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Democracy Dies in Silence

indiaopines.com

The order to silence the messenger, kill him or her if necessary, came directly from the Prime Minister. He commanded his top four ministers—Security, Justice, Culture and Education—to do all in their power to establish and maintain the big hush. The people must realize, he instructed, that there’s law and order in this country. Voices—such as those in the opposition, especially artists, writers, journalists, bloggers and the like—must not, “I repeat must not,” disrupt the ‘peace’ with their loud messages of protest. We can continue to have control over the people, and win future elections, only if we can continue to have control over the media. When you leave this office, go out into the streets of the country and silence them all. Literally.

Of course, my dear readers, you think to yourselves that here he goes again. Fantasizing. Our devoted blogger, you say, is resorting to his old ways. Think himself Kafka again. Or someone like him. Talking probably about Russia, or Turkey, or China. Certainly not about Israel. Not about us Jews. Of course not. That’s impossible. But you’re wrong, my friends, because I am talking about Israel. About the Jews of Israel. I realize, though, that I must convince you in the seriousness of my accusations. So here are three cases (out of many others), occurring lately in our ancient holy land, to illustrate my point.

First, I let you read this sentence, published in Ha’aretz’ article on September 7th. I myself have read it again and again, yet couldn’t get enough of its contradictions. It defies all logic in its absurdities. So here it is: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Government Press Office to remove Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid Al-Omari from a state-sponsored seminar on freedom of speech planned for Thursday.” Furthermore, it continued, “The prime minister instructed that legal steps be taken to deny press passes of all Al Jazeera journalists working in Israel (among them Israeli citizens, H.D.), and to close their offices in Israel.”

Now, let’s try to analyze together what we’ve just read. There is a ‘seminar on freedom of speech,’ fine and dandy, but… it’s ‘state-sponsored.’ Got it? That’s absurdity number one: ‘state-sponsored.’ Then we have the head of that state, the Prime Minister, orders that a certified, known, respected global media organization, and its journalists, would be excluded from said seminar. Hear me on this? ‘Freedom of speech’—but you, with the Arab name, though you carry a press-card issued by the state—you are not allowed in. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, anybody? That ‘freedom’ here is limited, and is ‘sponsored’ by the state, and I’m the head of that state. Orwell is probably rolling in his grave laughing.

I can go on and on about this story, but you probably get the gist of it already, and we have other cases to cover here. So let’s go right to the next example. This one involves the new Israeli film “Foxtrot,” which has won recently the ‘Silver Lion,’ the grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival. A major film festival—considered the third most prestigious film festival in the world—and therefor a significant award and achievement for the Israeli filmmakers. You’d think that folks in Israel, especially those in political power—who are usually so eager to congratulate, and celebrate any minor achievement for the state in the international arena—would jump on the opportunity to do so in this case as well.

Not so. One of the four ministers receiving the order to ‘kill the messenger,’ as mentioned above, is none other than the Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev. She attacked the film furiously—mind you, before even seeing it—claiming it tarnishes the Israeli army’s reputation. Apparently, she was told by a senior official at the ‘Culture Ministry’ about a scene where a group of soldiers at a checkpoint turn violent on Palestinians. As if that has never happened. “It the type of film that gives tailwind to the Israel boycott movement,” she was quoted as saying. In other words, as we continue along this path of absurdities, never mind the actions themselves, they are fine. The depiction of them and their messengers are the problem. Go figure.

The film went on to win eight major Ophir Awards—Israel’s version of the Oscars—and most probably (unless a government special decision to the contrary intervenes) would represent Israel next year in that most prestigious American, global competition. All the same, Mrs. Regev threaten to withhold all financial support from now on from any film that doesn’t subscribe to her—i.e. the Prime Minister’s—version of Israeli patriotism. Get the picture? And did I mention already here the country of Russia?

Over a year ago, the Educational Minister Naftali Bennet—another of the four executioners of the apocalypse in the Prime Minister’s office, as described at the outset—had “disqualified a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools around the country. The move comes even though the official responsible for literature instruction in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes…” Reported Haaretz on 12/31/15 “Among the reasons stated for the disqualification of Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (literally “Hedgerow,” but known in English as “Borderlife”) is the need to maintain what was referred to as “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector.”

Need I say more? Only that one of the corruption investigations currently ongoing in Israel by the police is of PM Netanyahu’s attempt to influence, and strike a deal with the publisher of the widely read newspaper in Israel ahead of the last election, in order to sway media coverage, and have favorable stories and editorials about him in that paper, Yediot Acharunut. As if he doesn’t have already another paper, Israel Hayom – Israel’s Pravda—as his private newspaper.

