Posts Tagged ‘Amos Oz’

Counterpunch Interview with Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Campaigners

May 6, 2017

Last week, Counterpunch published an interview by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb with Sami Awad, a Christian Palestinian, and Yoav Litvin, a former Israeli soldier, about their campaigns to bring about an end to the brutalisation of the Palestinian people and conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, based on the Gandhian principles of nonviolence and civil resistance. For example, Sami Awad in the articles states that he is horrified that Palestinian children don’t have Jewish friends, thanks to the system of segregation. Rabbi Gottlieb also notes that apart from the well-known conflict between Israelis and Arabs there are also tensions between Eurpean and American descended Jews and the Mizrahim, the indigenous Middle Eastern Jews. She states that the myth of the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland after 2000 years of exile has resulted in the Jewish state erasing the long history of the region’s indigenous Jews.

In her introduction, Rabbi Gottlieb writes

Sami Awad and Yoav Litvin are two men whose lives have been deeply impacted by the events of 1948 and 1967 when Palestinians were collectively driven from their homes and villages in order to make room for Jewish settlement. The Israeli Occupation of Palestine is ongoing; Israeli policies that resulted from the events of 1948 and 1967 continue to create daily suffering in the lives of Palestinians.

Sami Awad comes from a lineage of Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem. He was influenced to follow the path of nonviolence by his uncle, Mubarak Awad, a follower of Gandhi. Sami created an alternative institution, The Holy Land Trust, which is part of the wave of nonviolent movement building dedicated to resisting Occupation, which grew out of the first Intifada.

Yoav Litvin went through a personal journey from acceptance of the pre-determined role of Zionist soldier-guardian, to a person who dissents from the Israeli status quo regarding Palestinians. He uses his skills as a psychologist/neuroscientist and writer/artist to promote accountability, healing and reconciliation.

People who resist the systemic violence of Israeli Occupation in Palestine and Israel have a lot to teach us about building nonviolent movements for justice and social change under extremely challenging conditions. Millions of Palestinians suffer under a settler-colonial regime that is engaged in continuous appropriation of land, ghettoization and isolation, the imposition of hundreds of check points that curtail freedom of movement and economic growth, destruction of homes, villages and farm land, forced water deprivation, the blockade of Gaza, constant military invasion and assault, two separate and unequal systems of justice and so many other features of Israeli rule that deprive Palestinians of their capacity to live peacefully and without fear upon the land of their ancestors or fulfill their personal dreams. In addition to the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian conflict, social, political, cultural and economic divides among Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews in Israel is another complex component of the process of conflict transformation. The Zionist myth of a 2000-year absence and subsequent return of Jews to the land erases the long history of the Jews of the Middle East who are indigenous to the region.

In response to Israeli apartheid, Palestinians have chosen to resist forced removal from ancestral lands with a variety of mostly nonviolent tactics. Inspired by the successful South African struggle to end apartheid, Palestinians called upon the international community to take up boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a nonviolent solidarity tactic on July 9, 2005 after the International Court of Justice declared the Separation Wall illegal on July 9, 2004. In addition to BDS, Palestinians employ prisoner hunger strikes, Friday demonstrations against the Separation Barrier, the creation of ‘Tent Cities’, and Palestinian cultural arts to remain ‘sumud’, that is, ‘steadfast’ to their commitment to keep living on ancestral lands and preserving Palestinian culture. Palestinians refuse to be erased from history and place. Intifada, in its original meaning, means to shake off oppression through the art of resistance. This is a daily, and unavoidable practice for Palestinians, as it is a condition of existence under Israeli occupation for those who remain.

Israeli Jews who dissent from Occupation, although few in number, continue to create methods of solidarity in support of Palestinian human rights. Groups such as Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition (ICAHD), Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, Who Profits?, Anarchists Against the Wall, Machsom Watch, Shministim, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and +972 are platforms of resistance to Occupation. The Palestinian community living inside ‘1948’ also engages in resistance through alternative institution building and human rights advocacy that includes groups like Adalah-the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adammer (prisoner rights) and many more. Palestinians living inside Israel face ongoing assaults on their capacity to remain on traditional lands and neighborhoods as well as achieve equal rights under Israeli law. The ongoing atmosphere of racism is the price Palestinians pay for continuing to live in Israel.

