See also the PSC Media Statement
Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh (http://qumsiyeh.org/aboutqumsiyeh) is a Palestinian American of Christian background and was raised in Beit Sahour, the biblical Shepherd’s field just outside of Bethlehem, where he continues to live and work.
Mazin now teaches at Bethlehem University and Birzeit University in molecular genetics and other biology related courses. His worthy blog: http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/ is informative and analytical regarding the Palestine/Israel conflict.
His academic career started with his Ph.D. in Zoology from Texas Tech University. His later training was in genetics and he served as Associate Professor of Genetics and director of cytogenetic services both at Duke University and Yale University. During his 24 years in USA, he served on the faculties of these Universities.
He has traveled extensively in Jordan, Israel/Palestine, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, and America conducting scientific work and research, and has published over 120 scientific papers in areas ranging from Zoology to Genetics and two books: Mammals of the Holy Land and Bats of Egypt.
As an activist with Palestinian liberation movements, Mazin has served on several organizations’ Boards, authored books and published views and commentaries via the Internet and on websites.
Qumsiyeh being arrested in Al-Walaja 6 May 2010*
*The illegal Israeli Wall confiscates fertile Palestinian land (and the livelihood of families) in Al Walaja, a village in the district of Bethlehem. Most Palestinian men have been detained at least once – often for acts such as protests or stone throwing and often without a formal complaint.
A debate between Jews on land rights in Palestine & Israel: Dr Paul Hendler, an Ambassador & Jennifer Harris
Ever heard a discourse on Palestine/Israel that asks for a “balanced approach” by taking “the other side” into account as the situation between Israel and Palestine is “very complex”?
Such a viewpoint is usually expressed in terms of “truth”, “peace” and “reconciliation”. All of this sounds very reasonable, doesn’t it?
On the surface yes, and for many years, these arguments convinced me too. But that was before I knew that the Palestinians have only 22% left of the land allotted to them by the United Nations in 1948, and before realising that endless talks about complexities without practical peace initiatives create the space for a continued land grab by Israel.
Not all Jews agree on the same “facts” or on what “peace” and “truth” entail, for example:
- On the one hand there is Zionism – a fundamentalist position of Judaism that advances exclusion and separatism. Many Christians endorse this paradigm in the debate on Israel-Palestine and hence feel that Israel is so special that it may ignore international laws and rulings by bodies such as the International Court of Justice and the United Nations. They talk “peace”, “truth”, “facts” and “balance” and say all of the land that used to be a British Protectorate in 1948 (called Palestine) rightly belongs to Israel.
- On the other hand there are Jews who do not approve of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and the associated illegal occupation and of their land. They use verified facts from declared sources to remind us of the death and displacement of millions of Palestinians as part of Israel’s institutionalised, systemic oppression, and that the oppression and the land confiscation continue to this day.
1948: Fleeing Palestine during the Nakba (the Catastrophe)
Dr Paul Hendler, for example, has some strong views on the Palestinians’ struggle to humanize themselves…
My name is Paul Hendler and I live in Stellenbosch. I am a Jewish South African who is against the demonization of the Palestinians by mainstream Zionism and for a rational discussion about the facts that characterize the history of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom and national self-determination.
It was on this basis that I responded to a letter by Jennifer Harris (Cape Times 4 January) who purported that the facts showed that the Jewish Zionists were the conciliators and the Palestinians the savages against whom the Jews were left with no option but to fight (against their will or preferred option).
I am familiar with this view: I grew up with it in our community in Paarl and was to some extent imbued with it while participating in the Zionist (Habonim) youth movement during the 1960s. But even then something wrankled and didn’t ring true about this narrative and I embarked on a search for the true circumstances of the 1948 flight of these people into a semi-permanent refugee status ever since, reading both Zionist literature and literature critical of and in opposition to Zionism. My journey has uncovered more and more questions about the veracity of the Zionist myth – the purpose of this blog piece is to demonstrate why I say this.
I hold the view that there is a truth independent of Zionists or Palestinian views and that reasonable people (on both sides) should be able to debate the facts to start defining this truth. (I also argue that this is a precondition for a serious non-violent strategy to resist Zionist oppression and domination of Palestinians).
My experience, however, has been that mainstream Zionists get intensely defensive whenever deeper questions are raised and attempt to shut up the questioner by vilifying his/her character; it’s as if they have to stop the investigation into the roots of the flight of the majority of the Palestinian people into refugee status. My investigations indicate that the rigorous historical research and analyses has tended to be conducted by Palestinian scholars and anti-Zionists (or critically Zionist) Israeli Jews.
Here is Jennifer Harris’ letter to the Cape Times:
…to which Paul replied as follows:
07 January 2013
Jennifer Harris (letters, 04 January 2013), a mediation specialist, needs to do a lot more homework on the facts surrounding the 1948 Naqba. She claims that Israel was established where 8,6% of land was Jewish-owned, 3,3% Israeli Arab-owned, 16,9 absentee Arab owners (who got out of the way while invading Arab armies intended to destroy Israel) and 71,2 per cent by the mandatory power, which was allocated to Israel as legal heir. She concludes “the contention that the bulk of the land had belonged to Arabs has no foundation in reality”.
