Palestine/Israel is only going to get worse

The one thing missing in foreign analyses of the situation in Israel/Palestine is the extent to which violent far right groups, or rather movements, have taken root in Israeli mainstream politics and society, and are carrying out incessant terror attacks on a daily basis, for years, usually without being brought to justice, and/or with ridiculous punishments. The police and military often protect them, or join them, or are them. They produce deliberate proactive and relentless violence against Palestinians, partially for religious beliefs, which I have at times documented and shown in my Hebrew blog. This includes Price Tag actions, grave assaults, property theft and damage and legal battles, where the law is almost always in their favour. Resourceful far right violence is also prevalent in the police and military whom are meant to protect people, and the state bodies whom are mean to monitor these bodies have repeatedly and explicitly said that they see their role as protecting these forces, thus producing near immunity to the Jewish terrorists.

Most Israeli Jews underestimate or don’t care enough about these groups, or are doing little to stop them, or are unaware of the scope of their violence and influence, or are sometimes supporting them.

While both sides have the right to live in security, Palestinians do not have a military to defend them, or even representation in, or fair access to join, the Israeli Police. Without the ability to attack Israeli military bases and commanders, some naturally opt for terrorism, which has always been ‘the weapon of the weak.’

Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups have repeatedly begged the international intervention, and to end Israeli impunity. But this is still unlikely to happen. To assume that Israel would willingly give away its dominance, or that the violent far right groups will be targeted, is also unlikely, especially given their current political power and influence, which have been growing for over 20 years.

The only 2 things that might change this forecast seem to be a radical change to the international approach, with significant and determined intervention to stop Jewish terrorism and include Palestinians in all the governmental bodies. Or a dramatic change to the military power.

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Solidarity with Beirut – the wrong way

The inconceivable destruction in Beirut brings me, and almost all people, imense sadneess, worry and pain. Yet, seeing the Tel Aviv City Council lighting the Lebanese flag on its windows provides real-time challenge to analysts, and a puzzling attention-seeking, self-centred disconnect from the victims’ feelings, thoughts, needs and wishes. Similar to the Israeli proposals for marked and well-PR-ed aid, these extravert ‘gestures’, despite their honesty, do not symbolise an Israeli ambition to be part of the Middle East, but are testiment for Israelis’ unbelievable disconnect from the Middle East, its reality, sentiments, and appreciation of Israel’s responsibility for them (as well as reluctance to act differently). I don’t doubt the pain that many Jewish-Israelis feel for Beirut, but I can’t imagine any Lebanese being moved by these emotions or gestures. In fact, they are more likely to feel uncomfortable by them, I would imagine. So, how can we explain Israelis’ blindness and the radical switch in empathy?

Nearly all Israelis, including in Tel Aviv, unconditionally supported the operation in Lebanon in 2006 that brought deliberate widespread destruction of Beirut and unprecedented harm to its civilians, as a kind of war crime ‘price tag’ for Hezbollah’s territorial and other claims (which were actually accepted thereafter). Not only that all Zionist parties, including Meretz, and the overwhelming majority of Israelis supported that campgain without batting an eyelid, and reacted in violence to any challengers or protest to stop the war, Israelis even believed that their government lost the war because it was too soft and hesitent(!), not too harsh or misdirected. Moreover, Israelis also felt the same way only last week(!), threatning a purposeful wide destruction of civic infrastcture in Lebanon. So, while showcasing sick comments like those of Feiglin is performing a Memeri-like stunt, Feiglin’s logic is at least more consistent than most Israelis whom suddenly care for innoncent Lebanese lives.