This is a fascinating alternative insight into the activism of decent, honourable men and women, seeking to remove a monstrous injustice. Much of this is new to me. I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone talking about non-violent resistance by the Palestinians. The news you hear about from the region seems to be exclusively about bloodshed. I’ve come across the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, but have never come across many of the other Israeli groups mentioned in this article, such as Combatants for Peace. I’m not surprised, however. Amos Oz in his book, The Israelis, records the sorrow and guilt expressed by many Israeli soldiers for their role in expelling Palestinians during the Six Day War.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/28/never-give-up-nonviolent-civilian-resistance-healing-and-active-hope-in-the-holyland/

May the Lord bless all those striving to bring a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed to everyone trying to create a better future in the Middle East, one without terror, sectarianism, and imperialism.

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Young Anti-Zionist Jews Talk about their Beliefs and Activism

October 12, 2016

I’ve blogged several times in my pieces attacking Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud party and the Israel lobby, and the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour centre-left, that there are many very courageous Jews and Israelis, who are also strongly opposed to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. This is another video I found on YouTube. It’s for an organisation, Young, Left and Jewish, and has the organisation’s website address at the end. In it, anti-Zionist Jewish young people describe their beliefs and activities to oppose and make people aware of the persecution of the Arabs.

One Jewish young woman describes how the trips to Israel provided by the Jewish organisations are designed to inculcate support for Israel, even going so far, if they can, to encourage Jews to immigrate there. Another young woman begins her story by telling a bit of her own family history. She is descended from two Holocaust survivors and a Nazi officer, and so is connected to both sides of the Holocaust. She shows a family photograph album, with photos of her parents and grandparents, including the tattoo of the number the Nazis’ had placed on the arms of their victims. She then describes how, on a trip to Israel, she and her friends encountered a group of Arab Israelis. She and they sat down to talk, and they discovered that they had much in common through their experiences of persecution, the Jews from the Nazis and the Arabs from the Israelis. She states that this is causing immense pain and outrage, and that this will continue for decades to come. Intercut with this bit is historical footage of Jews being herded into the cattle trucks to the death camps. Another young woman describes how she and her friends put on a play by Jews, for Jews, to explore and explain about the persecution of the Palestinians by the Israeli state. Yet another young woman tells how she heckled Ariel Sharon in order to tell ‘truth to power’.

In my posts about this issue, I’ve described the fierce hostility those Jews, who do campaign on the behalf of the Palestinians face from the Zionist establishment. Just as anti-Zionist gentiles are smeared as anti-Semites, Jews are accused of being self-hating, or ‘not proper Jews’. Or worse. Another young woman in this video talks about going to a Zionist meeting to hand round pamphlets and flyers about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She describes how she and others like her are accused of being ‘self-hating’, or because they oppose Israel, they must somehow be in favour of terrorism or Yasser Arafat. She describes how she was cursed and spat at, with women she describes as looking like typical Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) grandmothers raising their middle finger to her. One woman even turned away and covered her child’s eyes.
One Rabbi, R. Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine, states that he has received death threat for his opinions.

The video is accompanied by a couple of pieces of traditional Jewish song.

I was particularly struck by the young woman, who found a common thread of experience through her family’s suffering under the Holocaust, and the Arab Israelis’ persecution by the Israeli state. The Palestinians refer to the destruction of their country as the Nakba, which means the ‘disaster’ or ‘catastrophe’. Amos Oz in his book, The Israelis, describes how just as the Israelis attempt to recover the history of the numerous Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust, so the Palestinians similarly attempt to document and trace their communities, which have been exterminated by the Israelis.