The magisterial work, “All that Remains – the Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948”, edited by Walid Khalidi, (1992) (the Institute for Palestine Studies, the Galilee Centre for Social Research and Birzeit University) referred to the Palestine Index Gazetteer and Village Statistics 1945: a Classification of Land and Area Ownership in Palestine (Palestine Government) to demonstrate that Palestinians owned between 42 and 98 per cent of land – in nine of 16 districts this was more than 75 per cent, in six between 42 and 75 per cent and in one (Beersheba) 15 per cent. Zionists owned between three and thirty-nine per cent – in eight districts between less than one per cent and five per cent, and between 14 per cent and thirty-nine per cent in the remainder. The mandatory government ownership varied between one and 23 per cent in 15 districts – in Beersheba it owned 85 per cent of the land.
Ms. Harris is perpetuating a Zionist myth that the “people without a land returned to the land without a people”, and parading this as Truth.
“All that Remains” chronicles the occupation and depopulation by Palmach (later IDF) brigades of 418 Palestinian villages located within the pre-1967 borders of Israel, based partly on IDF archival sources, partly on eye witness accounts, whereby coordinated moves by the brigades through a swathe of villages per region, resulted in attacks on villages (which were often resisted), the expulsion of most of the inhabitants and the dynamiting of their homes shortly thereafter. IDF documents describe these operations in the north (near Galilee) as “cleansing” of the countryside – presumably to Judaise these areas.
There are also narratives of those who fled before this lot could befall them, but besides Husseini’s pro-Nazi and anti-semitic calls there is no evidence of widespread calls from neighbouring Arab states for the people to flee – if anything, there were calls to stay and although Arab Liberation Army irregulars (largely volunteers) entered Palestine to defend the villages they were no match for the Zionist forces. As Israeli historian Illan Pappe (“The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”), David Gilmour (“Dispossessed”) and Benny Morris (“1948”) have demonstrated there had already been 250 000 to 300 000 expelled in early 1948 prior to the declaration of the State (May). Morris, himself a Zionist, in a frank interview with Haaretz (2004), confirmed the violence inherent in the expulsion of the refugees and justified this as historically necessary in the conflict between civilized Israelis and ‘barbarous’ Palestinians. Pappe has referred to detailed evidence in Ben Gurion’s diaries (in Hebrew) which show him regarding the Palestinian peasants, small farmers and villagers as the real enemy of the Zionist project. Churchill famously said: “the truth is incontrovertible; malice may malign it, ignorance undermine it, but in the end there it is.”
In the end, 750 000 Palestinians lost their homes, their livelihoods, and largely their identities, although they forged a new identity through their national liberation struggle against Zionist colonization. Finding a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and one which can be pursued through non-violent means, will perforce require negotiation and possibly mediation – if Ms. Harris would like to contribute to that process she would make a good start by getting her facts right.
Dr Paul Hendler
A week later, the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa replied as follows in the public domain:
Cape Times Article by Israeli Ambassador
After this reply, Paul could not leave the matter there. Here is his response to SIX POINTS made by the Israeli Ambassador:
I would like to provoke debate in response to the ambassador of Israel’s article (Cape Times, 14 January), which responded to my letter (Cape Times, 9 January). The Israeli ambassador makes six points, all of which can be disputed in good faith by reference to at least some of the crucial “facts”.
When there is a dispute about the facts it is useful to delve behind the data to examine how it has been constructed in order to assess its credibility.
Point One – “The oft-quoted 750 000 refugees is a grossly exaggerated figure for propaganda purposes”:
Walid Khalidi’s “All the Remains” (see my letter of 9 January) sets out in some detail a method for calculating the number of Palestinians depopulated from some urban centres in nine districts (which constituted the area that became the State of Israel), parts of Jerusalem 418 rural villages, and also the number of Bedouin that became refugees:
It appears that the sources the Ambassador refers to might not have projected the population growth rates between 1944 and 1948 and not have included the Bedouin refugees in their count.
Point Two – “The Palestinians fled because they were exhorted to and then to return behind the expected victorious invading Arab state armies, and having driven the Jews into the sea to confiscate their possessions and land.”
There is a bona fide dispute about the calls to leave. Gilmour’s “Dispossessed” (1980) refers to Khalidi’s “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem until 1948” which refers to Dr Erskine Childers’ (son of Ireland’s fourth president, BBC correspondent and UN civil servant) examination of British and American monitoring of Middle East broadcasts throughout 1948 (available in British Museum), which could not find a single order or appeal to evacuate Palestine from any Arab radio inside or outside Palestine, but that there were appeals for civilians to stay put. (http://zionism-israel.com/his/Palestine_Nakba.htm questions whether it was technically possible to research the content of all broadcasts, which is an interesting question and which could be addressed). Gilmour points to a March 1948 Arab Higher Committee letter to the Egyptian and other Arab governments resolving that it was not in the interests of Palestinians to leave the country. Gilmour also refers to Geofrey Furlonge’s “Palestine is my country” (1969) that Jerusalem leaders Hilmi and Khalidi forbade people to leave the city without a permit.