I can go on, but enough said. So I say to you my friends and colleagues in Israel, and everywhere else for that matter: Keep writing; keep talking; keep showing; keep playing; keep filming; keep producing. Because remember: It’s not only that democracy dies in darkness, as the Washington Post reminds us daily on its pages, but it’s also that democracy dies in silence.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue

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Who is a Terrorist?

thebrokenelbow.com

A week ago or so, in Jerusalem, an Israeli Border-Police office was stabbed to death by three Palestinian assailants in broad day light. She was a young woman of 23, her whole life ahead of her, whom relatives described as a “real-life Wonder Woman.” In my book, she is most certainly worthier of that title than the Israeli woman playing that Comic Book hero in cinema theaters, with all the fakery and shield-deflecting bullets. May she rest in peace, Hadas Malka, and may the memory of her bravery and dedication to defending her country be of blessing.

The Palestinians who killed her were shot and killed too by Israeli forces. They were declared by the Israeli Government and Media as terrorists. Indeed, Netanyahu demanded of Abbas to declare and denounce them as such, which Abba refused to do. The reason he refused to do so, whether stated or not, is that for the Palestinians these were not terrorists, but rather freedom fighters. They were part of the resistance, from Hamas and the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.’ Which, together with other such forces, had been fighting and resisting—though without much success—what they consider to be the occupation and colonialization of their land for the last 50 years.

This difference of view regarding the assailants’ motives and actions, reflects a larger issue of disagreement as to the nature of not only the Palestinian struggle for independence, but also of terrorism at large. Since Israel and its army control their territory, control their every-day life, and keep building settlements on what they regard as their future-state; and yes, sometimes terrorizing them too—think Israeli settlers uprooting their olive trees and slaughtering their sheep—what are they to do? Peace, you say? But Israel’s interest in peace comes second to solidify their control over the occupied territories. It is why, when Netanyahu had demand that Abbas would stop the financial support for the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli, who are confined there on charges of murder and terrorism, Abbas had refused to do so. He reacted likewise even when President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson had demand the same of him. You see: Abbas would lose whatever little credit and respect he still has with his people, who regard those prisoners as martyrs and freedom fighters.

Just a week prior to that, it so happened that four Arab Gulf States severed diplomatic ties, and boycotted a fifth state, Qatar, for supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including objections to Qatar’s close ties with Turkey and Iran. Qatar reputed these accusations, pointing to its constant fight against terrorism. This effort and boycott is being led by Saudi Arabia, which just received a most generous promise of American weaponry from President Trump, in return for many sacks of gold. Yes, that Saudi Arabia, from where Bin Laden came, and most of the other terrorists who blew up the planes and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, murdering close to 3000 innocent people. Killing citizens—and citizens only!—indiscriminately in the streets of peace-loving cities, that’s terrorism.

You might be surprised to learn that Nelson Mandela, one of the most revered politicians ever, whose funereal was the largest gathering of international diplomats, including the then American President Barack Obama, was labeled and regarded as a terrorist. First by the British, second by the racist South African white regime, and third by the Americans. As far as 2008, after he’d been already the liberator and president of South Africa—yes, after receiving the Nobel prize for peace, too—he was still on the American terror list. Imagine that!

And imagine also this: Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir—who later would become Israel’s Prime Ministers—were labeled and regraded as terrorists. Not only for blowing up the King David Hotel (see picture above) in Jerusalem, killing scores of innocent people from different nationalities, including Jewish victims, together with British Army personnel, but for other acts of murder and atrocities. Even Ben-Gurion, and his Haganah military commanders, who fought so hard for Israel’s independence, had called them, and regarded them as terrorists. And so did the Zionist Congress and Jewish Agency. You can try to justify it by saying that they also fought for Israel’s independence, only sometimes using terrorism means. Just as the Palestinians are doing now. And anyhow, that’s always the case, isn’t it, when fighting for liberation and independence?

And so it goes. One way of looking at it is to say—and principally believe—that terrorism is when you attack and kill indiscriminately innocent people. Young and old, male and female, of all gender and races, who did you no wrong whatsoever, and who are not fighting against you (even if their governments are doing so). They are not occupying your land, your home, your people. Of course, does it really make a difference for this categorization, when your government, on the other hand, indiscriminately blowing up buildings, bombing civilians, ripping them to pieces, killing scores of them, as the Americans still do in Syria and Afghanistan, and as Israel did in Lebanon and Gaza?

Go figure. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” And ‘terror’ as “a state of intense fear;” and also as “violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.” Reign of terror is defined as “a state or a period of time marked by violence often committed by those in power that produces widespread terror.” So there you have it, my friends, no need to spell it out for you. At the end of the day, and argument, it seems clear that ‘who is a terrorist,’ may well be just in the eye of the beholder.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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