He also includes in his book accounts and statements by Israeli soldiers of their mixed feelings, including guilt and sorrow, at seeing Arabs forced off their lands and from their property. Several of them felt that it could easily have been them made to depart from their homes by an overwhelming power. It struck me that these feelings, like those of the young woman in this video, came from the collective Jewish experience of being repeatedly under attack, and forced to move on through violence, including armed force. The Holocaust is the best known, and most extreme and horrific of this, but just one example in the long persecution of the Jewish people. And some soldiers – unfortunately, not all – were bound to have profound misgivings when they found themselves ordered to do precisely the same thing to others.

Opposition to Israel and its systematic persecution of its indigenous population isn’t a simple case of anti-Semitism and Jewish self-hatred. it is a response by principled women and men to the persecution of yet another people by a colonial settler state. Very many of those who support the Palestinians against the likes of Netanyahu are sincere anti-racists, including Jews, who feel that this persecution runs counter to the teachings of their own religion. I put up a video a few days ago of a mass meeting of Orthodox Jews in New York to protest against the state of Israel and the conscription of Yeshiva students into the armed forces. One of the rabbis speaking declared that Israel was sinning by turning the Jews, a peaceful people, into a militaristic nation. He called this ‘the hands of Esau’. Oz in the Israelis also claims that the Jewish and Israeli peoples are not militaristic, giving a Yiddish word for militarism. This, translated into English, literally means, ‘the silly games of gentiles’.

Unfortunately, Israel is a highly militarised society, which has had the ethnic cleansing of the original people of Palestine as its goal from the start. If there is to be a just peace, and genuine reconciliation between Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East, it will be done by principled people like those in this video.

ISIS Troops Drugged Up to Fight

November 18, 2015

I found a piece on the atheist news show, Secular Talk, on Youtube discussing a report by one of the mainstream news channels/ programmes claiming that rather than being the fearless ghazis for Islam they claim to be, ISIS’ warriors are so wracked with fear that their leaders have to keep ’em drugged to get them to fight. The claim comes from an interview with a fighter for Hisbollah, the militant Lebanese paramilitary organisation. The fighter claimed that in battles with them, the ISIS fighters all turned tail and ran away. When Hisbollah took one of their bases, they found stacks of boxes of amphetamines. They believed that ISIS had put their fighters on the drug in order to keep them fighting.

So much for the great warriors of the ‘Islamic State’.

Now there are good reasons to treat this report with a pinch of salt. Hizbollah are, like ISIS, a militant Islamic organisation. They too have engaged in bombings and terrorist outrages. Private Eye has published several pieces critical of their non-Muslim supporters in the West, repeating a statement from the self-declared ‘Party of God’ which ran ‘We don’t want anything from you. We just want to kill you.’ An anthropological study of Hizbollah from its origins in the 1980s pointed out that the organisation was claiming to have changed and become more moderate, though the book remained somewhat sceptical of this.

Hisbollah are, in sharp contrast to ISIS, Shi’ah. It has its basis in a Socialist Lebanese Shi’ite party that was infiltrated by religious militants. ISIS are fanatically intolerant Sunnis, who have followed al-Qaeda in murdering and brutalising the Shi’ah population of Iraq. Hizbollah has also used propaganda to promote its aims, and has every reason to try and make ISIS as its opponent look as weak as possible in order to encourage and strengthen its supporters.

On the other hand, that does mean they’re wrong.

Combat stress was known centuries before psychiatrists recognised ‘shell-shock’ amongst the traumatised soldiers of World War I. Paddy Griffiths, a senior lecturer in War Studies at Sandhurst, states that the Vikings recognised it, and called it ‘Battle Foot’ in his book, The Viking Art of War. For all the dark, violent aspect of human nature, some anthropologists believe that killing does not come easily to humans. If you saw the film, The Men Who Stare at Goats, you’ll recall the scene where the mad, New Age major at the heart of the American Army’s secret psychic weaponry programme tells Ewan MacGregor’s character that in the First World War, 80 per cent of the shots initially fired at the enemy were deliberately aimed wide. The same when it came to some of the some conscripts fighting in the Vietnam War. The Men Who Stare At Goats was based on Jon Ronson’s Channel 4 documentary series, Crazy Rulers of the World, in which he went looking for the real psychic warriors in the American army, led by General Stebblebine. And like the mad officer in the movie, Stebblebine really did walk into walls, believing that one day he would be able to pass through them through the sheer power of his mind. The stats about the deliberate inaccuracy of soldiers fighting in World War One and Vietnam are true, however, if only during the initial phases of the conflict before the army realised that they had to train soldiers to kill, rather than just point their guns. The Israeli author, Amos Oz, in an TV interview back in the 1990s, recalled his experiences fighting in the Golan Heights during the Six Day War. He stated that he found the whole situation so difficult to believe and understand, that his initial reaction was to wonder why no-one had called the cops, as the situation was so far beyond his experience.

