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Democracy Dies in Silence


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


Occupation Denial



As of late, the chorus from the right, and from the extreme-right wing of Jewish thinkers and followers is growing in strength and loudness, proclaiming that there is no such thing as occupation in the West Bank. Therefore, there is no such thing as settlements, either. Just Jewish people asserting, securing their legitimate right over their ancient land. I myself, unfortunately, cannot but define this movement as “Occupation Denial.” The followers as “Occupation Deniers.”

I say unfortunately, because that expression has connotations and similarities to Holocaust Denial. So first, let me be clear about it: There is no connection or relation between the most horrific, singular atrocity that was inflicted upon the Jewish people in Europe in 1939-45, of no fault of their own, and the ongoing attempt by today’s followers of Jabotinsky-Kahane to lay biblical claim to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And second, most definitely when it comes to me personally, as a son of Holocaust survivors, I am very sensitive to any such false comparison and innuendos.

But, what needs to be said – must be said. So let’s make it easy on ourselves, and starts by how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word occupation: ‘the possession, use, or settlement of land: OCCUPANCY b : the holding of an office or position.” And “… the act or process of taking possession of a place or area: SEIZURE b : the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force c : the military force occupying a country or the policies carried out by it.” As you can immediately see, if we examine each section of these definitions as apply to our argument here, we clearly conclude that Israel, its Army and government, are occupiers par excellence, since their OCCUPANCY of the West Bank fit all these definitions like a glove.

They took “possession” of the land, and are “settling” the land. In terms of “occupancy,” and while they are “allowing” (for good measure) the “natives” some control over their day-to-day affairs, they are the rulers of the land, and the final authority of office and position there. And of course, the Israeli Army, militarily “took possession” of this land in 1967. It “seized” the territory and “controls” it still by military force, by an army and security forces which carry the decisions of the Israeli government. And so, if we only verify the “Occupation Denial” argument according with these simple terms, the claim of the “deniers” that there is no occupation falls flatly on its face.

Now as to their two main points of argument and dissension; and by saying distension, it is well-worth remembering that the entire civilized world, that is Europe and America, as well as most of the rest of the globe, accepts indeed the definition of the Israeli occupation of the West bank, as clearly defined by the Geneva Convention as such. So did the UN in 1967 with the Security Council Resolution 242, defining it as “territories occupied” by Israel; a resolution which, by the way, both Israel and PLO had accepted. But now to the deniers’ arguments. The first one is saying that since the West Bank was not a recognized state, definitely did not belong to the Palestinians when it was occupied – i.e. there was no, still isn’t, a Palestinian State – then the capturing of the land by the Israeli Army was not an occupation. It was, shall we say, “a free-for-all” land.

But of course, it was not. Pre 1967 and the Six-Day War, the land was part of Jordan, the Hashemite Kingdom. (Jordan itself was an “occupier” of the land, and annexed it illegally in 1950.) The Israeli army defeated the Jordanian army, and “seized” the land from it. It was not a free land. As result of that, and of the struggle of the Palestinians for a land to call their own, Jordan had decided to forfeit any claim to the land to the Palestinians. They were the “trustee of the land,” according to the Arab League. It can be argued, along this line, that one “occupier” replaced another “occupier.” It does not mean, however, that the land was free for the taking.

Here some facts on the matter: The United Nations “Partition Plan for Palestine” of November 1947, which ended the British Mandate and gave birth to the state of Israel, and brought about the 47-48 War of Independence (for the Palestinians The Nakba), was a resolution that recommended the “creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem.” As result of that war, Israel was created (with borders quite changed as result of that war). The Palestinian State is yet to be fully created on the land that the “Partition” resolution defined and designated as “Arab Land.”

So now that we cleared that out of the way, let’s deal with the other claim of the “deniers;” i.e. the Jabotinsky-Kahane claim that this land belongs to us. The Jews, The Hebrews. From biblical times. After all, for them the area is called Judea and Samaria. Now I myself do not “deny” the significance and importance of that claim, and of us Jews strong feelings – and yes, even claims – to our ancient historic land. However, does it mean it “belongs” to us? What about the native Palestinians, the Arabs, who had lived there for so many generations, and have their own religious, historical, national claim to the land? Even more so, there were other people living in ancient Israel – Land of Canaan – before Abraham had arrived there. Most definitely before King David had “captured” Jerusalem. Not long ago, Israeli archeologists discovered evidence of people who had lived in Jerusalem before King David had captured it.

It is well worth remember here that when the Zionist movement and endeavor had begun, an endeavor I support and believe in without reservations, the land was controlled by another foreign occupier, the British. The land was not a recognized state then. If at all, it was known as Palestine. Which is the exact stamp on my birth certificate. Even more so, the Jews making Aliya to the land of their ancestors did not “seize” it, or “capture” it by military force. The people streamed back slowly at first, and then more quickly, into the land due to the persecutions in Europe and elsewhere.

It is true that the Green Line that had separated Israel from Jordan prior to the 1967 war was an “armistice line,” therefore temporarily only in nature. It is also true that Jabotinsky claimed that there are “Two banks to the Jordan river.” In other words, the empire the Jews should ultimately claims as its own even a bigger chunk of the land. There is no end to that, my friends, until you “occupy” all the lands, all the way to the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. But that will not happen. And there must be an end at some point to the continuation of expansion, occupation, and settlement. A reality must take hold that that’s enough for us; we have our state; the home of the Jewish people; we must enable the Palestinians a state of their own, too. Otherwise, there is no peace. Only forever war.

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

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