To see it from a Lebanese perspective, take a good look at these pictures. Don’t look away. They bare striking resemblense to the pictures Israelis and the whole world are shaken by today. Only that these were taken from the deliberate distruction of Beirut from the air, by Israel, in 2006. (And, this was far from the first time Israel deliberately targeted civil targets in Lebanon). The Beiruties have not harmed Israel then, but were en masse killed, made refugees, homeless, berieved, injured and improvished by that Israeli air raid campagin. For an entrie month, Israel relentlessly destroyed Beirut from the air, damaging civil infrastrcture, bridges, powerstations, water supplies, dense residential areas… It brought destruction like even Beirut never saw before. Until today. Now, a different cause brought an even bigger damage to Beirut, overtaking the Israeli record, challenging Israeli might of destruciton. In light of this, today’s acts of solidarity with Lebanon resemble an extremely violent bully showing (and indeed feeling) pain and care to its victim, and perhaps also begging to show that it can actually feel empathy, or that they have a nice side.
In actuality, Israel never took responsibility, apologised or compensated any of the hundrads of thousands of innocent civilians it victimised in that recent ‘war.’ So, to my fellow Isarelis who feel bad for Beirut now, this could be a good place to start showing empathy and regret, for a truely different future. As the South African case teaches us, there is no moving forward without accepting responsibility for the past.

If Tel Aviv council (and residents) wish to show their connect to the Middle East, they can also begin by averting the pending destruction an old Muslim cemetery, which is part of a long list of racist practices and legacies. This would be much more meaningful than empty gestures.

Last time Israelis shared their feelings towards Lebanese

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Can something be anti-Semitic and not anti-Semitic at the same time? — Some points about anti-Jewish sentiments and the British left

While most forms of anti-Jewish sentiments and behaviours are undebatable, at the heart of the ‘Anti Semitism on the Left’ controversy is the complex question of whether criticism of Israel or Zionism is charged by, and/or charges, anti-Jewish sentiments. As Israeli, British and Jew-ish, I touch on this complexity, while warning comrades and Jews of three effects of the debate.

First, that the outcry of these issues underestimates or distracts others from the more dangerous and immediate racism (against Jews and others) in the Right, due to being played by (or playing into) the ‘balancing’ mainstream media tendencies.

Second, from the way in which relatively-disproportionate coverage of anti-Jewish racism, in comparison to more urgent, broad and violent forms of British and European racism, is itself racist, too (e.g. Windrush, Grenfell, Acid attacks, drowning refugees, selling arms, etc.).

And, third, of avoiding the type of victimhood that this allows, one which makes excuses for racist practices and tendencies in Israel, and ignores our past mistakes of not doing enough to tackle them. We must therefore allow, even encourage, criticism and accountability of Israel/Zionism.

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The reification of Palestine and Israel

I love Tamer Nafar. What an excellent performer! I love his music and his politics. Never spearing his audience the burden of politics, and the multilayered difficulty of being a Palestinian, combining criticism of the West and Israel, with that of Palestinian society, and of those observing it. I thoroughly enjoyed his show last week, which was part of his UK tour, where he tried new electronic material, this time in English. It was a huge hit, if you ask me. Very different to his previous works, and really taking his art to the next level, upping the game and giving the audience an extraordinary time.(*)

But what was particularly evident for me in comparison to previous DAM songs, is that it really expressed more forcefully how tired he is of it all, and how he just wants to live his life and be happy. Aren’t we all!? The best moment for me was just after he said to the audience that he ‘misses Palestine,’ when he curtailed and dismissed their responding cheers with – ‘not your Palestine, fuck you, you are mostly white people…. My Palestine!’ Although, most of the audience was not exactly white, it doesn’t really matter, and not only because they/we live in the whitedom, which makes us part of it.(**) But because I strongly identify with the problem of how speaking abroad about Palestine (or Israel) has a strong feeling of reification of the place, of departing it into an idea. I even wrote about it, shortly after moving to the UK from Israel, as I was toying with engaging with British-Jews politically, to contest their automatic misinformed Zionism with first hand experiences.

I still think that being ‘pro-Israel’, for example, is utterly meaningless. Where would you find anyone who is ‘pro Swedish’ or ‘pro British’? What would these even mean? Especially, as Israelis are in huge disagreements over what is best for their society, and many of them disagree with  Zionism, or with what it had become, or always was. Does being pro-Israel means supporting Zionism unconditionally? Is peace not pro-Israel? Human rights? I’ve also seen many ideas about what Palestine is, or what’s it like to be a Palestinian, which are often simplified romanticised generalisations, and so, pro-Palestinian is as weird to me.

The point is, for now, that these ideas of Israel and Palestine are reflections of those who imagine them, through lenses and contexts that are fairly dissimilar to how Palestinians (particularly in Palestine) and Israelis (particularly in Israel) envision and experience them, and they revolve around different concerns.