My guess is that civilised people, regardless of their race or religious beliefs or lack thereof, find killing extremely difficult. Hence all the effort terrorist organisations like ISIS and the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, and violent, genocidal states like Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, put in to demonising their enemies.

And nations have frequently resorted to trying to help their troops keep going through exhaustion and the heavy stress of fighting by using chemical enhancement. The Nazi war machine was extremely efficient, but they used an amphetamine-derivative to keep their troops fighting. The stuff has since re-emerged, to plague deprived American communities as ‘Nazi Crank’.

Another type of recreational drug blighting the lives of the underclass is ‘Black Bombers’. This is again based partly on amphetamines. A friend of mine told me it was developed by the US army to keep their pilots flying bombing missions during the Vietnam War.

And this is the Nazi and US military machines, which were well-funded, trained and professional. And if they had to use drugs to prop up their troopers, it’s not even remotely incredible that ISIS are doing the same to their volunteers.

And the mass of ISIS fighters probably aren’t very good soldiers. A little while ago I found another report from The Young Turks news show commenting on a propaganda video released by ISIS promoting their version of the US’ Navy SEALS. ISIS was showing their version on manoeuvres, loudly proclaiming that they would be swift, efficient killers who would put fear into their enemies.

The result from professional Western soldiers and military analysts was somewhat different. Okay, it was the complete opposite. According to the Turks, it raised laughter and chuckles, rather than heart-pounding terror. The Western military authorities watching it couldn’t believe how bad their fighters were. They even made basic mistakes in the way they held their guns. And these were supposed to be the organisation’s elite killers, the ‘best of the best of the best’.

So, given the caveats above, I’m quite prepared to believe Hisbollah when they say that the ISIS troops they fought ran, and were so bad as soldiers that they needed to take Speed to give them courage.

If it was almost any other army or soldiers, I’d have some sympathy. As I said, for most civilised people all over the world, killing is extremely difficult. I realise that people fight in pubs and nightclubs, or in teenage gang battles, but this usually stops short of the knife or gun or whatever. Quite often before the fight breaks out, somebody jumps in, shouting, ‘Leave it out! It’s not worth it!’ or some such. Or the rozzers arrive to break it up and start giving people rides in the party van.

In the case of ISIS, I have absolutely no sympathy at all. This is the organisation that has butchered and enslaved its way across the Middle East, whose members boasted about how brutal and bloodthirsty they were. The brigade, whose on-line propaganda encouraged some of the jihadi brides to run away from Britain to marry them, bragged that they ‘delighted in carnage’.

Well, long ago a certain Bill Shakespeare, of the Midlands, had this to say about the difference between tough, martial masculinity and loss of humanity, in one of his plays. In the Scottish Play, MacBeth is being urged on by his wife to murder his way to the top to fulfil his destiny, as prophesied by the three witches. He’s initially reluctant, saying ‘Peace, woman, peace; I do all there is to become a man. Who dares do more is none.’
It’s a wise line, which shows you why people are still performing the Bard’s plays after four hundred years. It is, tragically, a lesson in masculinity that thugs and butchers like ISIS haven’t learned, and aren’t interested in learning.

And so I have no sympathy at all. They’re monsters, drugging the mass of their troops up to disguise how weak they really are, while at the same time boasting of atrocities that even the Nazis tried to conceal in case it brought shame on them.