The Nightmare in Israel
by Alexander Cockburn
The Nation magazine, March 25, 2002
Let's start with Baruch Kimmerling, a sociologist at Hebrew
University. Here's what he published in the Jerusalem weekly Kol
Ha'Ir last month:
"I accuse Ariel Sharon of creating a process in which
he will not only intensify the reciprocal bloodshed, but is liable
to instigate a regional war and partial or nearly complete ethnic
cleansing of the Arabs in the 'Land of Israel.'
"I accuse every Labor Party minister in this government
of cooperating for implementation [of] the right wing's extremist,
fascist 'vision' for Israel.
"I accuse the Palestinian leadership, and primarilyYasir
Arafat, of shortsightedness so extreme that it has become a collaborator
in Sharon's plans. If there is a second Naqba (Palestinian Holocaust),
this leadership, too, will be among the causes.
"I accuse the military leadership, spurred by the national
leadership, of inciting public opinion, under a cloak of supposed
military professionalism, against the Palestinians. Never before
in Israel have so many generals in uniform, former generals, and
past members of the military intelligence, sometimes disguised
as 'academics,' taken part in public brainwashing....
"I accuse the administrators of Israel's electronic media
of giving various military spokespeople the access needed for
an aggressive, bellicose, almost complete takeover of the public
"I accuse everyone who sees and knows all of this of
doing nothing to prevent the emerging catastrophe. Sabra and Shatila
events were nothing compared to what has happened and what is
going to happen to us. We have to go out not only to the town
squares, but also to the checkpoints. We have to speak to the
soldiers in the tanks and the troop carriers....
"And I accuse myself of knowing all of this, yet crying
little and keeping quiet too often."
From the press here we learn all the time of the pressure
of public opinion on Sharon and his government to bear down even
harder on the Palestinians. I just listened to NPR's Linda Gradstein
quoting one "expert" after another in Israel to this
effect. But if public opinion here is crucial in pressuring US
administrations to some measure of constructive intervention (as
opposed to carte blanche for Sharon and his band of criminals),
then we should be hearing every day of the passionate opposition
to Sharon of people like Kimmerling.
There are many others you don't read about here. Take the
courageous people in the Ta'ayush movement. On their website (http://taayush.tripod.com/taayush.hunl)
you'll see the words "Arab-Jewish Partnership," and
then you'll be able to scroll through one action after another
in which they have braved police and army beatings, marching to
beleaguered and often bulldozed Palestinian villages to stand
shoulder to shoulder with the victims. Here's what Professor Neve
Gordon of Ben-Gurion University wrote March 6 to Roane Carey,
my editor at The Nation: "As to the situation here, it is
getting unbearable by the day. We tried to dismantle a roadblock
the other day near Hebrew U and were beaten by the police. Three
women had their hands broken, one had her head opened. I was beaten
while in custody with my hands handcuffed behind my back. Sharon
bombed Gaza this morning...."
Plenty of people in Israel see well enough that repression
will not work. In December Ami Ayalon, a former head of Shabak,
Israel's security service, told Le Monde, "We say the Palestinians
behave like 'madmen, 'but it is not madness but a bottomless despair....
Yasir Arafat neither prepared nor triggered the intifada. The
explosion was spontaneous, against Israel, as all hope for the
end of occupation disappeared, and against the Palestinian Authority,
its corruption, its impotence.
"I favor unconditional withdrawal from the territories--preferably
in the context of an agreement, but not necessarily: What needs
to be done, urgently, is to withdraw from the territories. And
a true withdrawal.... If [the Palestinians] proclaim their own
state, Israel should be the first to recognize it and to propose
state to state negotiations, without conditions." There have
been public statements from other Israeli security personnel bearing
on the same theme-that the present strategy of extreme repression
is doomed to fail and that some form of phased withdrawal is in
Is there anything to the Saudi proposal? After all, its suggested
bargain-recognition of Israel from the Arab countries in return
for Israeli withdrawal to the pre- 1967 borders---is over thirty
years old. Israeli journalist Meron Benvenisti had the right angle
in his February 28 Ha'aretz column: "No illusion is more
dangerous than the idea being sold that 'the conflict with the
Palestinians is small and incidental. We can solve the conflict
with the entire Arab world.' It was long ago proven that there
is no solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict without a solution
to the conflict with the Palestinians---and that is what the Saudi
initiative is all about."
The Bush Administration, criminally negligent in its cowardice
to engage with this crisis, says the Saudi idea has merit, by
which it indicates well enough the standard operating procedure
for such proposals. As summed up by Uri Avnery, head of Israel's
Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc): "In Israel, every international
initiative designed to put an end to the conflict passes through
three stages: (a) denial, (b) misrepresentation, (c) liquidation.
That's how the Sharon-Peres government will deal with this one,
The press here has for decades been as culpable as the government.
No administration will ever exert itself positively without popular
pressure, and the role of the media has been to avert such pressure
by suppressing opposition voices. Here's one thing you can do:
Jewish Voices Against the Occupation is running an ad campaign
calling for the evacuation of all settlements, return to pre-1967
borders, suspension of US military aid till the end of the occupation
and the establishment of an international peacekeeping force.
JVAO's Bluma Goldstein tells me 450 have signed it so far and
$30,000 has been raised toward the necessary $37,750. lVAO is
at PO Box 11606, Berkeley, CA 94712, and wwwjvao.org. Remember
Kimmerling's line, "And I accuse myself of knowing all of
this, yet crying little and keeping quiet too often."