(*) Despite a cultural-mistranslation that resulted in an anti-Semitic expression, which really ruined it for many of us, and was also a little bit sexist. Trying to deliver a ‘make love no war’ message, or to upset the oppressor’s violence with humor and sexual desire, he (/DAM) used ‘I fell in love with a Jew,’ which works nicely in the Arabic (and Hebrew) context(s) and fits nicely in the appropriated melody, but would be better as ‘with a Jewish girl’ in English. Him laughing at its racism on stage, as if to defend the non-seriousness of it, or saying that he is ‘allowed’ because he is a victim of Jews, (which I heard from many Palestinians), didn’t make it any better. He wouldn’t have used ‘fell in love with a Nigger’ if some black people would have been his oppressors, I hope. And why would she love him back, if he is using potentially-offensive words?

(**) Also, many ‘whites’ are far more disadvantaged than Nafar imagines them to be. In our current times of heartless capitalism, many whites are ‘left behind,’ voting Trump or Brexit or to the far right, not to lose their benefits from the affiliation with and the first world.

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Modernised progressive Passover Haggadah: A free manuscript for home use

About six years ago, I took part in a Passover Seder lead by the magnificent Sarah Clyne Sundberg. It was the most glorious, interesting and profound Pesachs I have ever participated in. Instead of a mechanical fast read, or a collection of more and less vague costumes that lead to a festive super-meal, her Seder was an open discussion with various philosophical and political branching, and one which welcomed the contributions of everyone around the table, as it probably should be. It was the first time that I, a native ‘Hebrew’ speaker, could fully understand the text , (because the ‘Hebrew’ haggadahs are unintelligible to me, and do not usually have a translation to the modern Zionist language, AKA the contemporary/Israeli Hebrew that I speak). Consequently, I could engage with it and discuss problems in the story, and beyond.

Indeed, it was not an ordinary night, and not an ordinary Seder.

Moreover, Clyne-Sundberg’s (co-authored) haggadah included interpretations and political comments that I was eager to share with others. The experience was so positive that I started working on a Hebrew version already on the next day. Sadly, months of work were subsequently lost when my laptop got stolen in 2013, and only now I was able to start over, and this time finish the work too. (To the Hebrew experimental edition).

English Edition

הגדה פרוגרסיבית לפסח_כתב יד 2018

I am very happy to say that, while a published English edition is scheduled for next year, readers of this blog can now download for free home use (for a limited time, probably) the full experimental English edition of the wonderful, political and egalitarian Clyne Sundberg and Grossman’s Progressive Haggadah. The file is designed and ready to be printed on A5 (or: 2 pages side-by-side per every A4 page, which can be set up in the priting setting of most programmes). Alternatively, you may choose to buy a bounded copy here. I promise that it would be a wonderful night! We only ask in return, to send us comments and proof, after you’ve used it.

Hag Same-akh!


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The lost contexts of The Shoah (The Holocaust)

Posted originally in Hebrew

Concentration Camps is a lean entry in the rich Hebrew Wikipedia, currently containing 358 words, of which 256 are dedicated to the Nazi camps. This is not by accident. The WWII German crimes are told in Hebrew in such way that would not weaken their related Zionist arguments, and they are therefore disconnected of the broader context of their contemporary nationalist racist statal oppression methods, undertaken mostly by white, ‘ethnically-European-Christian’ societies (or their extensions), who often claim to be advocating human progress, liberty and/or equality. It is not a great wonder that the murderous European imperial-colonial context of the Holocaust is neglected from the Hebrew discourse, and that the only focus is on Nazism, considering that contemporary Hebrew is a Zionist language-culture. Yet, this context is missing in other places, too. It is therefore important to understand the absence and give presence to the forgettery, because without bravely identifying the causes for these horrible crimes, and without appreciating the true magnitude of the challenge, it would be difficult to prevent them from repeating.