Even if there were widespread calls by leaders for the population to leave, this does not necessarily constitute the reason why they left: it is reasonable to ask why a settled rural population would suddenly uproot itself in response to calls from foreign urban political elites hundreds (if not thousands) of kilometers away, with whom few of them were acquainted.
Point Three – “The Palestinians title to these lands is questionable and in any event they were migrants first and foremost in search of better opportunities rather than communities with deep roots in the land of Palestine.”
The ambassador presents the refugees as highly mobile illegal immigrants following prosperity. Ms. Harris says that they owned only a fraction of the land, most of which was held by the Mandate authority. Based on meticulous research – including field research – which identified each of the depopulated villages and its history, “All that remains” provides a different picture of a settled population of peasant farmers and small town/village artisans with a historical presence in the area.
We need to investigate the existing land tenure arrangements in pre 1948 Palestine and also keep in mind that prior to the rise of industrial capitalism in the Middle East people occupied their land on a de facto basis as direct producers in agrarian economies and that this de facto occupation conferred both rights and obligations.
“All that remains”, drawing extensively on IDF archives as well as eyewitness accounts, details an extensive military campaign to occupy or take these villages, which is the alternative narrative to the Zionist account, confirmed by eye witness accounts. Mainstream Zionist historians – including Bennie Morris, who has admitted and justified the violent dispossession of Palestinian land – are conspicuous by the absence of any oral history and eye-witness accounts by the refugees and/or their descendants, regarding the events of 1948.
Point Four – “More Jews (850 000) were expelled from Arab countries, also losing their properties in the process, but they at least were taken in by their Zionist Jewish brethren whereas the Palestinians were abandoned by those who should have shouldered responsibility for them, namely the surrounding Arab states.”
Terry-Crawford-Browne (next to my letter of January 9) refers to Zionist-security services complicity in the acts of anti-semitism carried out in the Arab countries and which preceded the relocation of the Jews of colour (the MIzrahim) to Israel. I remember reading this viewpoint by David Hirst (“The Gun and the Olive Branch”) (2003) and I have recently purchased the book (updated) and intend to explore this further. The so-called responsibility of the Arab states for the Palestinian refugees has to be looked at in the light of the questionable assumption that they were instrumental in getting the Palestinians to pack their bags in the first place. There needs to be a lot more looking into this and precisely who said what and when. The sources of such information need to be scrutinized to determine their veracity (e.g. independent or embedded journalists?)
Point Five – “What happened to the Palestinians is simply a part of history, and has happened on a larger scale to other peoples in time of war: for example, the Germans fleeing from the advancing Red Army at the end of World War 2 and the refugees who were displaced during the breakaway of Pakistan from India.”
The Ambassador demonstrates a cavalier attitude to (what he regards as the unintended) “collateral” damage of war and trivializes the suffering not only of the Palestinian refugees and people but also the Indian/Pakistani refugees and fluechtlinge from the Soviet forces at the end of the Second World War. His logic is chillingly close to that of David Irvine, a notorious denier of the Nazi genocide of the Jews – Irvine saw the Jewish deaths (a relatively small part of the total civilian deaths in this war) as unplanned and an outcome of the chaos of the war. Applying this logic to the genocide would reduce this catastrophe for the Jewish people (and also for a similarly large population of Gentiles who were exterminated) to a banal event.
Point Six – “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and its Gentile citizens (largely Palestinians) enjoy equal rights and opportunities with its Jewish citizens.”
Hernando de Soto (UN Commissioner) and Francis Cherval (“Realizing Property Rights”, 2006) identify mechanisms that not only limit the extent of private land ownership in Israel but also ensure that de facto control of decision-making with regard to land is vested in Jewish bodies like the JNF. They conclude that “the Israeli land regime can be said to have produced long-term disparities between the ‘founding’ Ashkenazi group (i.e. Caucasian European settlers), the ‘immigrant’ Mizrahim and the ‘indigenous’ Palestinian-Arab group”. Israel’s Palestinian citizens are also excluded from social service benefits accruing to people who have served in the IDF because they are excluded from going to the army.
Joeseph Massad (Columbia University) (http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/05/20115684218533873.html) lists the following laws that discriminate in favour of Jewish Israeli citizens against Palestinian Israeli citizens: including the Law of Return (1950), the Law of Absentee Property (1950), the Law of the State’s Property (1951), the Law of Citizenship (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Israel Lands Administration Law (1960), the Construction and Building Law (1965), and the 2002 temporary law banning marriage between Israelis and Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. He makes the further point that it is the very presence of Arabs in the Jewish State that propels the Jewish State to enshrine its racism in all these laws. There is an inherent contradiction in the notion that Israel is both a democratic and a Jewish state.
Having read the above discussion, I want to ask: Should only Palestinians be freed? Didn’t someone say that the truth sets one free?
I would dearly like to see free Palestinians and free Israelis living in harmony and in alignment with international law.