Let us begin by studying that concentration camps were neither invented in Germany in the 1930, nor were originally devised for oppressing Jews. The term appeared in British internment camps in South Africa, around the year 1900. (Their termination is much to the credit of a ‘snowflake,’ white leftist woman activist, whom the High Commissioner in South Africa regarded as a ‘Boer sympathiser’ and a ‘trouble maker,’ while enjoying full backing of the British right-wing government). Almost simultaneously, internment camps appeared in the systematic genocide in today’s Namibia by the German Imperial Army. Wherefore, the Germans did not start their systematic genocides with the Jews, but merely ‘improved’ their methods.

Moreover, although not being called that, such camps were already practiced during the preceding century, when tens of thousands of native-Americans were incarcerated in camps, having been forced marched to them at gun point, in ‘death marches.’ Additionally, from the 19th Century onward, internment camps were also in operation during wars (by the Spanish, US and French armies).

Moreover, the German internment camps were also not the last appearance of disastrous mass populations’ incarceration by governments. The internment camps in which the British have incarcerated tens of thousands of holocaust survivors (who were caught ‘illegally entering’ Palestine in overpopulated boats; including my own grandparents), see  a semantically differentiated unique term in Israeli Hebrew (literally : Arrest Camps, which connotes detention camps rather than concentration/internment, although they are effectively the same thing). This was part of the political landscape that followed WWII, the most murderous war in human history.

Indeed, a little earlier, and in much bigger numbers, the US has also incarcerated, on its own soil, entire families, hundreds of thousands of its own ‘equal-rights’ citizens, including women and children, of Japanese, German or Italian background, during WWII (and the Germans also in WWI), to which they were forcibly migrated with army trucks and trains (see photos below).

(Parenthetically, China, Korea and Yugoslavia have also operated such camps later; the extant of similarities to the original forms of Guantanamo or Saharonim Camps, as well as immigrants detention centres elsewhere, is debatable, yet irrelevant for this post).

American ‘Japanese’ citizens deported to internment camps during WWII

Like concentration camps, Ghettos were also not the brainchild of the Nazis. The term comes from voluntarily-isolated Jewish ethnic enclaves, and even in the sense of prohibiting an ethnic minority to exit a dedicated poverty area, the Germans were neither the first nor the last to enforce it (examples include cases from South Africa, and Israel).

The Nazis were also not the inventors of death marches (see above); of population extermination by chemicals or starvation; of expulsions and ethnic cleansing (in fact, the biggest ethnic cleansing in modern history was of Germans after WWII; and similar policies were common in Israel-Palestine and the Middle East generally around the 1940s and 1950s), or of the consequent appropriation of goods and property (ditto); of forced labour or labour camps (or much worse, of slavery); of medical experiments and torture; and surely not of the popular hatred of minorities and of anyone ‘not-normal,’ which was ripe with blood-labels and pogroms (which are evident in Israel today too). Even the ‘Nazi’ race theory did not start in Germany or in the 20th century, and the Jews were neither its first nor its main victims.

During WWII, Germany was ‘leading’ in  the magnitude and efficiency of crimes against humanity, which were not directly part of the war effort. But Germany was not alone in its intentional murders of innocent people, as all parties grew accustomed to the killing of civilians, and have intentionally targeted enemy civilians in epic proportions (destroying entire cities in Britain, Germany and Japan; or murdering dozens of innocent people as collective punishment against the Polish or French following underground assisations of German officers).

Notably, the Allies have also conducted large scale war crimes; some of which had adverse implications on the ability to bring Nazi war criminals to justice later. For example, because the American Navy ignored – rather than took hostage – drowning enemy soldiers, Nazi admirals were not brought to justice for the same crime after the war, (i.e. due to the intervention of their American counterparts, who feared similar calls for justice against them subsequently). Compare this to letting unarmed refugees drawn at sea today, and prosecuting their savers.

Furthermore, even the height of all Nazi crimes, the systematic killing of ‘inferior’ peoples on behalf of progress, was not conceived in Germany, although Germany is where it has reached a record, and, as far as Europe is concerned, is more or less where it ended, too. The systematic killing in extermination camps was designed and ran according to its contemporary industry’s managerial concepts, based on technology, efficiency and production lines (and also included private sector companies). The proportions of these murder factories, that killed almost entirely Jews (perhaps as a first stage), is unparalleled. However, it was not a crime that appeared our of thin air. Rather its was the climax of escalating violent European domination means. Additionally, the killing methods, (the minority of which, by the way, were developed in the USSR), were originally designed to ‘euthanise’ individuals with physical and mental disabilities (who were called ‘life unworthy of life‘), and have evolved and ‘improved’ during the War. They were applied to the killing of Jews (and the Others) only when Jews (and others) were already locked up in ghettos and camps which were now difficult to maintain during the demanding war effort; but also because German commanders complained that the mass-killing with machine guns causes psychological damage to their soldiers. (This, in itself, is also challenging to the mainstream narrative, from two aspects: First, if the Nazis were inhumane monsters, as the narrative holds, how come they had problems of guilt? Second, there is the possibility that the surfacing of this concern to higher command was an attempt to halt or question the killing).

Either way, a common denominator of the above-mentioned oppression and killing methods is that the most prominent crimes were conducted by what can be termed ‘ethnically white-European’ countries/societies, and were aimed at those who were considered non-white (and Jews were, and often still are, not considered white). This is in part due to the fact that these societies had the required technological and political means to carry it out. But ‘blacks’ (a generalising term in itself) and native peoples – and not (only) Jews – were those who faced the biggest burden of historical hatred and violence, including hundreds of years of slavery, terrible violence and killings. The cruelty and indifference to torture and murder evolved gradually in all the ‘white’ empires, and the Jews were only part, even if significant, of the victims, somewhat because they were there, in the wrong place and in the wrong time. Even in the Holocaust, ‘only’ about half of the victims were Jews.

There must in no-way be any dispute about the facts of hate, and systematic murdering of millions of Jews by the Nazis (and their collaborators), alongside the extermination of ‘Others’ that white-Europe did not tolerate (e.g. Slavs, Romani, gays, Communists; and in Croatia, also Serbs, Croatians and Muslim-Bosnian populations). These killings were often outstanding in their creative cruelty, and were executed to the cheering support of the rest of the population (which are also not unfamiliar in contemporary Israel). There must also be not doubt that Jews were subjected – especially in the ‘Christian world‘ – to violent racism, which saw murderous manifestations. However, it would be erroneous to explain the Nazi crimes and racism, or the Jewish genocide, as an exceptional event, discontinued from historical human cruelty, and decontextualised of the development and use of the monstrous means in that period (and generally). It is also wrong to detach these from accompanying the imperial projects of Europe and its extensions, often in the name of progress, enlightenment, and even peace (e.g. the Atom bombs).

To fully comprehend the Holocaust, and especially if we, as Israeli-Jews, or as human beings, want to prevent it from happening again, we must dare to part from two assumptions that constitute the appropriation of the Holocaust for the Zionist ethos, where the historical importance of facts that do not serve its agenda is being deminished. The first nationalised assumption that we must challenge, is that the key or sole reason for these crimes is the inter-generational unexplained hatred of Jews, which is also exceptionalised from any other form of racism, to mythical proportions. Blacks and indigenous people have suffered more, or most, when they met the ‘christian’ whites. Had the Jews were not those who lived in Europe, and particularly in the time of modern-efficiency-worshiping, and when the specific transportation and technological means were available, it is very plausible that the hatred and crimes would have been directed at other groups, as is perhaps somewhat demonstrable today. The second problematic assumption is that these horrible methods of oppression have appeared out of nowhere, have no history, as if an exception that is outside the realm of human behavior. As we saw, this is not the case either.

Hitler's American model (book)

The Nazi race laws were learnt from the American slavery laws

As Rummel (1994: 30) has demonstrated in his book Death by Government:

In total, during the first eighty-eight years of this [20th] century, almost 170,000,000 men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; or buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens or foreigners. The dead even could conceivably be near 360,000,000 people.

(These number exclude the events in Zaire, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Yugoslavia, the effects of international sanctions on civilians, and other state-led killings that took place after Rummel has collected his data, or that are unknown; and also exclude other statal crimes that do not necessarily lead to death: torture, imprisonment, persecution, home demolitions, starvation, threats, etc.). In comparison, Rummel counts 170 civilians that were killed by non-state terror organisations, which really gives us proportion as to where to put the emphasis to prevent harm of innocent people.

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